About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: Scream 4

Released eleven years (!) after “Scream 3”, this entry finds Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning home after several years for a signing of her new book about her past traumatic experiences. Meanwhile, the now sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) has concerns over a series of ‘Ghostface’ copycat killings. It’s the anniversary of the events of the original film. Dewey’s now wife Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), somewhat resents Sidney’s book, probably because her cache (as a former reporter and creator of the “Stab” franchise) isn’t as high as it used to be. Despite no longer being a reporter, Gail is looking for an angle on the story and starts questioning members of the local high school’s cinema club, films buffs Erik Knudsen and Rory Culkin, to get up to speed on the new rules. Sidney, meanwhile, has moved in with her Aunt (Mary McDonnell), and has a teenage niece (Emma Roberts) who goes to the local high school, dates a guy who looks a bit like Skeet Ulrich (and sneaks in through the bedroom window), and starts to get asked movie questions by a creepy voice. Oh, and there’s a big party coming up in honour of the anniversary. Déjà vu, anyone? Hayden Panettiere (TV’s “Heroes”) plays one of Roberts’ friends, Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody are cops, Marley Shelton is Dewey’s possibly smitten deputy whom Gale is jealous of, Lucy Hale (“Pretty Little Liars”), Kristen Bell (the former “Veronica Mars”), Anna Paquin (“True Blood”), and Shenae Grimes (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”) all appear in the spoofy, seemingly never-ending opening scene.

The wheels were starting to wobble with “Scream 3” and now they have well and truly fell off with this 2011 film from director Wes Craven (“The Hills Have Eyes”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) and writer Kevin Williamson (“Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, TV’s “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries”). Craven, once a serious voice in the horror world (albeit an overrated one if you look at recent assignments like “Cursed” and “My Soul to Take”) shows that he has absolutely nothing of any use or relevance to say here. Both he and Williamson prove themselves completely out of their depth and out of their era by continuing the same damn thing in an era where it is no longer relevant. The first two “Scream” films were terrific satires of the slasher movie genre (I don’t consider the series to be much more horror than the “Scary Movie” series of “Scream” parodies were, but most others seem to because they have to operate as slashers first before lampooning their conventions), that seemed to want to force horror filmmakers to change their game, having exposed all the tired clichés. Subsequently a new breed of teen-oriented, often self-aware films followed in the wake of “Scream”. Most were crap, of course, largely due to the lack of humour (not to mention a distinct lack of blood and sex), but there’s no doubt that “Scream” was the forefather of films like “I Know What You Did Like That Time When You Totally Did Something or Whatever, OMG!”, “Valentine”, “Urban Legend”, and all the others that had varying degrees of self-awareness to them.

After the less successful “Scream 3”, however, horror began to change. Horror remakes, Asian horror remakes, and so called ‘torture porn’ flicks have since filled the horror landscape. It’s telling that Williamson takes one brief, feeble jab at the ‘torture porn’ movement in this film. Telling because even ‘torture porn’ has started to wane in the last year or so. If Williamson and Craven really needed to make a “Scream 4”, they should’ve integrated more commentary on the ‘torture porn’ films, because just as the original slasher cycle had already been and gone by the time “Scream” was made (so it could come and ‘reinvent’ the horror genre), the slasher cycle is now at least twice removed, thus “Scream 4” comes across as seriously unnecessary. Yes, the film makes some attempt at taking jabs at horror remakes, but we’re talking about fictional remakes of the fictional horror films that were based on the fictional events in the original “Scream”. Blatantly advertising that this is just a remake of the first film doesn’t make you clever guys, it just makes you dishonest. This is no remake, it’s a retread. And cute meta-movie-with-meta-movie-cubed aside, that’s just not good enough because we’re still talking about generic slashers (albeit slashers with a meta-movie mindset) at the end of the day. The events still play out like a generic slasher film and generic slashers aren’t made as often today. It just isn’t fresh or intelligent. Welcome to the world’s first instantaneous relic. Perhaps that’s some kind of achievement, but it doesn’t make the film terribly interesting to watch.

