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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: The Devil’s Rejects


Set a little bit after “House of 1,000 Corpses”, we pick up the exploits of the Firefly family as they find their abode under fire from the law, fronted by ruthlessly determined Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), whose seething hatred for the family stems from the murder of his brother in the earlier film, with a touch of Southern fried ‘Hand of God’ stuff as he seems just as blood-thirsty as the criminals he is doggedly pursuing. Family matriarch Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook, replacing cross-eyed weirdo Karen Black) is captured, whilst Baby and Otis manage to get away and seek refuge in a crappy motel, terrorising a family there (featuring Priscilla Barnes and Geoffrey Lewis). They are soon joined by seedy patriarch Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig) who suggests they go and stay with Spaulding’s ‘brother’, a pimp named Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree). Michael Berryman (“The Hills Have Eyes”) plays Charlie’s idiot associate, the late Matthew McGrory has his final role here returning as Tiny, Robert Trebor plays an obnoxious film critic, former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page and character actor Danny Trejo play weathered-looking bounty hunters, and there are a plethora of horror and exploitation faves in small roles (Mary Woronov, E.G. Daily, Ginger Lynn Allen, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Steve Railsback, and P.J. Soles).

 

A much better film than his debut, “House of 1,000 Corpses” this 2005 horror/crime flick from rocker-turned writer-director Rob Zombie still isn’t all that good. There’s a really good grindhouse flick in here somewhere, but it doesn’t all hang together because Zombie thinks he’s created a Peckinpah masterpiece. It’s certainly no masterpiece, and frankly a bit one-note, as well as overdosing on the Peckinpah slow-mo. I just don’t think the film’s characters make for protagonist material, they certainly ain’t no “Bonnie and Clyde”, nor is Mr. Zombie the new Arthur Penn (or Sean Penn for that matter). I like me some Skynyrd just fine, folks, but mythologising these creeps as good time boys accompanied by ‘Freebird’ is just stupid and foul (And yet the mostly 70s soundtrack is still the film’s strongest asset). And I say this knowing full well my own country’s fondness for mythologising criminals as far back as Ned Kelly and as recently as the late Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. But this ‘family’ are a whole different, sick breed (75 victims at the start of the film, alone!). As is everyone else in the film. The Bill Forsythe lawman character is a particular miscalculation. He’s demented and absolutely no hero, through no fault of the actor who is very effective with what he has been given. I get that it might take a maniac to catch a family of maniacs, but it’s hardly fun to watch. There are no sympathetic characters here worth a damn, and Zombie offers no light, no break from the carnage and endless profanity in the artless dialogue. Sheri Moon Zombie and veteran character actor Bill Moseley in particular swear way too much, which is a shame because Moseley is otherwise well-cast and looks like a creepy cross between Zombie himself and Charlie Manson (Though if you found Moseley unbearable as Chop-Top in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” you might tire quickly of him here too).

 

The other issue with the film is comparatively minor, but the in-and-out appearances by the late Matthew McGrory as Tiny, are extremely clunky. It’s as if Zombie forgot all about him after the first scene.

 

Still, this is not the work of an inept filmmaker and the performance by Sid Haig is wonderfully sleazy. He’s creepy and funny at the same time, and when Ken Foree turns up as his equally sleazy ‘brother’, you wish the film was solely about them, because they’re so entertaining together. Leslie Easterbrook, meanwhile, is having such a high ‘ol time you’d swear it was the late Susan Tyrrell in the role. The pneumatic former “Police Academy” star also looks like she could win a latter-day Faye Dunaway lookalike contest, too. The film is filled with cameos by familiar faces, and Robert Trebor is especially terrific as a pretentious film critic and Marx Brothers expert. Former WCW and WWE wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, meanwhile, looks so ugly here he nearly makes co-star Danny Trejo look like an Adonis standing next to him. It’s also hard not to find something enjoyable about a film that has Sid Haig, Michael Berryman and Ken Foree sharing the screen together, albeit briefly.

 

It’s worth a look if you can stomach it, which will probably be about 10% of the population at most. It’s certainly the film Zombie fully intended to make, I don’t doubt that. It just didn’t quite do it for me, sitting somewhere uncomfortably between Peckinpah homage and grindhouse horror, which probably makes it a lot like “Natural Born Killers” in that respect (The first two “Chainsaw Massacre” films also being obvious influences). Except it doesn’t suck.

