Friday, May 30, 2014

Movie Review: From Dusk Till Dawn

 When Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino get together on a project, cool things happen.  

 From Dusk Till Dawn is not an amazing vampire movie.  It does not set a new standard in the genre, and does nothing that hasn't been seen or explored in other films.  From Dusk Till Dawn simply is a great vampire flic, a film with a lot of great lines and great scenes.  It is one of those films where you can tell that everyone loves the project and everyone was having fun.

 Quentin Tarantino lives a charmed life.  He knows people who know how to have a good time making a movie.  This film includes a who's who list of incredibly talented and well-established players; George Clooney, Selma Hayek, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin (in three roles!), Danny Trejo, the legendary Tom Savini, Fred Williamson... these people just don't act in films, they shape what comes out of Hollywood.  Partnered with the vision of Robert Rodriguez, this crew could make just about anything and you would HAVE to see it.  

Putting the "fun" in dysfunction.
 The film essentially has four movements; our introduction to the Gecko Brothers is as bombastic and cool as one has come to expect from Mr. Tarantino, our introduction to the Fuller Family whom the Geckos use to get into Mexico and away from the police who are seeking them out, establishing the environment of the Titty Twister Bar, and the vampire massacre.  Of those four movements, the vampire scenes are actually the least interesting (despite being over-the-top and maxing out the old-school special effects bag-of-tricks).  It is the dialogue throughout the first three movements that truly makes the movie.  All the main characters are broken in some way, and must come together in order (for some of them) to survive the monsters they encounter. 

The hotness...
 Thankfully, the vampires are not the hip androgynous dark angels that have become the Hollywood standard.  The vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn are demonic spawn from hell with forms taken directly from some twisted nightmare.  The gory fight-and-kill scenes that follow their reveal will definitely satisfy the blood-and-guts fan.  While I was a little disappointed with the ease that the vampires were dispatched, the vampire scenes were still very well done.

 From Dusk Till Dawn is, in one word, fun.  While I doubt it is anyone's top ten favorites, it is totally worth seeing. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

WARNING!  I am about to rip on what is considered a classic horror film.  Please try to restrain your horror-nerd rage.

 Day of the Dead is George Romero's third "Dead" film (preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead).  Like the previous two films, the aim of this story is to re-enforce that we humans are the real monsters, that extreme pressures on us result in either the best or the worst of us coming to the forefront, and that the end is inevitable.  Night of the Living Dead set the standard for this kind of story and is without a doubt a horror film classic.  Dawn of the Dead applied a bigger budget to the same concept with spectacular results.  Day of the Dead... well, kind of falls flat in my opinion.  

I had this professor in college.
 The situation which first arose in Night of the Living Dead is now almost certainly beyond hope.  The dead are coming back to life to cannibalize the living.  In an underground military facility, scientists with the protection of a small military unit are struggling to find a means to reverse the zombie-epidemic, but hope is dwindling.  Only a handful of the original team survives to continue the effort, and the number of dead outside the fence-line is on the rise.  Tensions run high as everyone is at their breaking-point... Blah, blah, blah.

 You've been here before.  You know the heroine is going to find a way to stand against the corrupt soldiers and with her misfit friends somehow make the best of a bad situation.  All the assholes in this film, and the characters are almost all one variation or another on the asshole-theme, will get killed and eaten.  There just isn't a lot of depth to these characters.

Dead on the inside.
 First, I want to focus on the military unit.  The only explanation for these guys; out of shape, beards, long hair, mismatched and poorly worn uniforms, is that they are the worst of the local National Guard or Reserve units that were available.  The CO who made the decision to post these guys in the bunker must have thought it was a scrub-detail, so he sent his worst soldiers.  With the world falling apart around them, a real military unit tightens-up on discipline and takes their job more seriously.  

My first time hearing Slayer, I had the same reaction.
 One of those jobs, for example, is collecting specimens from a pen deep in the underground bunker.  It is a dangerous job requiring at least three people, but if you have more people on hand to do it, what would be the harm in having as many hands on deck?  In fact, would it not make it safer to have a couple of extra bodies with guns ready to drop the zombie if things don't go as they should?  You are beneath a massive concrete slab with no access from above other than a cargo lift that you control, so no one is on guard duty or engaged in other tasks.  

 I know, I know... I am over-thinking it.  The heroine is a bit of a bitch and not really that likeable.  Her strung-out boyfriend is overly pathetic.  The cowboy Captain comes off as a street-tough with his two toadies for good measure.  The Jamaican helicopter pilot is the epitome of cool, the lead scientist is as "mad" as any other... You get the idea.  Everyone here is a caricature of a caricature.
Even he saw this coming.
 The special effects are believable and not overly done.  The zombies are hardly a factor until the films finale, and then it just seems to be a showcase of the special effects artist's skills in making zombies and edible body parts.  

 I know that this is akin to sacrilege to some, but of all the Dead movies to date, this is one by George Romero that you could afford to skip.  Bub is cool and all, but doesn't make-up for what the film lacks.   

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Movie Review: Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious: Chapter 2 was a bit of a let down. 

 It wasn't terrible, as far as sequels go.  The story was entertaining and there were some creepy scenes.  The problem is that, because it is a sequel, we kind of already know where it is going.  There is an interesting plot-twist or two, but the film isn't as scary as the first one.  Nothing new is really presented.  In fact, the story appears to resolve itself, up to the very last scene of the film.  

 The strange goings-on are under investigation by the Police, and Josh Lambert is the primary suspect in the mysterious death of Medium Elise Rainer.  The family move to Josh's childhood home in order to try to get some normality to their lives, but strange things continue to occur.  Josh's wife, Renai, remains uncertain about her husband and continues to see apparitions.  Josh's behavior becomes ever more abnormal, and the children seem to be menaced by something just beyond their understanding.  Josh's mother Lorraine turns to paranormal investigators Specks and Tucker for help trying to protect her family. 
This chick has issues...

 The special effects were equal to the first film, though far more is reveled visually, which kind of takes away from the edge of the monsters.  The story is much tighter, but it is one of those films that tells all the answers to the questions of the last film that made that film great.  Despite the monsters and the paranormal events, the film comes-off as more of a mystery-drama than a horror film.  

 The one real upshot is at the end.  Again, the film has resolved all the issues of the first film.  But, at the very end, something happens that suggests that things are far from over.  With that in mind, hopefully Chapter 3 will be amazing, or at least on par with the first film.