8.27.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 29: "High School in your 30's can be hell"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I go back to school and review HELL HIGH (1989) and SLAUGHTER HIGH (1986) [which I re-review in a more positive light]. Plus the Top 5 High School Themed Horror/Exploitation movies.






 


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8.21.2014

The Expendables 3 (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Patrick Hughes

STARRING
Sylvester Stallone - Barney Ross
Jason Statham - Lee Christmas
Antonio Banderas - Galgo
Jet Li - Yin Yang
Wesley Snipes - Doctor Death
Dolph Lundgren - Gunner Jensen
Kelsey Grammer - Bonaparte
Randy Couture - Toll Road
Terry Crews - Hale Caesar
Kellan Lutz - John Smilee
Ronda Rousey - Luna
Glen Powell - Thorn
Victor Ortiz - Mars
Robert Davi - Goran Vata
Mel Gibson - Conrad Stonebanks
Harrison Ford - Max Drummer
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Trench Mauser


Genre - Action/Adventure

Running Time - 126 Minutes


PLOT
The mercenary group known as The Expendables are on another mission, this time breaking out a former member named Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), who is traveling on a prison convoy within Somalia. As Death tries to fit back into the group, The Expendables continue their mission - only for leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to realize that a man he thought dead, an arms dealer and war criminal named Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), is the mastermind behind the evil he must stop. Stonebanks makes the mission more personal when he badly wounds Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), forcing Barney to disband The Expendables so none of the other members get hurt - although they're against the idea. Now under the orders of a CIA operative named Drummer (Harrison Ford), Barney must do whatever is necessary to stop Stonebanks - even if he has to recruit younger members for a new Expendables team.

REVIEW

Being a fan of the first two EXPENDABLES films, I was heavily anticipating the third film in the series so far. I'm a huge fan of 80s and 90s action films, so watching all these grizzled stars join forces against evil just puts a smile on my face. Unfortunately, THE EXPENDABLES 3 had a lot of issues going against it.

One, the rating downgraded from an R to a PG-13 for a broader audience. That kind of irked me because action films from previous eras were usually pretty violent, but I understood it from a business standpoint. Then, I saw how large the cast became. I knew any sort of character development or motivations would be pretty non-existent. Then, someone leaked out a DVD-quality version of THE EXPENDABLES 3 about three weeks prior to its release last weekend. Millions downloaded it and gave their mixed opinions on it all over social media. These things most likely attributed to THE EXPENDABLES 3 being a box office bomb so far, at least domestically. Then again, I'm not sure how much this film would have made regardless, since in my opinion it's the worst of the three films - despite it still being pretty fun for most of it.

HITS
- The older cast. It's no surprise that the film is pretty good when the original cast appears. The comraderie between Stallone, Statham, Crews, Lundgren, and Couture is still intact. Watching them banter and blast away enemies will never get old. But then you bring in newer guys. Wesley Snipes has a good introduction at the beginning of the film, even joking about his tax evasion issues from his real life. Kelsey Grammer, who did X-MEN: THE LAST STAND to get his action film card, is pretty chill as Bonaparte - Barney's recruiting buddy. Harrison Ford takes the film more seriously than he probably should, but I thought every scene he appeared in gave the film a pulse and some meaning. Jet Li returns in a cameo, which is nice to see. Schwarzenegger is having fun, bringing back quotes from previous films for a genuine laugh and smile. Mel Gibson, whose personal life has tainted his professional one, is pretty great as the villain. He seems to be having fun acting a bit maniacal and chewing up the scenery. I thought he was one of the highlights of the film. But the best actor was Antonio Banderas as Galgo, the comic relief who wouldn't shut up. He was in a different film than everyone else, just making a fool of himself for the audience's amusement. For a serious action film, Banderas brought some much needed levity to the proceedings. I wish these actors were presented better, but at least the older cast was pretty damn cool.

- The action. I think THE EXPENDABLES 3 had my least favorite action sequences in the series so far, but they were still very watchable and entertaining. The half-hour climax had a lot going on, but it was a really fun watch. The second action scene once Gibson is introduced was cool. And while the opening sequence and the first sequence with the newbies were pretty short for an action film, at least they were decent-to-good for what they were. I still miss the blood and more violent R rating for these scenes, because I think they would have made these scenes better. But for a PG-13 action film, I expected worse actually. So I'm pretty content with these scenes for the most part.


- The premise. I liked the concepts and themes that formed THE EXPENDABLES 3. I liked that the villain was someone who was a part of the original Expendables team. I like that Barney wanted to build a new, younger team that was more in the know. I enjoyed the idea of "passing the torch" to newer action stars, since the older ones don't have much left in the tank. I liked that both generations embraced each other by the end of the film. The ideas are there. The elements should work if they come together. But unfortunately...

MISSES
- The story. Now, were the first two films masterpieces in terms of screenwriting? Far from it. But at least they had a charm that made them resonate and work. The first film was based on the nostalgia of these old action stars teaming up and kicking ass. The second film took itself less seriously, playing along with the audience by bringing up previous films and lines of dialogue in a clever way. The third film seems to want to be a mix of the first two films, but the balance is all off.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 takes itself way too seriously for its own good. If it had some sort of emotional weight within the narrative to justify that tone, then it would be okay. But a lot of things just come across as unintentionally silly, that you wish it shared its tone with the second film, which knew what it was and had a blast admitting it.

