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, September 29, 2012

Review: Red Riding Hood


Kinda sorta based on the Grimm fairytale, Amanda Seyfried stars as Valerie. That’s right, the character isn’t named Red Riding Hood, she simply wears one. Well, some of the time. Anyway, Valerie is in a bit of a pickle. Two, actually. One the one hand, Valerie is caught between two young men. She fancies childhood friend and woodcutter Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents (Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke) have arranged for her to marry the son (Robert Pattinson-ish Max Irons) of a blacksmith. Meanwhile (in a plot thread nowhere near the Brothers Grimm), a werewolf has just killed Valerie’s sister. Although the townsfolk hunt it down and apparently kill it, famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) claims they have killed a mere ordinary wolf. This puts Valerie, as I said, in a secondary pickle, because she discovers that she has a seemingly psychic link to the werewolf, which makes her seem awfully suspicious to the townsfolk, and especially the ruthless Father Solomon. Oh, and it’s also the time of the Blood Moon, where werewolves are able to bite someone and turn them into a werewolf. In an attempt to escape all of this, Valerie puts on her title article of clothing and heads for Grandma’s (Julie Christie) house. Lukas Haas plays an ineffectual priest who is responsible for bringing Father Solomon into town.

 

Aside from obvious “Twilight” influences in terms of Gen Y hunk casting and director Catherine Hardwicke (the first “Twilight”, the overrated teen drama “Thirteen”) at the helm, this 2011 retelling (and expansion) of the classic fairy tale, looked quite interesting to me. The visuals, although certainly similar to the awful “Twilight”, looked far more appropriate and thickly atmospheric here. I had modestly high hopes for it. Unfortunately, although the “Twilight” comparisons prove somewhat surface-level, the film still isn’t any good. In fact, it’s bloody boring, stretching out an incredibly thin story well past breaking point. “Freeway” managed to take the skeleton of the Little Red Riding Hood story and make it work at feature length by subverting it and perverting it, and was a lot of fun. The makers of “Red Riding Hood” don’t seem to know what fun is. Mind you, maybe having the lovely Amanda Seyfried and her big, beautiful eyes deliver the ‘My, what big eyes you have, Grandma’ line was meant to be funny (And it is funny). You’d think someone would have noticed that Seyfried has much bigger eyes than Julie Christie, but I doubt it. The rest is too self-serious to make that argument plausible .

 

I must say that the film does look absolutely first-rate. The cinematography by Mandy Walker is stunning, and unlike the “Twilight” films, Hardwicke allows trees to actually look green instead of grey-blue. Everything looks so colourful and glowing, you’d swear this was Technicolour. But there’s no denying that good-looking or not, this isn’t much of a movie. At first, I nearly had a stroke when Seyfried ventured off to Grandma’s house after just 20 minutes. What the hell? Of course, because the film needs to run 90 odd minutes, it’s just a preliminary visit, with the actual visit taking place after about 70 minutes. And what occurs in between is tedious padding.

 

This would’ve made a gorgeous silent film, unfortunately it is boring as batshit whenever someone opens their mouth. Aside from a surprisingly fun Gary Oldman (who for once manages to be hammy without being self-servingly eccentric), and Seyfried (well-cast, despite her eyes) these actors are terrible and the characters tedious. Oldman seems to be inspired by Peter Cushing in “Twins of Evil”, and indeed, his Hammer-esque scenes give the otherwise enervated film its only energy. His entrance in particular, is memorable. As talented and beautiful as Seyfried is, she can’t stop her character from being insufferably dull. Even worse are the otherwise talented Virginia Madsen (reasonably plausible-looking as Seyfried’s mum) and Lukas Haas, whose performances are terribly stiff. The rest are awfully unconvincing, like an amateur Canadian TV movie version of the story, or something. Billy Burke (Bella’s ineffectual dad in the “Twilight” series), in particular, has become an absolute joke, cast once again as a useless father. **** SPOILER WARNING **** Also, as much as Hardwicke and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson (the memorably twisty “Orphan”) don’t offer up the expected teen-oriented twist to the central mystery, the film’s second twist is definitely too much of a Twi-hard. Just as you’re about to commend the film for not going there with the werewolf’s identity (although the identity of the werewolf isn’t too surprising despite several red herrings), they go ahead and give it to us as a secondary (and unnecessary) twist.  **** END SPOILER ****

 

At the end of the day, whilst this film isn’t quite the “Twilight” knock-off I expected, it’s also not the fun film it could’ve been. It’s unconvincing and exceedingly dull.

