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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: The Hangover Part III


After his father’s death, the rest of the ‘Wolf Pack’ tries to get Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to seek professional help for his…issues. Unfortunately, they hit a little snag on the way to the hospital as Doug (Justin Bartha- why does he continue to sign on for these?) is kidnapped by drug kingpin John Goodman and his goons. It seems Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has made off with a whole lotta Goodman’s gold, and he wants the ‘Wolf Pack’ (minus Bartha, of course) to find Chow and get his loot back or else Doug bites it. Finding the elusive and very strange Mr. Chow is easier said than done, though, especially when Alan isn’t entirely forthcoming with the revelation that he and Mr. Chow email each other regularly. Heather Graham reprises her role from the first film, whilst a possible love interest for Alan is provided by Melissa McCarthy as a lonely Vegas pawn shop owner.

 

Even more tedious than its predecessors, this 2013 film from series director Todd Phillips and his co-writer Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”) is only enlivened by Ken Jeong’s ridiculously over-the-top Chow, who proves to be disarmingly clever at times. There aren’t many laughs in the film, but he provides 99.99% of them (There’s a cute Billy Joel song cue at one point, but cute doesn’t mean funny). The scene where he sings the Johnny Cash version of ‘Hurt’ at karaoke is bloody funny, and easily one of the funniest things in any of these films (Easily because the films are generally painfully unfunny). Jeong gives the role everything he’s got, and while he’s annoying, the fact is he’s far more interesting than any of ‘The Wolf Pack’. I was worried that elevating him up the order would render him insufferable and annoying, but adding his disarmingly efficient super-criminal side helped with that, I think, or else he’d be relentlessly one-note. The biggest laugh in the film comes from a ridiculous but funny bit midway through the end credits. The fact that the best joke in the entire series (and features the only example of an actual hangover in the film I might add) comes after this film is basically over, is just bizarre to me and says a whole lot. Compare it to the opening scene, perhaps the only time you’ll find a man escaping a Bangkok prison immediately cutting to Zach Galifianakis driving with an unconvincing CGI giraffe literally in tow as ‘Mmm Bop’ underscores it. Ridiculous, yes. Funny? Not even close.

 

Galifianakis has always been one of the sorest of sore spots in these films for me and continues to be here. He is the creepiest, most off-putting person in movies today, and his character just doesn’t behave enough like a credible human being for me to find any of his behaviour remotely funny. Yes, this film does need to convince at least in its own reality, and Galifianakis’ Alan refuses to do so. Singing ‘Ave Maria’ at a funeral is apparently meant to be funny. It’s not. It’s just a random thing. Taking a selfie with the photo of his dad on his coffin? Really? No one could love this character, let alone put up with him for more than two hours of their precious time. He’s disgusting, weird, and unlikeable, and his so-called friends aren’t much better, sleazy Bradley Cooper especially. There is absolutely no reason why these guys can’t remove Galifianakis from their lives. Anyone else would.

 

Elsewhere, Melissa McCarthy is as unfunny as ever, Justin Bartha falls further down the credits than ever and gets left behind once again- is that meant to be a gag? Because it’s really not one. John Goodman is convincing and forceful as a drug kingpin- But why? Black Sabbath’s ‘N.I.B.’ is one helluva great song, but why is it used here? Because Ozzy took lots and lots of drugs? So?

 

No, this one’s just not for me, and even saying that I get the feeling that series fans will feel kinda ripped off by this one. I mean, there’s not even any Mike Tyson, and most of the regulars look incredibly disinterested in the whole thing. I largely disliked the first film, but at least I understood that someone out there might relate to its drink-and-debauchery plot, even if it didn’t resonate with me and my life personally. But this? I can’t even say the same for this one. Ken Jeong delivers the goods as best he can, but he can’t save this thing on his own. It’s really tedious stuff whenever he’s not around.

