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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Edge of Darkness (2010) - Drama

Edge of Darkness (2010) - Mel Gibson is Thomas Craven a hard nosed cop from Boston readying for a visit from his daughter Emma. Shortly after arriving Emma (Bojana Novakovic) appears to be getting sick and quickly. After arriving at the house in Rosi (Roslindale for you out of towners) she really deteriorates and as the two leave the house for the hospital a man in a ski mask yells "CRAVEN!" and blows the woman away before speeding off in his car.
This starts the film which is a revenge thriller from director Martin Campbell in which the grieving father and bad ass cop tracks down those responsible for the death of his child. In the story there is intrigue, international weapons dealings, corrupt politician and nefarious corporate heads. Craven being more competent then most Boston cops maneuvers independently to discover the truth, while the department apparently does little. Considering the number of unsolved murders in the city last year this is not a big stretch. While moving with this plot it is also a story of a father coming to terms with having lost touch with his little girl.

What is a stretch is the ridiculous accents and the obvious sellout cop who from the very first scene plays it so you know he will be the turncoat. The idea should be that you give a little but hide most of what you are going to do further in the movie, not just make it obvious there is something not right about your character. Initially everyone except Craven believes he was the target but we quickly learn that Emma's life was not so clear cut. The fact that the location has nothing to do with the story is evident from the begining,. This could have be shot anywhere but for the tax breaks Massachusetts gives to film makers. After hearing the accents of the actors you will wish they had filmed it somewhere else.

Gibson does a nice job as a grieving man and the script by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell has a nicely developed device of the daughter appearing to Craven throughout the story. It acts to show the grief of the main and to help him reconcile regrets of not knowing her as well as he should have. It was touching and effective even if it did not drive the plot, it drove the emotional journey the main character was on.

This is a nothing to lose revenge story and because of it the antagonist in it are all expendable. Craven driven throughout with submerged rage effectively hadles thugs as needed. It is his story and the script doesn't waste the audiences time with a parellell story about what the police are doing. That said there was also a secondary story of a CIA spook named Jedburgh (Ray Winestone) whose job it is to clean up the embarrassing mess Emma left. He was developed as a man facing a moral delema and how it plays out is very satisfyingly. His character moves through the movie with good subtext and his interactions with Craven are well thought out. At a philosophical crossroads Jedburg gives witness to the honor and honesty of Craven's actions.

In the end justice is served but not quite as this reviewer thought going into the film. Still it was satisfying enough although not my normal fare.
Rating (5.8) Anything 5.0 and over is recommended. Zombiegrrlz rating, I would RENT it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Piranha 3D (2010) - Horror (monster)

Piranha 3D (2010) - Its 1975 and a little known director named Steven Spielberg created a little film called Jaws that changed how we looked at the ocean. He reinvented the horror that lay under those calm waters and since everyone must pay tribute to him for that. Piranha 3D does just that in the opening scene. Fisherman Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus), with the same character name as in Jaws (1975), has the honor of being the first victim of the prehistoric looking fish released from an underground lake to the surface lake after an earthquake. Viewers know from this point on that this film is exactly what it should be, a campy monster flick that does gore well and does not take itself too seriously. Unlike the unrelated original Piranha (1978) this is not a comment on environmental pollution but instead, with tongue firmly in cheek a fun romp of gore and survival.
As the credits role we meet some of the players, Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) sheriff of Lake Victoria, a hot spring break site that deals with thousands of college partiers each year. Jake Forester (Steven R. McQueen) the mousey son of Julie who has one job this week, to baby sit his younger siblings Laura(Brooklynn Proulx) and Zane (Sage Ryan). Kelly (Jessica Szohr) Jake's love interest if he could do more than quietly stare at her before the film is over. Derrik Jones (Jerry O'Connell) as the high strung director of "Wild Wild Girl" films who highers Jake to lead him around the lake.
Jake takes the time to look at the Wild Wild Girls website, and the lovely women who he will see in person, Crystal (Riley Steele) and Danni (Kelly Brook) and of course his Mom walks in and catches him. She is appreciative of him watching the younger kids while she works nonstop during the week. So good guy Jake has a dilemma does he stay with the kids or take the bait and go on an adventure with porn stars? What would you do?
Julie and Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames) investigate the boat of Matt Hooper in a character developing scene, they find his body and now know something is not right in the lake. They don't know what but like in Jaws, when Amity would not close the beach on the biggest tourist weekend there is financial pressure not to close the lake.
Jake works out with the kids to stay in the house while he goes riding out with Derrick and his lovelies. Running into Kelly at the peer the intermittent connection they have is on long enough for Derrick to invite her along for the day. The movie moves along as you would expect, with a fish attack her and there in isolated places so you know the threat is growing, while the Jake, Kelly storyline is developed with the antagonist Derrick pushing their buttons. On location we have a scene with nude girls Crystal and Danni being filmed swimming together underwater in 3D for like 90 seconds while the soundtrack plays opera. Life could not be better for young Jake. Of course it can't last and the kids do not stay in the house, nor do they stay off the lake and after a canoe ride are stranded on a small lake island. Every time either kid puts a foot in the water there are great underwater shots of what could be the piranha closing in. Will one of the kids be eaten?
While this is going on a team of Seismologists arrive to investigate the earthquake. Lead by Novak (Adam Scott) they are lead out onto the lake by Sheriff Forester, two members of the team will be the bait, I mean divers who will investigate the new rift in the lake. This sequence although some nice 3D effects going down is exactly what you expect. When the sheriff and Novak pull the second diver eaten from the water they capture a fish and now know something is more amiss than previously thought.
Jake and Kelly continue their almost flirtation with some drinking games but unfortunately before Jake can make a move Kelly gets sick from all the booze she drank.
Julie brings the captured fish to Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd) doing his best Dr. Emmett Brown impression and fills the audience and the sheriff in on the 2 million year old species of piranha they have captured. He is the exposition for the movie so we all known how these fish act. Now that we are all up to speed we can get on with the killing.
Para sailing topless seems to be an in thing for lake partying and gratuitous boob shots the in thing for this movie. (Thanks Gianna Michaels) We get the great scene where the kids in the boat notice too late that Para sailing girl is screaming not cheering and then the great gore shot that follows. Jake now filming this for the coke snorting Derrick misses the money shot when he sees his siblings on the island. After getting pissy with Derrick and using the My Mom's the Sheriff card he gets Derrick to go pick them up. Unfortunately the boat gets stuck in some reeds as they try to pull away to take the kids home and after Derrick gets retaahded (stupid and coked out) the boat hits some rocks smashing the glass bottom and begins to sink.
At the same time the sheriff's department is attempt to get everyone out of the lake. Yeah several hundred mostly undressed partying college students on boats and watching wet T-shirt contests are going to listen when one guy with a bull horn yells 'Everybody out of the pool.' Quite the opposite and we are witness to a great and I mean great attack scene that makes the Amity beach scene from Jaws look like kids playing in a kiddie pool. The piranha attack and chaos and ore effects flow as free as the fake blood. It doesn't just start and subside it continues minute after minute bring the body count up. When Deputy Fallon finally falls while chopping fish with the propeller of the outboard he is holding we see the campiest carnage. ( I loved the twitching kid behind the grieving deputy in the boat)
As this scene winds down Julie gets a call from Jake and learns all is not well on the home front. She immediately heads to save her family. On the sinking boat, Kelly is trapped below as water flows in and help arrives. Still how will Jake save the day, who will live and who will die. It does not take long to find out. Of course there are the ridiculous solutions and decisions but Jake being the protagonist comes up with a plan to execute to save his girl and blow a good portion of the fish to pieces.
Silly as the end scenes are they fit into this playful movie perfectly. You get exactly what you was expecting from this film, as long as Oscars are not what you are expecting. Being rated R is a good thing for this just for the gore effects. There is really no subtext in this film other than the message that when you are missing out on spring break, and lie to participate, you could die. Or responsibility ignored could cost you your life. the 3D could have been designed more, it was there but did not take full advantage of the technology. There are some good shots but it was mostly background noise. The script was so predictable it was great, no surprises at all just the standard approach to get to the effects. Just the kind of crap this reviewer likes.
Rating (7.1) In Zombiegrrlz rating, Go See it in Theaters unless you like campy bad-ish monster movies, 3D not essential. Ratings of 5.0 and above are recommended.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

