Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Tron: Legacy' Movie Review

“Tron: Legacy”, Joseph Kosinski’s sequel to the 1982 cult fave “Tron”, starts out promisingly enough. Okay, that’s not entirely true, it starts out idiotic, but idiotic in a way you can cope with. Sam Flynn (Garett Hedlund) is an orphan. His father, cyber-visionary/digital freedom fighter Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), disappeared in 1989 immediately after telling his young son about a “miracle” he experienced. In 2010, the elder Flynn’s videogame company, Encom, has transformed into a global technology juggernaut. While Sam has controlling interest in Encom, he prefers to the board of directors run the company, choosing instead to live the life of a bored, motorcycle riding twenty-something that has never worked a day in his life. And he plays yearly pranks his own company, like putting their new operating system on the internet for free, then base jumping off of the Encom Tower.

Monday, December 20, 2010

'2012' Movie Review

How has it taken me so long to watch “2012”? It’s like Roland Emmerich made a movie out of what constantly plays in my head when I close my eyes. This is the most amazing movie I’ve ever seen, and that statement is only partial hyperbole.

Friday, December 17, 2010

'How Do You Know' Movie Review

Yeah, I love a good romantic comedy, and I’m not too proud to admit that. I’m also secure enough to say that I find Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Owen Wilson quite charming, so throw them all into the same movie, and I’m sold. If you feel otherwise, and I’m willing to bet that if you frequent this site you probably do, you’ll want stop reading now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'The Fighter' Movie Review

“The Fighter” is a story of comebacks, in life, love, family, and boxing. Directed by David O. Russell, this what he does best, creating a world full of real, flawed people in a tough situation, and everything that goes along with that. Moments of laughter and levity mix with cruelly painful realizations. Uplifting triumphs are juxtaposed with crushing defeats. At times it can be kind of a mess, where you’re not entirely sure what the real story is, but the strength of the acting carries you through the rough patches.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'And Soon The Darkness' Review

The first thing you see in writer/director Marcos Efron’s new thriller, “And Soon the Darkness”, a remake of a 1970 British film of the same name, is a young, scantly clad woman, chained to a wall, get electrocuted by some unseen villain. This gives you the immediate impression that the film is going to be another torture porn. So it is a pleasant surprise when “And Soon the Darkness” instead turns out to be a tight, well-executed suspense film. It isn’t exploring any new territory, but for what it is, it is well done.

Monday, November 29, 2010

'Due Date' Review

You know what’s funny? Masturbating dogs. Masturbating dogs are funny. At least I think so, and so do the folks behind “Due Date”, the new comedy from director Todd Phillips. This is Phillips’ latest take on a road-trip comedy, something he already tackled ten years ago with the aptly titled “Road Trip”. “Due Date” is certainly the funnier of the two, though it falls far short of Phillips’ last film, “The Hangover”. That’s probably an unfair comparison, since they’re two very different movies. While the humor in “Due Date” is juvenile in nature, it is not nearly as raunchy or puerile as in “The Hangover”.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Faster' Review

While there are parts of “Faster” that are wonderful, there is so much unfulfilled potential that the film ultimately fails to deliver. The set up is so promising—a convict known only as Driver (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, again proving himself to be a competent movie badass) gets out of prison after ten years, accompanied by one of the best theme songs of all time, “Good-bye My Friend” by Guido and Maurizio De Angeles (the song is the main theme from “Street Law”, a 70s Italian crime starring Franco Nero). He picks up a sweet muscle car, a big gun with big bullets, and a list of names of people to kill. Immediately, he walks into a building and blasts a hole in the head of that ginger guy who played a Crip in “Colors” (Courtney Gaines). Billy Bob Thornton is the grizzled, beaten down, ten-days-from-retirement cop who, along with Carla Gugino, tries to track down and stop Driver.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

'The Disappearance of Alice Creed' Review

The plot of “The Disappearance of Alice Creed” is simple. Two ex-cons, Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston), kidnap a young woman named Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), the estranged daughter of a wealthy man. They hold her in a nondescript apartment that they soundproofed and set up to serve as a makeshift prison cell while they wait for their ransom. They have an airtight plan, and are meticulous down to every last detail, even devising a set of hand signals so Alice can tell them when her bladder is full.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

'Hunt to Kill' Review

Director Keoni Waxman has carved out quite a niche for himself in the direct-to-video action movie market, working with such genre luminaries as Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren. He’s not trying to make great art, he’s trying to make entertaining action films that kick a little ass. His latest, “Hunt to Kill”, is almost there.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is retired. He lives on a quiet street in Ohio where all the houses look the same, and where all his neighbors say hello and make sure that their garbage cans line up perfectly with the curb. On the surface everything is idyllic, but in reality he is bored as hell. The only pleasure he gets in life are the regular phone calls to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who answers the phone at the pension office. Frank rips up his checks and pretends they didn’t arrive so he has an excuse to talk to her. Both are lonely individuals who rely on their truncated conversations to brighten up their respective days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wrong Turn at Tahoe

In his first movie, “P2”, Franck Khalfoun created a decently crafted, low-budget, direct-to-video thriller that caught some people’s attention, at least enough attention to land names like Cuba Gooding Jr., Harvey Keitel, and Miguel Ferrar for his second movie “Wrong Turn at Tahoe”. Okay, Miguel Ferrer may not be a huge catch, but he’s still rad.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

As an actor, what do you say when your agent tells you that you’re up for a part, but that the part involves your face being attached to another actor’s ass for most of the movie? That probably doesn’t come up often, but it must have when writer/director Tom Six was casting his horror film “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)”.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

How come the most genuinely affecting, emotional movies I’ve seen this year have been animated kids movies? First it was “How To Train Your Dragon”, and now we’ve got Zack Snyder’s “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife

