Quick Movie Review: Year One (2009)

The impetus for me posting the full transcript of my Harold Ramis interview was the missus and me watching Year One. Unfortunately, I did not like it very much. For the most part I liked the performances by guys like Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Platz, Vinnie Jones, the crazy skinny Horatio Sans and others. Unfortunately, none of those actors are really breaking down any comedic barriers or getting into new territory when it comes to their comedy. Overall, I think the story’s pretty interesting. It’s not a caveman movie like everyone originally thought, but a tour through the book of Genesis. Growing up Catholic, going to Catholic school and taking some ancient lit classes in college have given me a pretty good working knowledge of this story, so it was cool to see it from a different angle. The real problem is that the story seems to drag a lot and there are just too many gross-out jokes. Ramis created some of the greatest comedies of all time and he’s directing a movie where Black eats poop. Come on, you’re better than that. I wonder if all those kinds of scenes were taken out, I would have liked it better, but I can’t say because that’s not the case. By the end of movie I was wondering around our place cleaning and doing whatever I could to walk away from the TV. I was just bored and didn’t care anymore. It was sad. I really wanted to like this movie, especially because I’m sure it was a big part of the reason I got to talk to one of my heroes. Oh well, Ramis did a great job of directing the second half of the birth episode of The Office last week, so I’m happy enough. Here’s hoping if Ghostbusters 3 does happen, it’ll be rad. I don’t believe anything Bill Murray’s been saying about wanting to be a ghost, I think he’s just being Bill Murray. But we shall see. If you’re looking for a funny movie to rent, skip this one and watch something else from Ramis’ illustrious videography.

Halloween Scene: Turkey Day Round Up Part 1

2008-12-02
10:10:24 pm

Hey gang, hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving break. My apologies again for my lack of updates these past few weeks. Whatever staying-up-late stamina I had must have been completely spent in October. But, over the Thanksgiving break, Rickey, Em and I went to visit her parents in New Hampshire where they have FearNet and movies on demand so Rickey and I spent every evening watching as many horror movies as we could. Hopefully this long post with reviews will make up for some of my lack of posting.

WAXWORK (1988)

So, after working most of the day, waiting for Rickey to come up (traffic was pretty bad between him and us) and the four hour drive from our place to Em’s parent’s house, we were understandably tired. But that didn’t stop Rickey and I from attempting to watch our first horror movie of the weekend and boy did we choose a doozy. Waxwork is about a bunch of kids who decide it’s a good idea to go to a wax museum that pops up in their neighborhood one day. Actually, there’s a pretty funny scene where two of their group decide it’s a bad idea and bounce. I loved that scene. It reminded me of what I would do in that situation. “You want to go into a stranger’s wax museum even though we have no idea who he is or whether the wax figures will come to life and kill us? No thanks, I’m good.”

In actuality the movie is a bit more creative than that as the kids get sucked into whatever kind of scene the wax figures represent. So, when the girl approaches the vampire set, she’s transported to a creepy castle where she’s forced to eat what looks like cranberry surprise. And then…

Okay, we didn’t get any further than this scene. We were both tired and bored by this point and I’m pretty sure we both fell asleep while watching it. The only other interesting piece of info is that Zach Galligan, of Gremlins fame, stars as a spoiled rich kid. The funny thing is is that Rickey and I are both avid readers of Horror Movie a Day and it turns out that he watched the movie too, though he actually finished it. Sounds like it actually got kind of cool towards the end. Oh well, the on demand stuff saves your progress in the film for 24 hours, but by then we were watching…

CHRISTMAS EVIL (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out, a.k.a. Terror in Toyland) (1980)

And boy, what a stinker. After a long day of being terrorized, uh, I mean spending Thanksgiving with Em’s family, we came back and everyone eventually went to bed so we decided to get ready for Christmas by watching a movie about a dude dressed as Santa killing people. According to my beloved Creature Features, this is the first incident of such a film and it is not a good one. The whole plot revolves around this dude who saw his parents not really doing anything sexual (they were barely touching and fully clothed while pops was dressed as Santa) who now sleeps in Santa PJs, works in a toy factory and keeps tabs on the neighborhood kids to see who’s naughty and nice. That’s a big chunk of the movie.

