Archive for the Bad Situations Category

Pickin’ the Carcass: THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012)

Posted in 2013, Bad Situations, Madness, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Thrillers with tags , , , on July 12, 2013 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012)
By Michael Arruda

House-At-The-End-Of-The-Street-Poster-Jennifer-Lawrence

Because word-of-mouth on THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (2012) was so bad, I kept away from this one upon its initial release.  But like all true horror movie fans, I want to see everything, good or bad, and so I caught up with THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET on streaming video the other night.

While I didn’t love it, there were a few things about it that I found pleasantly surprising. 

Teenager Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her single mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) move into a new home to start a fresh chapter in their lives.  No, no!  This is a horror movie!  Don’t move in!  Go somewhere else!  Actually, their house isn’t the titled house at the end of the street, nor is this really a horror movie, but still, they’re in for some trouble in their new home, as if we couldn’t figure this out. 

They learn that the entire neighborhood shuns the house at the end of their street because years before a young girl had murdered her parents there.  After the murder, the girl disappeared, and legend has it she still lives in the woods.  Ooohh!!   Creepy!  Strangely, the brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), now in college, remains in the house. 

Elissa is a rather rebellious teenager, and she and her mom don’t really get along.  Against her mom’s wishes, Elissa strikes up a friendship with Ryan, which isn’t hard for her to do, since Ryan comes off as a really nice guy, a bit quiet and introspective, but nice all the same, and the rest of the people her own age she meets are pretty much complete jerks.

Sarah relays her fears about Ryan to the town sheriff, Weaver (Gil Bellows), the one sensible person living in the community.  Weaver tells Sarah that Ryan is all right, that the folks in town have given him a hard time, and that he hasn’t given the police any trouble since he’s lived in the house.

But this is a thriller after all, and so it turns out that Ryan isn’t what he seems. Just what has weird-boy Ryan been up to, you ask?  It seems he’s keeping his sister Carrie Anne prisoner in the basement of his house, or at the very least he’s giving her food and shelter and keeping her hidden from the authorities.  Nah, that sounds too good.  It’s actually much more sinister than that.  You see, his sister suffered a brain injury as a child, and so she’s mentally challenged, which means in order for Ryan to keep her there, he really does have to treat her like a prisoner.  She’s locked in a basement. She’s not exactly hiding out in a plush bedroom with all the amenities.

And yes, everyone once in a while, Carrie Anne escapes, and Ryan has to pursue her into the woods to bring her back.

Now, this revelation comes early in the movie, and so this isn’t exactly a plot spoiler, especially when there are more twists to come.  As Elissa grows closer to Ryan, against her mother’s wishes, things get complicated because THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET isn’t finished with its twists and plot revelations yet.   Elissa, you might want rethink those dating plans with Ryan.  He’s got some issues.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a well-acted thriller that tells a solid story until the very end when it loses its way with some revelations that aren’t as shocking as they’re intended to be.  But for the most part, I enjoyed this movie, especially since I expected little from it.

Jennifer Lawrence is very good as Elissa.  While her portrayal a of moody teen isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, I like Lawrence a lot, and at this point pretty much enjoy anything she’s in. 

Elisabeth Shue is just as good as Sarah, and she delivers a very sincere performance as a single mom trying to make things work with her rebellious teenage daughter.  Her frustrations over the challenging process of connecting with her teen daughter come off as genuine.

One problem I did have however with Shue and Lawrence was I had trouble seeing these two as mother and daughter. They don’t resemble each other at all, nor did they share similar personalities.  I didn’t really buy them as mother and daughter.

Max Thieriot turns in a decent performance as Ryan.  He’s sufficiently odd and quirky, yet he also comes off as sincere and likable.  I believed that Elissa would be attracted to him.  Likewise, Gil Bellows is agreeable as Weaver, the sheriff, who represents the voice of reason inside a community where reasonable people don’t seem to live. 

As a drama, THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET works, and for 2/3 of this movie, I was really into it.  Where it stumbles is as a thriller.  Director Mark Tonderai forgot to give this one an edge.  The expected thrills and chills don’t come until late in the game, and they’re not very effective as they’re rather shallow and superficial.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is not much of a scary movie.  It’s certainly not a horror movie.

The screenplay by David Loucka is mediocre.  It does a nice job creating affable characters, it presents a somewhat intriguing story, but it all becomes rather routine towards the end.  Had the story been darker and more sinister throughout, then perhaps the twists at the end would have worked better.  As it stands, they don’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie.

Loucka also wrote the screenplay to another “haunted house” thriller DREAM HOUSE (2011) starring Daniel Craig, which was pretty bad.  Like THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, DREAM HOUSE also had a dark revelation midway through the movie, and then added more twists later.  THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a step up in terms of drama, but the horror elements in both movies are very weak.

