Monday, March 28, 2016

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – review

Acting as a sequel to the Man of Steel film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is an introduction to the DC films: Batman, Wonder Women, and other members of the Justice League. Visually, it is a very pretty movie and the actors give it their best shot at making it entertaining. The problem is that the story is lackluster and the editing makes the movie difficult to watch.

Bruce Wayne, played by Ben Affleck, narrates his parents’ death then flashes forward to Zod’s attack on Metropolis where Bruce Wayne does whatever he can to save people. 18 months later Superman is still saving people while causing controversy and Batman has appeared in Gotham, stopping crimes with vigilante justice. The two figures do not agree with each other’s methods of crime stopping so the villainous Lex Luthor is able to manipulate them into fighting each other.

The movie has some scenes that are lovely to look at; Superman saving a woman from a burning fire on the Day of the Dead or when he saves people on the roof of a house in a flood zone appearing like a floating angel above the people. These images create memorable moments that are impressive. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot are a welcome add on to the film but feel under utilized. Ben Affleck spends most of his time looking angry and Gal Gadot spends most of her time wandering around looking pretty.

The casting of Lex Luthor is baffling. Jesse Eisenberg does bring a different mannerism to the character, coming off like a twitchy, nerdy, caricature of Mark Zuckerburg. At no point was his portrayal threating and he came off like a guy that was just angry that he was picked on in high school.  The other odd casting choice is Jeremy Irons as Alfred. All previous portrayals of Alfred have been caring and smart but they were also Bruce Wayne’s butler. In this film it is more confused as to Alfred’s roll in Bruce’s life. For example, Bruce even serves Alfred coffee in the morning.

The editing for this movie was a mess. There are more dream sequences then a Freddy Krueger film. There are scenes that even seem out of sequence of time that are not established and seem thoughtlessly put together. Even the character of Doomsday seems shoehorned in and looked like they were facing a cave troll from The Lord of the Rings movies. The fight scenes are fun to watch when you can see through the darkness.

The movie is very long and it takes a lot of time before any real action takes place. Meanwhile there are lots of shots of characters walking, brooding, and whining about one another. The other Justice League characters are introduced as well as foreshadowing of the threats they will face in the future. The movie adds these sections without explanation so it will likely fit together as new movies come out but as it is it is like having a puzzle with pieces that come in installments. All these parts might come together brilliantly one day but as the movie is it is very confusing as to what is dream and what is forecasting the future.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a terrible movie but it is also not worth seeing in theaters. It is too long of a sit and not as thought out as it should have been. It is obvious that DC wants to have the same success as Marvel in their cinematic universe. The big difference that is working for Marvel is that it took its time putting out solo movies first to create an established universe before putting the heroes together as a team. With DC it feels like a big game of catch-up that is very rough and not nearly as entertaining as the individual films. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a grim movie that will likely scare many audiences from future DC movies.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. - review

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D is a superhero comedy film from Troma, which is as over-the-top and exploitative as any of their other productions.  The movie is funny and entertaining and the action is slapstick and visually hilarious. Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D is an unexpected gem that needs to be seen.

Detective Harry Griswold, played by Rick Gianasi, is in the audience of a Kaubuki version of the Odd Couple when a shoot-out kills the actors. In his last breath one of the actors grants Griswold the powers of Kabukiman. A mystical superhero with the power of flight and uses Japanese themed weaponry such as chopsticks and sushi. He is summoned by Lotus, the alluring granddaughter of the Kabuki actor who gave Harry his new powers. Together they train him to overcome an entity known as “The Evil One.”

This movie is akin to watching a detective movie with cartoonish effects, sounds and insane over-the-top scenes of violence and sex.  The actors do a great job playing it straight and taking the insane material and making it work. For example in the first scene we see yuppies doing coke off a new Mercedes Benz while a killer in a wig murders a family. The dialogue is silly and full of one-liners but the there is a lot of straight performances that give it the gravitas needed.

