MY CALL: A poetic, Chinese romantic fantasy tragedy with a dash of stylistic anime-esque action. IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: Maybe Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Shinobi (2005) or Legend of the Tsunami Warrior (2008). All enjoy their own stylistic brand of action, love and fantasy.
This mythology-flavored story begins when a fox demon in the form of a beautiful woman (Xun Zhou; Cloud Atlas, Painted Skin) is freed from an icy prison by her bird demon sister (Mini Yang; Wu Dang). They are called demons. But they’re not your typical satanic, drooling, toothy-mawed monster demons. They’re more like evil immortal beings.
The obscure story is driven by our two female leads. The millennia-old Fox seeks the willing heart of a mortal man in order to become human and a warrior Princess (Wei Zhao; Red Cliff, Painted Skin) who hides a facial battle wound behind a mask seeks her one past love (Kun Chen; Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Painted Skin). They meet and the Fox offers to help the princess–a favor which comes with a price. The rest of the story is hard to explain without giving too much away…I won’t even try. All I’ll say is that this is a romantic tragedy told in a fantasy setting in which all of the love-seeking protagonists are deeply and differently flawed.
The Fox and the princess making a deal that will change both of their lives.
This film makes every effort to please the eyes with long wispy dresses, impossibly long hair flowing in the wind, a scintillatingly colored wardrobe for the Fox and princess, and CGI-enhanced lighting. The CGI elements are far behind their time, much as we would see in an early 90s movie (when it would have been first rate). However, despite its obviousness, it is occasionally crisp and beautiful…other times just plain lame.
The Bird Demon enjoys the comic relief in the movie when she encounters a demon hunter.
The special effects techniques–among other components of the film–contribute to a strong sense of high fantasy with story-telling that feels like a story-driven videogame. The presence of a dire bear, magical items, forbidden love and demons contribute to this feeling.
Though rare, the action is uniquely stylized. While I am often disappointed by film editing which obscures the execution of techniques such that you don’t really “see” them being executed from start to finish in one clip, this film delivers action in a way that I can compare to none other; it’s impressive. Some of these moves couldn’t possibly be executed by stunt men and sometimes CGI-ing the impossible just cheapens the experience. Yet here I enjoyed it as I would a comic book, a glimpse at a time with a notion of anime-action transition. It’s hard to explain.
The finale may be exciting for early teens, but I found it all quite silly. This movie fell apart in the last 40 (of 130) minutes for me. But I guess it was still worth watching this beautiful movie.
MY CALL: 70 minutes of terrible…but I couldn’t stop giggling while rolling my eyes. And yes, without the credits this really is only 70 minutes. WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD: I was quite pleased with the Lovecraft adaptation Dagon (2001). Also try Hellraiser (1987), From Beyond (1986) and The Re-Animator (1985) for serious gore and weird tones. Bleeders (1997) is actually a surprisingly similar movie, but MUCH MUCH better.
Family Tree Disclaimer: Okay, so I only decided to watch this (again) and review it since my uncle (Joe Leavengood) was in it. I enjoyed his “tough guy” lines for obvious reasons. You’ll know him right away. He’s the mustached hired-muscle goon in the bad guy’s group.
That’s my uncle. Isn’t he great at his trade.
Really cheap sets and highly questionable acting raise a brow of doubt in the first 90 seconds of this movie. But don’t worry, the writing is bad, too. So you’ll get plenty of “oh, geez” laughs out of it. A lot of the scenes feel like they came out of some horror-themed soap opera–which doesn’t speak well of the director of this laughable catastrophe.
The first scene sets an interesting tone. Two women and an infant are staying in some old church with monsters living between the under the floors. They know these monsters want to eat them, but they spend the night anyway and somehow are able to sleep…alone…with no one keeping watch. Low and behold, the consequence of this thoughtful plan was that someone got killed by some rubber-gloved monster-clawed arms reaching out from a vent in the wall.
You see, there are these Morlockian troglodytes living under a church and the nearby cemetery. They grunt and have grey skin and glazed white eyes as you would imagine any typical subterranean corpse-eating creature would appear.
The story brings together three sets of people with different motives to the church…
The first is John Martense (Blake Adams/Bailey; The Killer Eye, Head of the Family), who is released from prison to meet crooked mortician Knaggs (Vincent Schiavelli; Ghost, Lord of Illusions). After a quick “how ya’ doin’” John is already planning to commit a crime. He’s going to recover some blood money that was buried with a body in the graveyard by the church. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes: that church.
Then there’s Bennett, Marlowe (Allison Mackie) and Pierce (Joe Leavengood; Trancers 2; Basket Case 2), three criminals that are after the same money.
