Film Review: The House of the Devil (2009)

Release Date: April 25th, 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West
Music by: Jeff Grace
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace, A.J. Bowen, Lena Dunham (voice)

Constructovision, RingTheJig Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, MPI Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Gorgon Video, 95 Minutes

Review:

“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…” – title card

This was recently featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In and he called it one of the best horror films of the last few decades. He’s not wrong.

I hadn’t seen this since it came out and the first time I watched it, it didn’t grab me. The problem though, is that I was drunk at a party with a bunch of other drunk people watching horror movies. Despite loving the fact that this had Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov in it, I never had much urge to revisit it.

I’m glad that I got a second chance to see it though, as I loved it. And I think I loved it for the reasons that most people seem to not like about it.

It’s slow but it’s wonderfully slow. Some people get bored with this old school way of building up suspense but if you just sit through this, uninterrupted by drunk degenerates around you, it pulls you in, tightens its grip and doesn’t let go until its ready to throw the kitchen sink right at your face.

The payoff in this film is well worth the wait and even if Sam, the victim in the film, gets free of her bonds way too easily, the final sequence in this film is pretty damn satisfying. Granted, it does go for a Rosemary’s Baby ending and I thought that was a bit derivative but the movie still has a hell of an effect on the psyche in that final act.

One thing that really is the glue in this picture is the sound. Between the score by Jeff Grace and the little bumps and scratches you hear throughout the creepy house, you can’t help but to be on edge and to feel yourself in Sam’s shoes.

This is one of those cerebral horror movies. Not in a way that makes you think too hard and takes you on a mindfuck of a journey but in a way that takes over your senses and sort of throws you to the wolves right when it is damn good and ready.

Perfect pacing, incredible sound management and the cast was damn good.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: good, old school horror films of the late ’60s through early ’80s: The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining for example.

Film Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige

Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane

At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.

Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.

The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.

Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.

The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.

I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.

I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.

Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the ConquerorRed Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.

Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

Also known as: Star Trek XI, Star Trek Zero, Corporate Headquarters, The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles, Untitled Walter Lace Project, Star Trek: The Future Begins (working titles), Star Trek: The Beginning (South Korea),
Release Date: April 6th, 2009 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr., Rachel Nichols, Deep Roy, Tyler Perry, Victor Garber (scene cut), Brad William Henke (scenes cut)

Spyglass Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait’ll you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” – Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise as long as I can remember. However, nothing has really resonated with me since the end of Enterprise in 2005. This film was an attempt at rebooting the franchise and altering the timeline so that it wasn’t forced into having to work within the framework of already established canon. I wouldn’t call that the best idea, as Star Trek has such a rich mythos that it doesn’t need to be rebooted, there are unlimited ways to tell stories within a franchise this large. But a reboot is what we got because Hollywood is gonna Hollywood.

That being said, for what this is, Star Trek isn’t a bad motion picture. It’s an unnecessary one but I did want to give it a shot because if this was all the Trek I was going to get, I wanted to try to make the best of it.

This could have been better though. They hired the wrong guy to direct, as he just wanted to make Star Wars movies, which he would later do, and wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and didn’t really understand what it needed to be in contrast to what Star Wars is.

The director, J. J. Abrams, also made some strange stylistic choices in how he made the Enterprise look and how he went absolutely ape shit with the use of lens flares and lighting. The film is almost headache inducing at times.

As far as the story goes, the altering of the timeline really seems moot, as there are things that are different before the moment of that alteration. I’m specifically talking about the time Enterprise was already in space before Kirk showed up, as well as Spock’s previous service on the ship and Captain Pike’s role in everything.

Additionally, the story really seems to be a rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which Abrams would also heavily borrow from for his first Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But this is the same guy who also borrowed heavily from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for his picture Super 8. It all kind of makes me wonder what his next Star Wars film will heavily borrow from.

In the realm of Star Trek movies, this is better than the worst films that came before it but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of Wrath of KhanThe Voyage HomeThe Undiscovered Country or First Contact. As its own film, separate from the series, it is a fun, space action movie. I will give it that. It is a good adventure and a better than average popcorn movie but we’ve seen this all before and done much better.

In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with most of the casting. I never liked the idea of anyone else ever playing the original crew but that bad idea is salvaged fairly well with most of the cast choices. I like Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock and Urban as Bones. However, I just don’t see how they will ever have the chemistry that Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley had. But since this series was cancelled after the third film, I guess we’ll never see what develops between the three men over the long haul.

But this film also diminishes McCoy’s importance, as the relationship they focus on is just between Kirk and Spock and not the trinity we all came to love on the original television show and the movies of the ’80s. And that’s a shame, really, as I love Karl Urban’s commitment to the McCoy character. He just nails it so well. I think he actually understands the role much more than Abrams, the man behind the camera.

I’m probably coming off as harsh but I’m just calling it like I see it. I did enjoy revisiting this, as it was a quick paced, exciting film. It did have some heart in the moments where Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock, came into the story. But it did lack the right sort of emotion to make me feel for these characters.

do like this for the most part but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a framework for something that could have been richer and more intimate. A lot of the pieces to this puzzle were good and while some connected, it’s as if the filmmakers gave up about halfway through and just threw all the pieces back into the box.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.

Documentary Review: The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics (2009)

Release Date: July 21st, 2009
Directed by: Eric Matthies
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Zack Snyder, Gerard Way, Dave Gibbons, Len Wein

Eric Matthies Productions, Warner Bros., 29 Minutes

Review:

I believe that this was originally included on the DVD release of Watchmen back in 2009 but I never owned the original DVD so I’m not sure.

