When it comes to James Gunn's early work, a lot of people would probably suggest 'Slither' as being the cult hit of his past. However, he did have another that doesn't get referred to nearly as much (probably because it's his lowest-ranked title), and that's 'Super'. I still think that it has its following, but its timing is extremely unfortunate.
When you watch this, it's basically a cross between 'Kick-Ass'; released the same year and infinitely better, and 'Defendor', released a year prior and also often seen as much better. The thing 'Super' had working for it more than anything else seemed to be its cast of familiar faces. Again, at the time, James Gunn was still a pretty fresh face, so his name didn't mean a whole hell of a lot quite yet. In other words, to be fair, this isn't about to be equated to 'Guardians' or the latest 'Suicide Squad'. This is a little more on-par in quality to 'Slither'. Perhaps even a bit less.
Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) lives a life of insecurity and refers to the two best moments of his life for inspiration. First and most important is his marriage to his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and second, was pointing out a perp's location to a cop, thus illustrating his interest in crime-fighting, or at least, the law. His humility is a little overwhelming, however, causing Sarah to leave him for a club owner named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). Frank sees this as more a kidnapping than a loss, however, and wants to get Sarah back one way or another. It doesn't help at all that Sarah is a recovering drug addict and this Jacques character seems to have plenty of them.
Soon, Frank has a vision in which he's visited by the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), who pretty much tells him that he should become a superhero. Due to the messenger being the Holy Avenger, Frank takes this as a message from God, and does his research on powerless heroes at a local comic store. With the help of comic store clerk, Libby (Elliot Page), and her suggestion for someone out there to become a superhero in real life, Frank takes to the streets as the Crimson Bolt. The thing is, his way of avenging society isn't exactly by the book. And as he quite literally tells crime to "shut up" with his pipe wrench, his mission to save his wife (who may or may not even want saving) remains his primary goal.
Between this being a black comedy that's almost too dark in its look at comedy, and being overshadowed by 'Defendor' (to be reviewed next) and 'Kick-Ass', it's sort of easy to see why this got swept under the rug. It is interesting, however, to remember this being sort of a big deal for a short time. In fact, this practically paralleled 'Defendor' in a "Coke/Pepsi" sort of way for a bit as the lesser-known "realistic" hero. It basically comes down to taste. Personally speaking, I find this one to be a lot sillier than 'Defendor', and the message at the end is a bit of a "wait a minute..." kind of message; one you need to second-guess. I wouldn't recommend any movie in this "real hero" category above 'Kick-Ass', myself. But like I said, this does have a cult following, so maybe it's another case of me just not wanting to be part of that cult.
Let's face it; whether you're like me and can't get enough, or someone who's sick of it all, one can't really deny an oversaturation of the superhero genre lately. It is, indeed, to the point where a lot of it can be played for laughs nowadays (like three of the four titles on this "Underground Superhero" list). But one might recall this somewhat forgotten farcical title from 1999 that has since become something of a hidden gem.
It's important to remember that this predates things like the 'X-Men' and 'Spider-Man' movies, and at the time, the best superhero movie in existence was probably still 1989's 'Batman'. Sure, 'Blade' was still very fresh as well, but the superhero genre was only really on the first rungs of the ladder to success. As a result, there was something about 'Mystery Men' that always felt a bit off, as it was a parody of the superhero genre before the superhero genre was anything really good yet. Therefore, it's largely considered nowadays to be before its time, and it's currently something fun to check out more so than it was upon its initial release.
An amateur superhero team consisting of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy) and The (now probably controversial) Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) try to make a name for themselves by preventing a robbery. They are, however, interrupted by the arrogant Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), whose fame and power have seemingly resulted in all of his primary enemies being eliminated, one way or another. This leads to his sponsors withdrawing support, and his own desperation to stay on top. Using his secret identity of lawyer Lance Hunt, he pleas for the release of his arch-nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), basically so that he has something to do.
Amazing's plans backfire, however, and Frankenstein outwits and captures him. All the while, his diabolical plan involves unleashing something called the "Psycho-frakulator" on Champion City - a device that can bend reality with fatal consequences. So we have a very classic Batman-ish villainous plot here which, along with silly things like not recognizing Captain Amazing out of costume (like Superman) really lends itself to the comedic aspect of the movie when we think of how silly some of these things are. Anyway, with Amazing out of the picture, it's up to the trio of unlikely heroes to save the city.
Realizing the team needs more allies to go after a big villain like Frankenstein, the team holds auditions for new additions. Through this, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), The Spleen (Paul Reubens) and The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The trouble is, no one but The Bowler is very good with their superpowers, and they eventually need to undergo some training from the Sphinx (Wes Studi). Can the unlikely superheroes show their full potential, rescue Captain Amazing from the clutches of the evil Disco Boys and save their city?
It's interesting for me to remember seeing this upon its release and not really being into it at all. I think a lot of it was, again, the timing though. It was kind of hard to see this as a farce more than thinking the superhero genre was just kind of doomed at that point. I mean, it was still pretty hit or miss after that, save for a few titles leading up to 2008's 'Iron Man'. But it's like I said before. One can actually probably get a real kick out of this nowadays with the whole genre basically taking things over. It's a fun superhero comedy that doesn't take itself seriously at all, and even seemingly makes fun of the whole thing. I really think this is one that both fans and non-fans of the superhero genre can appreciate.
The found footage genre is very hit-or-miss when it comes to my own taste. A lot of people just can't really do it, and that's something I understand. But if it's done creatively enough, I tend to really like quite a few of them - one of them being the now unbelievable 10-year-old 'Chronicle'; the found-footage take on obtaining superpowers for lack of a better term. And, funny story, two of these actors would go on to feature in mainstream Superhero movies.
As all found-footage movies go, our basic setup is seen from the get-go where our lead, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), decides he's going to film "everything" from now on. A good chunk of this is due to his abusive, alcoholic father, Richard (Michael Kelly) who blames Andrew for literally everything, including Andrew's mom, Karen's (Bo Peterson) illness. Andrew also gets bullied at school, but one has to admit that to some degree, he's not really the most likable person. But no worries, as this character was actually well-formed that way for good reason.
Andrew's cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) invites him to a party one night, in order to mingle and try to get himself out there, meeting people. There, things don't go too well, but he eventually meets Class President hopeful, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). Steve brings Andrew and his camera to meet up with Matt in order to explore a very mysterious cave that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Upon exploring, something unknown happens that seemingly leads the trio to obtain telekinesis.
One thing I do love about this movie is the way this power works. Things seem to come with limits, and it acts a lot like weight-lifting. The more they do it, the better they get, but if they overdo it, things result in a pretty bad nose-bleed. As they videotape all of the cool stuff they learn how to do throughout the film, things don't exactly go without incident, and soon enough we see the difference between having the power to help others and having the power to help oneself. If you gained such an ability yourself, would you abuse it if you were really good at it? Or would you only use it when and if it was asked for?
One word of warning I'll give about this, along with most found-footage films, is that there's really no explanation as to how they really got these abilities. Something happens, we don't know, and we're not meant to know. One thing I appreciate about this genre is the lack of explanation. One can use imagination to fill in the blanks, and to some degree, it almost doesn't make any sense to offer up an explanation, as we're supposed to be experiencing things through the eyes of the cameraman. I do get people being somewhat miffed about that, considering a lack of structure. But for me, found footage is almost meant to be more of a theme park ride experience than an actual solid film.