La Horde "The Horde" (2009) - Horror

La Horde (2009) -****Spoiler Alert**** A revenge plot gone bad leave a group of cops and a gang of thugs trapped in a dilapidated apartment building in France with a horde of zombies trying to get in and more already roaming around. Can they put aside their hatred and distrust and work together to get out of the building.
The film starts at the funeral of a fallen cop and the promise to his widow that the remaining team members will get revenge for his death. They meet four cops Aurore (Claude Perron), Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), Tony (Antoine Oppenheim) and Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing) and put on ski masks for the attack on the gang who killed the cop. It a skyscraper apartment building and the elevator does not go above the four floor so to reach the gang they have a long walk. First is the problem of the downstairs guard. They subdue him and Jimenez sets the tone by coming over and killing him, they are here for a bloodbath he says.
They make their way up the stairs passing a couple people who still live in the squalor of the building. A woman we find out later is a teacher, the building Super who wants to join in on the raid when he finds out these masked men are cops. People who will see later in the film. The cops are obviously a tight group, family and family gets vengeance for their fallen comrade. They can here the gang members shouting as they get to the door, they prepare to blow off the lock, but the building super shows up gun in hand and loudly proclaims he can help them. This was all the gang needed. They shoot through the door hitting Jimenez and getting the upper hand on the cops. The cops are taken prisoner, the super is killed down the hall, apparently the gang is not someone to be taken lightly either. The leader is Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney) and his younger brother is Bola (Doudou Masta) Nigerians who sell drugs out of this apartment. With drug dealer Greco (Joe Prestia) and other henchmen Kim and Seb they start abusing the cops thinking they have something to do with a captive they already have in the bathroom.
While downstairs there is the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Just shadows and sounds at this point but it is coming.
The Nigerians kill the cop Jimenez who was bleeding out anyway and shoot Tony in the leg to try to get answers. Bola the younger and less restrained gang member kills the guy in the bathroom. Things look bad for the cops when we hear the unmistakable sound of a zombie in the bathroom. When the door is opened the guy in the bathroom is a zombie and attacks. The gang members all shoot like seventy rounds all into his chest but he keep coming, he bites a member of the gang, they respond by trying with fist and feet to beat him down, until finally smashing his head in. Rule in zombie fighting, shoot for the head.
Chaos begins with more zombie attacks until we have three gang members, Bola, Greco, and Adewale and three cops, Aurore, wounded Tony and Ouessem they lock themselves on the roof. We get the big reveal of how the city is burning. The survivors come to terms with the fact that if they want to get out of the building and possibly the area they had better work together. The directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher and the group of screenwriters have done a good job setting up subtle and obvious conflict not just between the groups but within each group. Already we see Adewale trying to restrain his younger brother Bola, and the fact that neither really has a lot of respect for Greco. There already are hard feeling in the cops too in that they failed in there attempt to kill the gang members. Still they all realize that in order to survive they all need guns, ammo and an understanding not to kill each other.
They make their way back to the apartment creeping along trying not to attract zombie action. They load up on guns and ammo. We learn that The death of the cop that started the film may have been contributed to by Aurore telling him she was pregnant right before he confronted these gang members and that the other cops blame her. To get out of the building they have to go down the stairs. They come across some zombie sounds on a floor and have to spread out the party a bit. Tony and Aurore are separated, Greco is stuck on the wrong side of the stairwell door when the zombies attack. A woman zombie tackles Tony and Aurora is there to help while two more attack Greco. He is quite the boxer and has a drag out fight with the two. He manages to get through the door but not before getting bitten by a zombie.
In the apartment Aurora kicks the female zombies ass finally smashing the head to bits. Tony is bitten on the shoulder. There interaction shows that Tony like Aurora but she is only interested in two things. Protecting the life of her unborn baby, and getting revenge for the death of its father.
The main group comes across an older man Rene (Yves Pignot) who is killing zombies on his own with an ax. They hold up in his apartment and we learn he is a bit off his rocker. He does suggest cutting the infected leg of Greco though. A good idea that we know won't happen.
Tony and Aroure have it out with their interpersonal stuff, he loved her but she did not return the feeling. She is bullshit and is going to cuff him, possibly in case he changes but he thinks to leave him behind. He begs for his life. He uses her confidence to make his move knocking her into a mirror and out.
All through there is good tension as people work reluctantly together. Bola always seems to need restraining from his brother. It really works as a diversion from the standard who will survive story adding to the already crazy situation. In Rene's apartment we also get to see the news on the TV and see that the undead have overrun the city but survivors are fleeing so there is someplace to try to get to.
Aurora wakes and has to deal with some nasty cuts on her face. Tony is gone
The main group comes up with the plan to head down the elevator shaft instead of the infested stairways. Bola doesn't like this plan but his Adewale sides with the cop Ouessem on this one creating a bit of a fissure between the brothers.
There is a scene next where the teacher from earlier, now in full zombie mode attacks. The main group shoot out her legs so she is crawling towards them. Bola and Greco start playing with her, getting close, laughing, dehumanizing her like a rapists with a victim. This pissing Adewale off and he shoots her in the head and confronts his brother reminding him how they were treated in Nigeria. This further foreshadows the split of the brothers, as Greco comments to Bola how it is not right to be treated that way. This is when Tony appears, he starts to explain that Aurora has been turned when BANG! his head is gone and she is behind him. "He couldn't be trusted" she says when confronted by Ouessem. " He was part of the family God Damn it" as now there is tension between the cops.
When they get down the shaft to the fourth floor, Bola and Greco hold everyone up taking there guns and leaving them. So sad for Adewale when his brother yells at him and then leaves him unprotected behind. The Group now consisting of Aurora, Ouessem, Adewale and Rene head to the Supers apartment on the first floor because Rene knows he has guns there.
From here in the movie you can guess the outcome for Greco and Bola. When the final group gets to the parking garage things get crazy. There are lots of zombies, self sacrifice and mayhem. I don't want to spoil it but the scenes are very fun to watch with the action ratcheted sky high. Finally when the last two make it out of the building and into the morning light the movie holds true to its form and ends satisfactorily. Considering how many writers were involved in this one I am amazed that they pulled this off as well as they did. They chose never to explore the cause of the undead, it was just a fight for survival through one long night.
Rating (6.8) 5.0 and above are recommended In Zombiegrrlz rating I would rent it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inception (2010) - Action thiller