I have issue with when one of the main characters is almost killed during the first act of the film, causing Barney to disband the team for a younger crew. Why? For one, the film is called THE EXPENDABLES 3. You couldn't kill this character off? Isn't that the definition of the title? And if you wanted to this character to survive, why not kill a character that's not as important? I'm glad this certain character survived because I enjoy what the actor brings to the table. But it just felt silly to take him out for the entire film like this, when he's been through much worse in previous installments.

Continuing on this, why would Barney disband his team because of this incident? Didn't a member of The Expendables get brutally murdered in front of them in the last film? That didn't make Barney break up the team. And worried for his friends' safety, he decides to recruit younger, more inexperienced, mercenaries to take their places? Like I said, I like the idea of "passing the torch". But it's just done so clumsily because it doesn't fit Barney's character in the previous two films.


It also doesn't help when these new characters are bland and one-dimensional. While the older cast aren't that fleshed out either, at least we know who they are pretty quickly because of their previous resumes. The older cast have personalities we can connect with, even if we don't know their backstories or how they were recruited to form this band of misfits. The new squad doesn't have any of that. One guy is a hacker. Another guy hates authority and rides a motorcycle. There's a girl now who can kick ass. And there's the other guy who just shoots a gun. I'll give Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, and the other two actors for trying to make something out of these stereotypical characters, but it couldn't work when there are already more than another people in this film than it actually needs. There's no room to breathe to let these characters live. I think if these characters were introduced throughout the franchise, or within their own spinoff where they could build themselves into interesting personalities, it could have worked. But all THE EXPENDABLES 3 did was prove that the younger generation can't match up with the older one in terms of personality, charisma, or even acting ability. It's a shame.

Is it a terrible script? No. There is dialogue that made me laugh. There are moments where characters actually feel believable. And I liked how the set pieces were laid out, as cliche as they were. But the focus of the film was flawed, making me wish I was watching the other two films instead.

- Direction in general. Patrick Hughes may be a nice guy. I have no idea what other films he has done. But he wasn't the right guy to film THE EXPENDABLES 3. It's not badly directed in the sense that it's unwatchable. The film looks pretty good and flows better than it should, to be honest. But a lot of the CGI stuff bugged me, especially when two actors are driving in front of a green screen that had me in stitches. The film is WAY too long for its own good, feeling bloated with too many characters and not enough substance. The editing is a bit off at times. And the direction of the action is annoying, especially when I'm seeing close-ups of actor's faces rather than the fight scenes themselves. I don't know when shooting action too close became this hip trend, but it needs to end. I want to see a punch connect to some dude's face, not a close-up of the puncher's face. I'm sure some of this was done to satisfy the PG-13 rating, which makes the opposition for it pretty justified. The visuals just didn't feel confident to me, as if Hughes was struggling with what kind of film this needed to be.

THE FINAL HOWL
I wanted to like THE EXPENDABLES 3 more than I actually did. I like the ideas and themes presented in the film, especially "passing the torch" to a younger generation of stars. But it's an unbalanced action film with an uneven story and direction that needed more confidence. It's also way too long and introduces a young cast that could use a personality transplant. However, the action is still pretty good and the older cast is pretty great, especially Gibson and Banderas - both stealing the film. I prefer the first two films over this one, but the third has its moments and won't bore anyone who is a fan of these kind of films. I just wish it were better because all the elements were there for a better film than we actually get here.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4




8.20.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 28: "Getting nasty with Naschy"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I take on a Paul Naschy double feature with INQUISITION (1976) and PANIC BEATS (1983). Plus the Top 5 Male Icons of Horror. Also, internal thoughts that should always stay internal become external because that's how we roll.






 


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8.17.2014

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: A*P*E (1976)

DIRECTED BY
Paul Leder

STARRING
Joanna Kerns - Marilyn Baker
Rod Arrants - Tom Rose
Alex Nicol - Col. Davis
Nak-hun Lee - Capt. Kim
Yeon-jeong Woo - Mrs. Kim
Jerry Harke - Lt. Smith
Paul Leder - Dino


Genre - Horror/B-Movie/Science Fiction/Monster Movie/Bad Animals

Running Time - 87 Minutes


PLOT
On a trip to Disneyland, a 36-foot ape breaks out of a shipping boat, causing it to explode. After a fight with a shark, the giant ape decides to head into South Korea, destroying stuff in sight. When he falls for an American actress named Marilyn (Joanna Kerns), who is filming a film there, he kidnaps her. This, plus the city damage, has the army going after the ape, hoping to stop it before it causes any more chaos.

I swear I've seen something like this before...



REVIEW
I have three words for A*P*E:

WHAT THE FUCK!?

Thanks to a friend on Facebook who had talked about this film, I would have never known the existence of A*P*E - a South Korean and American production that was made and released around the same time Dino De Laurentiis had produced and released his remake of KING KONG in 1976. It's pretty much the same film as KING KONG. It has a giant ape. It has the ape destroying a city. It has the ape kidnapping a blonde beauty. And it has the ape being attacked by the local military. The only thing A*P*E doesn't have is any class, any dignity, or any substance that KING KONG has. But I can't say that I didn't have a ball with this stupid movie, even if it is a large piece of monkey crap.

STORY
Screenplay - I don't even know why I'm bothering with this aspect of the story. A*P*E is nothing but a cheap rip-off of the KING KONG story, just with a poorer narrative, direction, and acting.

