Film Review: The Strangers (2008)

Also known as: The Faces (script title)
Release Date: May 29th, 2008 (Russia)
Directed by: Bryan Bertino
Written by: Bryan Bertino
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton

Vertigo Entertainment, Mandate Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Rogue Pictures, 86 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“Since we’ve been here, I haven’t heard a dog bark… or a car pass. Nothing. Just us and them.” – James Hoyt

This was a film ruined by its marketing, which is why I never wanted to see it in the theater ten years ago and only decided to finally check it out because it was on Netflix and less than 90 minutes.

But the reason this film was ruined for me before I even saw it was due to one of the trailers where Liv Tyler’s character asks the psychos, “Why are you doing this to us?” And one of them simply says, “Because you were home.”

That killed this picture for me because I knew that those lines were the big reveal of the “mystery” within the film. The shocker moment; the money shot. And I also knew that if I saw this film, that answer was all I was going to get. So I didn’t need to see it, really. Because I’ve already seen home invasion and psycho slasher movies a billion times.

A user review on IMDb refers to this as “stupid people being tormented by stupid killers” and that’s probably the best description of this that there is.

This was a poorly written plot where it relied completely on the psychos just having good luck. It also made them have unnatural stealth abilities, which can only be explained if they were ex-Navy SEALs or trained in the ninja arts.

But seriously, the psychos were stupid, the victims were stupid and I kind of just wanted an asteroid to smash the house and kill them all.

Look, you have two people, holed up in a house with a shotgun and a shitload of shells. Outside are just three people armed with handheld tools from the family shed. How in the hell do you not just blow their f’n brains out in 2 minutes and order a pizza while waiting for the cops to show up.

And then, the only person to get their brains blown out was Dennis from Always Sunny, who just dropped in to say “hey”.

This movie was so painfully stupid that it hurt me physically.

There isn’t much else to say about it, really.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably the sequel I have no interest in seeing, as well as VacancyYou’re Next and the modern remake of The Last House On the Left.

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (complete title)
Release Date: August 24th, 2001
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Wanda De Jesus, Peter Jason

Storm King Productions, Screen Gems, 98 Minutes

Review:

“…Friday night, the whole place should be packed. A whole twelve hours before sun up and there’s money to burn, whores to fuck and drugs to take.” – Melanie Ballard

Well, this was the only John Carpenter film I had never seen. That is, until now. I just remember that when it was coming out, I thought it looked terrible. My friends that did see it only confirmed my reservations about it and in fact, they were harsher on this film than I expected. So I never really wanted to give it a watch but hey, I review movies and this was on my Starz app, so I figured I’d torture myself for 98 minutes.

I wouldn’t quite say that it was torture though. It was stupid enough to entertain me but it didn’t do much to excite me. And it’s not like John Carpenter did anything wrong, it’s just that this proved that his style had become dated. Had this script been shot by him in the late ’80s, this could have been a film that was remembered more fondly because it would’ve fit that era better.

A big issue with it though, is its reliance on poorly shot and constructed miniatures, very confined sets and going the digital route in places where practical effects would’ve probably worked better. Also, it definitely lacks in the violence department, at least in what one should expect from a Carpenter film.

It’s also kind of a boring movie, for the most part. The villains are pretty shitty and this is really just a movie with space zombies that understand how to use primitive weapons. Also, the main villain just looked like any generic horror monster from the late ’90s that was trying to be a scarier version of Marilyn Manson but just ended up looking like a goth kid without a good Halloween costume.

The acting in this is terrible too. Ice Cube can do better but he really just plays himself and dialed it in. Natasha Henstridge was okay and at least believable in her role but she looked bored. Statham was pointless in this, as was Clea DuVall, who can deliver a good performance when given the right role.

This isn’t an unwatchable movie but I can’t recommend it. I think that most people will actually hate it, even though I found it okay enough to kill 98 minutes during a tropical depression.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Later John Carpenter films, as well as other films from the era that dealt with Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Also known as: Dark Sky: First Strike (fake working title), G.I. Joe (Czech Republic, Japan, Spain)
Release Date: July 27th, 2009 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Michael B. Gordon, Stephen Sommers
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Byung-hun, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Karolína Kurková, Brendan Fraser, Kevin J. O’Connor, Gerald Okamura, Grégory Fitoussi

Spyglass Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Hasbro Studios, Sommers Company, Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Technically, G.I. Joe does not exist, but if it did, it’d be comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs. When all else fails, we don’t.” – General Hawk

*Let me preface this by saying this review will have a massive amount of profanity. You have been motherfucking warned.

Directed by Stephen Sommers, a man that shouldn’t be allowed to touch a camera after The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, this movie is a massive piece of shit and a huge disappointment to any fans of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, whether in cartoon or comic book form.

