Friday, August 24, 2007

Pathfinder (2007)

There are a couple of movies I'm dying to see get made. If done right, they will probably not appear in this blog (unless, of course, I change the name). First, I want to see a good Hannibal movie. No, I am NOT referring to Hannibal Lector, but Hannibal Barca. If you don't know who he is, all I can say is for shame! He's the Carthaginian general that terrorized Rome around 200 B.C. Actually, even more than that, I am interested in the portrayal of Scipio Africanus, the young Roman general that defeated him. Now that we have mastered computer generated effects I think we could easily handle the scenes involving the elephants. I see that Vin Diesel is developing a Hannibal movie, in which he will star and direct. So, chances are, THAT movie WILL appear in this blog. The other one I'm dying to see is a good Viking picture. The Vikings were a parasitic bunch of marauders from the Norseland who lived for the plunder during the middle ages. Archaeological studies show they made it as far as Baghdad and also North America. Well, the only evidence of THAT is a sword and shield discovered in Newfoundland, but that's all I need. If anyone knows of a good Viking movie, besides Kirk Douglas' The Vikings and Erik The Viking please let me know about it. Also, 13th Warrior (perhaps the best of them all?).

Anyway, Pathfinder is a movie about Vikings! Also, Indians (Native Americans). It stars Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) and Clancy Brown (The Highlander). Also, Russell Means (The Last of the Mohicans). Vikings versus Indians. I'm excited. Marcus Nispel directed. No longer excited. I won't go so far as to call Nispel a hack, but based on his previous film it is pretty obvious that he doesn't know what he's doing. He inexplicably remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a glossy, hollywood horror film. Gone was the grunge, the humor, the verite that made the original so brilliant. Instead, we were left with a film that just made me feel sick to my stomach. The fact that he completely omitted the dinner scene proved that he didn't understand the original. Yeah, kinda dug R. Lee Ermey and he was even pretty scary. Leatherface, on the other hand, went from being an iconic character with personality to Jason Vorhees. Instead of a child in a large man's body he was just a killing machine. Actually, Leatherface (redux version) did display a little personality when he turned on the sprinklers in the slaughterhouse while chasing Jessica Biel. I mean, who wouldn't want to see Biel in a wet tee-shirt. Still, I was pretty certain that it was Nispel or Bay's decision to hit the sprinklers. Alas, if you want to see a horny Leatherface, you're going to have to stick with your Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 DVDs. TCM redux wasn't a particularly disappointing remake, however, because I knew it would suck the moment I saw Michael Bay's name attached as Producer. Still, I couldn't stay away. I'm a sucker.

So, here we have another Nispel remake. A remake of a 1987 Norwegian film called Ofelas. I have no attachment to Ofelas. Never seen it. Probably never will. Apparently, it was nominated for an Academy Award, but at the same time it did not contain indians. If I had to guess, I would say that Nispel never saw Ofelas either. He HAS seen several other movies because this one wears its influences proudly upon its sleeves; the Conan saga, The Last of the Mohicans, Willow, Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Lord of the Rings, even Cliffhanger.

The plot is very simple. Around 892 A.D., the Vikings storm the shores of America, I'm guessing Newfoundland. Vikings destroy village after village before heading home with their plunder. A young boy is left behind for refusing to kill a defenseless native. He is adopted by the tribe and raised as one of their own. He is given the name of Ghost. When Ghost, now played by Karl Urban (Doom), becomes a man the Vikings return. It's up to him to stop them. According to the opening scrawl, this is an honest to god legend.

This is a silly picture that takes itself very seriously. The Vikings look like they stepped off a video shoot for the band GWAR. At least Nispel gives them the feeling of authenticity by having them speak icelandic. The indians, on the other hand, speak perfect english, which is kind of strange because the English won't come to America for another 700 years or so. I get what Nispel is doing here. He wants the audience to relate to the good guys and, let's face it, the good guys always speak english. Also, Icelandic speakers are ALWAYS bad guys.

Ghost is a pretty standard action hero. His character is loved by his tribe, but never fully accepted by them. They challenge, at times, his entitlement to live among them. "He has yet to earn the right to be here. Until he faces them (Vikings I guess), he will never know who he really is." Ghost's response; "Then I will find my own path". Pathfinder. Actually, the titular character is played by Russel Means. In the first movie of Means' career, he also played the title character in a popular indian saga (I'm going to use the term indian from now on. It's shorter and sounds better than native american even if it's not p.c.) called The Last of the Mohicans. In that movie, his name was Chingahook, the last of the Mohicans. In this movie, he is simply named Pathfinder. So, I guess there is a little difference. Like in Last of the Mohicans, Means was great in this picture. His daugther named Starfire, played by Moon Bloodgood is in love with Ghost. In a way, I suppose, she is also Pathfinder. If you really break it down, the Viking leader Gunnar (Clancy Brown) is also pathfinder. You know what? We are all pathfinder.

Let's talk about Clancy Brown, shall we? He was fantastic as Gunnar. Completely unrecognizeable under his helmet, beard, and makeup. His voice is the only thing that gave him away, and still, he was speaking icelandic. I loved the scene where after he destroys Ghost's village, he says "Let's show some respect for our host". This is after the majority of their "host" have been brutally slaughtered, save one, and the women have been raped (I'm kind of assuming the rape, but there is a scene or two later on that kind of confirms this). So, I guess Gunnar has a different definition of respect than the rest of us. The Oxford english dictionary hadn't been invented by this time, so maybe the definition has evolved over the years? Gunnar's plan is to wipe out a village, keep one "savage" alive, and have them lead the way to the next village. rinse, wash, repeat. It's a solid plan by viking standards, but let's face it. Those standards are pretty low. These guys are morons.