 

I think Zombie might just make a good horror film one of these days, he’s certainly shown that he’s seen lots of them. But neither this nor his “Halloween” remake quite make the grade. This one’s just too nihilistic for me.

 

Rating: C+

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Bad Blood


Set during WWII in New Zealand, Jack Thompson is a surly dairy farmer who along with his wife (a hard-bitten Carol Burns, from TV’s “Prisoner”) and two kids are gun-happy types socially outcast by the rest of their small town. Struggling economically, they are fearfully paranoid  of ‘foreigners’, embittered and constantly complain about their livestock being tampered with by immigrant neighbours (But aren’t Thompson and Burns Aussies?). However, within themselves they seem a loyal, close and loving family, even if they’re inefficient at presenting that side of themselves to others. But things really take a turn for the worse when a government order comes in for everyone to surrender their firearms for the war effort. Thompson (in a masterful performance as the rather ‘mixed-up’ patriarch) initially refuses the polite request by extremely patient copper Denis Lill, saying that his .303 has been stolen. He eventually gives in to the order, though...and then his wife goes and buys another gun anyway. And that’s when things turn ugly and violent, as the cops turn up to investigate complaints of the family’s routine late-night shooting practice. Pat Evison (another “Prisoner” alum) and Kiwi character actor Marshall Napier play a couple of the locals.

 

Although it’s directed by pommy Mike Newell (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Donnie Brasco”, “Mona Lisa Smile”) and stars two Aussies in the lead roles (Jack Thompson and Carol ‘Franky Doyle’ Burns), this 1981 true crime flick is based on a true story from New Zealand where in some quarters, the central couple are believed to have been local heroes of a sort. That’s only hinted at here, and doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the film where they are seen as outcasts. Scripted by Andrew Brown (mostly a producer for TV) from a book by Howard Willis, it’s nonetheless a pretty disturbing, believable film with slow-building atmosphere and excellent cinematography by Gary Hansen (“Inn of the Damned”, “We of the Never Never”) which is dark, without being ugly at all. The fact that the film was shot on the actual locations where the violent events occurred definitely adds to the whole.

 

The two central characters are portrayed very convincingly, we’ve all heard about people like this before. Somewhat loners, perhaps partly due to being shunned by ‘normal’ society as being ‘off’, having a possibly unhealthy relationship with firearms, and a bitter ‘us vs. them’ mentality. But thanks to Thompson and Burns, they don’t come off like caricatured, Milat-esque feral inbred hicks. Deeply flawed and in the wrong, they are nonetheless human beings.

 

Frankly I think the film is better in its incredibly tense set-up than in its rather meandering final manhunt (and Burns’ character gets treated way too lightly here if you ask me), but Burns and especially the versatile Thompson (whom I’ve never seen this intense) are excellent and the film is well worth seeking out. Hell, take out the war stuff and this story could sadly take place today. Useless trivia: Future “Once Were Warriors” director Lee Tamahori worked on this film as a boom operator!

 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: Save Your Legs!


Stephen Curry (well-named when you think about it) stars as a cricket tragic who idolises Sachin Tendulkar and is part of a park cricket team. Curry manages to convince his boss (Darshan Jariwala) to organise for his team to have a tour of India. Unfortunately, Curry’s best friends and teammates are fairly unenthused. Brendan Cowell is the reformed bad boy who is now about to become a father, thus obviously being distracted. Even obnoxious party animal Damon Gameau has managed to get himself hitched. Needless to say, Curry is a helluva lot more dedicated to the game than his teammates. Will he be able to arouse enough team spirit and national pride to make a presentable showing in the sub-continent? Indian-Australian actress Pallavi Sharda plays the beautiful daughter of their manager, whom Curry has always had a soft spot for since they were teens. Look for New Zealand cricket legend Sir Richard Hadlee in a cameo as an umpire.