 

Rating: D

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Forty Guns


US marshal Barry Sullivan (and his brothers Gene Barry and Robert Dix) arrives in a western town pretty much run by matriarchal Barbara Stanwyck and her title band of ‘hired help’. The sheriff (Dean Jagger) is weak as piss and sweet on Stanwyck, so is of no help, whilst Stanwyck’s brother John Ericson is a mean young bastard who kills the myopic old marshal John Chisum (Hank Worden). Stanwyck uses her feminine charms to woo the law to her side of the fence, and seems to have a thing for Sullivan. Or maybe she just wants fifty-one guns, though Sullivan claims not to have shot anyone in years. But when Ericson shoots someone he shouldn’t have, Stanwyck finds herself in quite the pickle, and Sullivan might just have cause to slap on those irons after all.

 

Low-budget cult writer/director Samuel Fuller (“Underworld USA”, “Pickup on South Street”) doesn’t quite come up with the goods in this 1957 western that squanders a terrific showcase for Barbara Stanwyck by focusing too much on the lame Earp brothers surrogates. It’s obvious that Barry Sullivan, Gene Barry, and Robert Dix are all playing Earp brothers by other names (it’s even obvious from the setting, the way they dress, and the way they walk), and they are a pretty dull lot, Mr. Sullivan in particular is giant oak.

 

And that’s a shame because this B&W western looks terrific and stark, thanks to cinematographer  Joseph F. Biroc (“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, “Flight of the Phoenix”, “Emperor of the North Pole”), and Stanwyck gives the film her all. Not many women at the time could convince in tough western roles, but Stanwyck towers over everyone here, dominating her every scene, in a film that ultimately doesn’t want a woman dominating the film. And yet, if you look at the role she’s playing, it’s clearly a male one. She’s playing the tough old bastard with a wayward, evil son, only this time it’s a tough middle-aged mother, not the father. Stanwyck insisted on doing her own stunts, which knowing what Stanwyck was like, I absolutely believe. A true professional, and just a fantastic, somewhat underrated star (Often called the best actress to never win an Oscar. I think there’s some definite truth in that). Full credit to both Biroc and Stanwyck for the tornado/horse fall scene (which Stanwyck’s stunt woman refused to do!), it’s absolutely terrific and the highlight of the film.

 

The film also features fine work from Dean Jagger and especially a surprisingly mean John Ericson (who I just learned was a Playgirl centrefold in the mid-70s!), in the best performance I’ve seen him give. It was a bit of a surprise to see an excellent Jagger in a weak and corrupt lawman role (he’s even too weak to own his corruption), but Ericson gives a performance I honestly never expected he had in him. In a smaller turn, western veteran Hank Worden is an immediate worry as the myopic town marshal, who has the misfortune to run into mean bastard Ericson (The character is John Chisum, normally seen in Billy the Kid stories, but is a world away from the character John Wayne played in “Chisum” in terms of intestinal fortitude).

 

The music score by Harry Sukman (“Underworld USA”, “Welcome to Hard Times”) is also top-notch, though the singer character played by Jidge Carroll (who doesn’t seem to have many more credits to his name so far as I can tell) is regrettable. There’s no reason for this film to be part musical, and Carroll’s singing is insufferably corny. Go paint someone else’s wagon, Jidge. What a stupid, stupid name Jidge is. Sounds like an unseemly kind of stain, doesn’t it?

 

It also gives the film a jarring tone between western-musical (with touches of comedy or light-heartedness at least), and the more harsh goings on with Stanwyck and particularly Ericson. And those darker aspects are where the real interest lies. I also think the film is far too short to work out all of this plot, and all of these characters. Look at most of the other films about the Earps like the more recent “Tombstone” and “Wyatt Earp”. As is, it feels lumpy (and it’s a screenwriting flaw, not a directorial one), and there’s way too many men taking baths in this for my liking. I also found the ending to be incredibly sexist. After spending the whole film building up Stanwyck as a tough broad who can handle her own shit and handle unruly men, she becomes another needy woman chasing after a fella. Ugh.