There are some pretty fun action scenes. I wish there were more though because the movie is 90% action. My favorite scene was the sled battle ripped off from Willow. Ghost is battling the Vikings on top of a mountain when, in an effort to escape he jumps on his sled and rides it down. The Vikings follow suit and suddenly we have a kick ass sled battle on our hands. The only difference between this and Willow was that Ghost wasn't stuck in a giant snow ball at the bottom of the mountain.

I loved another scene for it's unintentional hilarity. Ghost has set up a trap for the Vikings. He's dug a pit filled with sharpened stakes and covered it with brush. As, he waits for the Vikings to run into it, out of the corner of his eye, he notices his Indian brothers running to his aid. Unfortunately, they're not aware of his trap. Ghost shouts "Noooooooooo" in slow motion. This one proves the old adage that tragedy + time = comedy. I'm sure if we were there, we wouldn't be laughing. Please tell me that's a real adage.

Another scene I liked involved thin ice. This scene illustrates the moronic aptitude of the Norsemen. Ghost and Starfire have been captured. They are leading the Vikings to the next village when they come upon a frozen lake. Ghost warns them that the ice is thin and they should go around. The Vikings, who should know a thing or two about ice, insist that they cross it. They get about 20 feet out when the ice breaks plunging Ghost and several Vikings into the frigid water below. The Vikings sink to the bottom, but the armorless Ghost survives. Before emerging from the water, however, Ghost has a "must be seen to be believed" underwater conversation with Pathfinder *spoiler*, now dead (he was drawn and quartered by the Vikes). Ghost says "I'm dying" and Pathfinders response, complete with bubbles, is "don't complain to me about it".

The atmosphere of the film is reminiscent of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Vikings, when not looking like GWAR, appeared to be direct descendants of the Uruk-hai, with about half the intelligence. The colors were desaturated, the mountains were snow covered, and the battles were filled with computer generated blood. The Vikings even blew horns, so perhaps they were the bastard children of the Gondorians and the Uruk-hai. Another funny scene, after hearing a horn in the distance. Ghost, after a long pause looks at Starfire and says "They are coming." This is a violent movie. I saw the unrated edition, so that's the one I'm mildly recommending. Heads were cut off, blood was spurting. In one scene, a viking was scalped through his helmet. So, we know Ghost's sword was made of some quality steel.

The final scene involves Ghost leading the vikings over and around a mountain while they balance upon a narrow ledge. Ghost insists that they tie themselves all together. Uh huh. Again, smart Vikings. Of course, it all comes down to a battle between Ghost and Gunnar while hanging off the side of the mountain. I won't tell you who won. I have more respect for your intelligence than the screenwriters had for the Vikings. I guess navigating the oceans hundreds of years before anyone only took brawn and steel. They must have been lucky to catch the right currents or something. Navigation is for pussies, I'm sure they would have said. I liked the film enough. If you have a history paper due tomorrow and didn't have time to look at wikipedia, I'd say this movie would be worth a D-, for effort. The bloodshed is good. Some of the action scenes are pretty well filmed. There was even some decent CG snow. No nudity though, an almost unforgiveable offense for a movie about "savages". There's also some high comedy to be found in here. Unfortunately, Pathfinder really just made me want to go and watch all those movies it stole from. Now, where is my copy of Cliffhanger?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Silent Hill (2006)

Video game adaptations are a tricky lot. Not only do the filmmakers have to worry about pleasing the game's, most likely, rabid fan base, but they also have to appeal to the general audience as well. If you trace the history of video game films back to Super Mario Brothers (1993) it becomes pretty clear that there hasn't been a good one. Tron (1982), I'm surprised to learn was not based on a video game. Still, even if it was, Tron is not a picture that has really withstood the test of time. It's still somewhat entertaining, but it has become incredibly dated. Probably the best of the adaptations would be Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and yet I've been told the story was not taken from any of the games, so I suppose it doesn't count. I guess the cream of this particular crop would be the Tomb Raider films (I didn't enjoy them) or, perhaps Resident Evil (pretty bad). Uwe Boll made a few of these films and if you guys actually READ my review you will know that I did not think Alone in the Dark was, by any means, good. Just that it's not as bad as everyone says. I don't think "not as bad" is the same thing as good, but whatever. You guys still wanted to form a lynch party outside my Mexican villa and string me up just for calling Uwe Boll "not the worst fucking director in the history of the world" or whatever I said, I'm paraphrasing. As you may remember (from my Uwe Boll diatribe), I'm not a gamer. I don't know if I'd label myself a member of the "general audience" either. Still, I can go into these things not having to worry about things like; 1) Will the movie stay true to the game characters? 2) Will the movie have the same look as the game? 3) Will it stay true to the game's spirit? 4) What about the dynamic between Mario and Luigi? 5) Why are we a bunch of nerds? Since I'm not a gamer I only have to worry about such things as; 1) Will I enjoy it? 2) Will I see tits? I guess the "general audience" only has to worry about enjoyment.