 

Rating: C-

Friday, September 28, 2012

Great Artist, Crap Song


15. Ironic- Alanis Morrisette

"Jagged Little Pill" is a seminal 90s album that I indeed have in my own CD collection, but I always skip this track. The song has been played to death, but even worse than that, it's ironic in an unintentional way. Has anyone explained to Alanis in the past 17 years that nothing in her song is an example of irony? It's just full of strange little coincidences. That isn't irony, but the song itself sure is.


14. Abracadabra- The Steve Miller Band

Just look at the lyrics: 'Abra Abracadabra. I wanna reach out and grab 'ya!'. Need I say more? Steve Miller seemed like a cool dude to me, but this song makes you rethink that.


13. Mistress for Christmas- AC/DC

For a band who pretty much release the same album over and over again, AC/DC have done extremely well for themselves and have created some of the best music you're ever likely to hear. This ridiculous, fatuous number off "The Razor's Edge" (a pretty good album, otherwise) isn't one of their finest hours. I can make a case for Iron Maiden's silly but rockin' "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter", but this? It's just a stupid joke title in search of a song.


12. Excitable- Def Leppard

You're gonna think I'm nuts, but this song actually comes from my all-time favourite album, "Hysteria". Sorry, but even the best albums have at least one dud (that’s why I’m not really an ‘album guy’), and this is definitely Def Leppard's most embarrassing song. Yes, even more embarrassing than the stuff off their later albums when they seemingly turned into Collective Soul (Am I the only one who thinks that?). The band are infamous for tinkering around forever on an album and this lame-o, dated song full of irritating quirks is symptomatic of a band forgetting to keep it simple, stupid. Hell, it even sounds a little Duran Duran-ish.


11. Invisible Man- Queen

I think Freddie Mercury was the greatest frontman of all-time, and Queen were an amazing band. But this was easily their nadir. It's cheesy as hell, but what makes it even worse is the film clip with Freddie seemingly playing an invisible man who visits a young boy in his bedroom. Just sayin'...


10. Kashmir- Led Zepplin

Is your head about to explode? Too bad, the song just drones on and on. Some of Zepplin's stuff is truly classic and iconic. But this? This is just endless noise. Gimme "Black Dog", "Immigrant Song", "Misty Mountain Hop" or "Whole Lotta Love" any day of the week.


9. Let's Put the X in Sex- KISS

Paul Stanley drops the guitar to make an X sign with his hands. Oh, that's so cool, Paul. I like some of the stuff from KISS' post-makeup period, but this is just a terrible, nondescript glam metal song. Seriously, Ratt, Warrant or Cinderella could've come out with this crap.


8. Tusk- Fleetwood Mac

Is this even a song? Everybody's ego was through the roof (or up their nose in Stevie Nicks' case) at this point. A noisy experiment in percussive noise with absolutely no point or meaning that I can discern.


7. Philadelphia Freedom- Elton John

It was either this or "Island Girl". Elton has given us some of the greatest songs of all-time, but occasionally he gave us crappy, sell-out pop ditties like this one.
 
6. Saturday Night- Cold Chisel
There's a reason why Jimmy Barnes did most of the lead vocals in Chisel, and this whiny ballad from Ian Moss pretty much explains it in unbearable detail. I know Cold Chisel are Aussie pub rock gods, but that doesn’t mean every song was a classic.

5. Sussudio- Phil Collins
I like Phil, but who or what the hell is a Sussudio? Someone’s name? Would a parent really torture their child by giving them such a name? A rare 80s dud for Collins.
 
4. Wooden Heart- Elvis
Even The King can turn out a turd occasionally. Irritating beyond belief and facile. You don’t want to get this one stuck in your head, it’ll never leave.
 
3. The End- The Doors
The Doors were a really cool band, but this is interminable, artless noise. All doom and gloom and it just goes on forever.

