Saturday, February 18, 2012

Familiar (2011) - Short Film, Short Review



Familiar (2011) - Dir. by Richard Powell

Through a series of tragic events, a middle aged man grows to suspect the negative impulses plaguing his mind may not be his own.

A while back I did a review of a short film called Worm, also directed by Richard Powell and produced by Zach Green as well as Powell. It was a once in a life time experience, and my first glance at the great triple threat of Powell, Green, and actor Robert Nolan, who played the lead in Worm as well as Familiar. Now comes part two of what is hopefully a trilogy for Dodd. There is just something about these shorts that keeps me focused on the film as a whole. There always seems to be a perfect blend of of tense thriller, gore, and character development.



Once again Nolan gives one hell of a performance, bringing life to a character who for purposes feels dead. His life has become mundane and after feeling trapped for so many years seems to be looking for any way out of it that he can. Through what seems to be his conscience telling him what to do, he puts a plan in place to fix everything, no matter what curve ball is thrown at him. Or is it some other force behind these awful thoughts?



This nice little film throws in quite a twist to send the second half down Winding Lane, only to stop just off the corner of WTF Street. It left me wanting more. I do want to see the trilogy complete, but part of me can't wait for this team to take their Terror Trio to the next level with a feature film or two. I understand it is important to this story and Worm before, but the narration can be a bit overwhelming at times and often distracting when trying to watch what is happening on the screen. It is just a minor flaw in an otherwise amazing film. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Entertainment Value: 8/10 Utility Knife Wounds
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Utility Knife Wounds

Monday, January 30, 2012

Alien Invasion Weekend in Closing... and Top 10 Movie Aliens!

I can't say I had quite the response from this weekend as I had hoped, but then again I can't quite say I gave it as much attention as I should have. (Place excuses here), but I can tell you that I love Alien Invasion Movies, and wasting any more time, coming in with 5 votes from the 8 people that voted, the #1 Alien Invasion Movie of all time to the readers of this blog!!!!!

The Thing (1982)!!!!!!!!



Well deserved I'd say. Wouldn't you?

I also decided that in exiting this weekend I would like to post my Top 10 Favorite Alien Creatures of all time!

#10 - Pitch Black alien!!!



#9 - The Thing (1982)

Refer to picture above.

#8 - Predator



#7 - Killer Klowns From Outer Space



#6 - Slither



#5 - The Faculty



#4 - Independence Day



#3 - Critters



#2 - Aliens (The Xenomorph)



#1 - Feast (it's an alien if you ask me)



I hope you all enjoyed my follow-up to Alien Invasion weekend!

Skyline (2010)



Skyline (2010) Dir. by The Brothers Strause

arrod and his pregnant girlfriend Elaine travel to Los Angeles to meet his old friend and successful entrepreneur Terry, and his wife Candice. Terry gives a party in his apartment for Jarrod and offers a job position to him in LA. Terry's assistant and lover Denise (Crystal Reed) and his friend Ray (Neil Hopkins) sleep on the couch in the living room, but in the dawn of the next morning, the group is awakened by mysterious beams of blue light. Ray stares at the light and is taken by the mysterious force. The group of friends try to escape from the alien invaders. Written by Claudio Carvalho, RIo de Janeiro, Brazil on IMDB.com



It should be no shock to many that read this that Colin and Greg Strause are young yet special effects legends. Their work can be seen in such films as Battle LA (reviewed a few days ago), The Book of Eli, Avatar, The Incredible Hulk, and the list could go on and on and on, they do amazing work. That being said, this is only their second feature film from the director's chair. Although it is extremely ridiculed, Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem was (in my mind) insanely fun, yet lacked really strong story writing. I was hoping they would have learned from that when going to make Skyline... but... that just wasn't the case. Don't get me wrong... Skyline is full of insanely good special effects, but the bad writing REALLY comes through when you have such bad acting.



