Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Campaign (2012) - Dinner & a Movie on the Ballot

On the Menu: THE CAMPAIGN (2012)

Ingredients: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, Dan Aykroyd, John Lithgow, Dylan McDermott, Sarah Baker, Katherine LaNasa, Karen Maruyama and Jack McBrayer. Directed by Jay Roach. Run time: 85 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: The wife had Election Day off, so she decided she could stay out a little later the night before. Normally, she wouldn't suggest a movie, but we have two movie theaters/restaurants in the area: Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company and Cinebarre. HOPE SPRINGS and TED were playing at the former. I suggested THE CAMPAIGN because I thought it would be fun to see the night before Election Day, plus it was a shorter drive.

Democratic Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is running for his fifth term in NC's 14th District. He's running unopposed, but his campaign takes a serious hit when he accidentally leaves a racy message intended for his mistress on a constituent's answering machine.

Two dirty businessman, the Motch brothers (Aykroyd and Lithgow), urge Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) to run against Brady.

Things get shady. Then, things get scandalous.

Then, things get ridiculous.

Tough to Swallow: The H. Ross Perot quote at the beginning of the film says he was a presidential candidate in 1988. He didn't run until 1992. The quote is from 1996, which was the second time he ran for president.

I still don't really understand why Marty is coerced to run for Congress. Cam was running unopposed. The Motch brothers could have just helped Cam reinvent his campaign.

Something to Chew On: John Goodman has a cameo.

Marty's car has the license plate GEN-0101, which is a biblical reference.

Aftertaste: Over the years (2005-2009), I had grown tired of Will Ferrell. But, in 2010, he redeemed himself with THE OTHER GUYS and MEGAMIND (I've yet to see EVERYTHING MUST GO).

Unfortunately, this is one of those Ferrell movies where he seems to play the same character he always plays. The schtick is old. Even Galifianakis's Marty is basically a cut-and-paste version of his Seth character from his standup routines. The political jabs toward John Edwards and the Koch brothers just couldn't make up for the lack of laughs. The humor is crude, which is fine by me, but I thought it was going to be much funnier.

The funniest part of the movie, much like in TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY,  is the dinner scene involving the Huggins family. Well, I take that back. The funniest part is probably the Dermot Mulroney reference during the end credits scene.

Maybe this is a film that gets better with multiple viewings. Heck, I gave ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY a measly 2.5 stars when I saw it in the theater, and now it's a flick I'll watch every time it's on television.

But, based on first impressions, it just doesn't get my vote.

Around the Table:
"I thought it was funny, but I got a little bored." -- My wife.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hatchet II (2010) - Not Enough Treats

On the Menu: HATCHET II (2010)

Ingredients: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, Ed Ackerman, AJ Bowen, R.A. Mihailoff and John Carl Buechler. Directed by Adam Green. Run time: 85 minutes. Rated: Unrated.

At First Bite: I watched HATCHET not long after it came out on DVD. I thought it was pretty decent (3.5 stars) and bought it. Why not watch the sequel then?

Marybeth (Harris) survived the first movie, but her father and brother did not.

She goes to Reverend Zombie (Todd) for help, and he enlists a crew to hunt down Victor Crowley once and for all.

$500 to risk my life hunting a hatchet-wielding killer?

I'll pass, but good luck.

Tough to Swallow: Love seeing Harris in another horror movie, but her acting here is atrocious. Her emotion and delivery don't quite jell. You can tell she's trying really hard, but it's painful to watch.

The first death is pretty silly, as is what happens to Reverend Zombie.

In a flashback, Lena dies, but you see her moving as the scene ends.

The blood spraying is gratuitous.

In the soundtrack portion of the credits, "Courtesy of" appears to be repeated accidentally on the third line of info for the song "Old School."

Something to Chew On: The original was released in 2006. A third film is set to be released sometime in 2013.

In the original, Marybeth was played by Tamara Feldman.

Aside from Hodder (Jason Voorhees in 4 films) and Todd (Candyman), the first film also included Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger). Joshua Leonard (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and Deon Richmond (SCREAM 3) were also in the cast.

Harris appeared in three HALLOWEEN films: HALLOWEEN 4, HALLOWEEN 5 and Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN remake.

Some lines reference Jason Voorhees, the Blair Witch and Leslie Vernon. 

Holland, who plays Bob, wrote and directed CHILD'S PLAY and the original FRIGHT NIGHT.

David Foy plays Chad. In the original, he went uncredited as a hillbilly.

Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell appear uncredited. They both also starred in FROZEN, which was also directed by Green. Green had to split his shooting schedule for HATCHET II into two parts due to promotional work for FROZEN. Schedule #1 was January 7-13, 2010. Schedule #2 was January 15-February 24. FROZEN hit theaters on February 5, 2010.

The news is on at Jack Cracker's place after he rescues Marybeth. The interviewee is Bell's character from FROZEN. Ashmore appears in an earlier montage as a fisherman.

