Friday, May 28, 2010

Mega Piranha (2010) - It'sssss... Welllll...

On the Menu: MEGA PIRANHA (2010)
Ingredients: Tiffany, Barry Williams, Paul Logan, Jude Gerard Prest, Jesse Daly and David Labiosa. Directed by Eric Forsberg. Run time: 92 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: In 2009, I watched the trailer for MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, which is, in my opinion, one of the funniest trailers of all-time. So, when I found out the same production company, The Asylum, was releasing MEGA PIRANHA, I jumped at the chance to see it.

Genetically-modified piranha get loose in Venezuela and attack a ship carrying a U.S. diplomat (played by writer/director Forsberg). Of course, no one is aware of the piranha, so the incident is believed to be an assassination.

Secretary of State Grady (Williams) sends Special Agent Jason Fitch (Logan) to investigate. Scientist Sarah Monroe (Tiffany) is the first to greet Fitch, and tells him she believes her experimental fish escaped and are the culprit behind the tragedy.

Well, the Venezuelan army doesn't believe fish are to blame, so its leader, Colonel Diaz (Labiosa), is continually trying to thwart Fitch and Monroe's efforts (without watching it again I can't tell you the reason why the army is always chasing Fitch).

Anyway, the piranha are "growing exponentially" and will soon find their way to heavy-populated areas and wipe everything out.

How will they be stopped? Nukes?

Tough to Swallow: The editing is poor, and laughable at times. The oddest sequence is when Fitch sneaks out of Diaz's compound; it's a pointless series of wipes showing him crawling, rolling and climbing (he doesn't even need to be sneaking around anyway because he's not a prisoner and no one is keeping him there).

Each cut, locator title and camera movement is super-quick and accompanied by a whooshing sound effect.

A natural dam about 5-feet wide is said to separate the piranha from the rest of the river, but in the previous scene one of the giant piranha jumped out of the water and landed about 15-20 feet away on the shore.

One forced subtitle, translating Spanish from an intercom, reads "Opperation L-23 is a go." Then, there was this forced subtitle:

Apparently, if your phone battery dies, you can suck on it for 2 minutes to recharge it.

The cars change makes and models during the chase scenes. Colonel Diaz and his men are in a black SUV, but at least 4 (maybe 6) different vehicles are used. Fitch's car is represented by at least 3 different cars. Two of the SUVs and one of the cars have California license plates.

If your plan is to genetically alter a fish to make it bigger and more plentiful in order to feed the hungry, why choose piranha?

Something to Chew On: The movie was made to capitalize on PIRANHA 3-D, which had a theatrical release date of April 16, 2010. However, the release of PIRANHA 3-D was delayed; it's said to now be hitting theaters on August 27, 2010.

MEGA PIRANHA premiered on Syfy on April 10, 2010. Check out the audience numbers for this epic. Wow.

The song playing over the closing credits is "Frozen Skies" by Tiffany.

Logan is responsible for all the fight choreography in the movie (Yikes). He is also a stunt driver.

Williams's character is named Bob Grady. Grady... Brady... get it? Note that I made my own Brady reference with the blog pic and title. And, yes, I do know the pork chops and apple sauce (that's swell) reference is to Peter not Greg.

Extras are credited as Belize Background and Background.

In the DVD's making-of featurette, line producer Steve Fiske explains how difficult it was to find actresses in Belize who would do a topless scene. They ended up using two prostitutes at a local whorehouse for a scene that would only be seen on the DVD (you're not going to see nudity on Syfy). Pretty pointless, if you ask me. But, of course, this is the scene where the director's character is prominent.

Fiske also says the budget was around $5 million.

The film currently has a 3.4 user rating on (441 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes a 3-minute blooper reel and a "Making of Mega Piranha" featurette (11:11).

In the featurette, I love when Fitch says, "It was a great script." Come on.

Aftertaste: You have to go into this expecting a crappy B-movie full of unintended laughs. Otherwise, you're going to be very disappointed. This might be the only movie with giant killer piranha that jump into buildings and cause them to explode.

If you're brave enough, I suggest you make it a double-bill and watch MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, too. I have to say though that the acting, story and effects are marginally better in MSVGO.

Just like in the late '80s, Tiffany can't hold a candle to Debbie Gibson. Sorry, it's Deborah Gibson now. My mistake.

But, the movies are equally awful and funny.

