4.26.2016

Midnight Confessions Episode 91: "The 3rd Annual Around the World: Part 3"


We get delirious with two Euro flicks; THE DEVIL (Poland/1972) and TRACKMAN (Russia/2007). Plus another exciting addition of "How Much of an American Are You?" These movies made us feel bad enough, the death of Chyna and Prince only added to the misery. Also, we end up acting our shoe size and not our age. Sorry, Prince.











 


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4.19.2016

Midnight Confessions Episode 90: "The 3rd Annual Around the World: Part 2"


The 2nd week of our Around The World series brings us to the U.K. and the Netherlands, as we take a look at THE FREAKMAKER aka THE MUTATIONS (1974) and AMSTERDAMNED (1988). Plus another round of "How Much of an American Are You?"











 


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4.13.2016

When Wrestlers Act: Countdown (2016)

DIRECTED BY
John Stockwell

STARRING
Nick Nemeth (as Dolph Ziggler) - Ray Thompson
Glenn “Kane” Jacobs - Lt. Stan Cronin
Katharine Isabelle - Julia Baker
Josh Blacker - Detective Al Kendricks
Alexander Kalugin - Nikolai
Michael Kopsa - Makarov
Alan O’Silva - Vladislav Pavel
Catherine Lough Haggquist - Lilly

Genre - Action

Run Time - 92 Minutes



*You can also find this review at That's Not Current*


For those who are subscribed to the WWE Network, there’s a program called Swerved that has WWE Superstars pulling pranks on each other. Think Punk’d with muscles. It’s a fun show, glad others are getting pranked and not me.

Unfortunately, WWE Studios wanted to change that and swerve all of us by releasing COUNTDOWN, their latest cop-thriller starring WWE Superstars and legitimate actors probably desperate for a paycheck. The trailer led me to believe that most of the film would take place during a WWE live event, having WWE Superstars interacting with other WWE Superstars playing police officers in a very surreal and meta way. Hell, Rusev pulls a gun on someone! Who wouldn’t want to see that film?

Well WWE Studios felt that audiences wouldn’t want to, giving us something more generic instead. Yes everyone - my name is Fred and I’ve been Swerved. Bastards…

PLOT
Ray Thompson (Dolph Ziggler) is an unhinged cop who is still haunted by the death of his child years back. While undercover, Ray busts a Russian gun runner (Alexander Kalugin) and his gang - not before shooting his partner (Josh Blacker) to prove himself. Because of this conduct, Ray is suspended for 30 days by Lt. Cronin (Glen “Kane” Jacobs).

The suspension doesn’t last long, as Ray has been targeted by a terrorist (Alan O’Silva) who has kidnapped a young boy and strapped a bomb to him. The terrorist gives Ray and his fellow officers a ransom of $2 million before the bomb’s timer runs out. Ray finds the terrorist at a WWE live event, killing him but with no sign of the boy’s location. With the help of Internal Affairs agent Julia Baker (Katharine Isabelle), Ray searches the city to stop the late terrorist’s countdown to destruction.

REVIEW
COUNTDOWN could have been a pretty cool film if the trailer was anything to go by. You have two wrestlers in Ziggler and Kane, who are pretty decent actors on WWE television. You have a set up where you’re led to believe that most of the film would take place at and during a WWE event. Add in some interesting action and hottie Katharine Isabelle, and you should have a winner. Unfortunately, the trailer is pretty much false advertising in a lot of ways, making COUNTDOWN less fun than it should have been.

Let me get the positives out of the way: The acting in COUNTDOWN is pretty good. Dolph Ziggler handles himself quite well in his first starring role, doing as much as he can with the material. And if you’ve seen him wrestle, you know he can handle fight choreography better than most. Glen “Kane” Jacobs is a highlight as the stern Lt. Cronin, having the best dialogue and seeming to be having fun in a role that doesn’t involve him playing a killer with a hook. Katharine Isabelle has nice chemistry with Ziggler, shining in certain scenes that allow her to show her chops. I thought COUNTDOWN was one of the better acted films in WWE Studios’ catalogue.

