10.30.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 37: "A Midnight Confessions Halloween Special"


This week we celebrate our favorite time of the year. Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I wax nostalgic about Halloween TV specials of history past, we count down the Top 10 Horror Movies of all time and round things off with a review of the heavy metal horror classic, TRICK OR TREAT (1986). Plus we spin some great halloween themed tunes along the way. Happy Halloween, Freex!










 


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[REC] 3: Genesis (2012)

DIRECTED BY
Paco Plaza

STARRING
Diego Martin - Koldo
Leticia Dolera - Clara
Xavier Ruano - Father Albelda
Alex Monner - Adrian
Ismael Martinez - Rafa
Miguel Angel Gonzalez - John Sponge
Sr. B - Atun
Emilio Mencheta - Uncle Pepe Victor


Genre - Horror/Comedy/Virus/Demons/Found Footage

Running Time - 80 Minutes


PLOT
Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera), a young happy couple, are excited to be together on their wedding day in front of family and friends. The beautiful ceremony goes off without a hitch, as Koldo and Clara are announced husband and wife. However, during the reception, Uncle Pepe Victor (Emilio Mencheta) - who was bitten by a dog earlier in the day and is under the weather from it - turns demonic and bites his wife's face. This starts an outbreak where the reception is overrun by demonic zombies. The couple is separated, but quickly do whatever they can to get past their obstacles to reunite. If not, looks like the honeymoon is out.

REVIEW




Like I have already mentioned recently, 2007's [REC] is not only one of the best "found footage" films ever made [probably top 5], but [REC] is also one of the best horror films in the last ten years. 2009's [REC] 2 tried to recapture the first film's quality, but didn't manage to do so - even though the sequel is a watchable flick that continues the story in an interesting way. Somewhere along the way, the directors of the two films - Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza - decided to go their separate ways to direct their own individual sequels. Balaguero signed up for [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE, which will be released on Halloween. Plaza signed up for [REC] 3: GENESIS, a sequel that occurs during the events of the first two films, but with different characters within a different situation. Plaza, probably feeling that the "found footage" trend felt a bit tired, decided to only use that technique for 20 percent of the film, relying on regular cinematic mode for the rest of the runtime. Plaza also added more comedic situations and a love story to separate it from the previous two films. While the changes are appreciated, it will divide fans of the first two films. [REC] 3 is one of those films you'll like or you won't. While I do enjoy it on an entertainment level, it doesn't really fit within the franchise to me.

Good Things: I think the best part about [REC] 3: GENESIS is the acting, especially from the two leads. Leticia Dolora gets more of the screen time as Clara, our blushing bride. She's beautiful, smart, and tough. Delora handles a chainsaw quite well, becoming your typical final girl. I do think her transition from bride to badass chick who can kick your ass happened way too quickly to be believable, but Delora manages to make it work for the most part. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Deigo Martin is more of the comedic lead. He's involved in the more silly situations, dressing in a suit of armor and using a sword with hesitation. I thought he was very good in the role. And whenever the two shared the screen together, I really liked their chemistry. The other actors were good too, especially Ismael Martinez as Rafa and Miguel Angel Gonzalez as John Sponge. But Delora and Martin carried the film well.

Speaking of Delora and Martin, the love story between Clara and Koldo worked for me. I'm sure some [REC] fans hate the romance in what was once a bleak franchise. But I liked the stuff leading to the wedding, the actual ceremony, the fun reception, and even the characters' motivations to find each other through the apocalypse because of the love they shared for each other. The love aspect was written well, and helped by two actors who convinced you that they really cared for each other. And I thought the ending, which wasn't the greatest, at least made sense for the characters. I could see an actual loving couple handle the situation like these two did.

The direction by Plaza mostly worked as well. I loved how [REC] 3 seemed to be playing off a DVD of wedding footage, with the first act being shot on camcorder as we're introduced to our characters, the situation, and the spread of the virus. And while security cameras and phone cameras shoot more footage every now and then, I'm glad Plaza decided to ditch the handy cam and shoot most of the film with an actual camera lens, cinematic style. The cinematography by Pablo Rosso was absolutely gorgeous. I liked the locations used and how certain human vs. monsters scenes were shot. There was some nice tension at times and the film had a quick pace. Yes, the film probably shouldn't be called [REC] 3 due to the abandonment of what made [REC] [REC]. But it's a welcome change since the "found footage" trend got old pretty quickly.

