Posts Tagged ‘Monsters’

MOVIE: Grabbers (2012)

April 10, 2015

grabbersThis is the time of year when I’m typically at my most busy, aided this year by the fact I’m about to start pretty intensive training for a new volunteer gig on top of everything else, so please excuse the recent lack of posting. However, I just spent a week at my mom’s prepping for this spring chaos, which also means I have a whole lotta movies to tell you guys about.

Of the batch we watched on my week off, this was easily my favorite. It’s not just funny and clever, it also has a great big disgusting alien monster in it — whee! Recipe for joy in the Wood family! Plus, the solution to staying alive in this crazy yarn ended up being “get real drunk,” and who among us hasn’t wished, at least once, that that would actually help with anything whatsoever? I certainly have. I am, in fact, having a gigantic glass of wine right now, on the off-chance.

As the story opens, Irish cop Ciarán O’Shea, an alcoholic whose knowledge of booze is about to come in handy f’realz, has woken up, hungover, to find himself temporarily partnered with a young, ambitious female officer, Garda Lisa Nolan, there to serve as his temporary boss (to make matters worse) while his real boss is out of town. She’s straight-laced and judgmental — oh, joy — and he’s about to have one heckova day.

Their first case together is the strange beaching of a bunch of sea life. Something has killed a ton of seals really fast, which can’t be good.  Meanwhile, a local (likewise alcoholic) fisherman has some kind of new species stored in his bathtub — coincidence? I think not. (Let’s pretend not to notice that a species that thrives in an ocean of saltwater would not likely also thrive in a bathtub of potable. Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.) As the day progresses, the Garda come to discover that that something is, for lack of a better term, “a big huge grody alien octopus thingy.”  It lays many eggs, which hatch into many nasty little creatures, which in turn lead later to a scene in a bar nicely reminiscent of the 80s movie Gremlins, something that never fails to bring me great pleasure.

It doesn’t take long for our intrepid heroes to discover that the big huge alien octopus thingies do not like to eat people who have extremely high levels of alcohol in their systems (aforementioned fishermen is tasted and spat out).  Luckily, they also appear to be readily killed by firepower. The problem is, this little island Irish town doesn’t have much in the way of said firepower (at one point, they attempt to make a flame-thrower out of a Super Soaker water gun filled with gasoline — this goes about as well as expected).  They’ve got a call into the mainland for help, but, of course, a vicious storm is on its way, and the Big Guns won’t arrive until the morrow.

The solution? Get the townsfolk into the bar, and load ’em up.  The twist?  Alcoholic cop O’Shea stays sober to lead the team, whilst teetotaler Nolan gets rip-roarin’ ripped. Cue fireworks! And plenty of good old fashioned alien splatter for the kids in the audience!

It sounds ridiculous, I know, and, generally speaking, as a substance abuse research librarian, I’m not typically a huge fan of movies that make extreme binge drinking look like a good idea. Yet somehow, this movie just works and works and works. The chemistry between O’Shea and Nolan is sparkling, and the writing is sharp, witty, and polished. The monsters look extraordinarily silly, and we loved them all the more for it.

Overall, this is a pretty great installment in the B-movie monster genre, and if you’re looking for an entertaining way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you have a large bottle of booze nearby, you need look no further.

Highly, highly recommended!

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre: Monsters, Comedy
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse

MOVIE: Godzilla (2014)

June 14, 2014

godzillaI saw this movie a few weeks ago. It . . . um . . .  let’s see.  What is there to say about it?  Well, okay, it had Ken Watanabe in it, which was nice because I’d just seen him the day before in another movie (review coming soon).  And it was about . . . um. . . a big dinosaur thing that came out of the ocean apparently to have a big fight with a giant bat thing. Or something? Because it likes humanity? Or it doesn’t care about humanity, it just doesn’t like the bat thing, or . . . I don’t know. Something. Oh my god, this movie was boring.

When I walked out of the theater with my two bad-movie-watching buddies, I exclaimed, “How do you make a creature feature THAT BORING?”  A silly question, of course, because this movie answers the very question it generates.  For example, one of the ways you can make a creature feature THAT BORING is to include at least 45 minutes of soldiers shooting at the creature with bullets from guns, without a single one of them thinking to themselves, “Hey, these bullets from these guns don’t appear to be doing anything — perhaps we ought to try something bigger?”

“Crap” consensus shared by both the ladies I saw this with, one of whom was a childhood fan of the original.    So there.

SAVE YOURSELVES! FROM GODZILLA! BY NOT SEEING THIS!

RAWR! The end.

[Prequeue it at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Monsters, Horror, Crap
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn

MOVIES: Black Water (2007) and The Reef (2010)

August 8, 2013

blackwaterFor some reason, last weekend I was really in the mood to watch movies about people being eaten by regular ol’ earth creatures (as opposed to, say, “mansquitoes”) with big teeth and serious grudges against mankind.

Both these two “people-eaters,” as I call this genre, were made by the same Australian director, Andrew Traucki, and are, apparently, the first two movies in a planned “trilogy of terror,” so it seemed logical to watch them back-to-back as a double-feature.  I’d actually seen Black Water before, but not for many years, and I didn’t remember much about it, aside from the fact it was about a bunch of people stranded in a swamp and stalked by a really big, mean crocodile.  Which: sweet.

Of these two movies, Black Water is definitely the better one.  The Reef is about a group of people who are out sailing in the middle of nowhere in the ocean (one of my least-favorite places) when the hull of their vessel suddenly gets ripped open (I guess by the shark? That didn’t make a lot of sense) and flips over.  They have to decide: stay on the boat and hope it doesn’t sink before someone finds them, or jump into the water and try to swim for shore?  One of the guys is an experienced local diver and seems to know which direction to swim in, so all but one of the gang decide to make a break for it.  Remaining behind?  The local fisherman guy, who is all, “Dudes, I fish these waters. I know what’s down there.  Best of luck to you.  Write if you find work.”

