Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Reef (2010)

So, January is coming to an end. This has been a big month; starting the new job at PIA, celebrating Genesis’ birthday, and branching out with writing (working with the guys at Steelers101). Now, it is time to finish the month on a high not on the blog. My final review of the month is the shark movie, The Reef from 2010 (based on a true story).

Plot/ A great white shark hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef.

Let me start by saying that this is one of the best shark movies that I have seen. This movie is put together really well, with solid cinematography that creates a realistic feel and a lot of tension throughout. The character development is sound, acting decent and it was refreshing to see a real shark in a movie vice the standard CGI or mechanical beast. Yes, the pacing was slow and the action was spread out, but this film definitely took a different route in creating its foreboding atmosphere.  In the end, this is one of the better animal attack films to come out in some time, and one that is definitely worth watching.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Ahhh, the end of another weekend is here, and back to work, I went. Overall, it was a decent day. Started lab with the sixth quarter class and completed the FCC licensing test for Radio Operator / Repair (now, I can teach that next quarter). As I am preparing to watch Alcatraz and Castle, I decided to finish some more of the flicks from this weekend, with the overhyped Paranormal Activity 3.

Plot/ In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.

You know, I am so glad that I waited to see this one at home instead of wasting valuable dollars in theatres. Honestly, with the majority of clips from the trailer missing from this version, I would have been even more pissed off had I spent more than the $2.86 on it. Yes, there were a few cool spots, the kitchen scene with the ghost, the hair pulling, and there was actually a bit of tension created. After that, it really went downhill, with uneven pacing, an unflattering ending and so-so performances. In the end, this story has gotten old and I really hope that this is the last installment. If you liked the first two installments, check it out only to complete the series, if you have not, do not waist your time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shriek of the Sasquatch! (2011)

As someone who has researched Cryptozoological mysteries and the paranormal, I will admit that when I see filmmakers take these fringe scientific arenas and make fun of the source materials, I cringe. To me, I can understand the entertainment value, and even why the skeptical society would enjoy such flicks, but that does not mean that they should be taken for anything more than what they are. What is that? They are financial windfalls that prey on the deep-rooted fears of a brainwashed society; the sect that says that fringe sciences cannot exist because they are not in a textbook, or accepted by mainstream society or religion. To that, I say screw that and open your eyes to what surrounds you. That being said, while I do cringe, I do enjoy watching films based on famed creatures and mysteries. One such film is Shriek of the Sasquatch from 2011.

Plot/ Its 1979, Julie and Nick are on a road trip which puts them unwittingly on a collision course with Bigfoot. Will either of them survive to learn the secret of the Sasquatch?

Yes, Bigfoot is often put into a bad light in movies, and this one is no different. As usual on the big screen, the Sasquatch is a bloodthirsty maniac out to destroy everything in its path. Let me start by saying that many will watch this movie, destroy it for every flaw, and not quite understand the genius of what it is. This is a throwback to the 1970s and the cheesy grindhouse drive-in classics that made that decade great. Technically, this flick has many flaws; grainy footage, bad effects, uneven acting, they are all there (which in a typical film review would be total detractors). However, this movie is a blast and they did a great job at presenting an authentic feel for 1970s camp. Honestly, every aspect of the flick, from film quality to the props (down to the pop can), was spot on. In the end, if you like 1970s period schlock entertainment, you will love this one. Yes, this may be a train wreck of a flick, but it is one entertaining train wreck!

The Woman (2011)

With my weekend almost over, I decided to get back at the blog by looking at some of the flicks that I caught so far this weekend. Honestly, this has been a very entertaining trip into the world of horror. The first movie I watched this weekend was one that I had never heard of, The Woman from 2011.  

Plot/ When a successful country lawyer captures and attempts to "civilize" the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades, he puts the lives of his family in jeopardy.

When this movie walked into the house Friday, I did not know what I was in for, as I did not know anything about it. What I found was an extremely interesting and complex storyline combined inside a somewhat surreal family setting. There was a lot to like about this movie, which had just the right amount of gore and disturbing elements to keep me enthralled by the focus on the disjointed family aspects. Sure, there was nothing new in this one, as much of the torture and violence has been seen before. Yet, the combination of solid acting, interesting characters, subtle comedy and sound cinematography made this decently atmospheric and even somewhat original.  In the end, if you are a fan of the works of Jack Ketchum, you will like this. It is not for everyone, but it is an entertaining look into a disturbing world.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Priest (2011)

During this past week, I was busy studying to finish my FCC licensing in preparation for teaching my next quarter class at PIA. However, that did not stop me from catching some interesting movies. One such movie was something different for me, the 2011 comic book based, Priest.  

Plot/ This post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, is set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend, a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.