2. I Am the Walrus- The Beatles
The Beatles pretty much are rock music. Without them, there would be nothing (Then again, without the blues, there'd be no Beatles. Ow. Head hurts). I love just about all of their stuff. Yes, even "Octopus' Garden". I even love some of the psychedelic nonsense songs like "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". But there's trippy lyrics, and then there's just infantile nonsense. "Lucy" brought up images of a 'girl with kaleidoscope eyes'. "I Am the Walrus" features baby talk. 'Koo-koo Ka-joo?' Fucking what, now? 'Egg Men?' Honestly this is a drug-fueled ego trip with a frankly nightmarish clip to go with it. I hate it. HATE it.

1. Paradise By the Dashboard Light- Meatloaf

I like Meatloaf, and I totally get that he's got this whole theatrical rock thing going on. It's worked for him for a long time. But this song is just a step too far. I can enjoy about 30 seconds of it, but it just goes on and on and on, and unlike "I'd Do Anything for Love" it's just not that great to tolerate the length. It's insanely annoying.


 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Blood Out


Small town sheriff Luke Goss hears that his screw-up brother has been killed by a gang he was trying to leave. When the police investigation appears to be going nowhere (that’s what you get when 50 Cent plays a cop), he decides to take matters into his own hands. He poses as a thug and soon finds himself taken in by local gangster Tamer Hassan, riding with offsider Ed Quinn as they off rival scum. Quinn is also the brother of Goss’ brother’s drug-addicted ex-girlfriend. AnnaLynne McCord plays an S&M freak lieutenant in Hassan’s crew, who may not be all she appears to be. Val Kilmer turns up as another gangster named Arturo (Yes, Arturo), and Bobby Lashley (!) plays a hulking fighter.

 

Although a bit slight-looking, former Bros member Luke Goss is a pretty decent direct-to-DVD action star (if the unlikeliest- a former member of a one-hit wonder Brit boy band? Really?), but this 2011 actioner from debut director Jason Hewitt (producer of the RVD action flick “Wrong Side of Town”) isn’t much chop. It does have a helluva direct-to-DVD action movie cast, though (Goss, Hassan, Vinnie Jones, McCord, 50 Cent, Kilmer, and wrestler/MMA fighter Lashley). Throw in Cuba Gooding Jr., and Batista and you’d have the low-rent answer to “The Expendables”.

 

With two glaring exceptions, the film is actually pretty well-acted for this kind of thing. Goss is in stoic, humourless mode, but that’s kinda appropriate for his kind of no-nonsense, taciturn role. Tamer Hassan is much better here than he was in “Wrong Turn 3”, and is pretty badass. Given less screen time is Vinnie Jones, and that’s a shame, because when on screen, he’s his usual hilarious self. Even 50 Cent isn’t bad, in a mere cameo. He may be a bit of a mumbler, but the guy’s not the worst rapper-turned-actor out there by a long shot. Ed Quinn also impresses in the role of one of Hassan’s men, who chaperones Goss.

 

Less effective is AnnaLynne McCord, who still hasn’t learnt to act since another direct-to-DVD flick with Val Kilmer and 50 Cent, “Gun”. She’s almost Megan Fox bad here, and might just be the new Dina Meyer to boot. And then we come to Val Kilmer, soon to star in the role of the fat Indian from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Look for it off off off off Broadway. Seriously, I don’t want to be mean, but didn’t Kilmer used to be a sex symbol of some kind? Downing a few too many Krispy Kremes and Doritos whilst on the Indian reservation (maybe he ate the Indian from “Cuckoo’s Nest”?) seem to have obliterated not only his looks, but his talent. He’s not only off the charts bad here, he’s just plain off the charts in general. He looks to be sleepwalking, or perhaps on drugs. I don’t want to speculate, but he just seems really ‘off’ here, and not in any way that might benefit the film. It’s his worst screen performance to date, including “Red Planet”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, and “Hardwired”. Special mention must also be made of Bobby Lashley in the role of Woody Strode in “Spartacus”. The only thing more WTF about his appearance in this, is that the film suddenly turns into a fight tournament movie towards the end. Jarring to say the least.

 

Sadly, the whole thing is just routine and dull. In fact, Steven Seagal did this kind of thing better a few years back in “Urban Justice”, which is saying something. The action scenes are annoyingly shot in the metallic-blue, wobbly camera style of Joe Carnahan, which is a bit counteractive to one’s enjoyment, although at least the picture quality is much better than “Streets of Blood” (a previous crime flick starring Val Kilmer and 50 Cent- are they business partners or something?).

