Monday, April 28, 2008

Review – Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo

Is there such a thing as a “female gigolo”? The question suggests the level of humor that pervades this picture, almost entirely written for (and quite possibly by) 12-year-old boys. Rob Schneider stars as a professional fish tank cleaner who trashes a high-class gigolo’s apartment while house-sitting. Naturally in order to pay for the damage before the violence-prone owner returns, he has to start doing the guy’s job. He ends up dating women who are for one reason or another not datable in the conventional sense, such as a woman with Tourette’s (Amy Pohler) whom he takes to a baseball game so her loud, random swearing won’t be any different from anyone else in the crowd. In the end the picture tries to make some kind of point about how women who aren’t supermodels can have trouble getting dates, but the moral is a feeble graft onto a parade of sophomoric sex jokes. See if desperate

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Review – Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

Be sure to wait until after dark and watch this picture in a dimly-lit room. That’s not for spooky atmosphere as much as it’s a feeble attempt to be able to see the movie, at least a third of which is shot in light so poor that many sequences are more-or-less pitch black. On the other hand, the inability to see what’s going on is probably a blessing, judging by the quality of the parts that are actually visible. The implausible Alien-Predator cross-breed from the end of the first AvP returns as the chief baddie this time around, an unwelcome touch vastly magnified by the fact that the new uber-monster is able to plant Alien eggs in victims without the use of the creatures’ well-established bug-snake-monster life cycle. This departure from the conventions of the series was no doubt necessary to supply the mass quantities of Aliens needed to keep the story moving, but it’s also symptomatic of the brainless-yet-commercially-successful disregard for consistent plot logic. Though the production values are on par with the rest of the movies in both sets, the cast and script would have been better suited to the straight-to-video gunk that provides programming bread and butter for the Sci Fi Channel. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Review – Darkon

If we combine the nerdiest elements of D&D and Civil War reenactments, our journey to the Dork Side will be complete. And here’s a documentary proving it. The competently-assembled production dips into the lives of participants in Darkon, a Baltimore-centered alternative reality in which nations are drawn up on a hex-divided map and then fought over in mock battles. I’m actually kinda impressed by these folks. They’ve dedicated a big chunk of their lives to their fantasy world. And for the most part what they do is relatively harmless fun. However, I felt sorry for some of the players who turn out to be losers both in the real world and in the imaginary realms of the game. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Review – All the King's Men (2006)

Assuming the original cried out for a remake at all, this is not the remake it had coming. Sean Penn stars as Willie Stark in this repeat roman a clef about Huey Long’s time as the governor of Louisiana. I understand that Penn is now too old to play the intense, misunderstood youth roles that made him famous, but if this picture is any indication he shouldn’t plan on making the transition to middle-aged, overbearing cracker politicians. Some of the supporting cast members are better suited to their roles, particularly Jude Law who has of course made a career out of playing spoiled rich kids who get caught up in the serious affairs of the world. But what really kills this is the look and feel. They seem to be going for a grim, depression-era aura with lots of shadowy sets and sepia filters. That worked okay in Road to Perdition, but here it’s out of step with the steamy southern locations and the cynical faux-optimism of the Long era and the original movie. See if desperate

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Review – Days of Darkness

The title and box cover are pretty clearly designed to sell this as somehow connected to 30 Days of Night, though in reality it has nothing to do with vampires in Alaska. Instead this is yet another low-budget piece of crap about a small band of humans trying to escape an onslaught of flesh-eating zombies. The only even vaguely entertaining twist here is that the survivors were spared the meteor-borne doom of the rest of humanity because they had alcohol in their bloodstreams when it hit. Otherwise this is cheap, badly-written, badly-acted and dull. See if desperate

Review – Day of the Dead (2007)

Though the box made this sound like a remake of Romero’s movie by the same name (presumably along the same lines as the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead), this production had little in common with the older, better movie. What we get this time around is a standard survivors-running-from-a-plague-of-zombies flick. The show includes some entertaining innovations, such as an infection that starts with flu-like symptoms, then causes brief catatonia, then instantly transforms the victim into a flesh-eating corpse. And them zombies is fast, too, even the legless Ving Rhames zombie. Aside from an occasional good scare, however, this is substance-free stuff. Mildly amusing

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Review – And Now the Screaming Starts

After that, the yawning gets underway. During the brief bits of this movie when something is actually happening, it’s actually not too bad for a British period piece. The core of the plot is about a curse placed on the descendants of a libertine who raped a peasant’s wife and then cut off the guy’s hand. Unfortunately, the back-story doesn’t come out until well past the midway point. And by then too much screen time had been wasted on long, go-nowhere meanderings throughout the dimly-lit halls of the estate. The cast (Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, and of course Peter Cushing) is good but could have been used to better effect. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Review – Chamber of Horrors

If you liked the Vincent Price classic House of Wax, then odds are you’ll recognize this production. Indeed, if memory serves, this was originally intended to be the pilot for a “House of Wax” TV series. But if this ever did make it to test audiences, I’m sure its horribleness instantly doomed the series. The story is some drivel about a corpse-marrying nut who hacks off his own hand to escape from death row and then goes on a spree of deadly, one-handed revenge against the men responsible for his conviction. The only real stand-out element is the William-Castle-esque use of The Fear Flasher (red frames intercut with the action) and the Horror Horn (an annoying bleating sound) that show up to warn the faint-of-heart that something horrible is about to happen. And I mean really faint-of-heart, as more than once all the hoopla precedes is a blade being raised and then a pan away that spares the audience from the slightest hint of gore. Except of course in the end when the villain gets his just reward, an impalement with nary a flash or honk to warn us to shut our eyes. See if desperate

Monday, April 7, 2008

Review – Brotherhood of Satan

This is one of those movies that in the beginning seems like it might be unusually innovative and artistic but turns out to just be unusually inept. A coven of aging Satanists needs to swap their bodies with 13 of the local youngsters, so they begin murdering their way through town in order to gather up the requisite kid count. Though this production fails on many levels, the editing is a real stand-out. The pacing is laconic at best, with little attention to meaningful plot structure or even logical shot sequence. The casting is also odd, with most of the male characters played by uniformly tall, skinny actors. Strother Martin – as the Satanist-in-chief – is at least an exception to the no-name beanpole coterie, but he turns in an okay-hail-Satan-hail-Satan-if-you-need-me-I’ll-be-in-my-trailer performance. See if desperate

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Review – Blood on Satan's Claw

Particularly early on, this picture features a few genuinely spooky moments. As one might expect, it suffers from many of the defects endemic to British horror movies from the 60s and 70s: it’s slow, the production values are bad, the acting is melodramatic, and so on. Indeed, this tale of an evil presence that lures the young folk of an English village into a coven turns out to be more visceral than many other productions from this time and place. A graphic rape sequence stands out as a strong example of the sort of thing that wouldn’t show up the average edited-for-television Hammer horror flick. However, the film-makers wisely decided not to use the makeup effects too far beyond their usefulness. The result features several scare spots that end up subtle enough to actually be scary. Mildly amusing