Inception (2010) - Spoiler Alert!!! Christopher Nolan can write a good film, there is no doubt about that. Momento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Night, he has written and directed complex plots with intriguing characters with style and intelligence. Inception his latest film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb a guilt stricken "dream architect". In the world Nolan has created the dreams are the ore to be mined by those with the tools and skills. Cobb and his associates are thieves in this world slipping into the dreams of businessmen and stealing their secrets. The is no doubt this kind of industrial espionage could be valuable but also dangerous. When Cobb fails in a job against powerful businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) he is offered a deal to get out of it. If he works for Saito in doing the hardest of jobs called inception, planting a seed of an idea in a targets head, his life will be spared. More than that Cobb will have murder charges against him dropped so he can return home to the United States and see his kids.
Throughout the film there is the theme of having to take a leap of faith. Cobb has to take a leap of faith in these early scenes, trusting that Saito can take care of his problems even without being certain he will.
Cobb constructs a team to do this job Eames (Tom Hardy), a talented forger and mimic in the dream world where he can impersonate people close to a target to get information. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the research partner who learns all the background needed for the job. Ariadne (Ellen Page) the architect for the job, new to the world but a quick learner. She also plays the role of being the person who knows the personal stress that Cobb is going through and voicing the fear that his subconscious could make the mission fail. Also included are Saito and Yusef (Dileep Rao).
The second leap of faith is for us, the audience to take. The leap is that there is a technology that makes the dream interaction function. We are never given much information about how the technology works. We are to just have faith that when the team puts on their wristband attached to the suitcase, and some drugs are used that magically everyone is in the dreams and can interact there. This is what makes this NOT a Science Fiction film. The world although fantastic is really only explained through the interaction of the characters but the technology is ignored.
The secondary story is the personal story of Cobb. He is a former architect who now is having psychological issues. In his early experiments with his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) he was able to get to a deep level of dreaming where she and he created their own little world. In this world where time moved faster than in the real world they lived into old age with his wife, well at least in their heads. When she did not want to leave this world, Cobb planted the seed in her head that the dream world was not real. He got the seed to take and he and Mal came back out of the dream. Problem is that the seed took hold in the real world too and it was a matter of time before Mal committed suicide trying to leave the world she saw as false. She confronts him with taking a leap of faith and dying with her so they again can be in the dream world. Of course his belief that he is in the real world can't let him do that. This guilt has handicapped Cobb to the point where a projection of Mal shows up in his dream work and ruins his jobs. It is bad enough that he needs Ariadne to build the dream maze because since Mal is in his head if he does it she will know all about it too and blow the job for him.
So the team as brilliant and flawed as it is has the job of planting an idea into the dreams of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). It will be a complex job where they will have to go three levels deep. I know you are asking about levels and what the hell I am talking about. Well the movie although the ideas are addressed it is taken as a given that this is how it works. So the characters explain the rules as they go and we all need to take leaps of faith to go on this journey with them. So they will enter the dream of Fischer, where they pretend to kidnap him. Then they take his dream persona into a dream within a dream at a hotel where they pretend to be helping him in a dream. Then some will go into a dream in that dream in a dream where Fischer will open the part of his mind where he holds his secrets. Finally Ariadne and Cobb will dream inside that, the world created by Cobb and his wife and now home to his guilt where we get the big personal reveal and deal with the guilt and Mal with it.
As each level is played out in exciting and adventurous ways everything for the most part is explained in the simplest way possible. Satisfied with it?, eh not so sure about that. When at the end Cobb has dealt with his emotional issues, the seed of an idea has been planted and Saito has called and lifted the charges on Cobb we get a final scene. Cobb gets to go home and see his kids, then Nolan pulls a trick so cheap he should be smacked in the face on sight.
The movie complex in there is a lot going on, is all based on the idea that the audience has to suspend disbelief or it will seem really stupid. It is possible because the action is solid and the ideas just a set of rules thrown out one on top of another every time the team needed something new. We got the first set of rules about the dream intervention, then when they need to create a new crisis they lay out more rules on top of that. Then when things need to be more difficult they tell us about a new dream danger and lay out another set of rules to deal with it. So take your leap of faith!
As an action thriller the film worked and was entertaining. There was a point where the scene cutting between the different levels of dream action was so fast and furious I was just saying to myself that I wished something would end. It got a bit tedious and could have spend up a bit. Still I think the film is well formed for what it was.
Rating (6.3) 5.0 and above is recommended Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Rent it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Open Graves (2009) - Horror