Of course, the gore is pretty great. We get a lot of people getting bitten. We get a decapitation. Someone gets split right in half. A face gets mangled by a kitchen appliance. Some really bloody stuff. Wouldn't be a [REC] film without it.



Bad Things: I think my biggest criticism is the tone of the film. I don't mind Plaza wanting to put his own twist on the story by making things more comical than tense and/or scary. It worked for EVIL DEAD II. For better or worse, it kind of worked for the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise as well for a bit there. The thing is that those films were pretty funny. [REC] 3 didn't really have that same effect on me, no matter how hard it tried. Yeah, John Sponge was cute the first time we see him. But when he appears again to repeat the same joke, it made me roll my eyes. The armored suit was a bit silly during moments where a serious tone was needed. Even some of the kills play for laughs. It was amusing to watch, but nothing made me laugh or think this was the greatest horror-comedy ever. Silly is fine, but it needs to stay constant. The tone was uneven for me.

I also disliked the way the infected was presented. Here's a case where I liked how they explained things in the previous film, only for this explanation to ruin things in the next one. For one, the infected all acted differently. Some viciously ran and attacked people like the ones from the first two films. But then, we see infected people stumbling around like Romero zombies. Which one is it? Also, I really hated that the reflections of the infected revealed the demon that started this whole epidemic to begin with. It was a bit silly for me. Then, the whole ending with how the infected were stopped during mid-attack. I understand how it came to be, but it just felt lame. Meh.

I also felt that [REC] 3 didn't really capitalize on the ending of [REC] 2. Yes, [REC] 4 will deal with that. But not even mentioning it, or including something related to it, makes the franchise feel disjointed. The comedic tone of this installment, which is the total opposite of the serious tone of the previous two films, only makes this film feel like the black sheep of the franchise so far. Some have called this the HALLOWEEN III of the [REC] franchise so far, and it's not hard to disagree with them.

And while I liked the characters in this film more than I did in [REC] 2, they weren't used enough for me. The side characters were given a bum rap, exiting the film way before they needed to. I felt like I was getting to know certain peeps during the film, but they end up getting killed just when they got interesting. I get Plaza wanted to keep the pace going quickly. But this [REC] film actually had likeable characters that deserved more screen time.



THE FINAL HOWL 
While a fun sequel, [REC] 3: GENESIS doesn't really go full force in continuing what was established in the first two films. The acting was solid, the change in direction [aka getting rid of the "found footage" aspect] was appreciated, and the characters were more likeable than the ones in [REC] 2. But the comedic tone didn't work for me fully and I disliked how the infected was presented. Paco Plaza delivers with the violence and the quick pace, which will satisfy most people. But I was expecting to like it more than I did. I respect Plaza doing his own thing with this installment, even if I feel it's the lesser of the three [REC] films so far. Definitely worthy of a watch if you're a fan, but third time is not the charm with this one.



SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



10.26.2014

Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

DIRECTED BY
John Pogue

STARRING
Mattie Liptak - George
Mercedes Masohn - Jenny
Josh Cooke - Henry
Noree Victoria - Shilah
Ignacio Sericchio - Ed Ramirez
George Beck - Ralph Bundt
Bre Blair - Paula
Andrew Benator - Willsy


Genre - Horror/Virus/Zombies

Running Time - 89 Minutes


PLOT
Flight attendants Jenny (Mercedes Masohn) and Paula (Bre Blair) work a late night shift on a flight going from Los Angeles to Kansas City. One passenger named Ralph (George Beck) is bitten by a hamster carried by another passenger (Josh Cooke), turning him from a happy guy to a violent flesh-eater in minutes. As some of the passengers try to calm Ralph down, he bites Paula in the face, injuring her badly. With the flight now a dangerous situation, the pilot is forced to make an emergency landing in order to remove Ralph before he harms anyone else.

When the plane lands, the passengers and crew realize that they're quarantined within a small terminal, confused as to why they're in that situation. As they figure out ways to exit the terminal to seek help, they learn that the infection is spreading, turning other passengers and crew into rabid victims of the virus.