Ackerman, Hodder, Green, Rileah Vanderbilt and Joe Lynch are all in HATCHET II and FROZEN as well.

Green also wrote and executive produced the film. He has a cameo in the movie as a guy puking.

One hundred and thirty-six gallons of fake blood were used.

A crew member is actually credited as Voodoo Fluffer. What exactly is that?

Aftertaste: Well, it's not as good as its predecessor. The acting, especially from Harris, is shake-your-head bad through most of the movie.

I don't quite understand the reason to go back to the swamp to face Crowley right after you escaped with your life. Yeah, you don't need to retrieve the dead bodies. Just call the police.

But, it's a horror movie. Duh.

I will say the kills progressively get better and more creative throughout the film, but the movie itself isn't really scary. It's bloody, sure. I mean, it rains buckets of blood, but there aren't even any jump scares.

What I enjoy most are the treats of the horror movie references.

However, those won't save this from being just your average splatter flick.

I feel tricked.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Spicing Up the Recipe

On the Menu: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Ingredients: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Jodelle Ferland and Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Drew Goddard. Run time: 95 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I thought this was supposed to be out on DVD months ago, but it was released just a few weeks ago. I made sure to grab it when it did.

Curt (Hemsworth) and his friends take a little vacation to the woods. Apparently, his cousin owns a cabin there.

Meanwhile, two technicians (Jenkins and Whitford) in a control room appear to be keeping tabs on the college kids' every move.

Something weird is going on, for sure.

Tough to Swallow: There are a few continuity issues, e.g., a disappearing football here and a disappearing towel there.

I don't quite understand the point of the elaborate "games." Are we to believe the "Ones" are actually watching?

Opening the film with the twist isn't as effective as having the twist more than halfway through.

Something to Chew On: The film had an estimated budget of $30 million. Its worldwide box office totaled just under $66 million.

This is Goddard's directorial debut.

Goddard co-wrote the film with Joss Whedon. Whedon is also one of the film's producers. Goddard was also a writer for Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel."

There are several horror movie references and homages, including THE EVIL DEAD, HELLRAISER, CUBE, THE SHINING and STEPHEN KING'S IT. A Reaver from Whedon's "Firefly" also makes an appearance.

The theatrical release date of February 5, 2010 was postponed because MGM wanted the film converted to 3D. The 3D release date was to be January 14, 2011, but MGM announced on June 14, 2010 it would be delayed indefinitely due to the studio's financial troubles. MGM filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy five months later. The release date ended up being April 13, 2012.

A tie-in with the PC/Xbox 360 game Left 4 Dead was canceled due to MGM's financial woes, but three of the characters from the game appear in the movie.

Aftertaste: It's difficult to really talk about the movie without spoiling it. Basically, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a deconstruction of the horror genre (think BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON or SCREAM or, more recently, TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL). Why do friends always split up rather than stick together? Why does the virgin always survive? The movie answers these questions and more.

Personally, I prefer watching the technicians' side of things. Jenkins and Whitford provide the most interesting characters, by far.

Is the film too clever for its own good? Perhaps. It's not perfect. There are a few WTF moments that might leave you shaking your head. And, it's funnier than it is scary, which doesn't bode well for a horror flick. But, hey, it's the guy's first shot at directing. He did a respectable job.

What I can say is THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is different. It's nice to get away from torture porn and the never-ending list of horror remakes we see each year.

I think it definitely takes the genre and provides a much-needed kick.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012) - Starved of Intensity

On the Menu: THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

Ingredients: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Gary Ross. Run time: 142 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I live in Western North Carolina, so I was bombarded with media buildup of THE HUNGER GAMES. Locals were predicting it would be the biggest box office smash of 2012. The news would feature stories on filming locations. I was sick of the movie before it had even finished filming, and I vowed not to watch it in the theater (much like my semi-boycott of AVATAR). And, since I had some surprise leftover gift card money from my wedding last year, I only spent $13 on the 3-disc Deluxe Edition DVD set.

A dystopian future has transformed North America into a new nation called Panem, which is split into twelve districts and the Capitol. In the past, there had been rebellion against the wealthy Capitol, so a lottery was put in place as retribution. Two children (one boy, one girl) from each district are randomly selected to participate in The Hunger Games.

The contest is pretty brutal. The Capitol has control over the arena, so if the game gets boring they might throw in some crazy beasts.

Oh yeah, it's all televised... and only ends with one survivor. And, the victor gets to live the high life afterward.

Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) are the contestants from District 12, the poorest of the districts.

Do they have a chance?

Tough to Swallow: The 180-rule is broken in the scene where Prim gives the Mockingjay pendant back to Katniss.

There's a moment when Katniss is speaking to her mom and the camera appears to have been bumped. Why not reshoot that or edit it out?

There are a lot of continuity issues with Katniss's hair.

The Capitol citizens throw flowers to the tributes during the stadium entrance. In the overhead shot, the flowers are gone.

