Love In The Time Of Monsters – Review

Love in the Time of Monsters poster

“So this is where the American Dream died.”

  —Marla

Matt Jackson’s Love in the Time of Monsters–a play on Gabriel Garcia’s Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera?–is interesting for a lot of reasons, the first being that it’s so thematically similar to Zombeavers that it almost plays like a sequel.

Luckily, Love in the Time of Monsters is a better movie, though neither will be winning any awards, Saturn or otherwise, any time soon.

My biggest issue with it is that it takes two interesting leads–Marla (Gena Shaw) and Carla (Marissa Skell), both who’s views on family vacations were marred by the death of their father, who died when Paul Bunyan’s ax fell on him during a trip to Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California–and does relatively little with them.

Paul Bunyan and Babe Paul Bunyan and Babe

The movie covers their first vacation together in 15 years.

And while neither sister was unscathed by the experience, Marla seems worse off, becoming cynical and unable to maintain a relationship for any length of time.

Hoping that this family outing goes better than that last one–it doesn’t–they decide to visit Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge, where Carla’s fiancee works as a Bigfoot performer.

Yes.  I did just type ‘Bigfoot performer.’

Where the movie succeeds most is in the backgrounds of its quirky supporting cast, such as Uncle Slavko (Michael McShane), who, despite running an “All-American Family Lodge” isn’t American or Dr. Lincoln/Doug (Doug Jones) a chemist that just happens to be working at that lodge because of the economy.

And sure, they’re less individuals than vehicles designed to get the story from one point to the next, but everyone looks like they’re having enough fun that it’s easy to overlook.

Another similarity to Zombeavers is a panoply of zombified animals, which would have been much more welcome if they had come a bit earlier in the movie–they first make an appearance in the latter third–with the zombified trout being particularly effective (though the vultures (?) were pretty memorable as well).

When all is said and done, Love in the Time of Monsters is fun, and pretty well-acted, considering the genre, though it’s not quite Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Love in the Time of Monsters is prowling the fringes of iTunes, VOD and Amazon.

Zombeavers – Review

Zombeavers movie poster

“Watch If Just So You Can Say You Do Did (Or You Really Like Bill Burr).  Other Than That, I’ve Got Nothin.'”

Bill Burr!  Bill Burr is one of the first people you see when Zombeavers starts, and maybe it’s just that he’s not too discriminating about the roles he chooses, but I was genuinely happy to see him.  That being said, I’m not too sure why because it’s not like he’s some sort of motion picture arbiter of quality (though he was in Breaking Bad, which was all sorts of awesome).

Though in this instance it’s his screw-up that sets events in motion (by not breaking for a deer).

By the way, under most conditions when deer are hit by vehicles they don’t explode like they’d swallowed a hand grenade or something.

Another surprise is that Chris Bender and JC Spink are listed as producers.  They’ve done some pretty interesting work, such as The Butterfly EffectFinal Destination and The Ruins, among many others).

Which still doesn’t mean that Zombeavers isn’t going to suck, though at least there’s a (admittedly slim) chance it won’t (And apropos of nothing, the origin of the zombified beavers is remarkably similar to that of Marvel’s Daredevil, also on Netflix. Coincidence?  Probably).

About midway the movie turns to ‘The Raft,’ from Creepshow 2, except dumber, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that earlier, when three sunbathing women encounter a bear–the one who happened to be topless covered her breasts, as if the bear somehow cared how small they were.

It’s worth mentioning that the beavers were brought to life–so to speak–via animatronics and hand puppetry, which I appreciate.

There’s also little in the way to CGI to be found, which is good because it would have made the movie look cheaper than it probably was.

Zombeavers plays like a parody of horror movies in which a bunch of–in this instance sort-of-young–young people find themselves in a horrific  situation, which would be fine if it were as funny as the situation is absurd.

So when all is said and done, not even Bill Burr can save Zombeavers, though the theme song at the end comes awfully close.

Zombeavers aren’t resting easy on Netflix.

Carrie (2013) – Review

“Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, As Far As Remaks Goes, Isn’t Terribly Necessary, Though It’s Worth Seeing Anyway.”

For the longest time I’ve avoided watching Kimberly Peirce‘s remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie because I just didn’t see the point, especially since from what I had seen from the trailers it wasn’t saying anything that the original didn’t.

And for the most part, I was right–and also wrong.

I’ll explain what I mean.  Pierce’s remake modernizes the material in a way that you’ll never get from DePalma’s movie–for instance characters use cell phones as well as the Internet–but there’s a very good reason for that:  Cell phones didn’t exist and I suspect that Internet didn’t either, at least not in the form that we know it today.

It’s also worth mentioning that the original movie might feel almost quaint (and to be honest, a bit dated) to a contemporary audience that’s grown up in the age of touch screen phones and the wireless interlinking of devices.

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REC 4: Apocalypse – Review

“Ignore the naysayers.  REC 4: Apocalypse is a pretty good time.”

I’ve been particularly interested in the REC movies, because they’re quite possibly one of the most successful–in terms of staying faithful and uncompromisingly with what made them so interesting in the first place–horror series ever made (Unlike others, such as the Resident Evil series, which pretty much collapses after the first entry).

Each movie in the REC series builds on the one proceeding it, upping the ante in terms of horror, though the series veered slightly from the orignal formula with REC 3: Genesis, which puts forward that the source of the zombie infection was of a more supernatural nature.