There are a few examples of found footage that I'd say are really well done, and I have to say that this is one of them. It's a fun and quick way to tell a superhero story while being original, but also offering up the two paths someone with special abilities can go down. It sort of begs the question of what one would do if they had this power. For me, I like the idea of using it for mischief. You're not being a good guy, but you're not exactly being a supervillain either. There's a whole bit here where you see them do just that, and though you feel kind of bad for the people they are messing with, it does give one a pretty good chuckle.
As for the two who went on to star in mainstream superhero movies, Michael B. Jordan is likely the obvious one, as Killmonger in 'Black Panther' AND Human Torch in 2015's 'Fantastic Four'. Dane DeHaan also went on to be a crappy version of the Green Goblin in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'. But what's odd is that Alex Russell doesn't seem to (unless I missed something) have credit for anything like that. The guy has potential though, so we shall see if he gets added to anything in the near future. Anyway, if you ever wanted to see where at least Michael B. Jordan came from, this is an interesting watch nowadays. If nothing else, it's a cool take on not only the found-footage genre, but the superhero genre as well.
Viking Women and the Sea Serpent
Perhaps one may know this better by its other long, drawn out name, "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent". Either way you name it, it's still another hilariously bad piece of the Roger Corman collection. This movie made me laugh so many times, but often for the wrong reasons. There's a sort of over-the-top hilarity to it all in that it's trying to be a step forward for women, but it's really taking two steps back. After all, this was still 1957.
The film features a group of Viking women whose men have gone on some kind of venture, and haven't returned. It opens with the women deciding on whether they go out looking for their men by throwing spears at a tree. How anything is really decided here, I have no idea, but it's al null and void once their leader, Desir (Abby Dalton) makes the decision for them. They head out, along with the only dude left on the island, Ottar (Jonathan Haze), who insists he goes with them because they're women and need a man to go along. You instantly question what he's even doing there while all the other men left, and the movie makes it sad but clear.
Anyway, the women (and Ottar) decide to depart on a kind of lousy boat, which is eventually attacked by a sea serpent, and they soon find themselves stranded somewhere that just so happens to be the same place their men are. A race of savage, but very well-spoken men called the Grimaults find them, and take them all captive. Lead by the ruthless Stark (Richard Devon), the women are shown that their men have since become slaves, working for the Grimaults in the mines. Soon this all leads to an escape plot, with Desir and her man, Vedric (Brad Jackson) at the wheel.
So, needless to say, this is an extremely dated movie. There seems to be some sort of effort for the time in giving women a voice - but their voice is written by Roger Corman. About the best this does is show that women can do what men can do... like row a boat. It carries with it, the old fashioned thinking of a woman needing a man in order to, not only be happy, but honestly live. For comparison, look at 'Wonder Woman' and the land of Themyscira - that's a society of women who just plain don't need men, and they're doing great on their own. Here, though, the women go looking for their men as a sort of "need" - especially when it comes to going unloved.
The sad truth is that a lot of that old age thinking is in a lot of the dialogue, and I couldn't help but laugh at so much of it. There's even one dude who keeps whipping people, but the amount of randomized times he does it makes for an honest to God running gag. Everything about this movie that's hilarious is a bad thing, be it abuse, overall treatment of women in the script, or how guys spoke about women. To make things perfectly clear though, it's funny in the context that it's such ridiculousness to even consider nowadays. This isn't like watching a movie from the 80s where it gets awkward because of some of the terms used. This is a bit more like... 'Reefer Madness' in that the context is so crazy, it's funny.
So, in my humble opinion, this is really quite worthy of landing on anyone's eventual long list of films that are "so bad, they're good". Even though there's nothing particularly good about this movie, I still had a great time watching it. I think there may come a time on this site of mine that I will have to squeeze in a Roger Corman special, because I'm slowly learning how fun his movies actually are. For those curious, one can find it, absolutely free on YouTube. It just might be under its original title.
This one is actually a little bit of a cheat, as it's a Shudder exclusive, and I have it placed here, "Under the Radar". Honestly though, it fits. It's actually a pretty interesting flick for anyone who appreciates a good blend of comedy and over-the-top gore. 'Evil Dead 2' perhaps being the best example. However, there's nothing occult surrounding this at all. This one's about a virus, predates Covid-19, and is one of the more relatable movies for the psyche as of late.
This is very much a comedy horror version of your average "bad day" movie (this is where someone finally "snaps", but does so in a way that a general audience can relate to) In this case, it involves a virus that activates that little thing in your head that says "f*ck it, this is happening", leading to rage tantrums, hardcore violence, screaming out of frustration, and sex out in the open. In other words, inhibitions go out the window, completely. Here, a known (but fictional) virus finds its way into an office building, which gets quarantined, effects everyone inside, and this is what leads to the film's namesake.
We meet Derek Cho (Steven Yeun), who has climbed the ladder of success at a law firm. One morning, he meets with a client named Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), desperate for more time on a loan. However, Cho does not help her, and calls security. So yes, this is one where you route for the underdog, but you're knowingly also routing for a bit of a jerk. The "underdog" part comes from him being pinned for a botched legal case for a major company called Vandacorp by his superior, Kara "The Siren" Powell (Caroline Chikezie) - nicknamed for always having the John "The Boss" Towers' (Steven Brand) ear, whose nickname is obvious.
After discovering this, Derek takes it to the top, confronting Powell, and bringing it to Towers' attention. This fails terribly, resulting in Derek's firing by HR chief Lester "The Reaper" McGill (again, nicknamed for obvious reasons). He's offered a hefty severance package from McGill if he takes the blame, but Derek refuses to compromise his integrity, and more importantly, realizes he could be disbarred and sued as a result. During all of this, the virus is slowly taking effect on everyone in the building, including Derek, who has definitely had the last straw.
One nice little loophole that Derek and Melanie have to work with is the fact that one time this virus infected another locale where a brutal murder took place, and the killer was cleared due to him being helpless against the virus. That's another interesting concept to me, which reminds me of the idea of 'The Purge' - the concept that there IS a way to get away with murder quite legally due to some crazy loophole. It may not be realistic, but it's something interesting to think about.
Not forgetting about the lovely Melanie Cross, Derek and Melanie actually end up sort of teaming up here, both having a terrible day, and both out for the same person's blood... somewhat literally. To be quite frank and honest, I actually love this concept. It makes me think of the average zombie virus that often effects the animalistic rage portion of the brain, but without it being a zombie movie. It's a "what if" scenario involving everyone actually carrying out their inner-most brutal thoughts.
What more can I say? This is not going to be for everyone, as there's quite a bit of off the wall stuff happening here. Like, imagine walking into a room and in a couple of different corners, people are having sex, while in other parts, there's fist fighting and possibly even murder just unfolding before your eyes. What I liked about this so much was that this was a lead that sort of had to get humbled after being a jerk. It's interesting, you don't really like Cho much at first, but after the day he has, you do end up routing for him. As for Melanie, she's just fun times. So, having a terrible day? Check it out for yourself, and enjoy they Mayhem that this movie is so appropriately named for.
For yours truly, there really is something about the horror comedy that comes from the British commonwealth. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they always seem to have such fun with things, and you know that with these you're almost always in for a really solid B movie. Here we have an Irish creature feature that's no exception, and I honestly just want to see more horror comedy from Ireland now.
We are introduced to Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle), and Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). "Garda", for anyone unfamiliar can roughly be translated to "Officer". O'Shea is a resentful alcoholic lazybones who somewhat resents Nolan, his new workaholic partner who takes a job on a remote Irish island where the townsfolk have discovered mutilated whale corpses along the beach. Soon enough, it is revealed that a group of tentacled aliens, varying in size, are the source of the attack.