REVIEW
2008's QUARANTINE was an American remake of 2007's Spanish horror film [REC] - I guess for those who are afraid of foreign films and/or don't want to read subtitles during their movie watching. While not as good as [REC], QUARANTINE was still a pretty decent remake that managed to capture much of its source material well. Unbeknownst to me, a sequel was released in 2011 that went direct to DVD, creating a new story while connecting itself somewhat to the events of the first film. QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL was pretty much filling space in my Netflix Instant Queue for as long as I can remember, until recently when the whole Ebola scare made me want to check it out. And surprisingly, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL isn't that bad of a film! Unfortunately, it's nothing you'll really remember a day after you watch it.

Good Things: I think the biggest positive I could give the film is that it doesn't remake 2009's [REC] 2 at all. While QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL isn't as good of a movie as [REC] 2, at least I can respect and admire the filmmakers for wanting to take their own path and create a new story that in no way resembled its Spanish counterpart. I got something totally different from both films, which was a refreshing experience. And while QUARANTINE 2 was a total cash-in on the success of the first film, it still managed to connect itself to the first film in a way that I could believe they belong within the same universe.

I also enjoyed the first half of the film. The first act within the airplane as the virus begins to infect people is a lot of fun, filled with some nice tension and suspense that I was not expecting. While not completely original, I still liked that the virus spread occurred within a small space like an aircraft, where there's no real escape unless you own a parachute, or hide until the plane lands. I thought it was a cool setting, and a great setup for the rest of the film. If only the rest of the film stayed in the plane, or even within the terminal later on. Those aren't settings that one is used to seeing with this type of film. I think cool things could have been done considering. I don't know if the budget or lack of imagination didn't allow that to happen. But I did like the first half of the film at least.

I also thought the lack of found footage was a great way to separate itself from its inspiration. While it does make QUARANTINE 2 look like any other zombie-infection film, at least it steps away from the [REC] stigma and tries to be its own thing. It was nice to see a film that didn't make me have motion sickness for a change. Plus director James Pogue [who was a screenwriter for the three THE SKULLS films, that terrible ROLLERBALL remake, and GHOST SHIP] manages to do his best work here, creating tension and a nice smooth pace to build up characters and situations. It's never scary, but it's a fun watch.

And I also liked that the reason for the infection - in this case, an evolved form of rabies - was different from [REC] 2's reason for the infection. I do think [REC] 2 becomes more fun to watch due to the supernatural aspect of the infection, rather than watching a standard disease like in QUARANTINE 2. But both films have a justification for their different directions, so I can't hate on that.



I also thought the acting in the film was pretty decent as well. No one really stands out or anything, but all of it - including the teenage actor - were very passable and convincing. Josh Cooke, who is probably the most well known actor in the film, does a good job playing the mysterious guy who may be the hero, or the villain, depending on how you see it. I really was expecting bad acting, but was pleasantly surprised by how capable the actors were.

Bad Things: QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL is pretty generic as they come, especially when the airplane stuff is taken away. There's nothing remotely new about what's done here. The infected run and jump like Olympic athletes who failed a drug test, while the victims are pretty stupid in how they think and act. This sequel is a pretty cliche flick, where you yell at the screen at characters who do things that make no damn sense, only to fulfill a certain horror motif to move the story along. The final act is full of this stuff, which frustrates you since the film was kind of smart at its start. It plays out exactly as one would expect it to, which isn't the worst thing in the world. But if you're expecting at least one twist that would make QUARANTINE 2 stand out from the rest, you'll need a microscope to find it.

I also had issues with the lighting at times, as certain scenes were a bit too dark for me at times. This happens during the final act really, when all hell breaks loose. Some of the action is a bit too frantic, and not lit all that well, for me to make it all out.

And last, but not least, I wish the film had more to do with the title of the film. Yes, the characters are in quarantine, but the TERMINAL aspect is a very missed opportunity. There could have been more airplane action. Plus if the characters were trapped inside the air terminal a bit longer, and the infection broke out there, the tension would have been off the charts. It's nice that the TERMINAL sub-title is a clever twist of words about both the setting and the effects of the virus. But I wish more was done with it.