HOLY OMINOUS FORESHADOWING, BATMAN!

thereefThe movie ends up being a fairly standard man-eating shark flick, with, you know, lots of people getting eaten by a shark that won’t stop stalking them all the way to shore.  Is that really how sharks act?  I don’t know.  Probably not, since in the real world, they don’t seem to like the taste of human flesh much (lots of single chomps on surfers, very few going back for seconds).  But this is just how shark movies work, I suppose — it’d be hard, in fact, to be a shark movie without this.  In any case, at least it wasn’t Jaws: The Revenge, in which the shark stalks the Brody family from New England to the Bahamas, even though they fly there on an airplane (?), and then later in the movie, Michael Caine falls off a boat and gets back on dry (??).  See?  Things could be worse.

Anyway, aside from the fact The Reef fills the bill of “movies about people being eaten,” the characters weren’t interesting enough to make it stand out amongst all the other movies just like it.

Black Water, on the other hand, is a truly terrifying movie.  It claims to be based on a true story, and I believe it, even if it’s not true at all — that’s how believable it is.  It’s about a group of tourists — two sisters and one of the sister’s husbands — who decide to hire some guy named Jim to take them out into the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia to fish.  They’re in a dinky little metal boat, which ends up being no match for the utterly GINORMOUS crocodile that flips them over in the middle of nowhere in the swamp (and here’s where I pulled out my list of “Places Never to Go” and added “Middle of nowhere in the Mangrove swamps of Northern Australia,” by the way.)

Jim gets eaten right away, poor guy (SPOILER ALERT!), while the other three manage to get into the trees, high enough the croc can’t reach them.  For the moment, they are safe.  But they can’t hang out in the trees indefinitely, talking about life and hoping to get rescued (well, they could, but then this would be a mumblecore movie instead of a people-eater).

The husband decides their best move is to try to get to the boat, so, either bravely or foolishly (both), he declares he’s going to try to slink smoothly into the water, quiet as a mouse, and swim slowly over to the boat to flip it over.  The working theory is that as long as the crocodile doesn’t hear him splashing around, he should be totally safe.  Ladies, keep an eye out, he’s goin’ in.

As it turns out, to no one’s great surprise, crocodiles can totally tell when bravely foolish husbands have suddenly made themselves available for lunch, and things kind of go downhill from there.

What I liked about Black Water was the setting, which is suitably disconcerting, and the fact it was a crocodile — a fairly normal one, I’d imagine — that was out to get them.  I haven’t seen nearly as many killer-croc movies as I have killer-shark movies, and the change of predator was kind of refreshing.  Er, so to speak.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I actually cared about the two sisters — they had a very authentic “sisterly” relationship I could relate to, and they were real nice ladies, you know?  I didn’t want to see them get eaten by a crocodile.  I wanted them to make it out alive.

Whether they do or not, you will have to find out on your own, and I highly recommend you do!  You can pass on The Reef, but if you’re a fan of people-eaters,  Black Water is definitely worth checking out.

Incidentally, the final movie in Traucki’s terror trilogy is called The Jungle, and it was crowdfunded on Indiegogo last year and is in production now, apparently.  It’s about a killer leopard!  SIGN ME RIGHT UP!

[Netflix Black Water (DVD only) | Netflix The Reef (streaming) | Stream Black Water or The Reef on Amazon (free for Prime)]

Genre:  Shark, Croc, Creature, Horror
Cast:  Black Water: Maeve Dermody, Diana Glenn, Ben Oxenbould, Fiona Press, Andy Rodoreda
The Reef: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering, Zoe Naylor, Mark Simpson, Kieran Darcy-Smith

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid – Coming Soon to SyFy

June 28, 2010

I don’t know about you guys, but I am IN.  Even though I found Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus totally lame (not even good-bad, just plain-ol-boring-bad), I am hopeful the filmmakers and SyFy network execs read my review and learned a little something from it.  Like, for example, to make sure to save a little something in the budget for the final duke-out scene.  So you don’t have to stage it using bath toys.

Also: Debbie Gibson AND Tiffany!  In the same film!  CAT FIGHT!

I’ll let you know when I hear anything about a release date.  Party at my house!  (And p.s., I have no idea what a Gatoroid is either, but I’m hoping it’s part gator, part robot.  Because that would be awesome, in the purest sense of the term.)

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1642261/20100624/gibson_debbie.jhtml?xrs=share_fb

MOVIE: Silent Venom (2008)

July 17, 2009

I have a thing for submarine movies.  I’ve loved them ever since the first time I saw Das Boot, which was about fifteen years ago.   It was the director’s cut, so it was, of course, about 87,000 hours long (give or take, though not by much), and it was playing in Seattle at a local theater with surround sound.  I don’t remember anything about the time of year, the time of day, or even who I went with, but I do remember that seeing that movie in a small, dark theater with surround-sound-generated drips and pings coming from all sides made for one of the most thoroughly claustrophobic experiences of my life.  And also, hands-down, one of the most utterly exhilarating ones too.

I would not go so far as to say that the 86 minutes spent watching Silent Venom were anywhere near as insanely great.  HOWEVER, despite the fact I can’t stop calling this movie Snakes on a Sub and then yelling out things like, “I’m tired of these mother-f*cking snakes on this mother-f*cking sub!” to my own inane amusement, this movie wasn’t half bad.

(Well, wait.  Now that I think about it, maybe it was, in fact, exactly half bad, as that would sort of suggest it was also kind of half good.   That sounds about right, as long as your standards for “half good” aren’t very high.)