As a result, THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET is a mixed bag.  On the one hand, actors Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue deliver compelling likeable performances, leading a decent cast that does the same, and they’re taking part in a story that isn’t half bad.  But on the other hand, the expected thrills don’t really come until the end of the movie, and for the most part, they run hollow and superficial, because really, I never really felt that the Jennifer Lawrence character was in true danger.  Why not?  Because the threat in this one is never clearly defined.  Just what exactly should these characters be afraid of?  You don’t really find out until the very end.  That’s way too late in my book.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET plays like a dark drama, and as such, is somewhat likeable.  But it’s not a horror movie, and even to call it a thriller is a reach. 

I give it two and a half knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Transmissions to Earth: THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 70s Horror, B-Movies, Bad Situations, Disease!, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Low Budget Movies, Monsters, Mutants!, Science Fiction, Trasmissions to Earth, Unfortunate Astronauts with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH Presents:

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THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)
Review by L.L. Soares

Incredible Melting Man (1977)In this business I come upon a lot of bad movies. But what makes them “so bad they’re good” or just plain bad? Sometimes it’s pretty easy to answer that.

But I’m still not sure which one THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)  is.

Sure it has some funny aspects about it. But it’s also pretty much a waste of time, and has a storyline so thin, it could slip between your fingers.

It’s actually amazing that this one was made in 1977. It has the look and feel of a bad 1950s sci-fi film.

As we begin, three astronauts are passing through the rings of Saturn! Pretty cool. This must be in the far future, right? Well, not really, when we get back to Earth, it still looks an awful lot like 1977. Who knew we’d perfect faster-than- light interplanetary space travel so quickly?

As they pass through the rings, something goes wrong. This is when we see stock footage of sunspots close up, in negative. It’s supposed to be the astronauts “seeing the sun through the rings of Saturn,” and they’ll use it a few more times in the movie.  Two of the astronauts die soon after. The third one, Steve West (Alex Rebar) survives, but is horribly disfigured.

We have no clue how he gets back to Earth, but he does, and it’s kept under wraps (how do you keep the return of an astronaut secret, anyway?). Astronaut West is also “under wraps” literally as he’s wrapped up in bandages. When we see him after his return home, he’s bandaged and strapped to a bed in an undisclosed hospital. All of a sudden he just gets up, breaks the straps, and runs away, chasing an overweight nurse through the hallways.

Suddenly, Steve West is on the loose. But he’s not the same guy anymore. Now he’s the INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, whose skin is constantly oozing off his body. His face looks like a skull covered with dripping wax. Oh, and he’s radioactive! So you don’t want him to touch you. He goes around killing people, and we’re told he needs new cells to survive, but it’s not clear how he gets those cells. Is he eating people or what? One guy has his head torn off and thrown into a waterfall, another person is ripped apart – if Steve is eating people for their cells, then he sure does love to play with his food!. We never actually know what’s he’s doing to his victims, but they end up a bloody mess.

Meanwhile, everywhere he goes, he leaves dripping oozy flesh in his wake. You would think someone like this would be easy to track down, but no way! Doctor Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) is ordered to go find Steve and bring him back to the army hospital by General Michael Perry (Myron Healey), but Nelson spends most of the time goofing off. At one point he’s home making a sandwich for his wife. Pretty awful tracking job, Dr. Nelson! He tells his associate Dr. Loring (Lisle Wilson) that his wife has had three miscarriages about this same stage in her pregnancy and she’s nervous something will go wrong again. This is about the time Nelson realizes that Steve West, who he is supposed to recapture for the government, is radioactive, and he’s worried that this might affect his wife (one of the few real dramatic aspects of the script, although it’s soon forgotten). Maybe that’s why he doesn’t seem to try very hard to find West.

Incredible-Melting-Man-LC-2-kleinWhen Dr. Nelson has no luck finding West, General Perry comes to town, demanding results. Meanwhile, the monster who used to be Steve West continues on his rampage until there’s a big showdown in some kind of power plant.

There’s not much of a plot, as you can tell. It basically amounts to 1) man comes back from space as some kind of monster, 2) government guys try to track him down when he goes on a killing spree, and 3) big showdown where the monster is killed.  Pretty-by-the numbers, and not very compelling.