I can't wait to see what's next from The Asylum.

Gibson AND Tiffany together?

Shanice and Antonio Sabato, Jr. battle Mega Lobster?

Or bring back Lorenzo Lamas and pair him with Traci Lords for Mega Clam vs. Giant Crabs.

Please, please, please make that happen, The Asylum.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Square (2008) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #8

On the Menu: THE SQUARE (2008)
Ingredients: David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Brendan Donoghue and Lucy Bell. Directed by Nash Edgerton. Run time: 120 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: The first showing for THE SQUARE was Saturday night, but I went with VALHALLA RISING instead. But, I lucked out and it had a Sunday night showtime as well. I say "lucked out" because the Australian thriller is listed as one of the 10 best films of 2009 by Harry Knowles (Ain't It Cool News).

Raymond (Roberts) is having an affair with Carla (van der Boom). Carla wants to run away with him, and, in an effort to get the suitcases packed and car rolling, tells him of a bag of cash she found hidden by her husband above the laundry room.

Raymond isn't too sure and balks at the idea. He is heading the construction of a new resort in town, and, secretly, already has a shady kickback deal in the works. Needless to say, he's a nervous Nellie as it is.

Well, Carla takes sex off the table until Raymond goes along with her plan. Unfortunately, he has no will power.

The plan is to take the money, make it look like it's lost in a house fire and live happily ever after.

Easier said than done.

Murder, blackmail, paranoia and Murphy's law abound.
Tough to Swallow: In the closing credits, the filmmakers wished to thank anyone they may have "accidentaly forgotten." My guess is they accidentally misspelled that first word.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 21.

The film premiered on June 15, 2008 at the Sydney Film Festival in Australia.

This is the feature film directorial debut of Nash Edgerton, who is known more for his stuntwork (all 3 MATRIX films, the last 2 STAR WARS films, et al).

A short film, also directed by Edgerton, entitled SPIDER opened up for THE SQUARE. Edgerton plays the lead actor, Jack, who gets stabbed in the eye at the end of the film. During a scene in THE SQUARE, a character enters a hospital with a patch over his eye. The character isn't played by Edgerton, but it could only be a reference to the short.

Nash's brother, Joel, wrote the screenplay and plays Billy, the arsonist.

The film currently has a 6.7 user rating on (883 votes).

Aftertaste: It's been compared to BLOOD SIMPLE, BODY HEAT and A SIMPLE PLAN. Yeah, okay, I can see that. It's very tense and has moments of dark humor. Some moments might seem predictable, but the predictability is not that big a deal.

Murphy's law states anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. That's pretty much the gist of the movie... to the extreme.

At first, I was pulling for Raymond and Carla, but after a while it got to the point where I was hoping somehow they would be put out of their misery. They go through way too much suffering and anguish for a pair of adulterers who just want to steal some money, run off with each other and start their lives over. But, by any means, don't take that as any kind of endorsement for adultery. Their adultery is the first dumb mistake in a long line of dumb mistakes.

I found the acting to be pretty convincing. All of the characters are unlikable with the exception of the two dogs. Funnily enough, the dogs' relationship seems to tragically mirror that of the leads.

The movie is full of little twists and keeps you on the edge of your seat. For me, it was a great way to end ActionFest.

It's been out for almost two years now, and no word yet on a DVD release date. So, make a note of it and, in the meantime, rent LANTANA.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Code of Silence (1985) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #7

On the Menu: CODE OF SILENCE (1985)
Ingredients: Chuck Norris, Dennis Farina, Henry Silva, Ralph Foody, Bert Remsen, Joseph Guzaldo, Molly Hagan and John Mahoney. Directed by Andrew Davis. Run time: 90 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: How could I not see a Chuck Norris flick during a film festival with the man himself as the guest of honor? It was either this or BRADDOCK: MISSING IN ACTION III, and not having seen the first two made my decision easier. Plus, the program described CODE OF SILENCE as his "most critically acclaimed" film.

Sgt. Eddie Cusack (Norris) is a good cop, who prefers to work alone.

Unfortunately, an undercover job goes bad when an Italian gang gets to the targeted Colombian gang right under the noses of Cusack's crew. To make matters worse, one of his veteran guys (Foody) kills an innocent kid and plants a gun at the scene to save his job.

Now, there's an Internal Affairs investigation, and Cusack gets partnered with the rookie (Guzaldo) who was the bad cop's partner.

