Film Review: Atlantic Rim (2013)

Also known as: From the Sea (worldwide English title), Battle of Atlantis (Japan), Attack From the Atlantic Rim (Germany), Attack From Beneath (US DVD title), Atlantic Rim: World’s End (France), 5,000 Fathoms Deep (alternate title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Written by: Richard Lima, Thunder Levin, Hank Woon Jr., Jared Cohn
Music by: Chris Ridenhour
Cast: Graham Greene, David Chokachi, Treach, Jackie Moore

The Asylum, 85 Minutes

Review:

I have never watched a mockbuster from The Asylum because all one has to do is look at a DVD cover to know how terrible these things are. But since Atlantic Rim was forced upon me in the latest season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I didn’t have much of a choice.

This was really bad. In fact, as a motion picture, it is one of the worst MST3K has ever riffed and that’s saying a lot. However, it’s badness did make bits of it enjoyable in the same way one can be amused by parts of those deplorable Birdemic movies.

It was kind of sad to see Graham Greene in this, as he was once an Oscar nominee. Also, I felt bad for Treach, who twenty-five years ago, was on top of the world as the frontman of the hip-hop group Naughty by Nature.

I don’t even know where to start with this mess, other than pointing out the obvious. This movie is a blatant ripoff of Pacific Rim, a film that exceeds this a hundredfold in every regard.

The story is shit, the acting is atrocious, the special effects are worse than PlayStation 1 graphics and the score hurt my head and required medication to recover from.

If someone asked, “Do you prefer mayonnaise or Miracle Whip?” And you replied, “I fucking hate Miracle Whip.” And then you got hit over the head and woke up to find yourself drowning in a vat of Miracle Whip. That’s pretty much what this film is like for a Pacific Rim fan. I don’t know if that analogy made much sense but I hate this film as much as I hate Miracle Whip.

No one that made this knew what the hell they were doing. And I don’t know how The Asylum is still in business, unless they just dupe grandmas into buying their DVDs for Christmas, making them believe its actually the movie that Little Danny wants from Santa.

Also, it took four people to write this. Four. And this is what this brain trust committee of writers came up with?

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: other terrible mockbusters from The Asylum, I guess. I never want to watch another one.

Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 2nd, 2013 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Stephen Colbert, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 161 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more precious…” – Smaug

I’ve been rewatching these, as I haven’t seen them since they were in the theater. And like the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films, I’m hoping that the Extended Editions of this trilogy help to make the films richer and give them more depth and context.

Where my disappointment with An Unexpected Journey was somewhat fixed, the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug didn’t do much to make this film any better and in fact, stretched it out more than it needed to be.

The extended scenes in the previous film seemed to make things better. But here, it drags out some of the scenes that could have been even shorter in the theatrical version.

All the stuff that featured Smaug was pretty good but it felt really stretched out in this film. But as I said in the previous review, they didn’t need to stretch out a short novel over a nine-plus hour trilogy. It’s friggin’ overkill, even with the narrative additions to the plot that weren’t from the original book.

Watching the extended version splits the movie up onto two discs. In all honestly, it showed me just how inconsistent the film is. The first half is not very good but the second half is much better.

The first half of the film was dragged down by things that didn’t need to be there. I get that Beorn is in the book but his inclusion in the film was unnecessary and didn’t really serve the plot in any meaningful way. They spend a half hour on this and all that comes out of it is that the dwarves get some ponies to ride for about two minutes. Just cut the whole thing out. It didn’t fit in the film, it slowed things to a crawl and it didn’t help the narrative and should have been omitted just as the Tom Bombadil stuff was left out of the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations.

Also, the forest with the giant spiders was a pretty weak sequence overall and even though giant spiders exist in Middle Earth, it felt more like a rehash of something we already saw just a few years earlier in one of the Harry Potter movies. Although, it does serve the purpose of pushing Bilbo towards being more of a badass.

Then there was the whole sequence of the dwarves getting captured by the elves, escaping really easily and then giving us the barrels down the river scene, which is the worst part of any of these Lord of the Rings related films. That whole scene is the worst kind of cringe and it pulls you right out of the movie and almost makes you embarrassed for liking these films. It felt like over the top Disney blockbuster schlock.

Also, the dwarf and elf romance felt really forced and awkward as hell.

Once you get to the second half, things get much darker tonally, which contrasts the goofiness of the first half so greatly that it doesn’t feel like the same movie. But this is the superior half, even if it is also drawn out too much.

I really liked Luke Evans as Bard though. I also enjoyed the bits with Stephen Fry.

The best part of the whole film is when the dwarves finally reach the mountain and Bilbo Baggins comes face to face with Smaug. For fans of the BBC show Sherlock, this is extra exciting, as Bilbo is Watson and Smaug’s voice is Sherlock. At least I thought that was a cool aspect of this film’s casting. Luckily, both men also were brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last few years.