Where things get really fun here are when the town lush, Paddy (Lalor Roddy) remarkably survives an attack, and it's soon theorized by local marine ecologist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) that alcohol is their best defense. While these creatures thrive on water and blood, alcohol seems to provide a sort of poison to them. So, indeed, a lot of the humour to this movie does come from drunken Irish dialogue. But seeing as this is from the Irish, it makes me think a lot aboot us here in Canada embracing our stereotypes so well, eh?
I don't think there's a whole lot else left to say about it, so here we have a pretty short review. I think if I were to compare it to anything as far as "mood" goes with American films, it's a lot like 'Eight-Legged Freaks' in that it's a B movie that recognizes itself as a B movie, and it's one of the finer examples of, once again, a nation embracing its stereotypes and just having a good time with things. I thought this was actually a lot of fun, and I do tend to have a sort of bias towards modern B movies like this.
Unfortunately, however, this one is pretty damn hard to find, so one will certainly have to do some digging in order to find and enjoy it. But if you can find it (currently rentable from Apple TV), and you enjoy these kinds of movies as much as I do, AND can get past some of the language, I recommend grabbing some salty snacks, plenty of beer, and enjoying the silly sci-fi fun that is 'Grabbers'.
The last Grindhouse flick on the list is the sequel to 'Machete', brought to us once again by Robert Rodriguez, but sadly, with less effort put in. While 'Machete Kills' starts off with a great new fake trailer for 'Machete Kills Again... In Space', the rest of the movie does not quite feel right. The rest of the Grindhouse movies make this extra effort to feel somewhat crappy in old school quality, but this doesn't quite pull that off. This is more like a Grindhouse movie with a budget, and a lot of it is just bringing in names - two of whom people were already quite iffy about back in 2013, and you'll know who when their names get their credits as I go through this.
First I'm going to have to admit that I had a tough time trying to follow it. This is one of those titles you try to keep up with, but then wonder why it matters, as it's supposed to be a Grindhouse movie. So I'll do my best, but if things don't make sense, blame the damn movie. Anyway, it opens with Machete (Danny Trejo) and Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) from the last movie, teamed up in an attempt to intercept weapons dealers who have ben supplying the Mexican drug cartels. A fight breaks out, and many are killed, but then another team enters the battle, killing Rivera (spoiler alert) and arresting Machete. During the attempted hanging of Machete where he doesn't die, US President, Rathcock (Charlie Sheen - as "Carlos Estevez") intervenes, offering Machete American citizenship if he does a job for him.
The job is to take out Marcos Mendez (Demián Bichir) who is threatening to nuke Washington, DC if America doesn't put an end to the drug cartels in Mexico and government curruption. Machete takes the job which leads him to his handler, Blanca Vasquez (Amber Heard) who leads him to a girl named Cereza (Vanessa Hudgens) who knows how to find Mendez. From here it becomes a bit of a mess as things unfold, and this is where it becomes a bit more action a bit less sensical. Along the way, Machete meets the likes of Cereza's man-hating mother, Madame Desdemona (Sofía Vergara), Medez's associate, Zaror (Marko Zaror), the Chamelion (Walton Goggins/Cuba Gooding Jr./Lady Gaga/Antonio Banderas - guess what this character's talent is) and Zaror's corrupt benefactor, Luther Voz (Mel Gibson). I mean, the names and roles are enough to say "hey, things get a bit confusing" when some of them don't really need to be a part of things.
I did mention that 'Hobo with a Shotgun' might be the lowest of the bunch, but now I have to change that opinion. The charm of 'Hobo' comes with the fact that it's sort of "Grindhouse at its most Grindhousey" - it's a brutal movie full of shock value, and it makes sense that it belongs in that Grindhouse category. With this, it's a solid R, but you almost wonder if they could have gotten away with PG-13 here. As far as Grindhouse goes, this is probably the easiest one to sit through as far as brutality goes. This one relies a lot more on names, and the extreme cheese side of things. There is a bit of fun to it, if you want to just watch it because it's goofy. I mean, to be perfectly fair, there is supposed to be an element of "bad" here, and the film uses bad CG to make a lot of it happen. The problem with that, however, is that CG shouldn't even enter into things for a Grindhouse era movie. Granted, there's modern material through the fil, but so much of the charm of the others is the terrible, low-budget quality taking place before CG could "fix things".
Personally speaking, I would probably consider 'Machete Kills' the throwaway movie of this group of five, and highly recommend the first one far above this one. I think if I had offer up this list as a Top 5, from top to bottom, I'd say 'Planet Terror', 'Machete', 'Death Proof' (with a new appreciation), 'Hobo with a Shotgun' and 'Machete Kills'. That said, opinions are most definitely bound to differ, and it could be that others get more from this one than I did. But one thing to consider is that this is the only one on the list, unanimously disliked on both "tomatometers". So, if you're ever in the mood to do a Grindhouse marathon of any kind, this is the one title you could potentially omit. Again, it doesn't even fully feel right for what it's supposed to be, and despite a few cheesy but fun lines of dialogue as well as moments, this one is the weakest link.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Second in-line for the fake 'Grindhouse' trailers to be made into an actual movie is 'Hobo with a Shotgun'. The trailer was apparently only seen in some Canadian releases of 'Grindhouse', and the actual film looks quite a bit different than what is shown in the trailer. Although the plot is essentially the same, originally, the hobo was portrayed by David Brunt. Here, it's Rutger Hauer who, in my opinion, is what really makes this movie.
An unnamed hobo (Hauer) enters the ironically named Hope Town; a city overrun with unspeakable acts of crime, headed by a crime lord known as "The Drake" (Brian Downey) who watches over things. In the meantime, the hobo minds his business, wanting to buy a lawnmower in order to start his own business and make a bit of extra cash. However, as a hobo, this guys ends up seeing how bad things really get, often becoming victimized, himself. Such acts include humiliating desperate homeless people on camera for money, which is something he eventually succumbs to participating in.
One day, the hobo sneaks a peek at the underground community, and it's pretty reminiscent of the Foot headquarters in '91s 'Ninja Turtles' - a bunch of punk kids, an arcade - but here, things are just a bit more R-rated. Here, the Drakes two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) along with a few henchmen take delight in torturing and killing the homeless. This is where our hobo hero finally has enough, upon watching the sexual harassment of a prostitute named Abby. He knocks out and drags Slick to the police department, but learns how corrupt they are as well. His final straw results in him grabbing a shotgun and dishing out some vigilante justice. His primary targets - The Drake and his two sons.
Being that this is a Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect to see some pretty messed up shit. But being a Canadian Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect the scales to tip into even more messed up. For reference, see a handful of our terrifying PSAs, available on YouTube. We're super friendly and polite, but we're also a little bit looser about things around here, eh. Anyway, I might suggest that of the Grindhouse movies in the series, this one probably is the most disturbing. Luckily, it's filled with some really weird stuff too, so it reminds us that it's not something to be taken seriously at all. However to illustrate some of the brutal content here, let's just say that absolutely no one is safe in this movie. This one is definitely for the more hardcore at heart.
