Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

REVIEW: The Dungeon Masters (2009 FilmBuff)

Nerds Rock!If you've seen TREKKIES, you've pretty much been introduced to this genre of documentary. DUNGEON MASTERS treks the same course -- traveling instead to a D&D convention, and then following three of the more interesting patrons.As many of the D&D aficionados who attend these conventions and gaming events, Elizabeth likes to dress the part. That being an evil dark elf. All donned in black with striking white hair and elfen ears, she sweeps through the place like an evil fairy goth princess, turning the heads of many a smitten geek. Her full makeup and wardrobe are not only apropos for the venue, but is a nice analogy for her personal life. She moves from job to job, boyfriend to boyfriend, trying to come to terms with a terrible past experience.
Then there's Richard, the middle-aged military guy, who runs a mean game of D&D. His games are controversial, as he'll tell you himself, because the player's characters all seem to just up and die all at once. It turns out that Richard is a major D&D drama queen, and when the game doesn't go the way he wants, or the players don't domonstrate proper respect for their Dungeon Master, he'll suddenly put all players in a predicament in which it is virtually impossible for anyone to survive. The result -- everyone dies, gets pissed, and Richard packs up all his game epuipment and heads home, never to see any of them again. Again, as with Elizabeth, this D&D life mirror Richard's real life. He not only looks for ways to avoid his chores (there's a scary and hilarious scene where he tries to trim the high hedges with a chainsaw), but tells of how he had his ex-wife drive him to the airport, where he boarded a plane, never to return to her and her son. Like his D&D games, he packs up and leaves. Never to return (he does, however attempt to regroup with his estranged son, and some gamers who swore him off after an infamous year-long game crashed and burned).Scott is the thoughtful, amusing artiste of the cast. He seems to have the most going for him, and turns out to be the lead nerd to root for. Not only is Scott an expert Dungeon Master, but a writer of fantasy who has earned interest from publishers. The ongoing plot is his dream of having his first novel on the bookshelves, and making a life for he and his family. Much of the humor of this doc comes with the segments featuring Scott. His stories of a nerdy childhood are often hilarious, and his struggles with his present nerdiness are insightful, as well as amusing -- not just to us, but to him. What's charming about Scott is that he can laugh at himself. Of course, he has struggles, too. He has cast himself as an outsider in life, and yearns to find a place where he is comfortable, and can be a good provider. His many years of creative writing seem to be his way out... or in, to the real world.

It would be easy to poke fun at people who dress in outrageous costumes and play games. But MASTERS Keven McAlester stays away from that. He presents this cast of characters as people with joys and sorrows and full lives, just like anyone else.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

REVIEW: Sorority Row (2009)

Frat Girls Go To Hell!!
Wow! What a stellar opening sequence! Big time one take shot that moves through a killer frat party. Hot!! Girls dancing with their bums hanging out. Sweet!! An impromptu dance number! Boing!! Half nekkid chicks getting their bellies painted. Why wasn't I ever in a frat? Wait... what's that you say? This isn't a frat party? It's a sorority party? What! But all the frat sisters are talking smut and slamming shots and funneling beers and showing each other their puppies. You sure this ain't a frat party? What's that you say? Oh yeah, you're right... It's a frat boys wet dream.
What a ridiculously moronic movie this was. Yeah sure, hot girls trotting around in drool inducing wardrobes -- I get it! I like it!! I'm not a dick. But please, if there is ever a court trial that will forever outlaw horror remakes, I'm gonna put on my tightest, shortest Ally McBeal courtroom dandy outfit and enter Sorority Row as Exhibit A B C D E F and G. What a load of wasted DNA.
As the wild party drills on, the top dog Sisters gather to toast their graduating and moving out into the real world to be possible future Real Housewives cast members. To top off their night they prank one of the Sister's beaus. He's been a naughty bird, pecking around another girls seedlings, and so, as the Sisters say, you don't mess with a Beta Phi -- or whatever the eff frat they belong to. Anyway, they pretend that he's OD'd his girlfriend with roofies, and convince him that they need to bury her body to avoid ruining their lives. Nice prank, eh! Only the doofus wants to make sure the girl is totally dead by driving a tire iron into her breastbone. Dun dun dah!! What follows is the worst bit of screenwriting ever imagined. Instead of being just scared, stupid, vapid girls trying not to shit their spankies, the writers (I won't embarrass them by revealing names) trot out the most ridiculous speech about damaged images and ruined careers and scarlet letters. But wait -- they didn't murder the girl. The stupid tweaked out boy did. They're scott-free, if they just had any sense. But the more they discuss the situation, the more convoluted it gets. So, long and short -- the Sisters start getting texts (how absolutely trendy) from the dead girl.Oh snap! Who's sending them? Is it the hot little sister of the dead Sister? Is it the disgusting, smelly janitor who peeks in the windows at their pillow fights (never happened) or is it the boyfriend of the heroine, who is so obviously the killer, because he is so obviously the least likely to be the killer -- oops! I mean spoiler alert.
Sorry, didn't mean to ruin the, um... surprise ending. Oh hell -- I totally meant it. Seriously, I would say don't bother with this flick... except for all the girls. There is some good acting here -- especially Leah Pipes as the head bitch Jessica. She gives a performance that was a throwback to the nasty bitch girls of the 70s and 80s slashers, even though the writers crafted her as yet another Mean Girlesque knock-off.
The direction and writing was def Zeta grade. You can just imagine the writers high-5ing and bumping tummies as they write the words midriff and breasts, and dream up tired, played out kill sequences. I actually have no idea why this even shares the name Sorority Row. It bears no resemblance to the classic original -- aside from the obvious. Is the title suppose to draw the over 40 crowd who would likely have seen the original? Were 20somethings just chomping at the bit, screaming about wanting another remake of a horror flick that they have no prior knowledge of? Honestly, I think they have an octopus on staff, who presses IMDb buttons to select the next candidate for a worthless remake.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

