7.31.2012

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012)

DIRECTED BY
Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray

STARRING
Carmen Electra - Anne Babish
Charlie O'Connell - Professor Babish
Brooke Hogan - Kate
Geoff Ward - Cole
Mercedes Young - Liza
David Gallegos - Paul


Genre - B-Movie/Horror/Thriller/Sharks

Running Time - 88 Minutes


PLOT
Around the Florida coastline, a ship is sailing on the open water with college students on it for a semester at sea. Typically, these students are more interested in sunbathing and flirting rather than learning. A random fish gets caught in the ship's propeller, stranding the ship at sea. Unfortunately, a huge 2-headed mutant shark is attracted to the vibrations of the propellers, as well as the trapped fish, eating it very quickly. Hungry for more, this shark wants to feast on the college students and the rest of the crew.

The students and most of the crew manage to make it ashore on a deserted island, waiting for the ship to be prepared by the sea captain. However, as she's welding the damage underwater, the shark eats her. There's no way for anyone to radio for help and the island they're stranded on seems to be suffering from quakes and tremors. Since these characters are really stupid, they manage to get eaten by this 2-headed shark. A select few manage to stick together and come up with a way to kill the 2-headed shark before it kills them.



REVIEW


STORY

Screenplay: 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK is one of The Asylum's recent B-movies - a company that thrives on creating low budget horror B-movies and mockbusters of extremely popular big-budgeted films that are currently in theaters. I tend to like The Asylum more than most viewers out there. Sure, they are a hit-and-miss company and a lot of their films are bad. But they do crank out some really surprising films that are extremely watchable and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK lies in the middle, as it has enough entertainment to make its 88 minutes breeze by. But it also has a ton of flaws and doesn't have much of the charm of other B-movie shark films out there currently.

The main issue, for me, comes from the film's script. You read the plot up there? Well, that's pretty much the deepest this film ever goes. Shark attacks a ship with annoying college students on it. They go to an island with a constant earthquake. Shark eats most of them. Survivors deal with sharks. End of story. I normally don't mind narratives like this, especially for a B-Movie made by The Asylum. But this is okay only if the characters are interesting enough [good or bad] to make you forget that there's barely a story here. And since there are no characters like that here, the narrative can be somewhat of a chore to sit through on paper.

The characters in this film are three things: stupid, annoying, and uninteresting. For much of the film, all they do is argue with each other, bully each other, and do the stupidest things imaginable during a shark attack. Even the adult characters are bland, and don't add anything to the story. Out of twenty characters in the entire film, only three had a drop of depth to them. Cole, the meathead, is a total asshole and douchebag. He leaves his friends to die at certain points to save himself. Plus he enjoys flirting with girls in a way that makes them real uncomfortable. In other words, Cole actually had a personality I could react genuinely to. Paul is the smart one in the group, figuring things out and hatching plans to keep the shark at a distance. He had less personality than Cole, but at least he was different from the others. And Kate, who is the main character, is the tough tomboy of the group. She takes an active role and sort of becomes the leader. She actually has a subplot about being afraid of the water due to a childhood encounter with a shark. This leads to her confronting her fears and trying to save the day. While the narrative doesn't really focus all that much on this arc, at least it's there and remembered before the film is over. But other than that, the other characters are vacant and are nothing but chum for this 2-headed shark.

As for dialogue, it's pretty generic and bland. The only thing that really made me laugh script wise was a "That's what she said" joke. Yep, that's the funniest the film gets word wise. Unless you count Anne Babish yelling "Get out of the water!" like ten times within two minutes humorous - which I did personally.

Direction: 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK was directed by Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray, the son of the legendary B-movie director and producer, Fred Olen Ray. And as far as this portion of the review goes, Ray's direction is the best part about 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK. I will say that Ray uses the 360-degree camera shot way too much here, becoming somewhat annoying. The editing is almost off at times, especially during these 360-degree shots, especially when characters are interacting with someone off-screen. The composition and framing is awkward looking and it's very noticeable. Other than that, I didn't hate the visuals. There is some tension during the shark attack scenes. The CGI, which isn't completely terrible, works for this type of film. The picture itself looks great and clear, really capturing the atmosphere. And Ray focuses a lot on Brooke Hogan's fake boobs and Carmen Electra sunbathing for three straight minutes. How can I hate on that too much?

Acting: The acting in 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK ranges from awful-to-tolerable. The three characters with the most personality had the best acting by default. Geoff Ward played a convincing asshole as Cole. I wanted this guy dead for all the right reasons, which is more than I say for the other 90 percent of the characters here. I'm sure some of the ladies and men will enjoy watching his abs and muscles as well. David Gallegos was decent as the nerdy Paul. And Brooke Hogan, as the main character Kate, is wooden but at least she tries. I wouldn't want to see her in another film, but she wasn't the worst actor here and doesn't look that bad in a bikini.

If we want to talk about awful, we have to talk about Charlie O'Connell as Professor [!] Babish. Wow, was this dude bad! His line delivery was all wrong and he never came across as convincing at all. His brother, Jerry, raises the energy level of any project he's involved in. Charlie just drains it. He looks incredibly bored and seems to have taken this role for a paycheck. It wouldn't surprise me if that was the exact reason. And poor Carmen Electra. She doesn't get to act at all because the script gives her NOTHING to do but stand around and look concerned. Hell, she's supposed to be O'Connell's wife, yet the two had no chemistry at all. Electra has a ton of personality that could benefit a film like this, as we've seen in any modern spoof film that's out there. And while we do see her in a bikini, she doesn't do much else. I actually felt bad for her.

The other actors vary in their performances, but none of them really stand out for any good reason. Good looking cast but not much else.

Rating - 3/10


VIOLENCE
If 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK has anything going for it, it's the carnage this mutant shark inflicts on the human characters. These scenes happen to be the visual highlights of the film, because the characters deserved to be chewed up by our fishy friend. We get a ton of bodies getting chewed in half. Lots of blood. We see body parts flying and floating around. We see this shark swallow people whole out of the blue. The shark causes a ship to sink. He also enjoys bouncing people with his fin and then biting them in half. This shark ruled!

The shark also takes a beating within the last 15-minutes of the film, involving a couple of explosions [isn't that how they always take out these killer sharks?]. It kind of sucked that most of the carnage was CGI, but hey - I enjoyed it and I'll take what I can get out of this flick.

Rating - 7/10


SEX
2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK is a pretty tame film sexually, but it does have memorable moments. Most of the cast are either shirtless or in bikinis. We get a sunbathing scene with Carmen Electra in a bikini, who still looks great. We get Brooke Hogan's fake boobs bouncing around. And we even get two sets of boobs that lead into a lesbian kiss, as well as a three-way kiss with another guy. Nothing scandalous but enough to be somewhat memorable.

Rating - 4/10

 
CHEESE

You'd think a film called 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK would be cheesy as hell, due to its title. But honestly, it takes itself more seriously than I would have liked. While we do get some overacting at times, a CGI 2-headed shark killing people in different ways, and Brooke Hogan trying to act, there's not much really cheesy about this film. Then again, it does have Charlie O'Connell and Carmen Electra playing college professors. That raises the rating on its own.

Rating - 4/10

Total Rating - 18/40 = 1.8/4



THE FINAL HOWL
2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK was better than I was expecting it, but I still found myself underwhelmed by it. The direction and the shark carnage are the most positive things I can really say about this one, besides a few performances that didn't annoy me. I aldo thought the design of the shark itself was awesome [Cleve Hall - the Monster Man himself - did a great job in redesigning the shark]. Plus it did have boobs and some lesbianism, so it does score some B-movie points there. However, 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK should have been cheesier than it actually was, as taking itself too seriously really hurt this one. Plus you're not going to care about many of the characters here, as the story is barely there. Not the best shark film out there, but certainly not the worst. 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK does have its moments and is worth a look if you're a fan of The Asylum or killer shark films like this one. Otherwise, it's not worth getting a double headache over.