I have to imagine that the purpose of 'Hobo with a Shotgun' was to sort of reveal just how bad some of these old Grindhouse movies could actually get. While all of them have a good amount of gore, language, gore, sexuality and gore, this one also plays with the mind a little bit more than the others. Over the top or not, there's something truly psychologically disturbing about this one. You can laugh some of it off, but if any of these were an actual snuff film, it would probably be this one. Bascially, just make sure you have your wits about you when you venture into this one. It's not quite as "fun" as any of the others, although there are still elements of comedy.
Of the Grindhouse collection, this might be the one I'd openly recommend the least. It's the only one I walked away from with a big "WTF" reaction as opposed to something more positive. None of the other Grindhouse movies made me feel particularly uncomfortable about what I was watching, but this actually did. Despite a few funny moments, it does get cringeworthy with some of its contents, and not in a "lame joke" kind of way. I suppose that's the point, but it does have that air of torture porn about it that I've never been a big fan of. I can't say it was necessarily bad, as it's quite honestly supposed to be to some degree. At the very least, I can respect the fact that it accomplishes what it sets out to do.
A Mexican Fed named Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) and his partner open the film on a mission to find and rescue a kidnapped girl. In the process, Machete finds himself with a dead partner, a knife to the leg (compliments of the kidnapped girl), and betrayed by his chief to Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal); a powerful drug lord who, let's just say, has it in for Machete and his family. Fast-forwarding three years, Machete finds himself alone, down on his luck, and managing to get by with landscaping work.
Machete is approached by Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) who explains that Texas State Senator, John McLaughlin (Robert De Nero) is threatening to cut down on the number of laborers by sending illegal immigrants out of the country. He then offers Machete a fine choice between $150,000 for the assassination of McLaughlin, or death - a reluctant Machete accepts the former. Soon enough, the assassination attempt turns into a setup, and Machete finds himself as the subject of a conspiracy that caters to McLaughlin's strong stance on illegal immigration.
In the meantime, Agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba), a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, is sent to find and capture Machete. However, long story short, she finds herself in the middle of things, torn between sticking up for her brothers and sisters and doing what she has been hired to do. During all of this, Machete teams up with a taco truck waitress, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) and a priest named Padre (Cheech Marin) to seek revenge on Booth, who set him up. So it's a pretty basic revenge film that takes the whole illegal immigration scenario to an extreme, and as a Grindhouse film, it pretty well does the job.
This is the first of the Grindhouse fake trailers to eventually become a real movie, and being that it was also directed by Robert Rodriguez (along with 'Planet Terror') you definitely get the wonderous "dude porn" he's so well known for (in other words, his movies are incredibly "manly"). I have to admit that I'm a bit of a sucker for his movies, as sometimes, speaking as a guy, sometimes we just need that no-brain adrenaline full of explosions, violence, and sexy but totally badass women - something found in the characters themselves as opposed to them just being eye candy. These Grindhouse movies are all pretty solid for these reasons, but this is probably one of the better of them.
This also serves a a good fan service film for Rodriguez fans. Danny Trejo is the lead, sure, but further cameos pop up from some of our Rodriguez film favourites like Tom Savini, and to a lesser extent, an uncredited Rose McGowan (whose scenes were sadly deleted). But if you're a Rodriguez fan, and appreciate his slant towards a bit more of the hardcore, then this movie works out pretty damn well. One could even say this is as much a look into his basic formulas of filmmaking much like 'Death Proof' could be seen for Tarantino fans (although this was much more fun).
In the weird world we live in nowadays, I might suggest this as being a step forward in film, even if it's going somewhat backwards. We're so dead set on our mainstream 80s and 90s nostalgia, but there's definitely an audience for the more hardcore movie-makers out there like Rodriguez, Tarantino, Roth, Zombie, hell, even my hero Edgar Wright puts some extremities in his "Cornetto Trilogy". So I have to admit that I'm certainly a part of that cult, albeit perhaps on the lighter side (Zombie and Roth films are just too torturous for my taste).
I might go so far as to say 'Machete' represents the Grindhouse movie series at its peak. The next film, 'Hobo with a Shotgun' wasn't quite as well received, nor was it quite as fun as the first three. Then 'Machete Kills' seemed to have put the nail in the coffin, but more on those titles soon enough. As for 'Machete', I highly recommend it to the hardcore fans of Robert Rodriguez, and might suggest any fan of that particular cult of directors might have fun with it. However, it's important to keep in mind that there's a few extremities to this as a Grindhouse film, so it simply won't be for everyone. I have fun with it, but it also touches on some pretty controversial subject matter for this day and age. So nowadays, there's basically gonna be offended people, or people who get way too into it - but then, I suppose that's a grindhouse flick doing its job...
Here we have the second half of 'Grindhouse', directed by Quentin Tarantino. I saw it once before, have since generally considered it Tarantino's poorest work since then. The catch is, there's supposed to be a "badness" to 'Grindhouse', so in some respects, I get it. But cards on the table, I just thought it dragged - that is until that climactic car chase, which I will definitely give to the movie for keeping me on the edge of my seat for those last 20 minutes or so.
Up until that point, our plot (which I'm poorly going to explain now due to my boredom) basically involves a stuntman by the name of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who meets a handful of women in a bar, Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), radio DJ "Jungle" Julia Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), Lanna (Monica Staggs) and the innocent Pam (Rose McGowan). Eventually, Mike carries out his serial killer tactics on them with his 1970 Chevy Nova that happens to be, as the title suggests, "Death Proof" to the driver - not so death proof to whoever happens to be a passenger. Do these ladies survive? I'll never tell.
Months later, however, a new handful of women enter Mike's territory; hair and makeup artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), stuntwoman Kim (Tracie Thoms), Lee, the actress (Mary Elizabeth-Winstead) and eventually, real-life stuntwoman as herself, Zoë Bell. Long story short, Mike may very well meet his match with these ladies, and their stunt driving situation is by far the better half of this movie. The first half I find is still just talk and more talk that doesn't seem to really go anywhere. In a movie like this, although the action is great when it is on screen, I hardly feel like there's enough of it. I guess I hoped for more balls to the wall action as opposed to a lot of conversation.
Having said that, I'm not fool. Tarantino absolutely has a gift for dialogue. If you're into his directorial style mainly because he's so good at writing dialogue, you might feel better about this movie than I do. Personally, my Tarantino fandom comes a little more from his dark sense of humour. Whatever it is he works on, he hasn't lost his fondness for the fun of movie-making, and he's one of the only directors out there who can have a massive cult following while being Oscar bait at the same time. 'Death Proof' most definitely lands more in his cult category though, and I think you just have to be the right kind of fan to really like this one.
Personally speaking, for me, the best part of this involved the preceding trailers. I got such a good laugh from all of them, and really wish they could become real movies as well. Among them are Rob Zombie's 'Werewolf Women of the SS', Edgar Wright's 'Don't' and Eli Roth's 'Thanksgiving'. This adds a whole level of fun to everything, as they are each just fun fake trailers these guys made up to contribute to the 'Grindhouse' project. So while I don't hate 'Death Proof' and consider certain elements that save it (namely the trailers and the climax), I still think Tarantino just has much better films out there to choose from.
Again, it's all a matter of taste. This could be considered a favourite by many just because it highlights Tarantino by showing off things like dialogue skills, action, style, his cameo and a whole bunch of bare feet. I can certainly give this a solid pass based on certain aspects of it, and maybe it's simply not so much for me but for the hardcore fans. I'm fairly basic when it comes to Tarantino as my fave will always and forever be 'Pulp Fiction', and to me, this doesn't really come close in quality. But for all I know, this could very well be the best choice for highlighting his skill set. One thing I can at least admit to here is that, despite still considering it as Tarantino's weakest film, I did manage to get more out of it the second time around. Who knows, with time, maybe it can grow on me.