You'll care nothing about the characters in the story, as they're all bland and one-dimensional. Marilyn is an actress who seems to love enjoying dramatizing attempted rape in grungy set locations. She's in some sort of relationship with some journalist named Tom, who left America for an assignment in South Korea just to be near her, even though she told him she needed space. Tom constantly tries to grope Marilyn, taking kisses every chance he gets while subtly implying he wants to bang her. Marilyn quietly pushes him away, saying she needs time to figure things out as she can't balance her career with her feelings for Tom. I've seen things like this on the Investigation Discovery channel, so hopefully this will have a better ending.

The Colonel character was pretty funny though, as he was a skeptic for the beginning of the film, making light of the entire situation. Then when he realized it was really happening, he had some great one-liners and facial expressions. Too bad he wasn't in the film more.


As for the ape himself, what can I say? He loves to smash things. He loves to play with things. He loves to kidnap future TV moms. And he enjoys flipping the bird at the military. Talk about character development!

The dialogue is pretty atrocious, and the journey from start to finish is very by-the-numbers. Also, the film starts with the giant ape already captured and headed to Disneyland [really??], so you have no idea what the backstory to this ape is or how they even captured him. It all just feels really random, with nothing really clicking seriously. It's amusing for an unintentional laugh, but only when the ape is onscreen really. Say what you want about that 1976 KING KONG remake. At least that film is competent. A*P*E is anything but.

Direction - Paul Leder, father of DEEP IMPACT director Mimi Leder, doesn't do much visually as a director. It's pretty much a point and shoot affair, with the use of mini set pieces in order to make the ape larger than he actually is. We get a fake giant ape hand from time to time. We obviously see objects fly towards screen being pulled on a string. Did I mention this film was made for 3D? Even in 2D, I could tell this film would have been an ultimate fail in another dimension. The sound editing is also pretty odd, with dubbing being awkward and noises not sounding consistent from one scene to the next within the same area. There's nothing really special about the look of A*P*E at all. No style, no great picture quality, and nothing visually worth talking about.

Acting - The actors are decent in their roles, I guess. Joanna Kerns, best known as the mom on Growing Pains, plays the actress Marilyn. She's a good screamer and is a pretty woman. But other than that, it's not hard to see why she went to TV acting rather than stay in film. Rod Arrants lets his 70s Lothario look do most of the talking for him, but he was okay as the "hero" Tom. Alex Nicol is kind of charming as Col. Davis, pretty much providing more life than all the other human actors combined. And the dude who played the title character seemed to be having fun acting stupid in costume. It's unfortunate he wasn't at all convincing as an actual gorilla.

VIOLENCE - A*P*E has moments of violence in it. The ape destroys cities. There's a fake gorilla vs. a dead shark battle in the water, which won't make ZOMBI 2 shake in its boots anytime soon. The ape throws rocks and other things at the military. Flaming arrows and bullets are sent towards the ape. Plus, there's that fake rape scene on a movie shoot. Even though there's some blood, I've seen more violent films than this.

SEX - Besides some implications, A*P*E is fairly tame. No nudity. No sex. Unless you count a hand glider bouncing on an ape's hand sexually stimulating, you're better off sticking to your porn.

CHEESE FACTOR - I'm not sure whether A*P*E is intentionally, or unintentionally, cheesy. But regardless, it manages to make me laugh at how ridiculous the premise is. A director is named "Dino" - making fun of producer Dino De Laurentiis. There are nods to the original PLANET OF THE APES. The acting is so wooden, it's laughable. Where else will you see "King Kong" fight "Jaws"? Foam rocks and arrows traveling on strings? Why not? Joanna Kerns seductively pleading with the ape to be gentle with her probably gave Alan Thicke a chubby. And an ape who gives the middle finger to the camera in probably the most famous moment of this film raises the cheese factor quite a bit. It's definitely a cheesy film for majority of the film, due to how awful it is.


THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SEWING THE WRIST AND ARMPIT REGIONS OF MY APE SUIT TO MAKE MYSELF LOOK MORE CONVINCING

- The giant ape fought a dead shark in the water. It must've wanted to take the primate home and eat its pussy.

- "I'm a reporter, not Charlton Heston!" Judging at how Tom is striking out with Marilyn by not being able to part her Red Sea to shoot his gun inside, I can't help but agree.

- A bunch of children break into a closed amusement park called Family Land. That's messed up. It's definitely no Neverland Ranch, which I heard was open morning, noon, and night - especially for young kids. Jesus Juice, anyone?

- Marilyn had to film a "gentle" rape scene on a sleazy movie set. Man, this original version of THE ACCUSED didn't have much going for it, huh? No Oscar for you, Marilyn. I guess that's them Growing Pains...

- Marilyn wanted the big ape to be gentle with her. Surprising, since she TV married a dude who's last name is Thicke...

THE FINAL HOWL
A*P*E is something else. It's so ridiculously bad, you'd think a film studio accidentally greenlit a Saturday Night Live skit to be feature length. Bland and/or wooden acting. Boring direction. A title character who's obviously a man in a broken down gorilla suit [which is quite hilarious for all the wrong reasons]. But it does have moments that will make you laugh for how ridiculous it all is. And I was never really bored, so it has that going for it. I would recommend this film just so people can see how stupid and awful it is. But if really bad trash isn't your thing, then A*P*E is not a film worth going bananas over.



SCORE
0.5 Howls Outta 4






Moronic Mark's "Satan Screener" for A*P*E

8.13.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 27: "Scream Queens and Imps and Nerds--oh my"


The Summer Sextravaganza comes to an end as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I take on 1988's HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, NIGHTMARE SISTERS, and [in my case, re-take on] SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA. Plus the Top 5 Scream Queens of all time.