SCORE
2 Heads Outta 4



7.30.2012

Screaming In High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era (2011)

DIRECTED BY
Jason Paul Collum

STARRING
Linnea Quigley
Brinke Stevens
Michelle Bauer
Fred Olen Ray
David DeCoteau
Kenneth J. Hall
Jay Richardson
Richard Gabai
Ted Newson
Jason Paul Collum


Genre - Horror/B-Movies/Exploitation/Documentary

Running Time
- 63 Minutes


This review is a rare one for me. I don't usually get the urge to review documentaries because I like to write about films that allow me to decipher them and discuss them in great detail while still being pretty vague about the film's contents. But my good friends at the awesome Breaking Glass Pictures sent me an advanced screener that I wanted to promote before its actual street date. And it happens to be a cool 63-minute documentary titled SCREAMING IN HIGH HEELS: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SCREAM QUEEN ERA.

The documentary is a love letter to horror B-movies, especially during the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, focusing on three actresses who were on top of this sub-genre - Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, and Linnea Quigley. These ladies were sexy, daring, and appreciative of what the genre had to offer to them and their fans. We get interviews with each of the ladies about their careers during the heyday of horror B-movies, as well as from filmmakers who worked with them, such as Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Jay Richardson, and Kenneth J. Hall. The documentary is more of a summary of this era of Scream Queens, due to its short running time, but it's still very interesting and informative.

Director Jason Paul Collum, who also directed a documentary called SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT in 2002, definitely shows his appreciation and devotion to a genre not many people get. We get a short summary about how drive-ins drew audiences for B-movies, until they lost business due to the home video boom of the 1980s - with mom and pop video stores carrying low budget horror B-movies that were constantly rented, with HBO also building a fanbase due to the channel showing these types of films. We later hear that while Fay Wray, Janet Leigh, and Jamie Lee Curtis are considered the original Scream Queens due to starring in very popular horror films, actresses Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer, and Brinke Stevens earned the title more as they always embraced the genre they starred in.

The documentary's most interesting info is when it focuses on the three actresses themselves. We learn about their childhood and how they accidentally stumbled into the B-movie business as models [Brinke Stevens had a Master's degree, but entered the entertainment business due to her then-husband, who was a comic book artist and used her as a muse for one of his characters]. All three ladies come across as extremely humble and grateful about their cult careers, recalling about the films they worked on quite fondly. The great part is that we see actual clips from their respective films, including a lot of the ones they worked on together, such as NIGHTMARE SISTERS and SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA. We also see rare clips, like Quigley being a correspondent about the Fangoria Convention for MTV, Quigley receiving an award from USA's Up All Night, as well as Quigley and Stevens talking to the awesome Joe Bob Briggs about how they're perceived in Hollywood [wasn't very well due to the stigma on B-movies and horror]. Their filmmaker friends and colleagues fill in some blanks, really painting a portrait that everyone involved was like a family and supported each other through the good and the bad.

The final minutes of the documentary focus on how Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, and then the advancement of the internet and technology destroyed the video age, as well as dimmed their careers. All three ladies are still in the business somewhat, but due to personal situations, as well as ageism, they're not the stars they once were. The ladies also discuss about their fans, and how they loved 99.9 percent of them [
the .1 percent includes some interesting stories].

 
This documentary is very successful in accomplishing why Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer were stars in the horror genre during the genre's heyday, and really tries to focus on both the good and the bad that came along with that recognition. I do wish the documentary was longer than 63 minutes, because I'm sure there could have been a lot more included to really beef up the retrospective. I also feel that each lady should get their individual documentaries, as each of them starred in a lot of films and sure to have some interesting stories about their experiences during this time in their lives. I would have liked to have seen more material for this film, because I'm sure it's there.

But if you're a fan of these three Scream Queens and love the B-movie genre, especially during the 1980s, then you should definitely pick this documentary up on
August 28th. The DVD will also include some more interview footage by Quigley, Stevens, and Bauer, as well as some footage from the Flashback Weekend of Horror Q&A session. This doc definitely made me nostalgic and gave me the urge to watch a lot of these films again. Although short, definitely solid and worth anyone's attention.


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4





7.28.2012

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

DIRECTED BY
John Shepphird [aka Fred Olen Ray]

STARRING
Jeremy Luc - Gino Moretti/The Complication
Melissa Molinaro - Nicolina Santamaria/Nooki
Jack Scalia - Sheriff Moretti
Paul Sorvino - Mayor Patrick Palantine
William Atherton - Dolan
Tony Sirico - Captain Salie
Joey Russo - Donnie
Daniel Booko - Paulie Balzac
Alex Mauriello - J-Moni
Audi Resendez - BJ
Grant Harvey - Bradford
Dylan Vox - Spencer
Joey Fatone - Joey Fatone
Ben Giroux - Joey Pelligrino/JP


Genre - B-Movie/Thriller/Horror/Action/Comedy/Sharks

Running Time - 87 Minutes


PLOT
It's your typical holiday weekend at the Jersey Shore. While the Guidos are celebrating, the Preppies want to take the Shore for themselves by starting crap with the Guidos. As they feud, Mayor Palantine (Paul Sorvino) is ordering for some illegal underwater drilling at a local Seaside Heights pier in order to raise the property value and gain some money for the community. Unfortunately, a school of albino bull sharks are attracted to the vibrations and begin a hunt for anyone in the Jersey Shore waters.

After a friend of theirs is killed by one, popular local guido The Complication (
Jeremy Luc) and his friends Paulie Balzac (Daniel Booko), J-Moni (Alex Mauriello), Donnie (Joey Russo), and BJ (Audi Resendiz) decide to take matters into their own hands after the police [including The Complication's sheriff dad (Jack Scalia) and the local government] discredit the shark attacks. It gets more personal when The Complication's ex, Nooki (Melissa Molinaro), decides to hang out and sail with the Preppies on their yacht, which soon happens to be surrounded by these albino bull sharks.



REVIEW



STORY
- Screenplay: JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK should not be expected to have a quality script. Inspired by the extremely popular MTV reality show, the screenplay is dumb, cheesy, and will probably be forgotten about within the next five years due to its novelty factor. The main characters in the film are obvious attempts at parodying the cast members of Jersey Shore, while adding the usual premise to JAWS to bring in the shark element. You would think these two things wouldn't mix so well, but surprisingly, the script doesn't suck!

While there's not a ton of depth to this story or its characters [besides The Complication or Nooki, who are the focus out of everyone], you can tell that the screenwriters are somewhat fans of the MTV reality show and doing this for fun, rather than to insult a popular television show and pop culture topic. Most of the Guido characters resemble and act like their real-life counterparts at times, especially Pauly Balzac [who does the occasional "Yeah buddy!" like Pauly D]. While it does get a bit tiresome by the third act, you get who these characters are somewhat and find their antics silly, yet entertaining.

The Complication and Nooki are the characters with the most depth, since they're on-and-off again romantic relationship is the nucleus for the narrative. Since he's so "Complicated" with his washboard abs and charm, he has trouble staying faithful to Nooki. Having enough, Nooki exits the relationship and decides to flirt with The Complication's enemy, Bradford, who is one of the main Preppies. Even though the two try to make each other jealous, they're too stubborn to forgive and forget. It's not until the threat of the sharks that they realize they're meant for each other. It's not a complicated love arc, but it's efficient enough to carry the story. The Complication also gets more depth through his Sheriff father, who is a good man, proving that The Complication is a good guy but just really misguided in life. This makes him likeable enough. The other Guidos are charming in their own respective ways as well, even if you wish the sharks would eat them due to feelings over their real-life counterparts. Let me just say, in that aspect, you might feel disappointed. I know I was.