I also liked the action sequences. Sure, they’re not overly original or flashy. But I thought these scenes were some of the best shot, plus the choreography was pretty solid. I’ll never knock Ziggler (as Ray) super kicking a gun-wielding Rusev. That was probably the highlight of the film for me.

And then… there’s everything else. Where do I begin?

The script for COUNTDOWN is one of the more generic and predictable scripts I’ve seen a film have in recent memory. Usually, WWE Studios movies will take stuff from BATTLE ROYALE or DIE HARD to create their action films. I’m not even sure what COUNTDOWN was inspired by, as it’s all over the place with no real meat on its bones.

The main character arc, I’m guessing, is Ray Thompson wanting to save this boy (with a bomb strapped on him) to make up for the loss of his own son. There are moments in the narrative where Ray is clearly tortured by his son’s passing. He sleeps in his son’s room after reading a bedtime story to someone who isn’t there anymore. He’s reckless at his profession, not really caring about things anymore. The title, COUNTDOWN, is not just about the bomb but about Ray’s idea of how fleeting time is and how no one can change it. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of this aspect to really tie things together and/or make the narrative interesting. Plus, the bomb boy isn’t really a major focus, as he’s talked about, but never shown until the last few minutes of the film. I wanted more scenes with the kid, as that would have created tension and sympathy. But it’s never really about him. It’s about Ray trying to rid himself of the ghost from his past by saving the future of this child. There’s never a real balance between the two plot lines. That’s a major issue.

The script is also very generic, as it’s mainly rogue cops trying to solve a case by interrogating people. They also drive and walk through places to fill time as they search. It’s like watching a Law & Order episode, but with less drama and tension. I never felt as if there were any stakes when it concerned this bomb. Sure, people were going to die. But Ray and Julia Baker just meander around without any sense of urgency. It doesn’t help that Ray murders the kidnapper at the end of the FIRST ACT, instead making the gun runner the main antagonist of the film because Ray busted him at the beginning of the movie. The gun runner isn’t even all that interesting, as he doesn’t get much to do until the film calls for it. Hell, I forgot he was even a character until he showed up with his goons. That’s not good.

The real issue is that the potential displayed in the COUNTDOWN trailer is a slap to the face of those expecting a goofy 90 minutes. The idea of an action cop thriller taking place within an arena while a WWE live event is taking place is brilliant! Not only can you get quick cameos from the real wrestlers playing themselves during this situation, but you can have them interact with Dolph Ziggler and Kane playing different characters other than themselves. Hell, you could have had a scene with real Ziggler and Ray Ziggler interact with each other for a funny moment. But nope, you only get this WWE stuff for about 10 minutes at most. No wrestler cameos. No interactions between the wrestlers and the wrestlers playing actors. You do get that one funny scene with Rusev and Lana, which proves how great this film could have been if there was more of that. It’s a wasted opportunity. WWE Studios played it really safe here, giving us something we’ve seen time and time again. It’s sort of like the current product - stale and leaving us wanting more.

The direction by John Stockwell (Cougar from TOP GUN!) isn’t his finest work as a director. I’m guessing this was one of those “I’ll do it for a paycheck” deals where his heart wasn’t really in it. Like I said, the action is shot decently. And the movie does look nice picture quality wise. But the pacing isn’t all that exciting. And the editing is downright laughable.

There’s a shot where it looks like the tripod took a tumble, creating this tilt effect that didn’t match the scene at all. And the WWE live event sequence had me rolling with laughter at how badly handled it was. During the cop scenes, we get some B-roll footage of wrestlers warming up. Then we’re treated to clips of The New Day, The Ascension, and the Lucha Dragons making their entrances for a triple threat tag team match at a house show. But as the cop stuff picks up steam, the WWE footage takes this weird turn as we see shots of Brock Lesnar having his entrance at the Royal Rumble, followed by another shot of pyro in front of a Royal Rumble tron. So you’re telling me that this house show turned into a pay-per-view within the span of 7 minutes, with different lighting and different angles? I had to pause the film because I was laughing so hard. Let’s not forget that Ray brought a gym bag into the seating area of the arena, which would NEVER happen in a million years. What a mess.

