Wednesday, December 28, 2016
William Shatner phones in a performance as a radio shock jock in the bracket for four horrible holiday horrors. Most of this is predictable and dull. But then there’s the last entry, a showdown between the martial arts skills of Santa Claus and Krampus, with a heavy dose of zombie elves thrown in for good measure. See if desperate
Saturday, December 10, 2016
This has all the depth of plot and character one is entitled to expect from a movie based on a Flash game in which players use a slingshot to fling birds at flimsy structures full of green pigs. The animation is better than I thought it would be, and they spent a chunk of change on the cast (including the “voice” of Sean Penn as a bulky bird who communicates only in grunts). But the moralizing is directionless, and the story never manages to overcome its own stupid. See if desperate
Family flees haunted house. Ghostbusters show up to investigate. So we’re getting two horror cliches for the price of one. The filmmakers are clearly trying for “psychological,” but all they end up with is “boring.” See if desperate
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Tina Fey takes a stab at a semi-serious role in a drama about a US journalist in Afghanistan. When the story focuses on the sometimes-wacky-sometimes-perilous job of reporting in a war-torn country, the picture is actually pretty good. Unfortunately we also get the usual Fey character, caught between her role as a competent professional and her inability to self-actualize without a man. Mildly amusing
Friday, November 4, 2016
Here’s yet another horror anthology cobbled together from holiday-themed shorts directed by different folks. Predictably, it’s a mixed bag (I continue to believe that Kevin Smith’s best days are well behind him). At best it’s good without being great and at worst it’s diverting and not much more. Mildly amusing
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Olympus Has Fallen, the London version. Once again the President (Aaron Eckhart) is imperiled by terrorists, and once again his favorite plays-by-his-own-rules Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) comes to the rescue. The conspiracy this time around is so vast that everyone up to and including the Buckingham Palace guards would have to had been in on it. But those explosions sure are nice and loud. Mildly amusing
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Bianca Del Rio brings her considerable drag queen insult comic talents to a scripted comedy. When a teacher is fired from a Texas school for being gay, he returns as his drag persona and puts the bigoted principal and obnoxious students in their places. Worth watching
Friday, October 14, 2016
Irish soldiers serving in a UN mission to what’s now the Democratic Republic of the Congo run afoul of forces loyal to the Katangese government. The historical realities of African conflict in 1961 – particularly the extensive use of mercenaries – add a new twist to the usual valiant-resistance-by-outnumbered-good-guys tale. Mildly amusing.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Honestly at this point I’m losing track of the whole Jack Ryan / Jason Bourne thing. I literally can’t tell them apart. A big part of the problem is that each successive outing can be accurately reviewed by “action movie with international intrigue and blah blah blah.” So … action movie with international intrigue and blah blah blah. Mildly amusing
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Gary Oldman, Idris Elba and several other familiar faces are squandered in this umpty-thousandth exorcism outing. By “squandered” I mean that their roles amounted to so little that they could easily have been played by thespians of far lesser renown. Once again a dybbuk is the agent of evil, poking an Auschwitz sidebar onto an otherwise well-trodden path. Mildly amusing
A cop gets blown up in a bombing and ends up in a state of near-death hallucinations or purgatory or two or three alternate realities or really it does’t make any difference. The picture rarely stays in the same plane of existence for more that a minute or two. The audience is asked to unravel a mystery without any reliable clues. So unless you’re easily entertained by random gore or odd religious ramblings, you’ll probably find this exceptionally dull. See if desperate
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Part dysfunctional family indie, part fanboy odyssey, all dull crap. A responsible family man gets a visit from his louche, Manson-obsessed brother. Their contrasting personalities create an endless parade of awkward moments as the plot meanders toward a conclusion viewers can easily predict in the first ten minutes. See if desperate
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Around midway through this thriller I started to wonder what legal obligation a realtor might have to disclose to potential buyers a house’s history as the site of brutal murders. Looking up the answer (generally none, by the way) proved more entertaining than the movie itself. The producers spent the money to get Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, which apparently left them nothing in the budget for an original plot. I won’t spoil things for anyone who wants to take this on, even though it’s likely to prove a disappointment. See if desperate
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Cute. The world building is a big part of the fun, imagining what a metropolis where anthropomorphic animals live together in harmony. A believing-in-her-dreams rabbit becomes the first lagomorph on the Zootopia police force. With the help of a con artist fox, she unravels a plot to turn the predator species back to their ancient, prey-eating ways. Though aimed at kids – and maybe furries – this is still worth a look for anyone in the mood for some simple entertainment. Worth seeing