I think we both fell asleep at about the same time Thursday night. The next evening we figured we didn’t have too much time left and put the boring flick back on. It’s actually kind of interesting in the last 15 minutes. If you feel compelled to watch this movie, do so from that point on and you’ll get the gist of it. Once the killings finally start happening (on the steps of a church with the jerkiest, most apathetic clergy I’ve ever seen), the movie doesn’t really pick up as our killer finds himself back at his company Christmas party celebrating with the people who were earlier making fun of him. It really doesn’t make any sense. Oh, there’s also a scene where Santa scares a kid by hiding in the bushes in his bright red suit. In true horror movie fashion, the kid’s mom doesn’t investigate her son’s accusations of a man in the bushes and just gives them a quizzical look before driving off.

But the best part of the movie is the very end where Santa runs into some kids who he then uses as human shields once the parents get a look at him. By this point, we’ve already seen some Santas in a line-up, so you know the police are on the case. The problem is, how do these people know this Santa is the killer? One dude is so convinced that he pulls a switchblade on Santa. Santa gets away which leads to a Frankenstein-like mob with torches and everything chasing Santa through the street. He just barely escapes into his chimo van with a sleigh and reindeer painted on it (how the cops weren’t able to track this down after the church murders while it was just sitting outside the office party, I’ll never know). He heads over to his brothers house, where his brother almost chokes him to death, but he gets up and hops back into the chimo van just in time for the torch-carrying mob to catch up, causing him to swerve off of a bridge and…fly off into the sky Grease-style. I guess there’s some discussion about whether he survives or not, seeing as how you can hear a car crash sound at the same time as the van flies away. I don’t really care either way because this movie’s not good, but the image of that van flying away is just great. Rickey took a picture with his iPhone and it’s awesome. So, after finishing Christmas Evil on Thursday we watched an actual good movie called…

MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)

Which I had thought was a Clive Barker movie ever since I first heard about it, but it turns out it’s based on one of his stories. Anyway, some of you who are more into the goings on of the horror industry know that Lionsgate kind of buried this movie by giving it a limited release in cheap theaters only, which I’ve never actually heard of before. I was really surprised when I first heard this and still thought it was a Clive Barker movie, but I was still surprised after watching it because the cast is fairly well known, though less in the star power vein and more in the “hey, it’s that guy from that thing” way. You’ve got Bradley Cooper who will always hold a special place in my heart for his involvement in Wedding Crashes, Vinnie Jones who’s just awesome, Brooke Shields (?!), Ted Raimi and Leslie Bibb who played the reported who tried to corner Tony Stark in Iron Man (and then slept with him). With the right advertising and one of those annoying “from the creator of Hellraiser/Nightbreed/Lord of Illusion/half my nightmares” things, I don’t see why MMT couldn’t have had a fairly successful run in theaters. I understand the whole concept of studios wanting to make money on valid properties, but how the heck did Saw become a valid property? Someone needs to give another new franchise a chance. Gimme Trick r Treat already!

Anyway, I didn’t fall in love with MMT, but I did really like it. Cooper plays a photographer who’s trying to capture the real, raw underbelly of late night New York. While doing this he comes across a man (Jones) who he thinks killed a model he photographed the night before. As he slips further and further into obsession (following Jones at all hours of the night and showing up at his job as a butcher), Cooper’s girlfriend, Bibb, gets more and more concerned for him. From here on out, I’ll be in SPOILER territory.

So, as you can imagine this being a work based on Clive Barker, this movie doesn’t just lie in the real world, though there are plenty of real world scares. Jones is pretty terrifying as the killer. He’s already a huge dude, but by making him a huge silent guy in a crisp suit with a meat hook and a huge metal meat mallet, man, he’s just creepy. As Rickey pointed out, he doesn’t even need a mask like your typical slasher. And Cooper as the obsessed photographer really kills it, especially because it turns out that he’s right, but no one will listen to him. That’s one of my big fears in life, to know what’s really going on but not having anyone listen to you. Plus, there’s some real nail biters with Cooper getting way too close to Jones.

Like I said, the ending comes with some unearthly elements as it turns out that Jones isn’t exactly what he seems to be (even though he does murder people, remove their clothes and leave them hanging naked in a car of the subway. I don’t want to ruin it all, but it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of any of the above actors (though Shields only appears as a photo critic), Barker or horror.