As for the sharks themselves, it's your typical plot device for most of these films. The sharks are attracted to the vibrations done by an evil corporation, releasing them into the ocean and killing people. We even have a greedy Mayor, who refuses to listen about the shark attacks because he wants to build a lot of money for Seaside Heights. We also have Captain Salie, who is JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK equivalent to Quint from the classic JAWS, giving the characters information and sort of leading them out to sea to take care of the sharks themselves. Sure, it's a bit lazy but at least it's a great film to rip off.

I thought the best part of the narrative was actually bringing in some factual history about possible shark attacks at the Jersey Shore. Captain Salie mentions about shark attacks back in 1916, which I actually researched to find that these attacks really existed. Apparently between July 1 and July 12, 1916, four people were killed and one was injured. It was believed that a great white shark and some bull sharks were involved in the murders. This event actually inspired Peter Benchley to write a little-known novel called Jaws, that inspired a film of the same name no one ever watched. Seriously, I think it was a nice touch to add that realism to the film. It's not something I would actually expect from a film called JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK. Call me pleasantly surprised.

I do think the story could have been campier and cheesier than it actually was. The love story stuff played a bit too serious for this kind of film, but none of the main characters ever really feel as if they're in real danger [although this happens somewhat in the final act, but not much]. I also think there were too many players in the game, which lessened the depth of the characters and the story. A lot of subplots either ended too soon, didn't end at all, or fell flat. It's obvious the screenwriters wanted to throw everything in here and the kitchen sink, taking advantage of that luxury. And while some of it does work, I think focusing mainly on the Jersey Shore idea mixed with sharks while leaving some other subplots out would have made JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK more fun than it was. Instead, it would rather focus on the Guidos vs. the Preppies, which isn't written strongly and feels so cliche that you stop caring by the final act.

- Direction: The visual presentation by John Shepphird [a pseudonym for B-movie icon, Fred Olen Ray] is hit and miss for me. What I did like are the use of the transitions and the opening credits. They are modeled by the Jersey Shore show, making them a nice touch. I also thought some scenes did have a bit of tension at times, plus some surprises as well. But other than that, it's pretty much a point-and-shoot affair. Not much style here at all and looks like you're average SyFy Channel feature. I was hoping it would look more like the reality show, because that would have been a nice touch. Shepphird already used the transitions and stuff. Why not go all the way, you know? If you're going to somewhat parody the Jersey Shore, don't half ass it. I didn't hate the direction, but there wasn't much interesting about it either. It was what it was.

- Acting: For a film called JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK, I was really expecting terrible acting. While the thespian work isn't fantastic or anything, it's a lot better than I thought it'd be. Not all the actors are all that great or memorable, but some do stick out. I thought Jeremy Luc was good as The Complication. I wish he had played the role more like a douche, because that's how I view The Situation, but he's the hero of the film and had to be likeable. In that context, Luc works and looks the part. Melissa Molinaro was also quite good as Nooki. She was way hotter than her real-life counterpart, but brought the same sort of sass and slight cluelessness the real Snooki seems to be known for. I thought Daniel Booko and Joey Russo were very good as Pauly Balzac and Donnie, really playing up their roles to be as similar to the real Pauly D and Ronnie.

I thought the veteran actors were solid for the most part. This goes especially to Jack Scalia as Sheriff Moretti, who plays the hero cop really well. In fact, he was the best actor in the film for me. Tony Sirico of The Sopranos also does well as Captain Salie. Paul Sorvino and William Atherton are decent in their cameo roles. And I thought Joey Fatone was pretty funny as himself. I'm sure Justin Timberlake loved the shoutout he makes during a complaint about performing at the Jersey Shore. As for real Jersey Shore castmember Vinny Guarindino, who plays a hyper reporter during certain intermissions to explain what's going on [which got quickly annoying], he should stick to trying to 'get it in' on the Shore. Decent-to-good stuff here.


Rating - 6/10



VIOLENCE
Not a totally violent film, but it does have it moments. We get fist fights. We get a final act full of Guidos shooting guns to kill the sharks. Sharks kill stupid people in the water, and out [sorry Joey Fatone]. We see detached heads, torsos, arms, and other body parts. Not the most realistic violence, but it gets the job done.



Rating - 6/10



SEX
I think the actual reality show has more sex, as JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK is pretty tame. While we do get certain sexual innuendos [one character mentions giving a girl some "protein"], there's really no sex scenes or anything. We get a lot of girls in bikinis. A lot of the guys are shirtless. We even get a wet T-shirt contest [where the girls are wearing bikinis underneath - what's the point?]. Just standard stuff really.

Rating - 2/10



CHEESE
Just using the Jersey Shore brand is cheesy in itself. But we do get horrible, yet laughable CGI. Joey Fatone gets eaten by a flying shark. We have actors playing convincing Guidos, who enjoy shooting sharks with AK-47s. I do think the film takes itself more seriously than I would have liked it to, but it's cheesy enough to be fun.

Rating - 6/10

Total Rating - 20/40 = 2/4



THE FINAL HOWL
JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK is a surprise and a disappointment at the same time. It's better than you would believe if you like silly B-movies involving sharks with decent direction, good acting, and pretty solid narrative [at least for a film like this]. But expecting certain characters getting eaten by sharks, due to their perception by society, and not getting to witness that was a huge flaw for this movie. Also, it could have been cheesier considering its source material. JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK starts out pretty strong, but grows tiresome by its conclusion. But it was above my low expectations for it and worth a look if you like stupid shark movies. A possible rental, but not a buy at all.


SCORE
2 Guidos Outta 4





7.27.2012

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)

DIRECTED BY
Anthony Hickox

STARRING
Terry Farrell - Joey Summerskill
Doug Bradley - Pinhead/Captain Elliott Spencer
Paula Marshall - Terri
Kevin Bernhardt - J.P. Monroe
Ken Carpenter - Doc/Camerahead


Genre - Horror/Action/Supernatural/Demons

Running Time - 93 Minutes


PLOT
Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) is a New York City reporter trying to catch her first major story, but ends up reporting unimportant stories instead. While conducting a story at a local hospital, she watches a young goth girl named Terri (Paula Marshall) bring in a young man hooked by chains. Wanting to find out more about the situation, Joey stumbles into the chains electrocuting this guy, making his head explode as the end result.

Realizing that this mystery is the story she's been looking for, Joey begins to investigate. It leads her to The Boiler Room, a sleazy night club that Terri frequents, due to the owner, J.P. Monroe (
Kevin Bernhardt), being her ex-boyfriend. Joey learns from Terri that the guy who died got chained due to stealing part of a sculpture that J.P. had purchased - the Lament Configuration, which is the puzzle box that sends people to Hell when it's opened.

Meanwhile, J.P. accidentally spills blood on this disturbing sculpture, awakening the Cenobite known as Pinhead (
Doug Bradley), who became part of the structure at the end of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. Pinhead, seeing that J.P. is full of sinful behavior and thoughts, feels a kinship to him and needs his help in bringing in more victims for him to feed off of in order to gain power and free himself. J.P. agrees, but is accidentally fed by Pinhead when Terri makes him touch the structure during a struggle. This frees Pinhead from his prison, ready to unleash Hell onto Earth.

What he doesn't know is that Elliot Spencer (
Doug Bradley again), who is the man Pinhead once was, has been visiting Joey in her dreams for her help in defeating Pinhead. Since she holds the Lament Configuration, Joey is the only one who could use it to stop Pinhead and send him back to his dimension before he destroys the world.


REVIEW


HITS

- Doug Bradley. The acting is a mixed bag in HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH. But Doug Bradley, in a dual performance, is just fantastic and is the only actor who comes across as convincing at all times. As Pinhead, Bradley plays the role with menace, bringing a manipulative edge to the character. He's given more one-liners this time around [i.e. Freddy Krueger] unfortunately, but Bradley does seem to be having fun reciting them and making them work. As Elliott Spencer, Bradley does a complete 180 degrees. Bradley gives Elliott a more eloquent manner of speech, almost acting as if he's doing a theatre production of Shakespeare rather than acting in a horror sequel. I thought he played the normal role well and comes across as flawed, yet sympathetic. Doug Bradley, to a lot of people, is HELLRAISER and while this sequel is very flawed, Bradley has an incredible presence and you definitely want to watch him any time he's on screen. He's very good here.

