Film Review: Dagon (2001)

Also known as: H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (US complete title), Dagon: Sect of the Sea (alternative), The Lost Island (Philippines)
Release Date: October 12th, 2001 (Spain – Sitges Film Festival)
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Dennis Paoli
Based on: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Carles Cases
Cast: Ezra Godden, Francisco Rabal, Raquel Merono, Macarena Gomez, Brendan Price

ICCA, Generalitat de Catalunya, Institut Català de Finances, Televisió de Catalunya, Televisión de Galicia S.A., Vía Digital, Xunta de Galicia, Castelao Producciones, Estudios Picasso, Fantastic Factory (Filmax), Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot care for her. You do not dream of her! You will go soon to a beautiful place. You will forget your world and your friends. There will be no time, no end, no today, no yesterday, no tomorrow – only the forever and forever, and forever without end. It is your fate. It is your destiny.” – Uxia Cambarro

Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna are no strangers to Lovecraftian horror but this film is the closest thing to the source material that they have ever produced. And while this isn’t better than their earlier films: Re-Animator and From Beyond, it is still a solid, good effort that is better than most of their films after the 1980s.

While Dagon is the title of a short story from H.P. Lovecraft, this film is actually an adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

The two major difference is that the setting was shifted to a Spanish fishing village called “Imboca”, as opposed to “Innsmouth”, Massachusetts. Also, the aquatic deity Dagon takes on more of a Cthulhu appearance, whereas in the originally story his was humanoid with fish-like features.

I like this film for the most part. In all honesty, my only real complaint were the digital effects. They looked cheap, horribly cheap. They looked worse than what the standard was in Sci-Fi Channel movies circa 2000. However, the practical effects really make up for it, as the gore that was created physically, comes off as pretty damn good. But the problem with this is that there is so much variance in quality between the great practical effects and the abysmal digital effects that it breaks the movie for me. It’s, at times, pretty jarring. Especially, when both are utilized in moments that run so close together.

Also, the acting is pretty shitty but its not so bad that it goes to lower depths than one would expect from this sort of picture. It’s just nothing to write home about and so much of it comes off as really hokey. This could also be due to the quality of the dubbing, as this is a Spanish film and a lot of the dialogue needed to be dubbed over for the American video release. Usually dubbing from Spanish language films isn’t too much of a distraction but there are some scenes that look very out of sync.

The story is pretty compelling though. But this doesn’t do anything to surprise you other than some shocks with the amount of gore towards the end. But, if I’m being honest, none of the gory stuff exceeds what Gordon and Yuzna have done with their earlier movies. The infamous face peeling scene here is also just a rehash of the infamous face peeling scene that Tobe Hooper gave us in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

What I dig most about this film is that regardless of its flaws, it is one of the best adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. It’s not “Lovecraftian horror” it is Lovecraft.

Also, the scenes with mutated people slowly walking through the dark streets of the village reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from the Vincent Price starring The Haunted Palace. That was another film that adapted Lovecraft and featured some similar plot points to this film.

Dagon is a pretty cool film to watch, if you are into Lovecraft. It probably won’t resonate for those who aren’t already fans but it does have some solid gross out moments and it’s strange, surreal and unique.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Lovecraftian horror films: The Call of Cthulhu, From Beyond, Re-Animator, The Haunted Palace and The Dunwich Horror.

Film Review: Blade: Trinity (2004)

Also known as: Blade III (working title)
Release Date: December 7th, 2004 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David S. Goyer
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Ramin Djawadi, Rza
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Biel, Ryan Reynolds, Parker Posey, Dominic Purcell, Triple H, Natasha Lyonne, John Michael Higgins, James Remar, Patton Oswalt, Christopher Heyerdahl

Marvel Enterprises, Shawn Danielle Productions Ltd., Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[licking one of Hannibal’s wounds] You’re tasting a little bland, lover. Are you getting enough fatty acids in your diet? Have you tried lake trout? Mackerel?” – Danica Talos, “How about you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?” – Hannibal King, “And how about everyone here not saying the word “dick” anymore? It provokes my envy.” – Danica Talos

Well, revisiting Blade II wasn’t fun but at least this one was a bit better, in my opinion, even if the consensus doesn’t agree with me.

But let’s be honest, this is also pretty much a total turkey unworthy of being a sequel to the first film.

What’s kind of baffling is that this installment has the best cast out of all three films. I mean, there is a lot of talent on the roster but what we got was a movie that has given most of these actors something to scrub off of their resume.

For instance, Parker Posey is a dynamite actress. In fact, she may be mostly known as an indie darling but she’s one of the best actresses of the past twenty-five years. She has range, she delivers and it’s hard to think of anything else that sees her performance be anywhere near as cringe as it is here. But I don’t blame Posey, I blame the atrocious script and poor direction of David S. Goyer.

So speaking on that, I have to point out how bad the dialogue is in this picture. It’s heinously bad. So bad, in fact, that it almost makes the dialogue in the first Blade come off as Shakespearean. It’s worse than the dialogue in Blade II, which was also shit. But I guess it’s kind of surprising, considering that Goyer wrote all three films. But maybe it’s worse here because he took over the directing duties and thus, didn’t have a more talented director that was able to work around terribly written lines and find a way to salvage them. Maybe Goyer kept a tighter leash on his actors than Guillermo del Toro or Stephen Norrington.

I mean, even Ryan Reynolds who is one of the most charming and funny actors of his generation, stumbled through his clunky and unfunny lines, trying to make them work but failing at delivering anything other than unfunny edgy boi humor that sounds like it was written by a middle schooler trying so hard to impress his older brother’s high school friends.

Don’t even get me started on Triple H’s performance but regardless of how convincing he is as a wrestler, his heel game is weak as hell here and I actually had to subtract some cool points from him when I saw this in 2004.

This chapter also lacks a real story and it isn’t even sure which character it wants to make the big bad of the movie. Dominic Purcell plays Drake, who is really just Dracula, but he comes off as the lamest Dracula in the last twenty years of film history. But Purcell is another guy that’s cool and pretty capable of putting in a good performance if given the right direction.

Ultimately, this is a film entirely bogged down by poor performances, bad writing and sloppy direction.

However, the story is better and more clever than the previous film. This had elements that could have saved it and turned this into something great. The opening in the desert and then the first action sequence were all well done and set the stage for what could have been a really solid picture but everything becomes a mess after that.

I also liked the idea of Blade finding a team to work with but the film fucks all that up by having Limp Bizkit Dracula killing just about all of them off except for Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel.

Now I really liked Biel in this, even if fighting vampires while jiving to your iPod seems incredibly careless. She gives a better performance than this weak script should have allowed and maybe Goyer was more lenient on letting her alter her performance, as she’s pretty hot and this was only the second time he directed.

Other great performers were all pretty much wasted and were forgettable. In fact, I forgot that James Remar, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Heyerdahl, Patton Oswalt and Natasha Lyonne were even in this.

In the end, this had the ability to be something much better but it suffered for all the reasons I’ve already bitched about. I liked that this wasn’t over stylized like del Toro’s Blade II and that it had a more interesting story that put Blade up against Dracula but the film’s execution snuffed out the possibility of something solid.

And while it seems as if I’m bashing Goyer, he would improve. But his best work has always come when he’s worked under a much more talented director than himself. Christopher Nolan, for instance. But he’s still put out some shitty scripts and unfortunately, the shit outweighs the gold.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

Film Review: Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Also known as: The Burly Man (fake working title), The Matrix 3 (working title)
Release Date: October 27th, 2003 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau, Collin Chou, Gina Torres, Anthony Zerbe, Cornel West, Mary Alice, Bruce Spence

NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 129 Minutes

Review:

“Can you feel it Mr. Anderson? Closing in on you? Oh I can, I really should thank you after all. It was, after all, it was your life that taught me the purpose of all life. The purpose of life is to end.” – Agent Smith

*Sigh*

Well, I got to the end. But I’m glad this journey of revisiting The Matrix film series is now behind me.