Thursday, July 14, 2016
In the wake of some icy apocalypse, the tattered remains of the human race huddle in underground colonies. A bad situation turns worse when a band of nomadic cannibals shows up and tries to make a meal of everyone. Around midway through I got so bored that I started musing about how long a planet with no plant life could maintain a breathable oxygen supply. See if desperate
Once again weak writing and indifferent casting create a production where everything else is upstaged by the location. They found some cool old buildings to shoot this in, but the drama that unfolds is typical night-watch-guards-poking-their-noses-where-they-don’t-belong stuff. See if desperate
I’m surprised the whole Jim Jones tragedy hasn’t shown up in many horror movie plots in the years since 1978. Here it gets a supernatural twist. A documentary film crew follows the sole survivor of a mass suicide back to the cult’s compound, where they unearth some restless spirits. Jessica Alba heads a cast of familiar faces. Mildly amusing
Yeah, no typo. We're genuinely being offered "the myth behind the legend." Documentarians turn their cameras on England's notorious Kray brothers and manage to make a total mess of things. They arrange interviews with many of the gangsters' inner circle, which should have been fascinating viewing. But most of these doddering old East Enders prove incapable of communicating in anything but arcane slang. Thus we're stuck trying to make sense of stuff that sounds like, "Then that right old toffer sodded off around the corner for some cheese and donkey, the bastard." To make matters worse, decades of swilling cheap booze and having coffee tables nailed to their heads have reduced their speech to mutterings that sound like Robert Shaw in Jaws only played backwards at half speed. Poor organization and inconsistent production values pound the final nails into the coffin. See if desperate
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
This was certainly big at the box office, especially for a picture aimed directly at fanboys. Despite the plethora of inside jokes, there’s enough humor, action and special effects here to keep even laypeople entertained. It even used techniques I’m normally not all that wild about – such as breaking-the-fourth-wall gags – without ruining the experience. Who knew a bad comedy about an undead hitman could actually be fun? Mildly amusing
I like a good anthology piece. This isn’t one. Though it has occasional flashes of innovation – such as the weird floating skeleton monsters – for the most part it’s dull and cliché-ridden. At least they managed to tie the five stories together in the end. Mildly amusing
This is another one of those messy movies mostly made from recycled plots. We’ve got the sister trying to find out what happened to her departed sib, the evil conspiracy manifesting itself on the internet, and enough other “borrowed” stuff to pad out the running time. Also released as The Faith of Anna Waters. See if desperate
Friday, July 1, 2016
If you liked the first one, well, here’s more of the same. The cast takes on a bevy of baddies from the original cartoons, thus aiming for fans of the show and small children (though probably nobody else). See if desperate
Imagine listening to a film-noir-addicted 12-year-old boy trying to describe violent sex while “Bitches Brew” plays in the background. Now you don’t have to imagine it, because here it is. If the over-stylized aesthetic and child-like writing of the first one floated your boat, then you’re still safely sailing here. See if desperate
Thursday, June 30, 2016
A psychiatrist (Adrien Brody) discovers that his patients are actually restless ghosts. He spends the rest of the picture trying to figure out what they’re trying to tell him about his personal involvement in a terrible accident years ago. I wasn’t particularly in the mood for a slow-moving supernatural thriller, so I liked this less than I might have if the stars had been more favorably aligned. Mildly amusing
Friday, June 17, 2016
Thursday, June 16, 2016
If you’ve ever seen more than handful of horror movies, you already know that when you try to bring a loved one back from the dead – even for just a few minutes – odds are it’s going to end badly. Chances of a bad outcome increase to 100% if you opt to disregard any of the warnings about violating the rules. On the other hand, if you’ve never seen a horror movie – as the grieving mother in this picture evidently hadn’t – then what happens when you open a forbidden door may come as a surprise. See if desperate
Like the Clash of the Titans remake only with Egyptian mythology rather than Greek. As is fairly typical with such pictures, they spent a lot of money on the effects and the cast (particularly the supporting roles) but devoted little effort to coherent storytelling. Mildly amusing
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg team up to produce a predictably over-wrought adaptation of the Cold War prisoner exchange of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel for U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. If you can manage not to die of a sincerity overdose, this picture features enough political machinations to keep things interesting. Mildly amusing
Friday, May 20, 2016
Oh so close. If the filmmakers had bothered to spend just a bit more time setting up the characters before launching into weird horror, I might have cared enough about the family to be more engaged with what happens to them. That said, the spooky stuff is imaginative enough to keep things engaging. Mildly amusing
