dir: Tim Burton
And this is what home video was invented for. You know, watching stuff on VHS or even Betamax tapes in your lounge room. No, I don’t mean porno. Well, maybe on laser disc or DVD. Definitely not Blu-Ray.
This is an artefact not just from the 60s, but from a time when we expected nothing more than to be entertained by something no matter how ludicrous it might be. Tim Burton may just be the most successful B movie director in the history of American cinema. I can't think of the last time or the first time he made something genuine, heartfelt and 'real', whatever that might be. He's happier with completely melodramatic fantasy, and who can blame him?
Johnny Depp certainly can't, which is just one of the many reasons why he's not only on board as the lead here, but also as one of the producers. I have no idea why Tim Burton and Depp thought making this would be profitable, successful or desirable to anyone else but themselves. But that's only because I know absolutely nothing about the show this is based on, other than it was a supernatural soap opera in the 1960s. Called Dark Shadows. That was probably even sillier than this.
People in the know, or with access to the tubes of the internets, probably know more than me, vastly more than me about this show. Soap operas have never really been my bag, especially ones from before my time, but it would not come as a surprise to you or me if such a flick made based on such a property would be a camp, lurid and utterly, utterly spastic showcase of all things Burtonesque and Deppish.
And, you know, it's exactly what you think it is, as trashy and camp as anything I've ever seen that doesn't have drag queens in it.
Thing is, though, I found it entertaining. I was heartily amused by it and laughed a fair bit. That's not the same as saying that it's a good movie. Oh, good gods, no. It's as pointless and empty as anything Burton does, and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense even within the context of a supernatural endeavour.
Who cares, though, when Johnny Depp, as lead character Barnabas Collins spits out archaic dialogue like "She has the most fertile birthing hips I've ever set eyes upon!" or "Aphrodite herself could not construct a more odious union!" It's funny enough. I spent most of my time just waiting for the next time he'd over-enunciate some ripe piece of verbiage.
dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?
In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.
Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?
I dunno. I just don't know. I'm just compulsive about some things, and I have no excuse. Maybe not watching them is impossible, conflicting as it does with my obvious obssessive/compulsive disorder. Or maybe I'm just a bigger fuckhead than I previously ever dreamed. Either way, it reflects poorly upon me, for which I wish I could blame Society. That's it, Society is to blame, not me. Or maybe drinking, who knows
I remember the first Underworld flick, which, apart from having a convoluted and interminable plot, cheap approximations of effects pioneered by The Matrix, and a central performance contributed by a mannequin with scoliosis called Kate Beckinsale, was not something I enjoyed. At all. On any level. It was too boring to be appreciated on a 'so-bad-it's-good' level, and too teeth-grindingly acted to be any kind of guilty pleasure.
dir: Craig Gillespie
I… I don’t know what to say. I’m almost ashamed of myself for saying this.
I enjoyed this remake of Fright Night.
I think it matters that about the only thing I really liked about the original was nothing. Well, almost nothing. I kinda liked Roddy McDowell’s performance, because he was always a camp delight to behold on any screen. But I found the flick way too silly to ever like it or be scared by it, even as a kid, watching it surreptitiously on video without parental consent or knowledge. Though, to be honest, I still get the heebie-jeebies from the poster.
No, it was just too silly. Chris Sarandon was just too odd and wacky to be scary, and I hated the guy who played Charley, and always did for ever more. Especially on Herman’s Head, which is a tv show and war crime the Hague should get around to prosecuting any day now.
This remake isn’t particularly great, groundbreaking or goddamn gothically grotesque either, but it’s definitely better than the original, and its even dumber sequel.
I’m not sure if Anton Yelchin is that great in the role either, but he’s a likeable chap. Even though he’s a total dweeb, or perhaps because of it, he plays the role in a relatable or even believable way.
Charley, in this version, has managed to caste-jump in high school, an almost impossible feat. As we all painfully know, and television continually keeps reminding us, whatever strata you were in at school was permanent and irrevocable, and completely dictated who you were and how people treated you. And it also basically dictated all that you would achieve for the rest of your life.
But Charley has achieved the unthinkable: he somehow jumped up two or maybe even three castes, so that he’s below the jocks, but above the intelligent and well-adjusted kids, which means attractive girls want to fuck him now. He even has an attractive girlfriend called Amy (the delightfully-named Imogen Poots), and life in the outskirts of Las Vegas could clearly not be better.
dir: Scott Stewart
Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick…
Pity poor Paul Bettany. No, really. He’s a decent actor, he’s achieved the Mt Everest of personal achievements by having had sex several times with Jennifer Connolly, and even married her, and had kids with her. He’s handsome, he’s charming, but he can’t get a decent break as an actor.