While in the tree, Katniss's sleeping bag disappears.

The cannon doesn't fire for Rue or her attacker.

I think the control room scenes are one too many.

The movie is over 2 hours long and the character development is pretty non-existent.

The whole idea of the "Games" is pretty R-rated, but the violence is very tame.

The wolf mutts (my favorite part of the book) are simply made out to be big dogs. Lame-o.

Something to Chew On: The film's $152.5 million opening weekend box office set a non-sequel record in North America.

Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts and Chloe Grace Moretz were among those considered for the role of Katniss.

Effie Trinket's name is never mentioned.

Suzanne Collins wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay. Her inspirations for the movie include a reality show, footage of the invasion of Iraq, Theseus, the Roman gladiatorial games, and the loss of her father when she was 11.

Cinematographer Tom Stern has been the director of photography on Clint Eastwood's last 10 films (starting with BLOODWORK in 2002). He's worked on 11 other Eastwood films as a gaffer, lighting consultant or chief lighting technician.

Aftertaste: When I heard the plot of this movie, I immediately thought of BATTLE ROYALE, SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS and THE RUNNING MAN. Seriously, it's not really that original of an idea. It's like when I saw the trailer for AVATAR and said, "Hey, that's FERNGULLY in space."

So, with that and the constant local news stories about the filming of the movie, I felt predetermined to dislike the film. However, I had the same feeling before watching AVATAR, and gave it 4 stars.

Honestly, THE HUNGER GAMES isn't all that bad.

However, at 142 minutes in length, there's no reason for the movie to be lacking character development. They could have cut down on the control room scenes to focus more on the characters, especially some of the other tributes.

A lot of the context from the novel is also missing. What's the deal with the 3-finger salute? What was the meaning of Katniss's hallucination? If you read the book, you know the story of Haymitch (Harrelson), but the movie doesn't really touch on what his deal is. I don't think the movie is all that clear on why Katniss does some of the things she does, but, in the book, we know her thoughts and feelings since it's her point of view. Her relationship with Rue isn't quite as compelling as in the book, which kills what should have been one of the film's most emotional moments.

I like the look of the film: the grays of District 12 versus the crazy colors of the Capitol. The makeup was a bit much, especially for Effie (Banks). I know the citizens of the Capitol are eccentric, but there's no reason to pile on the layers and make Elizabeth Banks surprisingly unattractive.

The camerawork is okay for the most part. I'm not a fan of the shaky cam, but it doesn't bother me. Katniss's hallucination scene has to be my favorite of the entire movie.

Although the movie might not have made as much movie had it hit theaters with an R-rating, it would have been much more entertaining. The Hunger Games is a bloody event, but the movie is relatively blood-free considering it's a story of kids killing kids. This absence of violence is the biggest disappointment for me.

If you read the book, I can't say you'll be entirely pleased with the film, but...

May the odds be ever in your favor.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Foodie (2012) - A True Delicacy

On the Menu: FOODIE (2012)

Ingredients: Nick Karner, David Berberian, Jeff Alguire, Tony Hughes, Meredith Leigh Sause, Tracey Coppedge, Emlee Vassilos, Gilly Conklin, John Jimerson and Alena Koch. Directed by Christopher G. Moore. Run time: 29 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: A friend and former coworker, Christopher Moore, has made some pretty impressive short films in the last few years: HARD STAPLED, BURSTERSI SEE U and FLUSH WITH FEAR. And, they've progressively gotten better. FOODIE is his latest, and it's making the rounds on the festival circuit.

C-Mo, as I affectionately call him, was my boss back when I worked at a video store while in college. Everyone there knew he would be doing stuff like this eventually. And, we all knew he'd be great at it.

Mueller (Karner) loves food. It's what he lives for, and the culmination of his existence occurs when his co-worker, Chef Lando (Berberian), invites him to attend a top-secret supper club called Kitchen X.

The other attendees include the host chef, Brandon X (Hughes), Teddy (Sause), French Milt (Alguire), Darla (Vassilos), Shannon (Conklin) and the wine aficionados, Beth (Coppedge) and Greg (Jimerson).

First rule of Kitchen X? You do not talk about Kitchen X.


Second Helping: Honestly, I've watched the movie about 8 times just to make sure I got my fill. There's more pressure when you're writing a review for someone you know, and you want to give your best effort.

Tough to Swallow: The wine commercial ran a little long for my tastes (about 30 seconds too long). We get the gist of Beth and Greg's obsession with the S&M portion, and there's enough of their crazy left over to see at dinner. Also, I think we should have seen the ad from Mueller's perspective only -- its TV quality makes it stand out from the crispness of the rest of the film.

The quality of audio changes during Mueller's phone conversation with Hannah. It's most notable at the end. Perhaps his last couple lines were added in later because they sound more hollow than the rest.

The cell phone has no service when Mueller answers it.

Mueller's scream can be heard in the dining room, but Greg's scream, a room closer to the dinner guests, goes pretty much unnoticed.