Well, guess what folks? Silent Hill, I can tell you with conviction, is the best video game picture EVER made! Ok, that's not saying much and this isn't even really a great movie (merely pretty good). And there weren't any tits except for a brief shot when a young woman was stripped naked and had her skin twisted off her body by the giant guy with the pyramid head (long story). If you get off on that kind of thing, please kindly keep it to yourself. This one was not directed by Uwe Boll though, so maybe there's a chance you guys will actually like it. Then again, the 28% rating on the tomatoemeter doesn't bode well. I was encouraged to learn that the picture is directed by Christopher Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and scripted by Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction). Brotherhood of the Wolf is a terrifically fun monster movie (for those of you that can tolerate subtitles). And Pulp Fiction should have won the best picture Oscar. Fucking Forrest Gump.

This is one of those films where plot is completely secondary to visuals and atmosphere. The story concerns a husband and wife and their adopted daughter Sharon, played by Jodelle Ferland (Tideland). Sharon isn't really right. She sleepwalks in the middle of the night and likes to wander around the edges of cliffs while repeating "silent hill" over and over. The husband, Chris, played by Sean Bean (Stormy Monday) is the sensible one. He suggests therapy and drugs. The wife, Rose, played by Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) thinks taking her daughter to the ghost town of Silent Hill, West Virgina where a coal fire has been burning underground for decades is the smart move. I guess there are benefits to both courses of action. Anyway, without giving too much away the movie is about Rose losing her daughter when she gets to the town and spending the rest of the movie trying to find her, while her husband is trying to find the both of them. There's also a cop, Cybil, played by Laurie Holden. You may remember her as Marita, one of Mulder's shady informants in the X-files, or likely not. Anyway, Cybil pulled over Rose, on her way to the Hill, but Rose really had to get there, so she waited until Cybil walked up to her SUV and then gunned it. Cybil keeps on her though and the three of them end up trapped in the town.

The movie is extremely high on the creep factor. There is an underlying sense of dread throughout. The town seems empty, until those fucking awful sirens crank up and suddenly everyone is crawling out of the woodwork and sprinting for the church as if their lives depended on it (they do). Even the crows fly to the church, although it's unclear whether they are also afraid or simply pointing out the people's whereabouts to the unseen evil. See, the town is actually occupied, but the inhabitants mostly remain hidden. The scene where Rose first enters the town trying to find her daughter is handled extremely well. This is a gray world, of falling snow-like ash. The siren begins blaring. Each time this happens we know something terrible is about to happen. She enters a building and descends the darkened staircase with only a lighter to guide her, the darkness closing in. The siren still going off outside. It's in the basement of this labyrinthine building that she is accosted by little gray ash people. I was particulary startled by their movements, a herky jerky almost michael jackson-like coordinated display (think Thriller). Their faces are featureless, and yet embody a lifetime of torment. It's a great introduction to the rule-less word of Silent Hill.

This is certainly not a plot driven movie, most GOOD horror movies actually aren't. If you spend too much time thinking about the plot, you spend less time actually being scared, or, just generally creeped out. I guess the name I thought of after having seen this was Clive Barker. Barker specialized in writing about the horrors in the real world and the, well, OTHER world. This other world could refer to hell, I suppose, or just another realm where torture and hooks are the sexual norm. In Silent Hill, there is a character that seems ripped right out of the pages of Barker and that would be the demon with the giant pyramid on his head. I think this guy was actually kicked off the Cenobite team by Pinhead for being too bad ass. He's only in the film for a few scenes, but boy are they memorable. He walks around the buildings, after the Siren has gone off, stalking his prey with a sword about the width of his torso and the length of his body. Please, keep in mind that he's huge. Here's the best image I could find, but even this doesn't really do him justice.

Actually, this image looks sorta ridiculous now that I think about it. Forget I posted it. Anyway, I mentioned a scene involving him and a young woman earlier. The sirens have started and the remaining townspeople are fleeing for the sanctity of the church. The unfortunate young woman is one of the last ones to start up the steps when pyramid guy appears behind her. He picks her up with one hand and rips off her clothes with the other. As the stunned townspeople look on from the door, he twists the skin at her breasts and pulls it all off in the same motion he used to take off her clothing. He then flings her blood and skin upon the church doors as if to say, "yeah, god's ok, but can he do this?" It's actually a disgusting scene, worthy of making the pantheon of disgusting horror movie scenes, up there with the guy regenerating himself in the attic in Hellraiser. In fact, this picture has two such scenes, the second one involving barbed wire. I won't get into it here, you'll just have to see for yourself.