The acting is so-so for the most part, but no one stands out here as a Shakespearean actor! Burr DeBenning (also in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: DREAM CHILD, 1989, and lots of TV shows like MATLOCK and FALCOLN CREST), as Dr. Ted Nelson, seems to love standing around, wasting time, and I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be funny, but he is. He comes off as completely incompetent. Myron Healey is convincing as General Perry, in a “TV general” kind of way. Healey had a long career as a cowboy or a military man in the movies and on TV, and was actually in tons of westerns in the 1950s and 60s, as well as such other horror/sci-fi classics as VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE (1962) and THE UNEARTHLY (1957) , and the TV-movie V (1983), and was also Colonel Wright in one of the best episodes of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER, “Mr. R.I.N.G.” (from 1975). Local Sheriff Neil Blake (Michael Alldredge, who was also in THE ENTITY, 1982, and V, 1983) is okay as the frustrated cop who wants answers – that the government just isn’t giving him. Ann Sweeny is likable enough as Ted Nelson’s wife, Judy, and Alex Rebar is serviceable as Steve West/the Melting Man, since all he has to do is put on crazy makeup and run around causing trouble.

There’s also a great (but short) scene where a photographer tries to coerce a model to take off her top on the beach, until the monster shows up. The model is played by genre legend Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith. Future movie director Jonathan Demme also has a cameo as a character named Matt Winters, another one of the monster’s victims.

Probably the biggest star in this one is the makeup artist, the legendary Rick Baker, in one of his earlier jobs. The Melting Man is not one of his best creations, but it certainly looks too good for this movie! It’s amazing what Baker would do with a bigger budget and real equipment (see AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, just four years later in 1981).

Rick Baker's makeup effects for the monster might be the ONLY reason to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN!

Rick Baker’s makeup effects for the monster might be the ONLY reason to see THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN!

Star Alex Rebar (the Melting Man) had roles on TV shows like THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and MURDER, SHE WROTE. He was also one of the (9!) writers of the Italian exorcism classic, BEYOND THE DOOR (1974), and his first acting job was in a movie called MICROSCOPIC LIQUID SUBWAY TO OBLIVION (1970), which I would love to see, just for the title alone.

Director William Sachs also gave us GALAXINA (1980)  and SPOOKY HOUSE (2002).

Not bad enough to be good, and not good at all, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN is for fans of bad cinema only- who don’t mind wasting 90 minutes of their lives – or Rick Baker completists.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

THE PURGE (2013)

Posted in 2013, Bad Situations, Cinema Knife Fights, Controverisal Films, Dystopian Futures, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Masks, Suspense, The Future, Thrillers with tags , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE PURGE (2013)
By L.L. Soares (with a brief appearance by Michael Arruda)

The-Purge-2013-Movie-Poster(THE SCENE: Interior of a house at twilight. The annual Purge ritual is about to begin)

L.L. SOARES: Ah, it’s almost time for the Purge, Michael! I can hardly wait. (starts strapping on axes and handguns and chainsaws and hunting knives and chainsaws and shotguns and ice picks and rocket launchers).

MICHAEL ARRUDA; That sure is a lot of stuff.

LS: You bet. I take this holiday seriously. It’s the one time of the year I can get away with murder, literally, without it being a crime.

(LOUD NOISE is heard. The sound of metal crunching)

LS: What the hell is that? (contines to strap on things like battleaxes and longswords and maces and a gattling gun and poison darts and venomous snakes and the shiny ball from PHANTASM)

MA: Oops.

LS: What do you mean…Oops?

MA: I think I accidentally pressed the “Lock Down” button. Nobody can get in now.

LS: That’s okay. I can still go outside, right?

(MA does not respond)

LS: Right?

(MA twiddles thumbs)

LS: RIGHT??

MA: Well, you see, I’ve got my system on a timer. No one can disarm it until the Purge is over. So you can’t leave.

LS: You’re telling me I waiting all year long for Purge night so that I can commit whatever crimes I want and not be arrested, and on this momentous night, you have rigged it so I can’t leave your house?

MA: Bingo.

(LS straps on one last item, a little tiny Derringer, and goes to take a step forward, and collapses under the weight of everything he has strapped to himself.)

MA: Looks like you wouldn’t be able to make it ouside with all that stuff anyway.

LS: I could always downgrade!

MA: Look, you can’t join in on the Purge this year. Deal with it. In the meantime, we can make popcorn and review this week’s movie. Which just happens to be THE PURGE. Do you want to start?

LS (starts crying and stamping his feet): But I wanted to do some killing and pillaging!

MA: I said I was sorry.

LS: Okay, I’ll start the review. But you owe me one.

MA: You start. I’ll go put some popcorn in the microwave. (Leaves the room)

THE PURGE takes place is a dystopian future. Or is utopian? I guess it depends on your point of view. There’s low unemployment, a low crime rate, no war, and lots of prosperity. How did society achieve all this, you ask? Well, there’s some talk of “New Founding Fathers,” so I’m guessing a new kind of government has taken over. And part of this new regime is an annual ritual, the Purge, which states that one night a year—from 7pm until 7am the next morning—all crime is legal, including murder (of course, there’s a clause in there where certain government people with a clearance of 10 or higher are exempt and cannot be killed. Those guys always have to cover their asses). There’s also a restriction on the kinds of weapons you can use, I noticed, too. Well, enough about that….the idea is that if society can cut loose and go bonkers one night a year, it will purge everyone’s violent tendencies so they can go back to being model citizens again the rest of the year.