Among others, Cathryn (Ashley Laurence; the Hellraiser series, Warlock III), Maria (Cristina Stoica; Dark Angel: The Ascent, Lurid Tales: The Castle Queen) and an alcoholic physician Dr. Haggis (Jeffrey Combs; The Re-Animator, From Beyond) make up the third group. They seek to eliminate this race of subterranean humanoids of local legend–a legend which is mentioned, but never really explained.
The action scenes are quite bad, ranging from terrible pulled punches to awkward, hardly credible gun handling skills. The sound effects accompanying the punches remind me of the original arcade version of Street Fighter. The same goes for all of the altercations with the monsters. The most credible action was the cemetery mud wrestling brawl between Allison Mackie and Ashley Laurence in the pouring rain. Go figure. The male director gave all of his technical attention to a catfight hybrid between a wet t-shirt contest and women’s mud wrestling.
The gore is generally weak, but I must credit the effects team and director for making so many attempts to please the Fangoria fans out there. There are a lot of dead body, corpse and skeleton scenes in which these props are used for more than just background. They come with a few laughs. The creature make-up is similarly ho-hum. But they embrace it. They don’t make you wait until the last 20 minutes of the movie to see it. You get to see it a lot. Which means they spent a lot of money on it and took some risks.
This story is evidently based on some work of H. P. Lovecraft. Other than a weak link between a human church and the creatures, I see no connection to Lovecraft. It definitely didn’t “feel” Lovecraftian. To add to that, the story follows these three groups of people convening on this church. But we don’t have much of a good explanation as to “why” the good guys are trying to eradicate these monsters.
Lovecraft fans shouldn’t see this. It will just disappoint them. But bad horror fans are in for the standard laughs that come with genre. This movie takes itself very seriously, and that just adds to the fun.
The 32 have become 2. The Shark who ate Sam Jackson in Deep Blue Sea has to battle Gerard Butler’s hair from Dracula 2000 in the dramatic final. The hair has been a massive dark horse while the shark has cruised to victory against some very tough competition. In this post I am going to dive deeper into the two and provide evidence on why they’ve made it so far.
Old, pretentious and soggy male movie critics may have disliked Butler’s performance but what did people say on Amazon? I found some reviews that exult Butler’s swooning/Scottish vampire king.
If you’re a Butlerian Crushgirl–by all means, rent or buy this. The moments with Mr. Butler are worth the price. When he sniffs Mary, it’s the kind of fully-dressed erotic moment that puts all the nude scenes in cinema to shame, and it proves that when you have people with intensity and charisma and screen “itness”, an expression, a breathy phrase, these are more sensual than a million displays of nakedness and groaning.
The only reason to watch this film is if you love Gerard Butler. I would have only rated it 2 stars for mediocre, but Gerard’s memorizing, seductive performance saves this film. For that reason alone, I have given it 5 stars.
The main thing I like about this movie is that is caters to FEMALES; yes, there is T&A for the guys, but the writers also realized their female audiece, which has *thankfully* begun to be a trend in the last decade or so. Even after all of the sexy vampire characters I have watched in movies, Gerard Butler is definately one of the SEXIEST, and most convincing!
If these reviews haven’t sold you on the Butler then his audition for Dracula 2000 will!
Now on to the Shark from Deep Blue Sea!
Did you know that Sam Jackson was offered the LL Cool J role but his management thought it was a bad idea. It is a good thing Jackson took the role of Russel Franklin because his death instantly changed the film’s expectations. Anybody could die at any moment and that is why the film has such a massive fun factor. Also, the kill is so famous Entertainment Weekly gave it an A+ and praised it’s glory:
For its canny subversion of genre conventions, this shark shocker gets our vote for the best death scene in any Hollywood movie since, oh, Psycho.
It is rare that a movie about genetically engineered sharks gets brought up in the same sentence as Psycho. Here is how the kill came to fruition. In 1996 Deep Blue Sea director Renny Harlin worked with Jackson on The Long Kiss Good Night. In an early edit of the film Jackson’s character was killed off and the audience at the test screening yelled “you can’t kill Sam Jackson.” Well, when Jackson took the DBS role Harlin came up with a brilliant idea. Here is what Jackson had to say about it:
I’m basically like Janet Leigh (Psycho) or Drew Barrymore (Scream). Director Renny Harlin came to me and said (Jackson doing his Harlin impression with a thick Finnish accent), “It’s going to be the most incredible death! It’s going to shock everyone!” I said, “OK, Renny, I’m down with that.” I died a lot in movies in my early career and I’ve never been killed by any “thing” before.
Sidenote: Jaws was 25 feet so the director made the Deep shark 26 feet. However, sometimes it looks to be 40 feet. The CGI had some kinks which make it all the more enjoyable. There are multiple occassions when the shark shrinks or grows to fit the plot. I love that! The movie exists so people will get eaten by sharks and nothing else matters.