Open Graves (2009) - Certainly was not expecting the movie to open with scenes of the Spanish inquisition, but nobody expects the Spanish inquisition! Torture and rats and snakes in Spain 1485, a monk is supposed to burn a box but after some strange voices sound, maybe in his head he keeps the box with its dragonfly carvings.

Modern day and the surfing is good, a musical montage of surfing shows us that, opening credits. Erica (Eliza Dushku) is being scoped out by two dudes on the beach. We establish that she is a typical American.

Switch to a man gets a call and will be there in ten minutes, a cop as he arrives on the scene of a body that appears to have been skinned alive. A wheel chaired legless person is seen nearby with the box from 1485.

The two guys from the beach, Jason (Mike Vogel), Tomas (Ethan Rains) and his girlfriend Lisa (Lindsay Caroline Robba) are shopping in the Spanish Market. Jason wanders off and we see dragonfly art as he enters a creepy shop. It is dark with what looks to be occult items. He is interrupted by the store keeper, the same handicapped dude who had the dragonfly box, who explains a voodoo doll. Jason is a skeptic. They banter and then the keeper offers what is in the box.
Jason sits with Lisa and Tomas and explains the box is a game called Mamba. Creepy sounds for us viewers. Now we know it is an evil game thanks for the sound effect director Alvaro de Arminan.

Later that night at the beach party Jason plays with his new game and Erica comes by. She has a throw away line about sometimes flying around. (a witch?) This kind of line is right there with modern film screenwriting, everything is supposed to have a purpose in the screenplay so even this loose banter probably means Eliza is not who she is presented as. When Erica picks up a mamba piece we unexpectedly see the torture scenes from the beginning of the film of the Spanish Inquisition. Of course nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. We learn a bit more about the game, when played the winner get what his heart desires. I am sure later we will also learn the consequences for those who don't win.

Erica wants to play the game, cut with this are scenes with Tomas, Lisa and another girl Elena (Naike Rivelli), where we learn Tomas is playing then both without either really knowing he is all into the game of it. Elena then corners him and gives him a blow job. So a nice little triangle is developed. The problem with this piece of set up is that it never really pays off. Since this will turn into a pretty telegraphed death to the losers gimmick the relationships are never used to any great effect. Tomas the player never gets used in any real way. He never really has to make a choice between the women nor do they ever have to confront him in a way that moves the story forward.
When the power goes out six play the game, Erica, Jason, Tomas, Lisa, Elena, Pablo.

Jason lands on the Open graves space and has to take a card, it reads "If you could see inside you would know what's false or true. Somebody's head burst open but none of it gets on you." Again adequate foreshadowing of a choice Jason must make later in the movie. Here his is still in the game and so we continue knowing there is something for him to do later. Pablo (Boris Martinez) also gets a card, it kicks him out of the game. He goes for beer and considering the card said something about being met by something near the sea, we can guess that Pablo will be victim number one. The card indicates his demise in the game and also lets us know his fate in life, or death in this case. Although this is a decent enough movie this is a weakness. After each person gets kicked out of the game we know that they are going to die and only are waiting to see how creative that death will be.

Cut scenes between game play and Pablo, in the game Miguel (Ander Pardo) gets knocked out with a prediction of venomous kisses. Dragon fly near the cliff where Pablo is taking a piss and he freaks and falls from the cliff. He hangs clinging to the barbed wire fence until it snaps and he falls. The scene was well done here and we believe our boy is done. Back at the house Lisa is knocked out with a saying about the black side of a mirror taking her. Pablo is somewhat alive at the bottom of the cliff, he is wonderfully shown broken on the rocks and then there are some fun effect as but is eaten by crabs.

Elena is knocked out. Cut to the police finding Pablo. Tomas is knocked out and may be buried alive later. A knock at the door and Det. Izar (Gary Piquer) is at the door. The game is on hold because of the death of Pablo. The next day (or several) Pablo is laid to rest.

Erica puts together that the card was sort of what happened to Pablo and tells Jason what she is thinking. They go the lighthouse Erica lives in. She has a bunch of occult books in her bookcase. Hmmm... So she is interested in the occult huh?

Tomas and Lisa arrive at the lumber yard where Miguel has set up a photo shoot for Lisa. Music and photos follow. While the shoot is going, Lisa says she does not feel well and they end. They leave Miguel there where he cleans up. As he walks through the cutting room the power mysteriously goes on. He is creeped out, the black snake that gets him comes from in the cut wood. After the first bite two snakes chase him until the inevitable. So now we see in full swing the problem here. The game makes the losers die, but because of the death of Pablo the game stopped before either Erica or Jason could win or lose. I wonder how we could resolve that. Should you? would you risk your life by going back and playing so you could possible set things right for your friends who have died?

Erica and Jason walk around together getting to like each other more. Musical interlude as they kiss. There is a series of scenes of their bonding. Det Izar checks out our snake bitten Miguel, he says they were Black Mamba snakes. Jason and Erica see the images of Miguel and Pablo in the road and then the are creepy and vanish. Then they learn of Miguels death. Next is a scene where the remaining survivors start connecting the game to the deaths. There is starting to be something more pronounced in the way Det. Izar is pursuing the case. Like he knows about the game and wants to get it. This is a better piece of writing because it is setting up a small but important plot point for the end early and through a character.