The blood smear on the fridge varies by shot.

The focus is soft here and there.

To me, the introduction to the bathtub scene might have worked better had it been a slow reveal.

I question why Mueller receives the invitation. Food is his life. There isn't a motive for his selection. I'd understand the choice if he had run a competing restaurant out of business, made someone sick, fired someone, etc. It would seem just as easy to create a similar scheme for someone like Shannon Von Vuster, whose ties to food go unmentioned, or blogger Darla, who might have written a bad review.

After multiple viewings, Brandon's accent begins to become unappetizing. I think maybe it was just that the actor repeatedly uses a filler in mid-sentence ("I would like to thank Beth and, uh, Greg for pairing this with their lovely pinot from, uh, Stover Creek.")

Something to Chew On: Moore directed, co-wrote, produced and edited the film. He also shares the credit for visual effects.

The budget was $3,326, which was raised through Kickstarter.

Co-writer and co-producer Eryk Pruitt is also credited as an extra. He is also the owner of the bathtub.

Moore said he came onto the film in August 2011 and worked on pre-production until shooting began in November. Shooting continued into December, and pick-up shots were filmed in January. The first screening was April 28 at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.

Exteriors of Kitchen X were shot at The Myers House in Hillsborough, NC.

Brandon's ringtone is the theme from Moore's BURSTERS.

POV shots were influenced by Jonathan Demme's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. BBC's "Sherlock" inspired some transitions.

Being a STAR WARS geek, I'm sure Moore had something to do with the naming of Chef Lando.

I think there is a nod to FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF as well (when Hannah calls Mueller's name twice on the phone).

FOODIE was nominated for Best Horror at the 2012 Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.

The flick won the Grand Prize award for Best Original Fiction at the 2012 ConCarolinas Short Film Festival.

Don't confuse this film with the 2012 13-minute short called FOODIE directed by Aaron Rudelson.

Check out this clever bit of marketing (1 of 6):

Aftertaste: I feel really awful that it took me nearly a month to get this review out into the world.

Note to self: Make sure you're connected to the internet when typing a full review on your blog. The reason? Because your computer automatically saves your progress if you're connected, and you'll have that backup if your computer decides to freeze. Otherwise, you have to start over from scratch, which, as you can see by the length of this review, is a pain in the rump.

Okay, on to the review. I was really excited to see this film. I would say the horror comedy is my favorite of all genres. Plus, it's a movie where food is front and center, which is perfect for this blog.

The opening title sequence is very impressive. Seriously, it's probably one of my favorite things about the film. It really gets your mouth watering.

The writing is smart. We're introduced to a ridiculous amount of foodie vocabulary, which might as well have been Greek. The one-liners aren't too cheesy and don't feel forced. Credit also goes to the actors. Most of the them seem to deliver their lines with ease. The character of Beth is a little overpowering, but I don't fault Coppedge in her acting. Mueller, on the other hand, is rather bland for a protagonist. As far as the best characters go, French Milt and Chef Lando take the cake.

Camerawork is another plus. My favorite moments include Mueller walking down the hallway, the canted angle shot when Brandon announces dinner is ready, and the low angle shot in the kitchen near the end. I was also very pleased with the editing. The transition from the inside of Mueller's car to the outside of Kitchen X is pretty sweet. Two other transitions I enjoyed are choice cuts on sound, e.g., the clinking of wine glasses --> Hannah and her wine glass, and the thud on the floor --> Mueller opening his eyes.

The inclusion of Darla's "tweet" is a fun touch as well.

I have to say the special effects are awesome considering the budget. Normally, I'm okay with movie blood, but the scene with the cleaver almost made my stomach turn every time. It's rather unsavory. Funnily enough, the only other movie to make me feel similar was RULES OF ATTRACTION, and it was also a scene featuring a bathtub (I almost passed out).

The final shot of the film is, by far, is my favorite thing of all. Just exquisite.

Watching FOODIE reminded me of a little of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and the 1995 black comedy THE LAST SUPPER, which would be a nice pairing if you were planning on a movie night. Other enticing double-feature ideas would be DELICATESSEN, PARENTS, EATING RAOUL and RAVENOUS.

Moore's FOODIE might be just around 30 minutes long, but it brings a lot to the table. Sure, it's not perfect, but every film has its gristle.

So, look for this at a film festival near you. If you aren't lucky enough to find a screening, keep up with the film on Facebook or its own website.

And, if you've seen FOODIE and don't agree with me that it's finger lickin' good...

Eat me.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) - It Bites


Ingredients: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Marton Csokas and Erin Wasson. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Run time: 105 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: Seth Grahame-Smith's novel is one of my favorite books of the last five years. I can't say I was shocked to find out there was going to be a movie version, but I was definitely psyched to see it. Without a second thought, I spent the required $15 for the 3D version in an RPX theater (60-ft screen, dual 30K lumen digital projectors and 100,000-watt sound system) for the midnight premiere.