Deep Blue Sea is the 12th highest grossing creature feature of all time. The big numbers owe a lot to Jackson’s death which caused massive audience participation, water cooler talk and fantastic word of mouth.
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via my wonderful fiancee at MADesigns
J.J. Abrams may be a famous/millionaire/ brilliant director but I don’t envy his job. He must of had a lot on his mind while directing Star Trek Into Darkness.
1. Keep Star Trek relevant among Marvel, Superman, Spiderman, Hobbit, Batman and Bond franchises.
2. Keep all the spoilers under wraps
3. Keep the new Star Trek fans happy.
4. Keep Star Wars fans from turning on him.
5. Keep Trekkies happy by appreciating the Star Trek lore and adding to it.
6. Keep Benedict Cumberbatch’s fans happy.
7. Keep all the young and successful actors happy by giving them juicy roles.
JJ Abrams succeeded on all fronts and Trek has another fantastic entry to it’s cannon. Abrams infuses Into Darkness with his brand of chic geek and has guaranteed millions of dollars will continue to be spent on merchandise, blu-rays and fan fiction. The film excites, invents and builds a brave new world. Abrams and crew (Kurtzman, Orci, Lindelof) have also given Kirk a fantastic villain to battle for years to come. Benedict Cumberbatch mixes intelligence with a sleek physicality as John Harrison. The best part about his bad guy is that he unites the Enterprise crew into a cohesive whole.
The film revolves around Cumberbatch’s character setting off an explosive chain of events that kills Kirk’s mentor and threatens the universe to intergalactic battle. Kirk blindly seeks revenge and endangers and alienates many on his crew. The results are disastrous, shields go down and Kirk learns to rely on his team. The main relationship in Trek is that of Kirk and Spock’s blossoming bromance. The two are polar opposites and they learn that is what makes them a great team. Also, Kirk figures out that Scotty may be a pain but he is often right, Sulu is a formidable leader, Uhura has untapped knowledge, Bones can fix anything (bomb or bone) and Checkov can fix something that is irrevocably broken.
My only complaint is with the 3D. I wish Checkov could have done something with it. . I’ve watched a plethora of films in 3D (Hugo, Avatar, Life of Pi being the best) and this was the only film that hurt my eyes. I am no expert in the technology yet I know that no movie has hurt my eyes like Trek did. There was a murky/dark feel and I barely noticed the third dimension. It didn’t add to the world so you shouldn’t pay the extra money.
The toughest aspect when writing about this film is not giving away the spoilers. I’ve read some reviews that are cavalier in giving away the minutia of the film. Normally, giving away small aspects of a film is not a problem. However, with Star Trek the small details can give away massive spoilers that will wreck the fun of moviegoers. You know certain films will happens in the Trek universe. Ships will explode, Kirk will hook-up with green aliens and somebody will be beamed. However, you shouldn’t know what ship will blow up or who will get beamed up. Abrams and Bad Robot have rejuvenated a boring series and introduced us to an old world that is home to the great unknown.
If you liked the 2009 Star Trek you will enjoy this film. If you are a Star Wars fan do not worry because your galaxy is in good hands. If you think Cumberbatch is the greatest thing ever you will continue to think he is the greatest thing ever. I can’t wait for Sherlock season three.
John’s Horror Corner: Boys Against Girls (2012), a female empowerment film written and directed by a man…hmmmm
MY CALL: A female empowerment revenge film made by a man? Hmmmm… I don’t think a female director would have made her shorts so short. It was decent but hard to describe in a few sentences. I recommend it to fans of the extreme (e.g., Hostel or Sawmovies). IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: I Spit on Your Grave (1978, 2010),The Descent (2005), A Perfect Getaway (2009) and Thelma and Louse (1991) all do better jobs of showing us strong female roles in which the actresses are completely credibly tough.
Our male writer/director (Austin Chick) piles the female oppression on pretty hard. We first find Shae(Scream Queen Danielle Panabaker; Piranha 3DD, The Ward) in some sort of feminist women’s studies class talking to her classmate about her married boyfriend who’s about 15+ years her senior. After he breaks things off she feels lost without her unhealthy relationship as she fends off unwelcome advances at work (as a night club bartender) and sneaks off to cry about the loss of this loser. As if she didn’t already have a big enough deficit of self worth, Shae is always dressed in very short shorts or snug tiny skirts.
Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) works at the same bar, but she handles her shallow clientele with more assertiveness; she won’t be bullied or taken advantage of by men. She wants to help Shae feel better so they go out for a night of drinks and dancing. But when one thing leads to another, Shae finds herself alone with a man in a situation where “no” has little weight. As if that wasn’t bad enough–and ALL of this has happened in just one day so far–Shae’s day gets much worse with! After that which would undeniably be considered the worst day of her life, she can’t even report the multiple assailants without being called “sweetheart” by a dismissively skeptical cop who says “you look fine to me.”