Since I mentioned acting, let's get in to the actors. I love Eric Balfour, and he is awesome on Haven, but let's get one thing across. He is NOT a good actor by any means, and when he is on for the entire length of a film it is really difficult for him to hide from the camera. Donald Faison... I'm sorry dude, but you may never be anything other than Turk. I know that isn't what you want to hear, but it happens a lot, and you are not a great actor. Brittany Daniel is looking more like her age every day and still tries to play a young girl... just not working. Scottie Thompson... yes you are terribly attractive, and I loved you on NCIS, but you also cannot act. In fact, the only person that I could stand on the screen for this film was David Zayas and that is probably because I kept thinking of him as Detective Batista. Just bad acting all around and it didn't help the already extremely small story this film had going for it.



Sometimes films do an extremely good job without having to change location at all (Bug, Saw, etc...) but it kills this film. The aliens were super cool, and the effects, as I said before, are awesome, but the writing is atrocious. I look forward to seeing what the brothers come out with next, but this was a step back from AVP:R, so I hope next time they take a step forward.

Entertainment value: 4/10 Glowing lights
Cinematic Value: 5/10 Glowing lights

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Battle Los Angeles (2011)



Battle Los Angeles (2011) Dir. by Jonathan Liebesman

A Marine Staff Sergeant who has just had his retirement approved goes back into the line of duty in order to assist a 2nd Lieutenant and his platoon as they fight to reclaim the city of Los Angeles from alien invaders.



Liebesman is kind of a hit and miss director. And when I say that, I mean that he is usually hit and miss in the same film. I think the only film of his that I truly like, and it usually gets quite a bad wrap, is Darkness Falls. The TCM: The Beginning, and The Killing Room are his other full feature films, and while they are mildly entertaining they don't quite exhibit what I think he is probably capable of. Battle LA falls right in line with that theme. With Liebesman schedule to give Clash of the Titans of makeover in Wrath of the Titans, we will see if he can manage to fix one of the catastrophic remakes of our time.



The characters of Battle LA are about as generic as you can expect from a military movie, and they don't stray too far from that. The old guy who is supposed to be retiring coming back to save the day (kinda sounds like Bruce Willis should have got the part), the young Lieutenant who has risen through the ranks despite his age, Michelle Rodriguez as the girl who can kick it with the dudes (she has probably played this role twenty times, and then the rest of the cast is filled with people just being soldiers or civilians.



The special effects are mostly likely the meatiest part of the film, and they don't disappoint when they are on the screen. The creature/alien design was done really well and quite unique, but extremely underused. I get it that they were trying to do a serious war drama set against the background of an alien invasion, and it worked, but it was also boring and has been done so many times that it became distracting. I was actually hoping the majority of the characters would be killed in a freak blast and the aliens would win. Of course that isn't how it happened. The ending sequence managed to make up for most of the film, as it became intense and filled with that human will to live, and the hero's power to overcome all odds to accomplish the goal, and of course the one moment when, despite all their problems, the team is able to work together to win. All in all it was a decent film, but I don't expect to revisit it any time soon. It was worth one viewing for sure.

Entertainment Value: 5/10 Robot-like Aliens
Cinematic Value: 6/10 Robot-like Aliens

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Thing (2011)



The Thing (2011) Dir. by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson. While Dr. Halvorson keeps to his research, Kate partners with Sam Carter, a helicopter pilot, to pursue the alien life form. Written by IMDb Editors



Up until a few days ago I had no idea who Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. was... today... I still don't. That being said, it isn't really a bad thing. The Thing prequel, and yes I said prequel, is the first thing he has ever done in the way of directing feature films. I admit I have been one of those stuck up fans of the original remake helmed by the legend John Carpenter, but I don't think I should have been. I was dumb and I listened to all the negativity surrounding this film. When in all actuality the only thing really bad about this film is the title. It is extremely misleading, and if there were going to have this be a prequel, then they really shouldn't have given it the same name as its predecessor. Probably the stupidest move they could have made, and I assure you it killed this film before it hit the big screens.