Abraham Lincoln (Walker) turns to vampire hunting after one of the monsters kills his mother.

A vampire hunter named Henry (Cooper) helps Abe and takes him under his wing, and recruits him to kill evil vampires.

Tough to Swallow: The movie is loosely based on the novel. Really loose. So loose, in fact, the only things it really has in common with the book are Abraham Lincoln and vampires.

Jack Barts (Csokas) plays too prominent of a role, and two other baddies have been invented.

Henry's origin story is different (the book's version is awesome) and the truth about him doesn't come out until about an hour into the movie.

Will Johnson (Mackie) is a brand new character and plays a significant role, while several more important characters are missing completely.

Vampires can't kill vampires? Silver? Invisibility?

The second floor balcony of the White House is visible a few times. It wasn't there until the late 1940s.

The most disappointing part was the ending. The movie quits two endings before the book did.

Something to Chew On: Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the screenplay. Apparently, there were many, many drafts, and another writer came in while Grahame-Smith took time to work on DARK SHADOWS.

Walker beat out Timothy Olyphant, Eric Bana, Adrien Brody, Josh Lucas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and James D'Arcy for the role of Lincoln.

Tom Hardy had to turn down the role of Lincoln due to scheduling conflicts with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Joaquin Phoenix turned down the role of Henry.

Alan Tudyk, probably one of the bigger names of the cast, appears uncredited as Stephen A. Douglas.

Aftertaste: Man, I was really disappointed with this movie. Would I have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read the novel first? Possibly.

But, then I would have read the book after watching the movie, and still been pissed about the movie.

I kept thinking about how about Benjamin Walker reminded me of Liam Neeson and Eric Bana. I also kept thinking they should have tried to get Nathan Fillion to play Abe. More star power probably would have helped.

The action is decent, but over-the-top, especially in the stampede and train scenes.

Essentially, Bekmambetov took a brilliant mix of history and fiction and tried to turn it into a straight-up action thriller. Ugh. It's so infuriating. This should not have been a summer blockbuster-type film in 3D. It should have been a smart, 2D horror flick released sometime closer to Halloween.

In conclusion, read the book and don't watch the movie.

Or, watch the movie and don't read the book.

Otherwise, you'll be in for a letdown.

It's really like taking a stake to the heart.

Sorry. Just being honest, Abe.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Leftovers

On the Menu: THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011)

Aftertaste: Possibly the best action flick of ActionFest 2012.


On the Menu: THE DAY (2011)

Aftertaste: Like THE ROAD, but with young peeps, including the lovely Shannyn Sossamon.


On the Menu: BAD ASS (2012)

Aftertaste: A real-life viral video becomes a vigilante flick starring Danny Trejo. It's WALKING TALL with a fanny pack.


On the Menu: COMIN' AT YA! 3D (1981)

Aftertaste: The most fun movie at ActionFest 2012 not named MANBORG, but it's not purposefully ridiculous. It's just ridiculous.


On the Menu:

Aftertaste: This secret screening was a nice surprise. You'd never know Tomer Sisley is a stand-up comedian by trade. Dude rocks the action-thrillers.


On the Menu:

Aftertaste: A little confusing with all the characters, and I was hoping for more action. More of a drama until the second half.


On the Menu:

Aftertaste: Goldthwait's stuff is always risky/ballsy. Twisted and over-the-top, but I agree with most of the soapboxing when it comes to how our culture has devolved.


On the Menu:

Aftertaste: A well-done mix of comic book history and girl power. Sometimes inspirational, too. I'm still waiting for the live-action Wonder Woman summer blockbuster. I vote for Gina Carano.


Manborg (2011) - ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Plate #5

On the Menu: MANBORG (2011)

Ingredients: Matthew Kennedy, Ludwig Lee, Meredith Sweeney, Conor Sweeney, Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie and Andrea Karr. Directed by Steven Kostanski. Run time: 60 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: The late-night movies at ActionFest are usually the best, e.g., TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. So, I made sure to secure a ticket to MANBORG.

A soldier (Kennedy) dies while he and his brother are fighting the evil Draculon (Brooks) and his army. He's brought back to life as a half-man, half-cyborg.

Draculon now rules the world.

Manborg, as he now calls himself, teams up with Mina (Sweeney), Justice (Sweeney) and #1 Man (Lee) to fight Draculon and his Killborgs.

Tough to Swallow: I can't think of anything bad to say, except I wish it were longer than 60 minutes.

Something to Chew On: The budget was an estimated $1,000.

Brooks portrayed both Draculon and Doctor Scorpius.

The director is also credited as playing Assorted Killborgs.

Kyle Hebert is the voice of #1 Man.

Regional premiere at ActionFest 2012.

Won the 2012 Spirit of ActionFest Award.

We were told before the movie to yell "Manborg!" if there should be a technical issue with the projection/sound. Funnily, the following day, people were yelling this when other films had problems or while simply waiting for a film to start.