This movie is basically like a nightmare. Nothing really makes sense and that's the way it should be. Unfortunately, the film made a couple of mis-steps in trying to make sense out the senseless. They included scenes of Sean Bean, back in the real world, frantically trying to locate his wife and child. It's made pretty clear that they are not in the same realm. I'll leave it for you to decide what realm Rose, Sharon, and Cybil (the cop having a realy bad day) are in. I'm sure all you gamers out there can tell me definitively. The one element of these scenes that works is the color schemes used in the real world versus the world of Silent Hill. The scenes set in the real world are colorful and vibrant, while, in Silent Hill everything is drab and gray. This is important because there's a twist at the end which is easily ascertained when you understand this. The purpose of the Sean Bean scenes are to take you out of the movie. I guess they are similar to comic relief, of which, this movie has none. Feel free to get up and hit the bathroom whenever he appears, no need to hit pause. The other mis-step is the scene involving Alessa, who would seem to be Sharon's identical twin (why else would they have Jodelle Ferland play her as well?) She explains to Rose her story. I didn't really need to hear this. It reminded me of the end of The Matrix reloaded, the awful scene with the Architect. Now that I've mentioned the Matrix, has there ever been a picture that was shit on by its sequels as much as this one? The first movie was a stand alone masterpiece. Unfortunately, it made a ton of money. So, the Wachowski's had to force that story into a trilogy. It's no wonder that you can find copies of Reloaded and Revolutions for under 5 bucks. I've tried to forget about them, but the only time I tried to rewatch the Matrix after having seen the sequels was not a great experience. I didn't even make it halfway through. Hopefully, with the passage of more time, I'll be able to enjoy that one again. Anyway, in this film, Alessa explains to us who Sharon really is. It's a stupid scene, that only serves to undermine the film's horror, albeit only slightly.

I haven't even mentioned the creepily brilliant Alice Krige who plays Christobella. She's some kind of cult leader who believes every problem can be solved by burning someone. Krige had a brief, but effective scene, in the vastly underrated Reign of Fire, but is perhaps best known for playing the Borg queen in Star Trek; First Contact, the only good Next Generation film that ONLY features the crew of Next Generation. Here, Krige's character may be even less human that that. She's given a grand exit involving that barbed wire I talked about earlier. It's one of the most revolting scenes of this film and ANY film, for that matter.

This picture has, in part, been widely panned for featuring inane dialogue. Why someone would go into a movie of this ilk for the dialogue is beyond me. Yes, there are lines such as "in the eyes of a child, a mother is a god" and "sinners deserve to lose their spawn". Also, Krige's cult shouts "burn her" a lot. Big deal. This is not a reality based film. It's a dream-state film (see my review of Dead Silence). It's a fucking nightmare. How's the dialogue in YOUR nightmares Roger Ebert?? Yes, Ebert, I'm calling you out! Sorry, just had a flashback to when I watched the extra feature set in the morgue on the Chaos DVD. My recommendation for the day, besides Silent Hill, is to rent Chaos, skip the movie, and just watch the extras. Anywho, I thought the dialogue worked in this one, and actually helped support the film's gothic atmosphere. Clever, well written lines would actually feel out of place here. Sure, it is now evident that Avary probably didn't write any of the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. Still, it didn't bother me. If you can't stomach the movies dialogue then you are the wrong person for this picture. I did wonder if any of the lines were lifted from the game, but never having played, I can't really answer that question. Maybe some of you guys can help me out?

I liked this movie. It showed me some things I had never seen before, i.e. Pyramid head and another scene involving a mutant crawling out of a toilet. I think Ghoulies had a similar scene, just not as effective. Silent Hill is a disturbingly good time. If you're a fan of Hellbound; Hellraiser 2, then I highty recommend this one. If you're a fan of Terms of Endearment, it's possible you might still enjoy this, just don't expect any tears. Maybe vomit, but I don't think anyone has ever thrown up as the result of a movie. I think those stories regarding the Exorcist are urban legend. I saw this movie originally in the theatre and liked it enough to wait a year and a half to buy it for $5.99. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. The game is produced by Konami. I've got a suggestion for their next adaptation. Contra. Are you guys with me? Just don't sell it to that mother fucker Boll. (Just kidding Boll. I'm trying to appease my fan base, small as it is. You understand, I'm sure).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

In Defense of Uwe Boll

Uwe Boll is probably the most despised filmmaker working today. Alone in the Dark registered an unprecendented 1% on the tomatoemeter and won both Mr. Boll (worst director) and Tara Reid (worst actress) a razzie award. I've had friends comment that House of the Dead is a stinking pile of excrement. Bloodrayne kind of escaped me in the theatre, but I was intrigued by the movie poster. Well, ok, I just think Kristiana Loken is hot. Still, everyone said it was worse than House of the Dead.

The first thing I noticed when checking out Boll's IMDB page is how prolific he is. Since 2000, when he started making english language films, he's helmed 12 movies. One is currently in post-production and another one is currently being filmed. Ok, I know quantity doesn't always equal quality, but check out some of the names he's had work for him; Casper Van Dien, Eric Roberts, Michael Pare, Patrick Muldoon, Jurgen Prochnow, Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff, Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, John Rhys-Davies, Lelee Sobieski, Burt Reynolds, Ron Perlman, Michael Madsen, Billy Zane, Sir Ben Kingsley, Meat Loaf, Jodelle Ferland, and Verne Troyer. The list goes on and on. I challenge you to pick a bad actor out of this group. There must be SOMETHING about Boll that makes them want to work with him, right?

I've heard Boll described as an arrogant prick. I'm not really sure where this comes from. Personally, he seems like he's got a great sense of humor. This is the same guy, after all, that challenged his critics to a round in the boxing ring. Some of them even showed up. What he neglected to tell them was that he's a pretty accomplished amateur boxer. He wiped the mat clean with them. To me that's pretty funny.