 

It’s nothing you’ve got to rush out and see, in fact, you’ve seen it a million times before and better. Awful rap/hardcore soundtrack with uber-repetitive song lyrics, too.

 

Rating: C

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: Last Days

Set in Seattle, Michael Pitt stars as a defeated-looking Kurt Cobain stand-in, wandering aimlessly and zombielike around his mansion in the last few days of his seemingly miserable life. A few hangers-on and random people turn up every now and then like musician Lukas Haas, and Yellow Pages salesman Thadeus A. Thomas, but Pitt reacts to them in a passive, barely observant manner. He might be trying to avoid them by staying at the opposite end of the house, but that would seem to indicate effort. You have to be awake to do that, and Pitt seems at the very most somnambulant. Magician Ricky Jay turns up as a detective who seems more interested in telling anecdotes than anything else. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth (who was an acquaintance of Cobain) plays Pitt’s mother. Asia Argento plays a woman named Asia ( presumably cast because...well, she’s Dario Argento’s daughter).

 

After the pointless debacle that was the shot-for-shot colour remake of “Psycho”, you’d think writer-director Gus Van Sant (“Drugstore Cowboy”, “My Own Private Idaho”, “Good Will Hunting”) would’ve learnt his lesson about ego-trip cinematic experiments. This deadeningly dull, hopelessly uninteresting and pointless 2005 excursion into so-called ‘minimalism’ would suggest that Mr. Van Sant ain’t that bright.

 

Like with the “Psycho” remake, the result is also genuinely offensive. Some will say that this is not Van Sant’s idea of the final days in the life of Kurt Cobain, because the character here goes by a different name and there are a few other minor differences. Horse shit. It’s Cobain. Van Sant knows it, and you and I know it. So if you’re gonna tackle a subject like this, a guy who was not only the voice of a generation (with all the positives and negatives you could throw at that statement well in mind), you better do it right, Gus. A minimalist treatment is the absolute wrong way to go about it. Mr. Van Sant might plead innocence and suggest that this isn’t Cobain, but the fact there are so many similarities (Michael Pitt doesn’t naturally look like Cobain, he’s made to look like him), and the fact that audience are always going to be curious about Cobain’s state of mind at the time of his death, will ultimately have the audience demanding answers. Van Sant doesn’t give us any. In fact, he doesn’t give us a damn thing. This isn’t even a movie, as far as I’m concerned. It certainly has no real narrative, nor are there any real significant events or happenings in the film. It’s just 90 minutes of Michael Pitt (normally a pretty good actor, encouraged to underplay into invisibility), often slightly out of focus and hidden behind messy hair, moping around his house and mumbling mostly under his breath. Occasionally other people turn up, but we get no real insight of who they are either, let alone much of their relationship to the Cobain facsimile (Van Sant isn’t suggesting that Dave Grohl is bisexual, is he? I think Dave might find that to be a surprise to him). Van Sant even lets famed magician Ricky Jay turn up for a completely pointless, extraneous, and superfluous monologue that whilst the only amusing thing in the film, stops it dead at the same time. Worse still, the man who plays the Yellow Pages salesman in the film (Thadeus A. Thomas) was actually the real deal. He just walked on set one day wanting to sell his books, and Van Sant liked the guy enough to let him do it in the film. Why? ‘Coz Van Sant can.

 

This...this is nothing. There’s nothing going on here at all. Well-shot, though, I guess. But if you’re looking for the Kurt Cobain story, you won’t find it here. If you’re looking for a Kurt Cobain-like story, you won’t get that either. You won’t get any story at all. Or anything else, really. I’d say that some random stuff happens for 90 minutes, but I can’t even bring myself to suggest that stuff even happens. Stuff suggests something interesting to at least someone, this is unlikely to entertain anyone. The fact that I’ve heard several critics wildly praise this boggles my mind. I don’t even know what this is. It’s certainly not the story of why Kurt Cobain killed himself, because even if this were Cobain’s story, whatever has happened to make him the way he is, has already happened before the film starts. So what we’re seeing is the whole lotta nothing that happens before he finally ends it all. Something tells me that there was more going on in Cobain’s life and state of mind in this last days than what Gus Van Sant gives us in these last days. And even if there wasn’t, and that were Van Sant’s point, a film needs to give us something anyway, otherwise you’re watching the equivalent of a blank screen. This isn’t minimalist, it’s near absolute zero. If you see a masterpiece in this piece of shit, good for you. I hated every interminable, inert second of it.