When I originally saw the trailer for this, I had no desire to watch it. Fortunately, for me, when I saw it available on one of my movie channels this past week, I decided to give it a shot. It was honestly nothing like the typical post apocalyptic movie I expected. Yes, it did have the usual action, gunfights, and poor dialogue. However, the decent cinematography, storyline and effects were good (even with CGI creatures).  In the end, this was an outstanding comic book transformation (wow, what a combo: action / western / horror) with a interesting feel. Sure, it is not thought provoking or an all-time great, but it is an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes (really 87 but whose counting). If you like this kind of stuff, check it out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anamorph (2007)

After a few days of chilling out with some vintage classics, I decided to come back to modern day and find something more mysterious and thought provoking. After some debate with the voices in my head, I decided on the 2007 psychological thriller Anamorph.

Plot/ Stan is a quiet, solitary detective in New York City. A few months ago, he solved a gruesome case of serial murders, although an undercover police officer lost her life. A new set of similar murders begins: the bodies are elaborately displayed and the killer uses equipment from art and early movie making in the tableau, or he leaves a clue as to where the investigators are to stand to get the full artistic effect.

When I stumbled upon this the other day, I had no idea what to expect. As a rule, I never read reviews before watching anything, as I do not want that to influence my overall feeling, and in some cases ruin the storyline. In this case, I am glad that I stayed true to my beliefs. I thought that this flick was original, taking an interesting storyline and creating a good flick. It has many solid elements including decent atmosphere, nice cinematography and some graphic visual effects. Sure, some of the acting is so-so, some characters are undeveloped and there is really no violence or gore (especially considering striking array of graphically arranged dead bodies). All and all, this thriller is a lot better than many that have come out and one that flies a bit under the radar. If you are looking for something interesting, check it out!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

As I was taking a walk into the early stages of Sci-Fi and Horror, I felt that my night would not be complete unless I ventured into the mind of my favorite master of terror, Edgar Allan Poe.  What a better way to close my evening but with a classic tale starring one of the greatest horror icons of all time Bela Lugosi, in the often overlooked 1932 adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Plot/ In 19th Century Paris, the maniacal Dr. Mirakle abducts young women and injects them with ape blood in an attempt to prove ape-human kinship. He constantly meets failure as the abducted women die. Medical student Pierre Dupin discovers what Mirakle is doing too late to prevent the abduction of his girlfriend Camille. Now he desperately tries to enlist the help of the police to get her back.

I love movies based on the works of Poe (albeit loose adaptations), in fact, I can never get enough of them when I find them. Sure, some are better than others, but in same ways they always carry at least some of the flair that was woven into them decades before their transition to the silver screen. This adaptation, while running only about 80 minutes, is definitely worth watching. Filmed by Universal Studios, after their initial foray into horror, this flick features great set design and perfect atmosphere. The acting is solid, but it is Bela Lugosi that is amazing, captivating the screen during every second of his screen time. Yes, there are some flaws. Some of the cinematography is so-so and editing was uneven.  In the end, this is a classic early example of Universal Studios mastery and a film that is definitely worth watching.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tarantula! (1955)

As a football fan, I should be excited about today, unfortunately, my Steelers were eliminated already and I cannot stand any of the four teams remaining. Honestly, the lesser of all evils is the Giants, and I cannot see myself pulling for them in any way (although seeing Eli with more rings than Peyton would be funny). With my football entertainment limited, I decided to venture back in time for some viewing pleasure with the Sci-Fi classic Tarantula.

Plot/ A spider escapes from an isolated desert laboratory experimenting in gigantism and grows to tremendous size as it wreaks havoc on the local inhabitants.

The 1950s was such a great decade for the Sci-Fi / Horror genre, many films created during that period set the standard for the films of today. Amazingly, some of the best still stand the test of time with their combinations of solid effects and storyline. This flick is one of the finest from that era.  Watching this today, the tremendous story stands tall and the effects are amazing when you consider when it was done. The tarantula (which was real) is believable and the acting and cinematography were solid as well. Sure, some of the dialogue seems dated and the sound-effects are laughable at times, but those a very small flaws and are not detriments in any way.  In the end, this is a great Sci-Fi movie and awesome entertainment. If you have not watched this one, you are missing out.

Bikini Girls on Ice (2009)

While some may say that my review of Alice and Murderland was a bit off, I like to give the benefit of the doubt to no budget indie flicks. I look past some of the flaws and try to see the potential within the idea. This next flick almost fits into that category, here is hoping that the material can live up to the title with 2009s Bikini Girls on Ice.

Plot/ When a bus-load of women's college soccer players get stranded on their way to a bikini car-wash fundraiser, they decide to set-up shop in front of an abandoned gas station on the edge of town. Little do they know the place is the stalking-grounds for a homicidal maniac mechanic?

