Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Review – Big Bad Wolf

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll rip your guts out!” Actual line from the movie. No kidding. That should give you some idea of what you’re in for. This was billed as a horror comedy, which normally I’d avoid. But I’m a werewolf buff, so I thought I’d give it a chance. Frankly, a horror comedy would have been a relief compared to what this turned out to be. About the funniest thing in the whole movie was a brief appearance by David “American Werewolf in London” Naughton. I’m sure the quip-spitting lycanthrope is supposed to be entertaining, but it made me wish they’d stuck with the tried-and-true werewolf that – at least in monster form – lacks the power of speech. The cast appears to be a mix of actors from other horror movies (including Kimberly J. Brown, who has grown up a bit since Rose Red) and refugees from soft-core porn videos. While this was never going to be a three-star movie, it might have saved at least a point by not featuring a werewolf that appears to use four or five different suits depending on the camera angle. Or at least they could have avoided the graphic werewolf / sorority girl rape scene. See if desperate

Friday, July 27, 2007

Review – All Souls Day

Apparently the respectful holiday of celebrating the dead is honored a bit differently in this small Mexican town. Once a year the zombies left over from a 19th-century tragedy come out and eat whatever witless American 20-somethings happen to be standing around. So woe unto the four protagonists of this picture. The set-up has some mildly innovative stuff in it, but once the ball starts rolling (30 to 40 minutes in) it ends up as little more than another cheap Night of the Living Dead rip-off. Some bush-league gore does a little to set off the brainless script. Mildly amusing

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Review – Deep Freeze

Imagine The Thing remade with just about everything good removed. A research station in Antarctica is attacked from within by a monster that’s been frozen in the ice for millennia. Those are the good leftovers from the Carpenter production. The rest of it is strictly Sci Fi Channel dreadful. The monsters turn out to be overgrown trilobites (sort of), way cuter than the grad students they’re chewing up. The research base appears to be an empty factory of the sort often used for location shoots in movies like this, which here raises questions about how – not to mention why – an oil drilling company would build such an extensive concrete and metal structure on a mess of ice and/or unstable rock. Overall this is just another one of these. Mildly amusing

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Review – Breach

I would not have guessed that the biggest espionage case in American history would be so gosh-awful boring. Here we get the story of FBI administrator Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) as seen through the eyes of a young clerk (Ryan Phillipe) placed in his office to spy on him. The result is a strangely superficial examination of one of the most serious cases of treason our country has ever faced. We get the standard spy thriller twists and turns. We get a lengthy portrait of our villain as a conservative anti-Communist, fanatical Catholic and good family man. We’re also given a portrait of the same man as an arch-traitor, paranoid nut and sexual deviant. What we never get – and what this movie desperately needed to give us – is any idea how one man could embody two such radically different lives. Absent any meaningful insight, this is nothing but a run-of-the-mill espionage picture, and a laconically-paced one at that. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Review – Beneath Still Waters

For an odd little Spanish production (with scenes shot in English, at least for the U.S. version) this isn’t half bad. The premise has promise: 40 years ago a village became so overrun with evil that the locals built a dam and flooded the whole valley, submerging the town in the middle of a lake. Unfortunately the leader of the cult that caused the problem to begin with managed to escape. And four decades later he’s back for revenge. This has a few slow spots, but it also has a few solid chills that make it worthwhile. Mildly amusing

Review – Blood and Chocolate

These werewolves are almost boring enough to be vampires. That’s no big surprise, given that this was produced by the same folks that created Underworld. The art-direction-intensive, jump-cutty goth crap that worked okay for bloodsuckers and then only just sorta worked for the witches in The Covenant works not at all for werewolves. This production also falls into the same trap that snagged The Wolfen many years ago: actual wolves – especially if they aren’t special-effected up in some way – are way too cute to make menacing monsters. The case isn’t helped any by the use of the lamest transformation sequences of all time. I’ve griped in the past about the extended man-into-beast effects parades that stop stories dead, but even that would have been better than the twinkle-intensive soft fade leap that does the trick here. Are these savage, flesh-tearing beasts or extras from Barbie Fairytopia? Mildly amusing

Monday, July 16, 2007

Review – The Black Sleep

This movie has a few things going for it. It’s got a stellar horror cast, including Basil Rathbone, John Caradine, Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney Jr. (though the last three don’t have a single line between them). It has an intriguing premise: a mad scientist performs personality-destroying surgery on unwilling victims in order to figure out how the brain works. It even has a cool title, a reference to the death-simulating drug the good doctor uses to sedate his patients. If only the pace hadn’t been quite so laconic; I was nearly in a black sleep myself by the end of it. Mildly amusing

Review – Awakening the Beast

Imagine Reefer Madness redone (with LSD as the substance of choice) by Kenneth Anger. Now imagine that rather than Anger it’s his even-weirder Brazilian equivalent. If you imagine that you like bizarre black and white (for the most part) experimental movies with a lot of gratuitous nudity and drug use, then I imagine you’ll get a kick out of this. See if desperate

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Review – Blessed

Rosemary’s Baby gets a 21st-century reheat in a production suited primarily for the Lifetime Movie Network. Heather Graham stars as a woman who seeks help from an upstate fertility clinic. Unfortunately for her and her charming husband, the place they pick has a bit of a side-line going: cloning embryos from a blood sample left behind by Lucifer and planting them in unsuspecting women in order to bring about the apocalypse. Through various dull twists and turns they manage to stretch this meager thread out to an hour and a half. The only point of interest here is that the audience ends up in the awkward position of hoping everything works out okay for Graham and her unborn twins despite the fact that we know the babies are evil. Mildly amusing

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Review – Broadway Melody of 1936

This musical romp appears to have been the original source for a big chunk of the songs that would later appear in Singin’ in the Rain. Thank goodness the producers of the later musical didn’t decide to use the “Sing before Breakfast” number – or much of anything else performed here by Buddy Ebsen. There’s some talent in this picture, particularly Jack Benny in one of the lead roles. Some of the musical numbers are cleverly staged. However, for the most part this is a goofy farce that alternates between charming and grating. I mean really, was the guy who can do dozens of different kinds of snores considered high comedy even back in the comparatively less sophisticated days of the 1930s? Mildly amusing