REVIEW: Speak (2004)

I wanted to see this flick when it was originally aired years ago, but never had the chance. I’d read about it and it sounded interesting. Plus Kristen Stewart, then quite the up-n-comer, was impressive for a youngster in the other films I’d seen her in. So, now with the Twilight craze in full tilt, with the latest movie in the theaters, Lifetime Movie Channel leaped on the bandwagon to show this Stewart starring vehicle about a young girl who has trouble speaking up for herself.

What could’ve been easily an After School Special knock-off or an HBO Families In Crisis scare tome… or a standard Lifetime moral play, SPEAK turned out to quite moving. Stewart plays Melinda, a young girl alone. Once she had wonderful friendships, but (as we learn in flashbacks) she had a falling out after calling 911 to break up a summer time party – a party where, it’s revealed later, something so traumatic has happened that Melinda locks it deep inside her. Now she walks hurriedly through the halls, hollow eyed, holding her books tight to her chest to keep the taunting kids from knocking them away. Her parents are too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice their daughter is depressed, her teachers think she’s trouble, and a new friend (the new girl in school, who isn’t aware of Melinda’s troubles) who cares more about expanding her pool of friends than actually bonding. The only one around who shows any interest in her is the rebellious Art teacher, who notices not only her budding talent, but the troubled soul that needs to be released through expression.

Stewart delivers an impressive performance, one that eclipses (hehe, I’m so clever) her now moppy turns as the popular but limiting Bella Swan of the Twilight series. Watching Stewart move through this world of pain and secrets, she makes you want to reach out and take her hand, to sit her down and let her pour out her feelings, so she can once again smile. And what a moment it is when that happens at the end of the movie, when she finally reveals her inner self through her art. Steve Zahn, as well, gives a top performance as the Art teacher who helps Melinda free her “voice.”

For a Lifetime movie, SPEAK lead the trend away from the literal woman-in-peril tomes that became iconic for the cable channel, moving the network towards more meaningful, less heavy handed projects [The film was picked up from the festival circuit by both Lifetime and Showtime to be premiered simultaneously]. The direction by Jessica Sharzer, and screenplay, co-written with Annie Young Frisbie, is subtle but hard, and never retreats to a safer route. They don’t go for weeps or shocks, or hit on the trendy high school clich├ęs. The characters aren’t stereotypes or caricatures, but fully realized people whom we could all relate to, in one way or another. The nasty girls aren’t just Mean Girls whose bitchiness comes off as so-cool-you-wanna-be-her, but rather reflects an honest, fully developed character who has her own real worries.

Sharzer is ther kind of director Stewart needs to work with more often. Stewart does a great job as the inward tortured soul, so great that she is asked to do that very role in just about every movie she’s in now. She’s a fine actor, with obvious talent and charisma. She just needs directors with more ambition and talent, themselves, who draw out better performances, like this one in SPEAK.