- The direction. Anthony Hickox had a lot to live up to. Clive Barker gave the original HELLRAISER its dark, gothic tones and made you feel dirty after watching it, making the film both psychological and disturbingly gory at the same time. In HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II, Tony Randel had a broader vision, using a ton of special effects to show the audience how dangerous and twisted the labyrinth of Hell was like. With a bigger budget, Hickox had more money to play with than previous directors. While he doesn't create something memorable to embrace visually like the past two directors, I don't think Hickox did a horrible job with HELLRAISER III.

If any positives, I do have to say that the film does look polished and very slick. The use of multiple camera angles are done well. The sound design works for me. I thought the editing was great at times. I felt when there had to be moments of action, those were the best directed scenes. I'm talking about when Pinhead is feeding off of his victims. I'm talking about the awesome scene where Pinhead just kills everyone in The Boiler Room in various ways, making the visuals very exciting to watch. I thought most of the final act was shot well, as things exploded around the characters and there was a ton of violence happening. Hickox was definitely confident at his job, even though he wasn't the original director [screenwriter Peter Atkins was, but was removed due to create differences] chosen.

Do I think the film lost some of what made it stand out visually? Absolutely. You never experience any dread. You never really feel as involved with the story as you did in the previous movies. There was no real tension or suspense. The film wasn't as dark as it should have been. But I blame most of that on the screenplay rather than the direction. I thought Hickox was competent enough as the director, even if I prefer Barker and Randel over him. The visuals were the least of the film's issues.

- The special effects and make-up. I thought the SFX was pretty cool in this sequel. While there's a lot of green screen used, it doesn't really distract all that much. The make-up of the Cenobites were pretty cool, even if the characters themselves weren't memorable. Except for that CD Cenobite though. I thought that was really stupid. But the skinned lady and the exploding head were fun!

Like I mentioned earlier, I thought the massacre at The Boiler Room was really great gore wise. The special effects really worked in that scene's favor and was probably the best overall sequence in the entire film.

I did think the effects used to merge Elliott and Pinhead back together towards the end weren't so hot, but it was okay at best. I sort of missed the stuff seen in the earlier films, because they made you cringe a bit. Things were pretty tame here, but at least it was good-looking tame.

- Certain ideas work. While the screenplay had potential that was never completely fulfilled, I do think the premise for HELLRAISER III is a solid one. We saw Hell in part two, so it would make sense for Pinhead to want to invade Earth and cause havoc. The idea that Pinhead was trapped inside a pillar [which was seen at the end of HELLBOUND] is still a bit ridiculous to me. But as the film went on, I sort of bought it. I liked that instead of releasing evil, the Lament Configuration would bring it back to the box. That was an interesting idea that I wish was played with more.


I also dug the Pinhead vs. Elliott dynamic, showing how the same character was so different as two extreme beings of good and of evil. Pinhead wanted to destroy Earth because he lost his soul at the end of HELLBOUND, while Elliott wanted to stop Pinhead but didn't have the power anymore to contain him. If you didn't know already, Pinhead was supposed to have died in HELLBOUND, with the intention of Clare Higgins to become the main antagonist in future sequels as Julia Cotton. However, Higgins wanted no part in becoming a horror icon like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, refusing to star in any more of these films. This lead to the writers changing certain things to bring back Pinhead and make him the star of future HELLRAISER movies. At least the film does a decent job trying to explain why Pinhead turned into Elliott again at the end of HELLBOUND and why he wanted to help Kirsty Cotton. And I gotta say - did Clive Barker and the rest of the producers not think that people would prefer Pinhead over Julia? One has 80s hair and Revlon lips, while the other has a sinister voice and pins shoved all over his head. Gee, which one is going to be more popular?

I felt the best ideas, both visually and script-wise, were the Vietnam nightmares Joey had about her soldier father. Not only did they give depth to Joey's character and make us feel sympathy for her somewhat, but I thought they were shot and written very well. They seemed and felt more real than anything else in the film, due to the powerful imagery and the way these scenes were written. It felt very serious and you definitely took those scenes that way. I wish the rest of the film was as powerful as these moments.


MISSES
- Some of the acting. Not all the acting in HELLRAISER III is terrible. But they don't impress as much as Doug Bradley. I'm not sure if it's because of the actors, the way Hickox directed them, or the simple fact that the characters are pretty flat for the most part. But other than Bradley, none of them came across as all too convincing. Well maybe except for Paula Marshall as Terri, who is very attractive as a goth girl and handles her role well, giving it more depth than what was on paper. But everyone else was too on-and-off for me to buy fully.

I like Terry Farrell, especially for her role as Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But she doesn't really interest me fully as Joey. She had big shoes to fill after Ashley Laurence left [who does make a cameo in the film], and doesn't quite manage to do it. She does have her moments, especially during the Vietnam scenes, and one scene where she warns a priest about Pinhead which results in a really funny line. But other than that, she doesn't really shine as much as she should. At least she's very attractive.

Kevin Bernhardt has the same issues as Terry Farrell - being on-and-off at times. He plays a sleazeball well enough, but sometimes it would feel like he was forcing it. At least he's eye candy for the certain ladies and gentlemen. Ken Carpenter as Doc wasn't great, especially when he turned into a Cenobite. But the worst actress had to be one that played the blonde victim that becomes Pinhead's first victim in the film. Wow, was she annoying! So overall, not the worst acting, but something felt off that I couldn't shake off.


- Narrative goes against what HELLRAISER was based on. Man, I don't know what happened between the production of HELLBOUND to HELL ON EARTH. I understand that the property went from New World Pictures to Miramax [and later Dimension Films for the rest of the series], but to change a lot of what was established in the first two films just felt like a mistake to me.

For one, HELLRAISER has now entered slasher film mode. Pinhead, the villain of the franchise, is now the main character. He has one-liners, he acts like his shit don't stink, and just talks and talks about anything and everything. HELLRAISER and even HELLBOUND worked because Pinhead and the other Cenobites were background characters that just happened to major catalysts in how the narrative would go in the climax. But they were never the main attraction. The human characters who were severely flawed and corrupted by sin over the power of the Lament Configuration were. I understand that Pinhead was the figurehead of the franchise due to his look and because Doug Bradley is so damn good in the role. But turning him into a Freddy Krueger type character takes away his mystique. Instead of being a creepy demon, he becomes like any other horror icon at the time. I understand it from a business standpoint, but the film [and the rest of the franchise] suffers because the villain is now the main character.

Also, what the hell was up with the new Cenobites? First, they enjoy killing innocent victims for the hell of it. Wasn't it established in the previous films that Cenobites never slaughtered innocents unless they summoned them through the puzzle box? Not only that, but Cenobites get their kicks by torturing their victims, feeling that pain is pleasurable. Also, not just anyone can become a Cenobite. You had to really seek out the power of the Lament Configuration and be worthy to become a Cenobite. If anyone could just become one, Frank and Julia should have become Cenobites WAY before a random cameraman and disc jockey could be one. The two main characters that were more worthy of being Cenobites had the lamest abilities compared to the two unworthy ones. Pretty ridiculous.

Also, I felt the Lament Configuration wasn't used to the best of its abilities. It's supposed to be a scary puzzle box that could summon demons that will hook chains into you and pull your skin apart. Here, it's just a weapon to defeat Pinhead - sort of like it was in HELLBOUND but not as logical or effective. Again, the mystery of the box seems lost here.

Clive Barker's HELLRAISER was embraced because it wasn't a slasher film. It stuck out amongst the other horror films of that time for being sexually and violently interesting, making the audience think through interesting character interactions and situations. With HELLRAISER III, the franchise is now like every other horror film at that time. Pinhead, against his will, had officially sold out.