TRIVIA FROM IMDB:
The producers convinced Universal Studios to allow them to create a prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing instead of a remake, as they felt Carpenter's film was already perfect, so making a remake would be like "painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa". However, the prequel still has the title of the original film, because they couldn't think of a subtitle (for example, "The Thing: Begins") that sounded good.

Have you ever watched Carpenter's film, and wondered where that helicopter came from, who the person was flying it, or who the gunman was firing that that damn pesky dog. I know I have thought about it on several occasions. I know Carpenter's film does touch on aspects of back story, but there was still just a huge gap there and I wanted to know more. ENTER THIS MOVIE! I am happy to say that there were several moments during this film where I was able to draw a direct link, whether it was the helicopter pilot, or the dog, or the hollow ice cube though to have contained a frozen life form. The effectively manage to fill in all the gaps, and they do it with script level precision. I could tell Eric Heisserer is a fan of the original remake and it shows... a hell of a lot better than his Nightmare on Elm Street Remake.



The characters are pretty dismissive within the story, but their development is really not essential to the film. If you have seen Carpenter's film, then you know that no one from the Norwegian film really "survived". Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a respectable performance as our female lead, and Ulrich Thomsen does a fantastic job as her counterpart. The rest of the characters were just great targets for the creature. The thing I was SUPER happy for was that they didn't try to do some dumb cameo with Kurt Russell.

The effects of this film give it such a bad wrap. Yes... I get it... we are in a time where great make-up and creature costumes give way to computer generated graphics. This film is no different. They manage to give it a good mixture of both, and for the most part I was really happy with it. The antics tend to play out the same way they did in the first movie, but I don't think there was much they could do about that. A bunch of people in the Arctic with an alien who steals what people look like doesn't offer a bunch in the way of changing story lines, but they did manage to do a good job of trying. The way of finding out who was an alien was realistic and had flaws much like it should, but it was really unique and I liked it. The creature effects were sick and disgusting, which was amazing. It was far more graphic than I had originally thought it would be.



Perhaps the most important part of the film to me (and several times within the film) is the seamless transition between the prequel and the original. I can assure you that I am not ruining anything when I tell you that within the ending credits is a scene that ends this film EXACTLY how the first film began, only this time you know who the men in the chopper are, and you know where that damn dog came from, and you know exactly why they are trying to stop it. It was a PERFECT way to end the film, and I think it was probably one of the smoothest links I have seen between a prequel and sequel ever in my history of watching films. Just brilliant. The film comes out this Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, and I assure you that I will be picking it up. Just remember that you can't always trust (or join) the negative that surrounds remakes, prequels, or prequels that come off as remakes. Watch the movies and formulate your own opinions.

Entertainment Value: 8/10 Cavity Fillings
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Cavity Fillings

Alien Invasion Weekend Begins!!!!

Welcome all to the Alien Invasion Weekend. If you love Alien Invasion movies as much as I do then you are going to love this weekend. I am happy to say that I am not along in this ordeal, and several people have come forward to contribute to the fun.

Jay Shatzer (The Lucid Nightmare) - Battle in Outer Space Review

Jason (Boxoffice Boredom - Alien vs Ninja

Thank you to these guys for getting their reviews in so early! I look forward to hopefully having a few more coming in before the weekend is done!

I just wanted to start today off with one of my favorite things to do, LISTS!!!! SO here is my list of Top Ten Alien Invasion Flicks:

10. The War of the Worlds (1953)



9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)



8. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)



7. Super 8 (2011)



6. The Blob (1988)



5. The Thing (1982)



4. Critters (1986)



3. Slither (2006)



2. The Live (1988)



1. District 9 - (2009)



I hope everyone enjoyed this launch post, but keep in mind this list was just my top Alien Invasion movies, so the position on the list may not be based on overall movie, but just the alien aspect. Although District 9 would still be #1, I do not like They Live more than The Blob. Now the Alien Invasion reviews can start coming in! Enjoy!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

ALIEN INVASION WEEKEND!!!