The story opens with Dr. Andrea Swanson (Krista Allen) and her assistant Jake Golden (Louis Mandylor, who looks like a poor man’s version of his brother Costas but is actually the better actor, if you ask me) hanging out on an island in the Far East doing scientific experiments on the local region’s deadly vipers.

When a couple of the killer snakes get loose and take out some of the locals, the two are ordered to pack up their stuff and wait by the beach for rescue.  Dr. Swanson tells Jake to kill all the snakes except for the two that have been genetically altered, but, smelling money to be made from snake-o-philes, Jake instead packs all the vipers up and smuggles them down to the beach with the rest of their stuff.

Sent to pick them up is a military sub, captained by Lt. Comdr. James O’Neill (Luke Perry!), who is on one last mission before he retires to go spend more time with his family.  Dr. Swanson and Jake load all their equipment — and the badly-secured containers of smuggled snakes — on board the vessel, and away they go.

As he organizes their equipment in the cargo bay, Jake becomes more and more concerned that his secret might get found out.  So, he makes the brilliant decision to pull aside two young sailors and say pointedly and with much stern seriousness, “Whatever you do, DON’T OPEN THESE CASES BECAUSE THEY ARE CLASSIFIED.”   Might as well put a big red button on the wall and label it, “DO NOT PRESS THIS BUTTON OR ELSE!  NO SERIOUSLY, DON’T!”  Because, of course, the minute Jake is out of the room, those dumb kids hit that metaphoric red button with everything they’ve got.  They uncover the first crate they can get their hands on, bust open the lock, and with hisses, growls (yep, the snakes in this movie growl!), and slithers, out come a whooooole lotta cranky reptiles.

From there, the movie moves forward in a fairly predictable manner.  The crew can’t call for help or race to the nearest shore because they’re also being stalked by a Chinese sub and are on silent running (no engines, in other words).  But meanwhile, lots of poor souls on board are being nom-nom-nom’d by deadly vipers.  The Lt. Comdr. and the Dr. team up to try to brainstorm some ways to corral the snakes (and even have a brilliant idea at one point regarding the strategic use of the ship’s heating system — an idea they promptly blow, of course, because they can’t exactly be catching all the snakes 20 minutes into their 86 minute movie).  But the battle gets a little more complicated when the two genetically altered snakes, which have been doubling in size at random intervals and are now INSANELY ENORMOUS, also bust out of their boxes and begin devouring ensigns left and right.  And whole.

If this is a movie that sounds like fun to you, you’re probably going to like it.  The acting is not terrible (except for Tom Berenger, who can’t help it), the story is often hilariously ridiculous (I loved how many scenes in this movie involved someone standing/sitting somewhere completely unaware of the fact a dozen snakes were slithering on and around their feet — apparently, people on submarines never look down), and I’ll be damned if Luke Perry doesn’t look darned good in a Navy uniform.

As far as submarine movies go, you could do a lot better.   But as far as good-bad snakes movies go, you could certainly do much worse (Python 2, anyone?).   Recommended to all fans of the snakes-on-a-vehicle genre.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Horror, Monsters
Cast:  Luke Perry, Krista Allen, Tom Berenger

MOVIE: Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

July 13, 2009

It’s rare that really, really bad monster movies make their way into the mainstream press, so when I started to see stuff about this flick in the newspaper and on some notable entertainment blogs here and there, I got kind of excited about it.  Heck, it even showed up as the topic of a Sally Forth comic strip a couple of weeks ago (see graphic, stage left!).  Reviewers seemed amused and entertained, which is great, but it was enough for me that they were even TALKING about it.  I mean, nobody “real” ever said word-one about Shark Attack 3: The Megalodon, after all, and we all know how BRILLIANT that one ended up being.  If the mainstream media is all abuzz about this one, surely it’s going to be even better?

Do I never learn, or what?  Mainstream media:  you’re fired.

This movie should’ve been a total blast to watch.  After all, it has everything a fan of good-bad movies could ever ask for:  a washed-up 80’s pop singer as the star (Debbie Gibson!), a recognizable bad-movie actor as the co-star (Lorenzo Lamas!), an utterly ridiculous storyline, and a final duke-out between two insanely enormous sea creatures, one of which is a SHARK.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the filmmakers spent so much money casting their two “famous actors” (ha ha!), they apparently had no budget leftover for the sea creatures.  And since this movie was NOT titled, 80’s Pop Star vs. Mr. Hair, I, for one, think their budgetary priorities were a bit out of order.

The plot (ha ha, again!) unfolds thusly:  Gibson plays Dr. Emma MacNeil, a scientist who is studying the effects of Mozart on whale pods (first sign we might be in trouble:  I’m pretty sure her “Mozart” was actually Bach).  Anyway, she’s up in the Arctic jamming on her classical tunes when she suddenly sees something strange in the water ahead.  Unfortunately, before she has a chance to take a closer look, stuff starts exploding and a helicopter crashes for some reason and no, I have no idea why or what was happening during this scene, but the gist of it was she had to skedaddle, and how.

After she gets back to dry land, strange events begin to surface in the news.  First, reports that a giant shark leapt into the sky and ate an airplane (!!).  Then reports that some kind of enormous sea creature with eight legs chomped its way through an oil rig.  Where normal people might arch an eyebrow and wonder who’s been handing out the hallucinogens at the New York Times, Dr. Debbie immediately thinks, “MEGA SHARK AND GIANT OCTOPUS!!”  Because she is very, very smart, you see.