Back in 2007, directors, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino decided to take cinema back to the days of the grindhouse theater with a double-feature simply known as, well, 'Grindhouse'. These old school theaters were also known as "action houses", and would air low-budget films aimed at adults with plenty of action, gore, sex, whatever might get your film a hard R to X-rating. The first movie on the list is Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror'.
But first, a "prevue" of 'Machete' from Rodriguez as the first of a few fake trailers throughout the presentation. Another three would be seen before 'Death Proof', and in some places, one for 'Hobo with a Shotgun' could be seen. Of course, only 'Machete' and 'Hobo' eventually became real movies, themselves (with the original fake trailers being quite a bit different than the actual films), but never say never to the other ones eventually coming to a theater (or home) near you. The trailers are one of the most fun aspects of 'Grindhouse', as they're so delightfully over the top. However, we have to get to our feature presentation eventually, right?
'Planet Terror' sort of has three stories that eventually end up rolling into one. First, we meet a Texas go-go dancer named Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) who quits her job, and ends up running into her ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodríguez). Meanwhile, a Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis) tries to get his hands on the dangerous chemical, DC2. A transaction goes wrong when his supplier, Abby (Naveen Andrews), ends up causing chemical a leak during a struggle, turning much of the town into zombies. This eventually brings in our third story, with doctors Dakota and William Block (Marley Shelton and Josh Brolin, respectively). In the process of trying to treat the infected, it's revealed that Dakota is having an affair, making William a little destructive and forcing Dakota on the run with their son, Tony (Rebel Rodriguez).
Without going into too much detail, as the town is being overrun by horrors, each character has to deal with their own problems while trying to fend off zombies; most prominent being Cherry getting her leg eaten off, and for most of the film, walking around on a stick - until the stick becomes a gun, and we have the quintessential badass movie poster character. For the most part, it's a survival horror movie, but doesn't quite feel like your typical zombie movie. These are zombies that can seem to think for themselves pretty well - they can operate tools, for example. It certainly gives you all the fun of a zombie flick, but does so with a certain level of badassery that only someone like Rodriguez can deliver.
What I admire most here is how these movies are filmed with graininess, scratches, burn marks and the like, making it look super low budget. There's even a pretty brilliant moment here where the screen goes to black and apologizes to us for the missing reel. I think it's a choice of style to be admired, as it shows that we can still have a lot of fun with film. In a way, 'Grindhouse' has managed to pick up a lost art and bring it back. Sure, we have a good share of "brutal" movies today, but it has reached the mainstream by today's horror standards. However, I must say, there's something about the grainy style that really lends itself to the horrors involved, and puts 'Grindhouse' in its own dark little corner. I had a lot of fun with 'Planet Terror'. It's ridiculous, but there's also an odd horrific charm to it, plus... c'mon, Rose McGowan with a gun leg is totally awesome.
When it comes down to Man vs Nature films, there are only a few I may find more thrilling than 'The Edge'. I saw this one in theaters back when it was released in '97, and it has held a special place in my heart since. Believe it or not, this is also the film that made me appreciate Anthony Hopkins as an amazing actor. This was before I finally saw 'Silence of the Lambs', which everyone else loves him for, which is kind of funny, as he plays a hero of sorts here.
The film starts out innocently enough with a billionaire named Charles Morse (Hopkins), happily married to model, Mickey (Elle Macpherson). Along with photographer, Bob Green (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant, Stephen (Harold Perrineau), the group take a trip to a remote cabin in an Alaskan village, and are hosted by knowledgeable woodsman, Styles (L.Q. Jones). He's here to be a bit of a harbinger, as he foreshadow the horrors of a bear attack, which would soon become relevant. The reason for the trip seems to be for a photoshoot, which includes Bob photographing Mickey, all the while seemingly flirting with her. However, Charles keeps his cool, engrossed in a book about survival.
Eventually, Bob, Stephen and a reluctant Charles go on a flight in search of an Alaskan man, Jack Hawk (Gordon Tootoosis), who has a connection to Bob and his photography. Their plane crash lands in the middle of nowhere, and th trio soon find themselves engrossing in the Alaskan wilderness, having to hike their way back. All the while, a gigantic grizzly bear tracks and hunts them, and the concept of survival gets cranked to eleven. In the meantime, an unspoken thing between Charles and Bob, involving Charles' wife, adds to the intensity of the situation. We know this is a man vs nature survival film, but we further get that it's gonna be man vs man in a matter of time. The cool thing about it is, right up until the end, the film studies human nature more than just making them "bad guy and good guy".
Speaking of "bad guy", the main antagonist of this movie is the grizzly bear. Little known fact about this guy, he's actually a pretty famous actor, and is thanked at the end of the film as the credits begin to roll. Played by "Bart the Bear", he has appeared in numerous other titles including 'The Great Outdoors' (as the bald-headed bear), 'White Fang', and 'Homeward Bound' (1 and 2) just to name a few. Sadly, he passed at the age of 23 back in 2000, but he certainly left behind an impression. Cards on the table, even though this isn't considered a horror movie of any sort, this bear kind of traumatized me during one particular scene, and it seem that this scene is still pretty bothersome to me. So kudos to Bart the Bear for being one of the most intimidating on-screen presences through my history of movie-watching.
Some of you may be reading this wondering why I have it "Under the Radar". After all, it was a wide release at the time, stars an A-lister duo, and it's just a well-told story. The fact is, however, most people I ask about whether they've seen this movie simply haven't heard of it, or have, but don't remember it at all. Although I will grant that some of the survival techniques in this could be a bit off, including what they let them get away with. But when it comes down to the story, characters, and all around suspense, I think it does a really good job. As long as you can stomach some of the brutality from the bear, this is a solid, intense watch, and I recommend checking it out if you're looking for something dark, but still solidly dramatic.
We start this month's theme of Man vs. Nature with an incredible but tragic true story that paints the majestic Mount Everest in a horrifying light. I will also take the time to recommend the documentary of the events to inspire this film; 'Into Thin Air: Death on Everest' (if you can find it). In either case, each film gives a pretty traumatic look at the seemingly common bucket list goal of climbing Mt. Everest. For yours truly, it's more than enough to say "not in a million years".
Taking place in 1996, a man named Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) has popularized commercial Everest missions. On this fateful mission, Rob is leading a team consisting of a variety of characters; an experienced climber named Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin); a mailman pursuing a goal named Doug Hansen (John Hawkes); a climbing veteran named Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), making this the last of the Seven Summits for her to climb; and a journalist for "Outside" magazine named Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly).
Meanwhile, Rob's company 'Adventure Consultants' has friendly competition with 'Mountain Madness', lead by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). However with potential climber overcrowding, the two groups have to try to agree on thing like reducing delays, and keeping an eye on the elements that involve extreme cold, pitfalls, lack of oxygen, and worst of all, a terrible incoming winter storm. As the groups try to cooperate with their back and forth, as well as the stubbornness of some of the climbers, before anyone knows it, everyone is in for a disaster of epic proportions that make the craziest disaster movies look like a picnic - especially when you know all of this stuff actually happened.