The most successful films he’s been in are ones in which he doesn’t physically appear (he does some computer voice in the Iron Man films), and in The DaVinci Code he played a self-flagellating albino nun-raping assassin. Have fun telling your mum about that role.
Almost everything else he’s done has been shit. No, that not fair, he was a splendid Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but other than that, it’s all terrible crap.
To whit, he somehow was one of the few people who saw that terrible film Legion that came out a couple of years ago and thought “Wow, I should work with that terrible director again!”
And he did, because, on some level, Legion must not have been one of the dumbest and worst flicks he’s ever seen or been in. Sure as shit it’s one of the worst flicks from 2010 that I saw, so one of us is clearly wrong.
Then again, what the fuck do I know? He gets to bang Jennifer Connolly, and I get to bitch about his poor script choices splayed out over the tubes of the internets, where worthless opinions go to die.
It’s inexplicable to me that he chose this script. He must really like Scott Stewart, because working again with him again sounds like a form of punishment more than a chance to make some movie magic. The fact that Priest is marginally better than Legion is not much of a recommendation.
dir: Matt Reeves
Remakes. The making thereof. Proof of creative bankruptcy, or just outright mercenary greed?
Let the Right One In was only made a few years ago, but it suffered from being made in the native language of its author, being Swedish. When certain Hollywoody types saw that film, they thought, “The film is so awesome that the only way we can improve upon it is by making it in American. That’ll earn us a packet, and show the Swedes how it’s really done.”
Of course, they remade it, it was little seen, and the point of the exercise, or the merits, remain solely on the artistic level.
I liked Let the Right One In plenty when I saw it at the cinema, and I read the book as well. In Swedish, initially, which was quite frustrating, since I can’t read Swedish. Then I tried in Swahili, then Farsi, and finally in an English translation. The book is solid, too. I have no particular axe to grind against an American remake in theory, so I went into this with my closest approximation of an open mind.
Let Me In is quite a nice film. It’s a horror film, with the pacing and scares of a horror film, but at its heart it’s a romance between an ancient predator called Abby, who masquerades as a little girl (Chloe Moritz), and a twelve-year-old boy called Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
Both have their problems. Owen’s parents are divorcing, he’s stuck with his alcoholic, god-bothering mother (whose face we deliberately never see), and he is tormented at school by bullies who mock his lack of masculinity. Abby has just moved in to the same drab apartment complex as Owen with a man who we assume is her father (Richard Jenkins), and, oh yeah, she constantly craves human blood.
Their biggest problem is that they’re living in the 80s, with everything that goes along with it: the bad hair, the terrible clothing, the often horrifying music, all of it.
dir: David Slade
And the shit keeps on rolling out…
Wow, has it really only been a year since the last Twilight movie? Surely our years and entire lives are now structured around the release of new instalments in this rightly labelled saga? And it is a saga indeed. Epic, if you will, in proportions, length, width, girth, and in precious emotions.
Big emotions. Huge emotions. Bigger than anything you’ve ever snored through in your entire life!
See there’s a girl called Bella (Kristen Stewart) and every boy’s in love with her, because she’s so wonderful, despite not doing, saying or thinking a single interesting thing in her life. She does nothing, thinks nothing, imagines nothing, nothings nothing. She’s such a nothing that four books are devoted to her. Who ever said there was presence in absence was thinking squarely of Bella Swan and Kristen Stewart’s non-acting abilities.
Perversely, not only is she irresistible to every boy in school, but even the vampire and werewolf set think she’s all kinds of awesome. Yes, vampires and werewolves exist in this world, and their only reason for existing is to reassure Bella that she’s the best. The werewolves, however, are American Indian young dudes with shaved chests who run around half-naked until they transform, whenever they feel like it, or get angry, or get horny, into giant dogs.
The vampires, who don’t age and who sparkle in sunlight, have the superpower of looking uncomfortable wearing painful contact lenses, and looking very pale. One of them, who is like their king, pope, their Johnny Depp, is Edward (Robert Pattinson). In this universe, looking a lot like the region around north-west Washington state (which is really Canada), Edward is the greatest because he has the most powerful anti-acting skills to pay the bills. Sure, he’s a handsome guy, but it’s the way he can mangle the simplest line of dialogue, coupled with these Tourette’s-like facial tics and pained half-smiles he throws in there for free that really sets him above all the rest.
dir: Chris Weitz
The problem, the problem with this is… let me just put my finger on the problem…
How do you make a good flick out of a terrible book? How do you get good performances out of terrible actors playing terrible characters? How do you achieve what alchemists have been trying and failing to do for centuries, being the transmutation of shit into gold?
