Monthly Archives: June 2013

Vic’s Review – Slither (2006)

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A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.

“Slither”

Directed by James Gunn

8 out of 10

“What the fuck was that?”

Jeez, I don’t know where to begin here. “Slither” is just so much damn fun that I have to try and get my thoughts in order to write this review. There is so much to get into and rant gleefully about like a nerdy schoolgirl with this movie. It’s slimy, gory, reverential, hilarious, campy, nasty, smart and did I mention that it’s gory? Oh yeah, I did. It is an outrageous blend of hysterical sci fi and horror that is easily one of the most quote-able genre flicks to come along in a long time. It’s replay value is through the roof and it is written with a fan of these types of films in mind. It goes right for the jugular and never lets go because Gunn and company keep the movie consistently fresh. “Slither” hops genres too. It is a horror story wrapped in a science fiction film. Gunn incorporates humor and reverence into “Slither” and he does it knowing what  fans of these types of film want. Dark humor, intensity, heart and riotous mayhem.

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James Gunn is a “Troma” alum and he injects “Slither” with an affection for low budget tropes. Except it doesn’t look like a b movie but revels in  feeling like one. Gunn just about references every sci fi/horror classic known to man. Everything from Cronenbergs “Shiver” to “The Blob” to Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” to my favorite: R.J. MacReady’s Funeral Home which references  John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Gunn gets the movie going with a classic sci fi adage.

A meteorite from space. It lands, not completely burned up, in Wheelsy, South Carolina. It transports an alien parasite/life form that is malevolent, vicious and cunning. Gunn cast Michael Rooker as Grant, who while screwing around in the woods outside his home gets attacked, assimilated and has his memories absorbed. Suffice it to say Gunn adds layer upon layer of  bawdy and lewd madness. Grant exhibits very strange behavior that involves eating raw meat and small animals plus what gives him away are those funky tentacles that protrude from his chest. Yuck.

The beautiful Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock) plays Grant’s wife, Starla (great name huh?) and she contacts Mal Reynolds, oops, I mean Nathan Fillion (Firefly, One Life to Live, Serenity) as Starla’s childhood crush, Sheriff Bill Pardy. Grant moves on to Brenda and impregnates her with the alien parasite and nasty little vermin offspring. Gunn in no slight way shows us how vile and impure all of this stuff really is. There is just about every conceivable grotesquerie there is in this freak-show. Men and women eat raw meat, explode, turn into zombies, get larger and larger with alien worm puss and not to mention Grant’s body absorbing townspeople and morphing into some large abomination worthy of Rob Bottin himself.

Actor Gregg Henry ( Body Double, Payback) plays the Mayor of  Wheelsy named…MacReady. Ha! I love it! Henry steals every scene he’s in as a foul mouthed, boozing and oafish politician. Henry gets to say some incredibly amazing lines from Gunn like: “Look up cocksucker!” or when told that martians are from mars he responds: “Or it’s a general term meaning ‘outer-space fucker.” Gunn just allocates such great material to all his actors and they excel in providing a fun ringside seat of alien/human decimation. Gunn also delivers some great action set pieces like when a teen named Kylie is assaulted by the alien slugs in her bathroom and she has to use her wits to survive not only the slugs trying to connect with her (she is also able to “see” what they really are and where they come from) but from assimilating her entire family.

The attack sequences also move from Pardy, Starla and Mac being chased in a pick up truck to the deputies being turned and killed to Brenda in the barn about to burst from all of the nasty and gooey aliens inside of her. Starla also is taken and brought back to the Grant-Monster who is nesting in the living room in her home. Starla tries to appeal to Grant who is in telepathic control of the rest of the infected deputies ( like a hive mind ) and townspeople. Grant’s memories come back but not before he discovers what he’s become. Gunn kicks up the atrocities and mayhem in fantastic fashion by giving “Slither’ a like-able and respectful air of tongue in cheek ridiculousness. There are gags abound too. The ending shall I say is indeed quite explosive and every bit as fitting as we have come to expect in this wild and hellacious movie.