I actually found this premise really interesting. Finally, a horror movie about IDEAS. Most Hollywood horror movies are more concerned with body counts. Could a future like this ever really happen? Who knows. But it’s an interesting theory. I for one have always really dug the theme of civilization vs. savagery; it’s a theme that has even popped up in some of my fiction.

(Pulls out a copy of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents and thumbs through it)

Anyway, our protagonists are your typical American family, the Sandins. There’s the father, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke, most recently in last year’s above-average thriller, SINISTER) , mother Mary (Lena Headey, probably best known these days as the villainous Cersei Lannister in the megahit HBO series GAME OF THRONES), daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and son Charlie (Max Burkholder). Daddy made big money selling security systems to rich families just like theirs in anticipation of the Purge. The family sits around the TV to celebrate the beginning of the news coverage—like it’s New Year’s Eve or something—and the big lockdown of their home. All seems well in SandinLand.

That is until Charlie sees a wounded man (Edwin Hodge) desperately seeking shelter from a gang of psychos. The kid can’t just sit by and let the guy be murdered, so he opens the doors to let him in. James immediately locks things up again, but there’s suddenly a stranger loose in their house. Meanwhile, up in Zoey’s room, her boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) snuck into the house before lockup, so he can reason with her dad about their relationship (James thinks he’s too old for Zoey). His logic being “He can’t throw me out, he has to listen to me.”

Oh yeah, and there’s a gang of psychos outside, banging on the door to be let in. Seems that they were hunting the wounded man for sport, this being Purge Night and all, and since they’re completely within their rights to do it, they are rather ticked off that someone has spoiled their fun. So they offer the Sandin family a choice. Send the wounded guy out to them so they can finish having fun. Or they’ll force their way in and kill everyone.

The psychos look like preppy Ivy League college kids wearing creepy masks and carrying various weapons. They’re led by  led by a “Polite Stranger” (that’s what they call him in the credits) played by Rhys Wakefield. He’s so psycho, he kills one of his own friends for speaking out of turn during the negotiations. Polite Stranger is also the only one of the gang who removes his mask, so we can see his leering, preppy-boy face.

So what’s going to happen? Is the family going to track down that homeless guy and send him out to be butchered or will they stand and fight? Can the bad guys really get inside when the house has state-of-the-art security that James had installed himself? And what about Henry, will he finally earn James’s respect and the right to date his daughter?

All this and more will be revealed when you see THE PURGE.

(Sound of microwave beeping in another room)

LS: Sounds like Michael is almost ready with that popcorn. I’d really like to hear his opinion of this movie. Hey Michael, get in here.

Anyway, like I said before, I thought the concept of “The Purge” was kind of cool. This is not the first time we have seen something like this, of course. This film has elements of “siege on a house” movies like STRAW DOGS (1971) and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) — both of which have been remade in recent years—the teenage thugs are reminiscent of the Droogies in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971); the creepy masks and sense of mystery and menace are right out of THE STRANGERS (2008), and even the concept of the Purge itself is similar to the sacrifices made by the kids in THE HUNGER GAMES, (2012) by just as merciless a government (which in turn brings to mind Shirley Jackson’s classic story, “The Lottery,” and the Japanese movie BATTLE ROYALE, 2000). As I said, it’s not a completely new idea, but it’s a clever spin on it, and it works well here.

(Looks around)

LS: Where the hell is Michael with that popcorn? And he better have stocked up on beer, too.

(LS wanders down the hall and downstairs, heading toward the kitchen. When he gets there, there’s no sign of Michael. And the microwave is still beeping)

LS: Michael, where are yooooou?

That’s funny. (Pops open the microwave and starts eating the popcorn)

Anyway, back to the review. Director James DeMonaco previously gave us the drama LITTLE NEW YORK (2009), which also starred Hawke, and was previously a screenwriter, one of his scripts in fact being the 2005 remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (coincidence?). DeMonaco does a good job building suspense here, and maintaining it throughout. I thought this movie was a solid piece of filmmaking.

The score, by Nathan Whitehead, is also quite good, helping to set the tone and build suspense throughout. (Barry Lee Dejasu interviews Whitehead for his Scoring Horror column tomorrow).

The cast is very good, beginning with Hawke and Headey. I was on the fence about Hawke for a long time, but he’s been in a string of interesting films lately. And it’s ironic that the same day THE PURGE comes out, his other new film BEFORE MIDNIGHT, a smart romantic drama by Richard Linklater, which could not be more different, also opens in several cities. The man is on a roll.