THE FINAL HOWL
After I watched QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL, I thought it was just average. But after thinking about the film more and realizing it worked better than I first thought, I started to like it more. It's heavily flawed when it comes to its title, some of the lighting, and how generic it turns out being. But for a sequel no one asked for, the acting is decent, the direction is tense and energetic, and the story is passable enough to be engaging. QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL isn't a fly-away success, but it's definitely worth a look if you have 90 minutes to spare.



SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



10.24.2014

[REC] 2 (2009)

DIRECTED BY
Jaume Balaguero
Paco Plaza


STARRING
Jonathan Mellor - Dr. Owen
Manuela Velasco - Angela Vidal
Javier Botet - Tristana Medieros
Oscar Sanchez - Zafra
Ariel Casas - Larra
Alejandro Casaseca - Martos
Pablo Rosso - Rosso
Andrea Ros - Mire


Genre - Horror/Virus/Zombies/Found Footage

Running Time - 85 Minutes


PLOT
About fifteen minutes after the events of the first [REC], where a Spanish building was quarantined due to a virus that turned the infected into flesh hungry monsters, a SWAT team enters the building with a member from the Ministry of Health to investigate the situation. As they search for blood that will help with a cure, they realize that the virus wasn't just random and it may stem from something much more supernatural in nature.



REVIEW
I've made it very clear that I'm not the biggest fan of this "found footage" trend in horror. As a business decision, it's smart as you'll gain a bigger profit from a cheaper budget. As a product to consume, it's either hit or miss. For some premises, the found footage trend works to the film's benefit as it allows the audience to watch things through the eyes of the characters. Then again, you may have to deal with shaky camera work, bad lighting, and even a lot of repetition. If you've seen one "found footage" film, you most likely seen ninety-five percent of them. However, when the concept works, it really works. 2007's [REC] [later remade for the U.S. as 2008's QUARANTINE] is one of those where the "found footage" aspect really enhanced the subject matter, creating a lot of atmosphere, tension, and even a creep factor most modern horror films lack. [REC] 2 comes close to achieving the same level of success, but it definitely suffers from sequel-itis that brings it down a notch or two.

Good Things: I liked that [REC] 2 continued the story from [REC] minutes after the first film ended. It feels like a throwback to slasher films that would have multiple films occur within the same day, making one feel as if they're watching a larger narrative within separate parts. I also liked how it explained what was the deal with the virus - something that has divided fans of the franchise. Some feel the origin of the virus should have been kept a mystery. I, however, don't mind the explanation, since it takes the film from a standard "virus infection" flick to something with more substance. It puts an interesting twist to a premise that's been done to death, putting a supernatural edge to it. Yeah, it could be a detriment to the rest of the franchise. But at least [REC] 2 tries to differentiate itself from the first film, which I can appreciate and respect.

I also really liked the direction by both Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, who also directed the first film. It looks and feels like a [REC] film, as well as a continuation of the first film without forcing it too much. I also dug the different point of views between the SWAT Team characters, who each had a camera on their helmets to capture different things. The switching between one character to another was pretty flawless and pretty cool. I also thought the film was more action-oriented, with a quicker pace and more brutality. Some folks probably preferred the slower burn of [REC], but I appreciated that [REC] 2 got right into the action and didn't look back.

The acting was also fine for the story at hand. Jonathan Mellor stands out as Dr. Owen, pretty much being the film's lead. Mellor was pretty loud and brash for most of the film, but it fit his character and the secret he hides about his reason to being inside the infected apartment complex. The SWAT Team actors and the child actors all had their moments. And it was nice to see Manuela Velasco return as Angela Vidal, the protagonist of the first film. I really liked her performance as well, and I'm curious where her character goes in [REC] 4: APOCALYPSE.



Bad Things: Even though I thought the acting was fine, I really disliked the new characters introduced in [REC] 2. Yes, all of them. I couldn't care about these new people for multiple reasons. One, there was no real character development for any of them. Sure, [REC] wasn't major on that aspect either, but you really got to learn about those characters by how they dealt with the quarantine and the spread of infection. In [REC] 2, all these characters really do is yell and scream at each other. Plus, they do really dumb things that just irk me. Especially those teen characters, who thought it'd be smart to enter a sealed off area for kicks. I had no sympathy for any of them. All the characters felt different in [REC]. That's not the case here.