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Gunn’s “Slither” is a joy to watch because of the respect and love that is put into the production. All the references aside the movie does have it’s own identity and it never fails to impress with the craftsmanship it displays. Great music, an endearing and capable cast and a very reminiscent but showy story makes the film all the more tantalizing to watch. It will at times remind some viewers of other cult films like “The Deadly Spawn” and even “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” but it never COPIES them or tries to be them. What Gunn does is akin to a love letter to these awesome drive in horror/sci fi stories about aliens taking over the earth not in spaceships but by invading our bodies and minds. It is a perfect homage without being a rip off.  

It remains vivid, eye opening and vulgar in every way and even if you are not a gore hound you will find that you can never take your eyes off the movie. Fillion (who intentionally chews the scenery in parts) is hilariously astounded by everything going on and Banks is spunky and deft in having to adapt to killing the creatures and fending off the Grant-Monster.That leaves Rooker who is perfect as Grant. Serious as a heart attack and completely brutal and bestial in the role. “Slither” is a wonderful watch and if you want to escape into an absolutely fucked up universe of monsters and alien slugs you need to watch this movie and try not to turn away in disgust because if you do you may miss a reference or a great sight gag.  Highly recommended!!!

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“Slither” is currently available on Netflix Instant Streaming.

Here are other movies that “Slither” references. See if you can catch them!

Predator

Evil Dead

Videodrome

From Beyond

Night of the Creeps

Deadly Blessing

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Brian’s Review – Man Of Steel (2013)

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Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

4 out of 10

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race:

I blame annoying ass comic book fanboys for this film. After the release of Bryan Singer’s 2006 resurrection of the franchise with Superman Returns, fanboys bitched and moaned up and down with quotes like:

“There’s not enough action.”

“Why is the film all about the romantic element?”

“Why isn’t the film darker?”

“Why can’t it be more like Batman?”

Well asshole fanboys, you got what you wanted. And guess what? Your dream version of Superman isn’t very good. It’s not a complete catastrophe but it’s way too long for such a thin story and it literally sucks the joy out of the Superman experience.

The film opens with a long stretch similar to the far superior 1978 version that shows the end of the planet Krypton. What are the differences? Instead of showing an imaginative ice world filled with overly confident scientists whose own arrogance proves to be the destruction of their planet, we get a rock world filled with too much CGI and fisticuffs between Superman’s Dad and Zod. Despite the obvious advances in special effects, it doesn’t draw the viewer in. It’s cold and boring. The unfortunate part of that is that it permeates through the entire 2 1/2 hour running time.

After the obvious jettison of baby Superman to Earth in his ship that is curiously shaped like a penis, baby Supes goes through growing up bullied, alienated, and rejected. Does he discover new powers? Does he realize he’s capable of abilities that make him God-like? No! He mopes, he whines about how he’s different, and he makes himself the victim all the time. It’s again a far cry from the 1978 version that showed a young Clark Kent laughing and smiling while out running a train. Also, unlike the original film, this version does everything in flashback. Clark is roaming place to place in search of where he comes from and once in a while, he finds people to save. There’s no characters even brought into the experience that we relate to.

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I’ll run down the list of things this films gets wrong:

1. It’s not fun. Superman hates being Superman almost the entire film.

2. Lois feels crowbarred into the story. She’s in it a lot and you’ll scratch your head as to how she got there in the first place.

3. Clark doesn’t work at the Daily Planet. He’s a fisherman or something else for almost the whole film.

4. There’s no chemistry between Superman and Lois. This was the entire backbone of the original film.

5. Zod is terribly boring. He’s single-minded and 2 dimensional.

6. Perry White is in the film but doesn’t have any bearing on the story.

7. Kevin Costner dies trying to save a dog. Yes, a dog…. Remember the original Johnathon Kent. He had a heart attack and Clark couldn’t save him? It added extra meaning because it reminded him that as powerful as was, he couldn’t save everyone. It was poignant. This is not.

8. Action scenes go on and on without purpose, or suspense, or involvement from the viewer.

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What did I like? Henry Cavill could be a terrific Superman in a better film. There’s a few decent moments between Clark and his adopted parents. The problem is that these scenes are few and far between because we keep getting thrown into action scenes that aren’t interesting. It’s a city under destruction that was done better in the Avengers. That films had character development within the action. This does not.