This one came out five years ago, and did manage to hit it pretty big for the time. It was a September release, so it didn't quite fit the summer blockbuster caliber of things, but a lot of the names were a big draw, along with the true story aspect. However, it seemed to get the treatment of either being completely overlooked, or viewed once and let alone to be forgotten about. It's funny, but if I bring this up nowadays, it seems there's a select few who have even heard of it - even with all of the names attached. I haven't even mentioned Keira Knightly, or Robin Wright (who play Ben and Beck's respective at-home wives), but things are decently star-studded here.
The real draw of the film, however, has everything to do with its overall intensity. I saw this one on the big screen with post-conversion 3D, and it actually turned out really good. For a lot of the time, you feel like you're right there with the group, caught up in all the terrifying elements nature can throw at you. I still remember actually keeping my jacket on for the movie because something about it just felt cold. On the small screen, the effect isn't quite as strong, but that doesn't matter, because there's still a great but harrowing story here that deserves to be seen. I feel like this was a title that kind of got swept under the rug after a little while, but it's a great cautionary tale for aspiring mountaineers.
I feel obligated, however, to inform everyone that this is not what one would call a "feel-good" movie of any kind. It has some funny moments of comradery, but nothing about it is a comedy. It's intense for a lot of it, and nearing the end, your heart is just about bound to break. But once again, if you think a Hollywood movie on these events is gonna be too much for you, I stil highly recommend the documentary, 'Into Thin Air: Death on Everest'. It's honestly just as intense, and you'll get more accounts from some of the real people involved. As for this, it's one of very few movies where, when I left the theater, everyone was just quiet, and for me, that only means it makes one think. It's a very good movie, and I still highly recommend it - but have something cheerful on standby for after it's over.
For those of you looking for a decent horror comedy you may not have heard of, I might point you in the direction of 'Bloodsucking Bastards'. Think of the film as combining 'Office Space' with 'Buffy' with 'Workaholics' - except the only element from 'Buffy' is the rather similar, though perhaps more made up portrayal of vampires (at least I see it). Meanwhile, the comedy hangs out more on the comedy stylings of 'Workaholics', and 'Office Space', where it just teeters on that low-brow tier, but manages to be clever enough to be kind of awesome.
We open the movie with two opposing personalities; Acting Sales Manager, Evan Sanders (Fran Kranz), who is striving to become Sales Manager full time, and Tim, one of several office slackers. Evan's potition may lay in the balance of Tim (Joey Kern) getting an upcoming presentation done for "Phallucite" (an obvious-sounding male enhancement drug). But Tim keeps slacking off, playing video games at the office with his coworkers and friends, Andrew (Justin Ware) and Mike (Neil Garguilo). To make matters worse, Evan has to deal with the head of HR, Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick), whom he was once romantically entangled until he screwed something up. I won't say what because it's pretty funny stuff, and it involves no cheating.
When Branch President, Ted Plunkett (Joel Murray) arranges an office meeting to discuss something, Even thinks it may be his ticket up the ladder to his permanent position as Sales Manager. Realizing he was only half right about what the meeting entailed, however, Ted gives the position to Evan's arch nemesis, Max Phillips (Pedro Pascal - who we all know now as The Madalorian), who once slept with Evan's girlfriend. Just to add to things, Max starts hitting on Amanda right away. It isn't long after that Evan starts finding evidence (sometimes graphic evidence) that something horrifying is going on under everyone's noses, and he may have a better reason to hate Max than just being the guy who stole his girlfriend one time in the past.
I have to say that this was pretty well up my alley as far as the type of film goes. I don't know if I'd say any of it is knee-slapping-hilarious, but it is funny, and the way the comedy unfolds is often pretty clever. There's a running gag, for instance, that involves the idea of everyone else, not just the main character, knowing what's going on. You also get a kick out of the slacker characters, namely Tim, who plays the guy who knows everything's happening, he just doesn't seem to care and is carrying on with life - much like an Ed from 'Shaun of the Dead', but at least Ed clues in at the end. This guy takes the role all the way through as if to say people like this aren't about to change. To top it all off, the office security guard, Frank (Marshall Givens) is one of the best parts - a security guard who's practically robotic and takes his job way too seriously.
This brand of comedy may not be for everyone, but I tend to love when a good comedy can be blended with not just a horror, but a gore-fest of a horror. It's not so much guts as blood though. Just think - every time a vampire gets staked here, it just explodes into a pool of blood-splash, and without spoiling much, there's a fair share of this. I will say sometimes the comedy tries a bit too hard with thinks like obnoxious screaming reactions, and some of the humor is just plain low-brow. But it's often enough that they get a clever joke in there that I can hold on, not just relying on the horror aspect of things. It's a solid blend, an I recommend it to fans of things like 'Zombieland'; a parodic comedy with big balls of steel.
30 Days of Night
Based on a comic book miniseries, this one comes to us from director David Slade, who would later go from vicious to sparkling when he would direct 'Twilight: Eclipse' in 2010. Although there's nothing about that series that particularly interests me, it is interesting to know that this movie comes from a seemingly flexible director. The vampires in this movie are not at all romanticized, and are vicious, blood-thirsty creatures of the night - just the way I like 'em!
Taking place in the town of Barrow, Alaska (restored to its original Iñupiat name, Utqiaġvik, in 2016, thus somewhat dating the film), the townsfolk are setting up for their annual "30 Days of Night", when there is a month-long polar night. While this is going on, a random stranger (Ben Foster) comes to shore and takes out the town's communication and transport services, somewhat trapping them all. Meanwhile, the town's sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) is facing the consequences of his estranged wife, Stella (Melissa George) missing her flight, and having to stay the 30 days.
A group of vampires, led by someone named Marlow (Danny Huston) is connected to the mysterious stranger, and when he sabotages everything, they launch a vicious attack on the town. Soon, Eben, Stella, Eben's brother, Jake (Mark Rendall) and a handful of others find themselves hold up in an attic, hiding from the bloodsuckers. But how long will they have to hide when this group of vampires is basically immune to the cold and don't have to worry about sunrise anytime soon? Considering this whole polar night thing is very real, it sort of surprises me that this concept wasn't thought up sooner. Why wouldn't a hoard of vampires take advantage of a place where the sun won't rise for a month? I've always really liked the whole concept here.
The film is very middle-ground according to other critics. At worst it's considered a waste of great talent, at best, it's an original and clever concept. I happily lean towards the latter, and find it to be sincerely underrated as a scary vampire film. For as "horror" as vampires tend to be, it seems to be rather rare for them to be portrayed as true monsters as opposed to something more romantic. But while so many prefer that vampire with class, I personally love the vicious, inescapable, blood-thirsty creatures, and this movie certainly has them. At times, sure, it feels a bit over-the-top, but it's a great gorefest for anyone seeking the more animalistic side of these creatures.
While it doesn't entirely escape my criticisms, I can't deny that I have a lot of fun with this one as a horror movie. Certain things I don't like about it, however, include a hell of a lot of ear-piercingly noisy shrieking, and it's one of those movies that's quiet one moment, loud the next. You know, the kind of movie where you crank up the volume just to hear someone speak, but soon that's followed by an action sequence that suddenly makes your house vibrate. It's a big pet peeve of mine, although I do understand that it has to do with mood-establishment. Still though, it's irritating.
On the other hand, the film is very dark and cold in its tone and sets the mood for an inescapable town of horrors. The vampire designs are pretty decent and creepy-looking, and it carries with it an atmosphere of dread through its entirety. I also have to give it up for its ending, which I certainly didn't quite see coming. It's actually pretty badass, if you ask me. So while it's nothing that's about to become an annual Halloween tradition, or even something I've gotten into as a series, I do enjoy this one as a horror fan who's more into the animalistic vampires than the more, shall we say, classy ones. I'd recommend it to anyone with similar tastes in the vampiric horror subgenre.
