Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.

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: 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: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Release Date: January 30th, 2004 (Canada)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Written by: Megan Martin
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Kurt Swinghammer
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson, Janet Kidder, Brendan Fletcher

Copperheart Entertainment, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So this is home, huh, Ghost?… Kind of has the Manson family charm.” – Tyler

I guess this isn’t as beloved as the original film but I actually enjoy this one more.

It’s not bogged down by puberty issues or teen drama, it’s just a straight up horror movie with a really good, dark twist to the story.

The main stars from the first film return but this is focused on Emily Perkins’ Bridgette, as Katharine Isabelle’s Ginger is still dead and just haunts Bridgette as her conscience in the form of a ghost. The rest of the cast is made up of people that work in or are patients of an asylum.

When this story starts, Bridgette is still infected with werewolf blood as the cure from the first movie doesn’t really work. So Bridgette is basically an addict, taking the faulty cure in an effort to prevent the werewolf blood from fully taking over her. But as time goes on, her body becomes more and more immune to her medicine. In the asylum, her “drugs” are taken away from her, so its only a matter of time before she becomes a monster.

I like the setting and vibe of this film more than the original. It felt raw, grittier and it exists to scare its audience, as opposed to using the horror film medium as an analogy for girl’s getting their period.

Plus, I thought that the effects here were better and the film obscured the monster for the most part, as opposed to a big reveal that didn’t payoff due to the cheapness of the budget.

Additionally, I liked the concept of turning Bridgette into a junkie, still possessed by her sister’s overbearing spirit while also throwing in another werewolf and another type of monster altogether.

Ginger Snaps 2 is not a great film but it’s a better horror movie than the first one and it doesn’t beat around the bush. It gives you horror violence from the outset and you actually feel organic danger in this chapter of the trilogy.

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

Film Review: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Also known as: Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Nemesis (working titles)
Release Date: August 23rd, 2004 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Alexander Witt
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Jeff Danna
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Mike Epps, Iain Glen, Zack Ward

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“We’re assets, Nicholai. Expendable assets… and we’ve just been expended” – Carlos Olivera

Since I’ve never actually watched these films in their entirety, I figured that I’d work my way through them. The first movie wasn’t great but it was an enjoyable way to spend 100 minutes. I assumed each entry in the series would take a step down but I actually like this film a bit more than the first one.

To start, the story is better, more interesting and more fleshed out. You understand what’s happening at a deeper level and Alice is coming into her own, remembering her past. Also, she has been modified genetically to essentially be a super soldier.

The special effects, while not perfect, are better than what we got in the first movie. The CGI is more fine tuned and the director was smart enough to keep some of the imperfections obscured in darkness and shadow. The Lickers looked better because they weren’t in brightly lit rooms but instead, confronted our heroes in a dark old church.

Additionally, the urban setting was much more interesting than seeing the heroes fight zombies and dogs in a generic looking lab.

Best of all, we get the Nemesis character. He looked pretty f’n good considering the budget, the difficulty in the design and the weak effects of the previous chapter in this series. I thought the big fight between Alice and Nemesis was actually quite good and a throwback to grittier late ’80s/early ’90s sci-fi action movies. It had a lot of near-cringe CGI work but the practical effects were nice to see and worked well.

One complaint though is the fighting style, which uses a lot of Hong Kong style wire work. While I get that Alice is an acrobatic super solider, it looks hokey in spots and my brain just can’t accept the shoddy physics. While it doesn’t bother me in Hong Kong cinema, because it is very much the Hong Kong style, it is a visual distraction that pulls me out of the movie in regards to its use here and in other Resident Evil movies.

But I didn’t watch these expecting any sort of perfection. I watched these to have some fun and to finally give this franchise the respect that maybe it deserves just on its ability to stay relevant, to pop out constant sequels and for being the highest grossing film franchise based on a video game property.

Anyway, I enjoyed this and being two films deep, this series is still engaging. Maybe I’ll be surprised and continue to enjoy the four other sequels after this one.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

Film Review: AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

Also known as: AVP (promotional abbreviation), Alien Vs. Predator (short title)
Release Date: August 12th, 2004 (Puerto Rico & Thailand)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Based on: characters by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett and Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Music by: Harald Kloser
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Tommy Flanagan

Davis Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 101 Minutes, 103 Minutes (extended cut), 109 Minutes (Unrated Version)

Review:

“I think this is a manhood ritual. The humaniod ones, they’ve been sent here to prove that they’re worthy to become adults.” – Sebastian de Rosa

I haven’t seen AVP: Alien Vs. Predator since it was in theaters. From what I remember of it, it was a massive disappointment and didn’t live up to the best either franchise had to offer.

Well, it was at least better than Alien: Resurrection but it didn’t come close to being as awesome as Alien 1 & 2 or the original Predator. Hell, Alien 3 and Predator 2 both kick this in the balls too.

But now having some distance, fourteen years to be exact, this wasn’t as bad as my memory of it and I at least found the experience of revisiting it, a bit amusing.

At the end of the day, this gives you exactly what the title implies. It gives you alien xenomorphs fighting against the Predators. Strip away everything else and a grudge match between these two alien species is still a main event worth having. I just wish that the story around it was better and fit the already established mythologies better.

Yes, there is a team of humans in this and frankly, you should already know that they are just meat to be ripped through, trapped in a war between two vicious species that don’t give a crap about collateral damage.

I didn’t care about any of the people in this film but it was neat seeing Lance Henriksen return to the franchise to play Weyland of the Weyland Corporation from the Alien films. Obviously, his appearance as that character was to show you that the android Bishop was modeled after his visage. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Henriksen, so seeing him bring his level of gravitas to another action sci-fi film was cool. His demise in this was even cooler.

The problem with the film is that the action was lackluster, so it didn’t really make up for the bland story or bland characters. It was nice seeing Ewen Bremner and Tommy Flanagan pop up in this but they were just there to be eaten, really.

AVP is just a film that had so much potential. The comics were typically pretty good and so were the games that they did before (and after) this. This could have taken the best bits of those stories and turned them into a worthwhile movie. But we got this instead.

But hey, at least it’s better than its sequel.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other films from the Alien and Predator franchises.