Uncharacteristically, Rickey and I weren’t done with horror movies so we moved on to…

PUMPKINHEAD (1988)

I’d actually watched Pumpkinhead before at Em’s parents’ place so I wasn’t really paying attention. Lance Henriksen stars in this Stan Winston-directed flick in which SPOILER WARNING Henriksen’s son gets killed by a dude on a dirt bike (it’s okay to laugh, it’s kind of silly) and then finds a witch who brings a vengeance monster called Pumpkinhead to life so it can kill the killer and his friends. That brief summary doesn’t really do the movie, which is actually pretty interesting, justice. There’s a lot more to this whole thing than just a revenge plot, as Henriksen grows to regret his decision and tries to actually stop Pumpkinhead. There’s really a lot going on and Winston did a great job with the movie, it’s too bad he didn’t direct more movies. And, of course, you can’t talk about a Stan Winston movie without talking about the creature effects. Pumpkinhead does look an awful lot like an alien, but it’s a really cool design, though I’m not really sure why they bother calling him Pumpkinhead (he looks nothing like a Pumpkin, though his grave is surrounded by pumpkins. Like I said I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, but the movie doesn’t really end like you might expect and is definitely a fun one to check out.

Okay, that’s enough for today. Check back tomorrow for the second and final part!

Riding Hella Dirty: A Hell Ride (2008) Review

2008-11-07
4:53:29 am

Here’s what you need to ask yourself to figure out if you’d like Hell Ride. Do you like Quentin Tarantino and the movies that he likes? Does the idea of a movie with Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, David Carradine and Dennis Hopper sound awesome? Does the idea of amoral bikers doing whatever they want wherever they want bother you? If the answers were yes, YES and hell no, then Hell Ride is the movie for you.

It’s by no means a great movie, but writer, director, lead and classic motorcycle movie dude Larry Bishop definitely loves what he’s doing and it permeates the film. Everyone involved really feels like they’re having fun, even when spouting off some fairly ridiculous dialogue (the fire for sex metaphor goes on WAY too long).

There’s a cool back story to this movie that’s related in the behind the scenes featurette on the DVD. Not surprisingly, Quentin is a big fan of Larry Bishop’s biker flicks and told him it’s his destiny to make the best biker flick of all time. Having not seen any of the others, I can’t compare, but it’s a cool backstory. Bishop picked up the proposition and ran with it. And I’ve got to give it to the guy for getting a very impressive cast together. Aside from the guys mentioned above, there are about 100 sexy ladies and Eric Balfour who some of you might remember as Jesse from the first few episodes of Buffy.

The plots probably a little more complex than it needs to be with plenty of flashbacks and all that, but it ends up working int he end and would probably have made a lot more sense if I wasn’t so tired when I started watching it last night.

So here’s the deal, Bishop leads a gang with Madsen and Balfour as his numbers one and two. Hopper’s a part of their crew too. Bishop and his boys run up against another gang with Carradine as the head and Vinnie Jones as the street leader (or something like that). Bishop’s character is also trying to make good on a promise he made to a woman who got killed 30 years ago.

I’ll be honest, I missed a lot of the plot and got the basics from the extra features on the DVD which was helpful, but I still really enjoyed the movie. There’s a lot of just dudes being badass which I appreciate. You definitely won’t see another movie like this. I was also impressed with the age of the leads. Not counting the women, you’ve got Bishop whose birthday isn’t posted on IMDb, but he was making biker movies in the 70s (he’s also Rat Packer Larry Bishop’s kid!), Madsen is 51, Jones is 43, Balfour’s the baby at 31 while Carradine and Hopper are both 72. You probably won’t get a cast like that in any other movie this year. And man, they’re all bad dudes in this flick. And not just cool, but morally all over the place.

Madsen does his usual thing. Hopper’s actually less crazy than you’d expect if you’ve seen some of his other weirder work like that nutty Crow sequel he was in where he played a gangsta pimp. What happened to that guy? Carradine gets kind of a different role than he has in Quentin’s movies. And Balfour does a great job as the new kid who’s having fun but also working hard to prove himself. And they all look great together on screen, almost like a superhero team.

It’s fun stuff. Not brilliant film making, but definitely a freaking fun movie.