Raven Banner Entertainment picked up the distribution rights back in February, so hopefully a DVD is on the way soon.

Aftertaste: It would be very easy to confuse MANBORG with a straight-to-VHS flick from the '80s, and for good reason. The filmmakers at Astron-6 make these types of movies for a living. They purposefully made the company name sound like Vestron, which was responsible for EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, BIG MAN ON CAMPUS, DREAM A LITTLE DREAM and, surprisingly, DIRTY DANCING. A number of Vestron's films haven't been released on DVD despite the library now being owned by Lionsgate.


Here we have a low-budget work of art. It was all filmed in a garage on a green screen. Manborg's costume is made from everyday scraps painted to metallic. Throw in some voice dubbing, some stop-motion animation and some lasers, and it's like you're in nerd heaven.

There's so much involved in this movie, it's difficult to believe it's only an hour long.

The Baron might be the film's best character. He's a baddie with a soft spot for one of his prisoners. He's the comic relief in a movie full of ridiculousness. Of course, having #1 Man's voice dubbed makes him pretty hilarious as well.

Call it a poor man's ROBOCOP. Or a poor man's TERMINATOR. Throw in some TRON and make it a comedy.

Just remember it looks the way it does on purpose.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Prometheus (2012) - Like Beautiful Swiss Cheese

On the Menu: PROMETHEUS (2012)

Ingredients: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong. Directed by Ridley Scott. Run time: 124 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: The trailer looked pretty cool, but I can't say I was anxiously anticipating the film's release. However, my co-worker Jared was totally psyched to see it. So, we checked out the opening midnight show.

It's 2089. A couple of archaeologists, Shaw (Rapace) and Holloway (Marshall-Green), have discovered a map in cave drawings from around the world. They believe it's an invitation from our creators.

Four years later, Weyland Corporation sends a crew of top scientists, along with an android named David (Fassbender), aboard the spaceship Prometheus to find answers to the origin of mankind.

Of course, things don't go quite as planned.

Tough to Swallow: David tells Vickers the crew has been in hyper sleep for 2 years, 4 months, 18 days, 36 hours and 15 minutes. 36 hours? How many hours are in a day in the year 2093?

In Shaw's dreams, she is a child speaking to her father, but we see the child. Most of my dreams are from my point-of-view.

Pretty sure David would have had to learn more than symbols to be able to SPEAK the alien language.

You'd think top scientists wouldn't want to contaminate an alien planet. Seems like there is no protocol at all in this movie.

The decapitated Engineer's head wouldn't gurgle without lungs.

Something to Chew On: PROMETHEUS is a spin-off of ALIEN, not a prequel. Although, it comes really close to being a prequel.

The film was originally titled PARADISE (December 2010).

Carey Mulligan, Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Olivia Wilde were a few actresses considered for the role of Shaw.

James Franco was considered for the role of Holloway.

Michelle Yeoh was considered for the role of Vickers.

Patrick Wilson appears in a dream as Shaw's father.

Ian Whyte, who plays the Last Engineer, has also been cast as predators in the ALIEN VS. PREDATOR series.

The Weyland logo appears as part of David's fingerprint.

At the end of the credits, a logo appears and reads "Brought to you by Weyland Corporation - Building better worlds. Since 10/11/12."

Aftertaste: I've seen all the ALIEN films, but I'm not a fan boy when it comes to the series, which is probably why Jared was more disappointed in the movie than I was.

To me, the best part of PROMETHEUS is its look. I wouldn't be surprised to see an Oscar nomination/win for Best Art Direction.

Fassbender and Rapace are the two bright spots in the cast. Fassbender's David is the most intriguing character, by far. He's an android with a thirst for knowledge, a love of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and a super-creepy vibe. The creepiness comes into play because he seems to be programmed to be curious and mischievous for no reason.

Shaw has the best scene of the movie. I won't ruin it for you, but it involves the med pod.

So, that's three things the movie has going for it. I'll make it four by adding the connection to Greek mythology. I love me some Greek mythology.

Prometheus is known for creating humans from clay and stealing fire from the gods. He gave the fire to humans and was punished by the gods for it. Okay. I think the Engineers represent Prometheus, the black goo is the fire and the xenomorphs are the gods. The recordings of the Engineers running to escape something seem to suggest a form of punishment, perhaps, but for what? Giving the black goo to humans? That is yet to be seen.

The science parts are just too laughable to take seriously. I spent most of the 124 minutes shaking my head.

People are complaining that the film leaves too many questions unanswered. Eh. Whatever.

There will be a sequel, I'm sure. Luckily, I don't have to worry about as many crappy scientists next time around.