 

An unfortunate return to the dark old days of terrible ocker comedies, this 2012 film about sports and mateship from director Boyd Hicklin (who previously made a documentary about this real-life tale before this debut feature) and writer/co-star Brendan Cowell hasn’t a laugh in it. Worse still, the film’s supposed true story fails to convince as presented here. The protagonists simply don’t convince as a legit team of club cricketers. They seem like a bunch of over-the-hill mates who play cricket every week for a lark, plus one guy (heartthrob TV actor Brenton Thwaites) young enough and talented enough to be a club cricketer, possibly even a state representative. And of course no one else in the team sees this and allows him to go up the order. Damon Gameau’s jealousy towards his obvious talent is just stupid and completely unrealistic. This is just poor writing, because the team honestly don’t seem like anything more than a group of friends, as I said. And this team is supposed to convince us that they could manage to get a gig in India playing against a third-string Indian cricket team? No. Just no. I wasn’t buying it at all. I don’t care if it really happened, this film didn’t make me believe it happened. India may be cricket-mad, but even they only care about their national team and the IPL these days, not a glorified exhibition match (and using the term ‘glorified’ is probably being too charitable) featuring a team of no-namers who on the evidence presented here, aren’t even very good at the game (save Thwaites, and one wonders why he’s teaming with these losers). Even comedies need some internal logic (the fact that Curry’s boss is Indian and agrees to manage them does not count as logical), and some semblance of reality, but this film’s impromptu game of 20/20 actually looks more professional and planned out than the actual ‘legit’ game that precedes it. WHAT?

 

Given this film’s Magical Mythical Indian Tour (true story or not), I think you’d have to know absolutely nothing about cricket to enjoy this (The boss of the team himself pads up unannounced? With no uniform on aside from pads? Right...), and then why would you even watch the film? Cricket fans certainly won’t take to it, and the subject is so niche that no one else will either, especially given how clich├ęd and poorly written it is This is lazy stuff from people who ought to know better. It’s a film full of dopey Delhi Belly gags, crass Indian stereotypes and ghastly clich├ęs that wouldn’t even rate a mention in the “Warwick Todd Diaries” or a 12th Man album. It’s the kind of antiquated ‘entertainment’ that I thought this fine country had put well into the past with “You and Your Stupid Mate”, let alone the originators of ‘ocker’ comedy like “The Adventures of Barry McKenzie” and “Crocodile Dundee”. All the mateship crap, which makes me vomit at the best of times, is seriously outdated in 2012.

 

Lead actor Stephen Curry fared much better as one of the Kerrigan clan in 2005’s “The Castle”. Here his character is a bit of a tool. You’re not really playing for Australia, mate. You’re glorified backyard cricketers who miraculously got a match against an Indian team, not the Indian team.

 

What a stupid, stupid film. This is the pits. I hated it, and I love cricket. I found it especially insulting that Curry’s character is a cricket lover and they’re all brimming with Aussie pride, but his favourite player is India’s Sachin Tendulkar? Yes, the Little Master is probably the greatest batsman since Bradman, but let’s face it, the only reason Sachin was chosen was so the director could add some foreign elements to the film for a bit of flavour, and since India is cricket-mad, India and Tendulkar were chosen (By the way, that Sachin Tendulkar bobble-head toy is the most racist thing I’ve seen in ages. The weird thing is, I bet it was made and sold in India). ‘Coz we just had to have a Bollywood dance finale in a film about Aussie sporting pride and prowess, right? No idea how they managed to rope the great New Zealand all-rounder Sir Richard Hadlee into appearing in this, but it’s kinda telling that they couldn’t get any Aussie cricketers past or present to turn up (Nor the real Sachin Tendulkar for that matter, he would’ve been beyond this cheap-arse film’s budget).

 

With its corny, old-fashioned and frankly unbelievable plot (true or not), boring characters, and complete lack of humour (Curry’s defensive batting technique is rather cute, though, and crass or not the line ‘I just vomited on my poo’ did make me crack a smile), there’s really nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Save your money. Save your precious time. Avoid it. Cricket tragics best dust off your 12th Man albums, at least those, for the most part are still funny. And as for you wannabe filmmakers out there, a word of caution: Just because your film is based on a true story does not mean that the audience will be immediately convinced of its authenticity. First try showing your script to someone who is uninitiated in your chosen subject and see if they believe it.

 

Rating: D+