Reason being, I didn’t really enjoy these films because of how dated and horribly cliche and goofy they are. Plus, each installment in this trilogy got worse. I thought that this one might play better than the second but this film is such a massive misfire that it didn’t even come close to hitting the target it was aiming at.

My memories remembered this as a big two hour action sequence. But it’s not. There is a lot of action but it doesn’t really come until the last hour of the movie. Everything before that is really unnecessary. I mean, fuck, Neo was stuck in a subway station for a fucking half hour while his squad tried to save him from his limbo. Great way to use your time wisely in a final installment. The first act of this picture felt like episode 15 of a season of a TV show where they needed filler bullshit to pad out the season to 22 episodes.

Once the action does get going, the film gets better but we’re also thrown into action sequences with characters we just met or barely know and there’s no real reason for us to feel connected to many of them. So when some of them die, it doesn’t hit you in any emotional way. Maybe the first act of this film could have developed these disposable and empty characters.

Anyway, Neo is blinded in the most ridiculous way ever and he has to fight a swarm of Sentinels using his “electro-psychic vision” or whatever the hell his blind Daredevil sense is called. But that fight is mainly just Trinity flying a ship, dodging Sentinels that Neo doesn’t explode with the Force because at this point, Neo is a blind Jedi master over technology or something.

Trinity dies, which makes all the “No Trinity don’t die!” bullshit of the previous film seem like a massive waste of time and bad storytelling.

Now the big battle between Neo and Mr. Smith within the Matrix is pretty awesome and the only real highlight of the film. Tech-Jedi Neo becomes ’90s Goth Club Superman and he and Mr. Smith both swing for the fences in an over the top CGI bonanza. This sequence works for me and it accomplishes what it set out to do tremendously well. However, it doesn’t excuse the other 90 percent of the film that made me want to stick my head into a wood chipper.

But hey, I survived. I’m not sure if Neo did, as it seemed unclear when Doctor Octopus arms carried him away like a half dead messiah.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Matrix films, as well as the slew of films from the early ’00s that ripped it off.

Film Review: Blade II (2002)

Also known as: Blade 2: Bloodlust (working title)
Release Date: March 21st, 2002 (premiere)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Matt Schulze

Marvel Enterprises, Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, New Line Cinema, 117 Minutes

Review:

“They tortured me almost to death, and then let me heal in a vat of blood so they could go at it again. Sorry sons of bitches could’ve at least fixed my damn leg while they were at it.” – Whistler

I think I liked Blade II when I saw it in theaters, which was the last time I saw it. However, seeing it with 2019 eyes, this thing is a total failure when compared to the solidness of the first picture.

Guillermo del Toro directed this, which means something to a lot of people, but if I’m being honest, del Toro rarely wows me. I don’t know why. I like his style to a point but I think he’s a severely over hyped filmmaker and his faults are really apparent in this movie.

The first movie in this franchise had superb character development and world building. This just takes all of that and makes it darker for the sake of making it darker and it adds in so much of del Toro’s narrative and visual tropes that its a flat movie with flat, predictable characters that act more like caricatures than real people. Blade II is a perfect example of style over substance.

This also has a new vampire threat that is very del Toro-esque and while these new, more dangerous vampires should be scary, they’re just kind of weird and go so far outside of what a typical vampire is that they feel like a different type of monster altogether. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I just don’t like these creatures and they seem pretty generic and lame. Plus, they all basically look the same, which is just shirtless, bald and pale things. If I’m being honest, it’s as if del Toro is trying to channel some of the visual cues from Dark City‘s baddies while adding in a bit more fright factor with their jaws splitting open and revealing vampire vagina faces like the aliens from the Predator franchise.