Despite the numerous holes in logic, PROMETHEUS is visually stunning.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Transit (2012) - ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Plate #4

On the Menu: TRANSIT (2012)

Ingredients: Jim Caviezel, James Frain, Harold Perrineau, Diora Baird, Ryan Donowho, Sterling Knight, Elisabeth Röhm and Jake Cherry. Directed by Antonio Negret. Run time: 88 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: The 9:30/9:45 time slot came down to either TRANSIT or the Swedish flick HEADHUNTERS. My buddy, Chris, picked the former, so I accompanied him. HEADHUNTERS was playing the next day, and this was the only showing of TRANSIT.

Nate (Caviezel) is taking his family on a camping trip in hopes to reconnect with his sons and regain the trust of his wife. See, Nate just served 18 months in the pokey for real estate fraud.

A foursome of bank robbers, led by Marek (Frain), is looking to sneak passed the roadblocks set up to catch them. The family's taken a pit stop, and the robbers spot their vehicle, which is loaded down with camping gear. Perfect. Just take one of the bags and switch out the gear for the stolen cash, then retrieve it later down the road.

Really, how could this plan go wrong?

Tough to Swallow: I question the effectiveness of police roadblocks that ignore suspect profiles.

The audio dropped out right before the hotel rampage scene. After about four minutes the projectionist fixed the problem, but we didn't get to go back and listen to what we missed.

Marek throws a machete, if I remember correctly, at Nate's vehicle. It smashes the windshield, but the windshield is fine in subsequent scenes.

Logic gets thrown out the window several times. Seriously, based on their actions later in the movie, how were the antagonists smart enough to rob a bank in the first place? How did the guy in the boat know something was hidden in the swamp?

Something to Chew On: North American premiere at ActionFest 2012.

Frain won the award for Best Villain at ActionFest 2012.

The film's budget was an estimated $5 million.

Aftertaste: It's a fairly intense thriller with some amazing stunt driving. However, the dialogue is laughable and the characters are stupid. The cheese factor is very high here. I can't remember the number of facepalms I made while listening to the family's conversations.

I spent most of the time wishing Nate would just forget about his family. They suck for the most part, especially his wife.

The quick pace somewhat masks the ridiculous script, but not entirely. Luckily, the run time is only 88 minutes.

I can't recommend this one... unless you're looking for intensity with a big side of crap.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sinners and Saints (2010) - ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Plate #3

On the Menu: SINNERS AND SAINTS (2010)

Ingredients: Johnny Strong, Sean Patrick Flanery, Tom Berenger, Method Man, Costas Mandylor, Luis Mandylor, Jürgen Prochnow, Kevin Phillips, Bas Rutten, Kim Coates and Sonny Puzikas. Directed by William Kaufman. Run time: 104 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: Honestly, the only reason I marked this movie down on my ActionFest schedule was because Tom Berenger was scheduled to appear. I didn't know the plot. I didn't know who else was in it. I didn't know it was already on DVD. I just wanted to get my VHS copy of THE SUBSTITUTE signed by Shale himself.

Detective Sean Riley (Strong) has had it rough as of late. His son has died. His wife has left him.

After a raid goes bad, he's assigned to investigate a recent string of murders, where the victims are being burned repeatedly. One of the vics is the brother of a gang lord. Oops.

Hello, gang war.

Tough to Swallow: The mercenaries don't seem very well-trained or bright.

The majority of the "big" names in the cast only have a handful of scenes.

There is a credit for post-production assistant, but two people are listed.

In the credits, special contributors is misspelled as contributers.

Something to Chew On: Strong did the music for the film. He also did his own stunts. The dude is a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, an accomplished Mixed Martial Artist and makes knives.

The name of the bar in the movie is Boondock Saint. Flanery, of course, is one of the stars of BOONDOCK SAINTS and its sequel.

Flanery has now been in four films with the word 'saints' in the title. The first was PALE SAINTS in 1997.

Puzikas was also the film's tactical advisor. He is a former Russian Special Forces operative.

The movie was released on DVD on January 10, 2012 (three months before I saw it at ActionFest).

The film's showing at ActionFest was its domestic premiere.

SINNERS AND SAINTS 2 will go into production in the fall of 2012.

Aftertaste: Not a bad cop thriller considering it's a low-budget independent flick. It was actually filmed in New Orleans, and you'd never know it since we don't really see any landmarks or Mardi Gras parades. Instead, we get post-Katrina neighborhoods posing as cesspools full of drugs and gang violence.

The story is all over the place. The dialogue is lackluster. The acting, aside from Strong, is pretty sad.

But, but, but... there's lots of gunfire and people being burned. To me, violence is really the key ingredient for an action film. Schwarzenegger is as wooden an actor as there is, but his movies are fun because there are explosions, shootouts and people die in horrific ways. And, SINNERS AND SAINTS is full of intense, sometimes graphic, violence.

Kudos to Kaufman for using mostly practical special effects. Old school > CGI.

Kaufman says the sequel will have more exciting action, so I'll look forward to that.

Hopefully, the script will be better, too.