I have always been a fan of the Superman character. He is a representation of the American myth that we are all capable of amazing things. We may not fly, or have super strength, or X-ray vision. But, he represented the inner good and possibility o the human spirit to help his fellow man without the need for reward. It was a character and story-line that was fun, romantic, and made you believe a man could fly. The “Man of Steel” felt like he never left the ground.

Vic’s Review – Crush (2013)

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“Crush”

Directed by Malik Bader

7 out of 10

“Crush” from director Malik Bader (Street Thief) and writer / producer Sonny Mallhi is an efficient and practical little thriller that is peppered throughout with a touch of Hitchcockian flair. It uses the daunting theme of the sexual stalker as it’s story and this time, much to my surprise and delight, Bader’s film is both involving and eloquent. Much of it is standard fare as with all movies about someone being stalked and followed. What Bader does here though is establish the characters and has us feel for each and everyone of them . He also consequentially delivers the creeps and displays that in this day and age some directors can still produce a twist and shock the viewers. When that happens and happens successfully, “Crush” becomes a film with some cred. It doesn’t happen until late in the film but what comes before it is interesting and smart. Bader manages to lift the movie beyond it’s “Teen Obsession” flick. It’s crafty and tricky and it is able to pull the wool over your eyes more than once. The movie opens with a disturbing sequence involving a boy and an innocent looking girl on top of a modest home’s rooftop and after shocking us in it’s brutality, Bader continues to build his story in a relevant and worthwhile way.

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 Bader cast Crystal Reed (Teen Wolf) as Bess. A teen loner who is quiet, meek and a bit lonesome. She works at a local music store and apparently has a secret crush on a local school athlete named Scott, played by Lucas Till (X Men First Class). Scott is recovering from a knee injury he suffered and is in the middle of his therapy and trying to get back into shape to continue playing sports in school. He lives with his Dad, Mike, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club). As he tries hard to get better he deals with a love affair with his on and off again girlfriend named Jules (Sarah Bolger). Meanwhile it seems that Bess herself may have a secret admirer as well in Jeffrey played by Reid Ewing (Fright Night). He dotes over her and continues to make excuses for spending more and more time with her. She takes no notice of him at first since she is obviously concerned with what seems like a torrid obsession with Scott. There are weird e-mails, pictures and occurrences surrounding Scott and his girlfriend Jules that gradually increases to the boiling point. Scott knows he is being followed and being watched that he eventually becomes very paranoid and even gets blamed for posting lewd pictures of Jess. It seems that Bess, while ignoring Jeffrey, has been up to no good and making her crush on Scott literally unbearable. His life begins to unravel and his Father ( being out of town )  is not around to help him with Bess. He confronts her several times and is even told by Bess’s co-worker, Andie (Caitriona Balfe) to back off and Scott’s teammates also picks up on Scott’s odd behavior. Bader weaves all of these characters and a few more into an intricate web of deceit, confrontations and frightening suspense. It’s all very old school and as we are kept guessing as to all of the motives and actions of all these characters, Bader continues to tighten his grip. He and his writers add some gravity and depth to the movie with a very capable cast and well placed suspense.

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 There is much more than meets the eye when it comes to “Crush” It has a suspenseful peculiarity to it and it relishes in keeping us guessing. It is hard to review the film without spoilers because there are some twists and turns that are not telegraphed way ahead of it’s resolution. The cast are all young and compelling even though the actors all seem like they really couldn’t be high school students but I digress. What’s important is that Malik Bader’s “Crush” is an intriguing slow burn ( I just keep using that damn phrase, don’t I?) that explores the themes of every angst ridden teen regarding  jealousy, obsession, fringe behavior and the handsome and refreshing production values make “Crush” a magnetic stalker flick. It is no “Play Misty For Me” or “Fatal Attraction” only because those films came first and this entry can be very reminiscent of earlier movies of it’s ilk.  It’s touching, exciting and riveting especially in it’s third act and the twist is completely well timed. My only gripe is it’s procedural and derivative flashback sequence. Why do we have to sit thru flashbacks of things we could pretty much have figured out without the visual flow chart. It does not spoil the film but I did roll my eyes a bit. I hope you guys get a chance to check out “Crush.”  It is a mature effort that can appeal to teens and adults. It was a pretty pleasant surprise. Recommended!