Yeah, laying it on a little thick, huh?
Nicole LaLiberte does a solid job as the vengeful, sociopathic and sultry Lu. She kills a man in a cringingly brutal manner and just looks him in the eye, watching as he dies. She plans murders with the same calm deadpan demeanor one would have while reading the nutrition information off of a Captain Crunch cereal box. The yin to Lu’s yang, Shae is clearly the shy one, but she’s along for the ride willingly and finds her murderous footing quickly. The two of them embrace their vengeful actions–not as righteous, but simply “right” as if they had no other cares or sense of consequence in the world.
They have some funny moments. The delivery of their homicidal discussions provides a great dark comedy appeal in a few scenes. The gore element is present and there’s even a brief dash of torture, but it’s not celebrated as it is in the Hostel movies. We still get gummy detoothed mouths, some dismemberment, and exit wound splatters, though.
I’m having a hard time swallowing the pro-feminism while she’s in those short shorts.
The female empowerment is often credible, but at times, a bit over the top. For example, Lu physically handles herself way too well for someone who’s probably never lifted anything heavier than a 6-pack and is a crackshot with a handgun and we have no reason to find that credible. However, anyone who watches this movie wants to see brutal and clever death scenes and likely wouldn’t be too troubled with this shortcoming.
On the topics of female empowerment and death scenes, that’s all we see. Unlike crime thrillers, this movie does not alternate between the killers’ agenda and the police detectives tasked with the investigation of their bloody wake, there are no chase scenes and our “protagonist” murderesses make no effort to evade their pursuers (which we have no knowledge of, if they exist) or to cover their tracks or wipe their fingerprints from the crime scene. No. This movie is about two girls avenging how they’ve been wronged.
This was a female empowerment revenge film made by a man. It wasn’t bad. But…hmmmm…I don’t think a female director would have made Panabaker’s shorts so short or LaLiberte’s lesbian-driven nudity soooooo, well–naked. LOL.
It’s still a fun romp, though.
What I love about Upstream Color is that it lives and dies with it’s creator. Shane Caruth (Primer) directed, produced, wrote, cast, shot, designed, edited and scored Upstream Color. Steven Soderbergh called him “the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.” When asked to describe his film to the Austinist he said this:
I absolutely don’t want to describe it. Which is why I am so grateful to be able to cut the trailers and teasers and posters and all that stuff. I would rather cut a thousand bits of media that explained what’s going on totally than do a synopsis. The synopsis that we were sort of forced to do is: “a man and a woman are drawn together and tangled in the life cycle of an ageless organ.” That is the best that I could do
The movie has an abstract loveliness that fills the senses and pours beautiful images over you. If you thought Tree Of Life was difficult to understand then UC will give you fits. Knowledge is power but I find that to be the opposite with films like this and Primer. Stay away from reviews because they give away too much and cheapen the end result. I don’t want to leave you completely in the dark so here are some things to expect from the film. You will see mind altering worms, pigs, streams and characters named Thief and Sampler.
Treat Upstream Color as the great unknown. Don’t look for clues or meaning. Enjoy the fact that there is a director out there who doesn’t want to make things easy and puts everything on his shoulders to appease the masses.
Watch Upstream Color. Watch it again. Think about it. Watch it again. Think about it. Enjoy the ride.
How do you follow up a successful writing gig on Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom? You gather Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Patricia Arquette and Dermont Mulroney and throw them into an odd film involving Charlie Sheen’s broken psyche after a break up. Throw in some odd visuals, various dream sequences and wonderful hair and you have yourself an odd film that accumulated a plethora of critical vitriol and 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roman Coppola infuses the film with a 60/70s vibe that exudes pop art but forgets narrative function. I’m assuming the flashbacks, dream sequences and scantily clad women were all intentional but that excess cost the film a cohesive feel. When a film meanders it seems to float listlessly going nowhere. You appreciate certain aspects of the film (Bill Murray in a funny hat) and forget the rest.
It is neat that Roman and Charlies relationship has come full circle. During the late 1970s they played together in the Philippines while their fathers Francis-Ford and Martin made Apocalypse Now. Now Roman is directing Charlie in what seems to be an excuse for the two to have fun again. An interesting thing about this film is that Roman couldn’t get it insured due to Sheen’s involvement. So, in his words “Thank god, because I saved two percent of my budget for not giving it to that worthless function.”
The best story coming out of this film was of the casting of Bill Murray. Murray is an elusive man of mystery who has no agent or manager. Roman had worked with him on Lost in Translation and with a little persuasion got him to cameo in the film. Murray agreed and Coppola didn’t hear anything from him until the day before when Murray showed up randomly on set. You gotta love the Murray.