By the way, 
I got the VHS signed.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Goon (2011) - ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Plate #2

On the Menu: GOON (2011)

Ingredients: Seann William Scott, Liev Schreiber, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Eugene Levy, Kim Coates and Marc-André Grondin. Directed by Michael Dowse. Run time: 92 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I was hoping this movie was going to make the lineup for ActionFest 2012. I had been seeing posts about it from Magnet Releasing on my Facebook news feed for a while. Once ActionFest added it to this year's schedule, I marked it as my first must-see flick.

Doug Glatt (Scott) is a bouncer, who spends time watching hockey with his best friend, Ryan (Baruchel). Doug idolizes one of the league's toughest players, Ross Rhea (Schreiber), but doesn't actually play hockey himself. He can't even skate.

Doug and Ryan go to check out the local hockey team one night, and one of the players picks a fight with Doug in the stands.

The aftermath leads to Doug being picked up by the Halifax Highlanders.

Even though he still can't skate.

Tough to Swallow: In the locker room before Doug's first Highlanders game, the players have on white socks, but when LaFlamme walks in the room all the socks change to blue.

The Highlanders are located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but there are Manitoba signs in the background of shots throughout the movie.

Credit for MTL Tomahawk #1 is misspelled as Tomahawak.

Something to Chew On: Based on the true story of Doug Smith.

Adapted from the novel "Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey" by Smith and Adam Frattasio.

Clips of some of Smith's fights play during the closing credits.

Kevin Smith originally cast Scott as the goon in his 2013 hockey movie HIT SOMEBODY, but in November 2010 announced Nicholas Braun would play the role instead.

Aftertaste: Oh, man, this movie is just plain brutal.

Is it comparable to SLAP SHOT? I think it's better. Yeah, yeah, shoot me. In my opinion, Doug is just as dumb as the Hanson brothers, but he's easier on the eyes and tougher than all three combined. GOON is funnier, bloodier and more warmhearted.

You know right from the beginning it's going to be over the top. Blood is dripping on the ice in slow motion to the classical music of Puccini, and then a tooth follows. Not often do I really take notice of a soundtrack when watching a film, but the music here is really complementary to the action and sometimes helps get a laugh.

Baruchel's character is a little much, but not enough to totally take you out of the movie. Levy and Coates are underused, but the movie is about Doug and it's only 92 minutes.

I would say this is Scott's PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. Doug is the antithesis of the typical characters Scott portrays. His performance probably won't garner any accolades, but it does deserve some type of recognition. I'd guess his best chance would be at the MTV Movie Awards (Best Performance or Best Fight).

To me, GOON was the second-best film of ActionFest 2012.

Wanna fight about it?


Let the Bullets Fly (2010) - ActionFest Buffet 3.0: Plate #1

On the Menu: LET THE BULLETS FLY (2010)

Ingredients: Chow Yun-Fat, Wen Jiang, Ge You, Xiaogang Feng, Kun Chen and Carina Lau. Directed by Wen Jiang. Run time: 132 minutes. Rated: Not rated.

At First Bite: Chose this as my first Saturday film of ActionFest 2012. Seemed like it could be this year's THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD.

A group of bandits, led by Pocky Zhang (Jiang), ambushes a "train" carrying, Ma, the next governor of Goose Town (You), his wife (Lau) and his counselor. The counselor perishes, but, to avoid death, Ma poses as the counselor. Ma tells Pocky he can be the governor of Goose Town and split the taxes with Master Huang (Yun-Fat), the local mobster.

Zhang would rather just take from Huang, not the townspeople.

But, it's just not that easy.

Tough to Swallow: In the opening, regular titles and subtitles conflict in telling the year. One reads 1919. The other reads 1920.

Often, the subtitles go by pretty quickly.

Not sure it had to be two hours and twelve minutes long.

Something to Chew On: LET THE BULLETS FLY is China's highest-grossing film (domestic) of all-time, passing Xiaogang Feng's AFTERSHOCK.

Feng plays the counselor in the opening scene of this movie.

Jiang is also credited as one of the film's six screenwriters.

The budget was an estimated $18 million.

Aftertaste: LET THE BULLETS FLY was much funnier than I had expected. And, the laughs start right off the bat with the "train" robbery. Ge You is the comic relief, but Yun-Fat gets some chuckles because he plays two roles: the mobster and his double. For the most part, it plays like a black comedy -- since the death scenes are funny as well.

I don't know enough about present-day China, but I've read how this movie is a commentary on the corruption they've seen. Maybe that's why it broke the box-office record there.

Even though the movie runs long, its pace is pretty frenetic. The back-and-forth dialogue is tough to follow at times. If you don't like subtitles, this might be a tough film for you (unless the dubbed version stays true to the script).

The game of one-upsmanship between Zhang and Huang grows and grows as the movie progresses. The laughs are entertaining, sure, but it's this battle that keeps you interested. They are great, well-written characters, and they're pretty badass, too.

Comedy, violence and mind games: A winning trifecta.

This is one of the first of the ActionFest 2012 flicks to get a DVD release (April 24, 2012), and I'm definitely planning on getting one.