Also, there are way too many characters in this film. From the SWAT Team, to Dr. Owen, to the teenagers, to Angela, and to the infected tenants inside of the business - there were just too many people to follow. I get that you need lambs for the slaughter, but at least make them somewhat interesting to dedicate 80 minutes of your film to.

And while I liked the supernatural aspect of the virus, I disliked how each infected victim was a vessel to the person who started the spread of infection. It felt a bit silly and wasn't really necessary at all. If you want to treat the infected as demonic, go right ahead. But when it goes to Pazuzu territory, I start to lose interest. This doesn't happen a whole lot in the film, at least. But when it did, it just felt forced.

THE FINAL HOWL
While not as good as [REC], [REC] 2 still was more hit than miss. If the characters were likeable and kept to a minimum, I probably would have enjoyed it more. But I did like the direction, the twists and explanation of the virus worked for me, and the acting was good considering how annoying the characters were written. I don't think [REC] really needed a sequel, but the first one we got ain't too shabby. One of the better "found footage" films out there, in my opinion. But then again, that's not saying a whole lot.



SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4


10.22.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 36: "Everybody's Got A Price"





Join Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I as we review 3 classic Vincent Price films: CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1971), WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964).










 


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10.08.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 35: "Something funny-ish this way comes"





Join Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I as we review two horror comedies: THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989) and TRANSYLVANNIA 6-5000 (1985). Smell it...it's good.









 


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10.01.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 34: "Bad robots doing bad things in bad movies"


Oh the pain! Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I review two cinematic turd stains in the form of R.O.T.O.R (1987) and LADY TERMINATOR (1989). Plus the Top 5 Killer Automations of Cinema. This episode is dedicated to Tubb...he was our buddy.








 


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9.26.2014

[Satan's Screener] Child Bride (1938)


My buddy, Moronic Mark [of Midnight Confessions Podcast fame], has returned after a long hiatus to continue his journey of watching some of the worst films ever to save his soul. Unfortunately, his return is for a film that almost broke Mark - 1938's controversial CHILD BRIDE. Watch as Mark deals with watching this infamous movie in his own quirky way. You're a braver man than I, Mark.

9.24.2014

[80's September] Midnight Confessions Ep. 33: "Michele Soavi Triple Feature"





Join Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I as we review 3 surreal Italian horror classics from director Michele Soavi: STAGEFRIGHT (1987), THE CHURCH (1989) and THE SECT (1991).








 


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9.18.2014

[80's September] Masters of the Universe (1987)

DIRECTED BY
Gary Goddard

STARRING
Dolph Lundgren - He-Man
Frank Langella - Skeletor
Meg Foster - Evil-Lyn
Billy Barty - Gwildor
Courteney Cox - Julie Winston
Robert Duncan McNeill - Kevin Corrigan
Jon Cypher - Duncan (Man-at-Arms)
Chelsea Field - Teela
James Tolkan - Detective Lubic
Christina Pickles - Sorceress of Castle Grayskull


Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Running Time - 106 Minutes


Anyone who grew up for the majority of the 1980's knows of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated show. Prince Adam would raise his Power Sword in the air and turn into the warrior He-Man to protect Eternia and Grayskull from the evil Skeletor. He-Man even had a twin sister named She-Ra, who had a more popular cartoon in the mid-80's, creating a bunch of toys and merchandise that made millions due to children wanting to be part of the phenomenon. Who knew that a failed toy line for 1982's CONAN THE BARBARIAN, which was seen as too violent for children, would create a cash cow for Filmation and Mattel.

Due to the success of the cartoon, it was no surprise that Cannon Films' Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus would produce a live-action movie based on the characters. Cannon Films were pretty successful in the late-70's and early-80's, with their Chuck Norris action flicks, DEATH WISH sequels, and some ninja movies. The mid-80s hurt the studio, as the three-film deal with Tobe Hooper [LIFEFORCE, INVADERS FROM MARS, and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2] all bombed at the box office. SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE was a huge failure in 1987. Cannon figured that putting some decent money into MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE would help rebuild the studio. If CONAN THE BARBARIAN was a hit with adults, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE would be a hit with children, right? Unfortunately, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE underperformed, pretty much spelling inevitable doom for Golan and Globus.