I finally got around to seeing “Resident Evil: Afterlife” the other day, but to be quite honest, it’s taken me a while to write about it because I kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t very good. Not that the other installments in the series were mind-blowing or anything, but this new chapter is the weakest, even though it is by far the most popular and most three-dimensional to date. The whole thing is pretty forgettable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hawaii Five-0 (2010)

“Hawaii Five-0” was actually kind of good. Not like “Justified” good, but given the incredibly low expectations I had going in, the first episode was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Town

Ben Affleck has made some questionable career choices. “Pearl Harbor” is the funniest movie ever made, though not intended to be; he completely destroyed “Daredevil”; and then came “Gigli” and “Jersey Girl”. The whole J-Lo thing is where public opinion really began to desert him. I’m sure they all sounded like good ideas at the time, but in retrospect I’ll bet he’d like a few of those back. But he was on “Voyage of the Mimi”. So even in the dark days I secretly rooted for him.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

So much screaming and stabbing. That is the basic premise behind the first season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”. The parts that involve neither stabbing nor screaming are built around naked breasts, beheadings, eruptions of blood, and intrigue.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I’m a sucker for movies starring professional wrestlers. I have been since Hulk Hogan popped up in “Rocky III”. “No Holds Barred” and “They Live” only solidified it a few years later. I don’t claim that they’re all good, but, especially in recent days, they tend to be of a genre that I enjoy, chiefly low budget action that is driven by one central badass. They’re throwbacks to the 80s when it was assumed that the toughest guy in the room was automatically the biggest. Guys like Stallone or Schwarzenegger would have played these parts back in the day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I’m on a pretty good roll lately as far as movies being exactly what I want them to be. “The Expendables” was a solid attempt to recreate a 1980s style action flick driven by a big name, or many big names in this particular case. “Piranha 3D” was completely over the top fun, full of tens of thousands of gallons of fake blood, and equally fake naked breasts. Both did exactly what I wanted them to do, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete” fits nicely alongside those two films.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Solitary Man

In movies there is often a certain romance associated with people who live every day like it may be their last, who live like there is no tomorrow. Film celebrates those people who just say fuck it, seize the day, and go after what they want with reckless abandon. The dark comedy “Solitary Man” ventures show the other side of that. It shows the loneliness, the broken relationships, the burned bridges, and the pain left behind.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Wait a minute. The bad guys in “Salt” are Cold War era Russians? Really? I kind of like that. I kind of like that a lot. They’re throwback villains that take me back to the movies of my youth where the Russians were like the default setting for cinematic evildoers. It’s an interesting choice for an action film in 2010, but I’m behind it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Dangerous Man

Steven Seagal has made some of my favorite movies of all time, like “Out for Justice”, “Hard to Kill”, “Above the Law”, “Under Siege”. He’s also made some unwatchable garbage, but that’s beside the point. His fight with Dan Inosanto in “Out for Justice” is on my short list of best fights ever.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Piranha 3D

Holy fucking shit. Let me say that again, slower this time. Holy. Fucking. Shit. “Piranha 3D” is my new favorite movie of 2010.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Horseman

You can tell “The Horseman” is going to be grim from the very first frame, when you see a teenage girl crying in an alley. Images like that don’t generally indicate that happy fun times lie ahead. What is coming is a rugged, badass tale of revenge.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

City Island

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) is a corrections officer with secrets. The first one is that his lifelong dream is to become an actor. This ambition embarrasses him so much so that he lies to Joyce (Juliana Margulies), his wife, about taking an acting class in the evenings. On these nights he says he has a poker game. In Vince’s world gambling is more appropriate than acting. He has a normal life. He still lives in the house he grew up in on City Island, a small island off of the Bronx, with Joyce and their son, Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), and has a daughter, Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Garcia’s real-life daughter), in college in the city. Frivolous dreams, like acting, have no place in his life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dante 01

After watching Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s newest film, “Micmacs”, I started to wonder what has become of Marc Caro. It was an easy question to answer; I simply hadn’t taken the time to ask it before. In 2008, he made his debut as a solo director with the science fiction film, “Dante 01”. To call it just a sci-fi movie does “Dante 01” a disservice. Not only does it inhabit the sci-fi realm, but it crosses neatly over into psychological horror, and rounds itself out as a prison movie, complete with a brutal shanking.
Orbiting high above the molten planet Dante, is the prison space station Dante 01. More than a simple prison, it is a psychiatric hospital for a handful the most violent offenders deep space has to offer. These prisoners are volunteers, they all would have been executed otherwise, and they participate in a range of psychiatric experiments, testing new procedures and protocols.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


For years now I’ve been staying that what basketball really needs is more spin kicks and flying knees (there are already plenty of elbows involved). Finally, in “Fireball”, I have found a kindred spirit, someone who agrees with me. “Fireball” the film prominently features Fireball the game, which is an underground, hybrid sport controlled by the heads of organized crime in Thailand. Fireball is all the fun of basketball, cage fighting, and Thunderdome, together at last. You can do whatever you can to stop the other team from scoring, things like kicking people in mid air, and tackling the guy with the ball, which is surprisingly similar to the way I played defense in my sportier days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

House (Hausu)

The reissue of “House” (“Hausu”) hurt my brain a little bit. The best description I can come up with for Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 psychedelic mind-fuck, is this, imagine if Sid and Marty Krofft made and “Evil Dead” movie. Obayashi based his feature length debut on an idea from his seven-year-old daughter. Sometimes I love kids, not often, but sometimes.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


At first glance “Pandorum” looks like it is going to be a straight up sci-fi action movie, which it certainly is. But in addition to that the film also crosses into monster movie, horror, and psychological thriller territory.
Like in any good futuristic movie, the world has gone to shit. There are now 26 billion people on Earth, resources are scarce enough to cause wars (not that we don’t have wars over things like that now), and things are getting ugly. Humanity needs space to spread out and get away from the neighbors. Luckily for our future counterparts another habitable planet, Tanis, has been found, and the spaceship Elysium is dispatched in order to colonize this new world so we can fuck it up too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ninja Assassin

Hollywood is cyclical. This is common knowledge, so you knew ninja movies were going to come around again, it was only a matter of waiting, biding your time. The highest profile film of this new wave is James McTeigue’s energetic “Ninja Assassin”, produced by the Wachowski siblings.


Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films haven’t had the same feel since he went solo, breaking away from former collaborator Marc Caro. “Micmacs”, Jeunet’s latest project, hovers somewhere between the light fluffiness of “Amelie” and the surreal darkness of “Delicatessen” and “City of Lost Children”. Personally, I hope this is a sign of things to come. I miss the nightmarish dreamscapes of those earlier films, and would relish a return to the shadows.
French comedian Dany Boone plays Bazil. As a child his father was killed in a mishap with a discarded landmine, his mother sent to an institution, and Bazil wound up an orphanage where the overseeing nuns treated the children like tiny convicts. Grown up and clerking in a video store, a stray bullet from a drive-by catches Bazil in the dome. Removing the bullet could leave him a vegetable, so the doctor flips a coin and leaves the slug where it is. As a result Bazil could drop dead at any moment.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Come With the Rain

“I Come With the Rain”, director Tran Anh Hung’s latest film, is a violent, atmospheric neo-noir detective yarn that bounces from Los Angeles to the Philippines, but ultimately settles and finds itself amidst the neon and glass skyscrapers of Hong Kong. It boasts an all-star international cast, a twisted story, and slick production.

Blood on the Highway

“Blood on the Highway” is retarded, and I mean that in the most complimentary, endearing sense of the word. It is a blood-soaked vampire movie that soars way beyond campy and settles down firmly in the realm of total absurdity. Directors Barak Epstein and Blair Rowan (who co-wrote the script with Chris Gardener, who also plays a large part in the movie) aren’t afraid to say things like, “Poor people don’t have any friends,” and refer to a woman’s vagina as a “meat curtain.” There is an overabundance of stabbing, biting, gushing blood, and vulgar humor. It is relentless, like a 15-year-old horror nerd’s stoned subconscious wet dream come to life, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


“After.Life” has pretentions towards being a psychological ghost story as well as a mysterious thriller. On some counts director/writer Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s film succeeds, and on other it fails.
Anna (Christina Ricci) is a schoolteacher who is dissatisfied with her life and disconnected from everyone around her. She lives with her mother and simply goes through the motions with her earnest boyfriend Paul (Justin Long). Still, she longs for something more, but abandons the small attempts she makes to break out into something new if met with the slightest resistance. When she dyes her hair red in sharp contrast to her mousy demeanor, Paul’s offhand comment that it “isn’t really you” pushes her right back to where she started. Anna moves through life like an automaton, sleep walking more than living, a fact duly noted by funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson).
Anna’s anticipation of defeat and disappointment at every turn is so pervasive that she jumps to a hasty conclusion and misconstrues Paul’s marriage proposal as him leaving her. She runs away from a romantic dinner into the rain soaked night where she gets in a horrific car accident. Later she wakes up on the slab at Deacon’s funeral home where he informs her that she was killed in the collision. He even has the signed death certificate to prove it. Naturally she doesn’t believe him, but time after time Deacon provides proof.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Prophet (Un prophète)

Jacques Audiard’s 2009 prison crime drama “A Prophet” (“Un prophète”) was nominated for and won an absurd amount of awards, including the prizes at Cannes, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and the Cèsar Awards, among numerous others, and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. It was tapped for awards across the board, from acting and directing, to writing and cinematography.

Normally that amount of glowing praise raises some red flags for me since my tastes and opinions run somewhat askew to that of the critical mainstream. (I still think of Steven Seagal as a viable film star, that’s where I’m coming from.) However, in this case the admiration and worship are warranted. Not to sound like a jackass who thinks his opinion is important, but “A Prophet” is easily one of the best movies of 2009.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blood and Bone

Michael Jai White has been in some decent movies, like “Exit Wounds” and “Undisputed II”. He’s played Mike Tyson, was in the second “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, and even has a credit from “Saved By the Bell” on his resume, and I mean the real “Saved By the Bell”, none of this “New Class” or “College Years” nonsense. “Black Dynamite” is even pretty awesome, and he was in “The Dark Knight”. My point is that White’s career has been interesting to say the least. For a minute he looked poised to become the next big action star. That never quite panned out, but he’s managed to carve out a nice niche in the direct to video market.

While White has appeared in a wide range of films, his action movies are his bread and butter. And “Blood and Bone” might be the best of the bunch.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Operation: Endgame

The first thing you are likely to notice about Fouad Mikati’s “Operation: Endgame” is that the cast is a bit nuts. Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin, Ving Rhames, and Zach Galifianakis are the big guns, but it also involves Jeffrey Tambor, Maggie Q, Odette Yustman, Brandon T. Jackson, Emilie De Ravin, Bob Odenkirk, and Adam Scott. That’s quite a list, especially for a first time director. But when the writer has the last name Levinson, and the producers list “Donnie Darko” and “Capote” on their resumes, I guess your project gains some additional clout in the casting department.