I can’t say that this is the worst of the three Hobbit films, as of yet. I still need to rewatch The Battle of the Five Armies. But from memory, I think I did like that one better than this chapter.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.

Film Review: The Conjuring (2013)

Also known as: The Warren Files (working title)
Release Date: June 8th, 2013 (Nocturna, Madrid International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Music by: Joseph Bishara
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

New Line Cinema, The Safran Company, Evergreen Media Group, Warner Bros., 112 Minutes

Review:

“When the music stops, you’ll see him in the mirror standing behind you.” – April

Seeing this has been long overdue but at the same time, I was never in a rush. Reason being, modern horror is predominantly CGI jump scares and lame haunted house or generic boogeyman stories. I’m not against haunted house movies but I’ve seen so many that a film needs to find a way to tackle the genre with something fresh or interesting or it’s going to hit my brain like a fistful of Ambien.

Anyway, this was a decent film for what it is but going back to what I just said, it gave me nothing new to sink my teeth into.

There’s a creepy house, ghosts, demons, a killer doll, some general witchcraft stuff, exorcism and nothing new. This is like a bunch of mundane horror tropes thrown into a blender and then splashed out onto the screen: a gooey, sloppy mess.

The biggest positive for me was the acting. I thought all the main players were good and convincing in their roles. Lili Taylor had the biggest challenge out of all the top stars but she did a wonderful job, worked in a pretty wide range of emotions and temperament and sold the possession thing quite well. I also like seeing Ron Livingston in anything because I’ll always remember how much I loved him in Office Space, almost twenty years ago. But his dramatic stuff has always been quite good too.

This isn’t a bad movie and I don’t want to treat it as such. It’s well made and it looks pretty damn good, even the unnecessary CGI bits didn’t become too much of a distraction. But I thought the cinematography was well done and the film’s tone works.

For someone who hasn’t seen dozens of haunted house movies, this is probably really effective. I guess that’s why it resonates with younger fans so well.

My biggest issue is just that the story crams so many different horrors into this tight box. It’s as if they planned spinoffs from the get go.

At some point, I will probably check out some of the other Conjuring related movies. But like I was with this, I don’t feel a real rush in needing to see them.

Also, weren’t the Warrens exposed as frauds decades ago? But I guess this is based on “true events”. But I think that enough time has past that new moviegoers are too young to even know who the Warrens were. But at the same time, I feel like this does capitalize on selling some bullshit. Sorry, I just hate charlatans.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Conjuring films and spinoffs, as well as James Wan’s Insidious series and Dead Silence.

Documentary Review: Birth of the Tramp (2013)

Also known as: La naissance de Charlot (original French title), How Chaplin Became the Tramp (alternate title)
Release Date: December 29th, 2013 (France)
Directed by: Serge Bromberg, Eric Lange
Music by: Robert Israel
Cast: Charlie Chaplin (archive footage)

Arte France, Lobster Films, Roy Export Company Establishment, 52 Minutes, 61 Minutes (extended TV edition)

Review:

There are a ton of documentaries on Charlie Chaplin. They are literally a dime a dozen and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad one but a lot of the information has been recycled a dozen times over. I’ve yet to see one that is exceptional, however.

That being said, this isn’t an exceptional one either but it is still a quick, entertaining watch and it pretty much just gets into his background and early career up to the point where he was about 30 years-old.

The focus of this was about how Chaplin evolved into his famous Tramp character. I like that this was character focused more so than on his general life or general filmmaking. It does cover those things but it’s more focused on the iconic Tramp persona.

This had good interviews and was well edited. The narrative flows nicely but I wish that this was actually fleshed out more. It just seemed a bit rushed for just a 52 minute piece.

Still, if you are a fan of Chaplin or the silent era of filmmaking, this is worth checking out. Also, it’s streaming for free for Prime members on Amazon Video.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: any of the various other documentaries on Charlie Chaplin, as well as his original films and the biopic Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin.

 

Film Review: Curse of Chucky (2013)

Also known as: Child’s Play 6 (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnel, Summer H. Howell, A Martinez, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly (cameo), Alex Vincent (cameo)

Universal 1440 Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“25 years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone; the Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing… So to speak! [laughs manically, then glares down at Nica]” – Chucky

This came out after a long break from Child’s Play films. The later sequels: Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky got so humorous and weird that the darker spirit of the franchise was gone and the films sort of became parodies of themselves.

Curse of Chucky did a pretty decent job at correcting the tone, as Chucky, while still humorous because he always has been, is much scarier, more evil and also back to being more patient in how he reveals himself to his victims.

The one thing that this picture does really well is suspense. It’s a slow build until we really get to see Chucky at his murderous best. Sure, he kills and at first glance, it might suck that these heinous acts aren’t captured on film as they happen but the wait is worth the payoff, as once Chucky reveals himself to one of the main characters, shit truly hits the fan.