I actually watched both SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE and MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE back in 1987 in a double feature during their releases weeks apart. I enjoyed both films as a six-years-old, although I think SUPERMAN IV is a piece of crap as an adult. However, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, as flawed as it is, still manages to be a pretty fun watch for the most part. Who knew Eternia cheese still holds up 27 years later?

PLOT
On a planet called Eternia, the villainous Skeletor (Frank Langella) has taken the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Christina Pickers) hostage to gain some of her universal power. A warrior named He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) and his allies Man-at-Arms (Jon Cypher) and Teela (Chelsea Field) fight off Skeletor's troops to save a trollish inventor called Gwildor (Billy Barty). Gwildor tells He-Man that Skeletor wants to capture him to obtain an invention called the Cosmic Key, which can open portals to any time and/or place by playing musical notes. When ambushed, Gwildor takes He-Man and his allies through a portal, landing on Earth. However during the travel, the Cosmic Key drops somewhere else. Two teenagers (Courteney Cox and Robert Duncan McNeill) find it, thinking it's a Japanese synthesizer, playing certain notes on it. When Skeletor learns of its location, he decides to bring himself and his troops to Earth to retrieve it - leaving He-Man to save the day once again.

REVIEW

I honestly don't remember much about the Filmation cartoons that were about the He-Man or She-Ra characters. So my opinion on this adaptation is probably skewed due to my ability to separate the film from the cartoons. But as a live-action film aimed for children, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE doesn't do that bad of a job. The main issue with it is that Golan and Globus planned for something much more epic, like STAR WARS or SUPERMAN. But MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE never comes close to reaching that due to budget and narrative constraints. But I don't think it's as terrible as its reputation would have you believe.

Like I mentioned earlier, the story is a mixed bag for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Fans of the cartoon will dislike it since it changes certain aspects of the character. For one, he's never known as Prince Adam here. He-Man never needs the Power Sword to transform into a great warrior. Hell, He-Man barely even uses his Power Sword here, relying more on laser guns that seem out of character. He-Man's Battle Cat friend, Cringer, is nowhere to be seen unfortunately. No Orko either! BOO! And probably the worst thing is that Eternia is only in the beginning and the finale of the film, with the film taking place mainly on Earth rather than a more special setting that would make the film stand out. In fact, the only thing we really see of Eternia is Skeletor's castle, which looks as generic as one would aspect. I get that there was budget restraints and screenwriter David Odell had to focus on the Earth scenes because they would be cheaper to film. But because of the majority of the setting, it doesn't really feel like a genuine MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE film. It feels like a regular fantasy/sci-fi film with He-Man characters in it.

And while the Earth stuff isn't really all that bad if you give it a chance, I'm not a fan of the film focusing more on the teenagers and the bumbling cops rather than He-Man and Skeletor. I get that the Kevin and Julie characters were added in to have the younger audience identify with someone in the movie. But you're telling me a Swedish buff dude in a codpiece fighting a charismatic skeleton wouldn't bring in an audience?? What kind of world were we living in 1987? Seriously, I can see where Michael Bay found inspiration for the human characters in his TRANSFORMERS franchise. The only difference is that Kevin and Julie are actually likeable characters, who shouldn't be in the story, are at least useful and some way. And Lubic, our skeptic cop friend, is your typical cop who doesn't believe in lasers and talking skeletons even when he's looking at them. But I do dig the accent.


But still, this film should be about He-Man vs. Skeletor! And we barely even get that. Hell, they were only in like one-third of the film to begin with. At least in a TRANSFORMERS film, I see Transformers. You could barely call this a He-Man adaptation. And don't get me started on Gwildor and his Cosmic Key. What can I say? Trolls are big in the 1980s. And he is quite decent as the comic relief. Plus, the idea of the Cosmic Key is cool, Too bad it looked like a Japanese synthesizer.