The only name listed above the title that I don’t at least recognize to some degree is Joe Anderson. Apparently he was in the remake of “The Crazies” and “The Ruins”, among other things. Here he plays the Fool, the closest thing “Endgame” has to a protagonist, and it is the first day at his new job. Starting a new job is stressful under the best of circumstances, but when your new job is at the Factory, a super-secret cadre of elite international spies headquartered in a bunker deep beneath Los Angeles and unacknowledged by the government, the normal anxiety gets ratcheted up a few notches.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I’ve been waiting for an appropriate sequel to “Predator” since I saw it in the theater in 1987 when I was ten years old. “Predator 2” was good, but not great (there are legitimate claims that this movie isn’t very good, but I enjoy it). A few years ago, I got excited for “Alien Vs. Predator” only to be horribly disappointed. A few years after that I got excited for “Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem” (they said they wanted to make people forget that the first “AVP” ever happened, a sentiment that I can get behind), and again, I was my enthusiasm was tragically betrayed.

After “AVP:R” crushed my spirits, and on Christmas day no less, I gave up hope of living to witness a decent “Predator” sequel. My wounds still fresh, I’ve been reasonably skeptical as news of “Predators” has trickled in. Sure, I like Robert Rodriguez, and even in his less awesome movies the action is still high quality. This sounded favorable. But Rodriguez wasn’t directing, Nimrod Antal was at the helm, and in my world, this fellow is still an unknown quantity. This gave me pause. I like Adrian Brody, but I’m not sure of his ability as an action star. Laurence Fishburne can go either way. With Danny Trejo you know what you’re going to get, he’ll be badass, but he’s also been good in some horrible crap bombs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The A-Team (2010)

I really have to stop letting myself read other reviews and press releases and all of that nonsense ahead of time when it concerns a movie that I do actually want to see. I know better, I really do, but that doesn’t seem to stop me. A couple of times recently this practice has led me to hold off on seeing movies that I wound up enjoying. It happened with “Kick-Ass”, and it happened again with “The A-Team”.

I was as torn as everyone else when it was announced that everyone’s favorite, resourceful military fugitives from the 1980s were going to get their very own big-budget, live-action, summer-blockbuster release. Everything I sincerely loved as a child has been rehashed and remade, and generally fucked up, like “Transformers”. The only thing I have fond childhood memories of that is left for the Hollywood recycling machine to redo is “Magnum P.I.” (Though due to the present financial woes over at MGM, the “Red Dawn” remake may not happen, and the proposed Voltron” movie is presently dead, so I got a reprieve on those fronts. There is an impending live-action adaptation of “Battleship Yamamoto”—aka “Star Blazers” for us Yanks—but that’s a Japanese production, and the trailer looks awesome.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams

“2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams” is an interesting artifact. It is the sequel “2001 Maniacs”, a remake of “2000 Maniacs”, the spattery 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis movie (which was inspired by “Brigadoon”, a musical), but is also based on a comic that appeared in the interim between the remake and the sequel. That was a mouthful.

Writer/Director Tim Sullivan and company return to Pleasant Valley, Georgia, home of the eponymous Maniacs. It isn’t entirely clear, but I think they are the ghosts (or perhaps zombies, that is hinted at as well) of the Southerners who were slaughtered there by renegade Union soldiers during the Civil War and have come back in order to exact revenge by killing one Northerner for each dead Confederate, of which there were 2001. They are also cannibals, so that is going on as well.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tales From the Dead

“Tales From the Dead” has the unusual distinction of being a J-horror movie shot entirely in Los Angeles with local talent. It is an anthology of four ghost stories along the lines of “The Twilight Zone” and “Tales From the Crypt”, though the stories themselves bear the most striking resemblance to those that appear in “Tales From the Darkside”.

I’m a fan of horror anthology shows, but there are some common pitfalls that entrap even the best of them. Chief among these is the length. Many of them only have 30-minute episodes, a feature that makes it difficult to set up everything necessary to make a story successful. Weekly shows have the benefit continuity, of being able to build things up over time and establish the story for the episode this week on the back of work that has already been done. The foundation is already in place. However, anthology shows have to start from scratch with each new episode, establishing setting, characters, conflict, tension, etc., which, in half an hour, can be problematic. Some pull it off, but others do not, a lot depends on the writing. (See the third season of “Tales From the Darkside” as an example where there are more misses than hits.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hard Ride to Hell

Three words. You only need to hear three words to decide if you’re interested in watching “Hard Ride to Hell.” You’ll either hear them and immediately decide that this is a movie you want to see, or you’ll hear them, pinch your eyebrows together, purse your lips, and shake your head, no, this probably isn’t the movie for you. Here are the three words: satanic, cannibal, bikers. If those are things you like, “Hard Ride to Hell” might be for you. If not, consider sitting this one out.

I thought about adding a fourth word to my list, immortal, but satanic, cannibal, bikers rolls off of the tongue much easier than immortal, satanic, cannibal, bikers. That’s too much of a mouthful, and I think the original trio sufficiently captures the essence of the movie.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hard Revenge, Milly

Some unspecified disaster or environmental trauma has left Japan a post-apocalyptic wasteland, ruled by gangs of thugs. Tokyo is a wind swept desert, and Yokohama has regressed to futuristic version of the lawless Wild West.

Two years ago Milly’s (Miki Mizuno) life was perfect. She had a husband and a baby, and she was happy. But everything turned to shit when they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and encountered the Jack Brothers, the worst and most notorious of the gangs of drug dealers and criminals, on a day where they just felt like killing someone.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Slithis aka Spawn of the Slithis

First appeared on

“Slithis” is finally on DVD! I’ve been waiting for this day since I was in junior high and stumbled across the already well-worn VHS copy at my local video store. Stephen Traxler’s 1978 film has everything a child of my era could want. Growing up I fully expected to be annihilated by a nuclear holocaust at any given moment, murdered in my sleep by Freddy Krueger, or wiped out by some massive environmental catastrophe, so any movie with a guy dressed in a rubber monster suit, loosely disguised as a cautionary tale about nuclear power and pollution, was right up my alley.

To be honest, I remember it not being very good, and decades down the line it doesn’t even hold up to my already under-inflated expectations. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it.