 

This is a well-directed, well-shot, and well-edited film that unfortunately doesn’t have the screenplay to match, and puts too much emphasis on the weaker members of the cast. Stanwyck and Ericson bring their A-game, though. Worth it as a curio, but it could’ve been a whole lot more.

 

Rating: C+

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Pacific Rim


Travelling through wormholes from another universe, kaiju (monsters) have turned up from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and are causing havoc on Earth, circa 2020. To combat the beasts, giant robots (or Mecha, if you want to be a pedantic nerd about it) called Jaegers are built, and each robot is piloted by two humans through a neural link that allows them to get inside each other’s heads (Kinda like “Voltron” but with a singular robot and only two pilots). Our chief protagonists are a potentially risky match; a pilot named Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) returning after a stint moping over his brother’s death on active duty five years earlier, and young female pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), an enthusiastic but untested pilot with a personal grudge against kaiju from her childhood. Unfortunately, Jaegers are being phased out, but commanding officer Pentecost (Idris Elba) has gathered a small rogue group in Hong Kong with the remaining Jaegers available to give it one last go at kicking kaiju arse. Meanwhile, biologist Charlie Day goes to radical lengths to test his theory that there may be a way to read the kaiju’s thoughts, though his colleague Burn Gorman has serious doubts. Ron Perlman turns up as Hannibal Chau, an underworld figure in Hong Kong who specialises in selling Kaiju body parts. Clifton Collins Jr. has a small part as a comms guy for the base, whilst Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky play a couple of allegedly Australian father-son Jaeger pilots.

 

It’s hardly perfect, but I knew I was going to like this 2013 Guillermo Del Toro (“Cronos”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Hellboy”) film from the moment the word ‘kaiju’ was used about a minute into the film. As a fan of Toho’s “Godzilla” films, how could that not warm my heart? One of the monsters even reminded me of Ebirrah from “Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster”. This is big, dumb fun, and I enjoyed the hell out of it, I only wish I saw it sooner!

 

Del Toro and co-writer Travis Beacham (“Clash of the Titans” being his only other notable screenwriting credit) aren’t reinventing the wheel here or curing cancer. It’s humans piloting robots to take on monsters. No mess (well…), no fuss, just two hours’ worth of geeky fanboy fun and me likey a lot. Hell, I didn’t even mind that Yank actor Max Martini didn’t quite nail an Aussie accent (he gives it a damn good try), or that co-star Robert Kazinsky sounded every bit an Englishman (he even had a bulldog- what the hell?) rather than an Aussie. OK, so I minded it a bit (Kazinsky that is), and a little of Charlie Day’s Bobcat Goldthwait-voiced shouting went a helluva long way, though he is involved in an interesting subplot, I must say. And then Ron Perlman turns up to chew the scenery and wear the single most awesome pair of gold-capped shoes I’ve ever seen in my life. Seriously, I want a pair, like yesterday. His first appearance alone is hilarious, and his presence is invaluable in a film like this (Not to mention a handy tip-off to who directed the film). And did I mention the robots taking on monsters? ‘Coz there’s that, and it’s awesome. It reminded me of a superior version of “Godzilla: Final Wars”, actually (not to mention any Godzilla film featuring Mechagodzilla), and you can tell the filmmakers are fans of kaiju films, albeit not so much the 50s-70s period that I personally favour.

 

Although a bit dark at times, it’s wonderfully shot by cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (“Cronos”, “From Dusk Til Dawn”, “Breaking Dawn Pt. 1”), and the battles show what the “Transformers” films could and ought to have been. You can actually see what’s going on, for starters. Like “Sin City” and the sorely underrated “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, this looks like a graphic novel directly transplanted onto the silver screen (albeit not as much so as those two earlier films). The size and scope at work here are really well conveyed, these are some big arse monsters taking on some big arse robots. Excellent music score by Ramin Djawadi (“Game of Thrones”) too.