The Manson saga is retold once again, this time with heavy emphasis on the female members of The Family. Linda Kassabian is the protagonist, making the story stick closely to her testimony for the prosecution during Manson’s trial. The fresh perspective doesn’t really add much, but aficionados should nonetheless add it to their lists. Mildly amusing
Monday, May 16, 2016
The Discovery Channel uses the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks as a flimsy excuse for a cheap Jaws remake. When I was a kid I was scared witless by a written account of the Matawan Creek attacks. Further, the actual attacks were responsible for a sea change in public attitudes about sharks, which previously had not been considered a threat to swimmers. But this movie captures pretty much none of that. Instead we get familiar characters in familiar situations, simply sixty years removed. See if desperate.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Like the book series that inspired this movie, this is mostly kiddie fare. Awkward teen moves in next door to a fictionalized R.L. Stine and his daughter. Turns out that if any of the author’s locked manuscripts is opened, it unleashes the monster from the tale. This plot device allows the picture to include several of the beasts and villains from the books. Though not exactly intellectually engaging, this accomplishes what it sets out to do. Mildly amusing
Monday, May 9, 2016
The Robin Hood Woods murders once again take to the screen, this time as a narrative drama. Despite the presence of some familiar faces (most notably Reece Witherspoon), this doesn’t offer much that we didn’t already get from the extensive documentary coverage. Mildly amusing
The folks who made Cropsey broaden their scope to include four other real crimes with loose connections to urban legends. For example, they connect John Wayne Gacy’s crimes to the legends about killer clowns, even though the tales weren't based on the murders. Still, it’s an interesting portrait of the meta-themes common to both imaginary and real horrors. Mildly amusing
Friday, May 6, 2016
This is a worthy follow-up to the guy version. Naturally women working in Hollywood have a few gripes not raised by the men. So it’s worth watching for anyone thinking about pursuing a career in acting in either movies or television. Mildly amusing
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Parents of a boy murdered by a psychopath kidnap the killer from a prison transport van, drag him off to a remote cottage and proceed to torture him. They use some interesting methods of inflicting pain, but beyond that the story keeps itself going mostly via implausible plot twists. They even stir in a red herring ending that negates what little moral value the rest of the movie had going. See if desperate.
Friday, April 29, 2016
Though this is too arty to officially qualify as a mockbuster, it’s clearly timed to cater to interest in the Kray brothers spawned by Legend. On the plus side, this production focuses more on the Krays’ crimes and less on their personal lives (specifically Reggie’s bad marriage and Ronnie’s homosexuality). Unfortunately, that doesn’t end up making it more interesting. I was going to scoff at the notion that this would produce the practically promised sequel, but then I note that the sequel’s already being released. Mildly amusing.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
The crew from the first one return for another round. This time the cute couple get married and have a kid. Dracula desperately wants the new arrival to turn out to be a vampire like his daughter rather than a human like his son-in-law. Let the high jinks commence. The script for this installment is weak. Indeed, for Act Three we get villains who previously weren’t in the movie at all. Sony animations once again proves that they can throw money at productions like Disney and Dreamworks do, but they can’t produce the same results. Mildly amusing.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Until I checked the IMDb notes, I had no idea this was a sequel to a movie I’d already seen. That’s testament both to how forgettable the first one was and how little this tale expanded on a pre-existing plot. Instead this is just another flimsy demonic possession piece. See if desperate.
Like the sequel to The Blair Witch Project, this picture abandons the original’s found footage format in favor of a more straightforward horror story. Our demonically flexible heroine (again ably played by Ashley Bell) tries to rebuild her life. Unfortunately the forces of darkness still feel the need for her, and the folks who are supposed to be helping her may not have her best interests in mind. If this was the first demonic possession movie I ever saw, I think I might have liked it better than I did. Mildly amusing.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The evil-creatures-lurking-in-the-woods plot might have worked. The infection-turning-the-good-guy-bad plot might have worked. But the two mashed unevenly together just makes a mess. Stir in angry villagers, a besieged house, a changeling, and it all gets to be too much. See if desperate.
This is actually three episodes in a mini-series, focusing on Speer, Goering and Hess in turn. The BBC does a good job of dramatizing interrogation and trial transcripts. Acting and production values are also good. Mildly amusing.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Tom Hardy does a great job playing both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, twin gangsters who controlled London’s East End in the 1960s. Like the 1990 version, this production treats the relationship between Reggie and his wife as one of the more interesting parts of the story. But overall this is a well-crafted historical crime drama that should leave Kray aficionados satisfied. Worth seeing.