 

Although I’m a fan of Nirvana and recognise that they and Cobain were indeed the voice of my generation, I’m not necessarily sure that’s a good thing given what they and he really represented. But if this was even meant to be like Kurt Cobain’s last days, Cobain (whatever your feelings are about him and his legacy) deserved a much better depiction than what we get in this. Awful and worthless, and frankly offensive.

 

Rating: D-

Review: Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson plays an American scientist and university professor arriving in Berlin to attend a biotech summit. About to meet with his wife (January Jones), Neeson realises he left his bag at the airport and takes a ride in a taxi driven by illegal immigrant Diane Kruger (!). Unfortunately, they get into an accident, and Neeson wakes up in a hospital after having been in a coma. After a bit of recovery, he discovers a man (Aidan Quinn) claiming to be him, and even Jones claims to not recognise Neeson as her husband. And then someone tries to rub Neeson out! Just what in the hell is a-goin’ on here? Bruno Ganz plays an ex-Stasi officer who now does detective work of-sorts, Sebastian Koch plays the keynote speaker at the summit, and Frank Langella plays Neeson’s boss back home.

 

With lots of Hitchcockian touches, this Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”, an ordinary film with one of the best and most unpredictable twists you’ll ever see) thriller from 2011 is the kind of film you either pick apart all of the illogical elements and silliness (a scene between Neeson and Jones in an art gallery, for instance, makes no sense by the end of the film), or you simply go along for the ride and enjoy what is just a good yarn. I was mostly in the latter category, though even I realised that one of the film’s big twists relies on one accepting that amnesia does some pretty damn amazing things to a person. **** SPOILER ALERT **** Apparently, amnesia can turn an assassin into a nice guy who no longer wants to kill for a living and instead develops a conscience. I can’t say I really bought it, but by then I had already had enough fun that it didn’t much matter to me. **** END SPOILER ****

 

I must further chastise the director (and/or cinematographer) for employing way too many fancy lighting techniques, filters, and other obscuring techniques that get in the way of an otherwise good yarn. I also flat-out called bullshit at Diane Kruger being a cab driver and being able to singlehandedly drag Liam Neeson’s fat, unconscious arse out of the water. I take cabs all the time, ain’t no Helen of Troy found behind the wheel of a cab, let me tell you. I reckon the only reason why her character isn’t turning tricks for a living is because the film needs a few car chases. Those scenes are fun, and certainly moreso than the hand-to-hand combat scenes, which unfortunately have a bit of the Jason Bourne shaky-cam about them. The funny thing is, at one point, Neeson ends up driving. She’s a passenger in her own taxi! Why, because she’s a woman?

 

Still, this is pretty irresistible stuff, even if it’s the kind of thing you’ve seen before (Hitchcock films such as “North By Northwest”, “Foreign Correspondent”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (both versions), and “The Wrong Man” all spring to mind). Despite Kruger’s miscasting, this is an otherwise persuasively acted film. Neeson may not seem to be in action hero shape, but he’s otherwise perfectly cast and certainly sympathetic on screen. There’s a certain decency and reliability about him that might not even be acting. January Jones makes for an intriguing Hitchcock blonde, though I’m still not going to watch a single episode of “Mad Men” anytime soon. Good small role for Bruno Ganz too. I do have to question the casting of one actor, I won’t name them, but as soon as they appear, you know the deal with them. I’m not sure if it’s merely the casting or a combination of casting and performance, but it’s a definite red flag.

 

This isn’t anything brilliant, and it does have its flaws, no doubt about it. It’s unattractive and irritating, for instance. And if you take away the twist, this film’s actually fairly straightforward and not especially original. But all things considered, it’s a fun ride and certainly never boring. I found it a pleasant surprise, and pretty lively at the very least. Based on a French novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert, the screenplay is by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell.

 

Rating: B-