To be honest here, I'm kind of going in fresh. You see, I've never seen a Boll picture. I thought I HAD until someone told me that AvP and Resident Evil were directed by Paul W. Anderson. They actually told me that Boll is worse than this guy, so I had to see for myself. I'm pretty sure every movie he's made is tied into a video game somehow. Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, House of the Dead, even that Columbine movie he did. Now, I'm not a gamer at all. I've enjoyed 1 or 2 video game adaptations. AvP and Doom had their moments, but maybe Boll should try something else. Perhaps he's receiving all this rancor because he's ruining these games by converting them into films. Maybe the majority of his critics also happen to be fanatical gamers. As if there's any other kind. Try writing an original story, Mr. Boll. Or, if that's too much work, buy the rights to one. I'm just saying.

For my initial trip into the mind of Boll, I decided to go with Alone in the Dark and a movie that no one has ever heard of. I'm assuming this one aired on tv or went direct to DVD. It's called Blackwoods. Having now seen these two, I've got to tell you that Boll is not the worst fucking director in the world. He's not good, in fact he's borderline incompetent at times, but he managed to keep my eyes on the screen at least 75% of the time. Where I come from, that's a C. So, in defense of Uwe Boll....he IS decidedly average.


Alone in the Dark (2005)

This film was not at all what I expected. First of all, it doesn't take place in a cave like I assumed it would. The plot is actually pretty complicated. I figured this out about five minutes into the movie when I was still struggling to read the opening scroll. Basically, it tells of a long lost Native American culture called the Abkani, NOT the Abenaki. They believed that our planet consisted of two worlds, light and dark. 10,000 years ago, they opened a gate between the two worlds and while it was opened, allowed something evil through. Then they vanished from the earth. Later, in modern times, Bureau 713 (think X-Files rip off) was established as a government agency to uncover the secrets of this lost civilization (under the direction of Professor Hudgens). Hudgens started conducting experiments on orphaned children hoping to merge man with creature. These orphans became known as "sleepers". There was a little more, but I hit the scan button after the 3rd minute when I started to nod off. That is really the entire plot though and it's all spelled out for you at the start of the film. I think that was probably a mistake on Boll's part. If he could learn to trust his audience a little more, I think he might be better respected. Still, it's a forgiveable offense.

The film stars Christian Slater (Kuffs) as Edward Carnby. He was one of the orphans I mentioned earlier, but lucky for him, he hid while the worst experiment was taking place. Instead of becoming a true "sleeper", he's just mentally fucked up. Carnby grew up to become an agent with the 713, but became so fed up with the beurocratic bullshit that he decided to freelance it. He's also not a guy you want babysitting your kids. When a little boy tells him his mommy said there is nothing to be afraid of in the dark, Carnby replies "Your mother's wrong, kid. Being afraid of the dark is what keeps most of us alive". The kid started crying and wet himself. So, yeah. Not good with kids. Slater was pretty entertaining in this thing. He's definitely improved his Jack Nicholson impersonation over the years. Now, it just comes naturally.

Stephen Dorff played current 713 agent Richard Burke. He's a complete prick and a rivalry is established immediately with Carnby. Obviously, there's some history between these two. Maybe Dorff is still pissed that he lost out to Slater for his role in Interview With The Vampire. Get over it dude, you got to be in Blade. It's pretty clear that Burke isn't the asshole we all think him to be. I had a hunch that he'd be the guy running back into the gate to the other dimension with the bomb that initially didn't detonate properly so Carnby could later take all the credit because Burke was now dead and couldn't say something like "wait a minute dudes, I mean Carnby did ok, but I was the guy that got myself blown up so we could finally close that gate. At least give me a decent epithat." I'm sure if this were the ending, Boll would throw a neat little twist at us, such as Carnby was the prick all along because Carnby didn't even weep for his dead rival even though he just saved his ass so he could continue having unerotic, std laden sex with his new girlfriend (Tara Reid). Still, Dorff was very good in this movie. He took his role seriously (based on the 'making of extra' so did everybody else). He's a good actor and managed to bring some gravitas to the preceedings. Yes, I just used gravitas to describe Stephen Dorff. Moving on...

Speaking of Tara Reid, she is ONE terrible actress. Not only that, but she is the worst kind of terrible actress. The kind that won't even take her clothes off. We know that she is some kind of genius because she has glasses, styles her hair in a bun, and wears a classy skirt. We also know she's intelligent because she can read a teleprompter. Beyond that, this is one of the most wooden, unstimulating performances I've ever seen from a female actress that i would have slept with (ten years ago). To be honest, I'm not even sure that Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan would give her the time of day anymore. She had one sex scene with Carnby scored to a terrible song performed by Boll's house band. The kind of song that wouldn't even show up in an 80s....uh....I almost mentioned the P word. Anyway, it's clear that even Slater is repulsed by her at this point. The two of them have zero chemistry. I'm starting to feel a little bad. Tara, you were never going to have a Lohan-esque career. Sorry, but it's the truth. Still, stop partying so much, get your act together, quit hosting Taradise, and maybe you can fashion a nice, mildly scintillating career on Skinemax. There's still time. How old are you? 25? Oh, what's that? You're actually 32? Maybe you can live off your Scrubs residuals??