SPEAK is the kind of movie that I will let my two girls watch when they get a little older. Forget Kristen Stewart’s tortured Bella Swan of the TWILIGHT SAGA. Her portrayal as the individual, but troubled Melinda Sordino is the kind of character teen girls should really take to for inspiration.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Out of a whopping handful of participants, a random name has been pulled from a hat. The winner of a brand spanking new DVD of The Crazies, and a cool Crazies waterbottle is...

Erich Kuersten!!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

REVIEW: Salvage (2009)

SALVAGE (2009 Revolver)

In this pop culture landscape, the panic that once swept over us post 9/11 has all been eased by an inexhaustible wealth of diversion. Why worry about the tensions in the Middle East when you can watch The Daily Show in the palm of your hand? Why worry about diminished security all around us when you can “Like” a FB page snickering at shots of boobs and willies taken with the new high tech airport X-ray. Yeah, we all have it pretty good, as long as someone else is taking care of them nasty terrorists “over there.”

But, what if something happens right here… in your neighborhood? That’s the white-knuckle predicament posed in the Brit horror/thriller Salvage. On the morning of Christmas Eve, a suburban Liverpool neighborhood is thrown into turmoil when an unidentified storage container washes up on the shoreline nearby.

But, before all the panic sets in, Beth (Neve McIntosh) is having her own major crisis in her own home – her teen daughter Jodie (Linzey Cocker), who was expected for a visit, has just walked in on her and a strange man having sex. It’s more than an awkward moment, since mum was expecting her daughter’s arrival. She just figured she’d extend her one-night-stand with a morning quickie before she had to fulfill her mommy duties. The ensuing argument spills out onto the block when Jodie storms off to a friend’s house, and mum goes banging on the door, demanding her daughter to come home. And then, suddenly, the skies overhead are roaring with the noises of military ‘copters. The streets are filled with soldiers, slamming by her, barking orders, swarming everywhere. Within seconds a neighbor, a Middle Eastern man, emerges from his home, covered in blood and holding a kitchen knife, muttering something. He’s gunned down, in full view of the people of the neighborhood. The guns then are turned on the neighbors, and commands are shouted for everyone to get inside and stay inside, under threat of death. Merry Christmas!

The fears and paranoia of a post 9/11 world come crashing down on the people of the tiny cul-de-sac, as they try to figure out just what is going on. Beth’s lover, Kiernan (Shaun Dooly) is convinced the Middle Eastern man down the street is a Muslim terrorist after news breaks of the washed up shipping crate. Regardless of any of this, Beth has only one focus – to get to her daughter.

There’s a wicked twist involving the shipping crate that is revealed in the final act, which catapults Beth’s mission into one of maddening life and death.

Salvage has a lot of good things going for it, one of which is a great script by Colin O’Donnell (the story was created by O’Donnell, along with Director Lawrence Gough, and Alan Pattison) that creates chaos with an ever evolving action, moving from domestic drama to a paranoid thriller and finally exploding into bloody horror. But most interesting is the characters of Beth and Kieran, both introduced in full Monty, stripped naked to the world. Exposed. But neither is what one would expect, by outward appearances. Kieran seems the usual barfly sex nut when, after Beth has her row with her daughter, he brilliantly asks “Can you finish me off now?” Little did she know, or cared to ask, that Kieran is a “happily married” man, with young children who adore their pop. It’s not a shock that he doesn’t want to have his tryst known to them, but it’s his willingness to put Beth and her daughter in jeopardy to keep his secret. His actions at the climax, as well, when everything lays upon his shoulders, is the emotional moment of the story.

And then there’s Beth, a woman who is introduced as something of an anti-hero. At the outset, Beth is just the mom of a disgruntled teen, who is so self involved that she brings home strange bedfellows instead of preparing for her daughter’s arrival, and then battles with her neighbors for bragging rights for her. She’s clearly not a well respected woman by her peers, and whose neighbors have no qualms about telling her to sod off. But now, suddenly, when it’s seemingly the end of the world, she will risk her own skin to save her daughter.

Salvage is one of those flicks that seems to annoy some horror fans (check out some of the blogs to hear the whining), because it has the unmitigated gall to develop characters and story before hitting the horror notes. I mean really… The nerve! So, for those who like to get drawn into a story and enjoy some great bloody mayhem, Salvage is a wicked ride, filled with twists and shocks. For those who just want eye popping bloody fun – well, this is a flick for you, too. So, stop whining and enjoy.

Check out Revolver to order.