David Arquette is amusing at times, and Craven gives us a bit more blood than in previous entries, but everything else smells like a schoolbag that’s had a banana squashed in it all year long without being cleaned out. It smells...it smells bad (Believe me, I used to know a guy...) For starters, does Neve Campbell even have a career anymore? Judging by the IMDb, hardly. And that’s one of the problems. When I first saw Campbell here, all I could think was: What does she do for a living these days? Too much time has passed that even Cox and Arquette aren’t married in real life anymore (Unless I’m mixing up my semi-relevant celebrity gossip. Readers?). Maybe these people shouldn’t have been brought back? Maybe the film shouldn’t exist at all? Whilst some newer/fresher faces are sprinkled throughout (Lucy Hale and her adorable-yet-weird tiny head, Anna Paquin, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Erik Knudsen, and “Degrassi” graduate Shenae Grimes) the only one who gets any serious screen time is the mind-bogglingly untalented Emma Roberts (Am I the only one? Her and Scout Taylor-Compton I think are the two worst actresses working today). And even some of those ‘fresh’ faces, are borderline past their use by date if not tipping over (Hayden Panettiere, and in particular, the not-so-long-ago-promising Adam Brody). They’ve even dug up Anthony Anderson, one of the relics of a different horror franchise of the late 90s/early 00s (he was in the second “Urban Legend” film and several of the “Scary Movie” films), for Jebus knows what reason, especially given how less funny he is now he’s not as fat (Take note, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill).

I usually like a good, tongue-in-cheek horror film (I didn’t even mind “Scream 3”), but this is really underwhelming stuff. Wes and Kevin are just plain out of touch. In addition to the weak-arse jab at ‘torture porn’ flicks, the film just plain gets off to a bad start. If you’re going to have the completely insufferable Kristen Bell (accompanied by the insanely hot Anna Paquin I might add) play the Drew Barrymore-esque role in the film, follow through on it instead of punking the audience out with it being a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. Damn I hate that girl. Also, the rationale that slashers are more real than J-horror, monster movies, etc. is just bullshit. Besides, I’ve already established that the “Scream” films (at best) are a mix of horror and comedy, so what fucking point are Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson trying to make? I also have to say that cute or not, the movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie thing isn’t anything especially new and doesn’t even remotely compare to the microwave popcorn opener of the original. And that opener is a good way to bring in a discussion about what ‘scary’ actually is. That opener was pretty scary. But it wasn’t just because it made you jump. It was really, really tense and well-staged leading up to the jump. Most horror films, and this film too, seem to either misunderstand or forget that and just go for the jump without much tension, atmosphere, or build-up. That isn’t scary, it just makes me jump. Making me jump doesn’t make me scared, it just annoys me. It’s a momentary startling, not terror. Even when I know it’s coming, I still jump Why? ‘Coz it’s a loud noise. That’s all.

It would appear that this film represents a passing of the torch from the older generation to the new generation, kinda like when some of the older crowd had roles on “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, but mostly stayed in the background. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that show, now you’ll all think I have no life. Oh you already knew? The problem is, I think it’s too late for the passing of the torch. I will say, however, that Campbell, Cox, and Arquette look to have hardly aged a day since 2000’s “Scream 3”. Two of those people can claim to have good genes, I think. I’ll let you decide who’s who. Mary McDonnell, meanwhile, looks like an 80 year-old burns victim here. Sorry, but I call it as I see it. Besides, it could just be the shit photography, or not enough makeup, who knows? Marley Shelton isn’t bad, but Rory Culkin and Erik Knudsen (in addition to the other actors, mostly TV hotties) are no substitute for Jamie Kennedy and Matthew Lillard. Please read that statement again, folks. It’s very telling stuff. I’ve never found Hayden Panettiere hot or a remotely decent actress, and that remains true here, though she’s certainly better than Roberts (even her dad Eric is better). There’s another scene in the film that goes back to the pointlessness of this whole thing. At one point, Panettiere (Is she meant to be gay in this? Seriously butch haircut at any rate) and Roberts are watching and laughing at “Shaun of the Dead”. If this were a real horror film, then there’d be some cute commentary in their laughing at people dying. Unfortunately, “Scream 4” is as much a comedy as “Shaun of the Dead” was. For starters, neither film is actually funny or scary. Oh yes, I did go there. Craven also shows how much he has lost his spark in the ‘I never said your closet’ scene, due to how poorly and obviously it’s set up. Shame on you, Wes. Then again, he also gives us the old parking garage scene, one of the oldest clichés in the book, and I don’t think it was meant to be funny (and it isn’t funny). So perhaps Wes has no shame left. He’s even filming the thing on crap, fuzzy and muddy digital. Lights smudging the lens (look at any scene involving police cars), etc., it’s just ugly, ugly stuff. Wes should know better than that, I don’t care how convenient digital is.