Back to Boll. He made half a decent movie here. The other half was beyond terrible. Uwe has no clue how to stage an effective fight scene. I couldn't tell what the hell was going on during any of them. I thnk he was going for some sort of kinetic chaos. He overelies on the slo-mo blurry effect. I guess he shouldn't be given props for being the first guy to use this style. To me, it shows that they were staged horribly to begin with, so Boll's plan was to "get it in editing" only there was nothing there to get, so he had to cheat. Unlike most cheaters, he still didn't win. I actually enjoyed the creature designs. Am I the only one? They were kind of like the aliens in Aliens, but they were more phantom-like. They'd appear and disappear depending on the lighting. Only one of the kills was effective (the bodyguard in the museum). The other kills were either off camera (or impossible to make out due to Mr. Boll's style). Several scenes, mostly in the museum, reminded me of the Relic, which, I have to admit, is the superior film.

Still, the movie takes itself very seriously, and I respect that. There's not a whole lot of humor. I really only laughed whenever Tara Reid opened her mouth or when Slater fought somebody in slo-mo blurry matrix style. Actually, Dorff's final scene, that may or may not have happened, could have been funny if it did and wouldn't have been if it didn't. I imagine Dorff running back into the gate with the bomb and his gun blazing, only by this point, Boll had gone WAY over budget, so he wasn't able to insert any creatures. So I bet Dorff would be shooting his weapon at nothing in particular, but when he was doing it in front of the green screen he was probably thinking "Holy shit, this scene is going to kick ass. What a way to go out! If these creatures look half as good as the sketches we're in for a hell of a finale!". Only, I would bet Boll and his designers had to skimp here. So, instead Dorff runs into the gate and ONLY blows himself up. That would be kind of funny and sad at the same time. Dorff deserves better, so hopefully it didn't end that way.

Boll hit a check swing foul ball with this one. It's not very good, but it's not as bad as rottentomatoes and every other critic says. I know I didn't really say WHY it's not completely terrible, so you'll just have to trust me.

Now, on to part II of my Uwe Boll double feature...

Blackwoods (2002)

This one's an improvement. Too bad, it came 3 years before Alone in the Dark because I was really hoping I could say Boll is getting better. Still, it's an interesting film with serious subject matter. It's a film about alcoholism, drinking and driving, guilt, schizophrenia, seedy hotels run by Clint Howard (Big Bad Wolf and Ron Howard's brother). It's also a film that can be viewed in two ways.

Viewed the way Boll intended, it is an abysmal failure.

The movie stars Patrick Muldoon (Starship Troopers and Melrose Place) as Matt Sullivan. Sullivan is trying to get his life together after a tragic accident that left an innocent girl (Molly) dead. This accident is pieced together throughout the film via flashback. We know it happens in the past because Muldoon is wearing a backwards baseball cap in these scenes. His character is clearly past THAT stage in his life. He's got a new girlfriend, Dawn (played by the lovely Keegan Connor Tracy) and a best friend Jim. We know they are best friends because they call each other "numb nuts". Sullivan agrees to go away with Dawn into the Colorado woods to visit with her family. The road trip that follows is full of paranoid delusions and some good old fashioned drinking and driving. Clearly, Sullivan hasn't learned any kind of lesson.

Boll's initial twist is telegraphed immediately. It's obvious Dawn is not who she seems to be. One might even say, she's not altogether there, if you know what I mean. Ok, it's also obvious that she's related to the girl Sullivan killed and that she's leading him into a trap set by her inbred family. That is the first twist. What follows is like a cross between Fight Club and The Most Dangerous Game (or Ice-T's Surviving the Game). If viewed this way, the movie doesn't work, but there are still some good performances.

Muldoon is fine as Sullivan. He plays a Muldoon-like character. He's a bit cocky, moderately funny, thinks every woman is hitting on him, and gets his brain sucked out by a bug. Ok, that last part is from another film. Tracy is adorable as Dawn. She's cute and she managed to not embarrass her self acting-wise. My two favorite characters were the great Clint Howard (Motel Clerk) and the even greater Michael Pare (Sheriff William Harding). Howard is a scene stealer. Sullivan walks into his office to request a room and what follows is worthy of Abbott & Costello. Something tells me this scene was improv. With a straight face, Howard repeats his lines over and over. "Would you like a room? If you want, I could fix you up with a special room. It's got free porn. All the time. Just people fucking." Sullivan's reaction each time the line gets said helps to propel the joke. Damnit, I mentioned porn, didn't I?

Michael Pare (Eddie & The Cruisers) plays the small town Sheriff. He pulls Sullivan over as he enters the wooded town. He's initially suspicious when Muldoon mentions his girlfriend, but she's hiding in the back seat, so he can't see her. There's no humor here. This is straight faced acting at its finest. I've noticed Pare has been in a few of Boll's pictures. Tarantino should put him in his next picture. Pare basically pieces it all together and figures out who Sullivan really is (the drunk driving guy that killed the local girl who may or may not be related to the girl he is dating).

Anyway, one could view the movie that way and it would be fine (i.e. abysmal). Viewed the way I intend and this becomes a riotous comedy. I'm going to spoil the ultimate twist, so be warned! You need to be aware of it for the film to work.