Even the kids are good in this one, although I was cursing when Charlie unlocked the house so the wounded guy could get in. I know he thought he was doing the right thing, but to put his whole family at risk, I wanted to strangle the brat. His is the first of several moral decisions these characters have to make, though.

Rhys Wakefield is also really good as the “Polite Stranger.” He has an almost Joker-like quality to him that reminded me of the late Heath Ledger. Wakefield is suitably creepy here, and I wanted more of his character, and I wanted to know more about him. But there isn’t a lot of room for character development when everything hits the fan.

I also like how THE PURGE deals with issues of class and race. In this future of lower crime, there’s also more poverty, and the evening news debates whether the Purge was thought up to legally wipe out people that society didn’t want. And by society, they obviously mean “rich society.” The wounded man who is given sanctuary in the Sandins’ house is black, homeless and, judging by the dog tags around his neck, a veteran of one of those wars we no longer have in this alternate future, and yet he’s hunted like an animal by privileged preppies in Halloween masks.

I really enjoyed this one. It was well-acted, suspenseful, thoughtful and shined a light on the ugly side of human nature. That’s what good horror is supposed to do! Show us the sides of humanity we would rather not see.

I give this one three and a half knives.

Now would normally be the time when Michael pipes in with his lame-brained review of the movie, but he’s clearly not around. I bet he’s playing some kind of prank on me.

(A MAN enters the kitchen, wearing a creepy mask and holding a machete)

MASKED MAN: It’s Purge night. Time for you to meet your maker.

LS: Who the hell are you, and how did you get in here. And what did you do with Michael?

MASKED MAN: Who’s Michael? I snuck in through a cellar window that wasn’t covered up. And now, say good-bye (raises machete)

LS: And me without all my weapons. Seems like I left them all upstairs…Uh oh.

MASKED MAN: Here I come. Ready or not.

(LS grins and pulls out an AK-47)

LS: Except for this one. (Blows the guy away)

LS: Hey, that was fun. I hope more people sneak in!

(MA enters the room)

MA: What’s going on in here? What’s all the racket? I leave you alone for a couple of minutes and you’re already getting into mischief.

(Looks at the dead guy in the mask)

MA: How did he get in here?

LS: He said something about an uncovered cellar window?

MA: Uh, oh, I better go check that out.

LS: Hey, wait a minute. I just finished my review of THE PURGE. Do you have anything to add?

MA: I was so busy preparing for Purge Night, I didn’t have time to see it.

LS: You’re kidding me.

MA (shrugs): Oops.

LS (looks at the clock): Well, my review is over and there’s still 10 hours to go of the Purge. I just thought of something. I can’t go outside to cause mayhem, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun. I’m in here, after all, with you.

MA: Umm…what are you getting at?

LS: You’re it. I’m going to count to 100 and then come looking for you with a chainsaw. Won’t that be fun? So after you check the cellar, make sure to hide real good!

(MA presses the “UNLOCK” button)

MA: I suddenly remembered how to let you go outside.

LS: Hurray!

(LS then proceeds to strap on guns and knives and chainsaws and swords and rocket launchers and battleaxes, and then topples over when he tries to go outside)

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE PURGE~three and a half knives.

AFTERSHOCK (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Bad Situations, Disaster Films, Eli Roth, Escaped Convicts, Exotic Locales, LL Soares Reviews, Suspense with tags , , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by knifefighter

AFTERSHOCK (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

AFTERSHOCK_Radius_Keyart_1920x25601

Originally, Michael Arruda and I were going to see this one and review it together for CKF, but something went wrong with the distribution. Instead of coming to a theater near me, this one popped up only in theaters way out in the suburbs. And it wasn’t playing near Michael at all. I figured we would just have to skip this one, but luckily it is currently showing on cable OnDemand.

I have no idea why this one didn’t get a proper release, but it’s a decent little disaster flick. The one recognizable star here is director Eli Roth, who has appeared in such Quentin Tarantino films as DEATH PROOF (2007) and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009). I guess someone else finally decided to utilize his acting skills. Director Nicolas Lopez puts him in good use in AFTERSHOCK as an American tourist, hanging out with friends in Chile.  (Roth also produced and co-wrote this one, by the way.)

The movie begins with Gringo (which is what the other characters call Eli Roth’s American in this one) and his buddies Ariel (Ariel Levy) and Pollo (Nicolas Martinez) seeing the sights and trying to pick up women in discos. Ariel is the insecure one who has just broken up with his girlfriend and can’t seem to get his dating rhythm going. Pollo is his roly-poly Zach Galifanakas-look alike Chilean buddy, who has a rich daddy and has a much more confident rap when meeting women. Gringo is along for the ride. He’s a recently divorced Dad who is so devoted to his daughter, he’d rather take a cell phone call from her than seal the deal with a horny local girl (in another, slightly humorous scene, Roth comes on to another American tourist, played by Selena Gomez in a cameo).