- The ending. The last scene totally lost me. Was that supposed to represent what the inside of the puzzle box looked like? I didn't get it. Did I miss something? Am I just an idiot? I don't remember if this leads into HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE since I barely remember that movie. It was just odd. I wish the film had ended with the scene before it. Adding this extra scene at the end was confusing and a bit tacky.


THE FINAL HOWL
HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH represents the beginning of the franchise's decline, which is unfortunate since the first two films were so powerful and interesting. But it's nowhere near the worst of the installments, as it least has a great performance by Doug Bradley, interesting ideas that are somewhat done right at times, a cool soundtrack [metal songs and Christopher Young's awesome HELLRAISER score], cool special effects, and competent direction. Unfortunately, the acting is a mixed bag and what HELLRAISER was about is completely lost here. Definitely a mediocre sequel that you either take or leave. It's decent enough for what it is I guess. It's not quite HELL ON EARTH, but it's nowhere close to Heaven either.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4




7.24.2012

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002)

DIRECTED BY
David Worth

STARRING
John Barrowman - Ben Carpenter
Jenny McShane - Cataline Stone
Ryan Cutrona - Chuck Rampart
Bashar Rahal - Luis Ruiz


Genre - Thriller/Horror/B-Movie/Sharks

Running Time - 94 Minutes


PLOT
Some company called Apex is busy installing some cable that runs down the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Things go smoothly until something in the water attacks and murders several members of the crew. Since no one really gave a damn about this Apex company, no one realizes what happened for a long while.

Some time after the previous events, the story leads into Mexico. Ben Carpenter (John Barrowman), who is charge of keeping the beaches safe, goes diving and finds a giant shark tooth. Not knowing what kind of shark this tooth would belong to, Ben does some internet research. Reaching a dead end, Ben e-mails a San Diego paleontologist named Cat Stone (
Jenny McShane). Cat reads Ben's message and downloads a photo of the tooth. Realizing that the tooth belongs to a megalodon, a supposedly extinct ancestor to the Great White Shark, Cat rushes to Mexico to do more investigating. Ben and Cat realize that the shark is only a 15-foot long baby, believing that it could be dealt with. As Ben, Cat, and some friends try to contain this shark problem, they don't realize that the shark's very large mother is also out on the prowl as well. Not only that, but the Apex company is going to make sure that Ben and friends don't interfere with their plans to unveil some dangerous technology.


REVIEW
As you know, I either do a detailed long review [with a "Things I've Learned..." section] or a shorter HITS and MISSES review that gets the major points across. Mixing both types of reviews have kept me from being burnt out and maintained a good number of reviews appearing on the blog each month since I started. However, some films can't be reviewed under these conditions, especially when it comes to B-Movies.

Back when I was doing my long video reviews, I reviewed B-Movies under a certain criteria to give those films an honest score. So because of the uniqueness that is SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON, I'm bringing this criteria back for B-Movie reviews from now on. I will grade these type of films by their Story [Screenplay, Direction, and Acting], Violence, Sex, and Cheese within a score of 10 each, and divide them by 4 as I round the average to one of my usual scores. B-Movies deserve to be judged and viewed differently than other films, so I will follow that thought.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's review SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON:


STORY
- Screenplay: Let me just get this out of the way - the script to SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON is absolutely terrible. There's really no plot to this film. A prehistoric shark is released and people have to stop it from eating people. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a barebones narrative that doesn't bother to surprise you or show you anything you haven't seen countless times before. The story is paper-thin.

The characters are one-dimensional as hell, all really bad stereotypes. Ben Carpenter is a hero inspired by any character Tom Cruise had played in the 1980s, yet we don't really know much about him except that he can win over ladies with terrible dialogue, pilot submarines that seem to switch sizes depending on where its shot, take photos of things from reality that show up with a white background on his computer, and smile his shit-eating grin. There's nothing about this guy you can relate to.

The other characters are no better. Cataline Stone is a paleontologist, whose only job description is having dinosaur books on her desk. Oh, and she's pretty much easy as hell when it comes to bad pick-up lines. Other than that, nothing else catches your interest. We also have the evil businessman being, well, evil. He's the typical villain who wants to cover up his mess. And then there's the sidekick/mentor who has the one-liners and brings some comic relief. He also has photos of George W. Bush and Dick Chaney in his office. Other than that, he [and none of these characters] have any depth at all. You could have replaced them with any other type of character and nothing would have changed.

The only saving grace of this horrible screenplay is a certain line.

Yes...that line.



This line is honestly terrible, but dammit...it's brilliant at the same time! And it actually works for this dude! How come I get kicked in the balls while this guy gets his balls drained over the same pick-up line? What's even better is that John Barrowman actually ad-libbed this line to get a rise out of Jenny McShane, who actually no sells it. He had no idea this would be in the final cut of the film, but because of it, his performance in SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON is now an internet and pop culture sensation. Bravo, Mr. Barrowman. This line is the saving grace of an awful script.

- Direction: David Worth returns from SHARK ATTACK 2 to provide for us a visual feast for us to chew on. And by 'feast', I mean boring visual style, lack of tension, suspense, scares, or anything a film called SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON would need to be a good film. The editing is terrible at times, especially when we see the same shark being portrayed by both a Great White and a Tiger Shark. Also, I love how a small submarine actually looks huge inside. There are a ton of inconsistencies visually, which makes SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON unintentionally funny to watch.

If Worth has done anything positive as a director, it's keeping Barrowman's infamous line and for the final act of the film, where the Megalodon swallows people. It's entertaining to watch for all the wrong reasons, which makes this film so bad, that it's good.

By the way, I thought the POV from the shark's perspective was pretty funny also.

- Acting: All the actors here are terrible as well. At least John Barrowman seems to be having a good time, or at least pretending to be, as he constantly smiles his way through the film as some sort of defense mechanism. He does his best Tom Cruise impersonation and does his best with what he's given. Plus, he had that awesome ad-lib so he's the best actor by default. As for the others, they're just laughable to watch. Jenny McShane isn't great here and never comes across as convincing. In fact, there's a moment where she's so supposed to act upset and scared, yet it looks like she's trying hard not to laugh. While it's funny, it's kind of sad too. At least try to make the material work. No one else really stands out, especially since most of the actors are dubbed with Mexican accents [the film was filmed in Bulgaria with Bulgarian actors] - all sounding horrible and just making you laugh rather than making you engaged with the material. So the actors' deliveries are bad, but at least it's somewhat fun to watch.

Rating - 4/10


VIOLENCE
SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON has the usual shark-on-human violence. We see a mutilated body from time to time. A few detached limbs as well. Sharks get shot. Sharks attack ships. Someone gets electrocuted. And then in the final act, a bunch of people on a yacht are swallowed by the giant Megalodon.

WHO IS MADE FROM STOCK FOOTAGE.

People getting killed by something that's from stock footage - how can something so terrible be so freakin' awesome?? Screw gore and disturbing murder sequences. It'll never beat stock footage murdering idiotic characters on jet-skis and life rafts. My mind has been completely boggled.

Rating - 6/10


SEX
SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON contains more sexuality than the previous two installments. Jenny McShane shows us her ta-tas and her booty, which I can't complain about. She also has a sex scene with John Barrowman that plays out like softcore porn. We also get another actress showing her naked body, as well as a dude's butt as well. Nothing too scandalous or anything, but not as tame as the other SHARK ATTACK films.

Rating - 6/10


CHEESE FACTOR
What can I say about how cheesy SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON really is? A pick-up line that shouldn't work does. People getting swallowed by stock footage of a shark. Actors who act exactly as if they know they're in a crappy flick. There's so much cheese in this film, you'll be in the bathroom for a week if you're lactose-intolerant. I love it.