Something is killing household pets along the canals of Venice (that’s Venice, California), leaving a trail of mutilated corpses along the banks. Before long, whatever it is isn’t satisfied with small game, and starts invading homes and devouring people. The police are convinced that these seemingly ritualistic killings are the work of a death cult. Personally, I miss the days when cults were widely viewed as frightening. High school journalism teacher/freelance reporter looking to make a name for himself, Wayne Connors (Alan Blanchard), doesn’t share the cop’s theory, and investigates the killings on his own.

Along with his trusty, hippy-dippy science teacher sidekick, Dr. John (J.C. Claire), and his wife, Jeff (Judy Motulsky, and yes, her name is Jeff), Connors tracks the real killer, an irradiated mutant, piecing together clues as he goes. He finds a strange slime left at one crime scene. Because Dr. John is a high school science teacher, he is up on his nuclear physics news, and identifies the substance as slithis, which is some sort of radioactive dirt caused by a nuclear reactor leak, that takes on the characteristics of whatever it touches. The radiation does something to the bacteria in the soil, altering it on a cellular level, and Connors makes the immediate leap that this particular instance of Slithis has evolved further than ever before, creating some kind of giant mutant beast thing. We know he’s right, but the cops don’t buy his hair-brained theory for a second, so he has to find some sort of actual proof. Imagine that.

“Slithis”, aka “Spawn of the Slithis”, is one of those movies that where most of the cast has only this lone film on their acting resumes, so don’t expect any virtuoso performances, but you weren’t, were you? The only name you might recognize in the credits is Mimi Leder, who served as a script supervisor, but went on to direct some big budget action movies of her own, most notably, “The Peacemaker” and “Deep Impact”.

The story starts off in standard monster movie form, with some monster’s-eye-view shots, and the end is pretty kickass, in a pseudo-“Jaws” kind of way. But the middle wanders around aimlessly while Connors interviews homeless guys and takes soil samples looking for any shred of evidence that will prove his wing-nut theory. At one point we spend fifteen minutes getting to know a sleazy mustachioed gentleman and the young girl he picked up at the turtle races (if the reality of “Slithis” is to be believed, turtle racing was a big deal in late ‘70s Southern California youth culture), only to watch them get eaten, or “Slithised” as I like to call it. No one cares about the names and back-stories of the Slithis fodder; we just want to see them get eaten. There are a lot of moments like this that are unnecessarily long. It feels like writer/director Traxler had the beginning and the end when he started shooting, but the body of the film was eluding him.

However, in the midst of all this shiftless drifting, there are little gems, like a grizzled homeless man being interviewed on TV saying, “I sleep sometimes in the john down there by the beach. Them stalls ain’t got no locks on ‘em, you know.” Pure gold.

“Slithis” isn’t a great movie. No one will make that argument. Hell, I won’t even try to tell you it’s a well-made movie. And while it isn’t quite as awesome as I remembered, it has moments where it is a whole lot of fun. If you can slog through the middle, the end is well worth the wait. And in my book, it’s hard to go wrong when you have some jackass running around in a latex costume that looks like a Ninja Turtle’s ugly cousin.

Slaughter Island

Originally published at

At first glance, “Slaughter Island” looks like it is going to be nonstop gore covered T&A from start to finish. Now don’t get me wrong, you will see your fill of Japanese girls in bikinis splattered with blood, there is certainly no shortage of that, so if that’s your jam, you’re good. But somewhere along the line, director Hisaaki Nagaota manages to make a pretty decent horror movie that fits in nicely in the teens-in-the-wilderness/slasher/mystery killer type genre.

A group of ten friends who loosely think of themselves as an adventure club, though their adventuring primarily consists of partying on the beach, travel to a deserted island. Perhaps this is the mysterious phantom island that local legend tells about, the one that appears and disappears without warning, the one that no one has ever returned from alive. It makes for a good, creepy ghost story as the teens sit around the campfire.

Before long the teens start dying off one by one. Is there someone else on the island? Is it the island itself that is killing them? Are they dealing with something they can stop, or something supernatural that they have no chance against? When their boat disappears they find themselves stranded, with no hope of rescue since the skeevy guy, Nabuo, who led them to their doom, neglected to tell anyone on the mainland where they were going. Right away you know they’re screwed.

Nagaota takes a standard set up and tweaks it enough to make it interesting. The killing/haunting/whatever you want to call it is actually pretty original. I’m not going to tell you what it is because that will ruin the entire movie, but watching it, “Slaughter Island” does a nice job being creepy and creating an atmosphere of suspense and dread.

“Slaughter Island” is a good example of filmmakers doing a lot with a little. There isn’t much to this film. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but it is true. Here are the elements the film contains: teens, beaches, woods, and blood. There are no sets aside from a campfire and some tents, no effects except blood, and a small cast, but they still manage to make a decent movie. The film focuses on story instead of eye-catching gimmicks and unnecessary frills, and the end result is that much stronger for the emphasis.

This feels like a movie that a group of friends could have made quickly for little money. Normally when I say that I mean it as a negative, but here it works, and they produced something worthwhile.

The one aspect where the film’s minimalism might be a detriment is in the appearance. It is obviously shot on video with little to no industrialized lighting. This leads to a dreary, monochrome color palate. The colors are muted and blend together into a dull, lifeless background. Even bright colors, like yellows and pinks, somehow melt into the blues and greens and browns of the scenery. Sure this makes the blood pop that much more, the vivid red stands out in sharp contrast to everything else in the frame, but it makes the rest of the film appear flat and bland.

There are ultimately some unanswered questions in the story, like the implied connection between Nabuo and the island (at one point he claims to be “the guardian of the Island”), but in the end, they prove to be unimportant.