Just a heads up, you're probably about to get into a review that isn't me at my best. The reason being, I don't know how I feel about this movie. It gets such critical praise, but damned if I don't see it as anything particularly special. Which is not to say it's bad, but do I daresay, perhaps a little overrated for what it is? Perhaps it's a timing thing on my part though. Some things are brilliant for their time, and this was a revenge film far before the 'John Wick' series (in my humble opinion, the epitome of revenge films).
To be fair, I didn't fully know what I was getting into either. It's classified so often as an action movie that I was expecting something a bit more wild. In actuality, the violence in this tends to lean a little more towards torture porn, but tolerable torture porn. For my money, the most cringe-worthy thing that happens is the ripping out of someone's teeth, so I've seen worse. However, I'll cut this some slack, being that it's a Korean film and my mind is perhaps a little too set on North American thrillers. In other words, maybe I just don't quite get it, and that's on me for perhaps not paying enough attention.
The film opens in a grungy city, in the late 80s. A man named Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is arrested for being drunk in public, and misses his daughter's birthday. He's bailed out by his friend Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji), but while the two are on the phone with Dae-su's family, Dae-su is kidnapped offscreen, waking in a sealed-shut hotel room. He is fed through a trap door, and has a TV to watch, which sadly delivers the news one day that his wife has been murdered, and he is apparently the prime suspect. He gets revenge on the mind, and spends day after day, year after year for 15 years plotting a revenge, digging an escape tunnel and shadowboxing a lot for exercise. Then just as soon as he's about to escape, the movie gets confusing (at least for me).
Skipping through a few odd things, Dae-su finds himself on a mysterious, grassy rooftop, and soon enough his revenge seeking begins. This is not before he runs into a girl named Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang), who takes him in out of pity. There's a whole sex thing going on there where she wants to succumb to his now animalistic appetite, but after she gets to know him better. For me, this is a little crow-barred in there, but if I give things like this enough though, I can come up with a reason for it being there. Like I say, I don't think it's so much the movie as me.
For the most part, I think that the film is trying very hard to put you into Dae-su's shoes. As the film continues to unfold, there's more and more to empathize with him about. Unlike John Wick, he's only really skilled in his 15 years of shadowboxing in his enclosed hotel room. There's something a little more real about this movie, and it's very cool that they make Dae-su perfectly human. He hurts himself when he throws punches, he doesn't always win at what he's doing, he's fallible. If I had to guess why everyone sees this as such a solid film, it likely has something to do with all of that. We're not empathizing with a superhero, we're empathizing with just some guy.
It's not for the squeamish. There's quite a bit of closeup, cringe-worthy kinda stuff. Again, I have seen worse, but it doesn't mean it isn't there. I think my final opinion on it is that of a "dirty movie", but not in the sense that it's pornographic. It's that kind of movie you wanna watch once, then take a shower afterwards and maybe not return to it until you're ready for it to be brand new again. I can appreciate fans of this movie, and I wouldn't argue with them for a second that this is bad. I just don't think I can really count myself among them. Plain and simply, it's not really for me, but it has my respect.
I remember being one of the very few people who caught this in theaters, as it went on to be considered a Box Office bomb. I came out of it thinking the same thing I did this time around; it's a lot of fun, but I'd completely understand anyone's criticisms. I do have a few of my own, but for the most part, I had a good time with it. The concept of a first-person filmed action movie, any way you slice it, is a thrill ride. It's just that some thrill rides are a little less shaky, a little more smooth, and we prefer them.
That's not just because the whole thing is filmed in a shaky, first-person way either. The whole unravelling of the movie is shaky, and it's often hard to follow (at least for me). It begins with our first-person hero, Henry (played collectively by cinematographers, Chris W. Johnson, Pasha Kapinos, Vsevolod Kaptur, Fedor Lyass, and cameraman, Robin Roles), waking up inside a lab, where a scientist named Estelle (Haley Bennett) who claims to be his wife is working on him, replacing his missing limbs (after a bad accident) with cybernetic enhancements.
Before we know it, a band of mercenaries raid the lab (located on an air ship), led by a man named Akan (Danila Kozlovsky). He claims that Estelle's work is his property, and the big first-person chase begins. Along the way, he is aided by a strange master of disguise named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley). Soon, he finds himself having to rescue Estelle from Akan; a madman bent on destroying the world. Therein lies my first problem with the movie; the villain's motives are just too simple. The villain himself is kinda creepy and effective in his own way though, so it's not all bad.
I always thought that the idea for this was an awesome one, especially if you got to see it in 3D, putting you into the action. However, I don't even remember whether or not this was in 3D, and I almost wanna say that it wasn't and that was part of the disappointment after leaving the movie. Beyond that, it cuts pretty abruptly at times, and though it didn't effect me in such a way, and it may go without saying, this isn't good for anyone with motion sickness. If you can handle it all, however, just imagine it as though this was a first-person action game that was adapted to film. It's kinda like the creators looked at the first-person sequence in 'Doom', said "this movie should just be all this", and decided to make it happen, just a little more real-world.
There's a lot of high octane stuff going on here. If you can follow close enough, you can really just toss your brain out the window for an hour and a half and enjoy this thrill ride AS Henry. It's not without a fair share of gore for the more violent at heart either. It's another example of how a certain type of video game movie could be done, but it's not a video game. It could stand to run a little bit smoother at times, but I get that it's rough because you're experiencing Henry's position. If you have Amazon Prime (Canada) you can go check it out and judge for yourself. It's a very "in-between" movie, but I tend to lean towards the side that sees it as a simple roller-coaster ride, and nothing much more.
If you have access to Amazon Prime (Canada), you can go ahead and check this one out right after reading this review. I don't want to over-hype it much, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't enjoy this as a whole. I know I squeezed this into an Action Movie Month, but one should probably know that though the action is minimal, when it's on, it's pretty sweet.
The film is really more of a character study on the lead, David Collins (Dan Stevens). I have a friend by that name, so it added to a bit of the overall enjoyment of everything. David comes to the home of the Petersons, and the Mother, Laura (Sheila Kelley) invites him in after he claims to have served with her recently deceased son. Further evidence of this is seen in a photograph of the unit they served in together. The father, Spencer (Leland Orser), is reluctant, but eventually accepts him as a guest in their home. Meanwhile, daughter, snooty daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe) and bullied around trope of a son, Luke (Brendan Meyer) don't know what to make of the situation.
As the movie unfolds, we learn more and more about David's past. That's interesting enough, but the film tests its audience in a way. All in all, David becomes a very likable character, but in the same way someone like Hannibal Lecter is likable. He does some pretty brutal things to people, but we can't help but route for him a little just because who he's doing it to is a terrible person. The test the film gives you is, who is the terrible person? Is it David, who he attacks, the people who are tracking David down for reasons unknown, or could it even be one of the family members? We get a loose answer around the climax, but it does keep you guessing a little bit.
If I have any criticisms about this movie, they are pretty minimal. A lot of it is kind of cliche, and some of the answers end up being sort of obvious once revealed. But I'll be damned if I didn't have a good time watching this, nonetheless. For an idea, it comes to us from a hit-or-miss team; Director, Adam Wingard and Writer, Simon Barrett ('You're Next', 'V/H/S' 1 & 2, 'Blair Witch' 2016, and the 'Q is for Quack' segment of 'The ABC's of Death'). Just about all of their stuff hits this note where, while fun to watch, it's really just a cool execution of a just okay concept - 'Avatar' being the prime example of such a film. I love it, but I can't deny that it's been done before. This is definitely in that category.