 


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8.06.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 26: "Up the creek without any school spirit"





Our summer extravaganza rolls on. This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I review two 80's sex comedies: SCHOOL SPIRIT (1985) and UP THE CREEK (1984). Plus the Top 5 Teen Movies of all time.













 


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8.02.2014

When Wrestlers Act: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

DIRECTED BY
James Gunn

STARRING
Chris Pratt - Peter Quill/ Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana - Gamora
Dave Bautista - Drax the Destroyer
Vin Diesel - Groot
Bradley Cooper - Rocket
Lee Pace - Ronan the Accuser
Michael Rooker - Yondu
Karen Gillan - Nebula
Djimon Hounsou - Korath
John C. Reilly - Rhomann Dey
Glenn Close - Nova Prime Irani Rael
Benicio del Toro - Taneleer Tivan / Collector


Genre - Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 122 Minutes


PLOT
After his mother passes away, Peter Quill is kidnapped from Earth as a young boy. 26 years later, Peter (Chris Pratt) is now a rogue for a group of Ravagers looking for a sphere that has a huge bounty on it. Now calling himself Star-Lord, even though it doesn't really stick, Peter ruins into the soldiers of the villainous Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) - a force who wants the sphere in order to destroy planets to get vengeance for his Kree race. After being captured by Nova Corps, Peter is sent to prison with Ronan traitor and Thanos' adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Ronan hater Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and tree-like humanoid named Groot (voice of Vin Diesel). Realizing they share similar goals, while all having different reasons, they decide to team up and stop Ronan the Accuser's plans for galactic destruction.


REVIEW
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is probably Marvel Studios' biggest risk. The characters aren't as well known as their other properties, probably being presented for the first time in front of a mainstream audience. Comic book nerds, including myself, may have heard of the group or know them pretty well, never thinking they would receive the big screen treatment over other Marvel characters. Even myself, who has heard of these characters and where their arcs will probably go within the Cinematic Universe, is pretty surprised that they've been given the spotlight since the group isn't everyone's cup of tea. This film could have really blown up in Marvel's faces due to their lack of notoriety. But judging by how well it's done on its first day of release in the United States [almost $40 million!], I think it's safe to say that Marvel made the right choice. Not only that, but GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the opposite of anything they've done thus far. It's goofy, bright, fun, and has the feel of a B-movie space opera with finances behind the project. Whether it's timing, or folks just wanted to watch something different in their superheroes, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a massive success for many reasons.

I think the main reason why GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY resonates is the characters. They all have different personalities, and all have different motivations - but they click together so well, you really do believe these five could be friends and a great team. Peter Quill is such a douchebag character, with his womanizing ways and immaturity towards serious situations. But from the prologue, you get why Peter acts like he does. He never really grew up and needed this mission in order for that to happen. I think Chris Pratt, who is a loveable man-child in many of his roles, really captures the character. Pratt is just a really likeable guy with a ton of charisma, making the Star-Lord feel legit. We want him to succeed in this world. We want him to finally get the girl. We want him to realize that everything happens for a reason and he should embrace it. Pratt brings a ton of a layers to the role. Goofy, sentimental, serious - Pratt is Star-Lord. I don't think they could have cast anyone better for the role.

Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos, is a total badass and stoic, only freeing her emotions when she starts to admire Peter for more than his heroism. Zoe Saldana is great in the role, as she seems to succeed well in these sci-fi roles. She has great facial expressions and body language, making her look and feel totally alien to Peter's human ways. I wish her betrayal of Thanos and Ronan was done in a different way, since it felt like exposition when she explained her reasons. But it doesn't really ruin the film or the flow of the character. She's the typical tough chick in the group, which more than works with the other characters.

Drax the Destroyer is another alien being, who is hungry for revenge against Ronan for murdering his wife and daughter on his home planet. He doesn't understand metaphors or euphemisms, as he's totally literal in anything he says or does. Dave Bautista, a well known WWE World Champion many times over, is so perfect for the role that it isn't funny. He has this quiet charisma and way of carrying himself that makes him a guy you can't take your eyes off. It doesn't even feel like he's acting. He's so natural in front of the camera, making things that shouldn't be funny sound genuinely funny. I know he returned to WWE for one last run, but I don't think he needed to. I think he'll have a decent acting career if he continues to pick roles like this one. I don't think he'll achieve what The Rock has, but Bautista is definitely on the right path. I look forward to seeing him face Josh Brolin's Thanos down the line.


I think the two best characters in the film aren't even human. Rocket and Groot are just awesome in this - more than I ever thought they would be. Rocket is a genetically engineered raccoon who has a foul mouth and a sarcastic [or sadistic] sense of humor. But he's also the strategist of the team, displaying a high level of intelligence and fighting combat. In a lot of ways, he's the backbone of the team whether or not he wants it. I thought Bradley Cooper's voice was really good for the character, bringing the funny and even loneliness of a CGI character we probably shouldn't care so much about. But we do, because Rocket is treated like a real person with real emotions. He's not a mascot. He's fully fleshed out and doesn't even feel like a CGI character by the end of the film. As for Groot, he doesn't express himself very eloquently. But then again, he's a talking tree who can do a lot with his humanoid body to take on opponents, or protect his teammates. Vin Diesel's voice acting was perfect for Groot, as his "I am Groot" dialogue kept changing to express his emotions during a scene. Even though it was three simple words, we still understood him through the motion capture and the tone of his voice. I think of all the characters, Groot was the one who pulled the heartstrings of the audience. He made us smile. He made us tear a bit. Who knew a talking tree could do that to a person? I just thought the CGI heroes were handled so, so well.