ALIEN INVASION WEEKEND!!!

After seeing Attack the Block, and several other alien invasion movies this past week it only became apparent to me that I needed to do an alien invasion weekend. With the help of The Mike over at From Midnight, With Love and a few others, we look to bring the reader some Grade A (more likely Grade B) alien fun this upcoming weekend. So beginning Friday, January 27th, prepare for a heavy dosing of alien badassery!

I am also doing a poll of the best alien movies based on decade. If you are interested in participating in the poll, fill out what you think is the best alien movie of each decade, starting with the 50's (don't have to do every decade if you don't want) and forward them to my email address deadenddrive-in@hotmail.com!

If anyone is willing to review an alien invasion movie this week end then feel free to send me the link to the review and I will post it on my final post this Sunday!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Attack the Block (2011)



Attack the Block (2011) Dir. by Joe Cornish

A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.

Joe Cornish is not a name recognized by many, as this happens to be his first feature film directed. He is primarily a writer, and writes some amazing stuff, such as the very popular Adam and Joe Show, which helped launch him to writing/directing this film, and adapting the Adventures of Tin Tin as well as Edgar Wright's upcoming Ant-Man. Taking charge of his first film, he seems to lose all aspects of being a writer and just makes a really badass film.



Aside from a hilarious combo of semi-veteran actors in Luke Treadaway and Nick Frost, the cast of Attack the Block is full of unknowns and up'n'coming actors. In his first film ever, John Boyega, takes charge as the groups leader and 50 Cent look-a-like contest winner. He really does a commanding job and controls the film. The rest of the cast of youngsters have primarily done three films or less, but you wouldn't know it because all they have to do is act like little hoodlums, and they do a great job at it.



The action and effects are what makes Attack the Block a huge hit. The action sequences are unique and filmed very well. It is a very short film, so the action is packed in there and is pretty much non-stop. The real show-stealer is the aliens. Nowadays it is hard to come up with creative creatures without treading on another design from sometime before it, but Joe really manages to create a unique alien by just sticking to simplicity. I didn't really want to share too much about the aliens because they are so cool looking, but they are also very terrifying at times.



This is one of those films that I could watch over and over again, and I really hope Joe decides to take up the director's chair sometime soon.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Boxes full of fireworks
Cinematic Value 7/10 Boxes full of fireworks

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)



Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) Dir. by Brad Bird

The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.



Mission: Impossible has been a pretty unique road so far. The first one of course being the best, when it was almost all about the spy game and less about the explosions. Then John Woo did Mission: Impossible II which was pretty much just that... all about the explosions. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to see in the theater, but offered no rewatch value. Then... the great J.J. Abrams takes over and brings some life back to the MI series. Now, instead of being in the directors chair he allows his rag-tag group of misfit writers to work with a director and watches the show from the producer chair. The man he got to replace him, is a unique decision all of its own. In a long line of Animation Directors turned to live-action, Brad Bird joins the club. This is the same director who brought us The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles. At first this really worried me, because not everyone can make this transition, but after I have seen the film... I can say that he makes it look smooth.



The cast is surprisingly small for a movie of this caliber, and I particularly liked it. It could have been off the wall bat shit crazy tons of characters like Star Trek or Lost, but it didn't. Speaking of Lost... Sawyer is in the frickin movie! Josh Holloway has a very important character to the story and he did great with it. Otherwise we have the usuals in Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg(who offers comedic relief as usual), but then we add in a newcomer in Paula Patton and a young veteran in Jeremy Renner. All fighting to prove their innocence against the evil Kurt Hendricks, played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame. Add in a couple of great cameos from previous characters, and you have the framework for solid character development. Yes... I said development in an action film.