***** SPOILER WARNING ***** The twist ending isn’t as good as it could’ve been. Given what it is, I think it would’ve been better if the film started off with Campbell being killed and moving on from there to truly make it a “Next Generation” film. For starters, having Campbell stick around for so long might tip some people into guessing what function Roberts will ultimately serve in the film. I didn’t pick it, but it didn’t surprise me, either ***** END SPOILER ***** I’d like to say that it’s just this particular film that’s stale (Even series Roger Jackson as ‘The Voice’ sounds like a cheap imitator here. I thought it was actually Craven himself), but that isn’t quite true. Let’s face it, the first two films might be good films, but we’ve all moved on, haven’t we? I don’t care about these returning characters anymore and the new ones I couldn’t care less about. The saddest thing is when you think back to the opening jibe about the ‘torture porn’ films, you realise Wes has nothing to feel superior about. Most of the “Saw” films are terrible, but the first two (especially “Saw II”) are better than this film. Sorry, but this one did nothing for me at all.

Rating: C-

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Jacknife

Vietnam Vet and mechanic Robert De Niro (in one of his showier, livelier roles) looks up his old buddy (Ed Harris) for a previously planned fishing trip, finds that he’s not coping so well, despite being looked after by his wallflower sister (Kathy Baker, a criminally underrated actress) whom he lives with. Whilst trying to get his buddy (a high school football hero) to start dealing with his problems, a bond is formed between loud but well-meaning De Niro and bookish, repressed Baker. Charles S. Dutton plays a therapy group leader for disturbed war veterans.

Stagey, small, but engrossing, perfectly acted 1989 David Jones (“Betrayal”, based on a Harold Pinter play) war/drama presents us with what might have happened to Michael and Steven years after “The Deer Hunter”. Not exactly, but it’s not too much of a stretch to at least suggest such a notion. All three of the performances are great, but De Niro is particularly masterful and Baker perfectly cast.

Very underrated and worth a look for the acting alone (the war flashbacks are unnecessary and ineffective, unfortunately). The screenplay is by Stephen Metcalfe (“Roommates”), from his play. If you’re left unmoved by this simple but effective drama, you’re probably already dead. Just don’t expect the scope of “The Deer Hunter” or the histrionics of “Taxi Driver”.

Rating: B+

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Zeppelin

Michael York plays a German-born British lieutenant (Scottish, really, not that York sounds anything but perfectly British, as always) used to spy on the Germans who have apparently developed the title airship, designed by Marius Goring, who happens to be an old acquaintance of York’s, and is somewhat naïve about his new invention (to put it mildly). Elke Sommer is Goring’s wife, who is suspicious of the new fellow. Anton Diffring (what’s a Nazi film without him?), Andrew Keir and Peter Carsten are impeccably cast as the Nazis, with designs on diminishing British morale. Rupert Davies is a welcome presence in the type of unfortunately two-dimensional role that normally goes to Richard Johnson, Trevor Howard, Harry Andrews, John Mills, or Michael Hordern.

1971 Etienne Perier (“When Eight Bells Toll”, with Sir Anthony Hopkins and the great Robert Morley) WWI adventure is pretty familiar stuff, and a little stiffer than the best of the war-adventure films of the 60s and early 70s (“Operation Crossbow”, “The Blue Max”, “The Dirty Dozen” etc). In fact, one might consider it a B-version of the above films.

It gets major boost from a great supporting cast (notably Diffring, Carsten, and Goring) and an aesthetically well-cast York (who has rather Aryan features). It also gets a lot better as it goes along, with some decent moments of tension and crises of conscience.

If you’re a diehard fan of the genre, you probably don’t need me recommending it. The screenplay is by Arthur Rowe (“The Magnificent Seven Ride!”), Donald Churchill and based on the story by Owen Crump (“The Couch”), who also produced.

Rating: C+

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Pass the Ammo

Set in Arkansas, Bill Paxton and his trashy girlfriend Linda Kozlowski, along with Kozlowski’s two criminal cousins (Dennis Burkley and Glenn Withrow) attempt to rob the ‘Tower of Bethlehem’, the TV studio home of greedy husband and wife TV evangelists Tim Curry and Annie Potts. All of this apparently stems from Curry having conned Kozlowski’s dying grandmother out of her life savings (not that Kozlowski loved her grandma, she just wanted the inheritance). It’s not long before the cops (led by antagonistic Paul Ben-Victor) surround the studio, so without an escape, the foursome run out on live TV! It’s here that Paxton starts to tear down the benevolent public facade Curry has built for himself (including a few skeletons in the closet that even loopy Potts isn’t aware of), as a hostage situation coincides with a tacky religious sideshow for all to see. Meanwhile, Cajun sheriff Leland Crooke is called in to negotiate the situation (the studio audience is still in there), while gun-happy vigilantes and the National Guard also join in on the action from the outside. Beefy Brian Thompson plays a guest on the show, a sportsman who has apparently seen the light. Anthony Geary is a pot-smoking studio controller who sees good in what the would-be robbers are doing.