As for the villains, Ronan the Accuser and Nebula are well written within the context of the story. They're pretty typical villains - wanting power through destruction, or feeling jealousy towards another character in order to prove they're better. Anyone expecting someone like Loki will be severely disappointed. But I thought Lee Pace had a very commanding performance and presence as Ronan. Was he fleshed out a ton? No, not at all. But I think we understood him pretty easily. And Karen Gillan looked kind of hot as Nebula, and I dug her powers. I wish she were able to do more, but I thought she was fine in the role with what she was given. And I dug Josh Brolin's Thanos as well. He isn't in the film a whole lot, but you know the Infinity Stones are involved. Comic book fans know exactly where this is going and where Thanos will fit into future Marvel films. Can't wait.

I also can't forget Michael Rooker as Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers. I thought he was funny, threatening, and just an overall badass. Glenn Close and John C. Reilly are underused, but play their roles perfectly. It's just a great cast bringing great characters to life.

That's a credit to James Gunn, who has had an interesting trip towards the A-list. He started out working for Troma [don't miss a Lloyd Kaufman cameo during the prison scenes], wrote and directed the very underrated SLITHER, wrote the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, was a judge on a reality show for VH1, and then got to write and direct Marvel's newest success. His writing for GUARDIANS is so well done, as every character feels real even though they're traveling through the universe. The humor never feels forced. The situations being set up feel natural. The characters are all complex individuals. Even the use of the great music, which I'll get into shortly, feels like it belongs within each scene they're in. Gunn could have really gone overboard with the story, making it feel like a joke. But you can tell he really cares about these characters and wants to write them with a sense of justice to the source material. There's a lot of heart and soul in the film, creating a different kind of superhero film. It's not a gritty, serious revenge story. Nor is it a fish-out-of-water origin that's made to set up future installments. GUARDIANS is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also feels like its own film, its own world. This is like a modern version of STAR WARS, feeling fresh while still having connections to other films within the franchise. The tone and presentation is so unique compared to other films like it. You can miss the other films, or not even read the comics, to still find some enjoyment in GUARDIANS. It's that well written.


As for Gunn's direction, I loved every second of it. It's like a mix of STAR WARS and THE FIFTH ELEMENT, feeling like a brightly colorful space opera that's odd, yet endearing. Gunn's world is absolutely stunning, grand, and spectacular. This world is so large, you can have many films involving these characters having missions on different planets, or even different galaxies. The action sequences are shot so well, especially that tense scene where the Nova Corps are blockading Ronan's ship in the sky to stop him from landing on their planet. Just the way that was presented was awe-dropping. I loved how Groot was presented, from how he changed his tree-form by creating branches to fight or as defense. And that firefly scene - just beautifully framed and used. The pacing was fantastic, as it never felt 2 hours long. The editing was perfect, and the framing was inspired. I just loved the hell out of Gunn's direction here. You can tell he wanted to make this film look and feel right. And he succeeded probably more than many thought he would. I'm so glad he's on board to direct the second film, because I feel Gunn breathed a ton of life into this movie. You can't make a film about misfits without a misfit leading them. He deserves all the success in the world for proving himself.

As for the soundtrack, I thought it was just a great tracklist of really awesome music. Songs like The Runaways "Cherry Bomb", "Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky", Jackson 5's "I Want You Back", Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love", and so on was just frosting on the cake. And it wasn't shoehorned in to sound retro or cool. The music meant a lot to Star-Lord, due to his mother, which made the film meaningful to us. I could listen to that Awesome Mix Vol. 1 all day.

THE FINAL HOWL
What more can I say about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY? I don't think I had a more fun experience in theaters this summer. Sure, maybe there have been better films technically than GUARDIANS. But I don't think any of them had as much heart and soul than this film does. It's the perfect popcorn movie with great characters, fantastic acting, wonderful direction by James Gunn, cool action, and genuine comedy and drama anyone can enjoy. Marvel took a risk with this one and it's paid off in spades. The sequel can't come soon enough for me. Just a lot of fun from beginning to end.



SCORE
4 Howls Outta 4


8.01.2014

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents - Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Anthony C. Ferrante

STARRING
Ian Ziering - Fin Shepard
Tara Reid - April Wexler
Vivica A. Fox - Skye
Mark McGrath - Martin Brody
Kari Wuhrer - Ellen Brody
Judd Hirsch - Ben
Courtney Baxter - Mora Brody
Dante Palminteri - Vaughn Brody
Judah Friedlander - Bryan


Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/B-Movie/Bad Animals/Sharks

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
Fin (Ian Ziering) and ex-wife April (Tara Reid) are on a plane heading to NYC for a book signing. You see, April wrote a book - "How To Survive A Sharknado" - making her and Fin celebrities. Unfortunately, another Sharknado hits during the flight, creating chaos. It seems a series of shark storms are heading to the Big Apple to continue the rampage they did back in Los Angeles - and Fin must protect his family and friends from a bigger, and more sillier, threat.