“Slaughter Island” may not be the best, or most frightening, movie, but it is pretty good. With minimal resources, the cast and crew manage to make a horror movie that, while not groundbreaking in any sense, is original enough to be entertaining and worth a look. This is proof that a decent idea can translate into something worth watching, regardless of budget.

Friday, June 18, 2010


This originally appeared at

“Somtum” has all the potential in the world, but ultimately ends up as kind of a mess.

Nathan Jones (“Tom-Young-Goong”, “The Condemned”) stars as Barney Emerald, a down on his luck Australian giant, who wins third place in a contest. This is one hell of a contest because third place, the bronze medal, is a trip to Thailand. That’s not a bad consolation prize. A life-long loser, Barney thinks his luck has changed. He couldn’t be more wrong. On his first night of vacation he gets drugged, robbed, and left barefoot and shirtless in a foreign country with no money and no passport.

At 6’11 and 360 pounds, Jones is a towering freak of a human being. His life has been nothing if not interesting. At one time he pulled off a string of bank robberies, and was one of Australia’s most wanted men. In prison he became a power lifter, and before a back injury, suffered in an arm wrestling match, he was a promising newcomer on the world strongman scene. Then he had a brief career as a professional wrestler, and now he acts in action movies, usually in bit parts as a tough guy the hero has to fight. In “Somtum”, however, he plays a gentle giant. He’s big, clothes don’t fit him, he snores, children often mistake him for some sort of monster or ghost, he appears comically large riding down the street on a scooter, you know, the usual trials and tribulations of the overly large.

Half naked, wandering the unfamiliar streets of Thailand, Barney runs into a young girl, Katen (Narawat Techarathanaprasert), while she flees from some thugs she ripped off. Even though Barney is enormous, he’s a pussy, and gets thoroughly trounced for trying to help.

Katen is an orphan and a hustler. A pickpocket and petty criminal, she lives with Dokya (Sasisa Jindamanee), a Muay Thai prodigy, and her mother, who runs a local somtum restaurant. Calling it a restaurant is being generous since it is more like a food shanty on the beach. Dokya can handle herself, but her mother hates that she fights, and makes her promise that she won’t, in or out of a ring.

The sisters feel bad for Barney, you know, since they got him beat up and all, and take him in. Barney is like a giant, dopey puppy. Think a Mastiff or Great Dane. He’s huge, but has no idea how big he is, or how much damage he can do. That is, until the girls feed him a plate of somtum. Apparently Barney doesn’t deal well with spicy food. He turns bright red, starts to hallucinate, and goes into an uncontrollable berserker rage, leveling the food shack in the process.

Now they need money to fix the restaurant. Barney is a loser with no friends, so he can’t get anyone back home to send him money. Their next idea is to have him fight in an underground fight club, but he’s just as adept at fighting as he is at everything else. He can’t dance, so he can’t become a stripper. Finally, they decide that Dokya will fight at the fight club, and in order to convince mom, Katen lies to her, telling her it’s a dance contest, while Dokya thinks mom has given her okay to fight.

The story gets convoluted and meanders around from scene to scene for a while. Some bad guys are involved in jewel heist, the fight promoter is crooked, Katen is a conniving little shit who makes every situation worse through lies and deceit. “Somtum” is more of a collection of scenes than a coherent plot. And because of that, most of the movie feels entirely directionless.

Once you get towards the middle of the movie there is more action throw into the mix, but it takes 40 minutes or so to arrive at this point. Even though there are guns and criminals present, “Somtum” is still obviously aimed at a younger audience. The fight scenes are sound, but, until the climactic fight, most of them belong to the same comic, slapstick family that you get in the less serious Jackie Chan movies.

Dokya’s sequences are solid, but Jindamanee is a junior national Muay Thai champ, so she can actually fight her ass off. At one point she has to fight a grown man in the ring and beats him down even though he cheats. Dan Chupong (“Ong-Bak 1, 2, and 3”) shows up for like five minutes, but he’s basically just in the movie to have one fight, which is good, but then he disappears from the narrative.

Aside from those two instances, the rest of the fights try way too hard to be funny, like one that features an excessive amount of papayas. And even in Chupong’s fight, when a bad guy grabs a knife, every jab or thrust finds a way to slice vegetables or dice onions like they’re preparing dinner. The forced attempts at comic relief get old quick.

At the end, Barney finally figures out how to fight, and in the sprawling battle he has with three other giants, they entirely dismantle an entire airplane. Jones is good at being enormous and frightening, and these moments are his best in the film. It’s a lot to ask of him to carry a whole movie sicne his acting chops are questionable, and his career will probably be best served by sticking to parts like his role in “Tom-Young-Goong”, where he mostly has to flex, yell, and fight. That’s where he is at his peak, and he could have a long and prosperous run in action movies. They always need another big, scary guy.

There are some good moment in “Somtum”, but overall the story lacks focus and drive, the plot is too jumbled, and the comedy is forced and not all that funny.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Power Kids

This originally appeared at

Fuck “The Karate Kid.” Am I the only one who has a problem with the fact that, in a movie called “The Karate Kid,” he goes to China and learns kung fu? Looking at the box office returns from this past weekend it certainly looks that way. Why didn’t they just call it “The Karate Kid Learns Kung Fu”? Then I would have no problem with it.

My irrational anger notwithstanding, if you want to watch children fight, instead of wasting your time on this latest Hollywood rehash of one of my precious childhood memories (and on the same weekend at the “A Team” retread no less), you should watch “Power Kids”.

“Power Kids” is a product of Prachya Pinkaew (“Ong-Bak”, “Tom-Young-Goong”) and his Baa-Ram-Ewe production company, and translates the adrenalin fueled, Muay Thai action of his previous movies to kids. “Power Kids” is full to overflowing with adorable little children, who could beat the living hell out of me, running around, jumping off of things, and throwing flying knees. That’s why I love Thailand. American’s national sport is baseball, while theirs is the one of the world’s most brutal martial arts.