The Colombians want revenge on the Italians as well as Cusack, who is being shunned by his department for
speaking out against the old cop who killed the kid. This means Cusack is on his own.

But, that's just the way he likes it.

Tough to Swallow: The film introduces the Prowler, a new robot cop (you know, the kind that will one day replace human policemen). It's pretty much a mini-tank that's operated by remote control. Anyway, the sales rep (Mahoney) introduces it to the cops and hypes the "lightweight" remote.

Lightweight? Really?

There are a lot of continuity issues, but I didn't jot down any specifically (mostly dead bodies switching positions or things changing during chase scenes).

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 14.

Clint Eastwood and Kris Kristofferson both passed on the film before it went to Norris.

This is Farina's second film credit. He made his debut in THE THIEF (1981).

Director Andrew Davis's father plays Felix Scalese, the godfather of the Italian gang.

Davis is from Chicago and likes to shoot his films there, including this one.

Davis went on to direct ABOVE THE LAW, THE PACKAGE, UNDER SIEGE and THE FUGITIVE (all of which employ a good amount of the same actors, including a few from CODE OF SILENCE).

Foody appeared in ABOVE THE LAW and THE PACKAGE, but might be best known for his role as the movie gangster, Johnny, in HOME ALONE.

The abandoned building Luna and his crew use as part of their raid on the Camachos was owned by two Chicago police officers at the time.

The film currently has a 5.6 user rating on (1,800 votes).

Aftertaste: I have to say I wasn't expecting a cop drama. I figured, since it was Chuck, there'd be more action. Don't get me wrong, there are some great stunts. The fight on top of the L train ending with a dive into the Chicago River is probably the most notable.

I think I was more interested in the subplot involving the crooked cop than I was the gang war/revenge storyline. Sure, CODE OF SILENCE is no SERPICO (by a long shot), but the characters are pretty good. Silva is a great villain.

Chuck proves to be a competent dramatic actor. Kudos to Davis and company for giving him a decent script and good direction. The two scenes where Cusack goes to fight the gangs on his own don't necessarily play out the way you'd think (the last one because it's a little silly).

What kills the movie is the Prowler. It's inclusion is totally pointless and ruins the seriousness of the story.

I imagine the critics liked this because it had DIRTY HARRY feel, and they hadn't been subjected to Steven Seagal movies yet.

Overall, it's a decent cop drama with some memorable stunts.

However, twenty-five years, a Total Gym and 8 seasons of "Walker, Texas Ranger" later, it will be hard for you to watch without chuckling (ha).

For me, the coolest part about watching this movie was, when I walked out of the theater after the credits, Chuck was about 20 feet away standing in the lobby. Why couldn't that happen with a Jessica Biel, Jennifer Aniston or Elisha Cuthbert movie?


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Robo-Geisha (2009) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #6

On the Menu: ROBO-GEISHA (2009)
Ingredients: Aya Kiguchi, Hitomi Hasebe, Takumi Saitô, Taro Shigaki, Asami and Cay Izumi. Directed by Noboru Iguchi. Run time: 102 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: This movie sounded outrageous from the program summary. I believe it was this paragraph that clinched it (bad punctuation included):
Acid breast milk, fried shrimp used as weapons, butt-swords, a giant castle robot, and geisha that transform into dune buggies are just one part of the wild mix of crazy action, mild splatter, peek-a-boo sexiness, bizarre movie references, and inappropriate comedy ("handicap gun", anyone?)...
The plot, as if the film needed one, revolves around two sisters. Kikuke (Hasebe) is a geisha. Yoshie (Kiguchi) is her lowly assistant. One of Kikuke's clients, a strapping young businessman, Hikaru Kageno (Saitô) has eyes for Yoshie. Kikuke tags along on what appears to be a dinner date, but, instead, it's an invitation to be part of a geisha army.

Hikaru and his father head the Kageno Corporation. It's a steel company by day, but harborer of geisha assassins by night. The Kagenos hope to kill all of the nation's important leaders, drop a nuke in Mt. Fuji and take over the country.

Man, don't you just hate recycled storylines?

Tough to Swallow: Since the movie is so self-aware of its ridiculousness, it's hard to complain about the copious amounts of CGI blood or how bad some of the effects look.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 12.

ROBO-GEISHA premiered September 25, 2009 at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.

The UK DVD release date is set for June 7, 2010.