While there are several actors I like in this beyond Snipes and Kristofferson, all of them are poorly used. Ron Perlman is underwhelming, Norman Reedus is annoying, Donnie Yen is wasted and Danny John-Jules feels like a watered down and less fabulous version of his most famous character, the Cat from Red Dwarf.

I didn’t like the bad guys, I didn’t like the plot twists that one can see from ten miles away and there was nothing here that justifies the need for a sequel.

I’m trying to think of one scene or sequence that stands out in the movie and I’ve got nothing. This is just an almost two-hour music video full of late ’90s techno and industrial scene cliches. And the whole shebang is derivative as fuck.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Blade movies.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Also known as: Ginger Snaps 3, Ginger Snaps: The Prequel (working titles), Licantropia (Italy)
Release Date: July 10th, 2004 (Canada – Fantasia Film Festival)
Directed by: Grant Harvey
Written by: Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Alex Khaskin
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher

49 Films, Combustion, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“The air is bloody…” – Ginger

Well, here we are, the end of this trilogy. I haven’t really enjoyed it even though I liked the first film like twenty years ago and I thought that the first sequel was a wee bit better for being straight up horror and not a puberty metaphor.

However, this one has a few good spots in it but it is mostly a really dull drudge to get through.

Most of the film is just Ginger and Brigitte wearing Colonial Era cloaks and moping around reminding us that they’re insufferable goth teen cliches. But this isn’t the same Ginger and Brigitte. No, this is somehow a prequel and they’re different characters but whatever. None of that makes sense and this is all a bad idea used to milk this into a franchise that no one wanted other than twelve year-old goth girls and the Canadian film industry.

Anyway, this tries to take itself seriously but it fails. It forgets that it is supposed to have a bit of cheese but it only has bad, unintentional cheese and doesn’t try to emulate what makes the good teen/twentysomething werewolf movies, well… good. There needs to be some humor and characters that you care for, so that the transformation to monsters actually makes the audience care. Look at An American Werewolf In London for a good example of what I’m talking about.

The Ginger Snaps film series is just an ugly, moody bitch. It’s an angsty teen without a sense of humor, doing its damnedest just to piss off mom and dad because “…like the suburbs suck and shit”. This film takes the worse parts about the original and just dumps them into the Canadian wilderness of the 1810s.

Also, the acting seems to have gotten worse.

Now as far as the cool bits, there is a scene at the end where werewolf Ginger opens the gates to the fort and a hoard of werewolves walk in to eat the inhabitants. It looks good, the effects are better than they were in the first two films and you finally get to see multiple werewolves onscreen at the same time. Now the faces of the monsters aren’t very good but overall, I can see that they actually put the budget into the effects. But I guess that’s why they had to film this in a big cabin, fronting as a fort, in some Canadian state park somewhere in the woods.

I don’t know, man. This was boring, tough to get through and it made sure that I’ll probably never rewatch one of these movies again.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.

Film Review: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Also known as: The Burly Man (fake working title), The Matrix 2 (working title)
Release Date: May 7th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau, Collin Chou, Gina Torres, Anthony Zerbe, Roy Jones Jr., Cornel West

NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.” – Merovingian

From memory, the Matrix sequels weren’t as good as the first film. Having seen this one again, a decade and a half later, I’d say that this holds true.

Still, this wasn’t a bad experience. This one does stand out simply for the fact that it has the best action sequence out of the series. Granted, my mind might change after I revisit the third film next week.

The scene that I’m talking about is the Interstate chase which is actually more than a simple car chase. It is an insane bonanza of flying bullets, flying bodies and vehicular carnage. Although, I have some issues with it too.

To start, I want to point out the positives. It was a lengthy section in the film but none of it was dull and it was high octane and over the top in an entertaining and gratifying way. I loved how things shifted throughout the sequence between switching roads, driving in opposite directions and the human vehicle jumping. The dynamic of the Ghost Twins also works well to spice things up, even if I thought that the characters were kind of lame attempts at trying too hard to be cool but then again, that’s just about everything in these films.