I don’t know where to start, as everything about this is bad but I have to point out the biggest issue with it and that’s the fact that it has no idea what G.I. Joe is, who these characters are or why any of this is awesome and really hard to fuck up. That is, unless you’re just someone that doesn’t give a flying fuck about the property your adapting and just see it as nothing more than a cash cow with a massive amount of built-in merchandise already attached to it.

Frankly, Hasbro needs to respect their own properties more and stop whoring them out to anyone willing to write stories and make movies and shows based on them. They’ve forgotten what their core brands represent and why they resonate with people. Between this film and the live action Transformers movies and that awful Jem film, Hasbro needs to get their shit together.

Anyway, they couldn’t have chosen a worse director than Stephen Sommers. Okay, they could’ve gotten Uwe Boll, but his film probably would’ve at least been fun and ridiculous for the right reasons.

What I hate the most about this is that none of the characters apart from the ninjas, are even close to who they are in the cartoon series or the comics. For fuck’s sake, Larry Hama wrote amazing comic stories that all could have translated well to screen. The cartoons even had some great epics mixed in that could have been adapted. Stephen Sommers and his staff of a half dozen writers couldn’t come up with a single scene in a two hour film’s script that represented anything close to what was great about the source material.

One of my favorite characters, the Baroness, wasn’t even close to what her character is. She is an incredible character with a great backstory and is really, the most vicious member of Cobra. Here, she is just a brainwashed American girl that can’t be the badass she should be because she’s got a hard on for Channing Tatum the whole picture and turns back into a good guy and helps defeat Cobra. What in the holy fuck?! This is the goddamned Baroness we’re talking about!

It’s not just her though, Cobra Commander was a joke, Destro was boring, Duke was lame, Ripcord was annoying and Scarlett was so terribly uncharacteristic that she should have just been named Ginger Brainy Girl.

In one of the biggest action sequences in the film, we get Duke and Ripcord running around Paris in generic Iron Man suits. Why? Those suits never existed once in any G.I. Joe continuity that I’ve ever seen and I’ve read and seen everything. This was a poor attempt at trying to piggy back off of the success of Iron Man a year earlier. But, Sommers, this isn’t a Marvel film, it’s G.I.-fucking-Joe!

Also, in the big finale, Cobra Commander tries to destroy the Joes by blowing up the ice shelf above them. What does ice do in water people? It fucking floats! So how in the hell does the ice come crashing down like boulders in the goddamned ocean? How?!

But there’s still so much more wrong with this motion picture.

Why does Snake Eyes have fucking lips?! He’s a ninja in a ninja mask. He doesn’t need rubber lips. His head looks like it was ripped from a full size sex doll.

Why does Duke have to be restrained from punching a hologram? It’s a fucking hologram!

How does Ripcord’s jet plane go from Moscow to Washington in just a few minutes? How?!

I mean, there are a lot of other stupid things in this film too but you probably get the point by now.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was an expensive movie, given to a four year-old, mentally challenged kid, that just wants to play with his G.I. Joe toys in the bathtub. I’m talking about Stephen Sommers, for the record. And while that may sound harsh, it’s not as harsh as Sommers was to this beloved franchise. Fuck this guy, he’s one of the worst directors of the last two decades.

I never wanted to see this film again but I suffered through it just to review it. The sequel to this was actually better but still far from great. Hasbro needs to stop whoring out their properties unless they can learn how to vet these filmmakers better. Seriously, Hasbro, G.I. Joe is a franchise deserving of a great motion picture. Hell, I’ll make it. I can certainly do better than this film and I know these characters because I’ve spent over 35 years with them.

Seriously, Hasbro. Call me.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel, as well as the crappy live action Transformers movies.

Film Review: Unbreakable (2000)

Also known as: No Ordinary Man (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2000 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, M. Night Shyamalan (cameo)

Touchstone Pictures, Blinding Edge Pictures, Barry Mendel Productions, Limited Edition Productions Inc., Buena Vista Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“It’s alright to be afraid, David, because this part won’t be like a comic book. Real life doesn’t fit into little boxes that were drawn for it.” – Elijah Price/Mr. Glass

There was a time when seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s name on movie poster generated excitement. This came out during that time and fresh off the heels of The Sixth Sense, just a year earlier and also starring Bruce Willis.

When the film starts, you really have no idea as to where this story is going to go. In the end, it is a superhero origin story where one character becomes a hero and another character becomes something else. While there is a big twist to what that is, being that this film has been out for nearly two decades, that twist has been spoiled for anyone who has just talked about this movie with someone else who’s seen it.

Also, this is tied into the 2016 movie Split, as well as an upcoming sequel to both films called Mr. Glass. That comes out in January 2019 and it is the film I am most anticipating, right now. It’s also why I wanted to revisit this one, because I haven’t seen it in so long.