If there was anything that needs to be improved it is the production value. The sound often has an echo and the film itself looks more like it was made in the 70s instead of the 90s.  The campy quality is still fantastic to watch.  They even have their own scene transition effect that is reminiscent of the sixties Batman television show. The effects are cheesy but that makes it more of a joy to watch since it almost comes off as something a bunch of friends made after drinking lots of Mountain Dew and watching late night cable television.

If you come into this movie wanting a serious movie then you are going to be disappointed. Like most Troma movies, your enjoyment of their movies depends on your ability to check your mind at the door. The movie is cinematic cotton candy. You know it is not good for you but it tastes fantastic, so you take your chances.  There are ridiculous scenes of violence that gives Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D its own unique style. For example: Kabukiman sees a hooker with her pimp so he wraps them up and cuts them into sushi or he magically turns a villain into hot dogs because he is constantly called a “weinie” by his fellow criminals.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D is the sort of film that my high school self would have loved. It has zany dialogue, insane cartoonish action, and bare breasted women. As an adult it has just the comic humor still entertains me with its quick wit and bizarre gross-out effects. The main villain’s plan is a bit ambiguous until the very end when he turns into a Lovecraftian beast called The Evil One. Like the Naked Gun films this movie has many moments of hilarity that rely on site gags. These include comedy gold like the hard boiled detective walking into his apartment which is covered in piles of empty beer cans.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D is a fun distraction that would find itself on any film fan’s shelf. It holds no great wisdom or truth, but it does not claim to either. In my opinion it is even better than The Toxic Avenger but still not to the quality of Cannibal! The Musical. There are loads of Troma movies available for free now online and this is certainly one worth checking out. If you are not familiar at all with Troma or you are a fan of the Troma style, you should certainly give this movie a chance. You will likely not be disappointed.

The Last Horror Movie – review

The Last Horror Movie is a British horror film that seems to straddle the line between original movie and clichĂ©d serial killer film.  The good aspects of this movie make it hard to dislike entirely but it also does not shy away from being very familiar to other works of horror. The makeup and effects are great given the small budget. The film has moments that are creepy and even trick beginning, which captivated me early on.

The Last Horror Movie begins as a stereotypical horror film, with bad dialogue and poor acting. As it turns out, this is a video that the viewer supposedly rented and is being taped over. We are introduced to Max, played by Kevin Howarth, who narrates the film with an unnamed cameraman turning it into a found footage video diary.  Max stalks and kills people all while narrating to the camera.

Max’s attempt to make an intelligent movie about murder is his attempt to make a statement about life in general. The problem is that narrating to the camera about how cheap life can be does not make you Oscar Wilde.  There are dozens of movies that seem borrowed from to make this story work. The television show Dexter and the movie American Psycho both have killers that narrate what they do and they are still charming and likable protagonists. Max wants to come off like a sophisticated Hannibal Lecter but at best he comes off like an acolyte of the philosophy of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

In one scene Max asks one of his friends to be honest to him, and from what I could tell, the friend was absolutely spot on about Max but there was no lesson gained from the story and Max seemed to be after a catharsis that eludes him. The strange thing is that Max does not seem to care. He still will not stop killing and he says that his body count is over 50, which would make him one of the most prolific serial killers in Britain.

Despite the flaws, there are a few things that make this movie really stand out. The effects and the makeup for the killings are really well done. Considering the budget, they do stand out. The problem is that many of the actors are not able to perform the adequate emotions required for terror and death. The story is okay but has some large holes. For example: Max inevitably takes this video and gives it to a video rental place and follows the people that rent it home so they can watch it and he can kill them. What if they do not watch the movie right away? Why doesn’t anyone report the video they rented being recorded over with a snuff film? Who returns the video once they are dead? If he is the person returning videos wouldn’t that be obvious to investigators.

I understand that the writer wants to make the viewer feel like they will be killed after watching this movie. This gimmick feels like a touch of William Castle, which is creepy and cool in it’s own right. Perhaps if we watched him doing these killings more it would be a more effective scare. Instead we watch Max workout and brag to the camera how good of a killer he is. Watching a killer exercise is expected in a movie like American Psycho where it is a narrative on yuppie culture of consumerism but in The Last Horror Movie it comes off as silly.