This documentary is very tied to the movie, however, as most of the interviews are with the actors from the film, as well as its director, Zack Snyder. But we also get to hear from some comic book personalities, such as Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, as well as Len Wein and Gerard Way.

Cast aside, this is not a documentary about the film adaptation, it is about the original comic book, which many consider to be one of the all-time masterpieces in comic book history. Carla Gugino even refers to this as the Citizen Kane of the comic book medium. She might not be wrong there and frankly, I’ve found few people that weren’t moved by Watchmen in some way.

This is a shorter documentary than it should be, as this great work deserves to be explored for more than 29 minutes. But still, it is informative and really gets into the messages within it, its philosophy, its style, the art and its cultural impact.

I’m not sure if there is a longer and more comprehensive documentary on the Watchmen comic but this is fairly satisfactory until one eventually gets made. Maybe HBO will do it, as they are now coming out with a Watchmen TV show.

If you love the comic, which you should, this is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the 2009 Watchmen movie and other recent comic book documentaries.

Film Review: Watchmen (2009)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2009 (London premiere)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David Hayter, Alex Tse
Based on: Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore (uncredited)
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer

Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lawrence Gordon Productions, 162 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 215 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me!” – Rorschach

When Watchmen first came out, I was super excited just based off of the trailer alone and having just come off the greatness that was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, once seeing the film, I was pretty disappointed. Because of that, I never watched it again until now, ten years later, shy of two months.

I really wanted to give this another shot but if I was going to watch it, it had to be the Ultimate Cut. I needed to see the director’s complete vision and adaptation of the comic, which I have loved since first picking it up in the early ’90s.

I don’t know if it’s because I finally watched the Ultimate Cut or because all those years ago, I saw this three hour epic at a midnight showing and grew dead tired but this was not the same experience. This was something much greater and even closer to what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great comic was supposed to be. I’ve been hard on Zack Snyder before and while this isn’t perfection, it’s still a stupendous adaptation that hits the right notes narrative wise and tonally.

I think that one major issue I had with it initially, is that it is almost a panel to shot recreation of the comic. I thought that it should have taken a bit more creative license but seeing the complete version, I’m glad that they didn’t and my initial assessment was wrong.

It’s been so long since I saw the theatrical version, so it’s hard for me to tell what wasn’t in that one and what was added to this version but the most notable addition is the inclusion of the animated bits, which tell the story of The Black Freighter, which had its story sprinkled throughout the original comic. The movie felt like it was missing that in the original version and the way that they use it here is really cool. Also, the animation was incredible and also matched the tone of the comic quite well.

The only big difference between this and the comic is the omission of the giant kaiju monster that wrecked New York City. It’s replaced here with a more realistic threat but I felt like the kaiju thing was always really cool and I feel like it would have worked in the film. But it’s exclusion doesn’t really hurt the movie. I’m just baffled as to why it was changed when everything else is so damn close to the source material. Plus, kaiju make everything better.

I thought that the acting in the film was exceptional and as great as it is, there are two people who really stole the show: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian. These two guys had an incredible presence when they were on the screen. This was also the first time I noticed Morgan and I’m glad to see him carve out a fine career since this picture.

Malin Åkerman and Patrick Wilson carry the bulk of the acting duties, as the story seems to feature them the most, even though it balances all these characters very well. I thought both of them put in solid performances. But I can’t really knock anyone in the movie for not carrying their weight and doing the source material justice.

This was and still is the greatest thing that Zack Snyder has ever directed. I’m not trying to knock his more recent work but I feel like he’s always trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that he had here and it just isn’t working on the same level for him.

The Ultimate Cut is very long, almost four hours. However, it moves swiftly and a lot of ground is covered in that time. As I get older, I don’t have the attention span to sit and watch long movies like this in one sitting but the length didn’t bother me here. I was glued to the screen and sucked into this universe.

I’m glad that I finally got to revisit Watchmen and that I went with the Ultimate Cut. This should be the version that everyone watches and the only one that exists.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s pretty damn unique but I guess if you needed to pair it with something, Blade Runner or The Dark Knight.

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: Logorama (2009)

Also known as: Logorama©
Release Date: May 20th, 2009 (Cannes)
Directed by: François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, Ludovic Houplain
Written by: François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, Ludovic Houplain, Gregory J. Pruss
Music by: Bryan Ray Turcotte, Dayna Turcotte
Cast: Bob Stephenson, Sherman Augustus, Aja Evans

H5, Autour de Minuit Productions, Little Minx Films, Cinéma Public Films, 16 Minutes

Review:

“[after getting berated by his boss] Captain Douchebag.” – Michelinman Mike

This was brilliant. And I don’t mean that the concept was brilliant but the execution of the concept was. Granted, the concept was cool but seeing it come together and how it came together far exceeded what I anticipated.

I thought, “Oh, this is a short film about logos coming to life. They’ll probably sing and dance and do some boring shit I won’t much care for.” But this was more like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas coming to life with Ronald McDonald as a madman and a police force full of gung ho Michelinmen. Then there was Mr. Clean, the Green Giant, Big Boy, the Haribo kid and a bunch of other famous branding icons interacting in a world completely constructed in logos.

This was a quick watch but it was fun, thoroughly entertaining and I instantly became a fan of it and had to send it out to several friends that were unaware of its existence.

I don’t want to ruin the plot for anyone, even though it’s just a couple simple stories that overlap.

But this is pretty hilarious and it will be hard to not get mesmerized by it on a first viewing.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other animated short films: The Lost ThingHarvie KrumpetRyan and The Lady and the Reaper.