Eli Roth proves again that he's a decent actor in AFTERSHOCK, here putting the moves on a fellow tourist (Selena Gomez).

Eli Roth proves again that he’s a decent actor in AFTERSHOCK, here putting the moves on a fellow tourist (Selena Gomez).

It’s at one of these discos, an underground club, that the guys get stuck in the middle of an earthquake. But first, they meet three girls who are also visiting from America: fun-loving Kylie (Lorenza Izzo), her uptight sister Monica (Andrea Osvart) who acts like a mother hen, and their Russian friend Irina (Natasha Yarovenko).

When the quake comes, the six of them run for their lives (unfortunately, Ariel loses a hand in the process) and by the time they make it to the surface, the entire town has turned into a violent, chaotic mess. They find at least one ally in a firefighter (Marcial Tagle) who Pollo and Monica save after his fire truck crashes.

Not only are there earth-moving aftershocks that continue to cause injury and death, but a nearby prison has collapsed and a group of marauding, vicious prisoners has escaped, roaming the streets, intent on raping and killing just about whoever they come across.

AFTERSHOCK becomes a study in survival, as we eventually lose more of our heroes, either to the disaster or the escaped convicts. Who will ultimately survive, and who will die? You’ve got to see the film to find out the answer to that one.

The movie begins kind of slowly, with the guys going to a vineyard and various nightclubs, joking around and trying to get laid, before things really shift into gear, but I’ve never had a problem with characterization, and the time we spend with these guys just makes them more believable as people. The trio of girls is equally likeable.

The danger doesn’t seem to kick in until half-way into the movie, but once the first earthquake hits, director Lopez does a decent job building suspense and keeping the main characters constantly on the move. Once the action starts, it maintains a solid momentum until the end. He’s also not afraid to turn on the gore when necessary. The script for this one is by Lopez, Guillermo Ameodo and Eli Roth.

The cast is pretty good here. Standouts include Roth (who acquits himself quite well, and shows he deserves more chances to act), Martinez, who is pretty good as the most extroverted of the friends, and Osvart, who proves herself to be pretty tough when she needs to be. Interesting enough, a lot of the cast here also appears in Eli Roth’s upcoming Amazon jungle horror flick THE GREEN INFERNO, so it will be good to see them again (Guillermo Amoedo also co-wrote the script for Roth’s new one).

Monica (Andrea Osvart) proves she can be tough when she needs to be, in AFTERSHOCK.

When the going gets rough,Monica (Andrea Osvart) proves she can be tough when she needs to be, in AFTERSHOCK.

AFTERSHOCK was filmed on location in Chile, and the setting is refreshing, especially in the small details, despite one character’s complaint that she was visiting the country expecting something “Third World, but cool..” (Note: because many of the characters are native Chileans, about half the dialogue is subtitled, and half is in English, in case that affects your particular movie-going experience).

Not the most amazing film you’ll see this year, but a serviceable thriller that will keep you watching until the end. I liked this one, and wish I had had the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

I give AFTERSHOCK, two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives AFTERSHOCK~two and a half  knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for MAY 2013

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, Bad Situations, Coming Attractions, Disaster Films, Dystopian Futures, R-Rated Comedy, Sequels, Superheroes with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
MAY 2013
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  The interior of a HUGE laboratory, with STARK ENTERPRISES logos all around, and various Iron Man suits on display.  MICHAEL ARRUDA &. L.L. SOARES enter lab.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to the Coming Attractions column for May 2013.

L.L. SOARES:  Our time to tell you what we’ll be reviewing in the month ahead

MA:  We’re here at Stark Enterprises not only because we’ll be seeing IRON MAN 3, the first big release of the month, the weekend of May 3, but because this place is humongous, and it’s symbolic of the blockbuster movies that are finally starting to roll out in theaters this month.

LS:  Whatever.  I’m just glad we’re here.  I can’t wait to try on one of these funky Iron Man suits.

MA:  I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Mr. Stark explicitly said we could do our review from here if we don’t touch anything.

LS:  Since when do I care what you think?

MA:  If you blow yourself up fiddling with one of those suits, don’t blame me.

LS:  I won’t blame you.  I’ll come back to haunt you though.

MA:  Oh joy.  Anyway, we kick off the month of May with a review of IRON MAN 3, opening in theaters on May 3.  I love the Marvel superhero movies, and so it goes without saying that I’m really looking forward to this one.

Iron-man-3-new-banner-3

The original film in this series, IRON MAN (2008) is one of my all-time favorite Marvel superhero films.  The second one IRON MAN 2 (2010), not so much.  I realize this is the third film in the series, and so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it played like a third film in a series and wasn’t so good.