Now the film does feel really confined, as it primarily just takes place within one house. However, this actually benefits the film, as you feel the doom closing in and tightening its grip. Add in the fact that the main character is stuck in a wheelchair in a multilevel house and you really feel like you’re stuck in a sardine can with a live piranha by the climax. Those two key elevator scenes were fantastic as well and really served to make the environment work for the movie.

It was nice to see Chucky return to a darker, broodier tone. However, the film, sadly, isn’t as fun as the original three. Those still had a real darkness about them but they were more exiting and they have actually aged really well, considering their budget and time of release.

But I think that this and its follow up Cult of Chucky were good entries in the Child’s Play franchise. I had hoped to see more but I guess they’re going to reboot the series in the near future for some dumb reason.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: he Cult of Chucky, it’s direct sequel and the original Child’s Play trilogy when they were still really dark.

Documentary Review: Necessary Evil: The Super-Villains of DC Comics

Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Directed by: Scott Devine, J.M. Kenny
Written by: Scott Devine, Jack Mulligan
Music by: Kris Dirksen (as Methodic Doubt)
Cast: Christopher Lee (narrator), Neal Adams, Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Guillermo del Toro, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, CM Punk, Michael Shannon, Scott Snyder, Zack Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman

DC Comics, mOcean, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes

Review:

This was just a really cool documentary accented by the narration of the legendary and superb Christopher Lee. It also had a fantastic cast of interviewees.

A great retrospective on the darker half of DC Comics’ long history, Necessary Evil was delightful. I enjoyed it so much and wish that it was actually a lot longer. The DC mythos and it’s rich history could easily fill up a season of a documentary series. I could sit through a Ken Burns’ Baseball length documentary on this subject and maintain the same level of excitement. Assuming its as well produced as this is.

You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and this does a fantastic job at making the audience understand how these characters truly are a “necessary evil” in how they make the heroes better and how they make these stories last for decades. Comic books are America’s mythology and a good villain with a good story is at the forefront of the most memorable moments in these epic tales.

This film analyzes a lot of key villains in the DC universe. Unfortunately, you can’t cover every villain in 99 minutes and frankly, this probably only touches on like one percent of them, as there have been so many in the 80 years since the first Superman comic was published. One of the interviewees mentioned that DC’s villain count was into the thousands and really, that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the grand scheme of things.

I really enjoyed hearing from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. These guys have been at the forefront of many of the stories I’ve enjoyed since the ’90s. We also get to see movie directors Richard Donner, Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro chime in.

A lot of comic book documentaries are done on the cheap and can’t round up a very solid cast of people to interview. In the last few years, we’ve gotten some really good documentaries on the subject, though. This is one of the best out there and really, who doesn’t love the f’n villains?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other recent comic book documentaries: The Image RevolutionChris Claremont’s X-Men and Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously.

 

Film Review: Sonno Profondo (2013)

Also known as: Deep Sleep (English title)
Release Date: October 11th, 2013 (Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival – Spain)
Directed by: Luciano Onetti
Written by: Luciano Onetti
Music by: Luciano Onetti
Cast: Luciano Onetti, Daiana Garcia, Silvia Duhalde

Guante Negro Films, 67 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t even know about this film’s existence until I was perusing the depths of Shudder. But when I read that it was an Argentinean film that was a modernized version of classic ’70s giallo, I had to give it a watch. Plus, it was only 67 minutes so if it was painful to get through, at least I wouldn’t have to be committed to it for 90 minutes or more.

Anyway, one guy pretty much made this film. He had a few other actors he needed but he directed it, wrote it, produced it, did the music and starred in it. I guess this is a good way to make sure that the film matches your vision and this guy certainly had a unique vision.

What’s cool about this film is that the visual style of it works and for the most part, the set design was well done even if it was minimalistic. I liked the lighting and the general cinematography. However, a lot of the camerawork left a lot to be desired.

Most of the shots were done in extreme closeup and it made the film surreal but mostly just disorienting. While a sense of disorientation is most assuredly what the director was going for, it becomes pretty unwatchable after just the first few minutes. It’s something that works best if used sparingly but the effect was overwhelming and distracting to what the rest of the film was trying to convey. Really, this just felt like a 67 minute music video for a ’90s industrial band without any awesome industrial music to back it up.

I don’t like to shit on someone’s art unless it is terrible, pretentious, self-serving bullshit. This doesn’t quite feel like that but it does ride the fence of pretentiousness.

If one wants to recreate the effect of a classic giallo, one really needs to employ great set design, a masterful use of color, as well as a more calculated and broader range in regards to their cinematography. While this captures some of the giallo vibe, it misses the mark in most of the key areas.

This feels more like an experimental project from a young film student than an actual film. That’s not a bad thing but the work needs to be fine tuned and expand outward, painting a world beyond tight closeup shots and pretty standard driving scenes. But there is talent here.

The director’s films after this have higher ratings on IMDb, so maybe he was able to build off of this. I may check them out in the future, if I can find them streaming.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Mario Bava and Dario Argento giallo films but those are better than this.