Animal – Review

Animal movie poster

“”Animal” doesn’t break any new ground, but it is attractive to look at, and has some great pratical creature effects.”

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I don’t particularly enjoy features from The Asylum.  For those unfamiliar with the company they produced movies like Sharknado, all those Mega Shark movies, as well as ZNation.

My problem isn’t that they are blatantly low-budget, it’s that they don’t seem to accept it–relying on cheap-looking digital elects way more often than they should–and also don’t seem to understand that using fewer special effects would work out better than lots of cheesy digital ones.

Most of their output turns up on the Syfy Channel, which isn’t a bad thing because I am not sure anyone else would want it.

Though Syfy isn’t the only channel that caters to genre-based entertainment.  There’s also Chiller, which is more focused on horror.  From what I have seen of their original productions–while they’re not Asylum bad–they’re generally pretty mediocre.

Then I saw Animal and have to admit that it was pretty good.  

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Chappie – Review

Chappie movie poster

Chappie Is Pretty Good.  It’s Not District 9, But That’s Okay.

If you’ve seen Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium, you may have given up on him, despite the fact that that can be considered a bit of an overreaction, especially since his first movie, District 9, was pretty good.

That being said, let’s not forget that his second movie wasn’t by any means terrible, though it wasn’t always terribly logical–why would a space station not have any means to defend itself, and have to rely on Earth-bound agents to launch missiles at approaching craft?  Suppose that particular operative were sick?  Or if they happened to be on the other side of the planet–the Earth rotates, which means that Elysium wouldn’t be seen from one part of the world for at least twenty-four hours.

Anyway, Blomkamp is back with Chappie, and it’s pretty good (as in better than Elysium, though not in District 9’s ratified strata).

The movie revolves around a robot that comes to be known as Chappie (voiced by Neill Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley), and explores what it means to be human.

Blomkamp’s love of South Africa is in full effect–as I understand it, the South African government makes it very cost-efficient to film there, though I get the feeling that he loves the country and finds the stark contrasts between well-to-do and dirt poor fascinating–which is why it’s the go-to destination for all of his movies so far.

Chappie is also looser than anything that Blomkamp has done so far, and while the cutesy robot stuff may go on a bit longer than necessary, it’s a minor point and doesn’t stop one from enjoying a pretty good movie.

Séptimo – Review

Séptimo movie poster

“I Don’t Care How You Feel About Subtitles, Get Over It Because Séptimo Is Awesome!”

Paxti Amerzcua‘s Séptimo (otherwise known as The 7th Floor) is a frighteningly effective thriller about a lawyer named Sebastián (Recardo Darín) who stops by the apartment of Delia (Belén Rueda), his ex-wife, to pick up his two children.

She lives on the seventh floor, so he decides to take the elevator from her apartment, though his children, being children, wanted to take the stairs.

After a bit of convincing he decides to let them go, though when he arrives in the lobby they’re nowhere to be found.

So somewhere between the 7th floor and the lobby his children vanished, and the movie is spent documenting his efforts to track them down, though in the process he uncovers an almost unthinkable plot directed at him.

Séptimo reminded me a lot of Taken, except that instead of spending time with shoot-em-ups the movie instead revolves around a pretty clever–though remarkably mean-spirited, even beyond the kidnapping, that is–scheme that doesn’t come off as too far-fetched.

And for the most part the movie works really well, though its greatest weakness is that while Sebastián may apparently work for some pretty scummy clients, all that is shown is how much he cares for his children, which makes the plot directed at him seem really cruel, when he may in actuality deserve such treatment.

And Séptimo is entirely in Spanish, though don’t let a few subtitles stop you from watching a very effective thriller.  The music that plays over the end credits, by Roque Baños, is also particularly noteworthy.

Séptimo is currently on Netflix.

Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead -Review

Red Snow 2: Red Vs Dead movie poster

“Apparently, No One Told Director Tommy Wirkola That Sometimes Too Much Is Just Too Much.”

Have you ever known a person that you enjoyed being around, despite that they always seem to try way too hard to be the center of attention?

You may like them as an individual, but wish that they would just tone it down, if only a little bit?

Well, Tommy Wirkola‘s Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is the movie version of that friend.  The first Dead Snow was a pretty enjoyable horror movie and tribute to directors like George Romero, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter (especially Carpenter, seeing that it was essentially a gorier, more humorous version of his 1979 movie, The Fog).