But I really enjoy Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and I like Gwyneth Paltrow a lot, and the Marvel films have just been so good, I think this one will play better than a third film in a series.  Of course, I feel as if I’ve already watched IRON MAN 3, when I watched last year’s phenomenal THE AVENGERS (2012), which I liked even more than the original IRON MAN.

IRON MAN 3 features Ben Kingsley as the villain, The Mandarin, and Guy Pearce and Don Cheadle.  It’s directed by Shane Black, with a screenplay by Black and Drew Pearce.  Looking forward to it.

LS:  Yay, the Mandarin is finally in an IRON MAN movie! The Mandarin, in the comics, is like Iron Man’s big villain, the equivalent of the Joker for Batman, so it’s about time he made it to film. I wonder if the Mandarin’s giant blue killer robot ULTIMO will be making an appearance – with today’s CGI efforts, they’d be able to do him justice, but I didn’t see any sign of Ultimo in the trailers. The Mandarin’s main powers emanate from rings on his fingers that involve alien technology, and he’s a criminal mastermind. It looks like they have changed him a bit for the movie, making him more like an international terrorist, which is okay, as long as the basic essence of the character is there. The fact that he is played by Ben Kingsley means we should get a decent bad guy in this movie. Let’s hope they don’t waste him like they did Whiplash (as played by Mickey Rourke) in IRON MAN 2.

MA:  Yes, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash was very disappointing, surprisingly so.

aftershock

LS:  Then, the weekend of May 10, we’ll be reviewing AFTERSHOCK.  Looks like another “End of the World” type movie, with a cast that includes director Eli Roth. Roth also acted in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, 2009 (and his Grindhouse entry DEATH PROOF in 2007), so he should do fine here. Aside from that, I don’t know much about it. But I hope to be entertained.

MA:  I liked the trailer for this one.  It looks like it’s going to be an intense movie.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-First-Official-Teaser-Poster-Is-Here

Moving right along, on May 17 we’ll be reviewing STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, director J.J. Abrams’ follow-up to his successful STAR TREK (2009) movie, which was a reimagining of the classic 1960s TV show which I thought worked very well.

It’s been hush-hush with this sequel, as very little information has surfaced as to what this movie will be about.  Even the film’s trailers haven’t given too much away, which is a good thing.

The cast from the first movie are all back again, and this is also a good thing, since they all did a terrific job the first time around capturing the personalities of the iconic crew of the Starship Enterprise.  Chris Pine is back as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto returns as Mr. Spock (he was phenomenal in the first movie), Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and John Cho as Sulu. 

I’m looking forward to this one.

LS:  Me, too. I enjoyed Abrams’ first STAR TREK movie. It actually held up pretty well, even though he kind of put his own spin on these iconic characters. So I’m expecting more of the same with INTO DARKNESS. Should be a good time.

Hangover-3-banner

On the weekend of May 24, we’ll be reviewing THE HANGOVER PART III (2013).  Do we really need a PART III? I don’t know. I liked the original a lot, the second one wasn’t as good, but it had some big laughs. I’m sure PART III will have laughs, too, but where else can they go with this series? As usual, Hollywood gets a hit and they flog it to death. But maybe THE HANGOVER series still has more to offer. We’ll see.

MA:  I’m looking forward to it.  I’m actually looking forward to the entire month of May’s releases.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been largely disappointed with the movies that have come out so far in 2013, generally speaking. I’m hoping that May’s releases change this.

LS: I haven’t been too disappointed. I’ve seen at least four movies so far this year that might make my “Best of 2013” list, so I can’t complain too much. I’m usually not a big fan of brainless big-budget blockbusters, but this year’s crop of May movies look better than average.

MA: I can think of two so far that would make my “Best of” list, and we’re about to enter May, so like I said, I haven’t been too impressed by this year’s crop of films.

But I do love THE HANGOVER movies, although I recently re-watched PART 2 on Blu-Ray and didn’t find it as funny as I did the first time.  Still, how can you not enjoy the insanity which surrounds Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis)?  The stories in the first two movies are just so over the top I find it nearly impossible not to laugh at them.  I suspect the third film in the series will be just as nutty.

If you like your comedy with an edge, then THE HANGOVER movies are the films for you.

LS: Don’t gush too much. I guess THE HANGOVER movies have kind of an edge for mainstream R-rated comedies, but I really haven’t found them all that shocking. I do hope there is more of Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) this time around, though.

MA: It’s directed by Todd Phillips, who directed the previous two HANGOVER movies, but once again it’s not the original writers penning the script.  It’s written by Phillips and Craig Mazin, the same pair who wrote PART II.

The-Purge-585x370

We finish May with a promising thriller, THE PURGE, which opens on May 31.  Starring Ethan Hawke, this dark actioner tells the tale of a futuristic society that allows crime to run rampant for one night of the year and what happens to one family in particular on this brutal night.  From the producers of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and SINISTER (2012), this one is written and directed by James DeMonaco, who doesn’t have a whole lot of credits, but he did write the screenplay for the remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005) which I remember liking a lot.