Where the story goes from there, I confess I can’t really say for sure — it didn’t make a whole lot of sense, I’m afraid.  Dr. Debbie teams up with a few other scientists and does  some complicated science stuff that appeared primarily to involve pouring one Erlenmeyer flask filled with water and food coloring into other another Erlenmeyer flask filled with water and food coloring, while wearing lab goggles and looking ponderous.  It was eventually determined that the mega shark and giant octopus A) had been frozen in the Arctic ice mid-battle and were released, still peeved!, when global warming caused the ice to melt; and B) were on their way to wiping out the planet.

No, don’t ask.  I have no answers for you.  Nor can I tell you why on earth (or anywhere else, for that matter) any sea creature would want to eat an airplane when it would be so much easier just to eat, like, whales and stuff.  No metal exoskeletons, which I can only assume are kind of a beeyotch to digest, mega-intestinal-tract or no.

Anyway, long, long, WAY-too-long story short, the crack team of scientists decide the only way to take out the murderous defrosted beasts is to lure them to the same body of water, where they’ll then take one look at each other and promptly resume their battle to the death (or at least TO THE PAIN — hi, fellow Princess Bride fans!).

As we all know, sharks and octopi hold grudges — man, do they ever! — so, clearly, the plan seems foolproof.  Which, of course, it is not.  However, eventually, everything comes together and the shark and octopus swim, swim, swim their way into the same region of the sea as we all scoot down to the edges of our seats eagerly awaiting what is sure to be the scene that finally makes the rest of this wretched debacle worth talking about.  The camera pans over to the shark.  Then it pans over to the octopus.  Their eyes meet.  Their teeth bare.  Their tentacles push up their sleeves and wind up for a brawl.  The fight at long last begins!  And it is. . .

TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY LAME!

You know why?  Because after spending all their money on actors (and food coloring), there apparently wasn’t enough dough left in the pot for CGI effects or any other super-cool monstery magic.   So, what we end up with is not  monstrous-looking monsters, so much as, like. . . bath toy-looking monsters.  Seriously.  I’ve seen more exciting duels between rubber duckies, and these two yahoos didn’t even look like they’d squeak when you squeezed them.

Crikey, we watched this thing all the way to the end?  I’m speechless.  And while I’m at it, Sally Forth, THANKS FOR NOTHING.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Monsters, Crap
Cast:  Deborah “Don’t Call Me ‘Debbie’ Cuz I’s All Growed Up Now” Gibson, Lorenzo Lamas

MOVIE: Cloverfield (2007)

May 29, 2008

For some bizarre reason I can’t understand AT ALL now that I’ve actually seen it, I had this movie out from Netflix for a record FIVE WEEKS before I finally sat down to watch it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a disk longer than five DAYS before, to be honest, but even though I suspected this movie might be a lot of fun, for some hindsightedly-ridiculous reason, I had trouble getting myself to sit down and watch it.

In retrospect, I can now announce the following:  I am an idiot.  Because I LOVED THIS CRAZY MOVIE!  Oh my god!! I loved it sooooo much! I totally want to marry it! I want to have its little Godzilla-Meets-Jurassic-Park-Meets-Blair-Witch-Project babies!  When the end credits rolled, and the first thing those credits stated was, “Directed by Matt Reeves,” the first thing *I* stated was, “MATT REEVES RULZ!!”

And I meant it too.

4-EVA.

Why I’m suddenly talking like I’m 13 years old, I have no idea.  Except that yes, yes I do know. It’s because I’m giddy with the joy that comes from watching a really entertaining and effective scary movie, and giddiness always makes me feel young.  Which is not to say I found this movie SCARY, mind you, because I absolutely did not.  In order to scare me for real, you have to show me something I believe might actually happen (movies about dangerously inept government officials usually do the trick, for example) — but giant, building-stomping critters in New York City honestly do not worry me all that much.  For reasons I hope are obvious.

That said, what was effective for me (and I realize not all critics felt this way, but those critics are jaded and lame — you know, in my humble opinion) was the characters themselves.  I found myself sinking into this film and truly caring about the characters involved and what was happening to them.  They seemed authentic to me and I wanted to know how things were going to turn out for them.  For once, I found myself actually rooting for the humans instead of the monster — dudes, you have no idea how rare that is for me!

The movie opens with some home-movie footage of two characters — Rob and Beth — happily post-coital and making plans for a fantastic day spent together at Coney Island.  Suddenly, that footage is interrupted by a new recording: a going-away party for Rob hosted by a bunch of his friends.  Turns out Rob is heading to Japan soon for a new job and Beth?  Well, Beth wasn’t actually his girlfriend, as in love as they may have seemed in that opening shot.  She was just his BEST friend, and a month ago they slept together and things got awkward fast.  Now they aren’t speaking to each other, she’s brought some other guy to the party, and Rob’s brother has just started filming this going-away party footage right over the tape of that glorious day at Coney Island. 

Lordy.

The camera gets passed to a guy named Hud, who turns out to be this movie’s comic relief, god bless ‘im.  Hud begins to film everybody’s comments and well-wishes for Rob but quickly gets bored and decides to try to capture Rob and Beth fighting in the hallway instead.   Juicy!  Just as he’s being shooed away, though, the entire party is disrupted by a loud WHOMP and the shaking of the entire building.

And we’re off! 

To tell you anything more about what happens in this movie would be to ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself, so I won’t say much more about the plot.  But one of the things I loved about this film immediately was the fact J. J. Abrams (a genius!) clearly knows and respects Meg’s First Rule of Effective Monster Movie Making.  And that rule is: DO NOT SHOW ME THE MONSTER* (*unless the monster is really, really cool, which it probably isn’t, so err on the side of caution, wouldja?). 

Would that more monster movie makers knew this rule, because nothing ruins a scary movie mood faster than the early showing of a truly lame monster, and 99% of movie monsters are, in fact, TRULY LAME.