The story is a slow but satisfying burn. When you get to the seminal moment of the picture, where the hero has to decide if he’s going to be a hero, it’s comes with such emotional weight and impact that everything that inched towards that scene was well worth it.

Shyamalan, at this point in his career, knew how to build tension, emotion and narrative in every single scene. It was something that he lost, as time went on, but he seems to have found his mojo again with 2016’s Split. And frankly, I’m glad, because he had the makings of a great filmmaker but sort of just slid into a weird place for quite awhile.

This film and Split are my two favorites in Shyamalan’s filmography, with The Sixth Sense being right there with them.

The atmosphere in this film is incredible. The story is powerful while being very subtle. This is a superhero origin story that is so much better than most of the films that deal with the same sort of narrative. Comic book movies don’t need to be grandiose spectacles and this proves that. Oddly, it proved it about eight years before grandiose comic book movies became the norm. And while this isn’t based off of a comic book, I’m surprised this universe hasn’t spawned it’s own comic series. Maybe it will after the third film, next year.

Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson have done several films together and it is a treat, every. single. time. that they share the screen with one another. This is no different and to be honest, it’s my favorite of their collaborations. I want more of these two characters. Luckily, years later, we are going to get just that.

In the meantime, if you want to see Mr. Glass, you owe it to yourself to watch this and Split first.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequels: Split and the upcoming Mr. Glass.

Documentary Review: Grizzly Man (2005)

Release Date: January 24th, 2005 (Sundance)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: Werner Herzog
Music by: Richard Thompson
Cast: Werner Herzog (narrator), Timothy Treadwell

Discovery Docs, Real Big Production, Lions Gate Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog. It follows the life and tragic death of Timothy Treadwell, who was killed and partially eaten by grizzly bears along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

Herzog, like in his other documentaries, weaves a wonderful tale out of extraordinary events and a very interesting character. This is one of my favorite Herzog documentaries, as it showcases a man, who many believe was out of his mind, and his crossing the line into living among the wild.

Timothy Treadwell was certainly eccentric and you can clearly see that, as much of the film is made up of the home movies Timothy shot while living with Alaskan grizzlies over thirteen summer seasons. One could bring his sanity into question and as the film went on, the less I liked the guy and thought he was off of his rocker. Did he deserve to die? No, but his incessant stupidity at being “one with the bears” eventually lead to him being one with the bears’ digestive track.

The videos that Timothy shot of the bears over the course of his time with them is nothing short of exceptional but he died for his work and very idiotically so. I understand passion but I also understand mental illness and I’m not saying that he was mentally ill but he certainly wasn’t all there and lived in a fantasy world where he thought he could tame the wild and thrive in it and among its apex predators. Even with thirteen years experience, one day the wild had enough of Timothy Treadwell.

This is a tragic story regardless of how you feel about Treadwell. In the end, I am glad I got to go on the journey and see things through his eyes, even though he wore rose-colored glasses.

And there is an awesomely epic bear fight about halfway through the film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Into the Inferno, The White Diamond and Into the Wild.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.

Film Review: The Accountant (2001)

Also known as: O Contador
Release Date: January, 2001 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ray McKinnon
Written by: Ray McKinnon
Music by: Rusty Andrews
Cast: Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Eddie King

Ginny Mule Pictures, 40 Minutes

Review:

“If a man builds a machine and that machine conspires with another machine built by another man, are those men conspiring?” – The Accountant

I didn’t know much about Ray McKinnon other than his role as the preacher on the first season on Deadwood and seeing him pop up a few times in Sons of Anarchy. But he was a powerful performer and really lured me in when he was on screen.

I’ve been a fan of Walton Goggins for a really long time. I remember seeing him for the first time in that terrible fourth Karate Kid film and that also terrible third Major League movie. However, he stuck with me. I then remember seeing him get an Academy Award way back in 2002 for a short film that he had produced. I figured I’d check it out, as I wanted to go back and see a lot more of his earlier indie stuff. To my surprise, that short film was written, directed and starred Ray McKinnon. Well, it stars Goggins too, as well as another actor, Eddie King.

Man, I don’t really know how to describe this but it takes you to a lot of places emotionally in forty minutes. It is the perfect length, however. Had this been stretched out to feature length it probably would’ve dragged on too much and lost it’s impact.

In a lot of ways, this is like a punch to the gut but not in a bad way. There is some serious stuff to deal with here but it leaves you with some hope and also taps into the nostalgia of those who love simpler times and classic Americana.

This really has a strong Southern spirit to it in the best way possible.

McKinnon is utterly f’n superb in this and Goggins was the perfect actor to play off of him. These guys have real chemistry, which is probably why they’ve been good friends for years and have done multiple projects together.

I also thought that the music made for the film by Rusty Andrews was damn good and really added to the emotions and feelings that this film successfully conveyed.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ray McKinnon’s Randy and the Mob and Chrystal.