 

Charlie Hunnam isn’t the most interesting of lead protagonists, but Perlman helps pick up his slack alongside several others. Burn Gorman is jolly good, old-fashioned nerdy British scientist fun despite being paired with Day most of the time. Their scenes can get a little bit shrill, but that is mostly Day’s fault for overpitching it a tad. Clifton Collins Jr. is always solid (if not in the film quite enough), as is the charismatic Idris Elba, doing an Al Mathews ham sandwich special as the film’s paternal/authoritarian figure. Rinko Kikuchi, who despite not having the greatest grasp of English, plays a fascinating character and conveys her inner rage effectively. She’s certainly more interesting company than Hunnam, and you just had to have a Japanese character here.

 

This is clearly a fanboy film made by fanboys for fanboys, and to give it a wordy, in-depth critique is somewhat beside the point. It’s dumb monster fun for people who like dumb monster fun, and few others. If you don’t like Japanese monster movies, anime or manga, you likely won’t get into this. It’s your loss, though, I had an absolute, unashamed blast. Stunning to look at (one of the best-looking films of 2013 easily), and a much better film than I had anticipated. It’s certainly light years ahead of Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla” and Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films. This one gets it right, and although not a great film, it’s the kind of film that reminds me why I love watching movies. I love the “Citizen Kane”’s and “12 Angry Men” of the world, but sometimes you just want to see giant robots and giant lizards beat the fuck out of each other, OK?

 

Rating: B-

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: 2 Guns


Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg have just robbed a New Mexico bank, but are a little worried when the $3 million they were informed was in the vault, turns out to be a shitload more. Also, they are each unaware that the other one is a Federal agent of some sort, Wahlberg an NCIS man, Denzel is DEA. Apparently the idea was to use the robbery to nab Mexican drug lord Edward James Olmos, with each man assuming the other is a crook they could also bring to justice. Needless to say, when they find out who each other works for, they feel stupid. But it gets worse than that. The money actually belongs to corrupt CIA operative Bill Paxton, and when he finds out that someone has stolen his money, fingers are set to be broken. Paula Patton is Denzel’s DEA handler, whom he is sleeping with (lucky bastard!), and James Marsden is Wahlberg’s superior, whilst Fred Ward appears briefly as a Navy Admiral, to remind everyone that the veteran character actor isn’t dead. Robert John Burke appears early as Denzel’s boss.

 

Although I hate the title for more than one reason (It doesn’t fit the film, for instance), and although it’s never quite as substantial as you feel the cast warrants, this 2013 action/comedy from director Baltasar Kormakur (the previous “Contraband”, with Wahlberg) and writer Blake Masters (TV’s “Law & Order: Los Angeles”, and the critically acclaimed “Brotherhood”) is pretty easy action movie entertainment. I was surprised that TV writer Masters was credited as screenwriter here, you’d swear this classic action/buddy movie set-up was the handiwork of either Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”) or Steven E. de Souza (“Commando”, “Die Hard”, “48HRS”, “The Running Man”), perhaps something the late Tony Scott (the underrated “Enemy of the State”, Denzel’s “Unstoppable”) might’ve tackled, even, as director. The notion of two feds who don’t know the other one is a fed, is clever stuff and the film is pretty damn cynical in its depiction of intelligence agencies and the like.

 

The top-notch cast really does give this one a boost. We all know what Denzel is capable of, but Mark Wahlberg it has to be said, plays cocky but dumb really, really well. The banter between the two is really enjoyable and natural. Paula Patton, however, is just sensational. And naked. That second point is pretty important, believe me. Robin Thicke, you are so very well-named. What an idiot. Yes, that’s a bit of a personal attack, but c’mon, it really, really, really needs to be said.

 

Even the smaller roles provide fun here, though Fred Ward probably deserved another scene or two. Where the hell has he been these last ten years or so anyway? Edward James Olmos as essentially the film’s main villain, hasn’t had a better role than this in decades, perhaps cast somewhat against type (At least to someone who best recalls him from “Stand and Deliver” and “Blade Runner”). James Marsden proves the biggest surprise of all, never better than here playing Wahlberg’s arsehole boss. I’ve never thought much of him, but he’s terrific here. Also somewhat surprising is the one and only Bill Paxton. There’s some characteristic Paxton douchiness to his character, but Paxton plays things straighter and meaner than you might expect, and does rather well with it. I prefer the ‘Wild Bill’ Paxton of “Weird Science”, “Aliens”, “Near Dark”, and “True Lies”, personally, but he’s still good.