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Brian’s Review – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

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Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

3 out of 10

I saw the title for this movie and immediately went “Huh?” It sounds  ridiculous and yet strangely intriguing. I tried not to judge a book by its cover and just watch the film for what it was. Unfortunately, the title is the most interesting part of this mess. AL:VH is a joyless experience. It tries to reinvent our 16th president as a younger man out for blood because a vampire decided to feed on his mother after his Father failed to pay a debt. In response, he lashes out and wants revenge. If you’re still awake after that boring description, try to imagine a film with as silly a title as this and has no humor in it whatsoever. Sam Raimi had the right idea with the Evil Dead series. He took a non-existent plot filled with demons and ghouls and added large doses of humor to engage the audience and give them a bloody good time.

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I suppose my greatest hope was that AL:VH would be in the same vein(no pun intended) and create a roller coaster ride in the “Zombieland”-style where horror and comedy have been successfully fused. Instead, we have an angst ridden hero doing Samurai moves with an ax. Why did he have to be Abraham Lincoln? There’s no real reason to make the protagonist a historical figure. It didn’t add anything to the experience or give the plot any added oomph. Also, I have a real beef with these Vampire films coming out where the bloodsuckers walk around during the day. I am well read enough to know that Bram Stoker’s original story had Dracula walking around during the day albeit with diminished power. But, the idea that Vampires are only awake at night gives the story more potency and allows the humans to regroup and develop. Twilight is another example of this. Of course, that hunk of shit makes them sparkle (Stephanie Meyer should be prosecuted for that).

Anyway, with the Vampire films making a comeback for all the wrong reasons, I keep waiting for a great one to come along and have found myself disappointed each and every time. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is unfortunately not the exception.

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Brian’s Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

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After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Directed by J.J. Abrams

9 out of 10

It’s a great relief to me to see that J.J. Abrams has taken over the Star Wars series starting with Episode 7 and a great sadness that he will no longer be making any Star Trek films. This is every bit as good as the previous entry where Abrams reinvented the series by creating an alternate timeline that separates it from the original television and movie series with William Shatter and company. That was brilliant masterstroke of sci-fi writing because it opened the floodgates to possibilities of what could happen to these classic characters that differed from the original stories.

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Star Trek:Into Darkness is action packed and loaded with first rate stunts and special effects. However, I’m glad to say that they never come at the expense of storytelling or character interaction. All of the Enterprise crew have a likeability in their own way and you find yourself rooting for them. The main differences between this film and the last is a first rate villain played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch who is far more interesting than Eric Bana’s villain in the last and an even more frenetic pacing because we no longer need introductions to the main players. I won’t give away plot details because there are several easy things to spoil. However, I will tell you that this is first rate popcorn entertainment. It may not be the brainy sci-fi that some Trekkies live for but it sure is fun.

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Brian’s Note: I saw this in IMAX 3-D and recommend it. It’s done much more tastefully than other three dimensional efforts. I still prefer 2-D but it’s acceptable.

Vic’s Review – Dark Skies (2013)

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As the Barrett family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.

Directed by Scott Stewart

7 out of 10

It’s fortunate that Visual FX artist Scott Stewart ( Priest and Legion ) handled both the writing and directing duties on this sci-fi thriller about nasty ET’s and all their meddling with us humans. Stewart’s tight though inferential story and slick, lean direction make “Dark Skies” a slightly better than average creepfest.   I must admit I was interested in the dynamics that Stewart handles here. “Dark Skies” takes on very established motifs regarding alien contact and abduction. We’ve seen it all before and we know all the beats to this story. What I think worked for me in this case is that Stewart gets some pretty good performances out of his actors. He also keeps the movie moving at a  mercurial pace while maintaining a slow build up. The story doesn’t get campy or cheesy but despite it’s familiarity “Dark Skies” does hit all the right notes and does it efficiently while committing to the seriousness of the subject matter. Stewart delivers a well shot, well acted and agile film that works on some levels but it doesn’t get very deep. There remains just under the surface a late night chiller that is a decent time water and has a few spooky moments to keep us responsive and partial.