A good cast goes to waste in this failed 1988 spoof of Evangelical TV shows, mostly because director David Beaird (“Scorchers” with Faye Dunaway and Jennifer Tilly) and writers Joel and Neil Cohen (the former having co-written “Toy Story” and “Cheaper By the Dozen” in the years since) gives us way too many (thin) characters to keep track of. In fact, so many characters are featured here that there isn’t any room for depth, especially with our two chief protagonists (a poorly used Paxton, a miscast and too old Kozlowski) and antagonists (Curry, Potts- both perfectly cast). Well, that is if you think the would-be robbers are meant to be heroes here. That’s another thing the film fails on, we’re given no indication as to why we’re meant to like Paxton and co., whilst Curry and Potts are definitely phoney baloneys themselves (A couple of phony TV Evangelicals? Wow. Haven’t seen that done before..much). It’s almost as if the filmmakers were unsure of how things were meant to play out, once they come up with the basic idea of sending up TV evangelists.

Paxton and Kozlowski are completely dull, which is something I never thought I’d say about Paxton (Kozlowski is another story. She’s believable as Paul Hogan’s love interest- ‘coz she is his love interest, but what else has she done even halfway competently?). With the completely self-indulgent and seemingly never-ending TV show (financed by the money from the innocent, ‘true believer’ folk the Reverend has conned, no doubt), there’s some truly kooky musical numbers that might give it a bit of cult value (indeed the gaudy musical numbers are a little “Rocky Horror” esque, with muscle-bound Thompson looking awfully like the hunky blond dude from that film/musical which of course starred Curry), but otherwise this is a case of too much (muchness) yet too little (depth). The characters of the quirky Cajun sheriff (Crooke) and dopey police officer (Ben-Victor) are especially useless, taking up way too much screen time every time we cut back to them. The gun nuts are also extraneous, adding nothing except needless noisy explosions in the boring finale.

It’s not even funny, aside from Geary as the pot-smoking control room operator, who gets a few fun lines. Even though it’s not remotely original, the subject matter certainly could’ve been ripe for satire or parody (Curry and Potts are certainly game, though I think the latter would’ve been even better if her Tammy Faye-clone character was far more ruthlessly corrupt instead of a spaced-out cult member-like character), but there’s not much of interest to be found here, no wonder it’s barely known (despite that cast). Terrible title (based on part of an American wartime slogan, apparently) probably contributed to it being forgotten too.

Rating: C

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: Real Time

 Perennial screw-up Jay Baruchel has racked up a whole lot of gambling debts, and his debtor ain’t happy with Baruchel’s flippant attitude to owing money. As a result, he has sent Australian hitman Randy Quaid (!) to kill him. Quaid, though, is a softie at heart and has decided to give Baruchel one hour to live, an hour to go and tie up all of his loose ends and make peace. He can do whatever he likes in that hour, it’s up to him. But once his time is up, well, his time is up. Jayne Eastwood plays Baruchel’s estranged grandmother, whom he used to steal money from.

This quirky 2008 Indie flick from Canadian writer-director Randall Cole (whose other films I have not seen nor heard of before) is no world-beater, but it’s a pretty watchable time-waster. Quaid adopts a sometimes dead-on (and sometimes way off) Aussie accent, and steals the show with his large physical presence but laidback, thoughtful nature. He’s a supremely underrated actor (with admittedly a bizarre personal life of late) and certainly a very versatile one. I mean, this guy has played Cousin Eddie, an AWOL kleptomaniac sailor (in “The Last Detail”, which this film kinda resembles, with Baruchel in the Quaid role, essentially, but with jail time replaced by death as the seemingly inevitable fate), US Presidents, Frankenstein’s Monster, cops, morons, androids, cannibalistic parents- you name it, Randy has done it, in several different genres. The fact that Randy Freakin’ Quaid (known for more hick/good ‘ol boy vocal intonations) is even attempting an Aussie accent in the first place was enough to keep me watching, and I was shocked at how close he got at times. It’s a tricky accent, and although there were occasional traces of Texan drawl, cockney, and Kiwi in there, it’s still one of the better Aussie accents I’ve heard an American attempt (Meryl Streep is still the standard-bearer, I guess). Hell, at times he sounds a little like Bryan Brown, though surprisingly his accent isn’t as broad as you might expect (or as broad as Brown’s for that matter), as it’s a relatively low-key performance from Quaid.

Baruchel is well-cast, if not especially likeable, and you still end up kinda caring about what happens to the poor, reckless kid (Even if Quaid’s playing the much more interesting character). Baruchel ultimately makes you sorry to see this poor scared kid finally realise that all of his reckless behaviour is finally catching up with him and he’s scared to die.

It’s not got much going on, but you won’t likely turn the channel, either. Worth a look if you come across it and have little else on offer.

Rating: B-