However, the sequence is far from perfect and it actually looks cheap considering that the entire strip of highway over this long, drawn out, violent jamboree takes place within highway walls. The geography of the location is the opposite of dynamic, it’s just a simple highway, lots of cars and concrete walls as far as the eye can see. Sure, there are some building far off in the distance and some powerlines sprinkles in but it lacks detail, depth and the appearance that anyone cared about anything other than the action and CGI effects.

Also, the physics are really bad despite all of this existing within the Matrix. But that’s an issue I have with the whole film series. But it is kind of intriguing that this all goes down and the star of the film was far away from it until that final moment where he literally swoops in to save two of the heroes from exploding semi trucks.

Like the first film, I thought the writing was pretty weak and too many things were way too convenient. This had a lot of fate and destiny mumbo jumbo surrounding its characters and their special roles with the Matrix system that I was still pretty annoyed by it all. Why is there an Oracle? Why is there the key maker guy? What the hell is a Merovingian? Why is Agent Smith going rogue? Why is there still a One? I don’t know? But most importantly, why did I waste ten minutes of my life sitting through the Architect’s villainous monologue, which just made things more confusing?

I know, I know… this is supposed to be mindless escapism but the problems I had with the film in 2003, seem worse to me in 2019.

But hey, explosions, fights, CGI fuckery and cave raves! What’s not to love?

In the end, this was worth revisiting and I certainly wasn’t bored watching it. Well, except the first hour was a little too slow, but this does a good job of evolving beyond the first film and setting up the third and final act, which if I remember correctly, is pretty much just a two hour action sequence.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Matrix films, as well as the slew of films from the early ’00s that ripped it off.

TV Review: Peep Show (2003-2015)

Original Run: September 19th, 2003 – December 16th, 2015
Created by: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Directed by: Jeremy Wooding, Tristram Shapeero, Becky Martin
Written by: Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, David Mitchell, Robert Webb
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Olivia Colman, Matt King

Objective Productions, All3Media, Channel 4, 54 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Few shows are perfect at what they do. Peep Show is one of them, however, and what’s most impressive is that it did it for eight season, over twelve years.

There isn’t a bad episode out of the 54 we were given, which is pretty unheard of. Sure, I have my favorites but overall, this show maintained great consistency from episode to episode and season to season.

Now if I’m being honest, the first few episodes didn’t immediately grab me. The show had a style that my brain had to adjust to with the entirety of the show being filmed in a first person perspective with narration being the characters’ thoughts. But by episode three or so, I was on board and from that point forward, became a loyal fan to the series, anticipating every new season as they dropped.

What makes this show work so well is its stars: primarily the comedic duo of David Mitchell and Robert Webb. I’m also a fan of their sketch comedy stuff and really anything either of them do. These two have perfect chemistry, timing and the ability to work as a tandem better than any marriage I’ve ever seen.

Joining them are the always superb Olivia Colman, who has gone on to win an Academy Award, as well as Matt King, who actually plays my favorite character on the show, Super Hans.

The plot follows two roommates who pretty much hate each other but seem eternally bound to one another as each continually fails through life and by the end of twelve years, are exactly in the same place where they started. The show does try to mix it up a bit every few seasons but Mark and Jez always come back together like magnets.

The casting on this show was also perfection. Between the leads, the fantastic supporting cast and the other regulars that continue to come back to the show over it’s long existence. It’s actually cool seeing some of the regulars return, even after they take lengthy breaks. Olivia Colman coming back in the final season, especially after she has had immense success since leaving, was pretty stupendous.

Peep Show is perfection. But I know that it isn’t for everyone. There are people I tried to turn on to it that couldn’t get into it. But that just made me reassess my life, my social circle and I’m proud to say that I have less social baggage now.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other ’00s British comedies like Black BooksSpaced, Green Wing, Whites and the Mitchell & Webb sketch comedy shows.