In this one, though, when we can see anything of the creature, it’s usually only a fast-moving blur in the background, or a strange-looking and enormous leg plonking down off to the side.  We finally do get a close-up shot of the monster’s head at the end of the film — which was unfortunate because “truly lame” turned out to be fairly accurate (I subtract 50 points from any movie in which the monster is not from the surface of the planet Earth and yet is a biped with four limbs and a small head, by the way).  But it takes nearly the ENTIRE MOVIE for us to even begin to have a clue of what humankind is up against.  And that, in my opinion, is TRULY COOL.

I also confess I was initially a bit worried I’d find the hand-held video camera stuff too hokey.  It’s been done to death since Blair Witch Project(another fantastic movie that really, REALLY got behind Meg’s First Rule of Effective Monster Movie Making, by the way), and it’s done badly most of the time, in my experience.  But this movie just really did it RIGHT.  It was exactly the kind of footage I’d expect to see from an inexperienced dude named Hud with a video camera, flailing around in a bit of a fluctuating state of shock. 

I can’t help but keep coming back to the word “authentic” every time I think about this movie, actually, and that’s in no small part thanks to a series of little moments here and there that were simply spot-on.  One came early on in the film, after the initial whomping drove everybody out into the street.  Nobody has any idea what’s going on when suddenly the head of the Statue of Liberty comes flying through the air and lands with a thud right in front of them.  But instead of fleeing in terror, half the people on the street immediately pull out their cell phones and start snapping photos.  I loved that!  So true! 

And in terms of the camerawork, there were a lot of great little touches there that anybody who has ever used a hand-held video camera has experienced for themselves — like the auto-focus struggling to find something to focus ON, or issues with lighting, etc.  It really looked like a home movie. 

“Authentic,” y’all!

At the risk of sounding like a total dork, I just have to tell you I was literally THRILLED by this film.   It was intelligently made and thoroughly engaging — refreshing!  Only time will tell if I find it as fun the second (or third, or fourth) time I see it.  I’ve seen Blair Witchat least 50 times now, for example, and I still love to watch it — I can only hope this movie will hold up as well.  But you never know.  Maybe it was effective the first time because I didn’t know what to expect.  Maybe it was effective because I was distracted by the film-making style and didn’t pay enough attention to the dialogue or the characters or the action itself.  Maybe I’m just dumb.  But on first viewing, I can definitely say this was one of the most entertaining horror/monster movies I’ve seen so far this year.

Highly recommended!  And I’d be curious to hear what you guys thought of it, so hit the comments, yo!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Odet Jasmin

MOVIE: The Mist (2007)

April 19, 2008

Okay, so, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of The Mist this weekend. Annnnnnnnd, the verdict?

*shrug* Meh.

It’s not TERRIBLE. But it’s not really that good either. At least, that’s what I was thinking until the ending, anyway. After the ending, however, I mostly found myself thinking about how great it would be if it were based on a true story so that I could track down writer/director Frank Darabout and FEED HIM TO A GIANT COCKROACH.

Let’s discuss.

For those that don’t know, the movie (and the Stephen King novella it’s based on) is about a group of small-town Maine residents who have just weathered a big storm. The morning after, local artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) is out surveying the damage to his yard and boathouse when he and his wife notice a strange mist rolling in off the lake. They don’t pay it much mind, though, and after getting a list of essentials from his wife, David gathers up his son and his cantankerous neighbor Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) and heads to the supermarket for supplies.

Lots of townsfolk have gathered at the store (having lived on the East Coast myself, I can attest to the fact they’re all there buying bread and milk, by the way). Many of the townsfolk are alumni of other Stephen King movies, which is how we know something bad is about to happen. There’s Thomas Jane, of course, from Dreamcatcher. Andre Braugher, who was in the Salem’s Lot remake. William Sadler from Shawshank Redemption. Jeffrey DeMunn from, like, EVERY Stephen King movie I’ve seen in the last five years. And finally, Frances Sternhagen, who was the cop’s wife in Misery.

And only fifteen minutes into the movie, I’ve already figured out the moral of the story: If you ever walk into a supermarket that has four or more Stephen King movie alum roaming around in it, TURN AROUND AND WALK BACK OUT.

Because sure enough, though everybody’s in pretty good spirits at first, the cheer grinds to a halt when Jeffrey DeMunn runs into the store covered in blood and yelling something about the mist grabbing his buddy.

At first, people aren’t sure what to believe — what do you mean the MIST grabbed your buddy? But the guy IS covered in blood, so, led in part by David, everyone quickly decides they should stay put until they have more information. The group is murmuring in agreement when, in one of the only truly poignant moments in the film, a young mother announces with distress that she CAN’T stay put — she told her kids she’d be right back and she can’t just. . . NOT. Desperately, she begins to pleads for one of the men to go with her, but the only response she gets is a bunch of averted eyes and shameful glances. So, she pulls herself together, opens the front door, and sallies forth into the mist. It gently wafts around her, and soon she disappears from sight.

And that was it — there was no BOO! moment, nothing grabbed her, there were no screams or blood. And that’s when I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe this movie isn’t going to suck after all!”

Alas, despite the fact this film was written and directed by Frank Darabout, who also wrote and directed the wonderful Stephen King movie The Shawshank Redemption, this flick shares NONE of that film’s subtlety and grace. It’s not long before we have lots of really stupid-looking bugs flying into the windows (BOO!), some LAME looking tentacles grabbing a stock boy, and a truly ridiculous explanation for all this having to do with the military accidentally opening up a portal to another dimension.

Really, though, the story isn’t about the bugs or the danger that lurks outside the store. Instead, it’s about the dangers of fear coupled with the irrationality of religious nutjobs. Inside the store, the townsfolk fairly quickly begin to splinter into two groups — the sane group, led by David and Truman Capote (okay, okay, Ollie Weeks, played by Toby Jones, who PLAYED Truman Capote), and the raving lunatics, led by Right-Wing Religious Whacko Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden, overacting the bejesus out of her part, I must say).