Some things to point out that give it that extra bump for yours truly begin with the fact that this is a story that takes place around Halloween. That mixes with this moody soundtrack, that in and of itself could be labelled as a Halloween soundtrack. In some ways, this is indeed a Halloween movie. The only thing is that the concept isn't exactly creepy in a Halloween way so much as a Who do I Trust kinda way. The movie isn't something that'll necessarily get you in the mood for the holiday, but the soundtrack just might. I dunno how to describe it, but maybe the darker side of synthwave and techno but with lyrics? Anyway, the point is, the soundtrack is as much a mood-setter as the cinematography - which is also solid here. The action sequences are nice and fluid, not much shaky cam, it's good stuff.
So, if you happen to have Amazon Prime, I recommend popping over and checking it out. It's about an hour and a half, and interesting enough for what it is. It's not the best, but it's good for a movie to sit down with a tub of popcorn with and lose yourself to. As mentioned earlier, when the action is on, it's pretty well done. Beyond that, you have a suspense thriller that keeps you guessing (somewhat). I think I'll end up enjoying this one a little bit more than most due to certain biases I have, but I don't think anyone would watch this movie and say it was terrible... of course, I have been wrong about that before. Anyway, if you're looking for something new to watch for Halloween that isn't horror, it's worth a look.
Although I think most people have at least heard of this title, it is one that seems to have been swept under the rug for whatever reason. It's in that same realm as the original 'Flatliners' in that if you mention it nowadays, it'll sound familiar, but a lot of people haven't seen it. It actually comes to us from writer/producer James Cameron and director Katheryn Bigelow - the once married couple who once battled for an Oscar between 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker' (which won).
If the pair behind the film wasn't interesting enough, there's also the rather original plot. I do have a bit of a bias when it comes to "dream-like" material, but the concept here involves a drug dealer type who deals in "dreams", so to speak. These are essentially someone else's real-life memories that can be fed into a machine through their cerebral cortex, and later transmitted back to another user. The user can therefore experience sex without having to think about all that comes with an escort, or the adrenaline from a bank robbery without the danger, or skydiving without having to leave the ground. It's a believable concept. The only catch is, as one might imagine, some of it ends up being "snuff", or as they refer to them, "blackjack clips".
A former cop named Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) deals in these illegal mind recordings, buying them up from his supplier, Tick (Richard Edson). In his spare time, he longs for a former escort named Faith (Juliette Lewis) by using his own SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) to relive, shall we say, fond memories. Lenny also relies on emotional support from his two friends; Max Peltier (Tom Sizemore), private investigator, and Lornette "Mace" Mason (Angela Bassett), bodyguard and limo driver, who has an unrequited love for him.
Meanwhile, another escort named Iris (Brigitte Bako), former friend of Faith's is chased by LAPD officers Burton Steckler (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Dwayne Engelman (William Fichtner), seemingly after her to destroy some sort of important evidence that we learn very quickly she's trying to get to Lenny for research having to do with a mysterious and creepy killer who's using the SQUID during his crimes. The whole thing turns into a sort of noir detective film, with a slight dose of comedy to take the edge off. It's not quite one of those movies you feel like you need a shower after watching, but it's often shady and uncomfortable.
Perhaps most interesting is that the story takes place within the final two days of 1999 (this was 1995, so at the time, it was a "near-future" concept) in Los Angeles, where criminal activity has reached an all time high. As you cruise down any street, it's a riot in progress, and it's all race fueled; much of it inspired by the 1992 Rodney King riots. This is all pretty much background stuff, but the importance of it comes through at the end. It's pretty heavy stuff to watch nowadays, mostly because the same message we're trying to get through to everyone now was very present in this movie from 25 years ago.
There's actually so much more to say about the film and how it all ties together, but I'd sooner just highly recommend watching it if you haven't yet. It's James Cameron's story and screenplay, sandwiched between 'True Lies' and 'Titanic' in order of release - the latter two titles clearly taking the fame. Although keep in mind, Cameron didn't direct this, Kathryn Bigelow did, the director known for 'Point Break' at the time. It hasn't received very high ratings, and it's often admittedly very odd, and maybe even a little uncomfortable, but for what it is, I really enjoyed it. It was imaginative and dark, but often fun. It was a pretty good balance, but definitely mostly leans toward dark and gritty. I say give it a shot if you like that kind of thing. I found it rather worth it.
As far as this Campbell-filled summer goes, this is perhaps the weirdest title I've picked out to check. Despite a few big name actors, this one has totally fallen off the face of the Earth. It got to the point where the only version I could really find was a Rifftrax version on Amazon Prime. That makes it a bit harder to form a solid opinion on the actual movie, but I'll do my best.
We meet Matt Foster (Sean Astin), who is trying his best to continue a happy relationship with his new fiancée, Meg (Suzanne Turner). However, her wealthy father, Bill (Stacey Keach) sees him as a bit of a lower-class ski bum, and there's a slight concern of Bill having objections to their marriage. Despite that, they decide to announce their wedding plans to Bill, and invite him up to Killington Ski Resort, where Matt works.
Things are shaken up when a hijacked plane, carrying radioactive materials, crashes somewhere in the mountains. Enter the medically terminal terrorist, Carl Grieg (Bruce Campbell), who is the "victim" of the failed crash. Learning that the material is intact, he has his lieutenant, Frantz (Paul Schnabel) send in a team to get it. Grieg meanwhile takes the ski resort hostage, and threatens the whole area with a nuclear device if his plans don't follow through.
Now the FBI is on his tail, lead by Will Langley (John James), and Grieg has to race against time to retrieve the radioactive materials he was denied. Further to that, Matt sees an opportunity to prove himself to his, hopefully, soon to be father in law by attempting to put a stop to the terrorists by any means necessary. He even gets the help of a raggedy looking forester named Beck (Mark 'Woody' Keppel) who's meant to be a bit of comic relief and fails pretty miserably.
What can I say? This has been done before, and it never does work out to be a very good or memorable movie. I suppose the closest comparison I'd give to it would be something like 'Masterminds', where an "extreme" kid stops some sort of terrorist. It's not particularly funny, it's not particularly memorable, and you can pretty much gather how everything is gonna end. The names make it a bit worse, but one has to remember that this was filmed during a pretty down period for both Sean Astin and Stacey Keach. As far as Campbell, well, he's Campbell.
It's a little bit disappointing to see that Bruce had to play the role more or less straight. If he could have played this a bit more loose, and "Ashed' the character up a little bit, it would still be bad, but could be such a guilty pleasure. Sadly though, nothing in particular stands out (except perhaps a snowmobile crash that had me laughing ironically). It's perhaps passable for some kind of straight-to-TV movie, but it's so far under the radar that its Wiki page explains the whole plot in a single sentence.
So, if you're in the mood for an easy-to-watch giggle, the Riftrax version on Prime isn't a bad way to go. But I've also seen much better from that. All in all, this is one to just leave alone, unless you really wanna see what Sean Astin was doing before he played Samwise Gamgee in 'Lord of the Rings'. As far as it being a solid Bruce Campbell movie - it just isn't. There was nothing he did here that particularly stood out or impressed me, and you could tell that this was a simple paycheck movie for all of them. Nothing to hate, it's just kinda dumb and forgettable.