REVIEW


STORY

Screenplay - 2013's SHARKNADO, produced by The Asylum, was one of the biggest surprises of last Summer. While it wasn't a ratings bonanza, it took over social media and became a phenomenon within the world of pop culture. It became The Asylum's most successful film, meaning a sequel was no doubt rushed into production. Hence, I'm now discussing SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

And by God, this shit storm was absolutely glorious.

SHARKNADO 2 does what a sequel is meant to do - continue the story while creating bigger and badder scenarios for our characters to conquer. While the first film took its time building into the Sharknado madness, the sequel wastes no time getting right into the action - building more and more until it's insane and silly finale. And that's all I wanted from SHARKNADO 2 - a more stupid, but also more epic follow up to an already dumb movie.

Just like the last film, the story is really the aspect that no one expects to be good or anything. After all, it's a sequel to a film about a tornado of hungry sharks. Anyone wanting deep character development and fine tuned story arcs has no business watching SHARKNADO 2, or any Asylum film. But I gotta say - the script kinda surprised me in a good way here. It was pretty clever in a tongue-in-cheek, wink at the audience, sort of way. The first film took itself more seriously in a lot of ways, trying to establish itself as a movie. The sequel knows what it is and embraces the phenomenon it has become. Having certain cameos that referenced previous films and television shows was really great. Who didn't smile when Robert Hays was the pilot at the start of the film, commenting that he's used to strange situations in the air? Judd Hirsch driving a taxi cab? All you needed was Danny Devito, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, and Andy Kaufman to complete the joke. Plus having Vivica A. Fox swing samurai swords like she stepped off the set of KILL BILL VOL. 1 is just great stuff. I'll get more into the cameos shortly, but I thought they added to the story rather than take away from it.

The best part was the attempt to give Fin a background of sorts, making him grounded within this crazy universe. We learn he's a New Yorker. We learn he has an estranged relationship with his best friend, who happened to marry his sister. Did I mention that their names are Martin and Ellen Brody? We find out he had a relationship with Skye, who still wants Fin. Even April is jealous that she could lose her ex-husband to this woman. While it's not deep or anything, I liked the family element and how Fin wanted to save all of them and the city he loves. It made the guy more likeable to me, wanting him to save the day and get the girl at the end. I did not expect a sequel, especially from The Asylum, to actually fill in blanks for the characters and give them a reason for existing other than food for these sharks. Gotta give the screenwriters a lot of credit for that.


As for the scenarios our characters are placed in, I thought they were a lot of fun. We get a shark attack in a subway tunnel. A Mets game gets interrupted by falling sharks. The Statue of Liberty's head gets knocked off by a Sharknado, leading to devastation CLOVERFIELD was scared to do. We get buzzsaws, chainsaws, guns, flamethrowers, swords, and even lightning rods to stop these sharks. The finale is pretty fucking wild too, more so than the previous installment. Just a lot of creative shit that no sane person would think of on a good day.

Is it the greatest script? Nowhere close. But it manages to continue the story while building upon it, even if a lot of it is totally illogical and ridiculous. But that's what you want from a film called SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE.

Direction - Anthony C. Ferrante returns to visualize the franchise he created, and I thought he did a great job. I thought the pacing was a lot better than time around, since the film is pretty much action right from the start. I thought he used the NYC location really well, with the sharks infiltrating the subway system, Liberty Island, pizzerias, and etc. The tone is consistent throughout, and the film is funny without forcing it too much. And I thought the CGI looked way better here than it did a year ago. Obviously, a budget was put into this thing and I thought it was handled fine. The picture quality is what it is. If you've seen the last film, it looks similar. Ferrante kept the visual entertainment going and I appreciated that. He could have half-assed it, knowing the film would do really well regardless due to the first film. But he really tried to make a "good" sequel, which is something he should be applauded for.

Acting - Again, SHARKNADO 2 doesn't have the greatest acting in the world. But I thought it was an improvement over the first. Ian Ziering is back as our main hero, Fin. He plays it straight and says some really ridiculous lines of dialogue without a sense of a smile. He's still a badass with a chainsaw and kept the charm from the previous film. Nice to see Steve Sanders kick some ass. Tara Reid is still the worst actress here as April, but I could tell she tried to put in a good performance. She looked really out of it in the first film. But she seemed more aware and had some fun in this one. So that's an upgrade in my opinion. Mark McGrath was fine as Martin Brody, Fin's brother-in-law. He gets to set some sharks on fire and seemed to be enjoying himself. Kari Wuhrer was cool as Ellen Brody, making me wish she was April rather than Tara Reid. Vivica A. Fox was a bad ass as Skye, but I wish her role was larger. Judd Hirsch was funny as Ben, playing up his Taxi character. Judah Friedlander has some decent moments as Bryan.

The cameos, though, were the highlight for me. Just trying to point out each actor/singer/wrestler was a lot of fun. Kelly Osbourne is a flight attendant. Robert Hays is a pilot. Perez Hilton and Jared from Subway are waiting for a train on the subway. Kurt Angle was a fire captain. Pepa and Tiffany Shepis were Ellen's best friends. Biz Markie was a pizzeria owner. Matt Lauer and Al Roker cracked me up in their scenes on the Today Show set. There are a whole lot more in the film, and most of them get eaten by sharks. So it's all in great fun. I liked the cast in this one.


VIOLENCE
You thought SHARKNADO was violent? This one takes it up a notch. A lot of sharks biting off heads while torpedoing at them. Chopped off limbs right from the start. A lot of chainsaw violence. We also get some sword play. Gun play is here too. We get a water gun turned into a flamethrower. We get sharks landing on people, killing them. We get explosions, electrocutions, and even flying within the storm and riding the shark down to the ground. Just an insane amount of violent stuff here. The final act alone satisfied the quota here. Too much fun to handle.