Mrs. Carmody is convinced that this is the end of the world and that those who don’t side with her will be going straight to hell. And it’s not long before fear and panic (or, as Obama might theorize, bitterness about the government) drive a bunch of others to cling to her crazy Jesus talk for comfort as well.

Long story short, things start to get a bit worrisome in the store when the sane people begin to realize they’re quickly being outnumbered by the panicked whackos. David, in particular, is concerned that they are going to attempt to kill his son as a sacrifice to God to keep themselves safe. So, despite the fact that death-by-giant-hymenoptera lies just outside the door, they decide to make a run for David’s truck and see if they can get the heck outta dodge.

So far, I didn’t HATE this movie — I thought it was pretty silly but I was being successfully entertained. I had some quibbles with the acting, but figured it really had more to do with the writing than the actual performers (Harden and Braugher’s parts were just bad roles — there wouldn’t have been a way to play those characters effectively, I don’t think).

But suddenly the movie goes from silly to ARE YOU KIDDING ME? with inordinate speed. The group of the last few sane people make a mad dash for the front door of the store and. . .

SPOILERS COMING UP NEXT — DO NOT SCROLL DOWN AND KEEP READING UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE MOVIE OR DON’T CARE ABOUT HAVING THE ENDING RUINED FOR YOU! ALSO, I AM GOING TO SWEAR IN THE SECTION BELOW, SO IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED BY THE WORD “PUSSIES,” YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING NOW!

Okay, so, everybody runs outside and makes a break for David’s truck, right? They all pile in, except for Truman Capote, who got eaten on the way (DANG! He was the only character I actually liked in this movie!). Their brilliant plan? To drive until they run out of gas. Yep, that’s it! That’s the whoooooole plan!

Of course, they DO run out of gas, and fairly quickly too. Sitting in the car, they begin hear the sounds of big man-eating bugs not far from them in the mist. They look at each other, think for a few moments, and then immediately decide. . .

TO SHOOT THEMSELVES?!

WHAT?!

And, oh no! There are five of them and only four bullets left! So David promptly takes the gun and shoots everyone, INCLUDING HIS LITTLE BOY! A mere TWO MINUTES after they’ve run out of gas!! A mere TWO DAYS after the bugs crept in on little cat feet with the fog!

Seriously — that made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER!

First of all, it occurs to no one to turn on the radio and see if there are any human voices broadcasting from anywhere? Would that not have been the first thing you tried? It would’ve been the first thing I tried!

Second of all, if Plan B is SUICIDE, why not at least first send someone outside to try to score some more gas? Can’t be because they were too afraid of DYING, after all. Why didn’t they pull into a gas station when the needle got towards the E and give it a try? Why didn’t they stop next to that bus they passed and attempt to siphon some fuel out of ITS tank? Why didn’t they sit in the car until they actually started to get ATTACKED before killing themselves? You’re telling me that rather risk being eaten by a bug while trying to get some gasoline for his truck, a father would rather SHOOT HIS OWN SON? David’s whole reason for wanting to escape the store was to PROTECT his son. But at the first sign of trouble, he pulls out a gun and pops him in the head instead?

And did I mention that this is all happening a mere TWO DAYS after the mist came rolling in? What a bunch of pussies! You don’t last 48 HOURS without throwing in the towel? Frankly, the gene pool’s a better place without your DNA in it, you morons. Bring back Truman Capote — at least that guy had some balls!

The BEST part, though (by which I mean the WORST part, of course), is that, as David is outside daring the insects to devour him (EAT ME!!), what comes rolling out of the mist but. . . THE MILITARY! To the freakin’ rescue!

And it was at this point that both me AND Thomas Jane both began to yell, in unison, “Noooooooooooooooooo!” Him because he’s just killed his future girlfriend and his son and dammit, if they’d just waited two more minutes, they would’ve been saved (again, you pussies!). And me because I cannot BELIEVE Frank Darabout could be that big of a jackass.

Of all the LOSERY, LAME-ASS ways to end this movie, I am serious (this isn’t how the book ends, by the way). Not only was it just ineffectively emotionally manipulative (obviously the goal was to make our hearts ache with the horror the father is going through, but instead it just MADE ME REALLY ANGRY), but it was totally CHEESY too. Thomas Jane’s acting in that moment was utterly laughable, and that he was two minutes from rescue? Pathetic and infuriating.

In any case, up until that point, I will agree with everybody else that this movie isn’t utterly unwatchable. But the last ten minutes completely ruined the entire thing for me. Which is why, Frank Darabout, to you I have only one thing to say: HANG UP YOUR SPURS. This town ain’t big enough for the both of us ANY MORE.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Marcia Gay Harden, Nathan Gamble, William Sadler, Alexa Davalos

MOVIE: 30 Days of Night (2007)

March 6, 2008

Man, I REALLY wanted to like this movie. Not just because it was a horror flick about vampires, and I usually loves me some good blood-suckers, but because, wonder of wonders, it’s actually set in BARROW, ALASKA which is, believe it or not, the place my husband’s been instructed to spread my ashes after I die.

The reasons why I want to spent eternity in Barrow are both extremely complicated and ridiculously weird, so I’ll keep them to myself for now. Suffice it to say, however, that given the intriguing combo of my eternal resting place, vampires, and Josh Hartnett with unruly facial hair, I was fully expecting to have a good time with this one.