Rating - 10/10

Total Rating - 26/40 = 2.6/4



THE FINAL HOWL

SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON is, by far, a terribly made film. The direction isn't great. The acting is laughable. The story is barely there. And the special effects, or use of stock footage, are just not up to par. That being said, SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON is one of those really bad films that continue to have a high level of entertainment value for those nights you want to hang out with your friends and just laugh at how ridiculous this whole deal is. It's not TROLL 2 quality, but it's pretty close and deserves to be watched by all bad movie lovers. And for that line alone, I'm bumping the score a bit. Just a mess of a film that deserves to be appreciated by those who 'get' it.


SCORE
3 Pussycats Outta 4




7.22.2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) [Non-Spoiler]

DIRECTED BY
Christopher Nolan

STARRING
Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Tom Hardy - Bane
Anne Hathaway - Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Gary Oldman - Commissioner James Gordon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - John Blake
Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox
Marion Cotillard - Miranda Tate


Genre - Action/Adventure/Crime/Drama/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 165 Minutes


PLOT
Eight years have passed in Gotham City since the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who Batman (Christian Bale) took the blame for to preserve his good reputation. Gotham City, under the Dent Act, has now become a safer city, arresting more criminals than ever. However, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) is feeling guilty about lying about how Dent really died, pondering whether he should retire. Also, Bruce Wayne has retired his Batman persona, living as a recluse in Wayne Manor to the point that the public hasn't seen him for the past eight years.

As Wayne Manor hosts a society function in honor of Harvey Dent, a waitress enters the Wayne Private Wing and steals a necklace, from a fool's proof safe, that belonged to Bruce's mother. After Bruce confronts her, the waitress escapes through the window. Checking the safe, Bruce realizes that this waitress, who he learns is Selina Kyle (
Anne Hathaway) due to her record as a cat burglar, really wanted a copy of his fingerprints for some unknown reason.

As Bruce attempts to get back into the swing of things in the public eye, a huge masked mercenary known as Bane (
Tom Hardy) [a former member of Ra's Al Ghul's (Liam Neeson) League of Shadows] has arrived in Gotham with a sinister plan to destroy the entire city just to watch people suffer. After Bane messes with Bruce's personal life, including stripping Bruce of all his financial assets, Bruce decides to adopt the Batman persona again to stop him. Unfortunately, Bruce's battered body [and betrayals from supposed allies] is no match for Bane's strength, worrying Bruce that his work to save Gotham from criminal activity may be for nothing.


REVIEW


HITS

- The direction. For the third straight BATMAN film, Christopher Nolan has knocked it out of the park with his visual presentation to end this fantastic comic book trilogy. With each installment, his confidence as a director has definitely improved, showcasing his vision in a near flawless way.

The biggest success Nolan does is take a near-three-hour film and make it feel half its length. I'm one of those people who feels apprehensive in watching any movie that's longer than two hours. Not only is it a long sit, but my attention span starts going haywire if a film is usually longer than that. But Nolan's visuals kept me engaged from beginning to end, making me feel surprise when I realized the film was already in its thrilling final act. That's the perfect sign of a great film - when it feels much less than its running time, you know you're enjoying yourself.

The cinematography by Wally Pfister is great, as the film looks gritty even if it isn't as dark visually as the other installments. The editing, especially the cross-cutting between different character's perspectives within scenes, was amazing.

The quieter scenes were done masterfully as well. The action sequences are beautiful here. I loved the James Bond-esque opening with Bane on the plane. I loved the Batman chase with Gotham's police. I thought the Bat plane was wicked cool and loved any scene involving that. But my favorite had to be the one-on-one first fight between Batman and Bane. No music or anything - just two men beating the crap out of each other. It gave the moment a different feel and I loved that it involved a pivotal Batman comic book moment taken from the 1993 arc, "Knightfall". Christopher Nolan directs his best BATMAN related film here visually, making every moment count for something in terms of thrills and action.

- The narrative and characters. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a fantastic continuation of what Nolan and David S. Goyer had set up in 2005's BATMAN BEGINS and in 2008's THE DARK KNIGHT [which is still my favorite of the three]. This installment introduces more characters than ever, changing some of their origin stories to fit within Nolan's vision of the Batman story. While Bane isn't Latino, doesn't wear a lucha libre mask, or need the Venom drug to enhance his strength, Nolan's Bane is light years ahead of what Joel Schumacher did for the character in 1997's BATMAN & ROBIN. In fact, I like that Bane is more realistic here. While he is strong here, he's not super-strong by a drug but rather from training most of his life. And while he does use physical strength to hurt others, it's his massive intelligence and cunning that brings down the eight years the Dent Act had done for Gotham City. Bane is so matter-of-fact and confident that you can't help but take notice of him and somewhat respect him. He's not a villain that says he'll do something and never gets the chance to. Bane will let his actions speak for him, making his silence louder than any words he says. I thought Nolan and Goyer did an amazing job with Bane. Sure, he's not the most colorful villain in Batman's rogues gallery. But he has a presence and an intimidation factor that most villains would die for.

The origin is also different with Selina Kyle, who is never called Catwoman in the film, but definitely dresses the part. She's more of a thief in this film than a sexual force of nature wearing leather and using a whip to scare her victims. Selina is tough and smart, while being subtly sexy and attractive to men. She also takes care of girls who are just like her, as well as care about what happens to Batman and Gotham City while trying to make it seem as if she doesn't. I thought the chemistry between her and Bruce Wayne/Batman wasn't as sizzling as the one in 1992's BATMAN RETURNS, but it was definitely there. The two characters are definitely attracted to each other, but are more guarded here due to their pasts. I thought Catwoman's role in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES fit within the context of the story.

I think the only real notable new character was Officer John Blake, who is a young officer who seems to idolize Batman and wants him to continue keeping Gotham safe from criminals. He shares a past similar to Bruce's, making them connect right away. He's also tough, intelligent, and brave, making him instantly likeable. I liked the build to his character development. He seemed like a random supporting player, but his character gains depth with every scene he appears [which is a lot] as the role gets meatier and meatier until the final act. To me, John Blake was the best new addition to the trilogy other than Bane [I liked Catwoman but she had a bit less depth than those two].


The other supporting characters get less to do this time around, but they all play an important part in the trilogy's conclusion. Commissioner Gordon is now guilt ridden over his part in hiding Harvey Dent's true fate, feeling as if the cleansing of crime in Gotham is based on a lie he can't keep anymore. He pretty much a background player until the final act, but Gordon [while flawed] is still heroic and likeable. Lucius Fox doesn't get much to do as well, but he's important within the narrative anytime he appears. And Alfred, who isn't in the film as much as I would like him to be, is the emotional core of the film and has some of the best scenes in the film. I thought the character was written strongly here.

But the film, thankfully, belongs to Bruce Wayne/Batman. He's broken, both physically and mentally, after putting his life on the line to give hope to a city that struggles with keeping it. He put his body on the line just to become an inspiring symbol to Gotham, even letting the citizens believe he murdered Harvey Dent - a man who also inspired the city, refusing to let them in on the truth. Hiding himself for years, he let the city live on without him. Then when Bane shows up to destroy everything he and Dent had done for Gotham, Bruce has no choice but to suit up and take this menace down. He has trouble taking on Bane, but he has to find it in himself to rise again and save Gotham City and right the wrongs he made eight years ago. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES isn't about Batman stopping a terrible villain to save the day. It's about Batman coming to terms about his true mission in life. It's about Bruce Wayne coming to terms about how his traumatic past has effected his present and will his future. Just because Batman has retired doesn't mean that Bruce Wayne has to. They're one and the same, and Bruce has to rise above the pressure he has placed on himself in order to truly live his life and be happy with who he is and what he has accomplished. That's the real story of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Not politics. Not good vs. evil. It's about living and Bruce Wayne starts to realize that he hasn't really lived since his parents died as a child. Bane is just the catalyst in making him realize that his anger and fear have stalled his life. He has to struggle with the living world and must step out of the darkness in order to see the proverbial light. It's a great tale and a perfect way to end a trilogy for this character.