SEX
The last film took place in a warmer climate. This film takes place during a cooler one, so no bikinis or sexy outfits at all here. Not much to say here.


CHEESE FACTOR
The title alone, SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE, is cheesy enough. Hell, the existence of this film fills the spectrum here. A Sharknado in NYC? Insanity!


THE FINAL HOWL
I wasn't sure what to expect with SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE. B-movie sequels don't usually have a great track record, especially when they're made for SyFy by the Asylum. But SHARKNADO 2 won me over right when the tail of the airplane moved like a shark fin through the cloud [thank you AIRPLANE!]. Just a really stupid piece of shit film that will keep a smile on your face for its entire run time. Better story, direction, and acting than in the first. The cameos are worth the watch alone. The final act is something that must be watched. SHARKNADO 2 was way better than it had any right to be, which probably surprised us all while watching it. I actually thought this was better than the first film, to be honest with you. It knew what it was and it had no shame giving it to us. So bad, it was awesome. Bring on the third one!


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4



7.31.2014

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Piranha 3DD (2012)

DIRECTED BY
John Gulager

STARRING

Danielle Panabaker - Maddy
Matt Bush - Barry
Katrina Bowden - Shelby
Jean-Luc Bilodeau - Josh
David Koechner - Chet
Chris Zylka - Kyle
Adrian Martinez - Big Dave
David Hasselhoff - Himself
Christopher Lloyd - Mr. Goodman


Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/B-Movie/Comedy/Bad Animals

Running Time - 83 Minutes


If you've been reading this blog long enough to remember my reviews for 1978's PIRANHA and its 2010 remake, you know that I really enjoy those two B-movie centered on those killer fish. Although they're considered ripoffs of the more iconic JAWS from 1975, I find both PIRANHA films to be a lot of fun and memorable after the films are done. One of these days, I will review 1981's PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING and the 1995 TV-movie remake of PIRANHA. But I'm not feeling suicidal right this minute, so they can wait.

However, I did decide to check out 2012's sequel to the 2010 remake - PIRANHA 3DD. It's a sequel I had been wanting to see two years ago, but kept putting off for whatever reason. A lot of my blogger friends seemed to dig it quite a bit, while other critics pretty much buried this one for being inferior to the film before it. I guess it wasn't a film I had to rush out and see, even though it had boobs, killer fish, and David Hasselhoff playing himself in his Baywatch lifeguard uniform. But I decided to take a chance on it and see which side of the spectrum I fell on when it came to this film. And while I didn't hate it like a lot of people, I was very disappointed in the film. It could have been so much better.

PLOT
A marine biology student named Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) returns home, stunned that her stepfather Chet (David Koechner) has turned her mother's water park into something made for strippers and porn stars just to make more money. Chet has been illegally drilling water from a nearby lake, awakening the giant piranha that destroyed Lake Victoria a year ago and catching their attention. Eventually, Maddy and her friends start getting attacked by the piranha while hanging by the lake. Maddy warns Chet, but he refuses to listen as he's hoping a guest appearance by David Hasselhoff will build business for the park. Unfortunately, it's only building a food supply for some hungry fish.


REVIEW


STORY
Screenplay - I think PIRANHA 3DD is greatly hurt by its script. It's not as if I was expecting an Academy Award worthy screenplay of some sort. After all, the film is about killer fish and boobs bouncing every chance they get. But the 2010 remake had a lot going for it. Both are brainless films, but PIRANHA 3D had a heart and a soul that makes it a success. Alexandre Aja and crew made a film that paid homage to the original and films they loved, while keeping it professional and creating something new that didn't insult fans of the genre. The story was simple, the characters were likeable, and the pacing was fantastic. Even the over-the-top stuff in the last half was genuinely amusing. It all felt organic and things just clicked. I wish I could say the same about PIRANHA 3DD.

For one, the characters aren't really that likeable. The first one barely had deep character development, so I didn't expect the sequel to change that. But the sequel could have at least given us characters we could care about. Honestly, I could care less about any of these victims. I should at least care about the main girl, Maddy. But she wasn't interesting enough for that to happen. She was smart, pretty, and stuck in a love triangle. But other than that, what else was there? Barry had more of a character, only because he had layers that included studying what Maddy studied to find something in common with her, hating cop Kyle, and saving a frog from a piranha because he had one as a pet once. But it still wasn't enough to root for him. Kyle was a prick cop who was the typical pretty boy douchebag, so you wanted him dead quick. Shelby was the hot virgin and that was about it. Big Dave loved fucking a pool drain. And Chet was the typical perverted owner who wanted sex to sell his business. Every character was one-note and none of them had anything of substance. Even the love triangle aspect felt bland. These characters just bored me.

Also, situations felt forced just so people could laugh or be scared. A guy screwing a pool drain isn't funny. Having a piranha lodged inside his butt crack didn't help either. The bathtub dream sequence, which was an obvious homage to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, was pointless. The cameos from Gary Busey and Clu Gulager were handled poorly and without humor. The only real amusing parts for me were the sex scene where a piranha exits a girl's vagina and eats the dude's penis, leading to one of the greatest lines of dialogue ever...

"Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina!"