The movie's estimated budget was $250,000.

The film currently has a 6.7 user rating on (62 votes).

Aftertaste: I'm not even sure if ridunkulous is the right word. Maybe retariffic.

There were only eleven other people in the theater for this 12:30pm showtime, but I heard more laughter from this group than from the 40+ who attended the midnight showing of TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL the night before (and I thought T&DVE was awesome).

I mean, Iguchi knows his movie is not to be taken seriously. The opening dialogue hammers that point home. As far as the weapons go, and from where they come, it's safe to say Iguchi has a wild imagination (and, perhaps, a butt fetish). Even the costumes are funny, especially those of the Tenguns. I've only read about the absurdities from one of his previous films, THE MACHINE GIRL, but I'm definitely on the lookout for a DVD copy now.

ROBO-GEISHA might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it even sounds remotely interesting to you, I suggest you check it out when it becomes available. I would recommend finding the trailer online, but it actually takes away from the shock value and hilarity by showing most, if not all, of the weapons.

If you've seen BIG MAN JAPAN, you could multiply it's oddness by 20 and still not know what to expect from ROBO-GEISHA.

Hopefully, the U.S. will see a DVD release shortly after the U.K.

Wig Napalm!!!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (2009) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #5

On the Menu: TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2009)

Ingredients: Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Chelan Simmons and Jesse Moss. Directed by Eli Craig. Run time: 86 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: Aside from THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, this film was the only one I was sure I wanted to see at ActionFest. I love, love, love horror comedies.

Two mountainfolk, Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine), are moving into their "new" summer home out in the middle of the woods. Not too far away, a group of college kids are camping.

According to a campfire tale and the decor of Tucker and Dale's vacation home, these woods have a hillbilly slasher history.

When one of the college girls, Allison (Bowden), bumps her head after falling off a rock, the hayseed duo comes to her rescue. However, the rest of the college gang assume Tucker and Dale are psychotic killers and that they've kidnapped Allison.

Misunderstandings abound, and the blood rains hard and heavy.

Tough to Swallow: I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure the locator title at the beginning of the film reads:
Appalachian Mountains
West Virgina
But, if the 2007 NIT champions don't mind...

In the closing credits, the credit for Construction Foreman is misspelled as "Construction Forman."

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 40+. This was the biggest audience I was a part of during ActionFest, and the 5th movie I screened for the Saturday session.

This is Craig's directorial debut.

TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL premiered at Sundance on January 22, 2010.

Some of you might recognize Chelan Simmons; she played Hillary on the ABC Family show "Kyle X/Y." You might also know Katrina Bowden as Tina Fey's secretary on "30 Rock."

The film currently has an 8.8 user rating on (147 votes).

Aftertaste: This was, by far, the best film I screened at ActionFest. It's like SHAUN OF THE DEAD for slasher films. Seriously, I was laughing for the entire 86 minutes. Well, laughing or smacking my forehead for not coming up with this idea first. It might be a send-up of slasher films, but there's no real horror to it. It plays out as a straight comedy, albeit a bloody one.

It's the perfect premise for a movie. Take a typical slasher setting and characters, then throw in a healthy dose of misunderstanding (like dramatic irony, but for comedy). The audience is in on the joke from the start, but the characters know nothing.

The kids think the hillbillies are killers. And, eventually, the hillbillies think the kids are in a suicide cult.

I don't want to give too much away.

The acting, in my opinion, is terrific. The movie relies heavily on Tudyk and Labine, and they do not disappoint. Bowden brings the beauty. The others in the cast simply have to play dumb, although Moss has to also provide some raving lunacy, which he does in spades.

This is a low-budget picture, but you definitely can't tell from what's on the screen. Nothing about it looks amateur.

I hope TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL gets a wide theatrical release. Given the opportunity, this movie could be a major box-office winner.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Valhalla Rising (2009) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #4

On the Menu: VALHALLA RISING (2009)
Ingredients: Mads Mikkelsen, Gary Lewis, Jamie Sives, Ewan Stewart, Andrew Flanagan and Maarten Stevenson. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Run time: 100 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: This was one of the last films I added to my ActionFest schedule. I thought Refn's BRONSON was brilliant, and looked forward to Mikkelsen playing a Viking warrior/slave described to have superhuman strength.

It's around 1000-1100 AD. One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a mute warrior being held captive in Scotland by Vikings. They keep him chained up in a cage, and only let him out to fight other warrior-slaves (he is tied to a post for the fights though).