Unfortunately, it only took one look at the vamps themselves for me to realize I was in for a boring, unoriginal ride, and from there, things pretty much went from dull to stupid with astonishing speed. Now, granted, I was on cold medicine while I watched this movie — it was day one of what turned out to be a hellacious attack of the flu last week. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine a little DMX really had THAT much of a brain-blearing effect. In other words, if you WANT to pretend I hated your favorite movie because I was high on cough syrup, feel free; I’ve given you the perfect “out” on this one. But secretly, just between you and me, I hated your favorite movie because it was a stinkin’ pile of stolen ideas, lame ideas, and just plain ol’ BAD ideas. Man, I hate it when that happens.

This movie, as I said, is set in Barrow, AK, which is one of the Northern-most cities in the U.S. Because of its latitude, every winter it experiences thirty full days of darkness. And look out, because here comes Dumb Element Number One: during those 30 days of darkness, we’re told in the first act, no planes can fly in or out of the town. Because of winter storms? No. Because of an electromagnetic field turned on by the failure to enter the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 into an ancient Apple II computer? No. Because airplanes don’t have headlights? Um, no. Because. . . yeah, see? Why WAS that, exactly?

But let’s move on.

Barrow sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Harnett) is making the rounds before the sun sets when he’s called to investigate three bizarre crimes. The first appears to be a vandal’s pile of burned-up cell phones — weird. The second, a bunch of dogs that have been slaughtered — yikes. And the third, another act of vandalism, this time the destruction of a local man’s helicopter. Dang, wonder if IT had headlights? Curses!

Meanwhile, Eben’s estranged ex-wife, Stella (Melissa George, who I’ve hated since Alias Season Three, I might add), has just missed the last flight out of town and is now stranded in Barrow until the sun comes back on. Thus exposing at long last the real reason why planes can’t fly in and out of Barrow during its thirty days of night — because we needed an excuse, however ridiculous, to keep the contentious lovers together so they could fight evil, kiss, make up, and then have their love be sacrificed for the greater good.

Now for the beginning of the very, very silly parts. Despite the fact that, theoretically, vampires have been around since the dawn of man (or at least the dawn of Bela Lugosi, which is almost just as long, I think), it’s apparently taken them until now to figure out their deadly reaction to sunlight might make the Northern latitudes a great place to chill during the winter. As the movie opens, a gang of them has finally made the trek to Barrow and, while the sun sets on the small town populated with just enough people to feed them for approximately two days (mrrruh?), they begin settling in. Forty-eight or so hours later, there are only about six people left in the entire town and, led by Eben and Stella, they hole up in an attic and try to come up with a Plan B.

Plan B takes about 28 days to work out and involves, at least at one point, “Grandma’s grow lights” (which definitely gave me a chuckle, I will confess). Oh, and how do I know it took them about 28 days to come up with the plan? Why, by the fact Josh Harnett starts out in the attic clean-shaven and then, about five minutes later, has turned into Charles Manson.

All of this could’ve been really fun, of course — I may be harshing on the storyline a lot here, but you KNOW I still could easily have loved it if it was at all possible for me to. But then I got a good look at what our heroes were up against, and the disappointment! Was absolutely crushing!

As Stephen King once said, “Belief is the root of all fear,” and that was one of my biggest problems with this movie. The vampires just aren’t scary at all. In fact, you know what they look like? They look like Vulcans from Liverpool, with pointy features and extremely bad teeth (seriously, guys, just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can stop flossing!). And that’s just not terrifying, I’m sorry.

In my opinion, one of the best things about vampires as horror movie creatures is the fact they used to be human before they were monsters. You know why the scariest movie vampires I have ever seen were the ones in the movie Near Dark? Because they looked JUST LIKE Bill Paxton and Lance Henrikson! They looked like the guys living in the trailer a few doors down from yours, until they bared their fangs and took a big juicy bite out of your neck. There’s nothing scarier than that to me. Monsters that look like monsters and speak in some dumb monster language? Not only stupid, but also BORING.

And besides which, how are the new vamp recruits picking that up that language so fast (because they were clearly picking up new recruits as they went, as evidenced by the fact Big Kahuna Vamp told them to curb that behavior as soon as they got into Barrow)? Is Vamp 101 one of those new foreign language podcasts on iTunes or something?

The end of this movie features what I guess I’ll concede is a somewhat original “twist,” and I appreciated the fact the final shot took us full circle (the story opens with the sun setting, and ends with it rising). The problem with it was that we were supposed to feel emotional about the sacrifice-that-shall-not-be-named-here in the final moments, and I just didn’t. I never really cared about any of the characters or their plight. I was too busy being annoyed that every time the vampires attacked, the filmmakers turned on the shaky-cam, as though the vampires were infected by the rage virus from 28 Days Later in addition to being Count Chocula’d. Enough, already!

All in all, a bitter experience, I will confess. That said, I still really like the IDEA of this flick, so I think my next move should be to rent John Carpenter’s The Thing and then flip through the 30 Days of Night graphic novel while I watch Kurt Russell actually kick some real monster-ass in the snow. I’ll let you know if that does the trick.

Incidentally, I was just trying to add a link from Lance Henrikson’s name to his Boyfriend of the Week write-up and was astonished to discover there doesn’t appear to BE a Boyfriend of the Week write-up for Lance. Holy oversight, Batman! I’ll try to remedy that posthaste. Best face-creases this side of Tallahassee, and not only that, the man’s made no fewer than three — THREE — movies about Sasquatch. It just doesn’t get any better than that, my friends.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster, Danny Huston

MOVIE: Reign of Fire (2002)

February 11, 2008

You guys are never gonna believe this, but guess what! I loved this movie! Now wait, don’t get me wrong — there are about 86,000 things about this flick that I found totally and completely stupid. However, unlike with other dumb movies I’ve seen recently (ahem, Equilibrium, ahem), the really stupid parts of this one weren’t intrusive enough to distract me out of enjoying myself. Lovely!