Erica and Jason research the game on the Internet and learn that it is made from the bones and skin of a witch from our first scenes of the movie, During the Spanish inquisition. They did not expect it because nobody expects the Spanish inquisition. They learn everything about the game because the Internet knows all. It really is a cliche way to spout exposition, go to the library and read from a book or as we do it today surf the intertubes and read the screen so you can easily explain to the audience the exact history of the game. The question then becomes, Do we need to know this information?

Jason is going to destroy the game with fire but starts bleeding when he threatens the game. Cut to Lisa who is feeling even more ill including losing her hair. In the morning when Thomas wakes she is really old. At the hospital the obvious connection between the game and the kids is amazingly made by Det. Izar. Lisa dies... Elena is freaked by her and takes off saying she is going to Milan. Nice gruesome scene as the doctors try to revive Lisa. She apparently dies of old age that must be tough for a young model.

The three remaining members go in search of the wheel chaired guy Malik (Alex O' Dogherty) They find him with his limbs so he must have won the game before giving it to Jason.

Elena ends up in an improbably car crash with leaking fuel and fire to get it going. She does not make it. Another gruesome death to view. I do have to hand it to them they did not hold back on showing solid effects in the death scenes.

Back at Malek's apartment they learn that Tomas is a dead man while Jason and Erica are off the hook. Jason though wants to finish the game so he can win and wish all damage undone. Det. Izar wants the game and he is willing to kill them for it. While Tomas occupies the cop the other two run off to finish the game. Didn't we already in the first ten minutes figure out how the game worked. Then why did it take our protagonists this long to get there, not only for themselves but speaking it aloud to each other after each death. "It is just like the card in the game." No credit given to the audience when writers Roderick Taylor and Bruce A Taylor write it this way.
Erica and Jason start the game again, while we learn that Erica has no record in Spain, strange for a girl who would have needed a passport to be there. Lets see the build in the writing for this character, there was the early throw away line, then the occult books and then she has been moving Jason back towards playing the game, and finally we learn she is not who she says she is.

Det Izar makes Tomas dig his own grave as a way to try to force Jason to give up the game to him. We learn that Izar lost his wife and child. He wants the game so he can win and get them back. Meanwhile the largest swarm of dragonflies ever is outside the lighthouse. They don't really do anything but bot there are a lot of computerized dragonflies out there.

Erica loses and will be in the ocean in the future. Jason wins the wish and has a final step of choosing a snake sculpture to put his piece in. This scene ties neatly back into his early card in the game and he has a logic problem to solve to actually win. Good thing the directions book was still in the box, in my house we always lost those. So he has to choose between the statue that always lies and the one that always tells the truth, on representing time and the other space. He figures things out and makes his wish. Tomas calls and the Det. Arranges for the game to go to Izar. There is a try by Tomas to get away. Izar kills Tomas.

Now Jason and Erica notice the dragonflies, but amazingly they can leave. Erica now knows she has to die before the game is over and she has to die before the wish can come true. Se heads into the water.

Izar comes for the game gun in hand. He sees something in the water though and leaves with the game. Out of the ocean comes Erica as a dragonfly witch who offers a deal to Jason. She has lead him all this way and now the dragonfly lady is trying to get him to change his wish. He sticks to his guns and his wish is granted. " I wish it was a week ago and we have never played this game." We are treated to scenes from early in the movie where he again goes out to the market and gets the game. A wonderfully evil little ending where they will be stuck in the movies loop forever.
Rating (4.5) Anything 5.0 and above is recommended Skip it on the Zombiegrrlz scale.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bitten (2008) - Horroredy

Bitten (2008) - The movie starts with screaming, a man appears to be holding down another dude who is screaming for help. Is this a cellar? The movies title might mean we see our first Vamp. No, it is a paramedic giving a junkie a sedative. We are introduced to the two paramedics, the young guy Jack (Jason Mewes) and his grumpy old partner Roger (Richard Fitzpatrick). They work the graveyard shift and Jack is having women problems. Braking up with his girlfriend and as he says "Rog what type of girls am I going to meet working the graveyard shift. Do you know any girls who are out past 4am that don't want a hundred bucks to spend the night." There is the crux of the problem, or the setup for the plot.
Mewes heads home but stops for milk, which it seems has only purpose to show some face zooms as he argues with the Indian store owner and to establish his life sucks. He passes a couple of thugs in the alley of his house who notice him and then gets home and sits down with a beer to doze in front of the television.

The next evening back at the station he has another establishing conversation about women and his lack of dating. Another opportunity for Jack to spout without a solution. They go out on a calls with a music montage of the nights events. Not as funny as they think sort of keystone cops but not really sped up in speed. Jack then returns home passing the thugs dealing drugs in his alley. He finds a body behind his house, a woman, Danika (Erica Cox) alive but covered with blood. She sort of fights him saying "no hospitals", he takes her into his house instead of leaving her to the local thugs. He tends to her but can't find out much about her as she says she can not remember her name and there have been no missing persons in her description.

The next day at work Roger notices he is different. There is no indication that she is okay or why Jack just left a stranger at his house. As Roger and Jack talk while on a call he is advised to take her to a hospital. She is a mystery women. He trusts her some how and Rog thinks that is a bunch of shit and echos what the audience is thinking even though it was not necessary.

Returning home Jack finds Danika looking hot sitting in the window. We know she is suppose to be hot because of the porn movie music and the long slow camera pan up her body. Of course the blood covered dress is not so hot. Jack in another ridiculous piece of dialog asks her why she is sitting in the window, it cold out he says. Cold but he just walked in from out there with his shirt undone. He gets her to shower and loans her some of his exgirlfriend's clothes. She changes where Jack and the audience can see the rather lovely Danika take off her towel and show her beautiful body as she dresses. Music again to show the effect she has on Jack as he looks over at her. I wonder why he doesn't comment on her freaky too blue eyes. She does some cuddle time with him making small talk.

He falls asleep quickly and we see him waking up on Friday to find her in tough shape shaking on the couch. Looks like the DTs but we know by the title and the bandage on her neck what the problem is. Why is she so insistent that she not go to the hospital. Jack calls Roger to come help. He thinks she is a junkie and is going through withdrawal. On his way to work he has a confrontation with his ex, who when he leaves lets herself in. Guess who the first victim is?