He figures a way out of his chains and leaves a bloody mess in his escape. A young boy slave (Stevenson) follows him in hopes to find a home. The two encounter a group of Christian Vikings, who take them aboard their boat on their way to Jerusalem.

However, the boat ride seems cursed. The Christians believe the godless warrior and boy slave have doomed their journey. The travelers end up in the New World, which is inhabited by Native Americans. The Christians believe this to be Hell.

Rightfully so.

Tough to Swallow: In the closing credits, the credit for Technical Support is misspelled "Techincal Support."

The pace is very slow for the most part, and I'm not too sure why there is a rape scene (even if it is part of a drug-induced stupor).

Sometime around when the group is wandering around the New World, for about 10-15 minutes there was a projection snafu. The framing jumped and left the very top of the frame on the bottom of the screen. I think someone in the audience left to complain, but the projectionist actually stopped the movie to fix the problem, which I don't think was necessary. However, in that moment, audio from a random action movie trailer began playing and it continued as the projectionist got VALHALLA RISING going again. So, picture One-Eye and Kare (Lewis) on the screen and hearing the audio from this 1981 masterpiece. Needless to say, it got a lot of laughs.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 36.

The film was shot in Scotland.

Refn was inspired by a rune-stone he saw in Delaware, the Mario Bava film PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, a comic and a 1950s sci-fi pulp novel.

The official site for the movie refers to Mikkelsen's character as Harald, but he's only known as One-Eye in the actual film.

VALHALLA RISING's U.S. release is scheduled for June 4, 2010. It's North American premiere was at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.

The film currently has a 6.4 user rating on (695 votes).

Aftertaste: The movie is broken up into six chapters: Wrath, Silent Warrior, Men of God, The Holy Land, Hell and The Sacrifice.

The Scotland scenes, though beautifully shot, have the most brutal violence, and the bleakest look/feel. The three words I jotted down for the first two chapters were brutal, gray and cold. The warrior-slave battles are bloody and ultraviolent. You can hear the bones smashing during these fights, and you see one guy's brains get beaten in, literally.

One-Eye does indeed possess near-supernatural strength, yet he has a soft side. He becomes the guardian of the little boy almost instinctively. The exchanges between the two are sometimes funny. Since One-Eye is mute, the boy declares to others One-Eye speaks through him. The boy is, after all, the one who gave the warrior his name (one of the lighter scenes of the film).

There is a resounding theme of mythology versus Christianity. One-Eye is clearly a reference to, possibly the embodiment of, Odin, the chief god in Norse mythology. Odin, one-eyed himself, is associated with war, death, magic and prophecy among other things. One-Eye, aside from being a killing machine, has deadly visions of the future (shown in a hellish-red color). And, while he is definitely the most violent character in the film, the Christian vikings have slaughtered some villagers when we first meet them. They are on their way to reclaim the Holy Land through warfare in God's name after all. Also, while on the boat, the Christians assume their godless passengers are the cause for silent winds and endless mist, yet the chapter is titled Men of God. Oddly enough, the Christians end up following One-Eye as though he were Jesus (a comparison that makes even more sense with his final act).

Sometimes gloomy. Sometimes stunning. Always unsettling.

Just don't go in thinking it's a Viking action/adventure flick because you might end up hating it or falling asleep waiting for all the fights. It's really more of an artsy drama.


Operation: Endgame (2010) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #3

On the Menu: OPERATION: ENDGAME (2010)

Ingredients: Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin, Ving Rhames, Maggie Q, Zach Galifianakis, Bob Odenkirk, Beth Grant, Jeffrey Tambor, Adam Scott, Emilie de Ravin, Odette Yustman, Brandon T. Jackson and Joe Anderson. Directed by Fouad Mikati. Run time: 87 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I was psyched to see a comedy thriller on the ActionFest schedule, especially one including Zach Galifianakis, Rob Corddry and Ving Rhames in the cast.

The program noted the Friday (8/16) showing would be the world premiere, but I was scheduled to work that night. However, I had Tom cover for me at work so I could see it Saturday afternoon.

It's the day of President Obama's inauguration, and a government operation has just found its newest recruit (Anderson).

This operation has an underground facility housing two teams of government assassins. Each team member is named for a Tarot card, and is either high-strung, paranoid, mentally disturbed or full of sexual tension.