The Last Horror Movie is not a bad movie. It is worth renting if you are looking for something to cleanse the palate between other movies or just want something that is quirky enough to be interesting but doesn’t go all out on the scares. The effects are good and the movie is paced well. As a horror fan this movie is too milquetoast to be memorable, but it is definitely a decent attempt to create a charismatic killer.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Deadpool – review

Deadpool is about the anti-hero from Marvel comics, which has a certain place in a lot of fans’ hearts because of his dark humor and violence. The problem is that the plot is not very interesting. There is no huge threat that makes the movie memorable or has elements of threat. Deadpool basically takes one interesting character and places him in a story that is not a huge deal.

Wade Wilson/Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds is a mercenary that was disfigured after a medical test gave him super human healing. He spends his days trying to find the man responsible and hopefully cure his disfigurement. All the while a great deal of his time is spent telling his story and breaking the fourth wall in a comedic fashion.

Ryan Reynolds is great in the part of Deadpool. The filmmakers did a great job making it seem like the character is straight off the pages of the comics. The problem is that the story line is not anything worth mentioning. The main conflict in the story would have easily been remedied by a simple conversation with his girlfriend. It is basically a sitcom scenario that results in hundreds of dead guys.
There are a few funny moments where Deadpool makes note of the casting of the movie or even makes note of superhero movie tropes. The problem is that the rest of the dialog is nearly all dick and fart jokes. This makes me think that maybe this movie was made for a bit of a younger crowd. However, this movie is rated R so I am not sure what demographic this movie is supposed to appeal to in the audience.

Deadpool is an okay movie. It plays it safe though and does not take a lot of risks with the story. The movie is basically a chance to make up for the Deadpool character being so poorly written in the Wolverine movie. It had potential, but Ryan Reynold’s charm can’t carry this movie alone. If they make a sequel I can hope that they cast people that work to make a coherent story with some depth.

Innocent Blood - review

Innocent Blood is a horror/comedy directed by John Landis. The performances in this movie are played straight for the most part which makes the movie a fun and entertaining story to watch. It is a movie that requires a certain element of having an open mind so that you can enjoy the ludicrous nature of certain plot elements.

Marie, played by Anne Parillaud, is a vampire living in modern Pittsburgh.  Much like a female Dexter Morgan she has a moral code that requires her to kill only the criminals of society. After biting crime lord Salvatore 'The Shark' Macelli, played by Robert Loggia, she accidentally turns him into a vampire. It is up to Marie and undercover cop Gennaro, played by Anthony LaPaglia, to stop Macelli.

John Landis has a specific style to his “horror” movies that is felt in Innocent Blood. The violence and gore are undercut by jokes and visual humor that softens the blow of the horror. The mixture of genres makes the film entertaining to a wider variety of audience. While the casting of Parillaud is a strange choice of Marie, she is able to pull it off. Her accent is very strong and makes her a bit difficult to understand at times yet her movements and actions really solidify her as decent actress.

The story and concept is fun and the threat of seeing a mobster turn vampire and then turning his underlings into his vampire followers is a cool idea. Casting Don Rickles as a mob lawyer is fun to watch and creates some amusing scenes that make the movie as lighthearted as An American Werewolf in London. The effects in Innocent Blood are not as impressive as An American Werewolf in London but it still okay enough to keep people in the movie. Anthony LaPaglia is sort of the “dry white toast” of the movie. He does not really make a compelling character but he is the audience surrogate walking them through the movie.

Innocent Blood has a lot of elements of a movie made by a fan for fans. It is a vampire movie that takes a humorous look at the common tropes of the time and mocks it. Like a Joe Dante film, this movie is rife with cameos from Linnea Quigley, Sam Raimi, Tom Savini, Forrest J. Ackerman, Frank Oz, and Dario Argento which are amusing to see but occasionally take me out of the movie when saying “Hey, isn’t that so and so?” during the film. Still, the love of the horror genre is felt and it does come off like a genuine appreciation towards films in a similar vein (pun not intended).