In the accident, Sullivan, through a combination of guilt and head trauma, lost his marbles. Dawn is completely inside of his head (I guess that's why no one ever sees her). If we know this ahead of time, the scene where Dawn and Sullivan stop at the diner is hysterical and now the look on the waitresses face makes complete sense. In this scene, Sullivan is filming Dawn and asking her questions such as "When's the first time you had sex?" Can you imagine if this scene was filmed without an actress on the other side of the table? I guess this would make the sex scene (once again scored to a song by Boll's house band) just a masturbation scene, but even that is pretty funny because they try more than a few positions. Don't worry, it's still a pretty tame scene. No nudity. But the scene that would have brought the house down, would be the one where Sullivan ends up in the basement of Dawn's house for a trial right out of 12 Angry Men. It's the middle of the night, the house is deserted and there's poor Sullivan, in the middle of the Colorodo woods, miles from anywhere, strapped to a chair (by his doing) answering questions from an imaginary judge and taking a beating from Dawn's imaginary brothers. He's clearly found guilty of the girls murder (we now know her to be Molly aka Dawn) and sent off into the woods, so the brothers (imaginary) can hunt him (Surviving the Game). This could have been the comedy of 2002, but Boll got ambitious and tried to make a low rent Fight Club. I guess I can't fault him for that, but it would have been great to see Muldoon in a one man show (except for Howard and Pare, they were real).

I did have a question about one scene though. When Sullivan has fled into the woods, his friend Jim (also real) shows up. Sullivan, paranoid beyond return, kills his friend thinking he's in on the whole thing. The next morning, Pare finds the friends body stripped completely naked. We next see Sullivan wearing his OWN clothes, not his friends. Now, what is implied by this scene? I'll leave that for you to decide.

This was a hard film to judge. I enjoyed most of the performances, but Boll layed on too many twists. I say, get rid of all the twists and just have Muldoon act his brains out by himself (with a stunned Howard and Pare involved, of course). That performance might win him a golden globe nomination, if this thing didn't originally play on TV as I'm assuming it did. Maybe an emmy? Again, like Alone in the Dark, the fight scenes consisted of blurry, eratic, slo-motion. It is now clear that this is Boll's style. I think he just needs a better cinematographer and editor.

And so, my first night experiencing the wonders of Uwe Boll has come to an end. He is NOT the worst director in the history of moving pictures. He's a long way from good, but this guy can make an interesting and enjoyable movie. He could be better though. I think his films would be perfect as Sci-Fi channel originals, but he probably wouldn't go for that. This is a guy that takes his craft very seriously. The Sci-Fi channel, to him, would be tantamount to a slap in the face. I don't think so. I guess the best thing I can say about Uwe Boll, at this point, is if I'm flipping channels and I see one of his movies on, I might linger for a while. See what happens.

Give him a break.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Die You Zombie Bastards (2005)

This is the worst movie I've ever seen. Before you run to add this to your netflix queue, let me finish. Ok, ready? Again, This is the worst movie I have ever seen AND I don't intend that as a glowing review. This falls into the so bad it's bad category only let's take that a step further. This one is so bad it made my eyes bleed. This film, and I use the term loosely, has not one redeeming quality (well, that's not entirely true. more on that later). The performances suck. The visuals sucks. The writing sucks. The "effects" suck. The director sucks. The production assisting sucks. The makeup sucks. The boom mic operator sucks. Don't get me wrong. All of those things can suck and you can still have an enjoyable movie. Unfortunately, this thing committed the worst crime of all. It WAS boring. Mind numbingly so.

How is it possible to make a movie featuring a serial killing, cannibalistic superhero boring? I'm not sure. Didn't think it possible, but Caleb Emerson, the director, found a way. The movies tagline is "The World's First EVER Serial Killer Superhero Rock'n'Roll Zombie Road Movie Romance". That tagline is, by far, the best thing about this movie. Thanks to these fuckers it will most likely be the first and last movie in the serial killer superhero rock'n'roll zombie genre which is a crying shame. Emerson's biggest mistake was hiring Tim Gerstmar (Red's Breakfast 2: Dawn of the Red) for the lead role of Red, the aforementioned superhero. The guy's idea of acting is puffing out his chest and proclaiming his lines as if he's in a bad high school Shakespeare production. He appears in 99% of the film, so you can imagine how old this gets by the 3rd minute, let alone the 95th. I checked his IMDB page and, not surprising, this and Dawn of the Red are his only two screen credits.

Here is the basic plot. Red and his wife Violet (Pippi Zornoza) enjoy living their days as cannibalistic hippy killers. One night, Red returns from killing some hippies. He opens up his bag of body parts and entrails and he and Violet start making out while lathering themselves up in guts. She presents him with a gift; a superhero costume complete with a cape made out of human flesh and a crotchguard with a severed penis attached (there are a lot of dick jokes in this movie, most involving freakishly large dicks). Red, puffing out chest and reaching his arm to the heavens thanks his "lovely cubesteak". Meanwhile, across the world on Hell Island, Baron Von Nefarious (Geoff Mosher) sees Violet and Red on a white trash talk show. They start having sex on the stage and then Violet kills a girl that tries to stop them. So, of course, Nefarious decides he must HAVE Violet and orchestrates a plan to kidnap her. His plan is successful and now it's up to Red to journey to Skull Castle on Hell Island to rescue her.

Where are the titular zombies you ask? There's a subplot involving three beautiful paleo-archaeologists on Hell Island researching the legendary Half Man Half Fish Amphibious Guy. These girls are pretty much naked the entire time (the ONE redeeming quality i mentioned earlier). Anyway, Baron Nefarious captures them, turns them into green, topless zombies with his zombie ray, and then puts them to work on such important tasks like pounding on his freakishly large penis with hammers. After finishing with this arduous task, Baron Nefarious asks "Now, which one of you is gonna play with my ass?" Again, you would think it would be impossible to make THIS boring.