I don’t know. Neither do the people making this flick.
No-one expects either Spanish Inquisitions or full scale refutations of the basics of physical chemistry in order to achieve the impossible, and I didn’t exactly go into this with an open mind. You cannot have read any of the despicable books by Stephanie Meyer in this series and have any hope either for a film version to be a decent film, or hope for humanity in general.
You just can’t. They’re bad, but they’re bad in the way that precludes being ironic about it, taking it as camp, as kitsch, as anything than what it is: a painfully earnest, unintentionally hilarious but soul deadening attack on human dignity.
That’s gilding the lily if I’ve ever gilded anything. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad.
The thing is, though, watching this flick I can’t help but marvel at how demented its sexual politics are, and how unhealthy its depiction of ‘young’ love is. It doesn’t help that the running theme, lifted from Romeo and Juliet and pounded into our eyes and ears with multiple clumsy Romeo and Juliet references, is how cool it would be to die over obsessive love.
You know, I always thought what teenagers needed were more reasons to want to kill themselves. And here’s a bunch of books and flicks telling them just that.
The annals (that’s double n, you smut-merchants), as in the collective literature of nations, of romantic stories is, dependant on your nation and its psyche, either conformist in nature (ie. Snow White and Cinderella: where beautiful girls are hated by nasty older women but loved by handsome princes because, hell, they’re hot jailbait), or fatalistic (Indian, Turkish, Japanese or Shakespearean tales of true love perpetually thwarted, resulting in misery and death).
What the Twilight series serves up is essentially nothing new: a plain and unexceptional female protagonist who is a stand-in both for the author and the prime audience, falls in love with a brooding and cold older guy who will permanently look young, who seems to love her for some reason. He is controlling and bipolar, which only makes it hotter. He also is permanently on the verge of killing her, as are some members of his family, and, oh, he happens to be a vampire.
The only other guy that she could possibly love also is on the verge of killing her if he gets overexcited, and, oh yeah, he happens to be a werewolf who runs around in cut-off jeans and no shirt all the time, edging out the other two terrible actors for Worst Performance Ever in a Twilight flick.
dir: Len Wiseman
Read here, my people, read and weep...
It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.
Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.
dir: Chan-wook Park
It’s an odd film. It’s interesting at times, boring at others, mostly enjoyable but also emotionally and stylistically flat some times. I’m sure it was deliberate. Chan-wook Park is an accomplished director, but don’t go expecting this to be too much in line with either Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.
It’s clear to me that he really intended on telling a very different vampire story from the ones popular with the girls and their wine cooler soaked mothers at the multiplex. He also intended on supplying the audience with a fairly leisurely, some might say lazy, broad satire of Catholicism. It seems odd to me that a Korean director would give a damn about Christianity, but then again I have no idea how widespread the Christbotherers are in South Korea, or even if the sky is blue and grass is green over there.
All I know about the peninsula is that the North Koreans have some fiercely choreographed high goose-stepping soldiers, millions of them, all starving for attention, freedom and a handful of rice.
South Korea is where the action is, and where the steady streams of films are coming from. It seems, though it’s not true, that Kang-ho Song is in most of them. He is, at least, even fleetingly in all the ones that I’ve seen thus far, whether good, bad or just plain weird.
Here he plays the main character, a Catholic priest called Sang-hyeon, who is very dedicated to his vocation. So dedicated is he that he decides, for reasons we can’t fathom, to sacrifice himself as a medical guinea pig in Africa, where a dreaded disease caused by the Emmanuel virus kills everyone infected with it. Sang-hyeon volunteers to have the virus injected into him.
I don’t know why he swallowed a virus, but there it is. Instead of dying painfully, Sang-hyeon covers himself in bandages, because of a bunch of pustules, and discovers that, whilst reoccurring, his symptoms disappear when he drinks blood. And sunlight disagrees with him. And he’s super strong, and he doesn’t feel very priestly any more.
Upon returning to Korea, he eventually drifts out of the church, mostly because people venerate him as some kind of super Jesus powered healer. One person who miraculously turns around from the brink of death under his tender ministrations happens to be someone he knew when he was a kid. Thus does Sang-hyeon get involved with Kang-woo (Ha-kyun Shin) and his despicable family.
dir: J.S. Cardone
This film opened yesterday.
I watched the first session with about three other people in the audience. I'm amazed they stayed until the end. I'm amazed I stayed until the end.
The actual cinema (no. 4 Hoyts) I watched it in has a grand tradition, a legacy to live up to. Nearly ten years ago I had the good fortune to be horribly drunk on a Sunday night, and the female friend in my company was even more drunk than I. As she was an esteemed employee of the Hoyts Corporation, we were lucky enough to just be able to walk into any of the films showing, whenever we wanted to. This particular night we staggered into a "special" screening, an advance screening for an upcoming release that was expected to do big business.