THE FINAL HOWL
So COUNTDOWN - yeah, it’s a pretty bad film. Is it the worst WWE Studios film out there? No, as it isn’t as bad as THE CONDEMNED 2: DESERT PREY or INSIDE OUT with Triple H. At least COUNTDOWN has some decent acting and action going for it. But with a generic story that doesn’t add anything new or interesting, and editing that’s just laughable, I couldn’t possibly recommend this to anyone. Plus, what wasted potential compared to that surreal trailer that could have created a memorable wrestling B-movie if the entire film took place at a WWE live event (which it doesn’t). There’s nothing here to show the world.



SCORE
1.5 Howls Outta 4


4.12.2016

Midnight Confessions Ep. 89: "Our 3rd Annual Around the World Special begins..."


We kick off our 3rd annual Around the World series with RITUALS (1977) from Canada and GRAVE ROBBERS (1990) from Mexico.

Plus the guys play a game of who's the most American. America--fuck yeah!











 


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3.23.2016

Midnight Confessions Ep. 88: "Michael Sopkiw Triple Feature!"


This week we're taking a look at 3 movies that feature actor Michael Sopkiw.

...Who is Michael Sopkiw?

Well after this week's episode you'll know who he is. The three movies reviewed are: 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983), BLASTFIGHTER (1984) and MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY (1985).

Plus the Rev gives us a listen to a track off the new Murderock album, Splatter Generation.











 


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3.04.2016

Midnight Confessions Ep. 87 - "2 dystopian pizzas with extra cheese"


This episode the MC Crew take a look at two of Enzo G. Castellari's post-apocalyptic cheesefests; 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (1982) and THE NEW BARBARIANS (1983). The apocalypse was never this fun.

We also discuss the 88th Academy Awards, the new GHOSTBUSTERS trailer, and give our thoughts on the polarizing THE WITCH.











 


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2.19.2016

Midnight Confessions Ep. 86 - "Pimpin' Ain't Easy: Blaxploitation Month Part 2"


In this pimptastic episode, the MC Crew are taking a look at THE MACK (1973) and WILLIE DYNAMITE (1974). Plus a blu-ray giveaway! So grab your pimp cane and your favorite pair of platform shoes and enjoy!











 


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2.18.2016

Deadpool (2016)

DIRECTED BY
Tim Miller

STARRING

Ryan Reynolds - Wade Wilson/ Deadpool
Morena Baccarin - Vanessa Carlysle
Ed Skrein - Francis Freeman/ Ajax
T.J. Miller - Weasel
Gina Carano - Angel Dust
Brianna Hildebrand - Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Stefan Kapicic - Colossus (voice)
Leslie Uggams - Blind Al
Jed Rees - The Recruiter

Genre - Action/Adventure/Comedy/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic Books


Running Time - 108 Minutes



PLOT

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a sarcastic mercenary who falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two live a fulfilling life and become engaged, only for Wade to find out he has cancer. Realizing that he probably won’t survive the disease, Wade takes up an offer by The Recruiter (Jed Rees), who tells him of a special experiment that will cure him of cancer, plus grant him abilities he couldn’t imagine. There, Wade meets Ajax (Ed Skrein), who heads the operation. Ajax decides to torture Wade, telling him that he’s there to be his slave once he activates his mutant abilities after being injected with a serum. While the serum gives Wade lightning reflexes and the ability to regenerate cells that will cure him of anything, it also cures him of his cancer while disfiguring his body. After a battle with Ajax, Wade escapes the experiment and decides to suit up as Deadpool - an antihero whose only motivation is to find Ajax and get revenge on him for ruining his life. It only gets more personal when Ajax realizes that Wade is Deadpool and decides to kidnap Vanessa for leverage.