I took a chance on this picture because the box drew a connection between it and The Cell, but the tie turned out to be first-time director Tara Subkoff who happened to be in the cast of the much more stylish and interesting production. After leading with a bloody murder, for more than an hour the production serves up nothing more horrifying than a gaggle of interchangeable 12-year-old girls bickering ad infinitum. This was probably intended as a criticism of social media addiction, but it has too much trouble picking such low-handing fruit. Wish I’d skipped it.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
Worthy follow-up to the first Avengers movie. I’m not sure how easy this would be to follow for audience members who aren’t keeping up with the whole Marvel cinematic universe thing, but if you like the rest of them you’ll probably like this one too. Mildly amusing.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Attention rookie filmmakers: Lars von Trier is not a role model. The story might have worked if not for some insanely heavy-handed direction by first-timer Tyler Shields. A young woman (Abigail Breslin) trained as a vigilante takes on a group of wealthy brats who murder girls for fun. The plot had promise, but it’s swiftly undone by self-conscious cinematography and melodramatic lighting. The result plays like a Halloween concept edition of Vogue, and that isn’t conducive to good storytelling. See if desperate.
Friday, March 4, 2016
As docudramas go, this isn’t too bad. Like Helter Skelter, it’s based thoroughly on the prosecution’s version of the Tate-LaBianca killings, particularly the non-participation of star witness Linda Kassabian (who appears briefly in the movie). But otherwise it’s a thorough retelling of the tale. Mildly amusing.
Friday, February 26, 2016
What would you do if you suddenly discovered your spouse was a serial killer? Stephen King poses the question in the novella upon which this movie is based. Scripted by the author, it uses some tricks such as dream sequences that might work in print but come across as awkward on screen. It also goes on for awhile after its natural conclusion. But overall it was a reasonably entertaining exploration of a housewife stuck with a terrible dilemma. Mildly amusing
I’m surprised I’ve watched horror movies for so many years without ever seeing one based on the Devonshire Devil before. This picture relocates the tale from 19th century England to 21st century small town America, but otherwise it’s a fairly faithful adaptation. The script is a little uneven, mixing the main story in with some really dull subplots. And the filter work on the visuals is purely ridiculous. Otherwise, however, this is a skillfully produced monster movie. Mildly amusing
The star of this show is the CGI monster, a humanoid brush fire out for revenge against people who died centuries ago. If this had been in a movie in the 1970s, it would have been the awesomest thing ever. In an age filled with digital effects, however, more is required of a movie. And this one fails to deliver. The writer and director seem completely unable to coax any emotions out of the characters other than petty anger and abject terror, which of course makes them impossible to sympathize with in any way. Thus a creature with a lot of potential gets squandered on a meandering, weak script and indifferent production standards. See if desperate
Thursday, February 25, 2016
This movie should have gotten to the point way faster. In the third act it transforms into a vaguely interesting sci-fi-conspiracy piece. That would have been great if the first two thirds hadn’t been a thoroughly boring tale of suburban malaise interrupted at irregular intervals by intrusions from a boogeyman of some kind. See if desperate
Monday, February 8, 2016
I think if I’d reviewed this when I first saw it, I might have come to a slightly different conclusion. Overall this is an entertaining action movie, a classic Michael Crichton blend of science and thrills. But that also makes it seem somewhat dated. Mildly amusing.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Although Deadwood is my all-time favorite TV series, I generally don’t like westerns as much as I like a good horror movie. Thus I would have preferred a little less of the former in the early going, though at least it was reasonably well done. As were the monsters when they finally appeared. The result is a Sergio-Leone-esque revamp of The Hills Have Eyes. With all the brutal violence that implies. Mildly amusing.
If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I have no memory of sitting through this movie. It’s on my list, so I must have seen it. Unfortunately I let it go so long before getting to the review that at this point I don’t recall anything about it. So I turned to IMDb to see if its entry jogged my memory. The plot summary was no help, identifying the picture only as the tale of a young couple who buy a B&B only to discover that it’s haunted. None of the seven reviews said much beyond that, either. Even the preview didn’t ring many bells. So I guess I’ll rate it “mildly amusing” as it left no lasting impression on me one way or another.