Unfortunately, the sequel tries way too hard, upping the ante by throwing in an evil arm (very Sam Raimi), and a troop of Russian zombies on top of the Nazi zombies that were raising Hell from the first movie.

But sometimes more isn’t better, it’s just more. In fact, when things really get moving you have to be amazed that he can even wrangle it all.

Despite the similarities to The Fog, it actually plays more like a  Sam Raimi movie–as opposed to something from John Carpenter, who takes his subject matter more seriously–who’s likely to mine horror for humor as much as violence.  Though there’s an important caveat:  When Raimi tends to do so the humor acts as a release valve (for tension), while in Wirkola’s case the effect is often the reverse.

In other words, while the humor and outrageousness are ramped up considerably, it’s typically at the cost of the horror.

Which is a pity because while the Nazis never needed help in being terrifying, very little of what made them so makes it intact to Tommy Wirkola’s movie.

 

Red Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is currently on Netflix

Kingsman: The Secret Service -Review

Kingsman: The Secret Service poster

“”Kingsman: the Secret Service” Is More Fun Than It Has Any Right To Be.”

Honestly I didn’t go into Kingsman: The Secret Service expecting all that much.  It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn, who did X-Men: First Class, Stardust, Kick-Ass, and Layer Cake.

Luckily my reticence wasn’t necessary because it’s a pretty good time.  The movie takes the spy thriller–something anyone that’s seen James Bond, Jason Bourne or even Austin Powers is familiar with–and tweaks them in some pretty interesting ways.

This secret organization, Kingsman (sort of like Torchwood, but without the name of their organization on their cars) is loosely structured based on King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, which means that there are individuals with code names like Arthur, Merlin and Lancelot.  They operate outside of government and work behind the scenes to stabilize trouble spots all over the world.

There are about three violent set pieces in the movie, and they’re all gloriously over-the-top, making Kingsman probably one of the most violent mainstream movies that I have seen in awhile (in fact, it’s almost Monty Python-violent at times).

There’s also a very populist current undergirding much of the action, which was an interesting–and unexpected–turn.

Though mainly the movie was just surprisingly fun, and a lot of the credit goes to Samuel Jackson, who plays Valentine, a megalomaniacal billionaire who’s plan for saving the world just happens to involve the killing of millions of “surplus” people (and unlike most spy movies, his scheme actually makes sense in a Machiavellian kind of way).

And Valentine is a particularly quirky individual, though there’s one peculiarity that’s not only ballsy for any actor to attempt, but that Jackson pulls off with aplomb.

In fact, Kingsman is full of all sorts of ballsy moves that would have failed in a lesser movie, but happen to work in this particular case so if you’re on the fence about seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service, get off and go see it.

 

Horns – Review

Alexandre Aja is one of the most consistently interesting horror directors working today.  His Maniac remake–which he wrote with his writing partner, Grégory Levasseur–was excellent, and the work he did direct, such as High Tension (a fascinating movie that irritates the Hell out of me–in an Usual Suspects kind of way.  It’s a long story), The Hills Have Eyes reboot, Mirrors, for the most part are sublime.

Which has a lot to do with his last film, Horns, is so disappointing.

I haven’t read the novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), but I would hope that his writing isn’t as erratic, as schizophrenic as this movie was.

My biggest gripe is that I had no idea why things were happening.  For instance, the movie opens during a murder investigation, and everyone–including his parents and brother–believes Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is guilty.

The problem with this is that he (Spoiler Alert!) didn’t do it, but despite this fact he finds himself growing horns (?), which have two wildly inconsistent abilities.

So let’s for a moment forget that Ig is innocent, which means that there’s no justification for devil’s horns to suddenly start growing out of his head.

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) – Review

The Town That Dreaded Sundown movie poster

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) Is Remarkably “Blah” And Pointless, Which Is A Pity Considering The Source Material”

While I was a bit dismayed when I first learned that one of the favorite horror films was being remade, I am even more put out to see it turn up on Netflix this evening (which implies that it wasn’t good enough to release in theaters because, while I am a huge fan of Netflix, movies that aren’t in some way associated with them don’t traditionally make it their first stop).

It’s already a bit too meta for my tastes and opens with a couple at a drive-in, watching the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown–someone even wears an eponymously-titled t-shirt, which is a bit like wearing a shirt with James Holmes‘ picture on the anniversary of the Colorado theater shootings.  Sure, you could do it, but it would also be in awfully bad taste–and with some people protesting that a movie based on a true event was being shown again.

And the thing is, you can see their point.

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