I guess my first question to the filmmakers would be: Why not just make this a porno? They obviously like dicks and tits. They have no idea how to compose a shot that will actually help maintain viewer interest. The lighting is terrible. It's way too bright and there is zero atmosphere. In other words, they have the perfect skill set for pornographic filmmaking. The acting is just a notch below most porn level acting, but they can work with it I think. The film Spacenuts probably has better acting. The gore is fake, which usually is not a problem, except they purchased their gore at a party store. These guys definitely could make an ok porno. Although porn with a story is not really my cup of tea, I think there are lots of people out there that get off on them. They could have even used the same cast because, let's face it, none of these people are going anywhere in the legit film industry and that INCLUDES Troma pictures AND 99% of Troma pictures are terrible (the lone exception being The Toxic Avenger. Poultrygeist looks promising though. I hear Tromeo & Juliet was ok.). I think Emerson probably made this film as an audition for Troma. Maybe that's his problem. He set his sights WAY too low.

The only way this film could have worked is if the actors played it straight. There is nothing worse than watching a movie where it's obvious the actors are in on a joke, only the joke isn't really a joke. Instead of a joke, it's actually just a piece of dried crusty shit. If played straight, this could have been damned funny. Instead, we have a bunch of retards emoting their brains out while winking to the audience; "Look how clever we are? Aren't we clever for a bunch of retards??".

Just to give you an idea of how funny this entire experience was, I'll spoil the two best jokes for you. After Violet has been kidnapped, Red must search the world for her. He swims across the Atlantic and ends up in Sweden. He questions an inkeeper, who only speaks swedish, but can understand his english. Har har. He asks her if she speaks english. Her reply in subtitles? "No, just in subtitles". Har dee fucking har har. The next joke comes at the 1:20 mark of the film. Red meets his long lost father, who asks him to recount his journey. We're shown a title on the screen that says "one hour and twenty minutes later". Guffaw. These jokes didn't even make the final cut of Repossessed.

I really don't want to waste any more of my time writing about this thing, but I will. What else is there? Like I said before, the guy playing Red overacts while skipping merrily from scene to scene. He yells every line. Seriously. If there was a little bit of this, I could deal with it. Unfortunately, this crap goes on for 95 minutes. I suppose the movie might have been moderately enjoyable on a very basic level if Red had been played by someone else. Anyone else. Pippi Zornoza wasn't much better. At least she had a nice rack. Pippi? Seriously. Smut. It's in your future. I couldn't tell if the actor playing Lord Nefarious was wearing makeup or if he purchased his mask at the mall. My favorite characters were the 3 zombie paleo-archaeologists and Kid Fantastico (the sidekick no one cares about). I still wish them ill will though.

Actually, the filmmakers did score a coup when they managed to convince a couple of important performers to appear in this movie. The first cameo would be Hasil Adkins (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things). I guess Hasil is some sort of rockabilly legend or something. He appears briefly in the beginning to ramble on incoherently for a few minutes about some shit. I didn't really understand what he was saying. I do know he smokes and drinks a lot. He also shows up in an even less coherent scene towards the end. I'll be honest. I have no idea who this guy is, but he's billed on the cover of the DVD, so he must be pretty big. Unfortunately, his sagging man boobs are forever etched in my mind. Hasil died in 2005 and the movie is actually dedicated to him. Um, I guess that's a sweet gesture probably similar to having an issue of Hustler dedicated to you and then having the magazine rolled up and shoved up your ass before burial. Almost the same thing.

The second cameo is porn legend Jamie Gillis (Gang Bang Girl 9 & Walking Toilet Bowl 1). Ok, I'd never heard of him before either, but at least HE was in porn. He looked pretty old though, so I hope he's no longer performing in that particular business. He appeared as some character named Stavros and, by far, did the best job of acting. He was the only actor that played it straight. Unfortunately, he was randomly knifed to death about a minute into his scene. I could hear the director in the background say "that'll teach you to play it straight in my fucking movie". I think they might have killed him for real.

The music was umemorable. Paul Leary, of The Butthole Surfers, wrote the score. Really?? Leary also produced Too High To Die by the Meatpuppets. That's actually a fantastic album. Of course, it's from 1991 and I can't remember the last Butthole Surfers album that came out. Maybe Leary is hard up for work. He should ask to have his name removed from the DVD because I have a feeling his name is a major selling point. I'm just trying to help the guy out. The Buttholes might not let him back in the band if they see this thing.

This movie sort of proves that you can't go into something INTENDING to make a bad movie. If you do, what you'll end up with is just, well, bad. Bad movies are not created out of spite. Spite for the genre. or worse, spite for the audience. You really have to believe in what you're creating. These assholes thought they were making a joke. Well, the jokes on them because their movie sucks. I kissed my remote when it was finally over. With any justice, the film careers of everyone associated with this garbage are over as well.

When I say "film careers" I'm not referring to porn.

Just a quick note: I borrowed this movie from my friend Dan. He ACTUALLY bought it. Let's all laugh derisively at Dan. Don't worry Dan. I used to own Cabin Boy. We've all been there.

One more note: This is the last time I will refer to porn in my reviews for quite a while. I promise.