Monday, February 1, 2016
One would hope that by 2013 we’d be past the point when casting the likes of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in gay roles would be considered amusing in and of itself. Apparently not. If you have as much fun watching Douglas play Liberace as the actor seems to be having “slumming” in the role, then you’re going to love this picture. If you’re more like me, you’ll likely find it a bizarre and disrespectful intrusion into the life of a dead celebrity. See if desperate.
If this film had actually been soaked in bleach, all the colors would have run out of it and it would have been an hour and a half of blank screen. Yeah, I know this thing was shot digitally, but a joke about soaking memory cards in bleach wouldn’t have been as funny. In any event, 90 minutes of nothing would have been more entertaining and informative than yet another conspiracy theory production about how Courtney Love had Kurt Cobain murdered. Wish I’d skipped it.
Friday, January 29, 2016
I’ve asked this before, but apparently the question needs asking at least one more time: is it really that goddamn hard to make a werewolf movie? Over the years I’ve seen a couple of bullseyes and several that missed the mark to varying degrees. But this hunk of junk isn’t even in the same state with the target. An elderly, blind asshole moves into a retirement community only to find the place overrun with horny GGILFs (including one played by the reanimated corpse of Tina Louise) and werewolves. Script, rubber lycanthrope effects and even the acting (including the efforts of veterans Lance Guest and Tom Noonan) are equally dreadful. Wish I’d skipped it.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Along the same lines as Cabin in the Woods, the picture combines horror and comedy by taking such a reflexive look as the former that it produces the latter. And once again I find myself surprised that I don’t hate it. Though it’s a bit too ham handed for my tastes, it’s still a cute criticism of the slasher genre’s misogynist take on young women’s sexuality. Mildly amusing.
If you’re sufficiently conversant in the whole Insidious thing, then the in jokes about the recurring characters’ early contacts with the supernatural may amuse you. My take on it is that the first one didn’t even need a sequel, let alone a prequel. See if desperate.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
A pregnant woman and her husband bet the farm on a farm, or a vineyard to be more precise. Shortly after moving in, she begins to experience horrible visions – so the title’s apt enough – of the property’s ghastly past. Not exactly out of keeping with other pictures of this ilk, the script puts all its eggs in the “surprise twist” basket and then fails to supply any. See if desperate.
Monday, January 25, 2016
Natalie Dormer plays twins caught up in the sinister malaise of the Aokigahara “suicide” forest in Japan. The picture gets off to a reasonably good Americans-borrowing-Japanese-ghost-stories start, but somewhere along the line it loses all focus. The back half of the story (assuming there even is a story at that point) wanders as aimlessly as someone lost in a forest full of malicious spirits. Mildly amusing.
Friday, January 22, 2016
Despite a title and a smattering of plot elements cribbed from the first Sinister movie, this picture is far more closely akin to the Children of the Corn set. And not one of the better entries, either. I might have had an easier time swallowing this Big Mac if I hadn’t been expecting McNuggets. See if desperate.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
As of 8:09 CST this morning, the old 8sails is gone. As I mentioned last month on the 8sails Facebook feed, I'm giving priority to the College section so my students will have everything they need for class. Once that's done, I'll begin the long – and I do mean long – process of redoing the rest of the site.
I appreciate everyone's patience while I continue working on the conversion. Naturally I still have all the old content saved, so if you're in dire need of any of it let me know and I'll dig it up for you.
I appreciate everyone's patience while I continue working on the conversion. Naturally I still have all the old content saved, so if you're in dire need of any of it let me know and I'll dig it up for you.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Time to add “ventriloquist” to the “nope” list. In this go-around the ventriloquist is a ghost with a legion of dummies. But these twists don’t add enough to stretch 20 minutes worth of plot out into a feature-length production. See if desperate.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Those of us old enough to remember the Jim Bakker sex scandal likely recall the joke that the initials of Bakker’s Praise The Lord network actually stood for Pay The Lady. So guess what the title of this picture reminds me of. The movie itself is a run-of-the-mill ghost story, an Americanized plot along the La Llorona line. And speaking of getting paid, I assume Nicolas Cage signed on to this mediocre offering because he needed the money. Mildly amusing.
Friday, January 8, 2016
And so it begins again. This struck me as the best entry in the set since 1980, at least in part because it’s an eerily familiar reheat of the story and characters from the 1977 original. However, the series seems to be in good hands with J.J. Abrams rather than George Lucas at the helm. The effects are impressive, and the cast and script are also good. After what Abrams did to the Star Trek franchise, this was a welcome relief. Worth seeing.