Wuth (Nantawooti Boonrapsap), Pong (Paytaai Wongkamlao), Catt (Sasisa Jindamanee), and Jib (Nawarat Techarathanathanprasert) are all students who live at Master Lek’s (Arunya Pawilai) Thai Boxing academy. I’m not sure where their parents are in all of this, but the only time any of their progenitors are mentioned is in relation to Pong, whose father is a famous country singer/comedian (Petchtai Wongkamlao, Dirty Balls from “Ong-Bak”, and also his real life father), but only appears in the film via photograph.

Despite being happy-go-lucky, junior badasses (they come together to beat up a giant muscle-man in a slapstick scene that shows their unity through groin pummeling), these kids have all the standard kid problems, bullies on four-wheelers, drunken Americans, the big RC-car race tomorrow, and, most pressing, congenital heart defects. Wuth’s younger brother, Wun, has a bad heart and collapses while fleeing some neighborhood toughs. The good news is that the doctors have found a suitable donor organ for transplant and are prepared to perform the operation, just in the nick of time. The bad news is that a group of heavily armed insurgents has taken over the hospital where the heart is, “Die Hard” style.

In four hours the heart will become unusable, so the kids know exactly what they have to do. They don’t even blink. Without pausing they invade the hospital, and the rest of the movie is little kids launching themselves off of things with reckless abandon, and bludgeoning fully grown soldiers, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds.

It is pretty obvious which of the child actors can actually fight. Most of the real action is delegated to Wuth and Catt, whose stunts and fight sequences are impressive for anyone, let alone kids this age. Pong and Jib are generally left to run around and evade the bad guys by hiding under a sheet next to dead bodies in the morgue. Pong is the comic relief, though his shtick wears thin after a while. The climactic fight between Wuth and Catt and the rebel leader (Johnny Nguyen, “Tom-Young-Goong”) in this narrow hallway, is a fitting final battle, and it includes the craziest action of the movie.

The kids are headstrong and brave, but this isn’t “Spy Kids” (which, despite the fact that no one believes me, is an incredible movie in it’s own right). The kids don’t single-handedly take down an armed insurrection and save the day. They’re not commandos, they don’t have a bunch of gadgets, they’re just kids. Also, unlike an American movie, these kids are actually in danger. They get shot, kicked, and beaten, and when this happens, they bleed their own blood. When guys with guns chase them, you feel like there is a real chance that you may see a kid get shot.

The end comes together too tidily to be entirely satisfying, but, unlike a lot of films featuring children, “Power Kids” avoids being overly sentimental and ending on a freeze frame of a group hug.

For my sake, do me a favor. Skip “The Karate Kid Learns Kung Fu”, and watch “Power Kids” instead. You’ll thank me for it later. “Power Kids” are way better than all of the Fresh Prince’s kids combined. And it’s short. The entire film, credits included, times out at 73 minutes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Get Him to the Greek

This was originally posted at

Someone needs to have an intervention for Jonah Hill. He looks like hell. His friends should sit him down and show him a career retrospective of Chris Farley as a cautionary tale. It isn’t just that he has gotten really big, he was always a stout young fella, but he does not look well in Get Him to the Greek, a loose sequel to 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, where he once again teams up with director Nicholas Stoller, producers Judd Apatow and Jason Segel, and costar Russell Brand.

Brand reprises his role as over-indulgent rock star Aldous Snow, who is recently off the wagon with a vengeance. Hill plays Aaron Green, not his role from the first movie, a low-level, idealistic record company employee. Right away you can tell that he’s in the business for the love because he has a wall of records in his apartment. This, of course, is cinematic shorthand for “this character listens to college radio”, a fact that is shortly reinforced when he name drops Mars Volta. Apparently the t-shirt and poster on the wall weren’t enough.

Aaron wants to enjoy the fringe benefits of his job, like a wild after party at Jay Z’s house, where his coworker, Aziz Ansari (who I like for the moment, but who I know that I will hate in six months after he is in every movie—see the cases of Seth Rogan and Jack Black, who I also used to enjoy, but now make me cringe) winds up with glitter on his dick. Instead of partying and having fun, Aaron is stuck at home with his perky doctor girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), who just wants to sit on the couch and watch “like a hundred hours of Gossip Girl”. He puts up a pleasant façade, but is completely miserable in his home life.

Puff Daddy, who, like The Rock, I will never be able to call his given name, plays Sergio, the head of the record company, looking to increase profits. He gives Aaron the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, to meet his idol, Aldous Snow, and escort him from London to Los Angeles for a concert. Daphne, however, wants to move to Seattle to follow her own dream. Aaron acts like a jackass, and they break up right before he leaves.

All of this build up is tedious and takes way too long. It’s heavy handed character development that delays the main narrative thrust, and most enjoyable part of the movie, the drug and alcohol fueled trek across the globe. The subplots with Aaron’s relationship with Daphne, and the parallel story with Snow and his ex, are forced and overly cumbersome. It is unneeded sentimentality, and even though he hooks up with multiple girls on his trip, he has some sort of epiphany that isn’t based on anything real, and tries to win her back. The emotion isn’t earned, and watching it, you ask why. He wasn’t happy, she wasn’t happy, they were emotionally dead, and despite what the movie tries to tell you, it feels formulaic, and like the wrong decision.

This is where Apatow’s hand is most clearly visible. Apparently it isn’t enough for a movie to just be funny, it has to be touching at the end. It worked in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, but it is really distracting in Get Him to the Greek. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is earnest and sweet, which is where it derives most of its charm, and they should have left it in that movie instead of trying to cram it in here. The happy ending feels obligatory.