While not a very memorable movie, Innocent Blood is entertaining. The characters are not very well developed or unique enough to see them on a Buzzfeed list of awesome vampires. The movie is the perfect palate cleanser, it kills time and is entertaining but it works better as a movie you watch between thought provoking movies. As it is, Innocent Blood won’t win any awards but it is at least well made and the character actors do an okay job taking two-dimensional characters some memorable features. Comparing this movie to the many other vampire movies out there I can say that the pace of Innocent Blood keeps the film moving. It does not waste time with filler or flashbacks to when Marie was human.

Innocent Blood is a fun movie that will entertain a variety of audiences. The effects are good and the humor is delightfully dark considering the horror that ensues. The acting is well done and the story is entertaining. The problem is that the movie is fairly forgettable when you consider the director’s other works. There is nothing that really makes this movie stand out. The movie is clever, funny, and erotic.  It feels like this is the sort of movie that would be ripe for a remake in the future.

10 Cloverfield Lane – review

10 Cloverfield Lane is the spiritual successor to the film Cloverfield. While they are in the same fictional universe both movies can stand on their own independently.  The acting in 10 Cloverfield Lane is great and the isolated mood and scares are legitimate. The characters are interesting and have depth.

Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has recently broken up with her fiancĂ©. While driving through Louisiana she gets in a car accident. Michelle wakes up in the underground bunker of Howard, played by John Goodman. Howard nurses her wounds but won’t let her out of the bunker. He tells her that there has been an attack and to leave the bunker would be certain death. Michelle has to determine if Howard is telling the truth or if he is just crazy and won’t let her leave.

The actors all do an amazing job but the one that stood out the most was John Goodman. He is very realistic and scary as Howard. He pulls off a fantastic sociopath and it is a performance that makes the movie worth seeing. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is not just a damsel in distress and there are some tense moments that are very well performed.

The story in the bunker is very intense and the inclusion of Emmett, played by John Gallagher Jr. makes the dynamic between characters must more frightening. The ending almost seems like they changed to a different movie. This change did not make the movie bad but it also was not a huge surprise. The fact that this is a “Cloverfield” movie and attempting to be part of that franchise makes the ending less of a shock.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a fun movie that is certainly worth watching. It seems open to creating sequels. However, the idea of making stand alone films seems like a smart way to expand their universe.  It is entertaining and creates feelings of tension that will have you talking long after the film has ended.

The Witch – review

The Witch is a subtle, scary film that fills the viewer with dread the moment it begins. The acting is great, the music is chilling, and the setting is eerie. It is a movie that depends a lot on its nightmarish moods, which creates a slow burn to a haunting conclusion.

The Witch takes place in a Puritan New England colony where a family has recently been banished. The family moves to the edge of a forest and build a small farm. Several months later when the oldest daughter is playing with her infant brother, the baby is taken leaving no trace. They begin to face many obstacles, which point to a witch tormenting them.

The cast gives an amazing performance given the challenges of the script. The dialogue is all 17th century in vernacular, which at times makes the film difficult to understand though it does keep the audience in the movie with the lack of anachronisms. Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as the older daughter, Thomasin. The rest of the cast is also very believable and bring a lot of gravitas to the film.

The 17th century New England setting is filled with dread. At no point does the Puritan way of life look appealing or seem to have any relief from the toils and drudgery of their lifestyle. The skies are grey and the clothing drab. Visually it creates a sense of melancholy that builds the story’s psychological scares. The music accompanying this setting is chilling and has a nightmarish quality that can be felt in movies like The Shining and It Follows.

The movie relies on its tone for the scares. There are no jump scares or exploitative gore to cheaply assault the audience. The movie is haunting and will linger long after the film has ended. It is a definite must see for horror movie fans or fans of the psychological thriller genre. The Witch is an impressive movie, which is sure to entertain despite the slow pace of the story.