The movie opens in London with a little boy named Quinn hanging out with his mom who works in a mine of some sort. He’s down there playing in the tunnels one day when he stumbles across, and I guess wakes up?, an enormous creature. At first, he has no idea what it is, but a few moments later, it emerges from the tunnel, flapping its wings and breathing fire, and to anybody who’s ever read a fairy tale, it’s immediately clear we’ve got a dragon on the loose. An hour later, everyone in the mine but Quinn is dead, including his mother, and man, do things go downhill quickly from there.

The next thing the human race knows, there are hundreds, thousands of dragons flying around the world turning everything they encounter into ash. At first, the humans try to kill them, but it soon becomes clear their conventional weapons are no good. At a loss for anything else to do, a few countries launch nuclear attacks. But, of course, as anybody with half a brain could’ve predicted (not that the government ever listens to anybody with half a brain, or a whole brain, for that matter), instead of wiping out the dragons, they pretty much finish off the rest of the planet.

Cut to about 15 or 20 years later, and now Quinn (Christian Bale) is all grown up and living in a stone castle (good idea — harder to burn your house if it’s made out of rocks) with a group of fellow survivors. He and his best friend Creedy (the utterly gorgeous Gerard Butler) spend their days struggling to keep their people clothed, warm, and fed, and their evenings reenacting scenes from classic movies for the entertainment of the group’s two dozen or so children (loved the Star Wars scene, by the way!).

For the most part, the group is muddling through. But they’re about to run out of food, and options, and they remain under constant attack by a group of local dragons that keep them from growing many crops or wandering too far from home.

However, lucky for the doomed Brits, they’re in a movie that’s clearly been modeled on World War II flicks, and soon the Americans are storming in with a group of tanks, a helicopter, a bunch of weapons, and a cigar-butt-chompin’, Southern-drawlin’ leader named Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey, totally having a blast with this role). Van Zan is determined to do more than just survive and he needs Quinn’s men to help him do it. At first, Quinn refuses to let any of his people risk their lives for what he thinks is a preposterous idea (killing the Germans — oops, I mean “dragons” — instead of just trying to stay away from them). But the more he sees Van Zan do, the more he starts to believe there might be a way out of this mess after all.

Now, there are a TON of things about this movie that made no sense whatsoever, and one of the primary ones was where in the hell they were getting all their fuel. The helicopter flies around constantly, not to mention the trucks, tanks, and motorcycles that are zooming around all the time, and yet fuel is never even mentioned, despite the fact it’s now almost 20 years after the apocalypse, and the dragons have set the entire planet on fire. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure fire is, like, really bad for fuel. And if the whole world’s been burned, where are they getting all this gasoline? They clearly aren’t storing it in huge tanks next to their castle, where the dragons are going to ignite and then blow it up. But there’s not exactly a functional Shell station down the street either.

Then there’s Van Zan’s plan to wipe the dragons out — he’s figured out that all the dragons they see are women, and that there’s only ONE male dragon, living in London, fertilizing all the eggs by himself. (Incidentally, Big Daddy Dragon is the same one Quinn awoke as a boy, the same one that killed his mother — so we know right away where that part of the story is headed, right?) Anyway, what this means is that if they can kill the Big Kahuna, they can wipe out the entire dragon race.

But, wait — there’s ONE MALE DRAGON for the whole Earth’s worth of dragons? Seriously? There were about 300 dragons alone in just one region of London — you’re telling me ONE MALE DRAGON is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dragons around the world?

No sir, I don’t believe it.

Not only that, but the way this storyline actually plays out at the very end also made no sense at all — I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody, though. For those of you who have seen the movie, I’m referring to the final final scene, set three months after the denouement. The scene in which there also needed to be kissing and wasn’t, by the way. Just another minor bone I wanted to pick. Not even a peck on the cheek to entertain the ladies in the audience? I was bitter.

Oh, and one more thing I just have to mention because it keeps showing up everywhere lately (including last week’s episode of Lost) — the word is CAVALRY, people, not CALVARY. Look it up.

The funny thing about this movie for me, though, was that even though there were all these things (and more!) that made no sense — things no less dumb than, say, the stuff that made me crazy in Equilibrium — I still enjoyed the beheysoos out of this movie. Sometimes movies that are full of cheesy, lame stuff or plot points that are illogical are really hard for me to enjoy. I get annoyed and I can’t relax into the story because I’m so distracted by the flaws. But other times, the problems just don’t seem to get in my way, and that was really the case with Reign of Fire.

In short, it’s kinda silly, but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. And, since I know you are going to ask, I’ll just come out and tell you that I also thoroughly enjoyed Bale in this flick, and realized halfway through that the difference was all about his accent. I think the reason he makes me nuts in all his other movies is that American accent he so often does — it makes him hold his mouth funny and both sound and LOOK funny, as though he’s trying to force the words out through a throat full of marbles.

But here, he’s speaking in his natural voice, and though his mouth was also partially covered by facial hair, I just never found anything about him distracting at all (well, you know, except for his naked torso — that was kind of distracting, I will confess. Mrrrrrowl!).

What’s more, I finally started to understand why it is you guys all love him so much. I was thoroughly charmed by Bale in this movie, and though I’m still nowhere close to wanting to make him a Boyfriend of the Week, I do suddenly find myself giving the idea a little more consideration. If you guys have any other favorite Bale movies in which he uses his natural accent instead of the American one, post them in comments and I’ll be sure to check them out soon.

All in all, major thumbs up for me on this one, and I thank you guys for finally talking me into giving it a try, because I truly had a great time chillin’ out with the fire-breathing beasts this weekend. Yahoo!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Fantasy/War
Cast: Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco, Scott Moutter