When I saw this title, it caught my attention. However, I will admit that the title may be the highlight of the film. Do not get me wrong, there are some good points. The idea was interesting (slasher cliché but interesting), the cinematography was solid and the girls were at least attractive. Decent elements considering being a lower budget flick. Unfortunately, it failed to create anything original or exciting with uneven acting, no characterization and almost no gore (or boobs for that matter). In the end, this is a predictable slasher with almost zero originality and you can find better…

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Alice in Murderland (2010)

I finally was able to kick back and relax for the weekend, thus enjoying some of the flicks that I had been waiting to watch. To start the evening, I decided to start with some no-budget indie stuff, something that I see as a critical backbone for the horror industry. My first selection for the night was Alice in Murderland (AKA The Alice in Wonderland Murders).

Plot/ It's Alice's birthday and her sorority girlfriends throw her a themed party. Everyone comes as his or her favorite, sexy character from Wonderland. The Jabberwocky was not invited when he brings murder and mayhem to the girls' night out.

This movie was quite a dilemma. To start, I love independent horror, especially the low-budget stuff. While this flick definitely had some elements that I loved, some of it came across just blah.  The acting was uneven, the costuming so-so (especially the Jabberwocky), the characterization was underwhelming and there were many missed opportunities for nudity (not a must, but it could have added something). The effects were also a mixed bag, the actions of the killer definitely did not match the over-the-top gore (which I loved), but at least there was gore (something many films lack).  I did like the storyline, and I could see a lot of potential in it, but some of it was undeveloped within the slow party scenes. In the end, this movie is not for everyone, and some (like me) should enjoy it. It is not perfect, but if you like no-budget indie flicks, check it out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Evidence of a Haunting (2010)

This has been a crazy week full of weird weather and lot of computer lab, not to mention trying to get used to working again. All that aside, I took a break from the blog for a few days, but I am back again with a review of Evidence of a Haunting from 2010.

Plot/ While shooting their reality TV show, a team of ghost hunters get into the fight of their lives as they investigate the haunted tunnels deep below an old Texas college.

Ahhh, ghost hunting reality movies… These gems are popping up all over the place in varying degrees, and this one may be one of the better ones. The storyline, the soundtrack, and the overall feel of the flick is tremendous and very authentic. In addition, the script does a great job at tying the stories together while developing the characters. Sure, there are some flaws that will noticeable by a trained paranormal investigator and the acting is uneven (but believably amateurish), however, those flaws are minimal.  In the end, fans of hand-cam, paranormal investigational flicks should enjoy this one. If you are not one, give it a shot.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shark Night 3D (2011)

After hanging out and watching Contagion the other night, I decided to watch something very different for my next review. While I picked up a couple of things for my viewing, unfortunately, I had to watch something a little tamer with the daughters around. My selection, Shark Night 3D (it is only PG-13).

Plot/ A weekend at a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf turns into a nightmare for seven vacationers as they are subjected to shark attacks.

When watching the previews for this one, I got the feeling that I had already watched all of the good moments, and ironically, I was right (glad I waited until it was on DVD to watch it). To start, I was a bit depressed by the PG-13 rating, and after watching it, that disappointment was justified. There was really no blood other than the stuff that colored the water when someone was pulled underneath, no gore to mention and the dialogue was a train wreck. Honestly, this was just like something I would catch on the Sci-Fi channel, complete with the cheesy shark graphics.  There were some good point in this, and in fact, the storyline had some potential and actually a bit of originality. Unfortunately, all of that was lost between the bad effects and numerous flaws in the production. In the end, if you love Sci-Fi Channel originals, you may enjoy this one. If not, stay away.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Contagion (2011)

After spending a few hours at the skating rink for Genesis’ birthday party, (I cannot believe she is 14), it was time to kick back and enjoy some decent virus based entertainment. While zombies are always fun, the tragedy and devastation of a real outbreak may be scarier (especially considering this is the year 2012), fortunately, that is exactly what the 2011 thriller Contagion may deliver.

Plot/ A thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.

When I saw the preview for this, I wanted to see it. With the way the media covers outbreaks such as H1N1 or SARS, I felt it was a great time for Hollywood to capitalize on the mass hysteria involved. To me, this one did not disappoint. The cast was solid and their performances were all good. Unfortunately, by boasting such a dynamic cast, the character development did suffer some with all of the divergent storylines formulated to take advantage of the cast, but that flaw was not a showstopper. Surrounding this cast, the storyline was tremendous, perfectly centering the main character of this movie The Virus itself. The scenery and cinematography was awesome, and overall this is a well-put together docudrama. It does have some flaws besides the character development as the pacing was a bit slow and there was a lot of story that went unresolved.  In the end, this was much more a docudrama than thriller and should be viewed with that in mind, but it is an effective venture into the mind of an epidemic that would ravage the world. Check it out!