It's crazy enough already, but then someone kills their boss and hacks into the main computer causing the facility to go into lockdown and self-destruct mode. Everyone's a suspect, especially the new guy.

To make things even more interesting, one team got a directive earlier in the day to eliminate the other. Let the corporate downsizing begin.

Tough to Swallow: The print shown at ActionFest wasn't the finished product. Color timing and video effects were not complete for numerous scenes, which is odd because a seemingly in-the-know post on the movie's messageboard on December 8, 2008 stated the film had a couple months of post-production left at that time.

Anderson was not the right choice for the lead... not by a long shot. Tambor and Odenkirk were severely underused.

I have no problem with foul language, but its usage in this movie is excessive and grading to the ear within the first half-hour. And, the schtick with the two "security" guys gets old just as quickly.

**SPOILER** You can see Heirophant still breathing after she has been killed.

This has nothing to do with the film itself, but the ActionFest program misspelled four of the actors' names in the write-up: Bakrin, Corrdry, de Raven, Galifanakis and Galafanakis. It also misspelled the original title as "Rouge's Gallery" instead of Rogue's Gallery. Nice way to promote the world premiere of a film. Sheesh.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 30 (before walk-out). The Friday world premiere (a day earlier) may have had fewer empty seats.

The film's original title was Rogue's Gallery.

This is Mikati's directorial debut.

Writer Brian Watanabe won the 2004 Screenwriting Expo with the script for this film.

Richard Kelly, director of DONNIE DARKO, is one of the executive producers. This is actually the fifth film produced by Darko Entertainment.

According to Wikipedia, "Operation Endgame is a 2003-2012 plan under implementation by the Office of Detention and Removal Operations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and deport all removable aliens and 'suspected terrorists' currently living in the United States by 2012."

OPERATION: ENDGAME is scheduled for a theatrical release in the fall of 2010.

The film currently has a 6.5 user rating on (32 votes).

Aftertaste: I really wanted to like this. Maybe my expectations were too high after seeing the cast list.

Corddry pretty much takes over the movie with an even more obnoxious version of his Lou character in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE. Galifianakis provides the second-best performance, albeit slightly odd. Yustman and Q are decent eye candy. The acting seriously drops off after that. Anderson is a jittery mess; it seems like he is trying a Christopher Walken impression through most of the movie. And, as I mentioned before, Tambor and Odenkirk are not used to their potential.

The plot goes from whodunit to survival of the fittest with a free-for-all killing spree involving office supplies. Throw in some real politics, and it makes the story a little convoluted. Or maybe more convoluted than it already is. That being said, most of the kills are gruesome, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Again, most, if not all, of the effects scenes were not complete in the print at ActionFest. I tried to overlook that, but it did take me out of the movie more often than not, especially when the words "COLOR/VFX NOT COMPLETE" took up the bottom third of the screen in those scenes.

I'm not sure how much better the movie would be with completed effects. I really can't blame the lady in front of me for walking out after about 50 minutes.


Harry Brown (2009) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #2

On the Menu: HARRY BROWN (2009)

Ingredients: Michael Caine, David Bradley, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, Iain Glen, Sean Harris, Liam Cunningham and Ben Drew. Directed by Daniel Barber. Run time: 97 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: Having only heard of the original GET CARTER and Caine's Harry Palmer movies, I felt obliged to actually see him in a gritty, head-busting role. I could not miss out on a British version of DEATH WISH starring Michael Caine.

Harry Brown (Caine) is a retired British marine and pensioner living in a rundown apartment complex in South London. He spends his days visiting his wife in the hospital and playing chess at the pub with his friend, Leonard (Bradley).

Drug-pushing, gun-toting juvenile delinquents have set up shop in the underpass near the estate. They even harass the old folks and randomly beat up passersby.

Things go wrong when Leonard tries to take matters into his own hands. Harry, who has put his marine days behind him, must decide whether to just stay out of trouble or stand up to the gang and set things right.

Some of the drug dealers start dropping like flies. The police chief suspects the deaths are a result of a gang war. Detective Inspector Frampton (Mortimer), on the other hand, thinks the evidence points to Harry.

Tough to Swallow: The movie is obviously set in London, but, apparently, the graffiti shown is by internationally known American graffiti artists.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 14. Numbers might be skewed due to the fact this showing and the start of the live-action stunt show overlapped.