That is what happens when J.J. Abrams is attached to an action film... we get story too! The character development is just as essential to the film as the explosions, as we get to find out everyone's secrets just a bit at a time, and slowly learn what has happened between now and the last film. I hope the story thing didn't discourage you from watching the film. It is pretty much non-stop action from start to finish. From the insane camera angles to the elongated chases on foot, there is enough action in there to please just about anyone. This doesn't take away from the really cool spy mystery and suspense, not to mention the insane gadgets being used. These days I don't really like saying to much about a film, mostly because I have been yelled at for ruining movies for people before they get to see them, so I will stop here, but I highly recommend watching this movie, and try to do it in the theater.

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Rubber Masks
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Rubber Masks

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Dir. by David Fincher

This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined. Written by Anonymous on IMDB.com



If you are not familiar with the works of David Fincher by now, then there is a chance you should probably be beaten. Aside from probably the worst Alien sequel ever, he has built quite a resume of intense, and sometimes mind boggling films. This includes last years Oscar stomping film The Social Network, but also includes some other greats like Zodiac, Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, and Se7en. The man makes some super intense films, and I absolutely love it. I always look forward to seeing his work, and now that he seems to be teamed up regularly with my favorite musical phenom Trent Reznor, it only makes me want to see his movies more.



The casting job is about as spot on as I have seen in a long time. Daniel Craig plays the curious and sometimes submissive Blomkvist like he lifted it from the pages of the novel. The always amazing Christopher Plummer portrays Henrik beautifully as a man crushed by his own family and determined to solve a 40 year old murder mystery. I don't think there is ever a doubt that Stellan SkarsgÄrd plays whatever he is told to with excellence, just as he does here. The rest of the supporting cast does just an absolutely amazing job. Now that brings me to the one last person I really want to talk about, and I'm going to start a whole new paragraph for her just because she deserves it.



Rooney Fucking Mara just blew my mind away. I even forgot who she was after the film was done. Now I remember making fun of her after watching Nightmare on Elm Street. Her acting was horrible, but now looking back that was probably the director's fault and not hers. She was forgettable in The Social Network and Youth in Revolt. I barely remember her in either of those films, and it doesn't fricking matter. If she doesn't take Best Actress at the Oscars this year then I have lost all hope for film. She took the character of Lisbeth Salander and ripped it out of the frickin book and portrayed it on the screen in probably the best book to film adaption of a character I have ever seen. I left the theater last evening just amazing and I can't stop thinking about it. She bared it all emotionally and physically to bring this character to life. All of the piercings she has in the film, she really got in real life just to help understand her character. She does such an amazing job playing a troubled woman, beaten down by life, and still managing to survive because of her inner strength. After being brutally raped, instead of taking it as it is and remaining shattered she rises from the ashes to exact her revenge in such a beautiful fashion. The rape scene is graphic just as it should be, but you feel her pain as you are watching it. You are rooting for her to do something about it, and not to just take it. You can tell she is troubled when she seems to use sex as a way to escape her surroundings, and takes comfort in finding a new friend in Blomkvist. I don't know that I have ever seen a person act as well as I saw Rooney Mara do in the theater last night. Just pure beauty and pain wrapped up in the same person. I recommend watching it just alone to see her performance.



Since I am well aware of the story through the books and previous movies, it was not a surprise to me to see the film move at such a slow and steady pace. It picks up at all the right times, and drops down when it needs to. The editing is flawless and brilliantly linked between screen and score. It was such a unique score that it could be construed as overwhelming at times, but I thought it really matched the emotional foreground of the film. It helped make the two hours and forty-five minutes fly by, and kept me super involved in the film. The way Fincher chooses to reveal the contents of the story is a thing of beauty in itself, as he lets the viewer only know as much as the characters at all times, and slowly brings everyone up to speed, slowly building to a big dramatic finish, while cleverly setting up the film naturally for a sequel. I recommend this movie to everyone, and it will be on my DVD buy list when it finally comes out. I look for this to at least get nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (which she damn well better win), and Best Score.

Entertainment Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos
Cinematic Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos