Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review – The Eagle

I’ll bet if you watched this back to back with Gladiator and 300 that you’d die of testosterone poisoning, even if you’re a woman. A Roman officer (Channing Tatum) ventures north of Hadrian’s Wall in search of the eagle standard of the vanished Ninth Legion. After a couple of hours of manly manliness, they run out of film. Some of the fight scenes are okay, which is a good thing because the picture doesn’t have much else going for it. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 23, 2008

Review – The Brave One

Here we have a post-feminist remake of Death Wish. Everything’s okay for a woman (Jodie Foster) who does a radio show about the streets of New York. Too bad she and her fiancĂ© decide to take the dog to Central Park after sunset. After the predictable mugging puts her in the hospital and her boyfriend in the morgue, the slow road to recovery leads to a pistol purchase and inevitably to a series of vigilante slayings. The gender reversal from the standard revenge flick allows the protagonist to have a more emotionally honest reaction to her rage and fear. It also allows romantic tension between the killer and the cop on her tail (Terrence Howard). Otherwise this is a typical specimen. Mildly amusing

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review – Boo

Boo crappy horror movie! Hooray beer! Seriously, I think we’ve officially reached the point where the Halloween-fake-haunted-house-turns-out-to-really-be-haunted thing isn’t even ironic in the Alanis Morissette sense anymore. And this is a particularly stale sample of the sub-genre. The abandoned asylum for the criminally insane provides fodder for a few cheap-yet-entertaining shocks, but there’s only the flimsiest excuse for a plot stringing the scares together. Dee Wallace-Stone puts in an appearance as a spectral nurse who tries to keep the spectral serial killer imprisoned. See if desperate

Review – Bugs

This starts out as a Mimic mimic but then segues into an Aliens rip-off. A multi-million-dollar subway system is jeopardized when it turns out to be infested with giant, prehistoric bugs. Sending in a SWAT team doesn’t help matters much, either. Cheap. Stupid. Dull. See if desperate

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review – Aztec Rex

If you reshot Apocalypto as a Sci Fi Channel movie, this is most likely what you’d end up with. The idea – to the extent there is one – is that in his (fictional) first voyage to the Americas, Cortez and a small band of conquistadors end up in a valley inhabited by a small group of Aztecs who worship a pair of tyrannosaurs. Cortez’s ratty wig notwithstanding, the real star of the show is the special effects, bad even by Sci Fi standards. Indeed, I recorded this in advance based on the assumption that The Soup would whet my appetite to watch it (not a bad guess, as it turned out). Still, I suppose I should be grateful for such video-game-esque CGI. If the monsters were any more realistic, I might have actually felt sorry for them. See if desperate

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Review – C.H.U.D.

They should have called the monsters Cannibalistic Reptilian Underground Dwellers. That would have given the movie a far more apt title. Here we have the disjointed tale of New Yorkers besieged by toxic-waste-spawned bio-horrors from the sewer system. As long as they confine their dining to the subterranean homeless population, the authorities won’t do much. But once they start dragging upstanding citizens off to culinary doom, the cops and the NRC move into action. Overall this plays like Humanoids from the Deep relocated to the big city. Mildly amusing

Review – Brainscan

Normally I’d lead with some kind of “it came from the 80s” remark, but this one actually proved that this kind of picture lingered on at least until 1994. Once again Hollywood schlock-meisters try to get a Freddy Krueger thing going. This time the bad guy goes by The Trickster, and he lives in a video game that bores into the player’s head and creates an ultra-realistic virtual reality where the idea is to kill without being caught. Unfortunately the scariest thing about the bad guy is the terribleness of his punk hairdo appliance. Overall this plays like a violent version of Drop Dead Fred. See if desperate

Review – Cocaine Fiends

This was the third entry in a triple feature of anti-drug movies from the 1930s recently run on Turner Classic Movies. And truth be told, by the time I got to the end they’d all started to blend together. So if I remember this correctly, it’s the tale of a girl living a wholesome life in small-town America until a smooth criminal gets her hooked on “headache powder.” From there it’s off to the big city to become a gangster’s moll and then a cast-aside former moll. Her brother comes to rescue her, but he too succumbs to the deadly lure of devil dust. My favorite part was when one of the urban temptresses was trying to seduce brother hick. She invites him to a snow-party with the snowbirds. “But it isn’t winter,” he protests. “Gosh, you really are dumb,” she replies. Yes he is. But then why should he be any different from anyone or anything else in this movie? Mildly amusing

Friday, May 9, 2008

Review – The Deadly Mantis

While I think there might be a good horror story in the combination of monsters and the DEW Line, this isn’t it. A giant bug puppet is unfrozen from the polar ice cap and slowly chews its way south to Washington D.C., surviving multiple attempts to do it in. Though this might not have been so bad back in the 1950s, by 21st century standards the effects are too terrible and the characters too ridiculous for this to be worth much more than a laugh. The sexist treatment of the movie’s only female character is particularly ridiculous. See if desperate

Review – The Blob (1988)

The original was an entertaining movie, and I think it could provide a solid basis for a good sequel or remake. Unfortunately, this ain’t it. The effects are nothing to write home about, though they are better than the 50s version. The monster’s origin as an out-of-control bioweapons experiment wasn’t bad, certainly in keeping with the mid-80s milieu. But the time period that spawned this picture also supplied its downfall: the movie is stuck in the John-Hughes-esque mire of well-scrubbed teenagers who lead quirky little lives. It also doesn’t help that everyone who lives in this world looks like they’re fresh from the set of a Calvin Klein photo shoot (except for the soldiers, who are of course sporting the mandatory paranoid-fantasy bio-suits). If you collect movies about deadly goo from outer space, you’ll want to add this one. Otherwise there isn’t much to recommend it. Mildly amusing

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Review – The Call of Cthulhu

Longtime readers of my thoughts on movies already know that I’m not easily impressed and even less so when the picture in question is an adaptation of a story by H.P. Lovecraft. But the folks who made this manage to pull it off. What they’ve done is genuinely innovative: the movie is put together as if it had been made at the time the source story came out. It’s silent and black and white. Further, they’re obviously well-versed in the conventions of the era, borrowing liberally from Haxan, Caligari and other masterpieces of silent horror. The use of models and stop-motion also give it a dream-like, period feel. Sticking to the story and using some of the tale’s actual locations also helped immensely. To date this is the truest and in many ways the best film adaptation of Lovecraft I’ve ever seen. Buy the disc

Friday, May 2, 2008

Review – Cloverfield

The scenes with monsters in them are actually pretty good. Too bad that’s a really small percentage of the total screen time. Part of me wants to applaud the risk taken here. A beast with no back story or logical modus operandi has a lot more scary potential than more conventional horror fare. Unfortunately the picture squanders the first 20 minutes of its less-than-90 total running time establishing the protagonists as vapid, New York yuppies. That might make them sympathetic to the film-makers’ fellow vapid, New York yuppies, but it leaves the rest of the world rooting for the monsters. If only the first quarter hadn’t worked so hard to wear out the movie’s welcome, this would have been a considerably better production. Mildly amusing