REVIEW

I’m a fan of Mr. Reynolds and it was tough to watch the guy star in bomb after bomb after bomb, even though he was usually a highlight in each of them. His A-list status was declining, especially after three failed superhero gimmicks. First was the terrible BLADE: TRINITY, which soured the BLADE franchise after two very good installments. Next was  X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, which had Reynolds playing Deadpool for the first time - to disastrous results that resulted in the character getting his mouth wired shut. Obviously the nickname, “Merc With a Mouth” didn’t mean jack to the producers of that film. While decently successful at the box office, the film is seen as a critical failure. Then there was 2012’s GREEN LANTERN, a film that had a lot going for it but fell apart as it went along. Reynolds was struggling to find the right role to build himself back up, popping up in films that no one bothered to watch, or were watched [and well made] but didn’t gain enough attention to really matter in terms of mainstream.

Reynolds, however, never hid the fact that he hated how Deadpool was portrayed in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Being a huge fan of the character, he wanted to redeem the character not only for himself, but for the disappointed fans. Test footage for DEADPOOL was released, which Reynolds jokes he may or may not have helped release, and it gained a lot of internet attention that led to Reynolds stepping in to help produce a faithful adaptation of the Deadpool character that would make fun of his previous film stints and the entire comic book universe through the character’s fourth wall antics and Reynolds’ humorous wit. People were excited by the trailers and really funny marketing, but expectations for the film were low due to the character’s lack of A-list status in comparison to other comic book heroes and Reynolds’ box office performances. However, the film broke a bunch of records for a R-rated film and comic book movie to everyone’s surprise, proving that DEADPOOL can work on a big screen. And much of that credit has to go to Ryan Reynolds himself.


HITS

+ Ryan Reynolds. Let’s face it - the guy was meant to play Wade Wilson. We always knew he was funny. We always knew he was a talented actor. He has the looks and charm that Hollywood loves. He just couldn’t find the right character [at least since VAN WILDER] until DEADPOOL became a reality. And Reynolds is mainly the reason why the film works as well as it does. He’s fully invested in the character, making fun of himself and his fellow comic book actors [especially Hugh Jackman] to get across that Deadpool isn’t your standard comic book character. You feel bad for him when he learns that he has cancer. You root for him when he gets the girl. You laugh with him when he’s goofing around. And you want to be him when he’s kicking ass and breaking the fourth wall. I was so happy when I learned that Reynolds was playing Deadpool all those years ago, only being angry when they wasted him in that terrible WOLVERINE movie. I’m glad he got his second chance and I’m glad he was finally able to make up for that first failure and capitalize on it to become one of the biggest comic book adaptations during its opening weekend. Reynolds seems on board with this character until he can’t do it anymore, and I’m looking forward to what else he has up his sleeve as Deadpool. The absolute highlight.

+ The rest of the cast. Reynolds wouldn’t have been able to make his character work if he didn’t have talented people to play off of. Monica Baccarin is just a delight as Vanessa, Wade’s girlfriend. She’s gorgeous, intelligent, and can give as much as take from Reynolds. Their banter and interaction are just infectious. I can totally believe that Vanessa is Deadpool’s perfect woman, thanks to Baccarin. Maybe they’ll do more with her Copycat alter-ego in a later film, but I liked her a lot here. T.J. Miller as Weasel, and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al were perfect as Deadpool’s inner circle, being sarcastic and realistic in this wacky world. Stefan Kapicic voiced Colossus, making me smile since he finally sounded Russian!! And whoever did the motion capture did a great job as well. Even better was Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Playing a typical emo teenager with a bad ass superpower, Hildebrand brought it and I want to see more of her in another X-MEN film. Nice to see a character who isn’t as popular get some shine. Ed Skrein and Gina Carano did well as Ajax and Angel Dust respectively, carrying a lot of presence that was welcomed. Along with some cool cameos, DEADPOOL rocked it in the casting department.


+ The soundtrack. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 
still has the best soundtrack in any Marvel film. But DEADPOOL is a close second. First of all, hearing Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” during the incredible opening credits made me giddy. You also have Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration” and some Wham! [especially “Careless Whisper”] playing throughout the film as well. Can’t hate on some DMX and Salt-N-Pepa either. All these songs together shouldn’t work, but it does and I enjoyed the film more because of it.