Is the narrative perfect? No. There are certain plot holes and things that could have used more depth. I won't spoil those things because not everyone has seen this film yet. While I felt the narrative for THE DARK KNIGHT was stronger and more personal, I still think this was the perfect end story to a very successful trilogy. You understand why things happened the way they did and the dialogue was great as well. Watching Gotham implode and crumble due to the words and actions of one man that Batman has trouble defeating really raises the stakes and makes the ending much more satisfying. The flaws don't really hurt the film much at all in context of the entire trilogy.

- The acting. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES has some serious acting chops. Christian Bale has his best performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the entire trilogy. He anchors the entire film, looking worn and battered, yet still playing the hero who will never give up until justice is served. I found a lot of his emotional moments really convincing, his chemistry with Anne Hathaway to be strong, and his Batman voice was finally perfect. Bale conquers the hero who must deal with his personal demons to truly become a symbol for the city he loves believably. He gives the role a ton of depth and layers that make you want to root for him. I thought he was fantastic in this. I also thought Michael Caine was really strong as Alfred, giving the film its most emotional moments that almost brought a tear to my eye. He's extremely poignant in the role and gives it a ton of class. Bale and Caine are great together and you really feel their bond.


Anne Hathaway was an interesting choice for Selina Kyle, as she would have never crossed my radar when it came to the role. Michelle Pfeiffer is still my ideal version of Catwoman, but Hathaway plays the part well enough to make her presence important to the story. In fact, instead of trying to emulate past actresses in the role, Hathaway makes the role her own by not being overly sexy, but intelligent, tough, and cunning. She also manages some nice chemistry with Bale, which makes their relationship interesting to watch. I liked the ambiguity of her character, whether she was good or bad. Hathaway played it better than I would have believed.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic as Officer John Blake. He gives the character a lot of depth, and it helps that his character has a great arc from beginning to end, allowing him to play the role off of many people and many situations. I thought his character was very fitting for this film, and I loved the twist his character takes at the end. Gary Oldman does well with what he's given as Commissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman brings some humor again as Lucius Fox. Marion Cotillard tries as best she can as Miranda Tate. She's a good actress but I wish her character had more depth.

As for Tom Hardy, he's brilliant as Bane. He's menacing just through his eyes and body language alone, which is a contrast to how eloquent he speaks. His voice under the mask does take time to get used to, but Hardy puts his all into the role - being scary through his obvious intelligence, which is enhanced by his physique [which Hardy gained 30 pounds of muscle for]. Hardy is a beast, as he's physically imposing and downright vicious. He handles the dialogue exceptionally well, speaking as if he's doing Shakespeare in the Park - which actually makes him more awesome. I love that the script gave Bane a ton of depth, especially within the final act, allowing Hardy to really play off many emotions believably. He may not have been as great as Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT, but Hardy really crafted the perfect villain to end the trilogy. I think he deserves an Academy Award nomination in a Supporting Role. Let's see if it happens.

- The score. Hans Zimmer score is awesome and really enhances the film to the utmost level. Some of the themes, like "Gotham's Reckoning" and "Rise", really create super emotional moments along with the visuals. I also love that the scenes without any music were just as powerful. A powerful soundtrack mixed with powerful visuals and a powerful story. I can't complain about that.


MISSES
- Miranda Tate. Obviously I have to nitpick about something, but I felt a certain character deserved more depth. I think my biggest one was Miranda Tate, who plays an important role within the narrative, but there's not much going for her until the final act. She just meanders until then, popping up and being mysterious [well not for me since I figured out what her real story was]. I get the less we knew about her, the more believable her twist would be in the final act. But I wanted to know more about her and I think if we did, her story would have been more powerful when we actually learn it. Does it hurt the story at all? No, not really. But after it was done, I thought that Marion Cotillard deserved a character she could play with more. Instead, she was just there for me until the end. Thankfully, she performed 'there' really well, so I didn't find her character bad or anything. I just wish she were given more to do.


THE FINAL HOWL

While I still prefer THE DARK KNIGHT [and still find THE AVENGERS to be on top of my 2012 list so far], THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a masterful conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. Christopher Nolan directs a solid film, with great actor, a perfect final narrative, and a wonderful score that makes the film feel epic. Sure, it has flaws here and there and as its own film, it probably won't stand up compared to the trilogy's middle act. But as a part three in a three-story act, the BATMAN trilogy couldn't have ended any better. I know the Colorado tragedy has taken the wind out of this film [the victims and their families are in my prayers] but it's definitely worth seeing in theaters. I sense this will get some love around Oscar time and it deserves any nomination it gets. Nice to see someone finally managed to complete a Batman story without screwing up the franchise. I'm very interested in how the character will be rebooted in 2015.


SCORE
4 Howls Outta 4



7.18.2012

The Dark Knight (2008)


DIRECTED BY
Christopher Nolan

STARRING
Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Heath Ledger - The Joker
Aaron Eckhart - Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
Gary Oldman - James Gordon
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Rachel Dawes
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox


Genre - Action/Crime Drama/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 152 Minutes


[
2012 Fred Sez - I was requested by a few people to re-review THE DARK KNIGHT since I have been reviewing all the other BATMAN films leading up to this weekend's long anticipated movie of the summer (and probably of the year), THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. So I watched it again last night (hadn't seen the film since early 2009 to be honest) and I realized that I still feel the same way about THE DARK KNIGHT that I did back in 2008 during my long journey trying to see it in theaters.

The acting is still fantastic, especially by Christian Bale, the late Heath Ledger, and the underrated Aaron Eckhart. While Mark Hamill will always be The Joker to me [
his voice is what I hear anytime I read a comic with the character], Ledger bests Nicholson by a narrow margin for giving the character the insanity and malice he deserves. You laugh with this dude while being afraid of him at the same time. Ledger would eventually win the Academy Award posthumously for Supporting Actor - and rightfully so. Eckhart is also great as Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, giving the character a ton of depth and sympathy as he slowly becomes the thing he's so against of becoming. It's kind of sad that Ledger overshadowed Eckhart due to his performance and his tragic death, but Eckhart deserved attention as well. Christian Bale is probably the only actor to balance both Bruce Wayne and Batman right, although the "Batman voice" is a bit much in this film.

Christopher Nolan directs an incredible middle act for his trilogy, with great editing and cross cutting, solid framing and composition, and gritty photography. I also love the tension and suspense that Nolan builds in this film. And while the film is more drama than action, Nolan handles both really well. Definitely feels more comfortable here than it did in BATMAN BEGINS. I can't wait for his visual eye on THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

The story by Nolan and David S. Goyer is perfect for a second act in the trilogy. The characters, while not having the same origins as they do in the comics, still play true for the most part, especially in the context of the story. I love Bruce Wayne's arc in which he's looking for someone more "
worthy" to play Gotham's hero (he sees Harvey Dent in that role), not realizing that he's Gotham's only hope as Batman. I love how similar and different he is to The Joker, who is the perfect foil for Batman and portrayed excellently in this film. While the 1989 version was funny and more of a clown (which worked for that movie), this version is more sinister and a real threat. The interactions between Batman and The Joker really give the film bite. The Rachel stuff with Bruce and Harvey is great and the tragedy of the love triangle sets up the final act well. I love how you're never sure who is a good guy in this film and who are traitors for the mob. THE DARK KNIGHT still feels like a crime drama more than a comic book film, and I actually like that because it stands out from the other films in the franchise.

It may be overrated, but I still think THE DARK KNIGHT is the best BATMAN film (
to be released so far) overall - even though I still find BATMAN RETURNS to be my personal favorite. After four years, it still holds up perfectly well and I look forward to the final installment of the trilogy this Friday Night. I should have a review for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES sometime this weekend. But for now, read my 2008 review for THE DARK KNIGHT.
]



In 1939, Bob Kane created one of the most popular and bankable superheroes of all time - Batman. Darker, grittier, and more detective-like than Superman, Batman took the world by storm. Over the years, we've seen many incarnations of Batman. In 1943, Lewis Wilson played Batman on television although it was short lived. The more popular late-1960s version of Batman, starring Adam West, became a pop culture phenomenon with its campy sense of humor and lightheartedness that was missing from the omic book. Because of this, Batman started in some animated shows, most particularly Super Friends.