 

The only problem with the whole film is that it’s wildly and incredibly ricockulous when you think about it. I’d advise against much thought, though, and ultimately it’s not a major flaw. This may not reinvent the action movie wheel in the slightest, but with this collection of stars and a fun concept, it really doesn’t matter. It’s lots of fun, and sometimes fun is enough.

 

Rating: B-

Review: Sunshine Cleaning


30ish Amy Adams’ life is pretty much going nowhere. The single mum to young Jason Spevak gets by on a house cleaning gig and is boinking married cop Steve Zahn. She wants more money so that the somewhat troubled Spevak can go to a private school. It’s Zahn who suggests to her a better way of earning money, cleaning up crime scenes. So, enlisting the help of her aimless sister Emily Blunt, the duo begin their rather nasty business venture. Alan Arkin plays the sisters’ father, who has a history of ‘get rich never’ schemes. Clifton Collins Jr. turns up as a nice, one-armed cleaning supplies store owner and model plane enthusiast, whilst Mary Lynn Rajskub plays the daughter of a crime scene victim whom Blunt, in a moment of ill-advised good intentions (possibly born out of her and Adams losing their own mother to suicide a long time ago), seeks out.

 

Two of the best young (ish) actresses going around deserve better than this overly familiar 2009 film from director Christine Jeffs (“Sylvia”) and debutant writer Megan Holley. They’re terrific (I’m sort of in love with them, Emily Blunt especially), and there’s some interesting names and faces in the supporting cast, but overall this one’s just a little underdone for me, if centring around a cute premise. The character well-played by Alan Arkin is a regrettable one, because although Arkin is solid, the character and performance are virtually a repeat of his work in “Little Miss Sunshine”, minus the cocaine. It really brings the film down a bit, and I lay most of the blame at Holley’s feet, to be honest.

 

But none of the film’s subplots are very interesting nor handled well. In particular, Emily Blunt and Mary Lynn Rajskub have a ‘thing’ that sorta flops and dies, through no fault of either actress. It’s just not written convincingly, goes in the least interesting direction possible, and doesn’t have a remotely satisfying conclusion, leaving more questions than answers. That said, Clifton Collins Jr. gets to play a nice guy for the first time in ages, and does well with it. Much less enjoyable is the character of Adams’ unruly son, played by Jason Spevak. He’s an annoying little shit with no manners and no conception of privacy or personal property whatsoever. Remove him and Arkin, and the film is still flawed, but greatly improved.

 

The two leading ladies definitely deserve praise here. Emily Blunt has the least defined role of the two, but as the ‘wild child’ of the two, she’s charismatic and well-cast, bringing as much depth and shading to her part as she possibly can with what little she has been given. This is one helluva showcase for Adams, though, whatever the quality of the film itself. She is immediately perfect in this. I know she can do all kinds of different things, but no other actress epitomises the phrase ‘thoroughly winning’ better than Adams. She makes you immediately warm to her character, and the filmmakers owe her a debt of gratitude. She really sells the seriousness with which this character approaches this job, and the unfortunate circumstances that make such a job necessary in the first place.

 

The whole thing feels a bit light, slight, and disappointing, but the two lead actresses at least make a little more out of this than is on paper. Definitely one for Amy Adams fans (but isn’t everyone in love with her?), and not just because she spends a lot of the first half looking sexy as hell in her underwear. That helps, though. But as far as giving it a grade, I’m afraid I can’t quite commit to a good one here. There’s just too much wrong with the screenplay. A real shame.

 

Rating: C+

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Carnival of Souls


Formerly at Epinions.com, written in 2011 in a really, really bad mood, it seems. Or just telling it like it is?