Jack and Rog do some more spouting about the mysterious Danika. Is she a junkie, should you be involved. Roger doesn't have a very high opinion of women but is supportive in not actively shitting on his keeping Danika around. The film is so clumsy with its meaningless dialog. Every time the writer wants to explain Jack's feelings there is banter with Roger. Thing is the best way to let us know is to show us, not have a conversation without any action at all.
Coming home Jack finds his exgirlfriend Sherry (Jordan Madley) dead and it is the crying Danika who did it. She is distraught not knowing why she bit her. She has sort of fangs now. Instead of there being a scene where Jack does something constructive he starts kissing her. The sexy music starts and the bloody Danika starts making out with him only to lose control and bite him. Only now does he realize she has fangs and pulls her to the window into the light. Her skin burns where the light touches it. She runs to the bathroom, close up of her burnt arm. He follows her in and in the stupidest couple lines of the movie she says, "Jack, what's wrong with me?" and he replies "I wish I fucking knew. Holy shit you ate my exgirlfriend I don't know whether to call the police or give you flowers." What are you kidding me, then why pull her into the light? Why comment on her fangs? Has there NEVER been such things as vampires, even fictional in this world? Then he instead of calling the police gets rid of Sherry in bubble wrap to the Barney the dinosaur song, "Tidy up your mess." A pathetic not very funny piece that gets then to what is supposed to be a cool camera shot through the bubble wrap up at our characters while they again explain that they should be showing us. I believe they will see that girl again.

Another conversation between Roger and Jack, oh so bad... Rog find the new girl hot, and can't stop talking about the junkie girl. He jokes around while Jack soul searches about what you do when people do bad things. In the end the conversation means Jack will not tell on Danika. Danika is smoking hot in her underwear when he gets home. He is tired but she is ready to play after sleeping most of the dead. They are accepting that she is sort of a vampire. This is upsetting to her. When he comes out of the shower she has the shakes again and so it will be just a matter of time before they have to get blood. First Jack gets a cat but that is a no go for Danika, cat blood makes her sick. He has to get human blood so obviously the two thugs will eventually be the targets. For now though he raids the fridge at the station for some plasma. When she tries it it also makes her sick, they learn it has to be living blood that she needs. He offers his own blood. That did the trick but it is very hard for her to stop. Now it is time for thug blood.

Jack is not so sure about watching her in her underwear draining the dude in ecstasy. She is hot but he is not turned on. Jack goes to clean up and drop the dude in the trunk with the first body, but when he opens it his now undead girlfriend pops out. It is an attempt at comedy to stake her.

Another conversion about how Roger imagines dirty sex with Danika, and then foreshadows how the life is being drained from Jack. He sends him home because he feels Jack is too tired to work. When he gets home Danika brings up the idea of changing Jack into a vampire. The music comes up and the clothes come off. Danika moves in for a bite but stops herself. "You don't know what its like. Its like I want to fuck you and eat you at the same time." Time to feed again. Time for thug number two.

So now we get an indication that the Barney song and the cleaning up of corpses is getting to him. The cracks in their relationship become more prevalent. He is afraid of her going in public and does not want her out. She goes without him. He falls asleep and dreams Danika is going to stake him. He wakes late for work as Danika brings the lovely Maya (Amy Lynn Grover) home for a three way. Jack is not impressed but joins in anyway for the music soaked three way sex scene. It is stylish in its way ending and in the morning we have another Jack freak out scene because in the night she killed Maya. Jack doesn't like the bodies and wants it to end. While they are clearing up the body the land lady interrupts and Danika needs to kill her.

Jack heads to work for another obvious conversation with Roger. The bag of blood comes back to haunt him. Roger tries to get answers but a call near Jacks house interrupts them, The Indian store clerk is lying dying from guess what, a bite wound. Roger send Jack on an errand at the end of the work day and goes to confront Danika. Looking around the house he closes in on the bodies. He finds the blood bag and then Danika seems threatening, sensual but Jack interrupts her. Jack is pissed and wants Roger out of the house.

She wants more blood but Jack locks her in a room. Things are going poorly and Jack knows the end of this has to happen some way. A walk and a musical montage shows Jack healthy couples spending time in the sun. This is where he will resolve to move the movie to climax. He visits Roger and smooths things over with Roger, saying he needs her out of his life. He wants advice from Roger on how to break up. He is a dick so this advice is useless, but in his bull shitting they telegraph the solution for this problem and even repeat it by the end of the scene. Roger rushes off after Jack thinking the obvious.

The break up conversation through the locked door is tedious and when he goes to make his move to stake her she breaks down the door. She is going to get Jack, Roger arrives and the battle begins with attempts of humor that isn't funny. They call back the first scene of the movie and then the final battle. She bites Jack and Roger gets the staking done. Now Jack will turn so Roger and jack have the dying victim scene. You can't let him change Roger can you? End Credits.
Such a really painful experience ends with bloopers that are better than the movie. Watch all the way until the end of the credits for the final hidden scene.

Rating (3.6) Anything over a five is recommended. Zombiegrrlz rating, Skip this one!

Monday, August 9, 2010

L'anticristo (1974) The Anticrist - Horror

The Antichrist (1974) - The movie starts with scenes of an Italian religious holiday, maybe the Feast of the Assumption. People are praying to an statue of the Mary the virgin mother. In the temple are many pilgrims including our lead character Ippolita Oderisi (Carla Gravina) a crippled young woman looking for a cure. She fails to be healed but instead is witness to a crazy looking man breaking away from his retainers and climbing the ruins outside, then jumping to his death.
We then learn that Ippolita is crippled in the accident her Father Massimo (Mel Ferrer) caused that also killed her mother. She is disturbed to see that her father is now romantic with someone working for the family. In her room she finds a picture similar to one worn by our earlier suicide, but instead of a gentle Jesus image the image is an angry looking demon Jesus with a large erect penis coming from under his robes. Disgusted she throws it into the fire only to see the fire vanish and a strong breeze to blow into the house. Was that the sounds of demons entering the house? Her brother Fillipo sure thinks so and immediately goes to her room and agrees to take her out to see Bishop Ascanio Oderisi (Arthur Kennedy). He does not believe her about the blasphemous image but resolves her of her sins. Good to have an uncle as a Bishop I suppose. Ippolita angry claims the devil has been clear to her that if she accepts the devil he will give her everything she has been denied by God. This with her losing the love of her father is truly disturbing her.