I also thought the Ving Rhames cameo with his shotgun leg was pretty funny, only because it reminded me of PLANET TERROR. And David Hasselhoff's participation in the film is the highlight of PIRANHA 3DD. Hasselhoff playing himself in a spoof-like way is just genius, as he makes fun of himself and seems to be having fun while doing it. He also had great bits of dialogue that genuinely made me laugh. In fact, I really thought the last act was pretty fun with the massacre at the water park. I just wish the two acts before it were just as fun. It's a pretty flat script with a few bright spots.

Direction - John Gulager, who directed the fun FEAST, couldn't bring that with him while directing PIRANHA 3DD. The pacing was off. The slo mo on the boobs was fun at times, but got really repetitive. While I thought the massacre was fun, it wasn't shot all that well in my opinion. It felt like a SyFy Channel film, with CGI blood and gore all over the place. It was hard to see what was going on at times due to the frantic editing and use of overcrowding CGI. The gore effects were cheap looking, but I did like the decapitation death into motorboat sequence. I felt Gulager didn't really capitalize on the situations and/or locations all that well. You could have done a lot with that water park and the location felt like an afterthought at times. I thought PIRANHA 3D handled the massacre a lot better and more inventive. Maybe the budget wasn't as bad as the previous film, but things just looked cheap. And I can't comment on the 3D, so I don't know how it looked. But I thought the visual presentation could have been much better. It should have made the script more fun than it actually was.

But the film had a lot of boobs, so I can't hate on it too much. I just wish Gulager was more tongue-in-cheek with everything. It just felt he was aping Aja's style rather than creating his own. And it didn't work all that well for him.

Acting - The acting saves this portion of the review. While the characters weren't great, at least the actors were game and having fun. Danielle Panabaker played it mostly straight as Maddy, the young marine biologist. Katrina Bowden was a super hot virgin with some great dialogue. Matt Bush played the nerd well as Barry. Chris Zylka was the perfect douche as Kyle. David Koechner was pretty funny as Chet, although he would have been great with better material. Christopher Lloyd was a nice return as Mr. Goodman, being his eccentric self. Ving Rhames was kinda amusing as Deputy Fallon, now with a shotgun for a leg. And David Hasselhoff was just amazing as himself. The whole Baywatch deal was just brilliant and a lot of fun. The acting was more than fine for a film like this. I just wish the material was stronger.


VIOLENCE

While not as violent as PIRANHA 3D, this sequel still had a lot of blood and out-of-nowhere death sequences. People get chewed up. Flying piranha bite their victim's head off pretty cleanly. A piranha feasts on a penis, leading to the owner cutting it off just to get the fish off of him. We get a decapitation scene as someone drives through a string holding a row of flags. And Ving Rhames blasting fish was pretty cool. I thought the massacre from the 2010 film was more bloody and violent, but this film held its own I guess.


SEX
Boobs. Lots and lots of boobs. Boobs of the real and fake variety. Bouncing in slow motion. Bouncing in water. Just a lot of boobs and girls in bikinis. We also get a piranha on a penis, plus a piranha up some dude's butt. It wasn't the sexiest film ever, but I'm sure it'll keep many visually stimulated.


CHEESE FACTOR
PIRANHA 3DD could have been cheesier. But David Hasselhoff trying to reprise Mitch Buchanan and realizing he's too old for the role now is just great. He knew what kind of film he was in and stole the spotlight from everyone else. Plus you have piranha invading a water park filled with strippers and porn stars. And a fish coming out of a girl's vagina, just to eat her boyfriend's penis. If that's not somewhat cheesy, I don't know what is.


THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WISHING THIS FILM WAS BE--- BOOBS...


- Gary Busey was chewed up by a school of piranha. In his words, I consider this Finding An Important Lesson, Inviting Needed Growth.

- At the Big Wet Water Park, no one gets you wetter. Peter North would probably challenge that.

- A baby piranha invited itself inside of Shelby's vagina. No amount of Summer's Eve will get rid of that smell now...

- Maddy had to save Shelby during a piranha attack on a pier. Judging by what happened to her in that FRIDAY THE 13TH remake, you'd think she would have known better than to stay away from lakes.

- According to this film, tragedy makes virgin girls want to make love. Hopefully those next 30 seconds won't make the situation more tragic.

- "Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina." That might explain why I'm an only child...

- David Hasselhoff banged two girls at once because they enjoyed his singing. Nice to see someone give deaf girls some love too.

- A piranha lodged itself up one dude's ass. Man, I feel sorry for the fish.


THE FINAL HOWL
PIRANHA 3DD promised to be bigger and better. Unfortunately, this sequel just ended up being inferior to the 2010 remake and needed more bite. The characters aren't as good. The direction wasn't as polished. The stuff with the piranhas could have been more inventive. But I did like that the actors had fun with the mediocre material. I thought the third act of the film was a lot of fun. And David Hasselhoff's presence is simply the best part of the film, playing a douchier version of himself [or maybe he's really like that, who knows?]. So I'm mixed on this one. Sure it had bouncing boobs in slo-mo and decent death sequences. But I saw it done better within the franchise. Not a rush-out-to-see film, but not a bad one if you want to waste 83 minutes of your time.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4



7.30.2014

Midnight Confessions Ep. 25: "Rah Rah Sis Boom Fap...fap, fap, fap"





The 25th episode!!! More Summer Sextravaganza as Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark, and I review THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (1974) and THE POM POM GIRLS (1976). Plus a discussion on 70's sexploitation movies.












 


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