The beautiful Keri Russell ( Felicity, MI:3 ) stars as Lacy Barrett a struggling wife and mother of 2 boys who starts to have strange things happen in her home shortly after a BBQ party she holds with her friends, the Jessops. Her boys, Sammy (Kadan Rockett) and Jesse (Dakota Goyo) are close and even when in separate rooms they speak via walkie talkie where Jesse proceeds to spin scary yarns and share stories of “The Sandman” with his younger brother. Sammy, being young and impressionable gets easily scared. Lacy on the other hand starts to witness things late at night while she walks around her home. She can’t seem to be able to get any sleep on any given night and wanders. She sees her Fridge doors wide open and contents spilled all over the place. She sees canned food and kitchen items stacked high from floor to ceiling and her chandelier is making a funky symbol that projects to the ceiling. I could not help but be reminded of “Poltergeist” and “Ghostbusters” respectively during these odd night time strolls that Lacy takes. She shrugs them off as nightmares but things get worse when ala “Insidious” we get the good ole security alarm going off at ear-bursting levels and no perp around. Lacy’s husband, Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) even seems to be acting strangely as he and his son exhibit strange “spells” where they move around robotically and have no recollection of what usually transpires.  The Police think that the Barretts should reboot the alarm system and when the alarm goes off yet again and they find out the windows and doors are locked they start to think the worst. Something  malevolent is in their home or at least getting in and out.

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Daniel suffers as well when he can’t get to the bottom of the mystery and it doesn’t help that he is having job and financial woes to add to the distress. Bills start to pile up and mortgage payments are late. But that is not the only bad thing: Various flocks of birds become somewhat suicidal, Sammy urinates on himself while playing outdoors and lets out a booming and ear piercing shriek that he doesn’t recall afterwards. And so on and so on. Desperate, Daniel sets up cameras that seem to have been tampered with during the night. Strange dream-like visions and more intense occurrences push both Lacy and Daniel to the edge. Daniel at one point sees what appears to be 3 dark figures in the boy’s room one night in a familiar but effective scene. But it is the boys who suffer greatly at the intrusion of “The Grays” These are aliens, that to Ufologists, are the holy grail of the alien presence here on earth. The pleasant surprise in the film is the under-stated performance from JK Simmons (Spider-man and Spider-man 2) as a UFO expert, named Pollard, who knows all about “The Grays” and proceeds to tell Lacy and Daniel that they have been here a very long time. They are indeed notorious for abductions, lost time, symbols, communicating and tampering with humans. Even implants (which Daniel seems to have behind his ear) and manipulation. In  very typical “X-Files” fashion we get all types of creepy ongoing sequences. Stewart moves the story along with the help of his talented cast that makes the very best of the material that becomes a bit predictable by the third act. We have flashes of the beings, a very by the numbers character that “knows it all” in Pollard and some quick and moody style and editing that serves the film uniquely in parts.

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 Pollard (who has a wall of “weird” with numerous news clippings) tells the Barretts that their son has been “chosen” by “The Grays” and that should keep a very close eye on him. Unfortunately, it does not end up that way. Pollard tells them that the aliens may move on or may work even harder to get what they want from them. They take measures like buying weapons and getting a guard dog but to no avail.  Do “The Grays” get what they want or do The Barretts fight back and take a final stand to help and preserve their family? Director Stewart, in my opinion, does an admirable job in keeping us interested only because with the help of his actors, we start to care for them. We sympathize mostly with Jesse ad Lacy who are the “hearts” of this movie. There is just way too much, in one form or another, that is familiar here and we have seen it all. “Dark Skies” is a “Monster of the Week” movie on a moderate budget. It doesn’t create anything new, relevant or outstanding but uses some tried and true themes and manipulations that helps pass the time without getting to “outside the box.” “Dark Skies” doesn’t try to be brainy and can, to many, seem very dull and disappointing but I enjoyed the structure enough to liken it to putting on a comfortable pair of slippers and sitting in your fave comfy recliner.  It is a slow burn. It is better than average. It sports proficient camera-work and a morose score that is spooky. “Dark Skies” shows some restraint and that works in it’s favor. It’s junk food but it’s junk food that won’t give you a stomach ache. Enjoy!

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