+ The fun screenplay. I thought DEADPOOL’s narrative was pretty damn great. It’s a comic book film. It’s a comedy. It’s an action film. It’s a love story. It all works better than it ought to. The fourth wall breaking aspects never feel forced, feeling true to the title character. I thought the use of flashbacks within the present was well done, and I usually have issues with that sort of thing. The love story and Wade dealing with cancer like a real person gave the film heart that I wasn’t expecting. And the jokes don’t always work, but when they do, they hit hard and will make you laugh. The shots at Hugh Jackman are all in good fun. I also loved the dialogue relating to the X-Universe and the Marvel Universe in general. Maybe the film didn’t need to be R-rated for it to work after all. But I’m glad it was because it gave the film a different feel from recent comic book movies. It’s just a fun script that takes itself serious while not doing so. That’s a tough balance to maintain, but DEADPOOL mostly does it right. One of the better origin films, in my opinion.

+ The direction. I can’t believe Tim Miller never directed a feature before. The visual presentation of DEADPOOL is just fantastic in almost every way. The stylish opening credits with the funny names for the actors and production crew is extremely memorable. The use of flashbacks mixed with the present makes the cliche origin story a lot more bearable. The kinetic energy of the action sequences matches the quirky tone of the script. The use of CGI, especially with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, look great. The film is violent and dark at times, but still manages to be colorful and a bit cartoonish at the same time. Tim Miller was the perfect director for this project, as he understood the characters and the world they lived in. Nice to see a comic book film with a bit of an edge for a change.


MISSES

- The middle portion. Some of the middle act of the film drags a bit, as Wade struggles with moving in with Blind Al in order to avoid Vanessa. It’s not the worst deal ever, but compared to the acts surrounding it, the energy is a bit different. Plus some of the jokes don’t land as well as they should. But it doesn’t ruin the film all that much. However…

- The villains. Marvel, most of the time, has an issue with its villains. If you’re lucky, you get someone like Magneto or Loki to be a threat. Or else, you can get a Yellowjacket. Unfortunately, both Ajax and Angel Dust are on the latter side of things. Both actors are great in their roles, but the characters aren’t threatening enough, nor do they have much to do. I kind of wanted to know more about them and the experiments they were conducting. Instead, they did the cliche “kidnap the girlfriend” plot that we’ve seen countless times already. I wish they had more character development in order to be on the same level as Deadpool. They just seemed “there” because the hero needed villains for the story to work. Maybe we’ll get some better villains in the sequel when Deadpool joins forces with Cable.



THE FINAL HOWL

DEADPOOL isn’t the best R-rated comic book/graphic novel adaptation out there - I think THE CROWDREDD, WATCHMEN, and BLADE II would be tops - but it’s probably the most fun since GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It’s just a violent, over-the-top cartoon that adapts the character in the right way for a movie audience. Juvenile and ridiculous, it’s the kind of film we could all use right now. A stellar cast, headed by Ryan Reynolds in the role he was made for, and stylish action and direction put DEADPOOL near the top of the superhero movie totem pole. It’s not perfect and I wish the villains were better, but it lives up the hype and then some. DEADPOOL is just as fulfilling as a well made chimichanga.



SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4





2.05.2016

Midnight Confessions Ep. 85: "Put cho weight on it!"


This episode starts our 2nd annual Blaxploitation month and we're kicking it off with 2 Rudy Ray Moore films; PETEY WHEATSTRAW - THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW (1977) and DISCO GODFATHER (1979). So put some glide in yo' slide and some hip in yo' dip and always remember to--PUT CHO WEIGHT ON IT! PUT CHO WEIGHT ON IT!!











 


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1.26.2016

[The Lair of the Unwanted] The Tournament of the Unwanted 4: THE BEST AROUND!


It's the end of January and that only means one thing!! Time to get ready for Valentine's Day!! 

Oh...ok so two things. It's time for The Tournament of the Unwanted! Jason and Nolahn welcome Bubbawheat, Dylan Fields and myself as we battle it out to see who'll reign supreme and become the Champion of 2015!











Upload Music Files - Audio Hosting - #122: The Tournament of the ...
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