REC 3: Genesis

I didn’t mind though, because there was nothing that invalidated what came before, yet it presented a novel perspective.

My expectations were pretty high in reference to the forth film in the series, REC 4: Apocalypse, though I few months ago I read a review that panned it.

So when it turned up on Netflix, I wasn’t expecting much; though I was pleasantly surprised because it was pretty entertaining.

REC 2

The fourth film in the series isn’t as innovative or as gory as the prior entries–and there’s way too much shaky-cam at a few crucial points–but overall it was well-acted and enjoyable.

This time the action takes place aboard a ship, in an effort to isolate the survivors of the last movie, as well as to find a cure.

The film, to varying degrees, sticks with the same found-footage format of the prior films, but used it sparing; though when it does it’s in a more logical fashion (in other words, the bulk of the movie unfolds conventionally, which is a good thing).

REC

When all is said and done, REC 4: Apocalypse is pretty satisfying way to spend an hour and a half, which is really what it’s all about.

REC 4: Apocalypse is currently infecting Netflix.

Extraterrestrial – Review

The last film from The Vicious Brothers (who aren’t–biologically speaking–brothers) was the send-up of found footage reality shows, Grave Encounters.  It was one of the better examples of the genre because it was able to take many of the tropes that come with it (How is it that no matter what or where something happens there’s a camera conveniently located to capture it?  How are people are able to run with a camera in their hands and still manage to maintain an image that’s not nausea-inducing?  It’s almost as if they’re working with a steady cam or something) and at least make them interesting.

As a result I went into Extraterrestrial with higher expectations than I would traditionally, and was a bit let down.  Visually, aboard the alien spaceship–the last half hour or so of the movie)–was way too indebted to better alien abduction movies, like 1993’s Fire In The Sky.

Another problem was that the aliens were particularly murderous, which seems a bit at odds with the whole studying humanity part of their mission.  And speaking of violent tendencies, there’s a scene that plays with a joke earlier in the movie about the anal probing that aliens supposedly love doing on those they abduct.

Only this time, it’s used as an implement of torture. which makes you wonder what sort of highly advanced culture would travel seemingly light-years across the galaxy, just to kill someone by drilling into their ass.  Besides, if their intent from the start was murderous, then why bother bringing them aboard their ship at all?  Especially since these aliens–while resembling those from Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind–aren’t nearly as munificent.

This tonal inconsistency is particularly irritating in the last ten minutes of the movie, when it turns to The X-Files, complete with its own ‘Smoking Man.’  It’s an interesting homage, but it literally makes no sense because what would be the point of the military killing the abductees, when no one would believe them anyway?

And those that did would probably be so much on the fringe that it wouldn’t even matter.  The scene in question doesn’t ruin the movie, but the needless cynicism came pretty close.

Extraterrestrial has recently landed on Netflix.

Late Phases – Review

“Late Phases Is An Interesting Diversion, Though Hardly The Best The Werewolf Genre has To Offer.”

When all is said and done, what separates great werewolf movies from also-rans is the quality of the titular beast itself, which unfortunately isn’t Late Phases strongest point.  The aforementioned monsters here look less like wolves than large hairy gnomes, which is interesting–and a little bit odd–because it’s not like research material–wolves–can’t be found in zoos or on the Internet.

In nature they’re beautiful, powerful creatures (and significantly larger than you’d think) that are in their way quite graceful.

The closest filmmakers have come to capturing the innate grace and power of the animals has been in movies like Dog Soldiers (where director Neil Marshall actually had them played by dancers, in an effort to give them a certain elegance of movement) and Joe Dante’s The Howling.

In John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, while it had groundbreaking practical effects by FX virtuoso Rick Baker, the creature itself was more bear-like than wolf (which had a lot to do with how bulky it was.  Wolves aren’t massive in that sense, and they move with an ease that Landis’ monster lacked).

Where Late Phases does shine is in its depiction of relationships, in particular, those between fathers and sons.  Nick Damici does well as Ambrose, a soldier who’s blinded in combat, and whom can’t seem to put the war, the Vietnam War, behind him.

Ethan Embry holds his own as his son, Will, who’s doing the best he can for his father, though the tension between the two is always bubbling beneath the surface.

Damici plays blind well, though something’s a bit off about his performance.  Part of it is that he really looks like Charles Bronson, which is distracting.

Another is that he seems always tense, as if his sense of peace went along with his vision.

As I implied, the movie is for the most part petty well-done, though it’s at it’s weakest when the werewolves make their appearance.

Which is a pity, since it is after all a werewolf movie.

Late Phases is currently stalking on Netflix.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Review

The Avengers: Age Of Ultron International poster

“For me, one of the signs of a good movie is that it rewards repeat viewing.  Avengers: Age of Ulton fits the bill.”  

I’ve already reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron here for Moviepilot, though I tend to be easily overwhelmed by spectacle–which this movie has in spades–so I saw it a second time, to better digest what was going on.

This time I saw the 2D version at the legendary Uptown theater in Washington, DC (quite possibly the best movie house in the city).

What I noticed is that Avengers: Age of Ultron, on the surface, is a battle between the Avengers and Ultron (motion-captured and voiced by James Spader), a homicidal robot who believes that the only way to save the human race is to force it to evolve, which sounds interesting, till you figure out he intends to kill the bulk of us to bring it about.

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