 

Three girls’ reckless drag racing sees them and their car crash off a bridge. Candace Hilligoss, the only survivor of the accident leaves town to head for Utah (sounds vaguely like the beginning if “Psycho”, with a few changes here and there), where she becomes a church organist (like all good runaway drag racers, I guess). Moving into a boarding house she finds herself experiencing all manner of strange things; Ghostly apparitions (including one played by director Herk Harvey), times when it appears she is invisible to everyone around her, and a strange attraction to an abandoned carnival pavilion. Frances Feist is her landlady, and Sidney Berger is a strange boarder across the hall who has designs on the icy Hilligoss.

 

One of the last supposedly ‘great’ horror films I’d yet to track down, this low-budget (apparently less than $100,000) horror flick from Herk Harvey (apparently an industrial filmmaker by trade) gets universal praise. And usually I tend to agree with the praise of these supposedly ‘great’ horror films (Even “The Exorcist” earns my admiration, despite not being much fun to watch). Unfortunately, this one joins “I Walked With a Zombie” in the ‘I just don’t get it’ category.

 

Basically, the film’s a great big snore and I got very little at all out of it (Then again, neither did anyone involved. The film flopped and few if any involved had a film career beyond this one). This meagre-budgeted film is well-shot in B&W by Maurice Prather and has a great organ score by Gene Moore, but it’s as frightening as an episode of “Scooby-Doo” and dead-arse boring. It takes forever to go almost nowhere at all, and the acting style is typical of the acting one could find in many pre-“Night of the Living Dead” horror films, at least the low-budget ones without name stars. Frances Feist, as the landlady, in particular, is one of the worst actresses to have ever appeared in a horror film. Lead actress Hilligoss fares best, and even she’s a bit average. The worst thing about her is the inconsistency of her character. The girl we see at the beginning of the film drag racing, just doesn’t seem like the same girl we see in the rest of the film. It’s not just that she’s a church organist (and sadly she doesn’t play “Inna Gadda Da Vida”), her whole demeanour and personality just don’t fit with the character at the beginning. Also, as creepy as Sidney Berger is (and he sure is), Hilligoss’ lead character is quite unsympathetic, so it’s even harder to care.

 

One might argue that nothing really happens in a great horror film like “Repulsion” either, but that isn’t true, it’s just that a lot of it happened in the mind of one character. And that film was amazingly frightening, well-acted and enjoyable. Nothing happens in this film at all. It’s mostly just Hilligoss walking around and seeing things. That’s it. For about 80 minutes that seem twice as many. I mean, that’s not even a damn plot, is it? It’s a skeleton. The score, sound FX, and some of the overhead camera shots are bloody marvellous, as well as some creepy images, angles and shot compositions, but I was too bored to care, really. The people who praise this film must’ve watched it alone at midnight when they were half asleep and kept nodding off every now and then. It’s the only possible explanation, because sitting through the entire film without some kind of reprieve is pure torture. The ending (or non-ending) is not only entirely transparent, but it renders the entire film totally pointless. Absolutely without any point whatsoever. Some scenes have a horrifying nightmarish quality (such as the scene where Hilligoss appears to go unseen and unheard in a crowded department store- and it is batshit crazy and weird), but they are ruined by the rest of the film which is boring, uneventful, and tragically meandering. The screenplay is by John Clifford, and I use the term ‘screenplay’ loosely, as there’s barely anything going on here at all. If you like David Lynch’s experimental film “Eraserhead”, you might get something out of this, but I consider “Eraserhead” to be one of the worst films of all-time. This is better, but not by much.

 

God this was a waste of time! Of all the so-called ‘great’ horror films, this is the worst I’ve seen. It might’ve worked as a short film, though. I really am shocked that this one turned out so bad, given everyone else seems to think it’s one of the best horror films ever made (My favourites for the record are: “The Omen”, “Halloween”, “Child’s Play”, “Repulsion”, “The Haunting”, “Nosferatu”, and “Dawn of the Dead”, among others).

 

Rating: D