While performing a mass for her the Bishop sees the sacrilege of a sacrifice in the holy vestments. In discussing it with Massimo we are given the idea that faith is the key to having a relationship with God. that Ippolita is weak and they have concern that she is mentally unstable. They arrange for her to "run into" a psychiatrist and parapsychiatrist. Dr Marcello Sinibaldi (Umberto Orsini) comes to a party they put on and meets her. She is onto him from the beginning but she still agrees to spend time with him. She has no physical damage to her legs, so he suggest regressive hypnosis as a way to get to some trauma in her past lives that may be stopping her from walking now.

She agrees and we see the scenes of her present life when her father causes the accident that killed her Mother. We see a flash of another one of those sacrifices like in the Mass. Then her former life when she was a witch who burned at the stake. Sinibaldi interested in the past life wants to explore, and the Bishop shows him the papers that talk about the past life woman. She was a Nun with the same name who ran away and joined a sect of devil worshippers. He also tells the men that the past life personality could possess Ippolita.

Massimo is doubtful of curing Ippolita and discusses that with his fiancee Greta (Anita Strindberg). They choose not to tell Ippolita who is being cut in suffering having psychic visions of her father making love to Greta. Ippolita strips and there seems to be a stylish possession scene where the woman from the past life walks through a field of ritual sex by satanic cultist to an altar to have sex with a horned masked priest. This cut with Ippolita saying everything that the woman said. thus she pledges herself to Satan, again with the toad head sacrifice. I don't really understand why she needed to lick the goats ass but hey I guess that is how satanist do it. Then the priest mounts her and consummates the marriage to Satan. This scene so similar to the Satan rape scene in Rosemary's Baby. The cuts of Ippolita show her moving her legs while an invisible force fucks her.

Again Fillipo senses something is wrong in the house Is that the organ playing? He rushes to it as it plays itself, checking on his sister and finds she won't let him in. Now possessed she lays nude in the bed with full use of her legs.

Now she is out cruising the countryside looking to get full use of her newly animated body. She follows a tour of what appear to be students and seduces a young man. She awakes in a field and can't walk so we learn that the possession is not always on. Flash back to the student who is dead with his head turned backwards.

The family continues to hypnotize her and we learn more about the past life witch. We learn she begs for her soul to be saved as she burns but the priest do not appear to help her. Ippolita suffers through this in front of her family until brought back by Sinibaldi. He claims she is cured and can walk and so it is when she walks across the room. The family is happy with the results but she starts to act strangely. Suddenly she seems very possessed. Lights and wind and strange voices, moving things around the room, the demon shows its power only controlled by hearing church bells ring.

Massimo goes to the Bishop to try to get help, but he seems afraid to do anything. Ippolita continues to act out. She tries to seduce her brother showing her body to him and putting his hands on her body. Manipulating him she pretend to need his comfort but really tries to get some incest. The maid sees this and goes out to a man who can do an exorcism.

He agrees to come and confront the demon. He tries his tricks but is scared of the possession included are her floating in the air, out the window and back in another. He sees he is way out of his league and when the Demon allows it he flees for his life.

Again the father goes for help from the church. Until then he feels he must break up with Greta and send her away. Confronting his daughter, the demon, he tells her he will only be there for her. The Demon attacks him with furniture and verbally abuses him.Then using his own ascot chokes him close to death. Saved by Fillipo and Sinibaldi. The demon tells dad that she fucked Fillipo and is pregnant with his baby. WOW!

Finally Bishop arrives to do his part, bible in hand he plunges in. She shows her pussy to him and abuses him with his celibacy. She flings her legs wide to her uncle and says "Here is the devil." The praying starts and we have some things similar to The Exorcist. The battle continues with temptation and bravado on the Demon's part. The Bishop holds fast. Very similar to The Exorcist in its approach, and trying to create a counter argument with Dr. Sinibaldi the film creates a poorly executed dynamic of science versus religion. Because the science end was always pseudoscience the argument that opposed the ideas against each other never really holds.

Father Mittner (George Coulouris) the priest arrives to do the formal exorcism, it is such a rip off, with vomiting and wind and demon mischief. It is well done and the scenes are shot in closeup and with interesting angles that heighten the effect of the exorcism. When the demon flees out into the rain, the priest stays behind to finish his prayers. Followed by Fillipo and her Father, Ipposita runs to the The coliseum, inter cut with the scene of the crazy man who committed suicide. Massimo catches her and holds her to a large cross until the demon is finally vanquished. This includes Father Mittner announcing that the Antichrist will not be born.

This is film complex enough trying to tie the family dynamic, the science versus religion and demon vs girl storylines together and it mostly succeeds. The cinematography by Joe D' Amato uses red and blue throughout the supernatural and scenes but I can't say I saw a pattern of use that made any real sense. Still there were a lot of 1970's style effects that although are now dated were decent for the time in a foreign film. The music by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai is excellent with lots of strings and themes that run through the scenes. Particularly in the exorcism the music soars with the chaos. Director Alberto De Martino created a solid if derivative possession movie that is definitely worth the viewing.

Rating (6.1) Any rating over a 5 is worth a viewing, in the Zombiegrrlz rating I went and bought this film.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

All Things Horror Night in Somerville...