In 1989, Batman was brought to the big screen in a major way in Tim Burton's BATMAN. Starring Michael Keaton as the title character and Jack Nicholson as The Joker, the film was a massive success. So successful in fact, that three sequels were made for it, each decreasing in quality until the franchise pretty much died once BATMAN & ROBIN, one of the worst comic book films ever made, was released in 1997.

Luckily for us, MEMENTO director Christopher Nolan stepped in to reboot the franchise. Using big name stars like Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Katie Holmes, BATMAN BEGINS was released in 2005, giving the fans a Batman film that was rooted closer to the comics and one we could all be proud of. It was very successful, meaning a sequel was imminent. Nolan announced THE DARK KNIGHT for 2008, which would have Batman pitted against The Joker. Everyone was excited about the addition of The Joker...until it was announced Heath Ledger was playing the role. I'm not gonna lie - I was a little worried about that casting choice. Ledger is a phenomenal actor, but as The Joker? I really couldn't see it. That is until promotional footage and photos were released, putting faith that this might actually work better than anyone may have thought.

Then Heath Ledger passed away in early 2008. It was a shock to everyone, especially since no one saw it coming. As morbid as it may sound, Ledger's death actually put more hype on THE DARK KNIGHT, as it was his last completed film and gave the film more buzz that it probably would have gotten without unfortunate events. The buzz just got bigger and bigger, even suggesting that Ledger was so good in THE DARK KNIGHT that he was a lock for an Oscar Nomination for Supporting Actor. Everyone was curious and excited for the next BATMAN installment for different reasons, leading to a new opening day and opening weekend record for the film.

My journey to watch THE DARK KNIGHT was a frustrating one, especially after it was massively sold out in every theater for three days. Not only that, but the film opened during a massive heatwave, just making things worse. You have no idea the trouble it took me to watch this flick. I started my trek early Friday morning, pretty much WALKING the entire NYC area to find ONE theater that still had open tickets to this film. Each time, I was met with lines longer than those at the DMV and watching time intervals sell out in massive time. Maybe I should have dressed like some of the people on line. Random Jokers, Batmen, Two-Faces, and even sexy Catwomen [growl] popped out of the woodwork, getting their tickets while I was denied mine. Instead, I decided to watch MAMMA MIA!. I had to watch it anyway for FilmArcade and it was a nice diversion for two hours, but it really wasn't the film I wanted to see at that moment. So I went home, defeated and sweaty from the humidity, hoping Saturday would be better.

Sometimes there is no hope. Saturday was an even worse day than Friday. The temps were hotter, my frustration was higher, and I was thinking that I may never see this film. I tried calling people early Saturday to see if they wanted to go see the film with me, thinking that a group of us could separate and find a theater that would still have tickets much quicker than one man could do. No one wanted to go, or couldn't go. Things like work, lack of money, or even non-interest [what rock are they living under] were some of the excuses I got. So I started my trek, alone again, to see THE DARK KNIGHT. Let me just say that I wasted my time. At 12 pm, all theaters I went to were completely sold out. I even spoke to a few people who said that even ordering tickets online were useless since all the advance stuff were already taken. I pretty much sweated my ass off in the hot sun for 4 hours, gaining a tan, for nothing. I went to my cousin's house, defeated again, where I played Halo 3 - really wishing I was watching THE DARK KNIGHT.


Sunday, I was determined to see this film no matter what. At the beginning, things seemed to be similar to Friday and Saturday. Showings were sold out and I was about to give up. However, the Empire 25 theater in Times Square opened up a few more showings since people from Warner Brothers were actually there to see the public reaction to the film [or so that's what the employees at the theater told me]. So I waited on a long line, with people trying to actually skip in between people to get earlier showings [a lot of us made a stop to that]. After waiting 20 minutes on line, I got the last ticket for the 7pm showing of the film. Of course, the people that stood behind me cursed at me and gave me a lot of obscene gestures when they learned I got the last ticket. Hell, even a fight broke out between two dudes who happened to be pissed off. Total pandemonium. I had like 3 hours to spare until the film started, so I played some Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith to pass the time at a nearby Circuit City. I went back to the theater at around 6 pm, where the line for the 7pm showing had to stand in order to be entered in. Standing in the hot sun and humid air outside the theater for 45 minutes was not fun at all, but getting a great seat at the back of the theater to watch the film with a sold out crowd was worth it.

As for the film itself, I'll sum it up this way:

Best BATMAN film ever made.

Best comic book film ever made.

Best film of 2008 so far.

Feeling more like a Michael Mann film [especially during the beginning with its HEAT-like homage] and less than a superhero film, THE DARK KNIGHT was truly a fanboy's wet dream. Just like the comics and graphic novels, the film was raw, gritty, dark, realistic, and brutal in its violence. For two and a half hours, all I saw was a great story, fantastic action, and phenomenal performances from all the actors involved. Christopher Nolan, who directed and wrote the screenplay, is definitely the man that should make a BATMAN movie.

Christian Bale seemed much more comfortable as Bruce Wayne and Batman. I know the Batman voice still grates at some people, and at first it was kind of weird hearing it. But I adapted very quickly and it was nice to see an actor try and create two distinct personas instead of using one voice for both. Bale is still the only actor to play both Batman and Wayne perfectly.


Aaron Eckhart was a highlight as Harvey Dent. With his all-American looks, he definitely has the look of a hero. And he played that role convincingly well, bringing a lot of charm and subtlety to the role. And I also enjoyed the build up and transformation into Two-Face, which thankfully made me forget about that horrible Tommy Lee Jones interpretation from BATMAN FOREVER. Two-Face looked gruesomely awesome and while he was a quasi-villain, he was more of a corrupted hero who just wanted to make things right by any means necessary. Not exactly faithful to the comic version but it totally works in context of the story. Eckhart is a phenomenal actor and I'm surprised he hasn't become a bigger star yet. If he doesn't because of this film, I don't know what will.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is a much needed improvement over Katie Holmes' protrayal of Rachel Dawes. I don't have much hate towards Holmes in BATMAN BEGINS like some people do, but she definitely was the weak link of that film. But that's only because Holmes wasn't mature enough for the role of Rachel. Gyllenhaal definitely is and turns what could be a one-dimensional character into a woman with a lot of depth, substance, and a lot of spunk. Plus she had great chemistry with both Bale and Eckhart, which was a big plus.

The supporting roles from Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman are also great. Caine, as Alfred, plays the father figure very well. Freeman is also great as Batman's confidant who realizes that he can't keep going down the same path as him for much longer without compromising his ethics. And Oldman, known better for his villain roles, plays a very good hero in Gotham City's future police commissioner.

And last and certainly not least, we have the late Heath Ledger as the maniacal Joker. To say that this is Ledger's best performance on film is an understatement. Ledger captures the very essence of Batman's greatest villain, bringing a sense of sinister-ness and lunacy we'd expect from The Joker. He also has great comedic moments, which makes you feel bad to laugh at because of how evil this guy is. Ledger locked himself in a room for a month to really become the character. While that may have contributed to his death [it must have been hard dealing with the demons to become someone as evil as The Joker after the shoot was over], Ledger went out with a bang in his finest performance on screen. He is the Joker and truly a marvel to watch. He is without a doubt the best part of the film. And yes, he deserves that Oscar nomination. He's that good.

I can go on and on about this film. But everyone else has said it better and I'm sick of reading about the movie as much as I'm sick writing about it. You're probably sick of reading this, so who knows? All I can say that THE DARK KNIGHT is incredible. It's a must see. It leaves you wanting more. Everything you want in a film is in THE DARK KNIGHT.


SCORE
4 Howls Outta 4



Related Posts with Thumbnails