But I can definitely say that the narrative is fine for what it is. It's not He-Man, but at least it tells a fairly entertaining and easy story to follow. You got some good action sequences, like the music store set-piece and the attack on the city where He-Man rides a hoverboard. You got some decent romance between Kevin and Julie, Skeletor and Evil-Lyn, and Gwildor and the Cosmic Key. You got Teela wearing a tight outfit [growl]. And there is some genuinely humorous stuff going on in the film. I can't fault a film whose heart is in the right place. SUPERMAN IV felt like a cash cow. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE is a cash cow trying to be a good movie. It just didn't have the right budget and the right way to bring the cartoon to life to make it happen.

The special effects in MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE are pretty dated now. But even so, I thought there was an actual budget put into this film, sort of creating a charming time capsule of 1980's visual effects. We get laser beams. We get explosions. We get characters dissolving out of thin air. We get green screen with He-Man riding a hoverboard through Los Angeles, and Skeletor and his army entering through time portals. The real good stuff comes with Eternia, with some FLASH GORDON inspired sets and costumes, especially Skeletor's gold costume that many dislike, but I actually enjoy quite a bit. Speaking of Skeletor, I think the make-up and costume for the character is pretty near-perfect. Back in 1987, I thought the live-action Skeletor looked great. And I still believe that in 2014. Michael Westmore did some great make-up effects on MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

The acting is what it is. Dolph Lundgren's acting may not be stellar, due to the fact that the script doesn't really give him much to do. But I still feel he was the perfect casting choice for the He-Man character for the time. He had a lot of momentum going for him, especially from 1985's ROCKY IV. I just wish he was allowed to act in a better scripted film. Courteney Cox has her acting debut here as Julie, and she's cute and not that bad here. Robert Duncan McNeill, best known for playing Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager, is pretty good as well. Meg Foster looks villainously fetching as Evil-Lyn and plays evil well. Jon Cypher and Chelsea Field do what they can as Man-at-Arms and Teela. Billy Barty is a bit humorous as Gwildor, a character you can either take or leave. And James Tolkan seems to be having fun as Detective Lubic.

But MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE belongs to Frank Langella, who brings a theatrical vibe to the role of Skeletor. Langella takes the role completely seriously, having a ball playing the villain, and hamming it up. If Langella wasn't in the role, I think MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE would be a disaster acting-wise. But Langella, who did the role for his children, brings a classic cartoon villain to life perfectly. I wish there was more of him in the film, but when he is on, he's fantastic.

By the way, what was up with those cheap looking SUPERMAN-like credits and score? That's how you try and stand on your own two feet - copying a more popular franchise in a different key. Oh well.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE HAVING THE POWER OF GREYSKULL

- Any foe of Skeletor is a friend of He-Man and his allies. I had no idea so many hated Lara Flynn Boyle.

- He-Man would rather shoot his gun than swing his sword. While this may work in battle, He-Man's girlfriend is probably unsatisfied in bed.

- Julie was attacked by Skeletor's monstrous forces inside of a school, only to be saved by He-Man. While this entire scene was taken seriously, it's still funnier than any episode of Friends.

- Skeletor and Evil-Lyn have a long thang going on. Then again, Skeletor's probably the perfect guy who can give good bone.

- Evil-Lyn and her forces broke in and destroyed a music store that bought and sold instruments. Considering claims that rock is dead, I think Skeletor is really Gene Simmons.

- Julie was tricked to give Evil-Lyn, who looked like her dead mother, the Cosmic Key. Nice to see Ghostface evolve his M.O. That's more convincing than just using a voice changer to sound like Sidney Prescott.

- To save his friends, He-Man willingly let himself be Skeletor's slave back in Eternia. Man, what a drag...oh.

THE FINAL HOWL
While it's not a great film, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE still manages to be silly fun for the most part. I can see the critics' point of view - it doesn't adapt the Filmation cartoon all that well, the teen angle takes away from the He-Man stuff, and Golan and Globus' budget couldn't match the epic scale they had planned for it. But for what it is, it has decent action sequences, cool costumes, an easy to follow narrative, and fantastic acting from Frank Langella as Skeletor. The film may not have the power of Greyskull, but it's an 80's time capsule worth playing the Cosmic Key to see every once in a while. A bad fun time.



SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4



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