The audience was packed, we tried to quietly make our may to the only available seats, but had as much luck as a sumo wrestler wearing nylon. It was about half way through the film, but considering our blood alcohol levels, it didn't matter.
We settled in our seats, dazzled by the bright lights and the big people on the screen, watched fifteen minutes, laughed uproariously at its high crappiness, loudly screamed "This is shit!" and staggered out again. That film was called Garbo, one of the worst Australian films (if that isn't a tautology) of all time. We found out later that the special screening included members of the cast and crew, and their families.
So, this particular theatre has a history of showing quality films. I was ready for anything. But this time I didn't have the luxury of being drunk to dull the pain.
This is easily one of the dumbest vampire films ever made. Trust me on this, I pride myself on my knowledge and my watching of as many vampire films as inhumanly possible. This is of the most worthless, certainly. This isn't one of those "it's so bad, it's good, in a campy sort of way" type of deals, it doesn't have at least a sufficiency of breasts, gore, fucking and fighting to make up for the lack of plot. It just sucked.
dir: David S. Goyer
You have to wonder what the attraction is with this franchise. Wesley Snipes hasn't exactly done any memorable acting work in donkey's years. The Blade character is so two-dimensional that when Blade walks side-on from the camera I always expect the guy to be paper-thin. It hasn't really set the box office alight (none of the three films were big earners in that respect). Marvel, I'm sure, has plenty of other comic book franchises dying to be made (and I'm sure plenty of them are already in development).
As a vampire scenario it's not a particularly intelligent, original, amusing or otherwise worthwhile one. The main character's motivation is solely to kill vampires and try to gruffly protect humanity (which seems secondary). There's not a lot of room for character arcs, thematic development, social significance or transcendent insights into human or vampire nature amidst the averagely choreographed fight scenes and the most ordinary action set pieces.
I am taking the piss, but a film doesn't have to be dumb just to be an action film. Then again there doesn't need to be any of those elements in a full on action film, but a little would be nice. After setting up the franchise credibly in the first Blade film, they squandered it in the second by turning it into a sloppy Aliens clone complete with WWE wrestling moves and completely lowered the bar for fight scene choreography, wasting the talents of numerous decent people (not least of which being Donnie Yen).
Rumours of director / 'star' conflict arose which did nothing to dispel the feeling of crappiness that pervaded everything. A third film didn't really need to be made, but got made anyway. Think of this as a quickie for a few extra bucks. At the very least they admit right from the start that the premise is empty, and they need two other legs to prop up this shaky three-legged coffee table upon.
Killing off Blade's mentor character and sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, who looks older than Gandalf) they introduce Whistler's daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) to pick up the slack.
dir: Len Wiseman
Evolution, if we are to believe in Darwin’s satanically inspired theory, occurs incrementally over a great amount of time, resulting in minute changes on the micro level, and new species on the macro level. But over a great expanse of time.
The only connection the term ‘evolution’ has with this vampire / werewolf action flick, Underworld: Evolution, is that as if by a miracle, this sequel is better than the original film. The improvement, however, is tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and, like changes in species, will require millions of years before it really matters.
No ‘evolution’ of any sort occurs in this film, as far as I can tell. Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride go to extraordinary lengths to embellish the backstory they created in the first one, with painstaking attempts at linking everything and avoiding obvious plotholes and continuity mistakes. Really, they spent a great deal of time on the script.
dir: Catherine Hardwick
Oh good gods is it terrible! Make it stop!
Stop the night terrors, the images of atrocious acting that march through my nightmares each night since subjecting myself to this awful, awful movie. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this truly is a flick so atrocious that it almost seems like a parody of itself, a parody of teen vampire romances, and a parody of filmmaking in general. This film uniquely captures, the way dogcatchers uniquely capture stray and rabid dogs, a collection of actors giving performances so terrible that if they were racehorses, you would surround the cast and crew with screens, load up the shotguns, and put them all out of our misery.
I’ve seen this director direct decent films before, with young casts, so it’s not like she’s out of touch with the young ‘uns and completely unable to elicit decent performances from them. She seemed to do okay with Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, the former dealing with young girls, the latter with young boys. Here, well, it’s as if she either a) didn’t care how terrible the performances were, using takes of scenes with obviously unintended mistakes and woeful line readings instead of redoing them, b) thought wooden, unconvincing performances would be more inline with the terrible prose of Stephanie Meyer’s truly awful books, or c) she was so angry at studio interference that she deliberately set out to sabotage the production with substandard everythings on every level.