The movie is most fun during the hazy party montages. Hill and Brand show off a frenetic energy as they bounce around the screen like carnival visions of excess. Their chemistry carries them through a series of excellent adventures, which are offset by more low-key moments, usually where the two are in transit from city to city, and further punctuated by a couple of dark scenes. Aldous going through heroin withdrawals reminds Aaron, and the audience, of the brutal, ugly side of this seemingly light-hearted lifestyle of endless partying. It is rough, and he looks like he has been slapped across the face when he realizes what’s going on.

Hill does what he does well, play a chubby smart ass with a good heart (except for the fact that he’s generally a prick to his girlfriend). He follows the exact same arc as his character in Superbad, so he’s not stretching himself at all here, but he’s personable and fun to watch, and that’s what people want to see.

From what I’ve seen of Brand, in movies, stand-up, and his hosting duties, he seems to be a one trick pony, but thus far in his career that one trick is pretty good, so I’m still on board. He is one of those actors that you look at and wonder if he is just playing himself, if he is playing a persona he created, or if he is actually acting. Either way, he plays a drug addled rock star with a certain zest, but, like I mentioned earlier with Aziz Ansari, the act is going to wear thin before too long. And “white African space Christ” is kind of brilliant.

And Puffy is also good. I heard he was good in Monster’s Ball, but I’ve never seen him act before, so the experience was strange to me. Sure his character is partially a spoof of himself, or at least of his public persona, but he is solid, and obviously having a lot of fun on screen. After he shows up in Las Vegas, it turns into the best scene of the entire movie, and at one point he tells the guy from the Neptunes that he looks like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a reference that will always earn points from me.

Ultimately, Get Him to the Greek is fun, but seriously flawed. The core of the movie is solid, but there are far too many superfluous subplots and asides that are a waste of time. Most of the emotional weight is strained and artificial, to say the least, and the entire film should have been much more streamlined. Seriously, the lone Napster joke isn’t enough to justify the amount of screen time given to fucking Lars Ulrich. But still, if you’re into any of the movies this crew has made, it is worth watching.

The Karate Kid (2010)


Thursday, June 3, 2010


Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that MacGruber of all movies would pose an intellectual quandary for me. It’s inexplicable, like the time I got choked up at the end of The Wedding Singer, which, though a commendable movie, is hardly worthy of tears.

Here is my problem. I went to see MacGruber (part of me can’t believe I willingly admit this) last weekend, and I have been putting off writing about it because, well, I can’t figure out how to write about it. I find myself unable to take a stance on the movie. After watching a movie I’ll often say something about how I enjoyed it while I was watching it, but I never have to think about it again. MacGruber certainly fits into this category, but not only do I never have to think about it again, I find myself unable to think about it. I know I watched a movie, but it is as if it didn’t stick.

There hasn’t been a movie based on a Saturday Night Live sketch in ten years, and it’s been way longer than that since there was a good one. I for one am glad that they stopped trying to squeeze ninety minute movies out of three minutes worth of material. SNL had an edge about it when I was young. It was where Bill Murray and John Belushi came from. Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd were still funny then. They were known for pushing boundaries and doing new things. The fact that it was on so late added to the feel, but when I was in junior high and started to watch the show regularly there was an adolescent air of danger. The show was relegated to the middle of the night, almost like it was banished, and it was an accomplishment to stay up through an entire episode.

But, like the movies SNL spawned, it hasn’t been good in a long time. And in the pursuit of a greater level of honesty, watching the shows of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that I have romanticized in my mind, they weren’t very good either.

Now why did they pick the MacGruber sketches to make a new movie? Did they somehow become ridiculously popular and I missed it? That is certainly possible. I’m not exactly plugged into the pulse of popular culture. Bu still, I have to ask why? They aren’t funny. Not even a little bit. They’re fucking awful. I do like Will Forte, but that is based solely on bit parts in 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother. Everything else he’s ever done is a worthless pile of garbage, including the MacGruber sketches.

That said, MacGruber the movie is far better than I expected it to be. And I remember laughing in the theater, but I for the life of me I can’t remember a single specific thing that I laughed at. The cast is decent. They score points with me for including Powers Boothe, who plays it straight as a military higher up. Ryan Phillippe is passable as a straight-laced sidekick. A bloated Val Kilmer plays the bad guy. I don’t even hate Kristen Wiig in this movie, and I fucking despise her. I don’t personally want to hit her in the face, but I do want someone to punch her in the face. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good illustration of how bland and harmless this movie is. I didn’t even hate people that I hate.

At least they didn’t waste a lot of time with character or plot. Ten years ago Val Kilmer killed MacGruber’s wife on their wedding day. More recently he stole a nuclear missile and is going to nuke America. MacGruber has to come out of retirement to stop him. That’s it. You know exactly what is going to happen at any given moment. Knowing what you now know about the story, imagine what you think the plot is going to be. You’re probably right.

Even the profanity, and I love me some profanity, is middle of the road. I can’t tell if the filmmakers think they’re doing something shocking (it feels like that’s what they’re trying for), but even that aspect of the movie entirely forgettable. It is no longer shocking to have the protagonist say absurdly (and I use this word lightly) dirty things during a sex scene, it’s been done before, many times, and done better.

It is mind blowing how completely innocuous this movie is. It is not good. It is not bad. Sure, it is way better than Cop Out, fuck that movie, but at least I had something to say about Cop Out. I hated it. Sitting through that pile of human offal made me angry. However, when I think about MacGruber, I feel absolutely nothing.

All I can say with absolute certainty is that MacGruber is a movie.

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: I just remembered one thing. MacGruber does have a lot of Under Siege/Roadhouse style throat rippings, which is good. But this positive element is offset by the failure of a number of running gags that take up too much time and space (the one with his MacGruber’s car stereo is vaguely humorous the first time, but the subsequent dozen times it pops up will make you cringe), thus the complete evenness of this movie is maintained.