This is Barber's directorial debut. His 2007 film THE TONTO WOMAN was nominated for an Oscar (Best Short Film, Live Action).

The movie won the 2010 Empire Award for Best British Film; the film was also nominated for Best Thriller. Caine was nominated for Best Actor.

The film's budget was $7.3 million.

HARRY BROWN just had its official U.S. release (April 30, 2010). The movie, released in 19 theaters, grossed $173,353 in its opening weekend.

The film currently has a 7.5 user rating on (9,255 votes).

Aftertaste: It's depressing and gritty, and the film, for the most part, seems to have the color sucked out of it to force that feeling. It's really, really gray at times. Maybe to show how foggy morality can be.

You feel bad for Harry. He's all alone, and his neighborhood is falling apart. But, on the other hand, you want him to remember his days as a marine in Northern Ireland and go beat the snot out of those druggie teenagers.

Not necessarily a lot of action for a movie in an action film festival. It's a dramatic thriller. I'm not complaing though. Caine is one of the best actors of all-time, and he doesn't disappoint here. You can liken Caine's vigilante to Clint Eastwood's performance in GRAN TORINO. Harry Brown is old. He suffers from emphysema. He lives alone. But, he has a military background and a breaking point. He really doesn't have anything to live for except for revenge.

It's a dark film that relies on Caine's powerful portrayal of Harry.

Really, though, some parts of the movie are rather disturbing and disgusting. There's definitely nothing pretty about this film. You're forced to want Harry to rid the streets of all the wrongdoers, even if they are misguided teenagers.

It's a vigilante movie. That's the point.


The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) - ActionFest Buffet: Plate #1

On the Menu: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD (2008)

Ingredients: Kang-ho Song, Byung-hun Lee, Woo-sung Jung and Dal-su Oh. Directed by Ji-woon Kim. Run time: 130 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: Back on July 31 of last year, my friend Brandin asked me if I had seen this movie. I had not. Enter ActionFest.

The first and only film festival devoted to action movies kicked off in Asheville, NC (April 15-18, 2010). This intriguing flick was on the schedule, and it became the first I decided to see.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD is set in 1930s Manchuria. The Bad, Park Chang-yi (Lee), is a hired gun sent to steal a "treasure" map from the Japanese. The Weird, Yoon Tae-goo (Song), stumbles upon the map first. The Good, Park Do-won (Jung), is a bounty hunter looking for The Bad and the map.

The map itself is said to hold the key to winning World War II, but The Weird believes it to be a run-of-the-mill treasure map that will help him retire from his bandit ways and purchase a farm.

Eventually, a group of Chinese bandits and the Japanese army join in the search for the map, and all hell breaks loose.

Tough to Swallow: Sometimes the subtitles are hard to read. White words over golden sand or a white, cloudy sky doesn't really work.

The end is a little lackluster.

Something to Chew On: Theater audience = 35. I recognized the voice of one of the guys sitting behind me. He was in 2 or 3 of my film classes at NC State, and actually wrote movie reviews for The Technician.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 24, 2008.

The film is, of course, inspired by Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

To date, it is the most expensive South Korean ever made with a budget of over $17 million.

The film took more than two years to produce, and was mainly shot in Manchuria, Mongolia and Vladivostok.

You may recognize The Weird. Song also plays the lead roles in THE HOST and THIRST.

Jung broke his arm during filming.

The film currently has a 7.4 user rating on (4,430 votes).

Aftertaste: This movie is pure entertainment. It's fast-paced with lots of action. My favorite scenes include the opening train robbery, the rooftop shootout and the epic desert chase near the end, which is full of explosions, gunfire and horses. Seriously, most of the stunts are wowing. I sat through the credits, but missed the end credit disclaimer about animals (of course, that's normally an American Humane Association thing). I find it hard to believe no horses were hurt in the crazy desert scenes.

The sets look great and the cinematography is breath-taking.

The Weird will probably be everyone's favorite character. He's the comical, chubby guy, who is still pretty handy with a gun. Personally, I like The Bad; he's stylish and sometimes only needs a piercing look to get his point across. The Good might be the weakest character, but it's hard to hate on the one who is patterned after Clint Eastwood. The backstory involving The Weird and The Bad is a nice touch.
Oh, and the grandma is hilarious.

The end might not be the payoff you expect after 2 hours, but that ridiculous 2-hour ride you took to get there makes up for it.