I had the pleasure of getting out and seeing some horror thanks to the guys at All Things Horror Online, a new website that has joined the community recently. Founders Mike Snoonian and Chris Hallock are holding horror movie nights in the screening room of the Somerville Theater the first Wednesday of each month. This event was a couple of shorts, Someone Else, Dollface, and a feature Long Pigs. The room was close to full and only Chris was there to introduce the films, we started with the four minute psychological piece Someone Else. Just four minutes in length it is an exploration of the fears of the 1st Women (Karen Bartke) as she explains to her therapist (Katherine McGinty) how living alone she feels there is someone else in the house. Effectively cutting between the therapy session and 1st Women's horror fantasy the film is effective in creating a creepy feeling in the view. The music in the film is well used and the climax is definitely worth the four minutes.
Dollface, a twenty minute film about a young artist who takes a job housesitting for a rich man who is off traveling. The creepy Real Estate agent Maxine(Tiffany Moy) hits on the artist Deborah (Gizelle Erickson) several times and just in general makes her uncomfortable in person and on the phone. Unlike House of the Devil there are no satanic killers in this, when Deborah wanders around the house she finds things to paint. A doll in particular catches her attention and while painting it a really creepy transformation happens, the section of which that uses a child as the actress for the doll is very creepy. We watch as the film beomes sort of a Invasion of the Body Snatchers short film and Maxine ends up with what she wants. This film was a bit slow but it was trying to build slowly and not give anything away. Unfortunately there is little story arc, nor character arcs so the film did not satisfy the way it could have.
Long Pigs is a pseudo-documentary about two desperate film makers who get lucky(?) and meet a cannibalistic serial killer to make a documentary about. Anthony McAllister (Anthony Alviano) is a violent psychopath who eats his victims. Because he has the two film makers following him around he gets to spout off on his reasoning and philosophy never questioning his crazy belief. Neither do the film makers, in fact they very quickly assist this sick bastard in his crimes. Knowing that this is found footage style of set up, we already know what is going to happen in the end. It is a positive that the getting there is grisly, funny and interesting and in the end although the subject is not redeemable the film is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Centurion (2010) - Action Thiller

Centurion (2010) - Written and directed by Neil Marshall the fictionalized account of the Roman Ninth Legion and their massacre at the hands of the Picts, tribal Britons in 60 or 61 AD. In history the defeat of the Ninth is believed to be the result of spreading the soldiers across too many small forts thus sapping the strength from what would have been a legion of 5000 men. Instead a smaller force tried to break a Pict siege at colonia and was soundly defeated with 80% of the soldiers being killed.
In the movie version liberty is taken with history and the Governor Julius Agricula while attempting to win favor with Rome makes it his cause to destroy the Pict resistance. He orders his General Virilus (Dominic West) to take the legion and seek out the Pict stronghold and destroy it. How will he find the picts? Agricula has the answer in the lovely and deadly Etain (Olga Kurylenko), a Pict tracker who is under his sway. She heads out and leads the Legion north. They save a soldier running from the Picts named Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) , our narrator who joins the group as they head into hostile company.

The narration speaks about how the Romans are not prepared for the war they are fighting. The Picts do not stand in the open but instead wage a gorilla war striking and disappearing. This will be the battle where that changes. Except that Etain leads the Legion into a trap and they are decimated in battle. Only a handful of Romans survive lead by Quintus they move fast with the goal f rescuing their captured general. While avoiding the roving party pf Picts the Romans make their way to the Pict camp and make an attempt at saving Virilus. They can not free him and in their fight to escape the camp Soldier Thax (JJ Fields) kills the son of Pict leader Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen). In fact the entire rescue attempt is written just to create the idea that the picts will never stop hunting the remaining Romans. Indeed the hunting party lead by the skilled Etain stays on their heels for the entire movie. This is when the film turns into many other Marshall films the action survival film. Like in Dog Soldiers (2002), The Descent (2005) or Doomsday (2008) Marshall writes a pretty tight action survival film. He knows what he is doing and although there is a slow sequence in this one he makes the hunt tense with periods of gory action mixed in. Eventually we get to a final showdown for the remaining soldiers with the hunters and then there are a couple plot points to deal with some of the personalities of the survivors. The end was somewhat predictable but satisfying after the ride we were on.

In the world of Neil Marshall the Descent currently stands alone as a Masterpiece so where does Centurion fit? It is very derivative in structure to his other movies. Part of that is the need to create the survival action film. Some of it could be the M. Night Shyamalaning of Marshall although I hope not. Yes that is Shyamalan as a verb meaning caught in a self created style that will drake you down as it bloated carcass sinks into the depths. Doomsday was a better action film with better more realistic fight scenes. Here we have a lot of CGI blood spraying around and sometimes it doesn't fit, more manually triggered effects should have been used. When they did go for the old fashion variety they were well done and cringe producing. Dog Soldiers was a better survival movie even with its vital flaw of not having a werewolf transformation scene. Still it was scary and gory and wonderfully satisfying as a horror survival piece.

So Centurion has to sit in fourth of the four Marshall films. By no means a waste of time but still not something that builds on the past and brings Marshall to a new Higher plateau. That is what I was hoping for with this, that the film surpasses the older films and shows the growth of Marshall as a film maker. I am sure it did not. It was entertaining, it told an interesting story with action and adventure, but the obvious plot devices and predictability left me feeling ...well ehhh. Don't get me wrong I fully recommend the film. Many people out there are going to love this movie. I just wanted a progression in growth of the filmaker, that I am not sure I got.

Rating (6.1) 5 and above being recommended. If I was to use the New Zombiegrrlz rating I would tell you to wait until you could rent it.

There are some other things to say about this film, I see on some message boards that there is some debate about whether there would be a black soldier in the Roman army serving in England. This is a small thing to me considering that the leader of the hunting pict is a woman and there are several woman warriors in the party. Not that I mind hot babe warriors, just saying if we are historical they probably would not be in those positions. I think this kind of issue needs to be ignored, this is a movie made in our times where color and sex are not the primary concern in casting. It is not a historical piece shooting for accuracy it is a action film and if having diversity in it is offensive too the viewer then the viewer is looking at it much too seriously. Then you are probably offended by the clothes not matching the times or that everyone has really perfect teeth. It has very little to do with modern political correctness and more to do with trying to capture the largest possible audience. Is it necessary? Well I think the point of the multicultural cast reflect the wide expanse of Roman power. It was not a bad way of showing just how far and wide the Romans conquered. We always try to infer that we know what the director and casting director was doing when they made these decisions and we don't. Then of course you could read too much into it and see it as an allegory to US involvement in Afghanistan, great enjoy that, but until Neil Marshall comes out and says it is lets just look at it as the entertaining film it is.