This one looks like it has promise.

LS:  The trailer for this one looks really cool. And there are more sinister villains in masks, reminiscent of THE STRANGERS (2008). Ethan Hawke also had a really good showcase in his last movie with these producers—SINISTER, which I liked a lot—so I am eager to see what they come up with this time.

MA:  Also opening on May 31 is the thriller NOW YOU SEE ME (2013), an interesting-looking yarn about a team of illusionists who rob banks.  It’s got a great cast which includes Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Elias Koteas.

It’s directed by Louis Leterrier, who directed the CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) remake, which I didn’t like, but he also directed THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) starring Edward Norton, which I really liked.

It’s written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt.  I hope to review this one solo as well on this last weekend of May.

LS: Yeah, if you review that one, you’ll be seeing it by yourself. However, I might be reviewing a few movies solo this month too, if they are showing near me. Some films coming out in limited release in May include THE ICEMAN, starring Michael Shannon as a real-life hitman and serial killer; the indie vampire movie KISS OF THE DAMNED; and the new movie by Ben Wheatley, who made my favorite film of last year, KILL LIST; this one’s called SIGHTSEERS, and I’m sure I’ll be reviewing at least one of these before the month is over.

MA: All in all, it looks like May is going to be a good month for movies.

LS:  Okay, I have my Iron Man suit on.  Now it’s time to take it on a flight.

MA (shaking head):  I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

LS:  Ignition!  (Rockets ignite, blasting MA in a fiery ball of flame.)  Oops! 

MA (charred and smoking):  Oops?   That’s all you have to say?

LS:  How about, “See ya!” (Ignites rockets and flies off into the sky).

MA: He really burns me up (drum beat). Anyway, folks, we’ll see you this weekend with a review of our first May movie, IRON MAN 3

LS: Look out below!  (LS in IRON MAN suits flies into the ground, creating a huge smoky crater.)

MA:  Oops!

—END—

 

DON’T FEED THE……SHARKS in BAIT (2012)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 3-D, Animals Attack, Australian Horror, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bad Situations, Daniel I. Russell Columns, DON'T FEED THE..., Guest Columnists, Shark Attacks, Sharks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by knifefighter

DON’T FEED THE….SHARKS

BAIT (2012)
Movie Review by Daniel I. Russell
(Special Overseas Correspondent)

bait

I have always had a crippling shark phobia. I used to have a toy boat in the bath with a hole in the deck, and for some reason, I imagined sharks inside it, gliding through the dark waters. If you put your eye up to the hole you could… almost…see them…

So yes. Sharks. Terrifying things.

As I grew older, my thoughts matured, and I knew that the odds of being eaten by a shark in England are slim to none. I would never be eaten by a shark. Preposterous! I don’t live anywhere near them!

I sit and write this by the beach in Western Australia, the very same beach where, just this week and the day before Australia Day, great whites were spotted just 30 metres out. On Saturday, the water was thick with boats, surfers, swimmers, pets and children playing. It was my own Amity Island, and I was vigilant.

So what better time to spend the evening watching the latest in a long line of shark movies: BAIT. Plus it’s Australian (well, half-Australian. It’s a joint venture with Singapore).

BAIT puts a spin on a traditional formula. You won’t find survivors on a boat (JAWS, JAWS 2), stranded in the ocean (DEEP WATER, THE REEF) or any other completely ludicrous set up (2011’s SHARK NIGHT). During a robbery at a supermarket, a tsunami hits, flooding the shopping area and underground car park. Most shoppers drown or are pulverised by shelves and the like, leaving a band of merry survivors trapped in cars or perched atop the supermarket shelves.

Oh, and there’s a 12-foot great white shark in there doing its Friday big shop.

Without spoiling much, and this has been mentioned in plenty of other reviews so I’m guilt free here, there are actually two sharks. This isn’t done as a twist or anything, it’s just like, hey, there’s two sharks: one for the supermarket, one for the car park.

How terribly convenient.

So plenty of carnage with twice the shark then, eh?

Let’s sink our teeth into this and say that straight off the bat, you know what you’re in for. The first half an hour introduces the viewer to our soon-to-be survivors. In any survival movie, you must want the survivors to…well, survive. Or is that cliché? Oh, how this might have been achieved with some fleshed out characters and good acting. Despite the numerous signs that this is an Australian movie (Look! The hero eats Milo! The villain drives a Ute! I was expecting a kangaroo in a corked hat riding on the back of a shark to be honest…) accents are mixed, which ruins the set up a little. Dialogue is flat and lazy, as are the stock characters. The haunted hero is boring, his love interest does nothing throughout the movie, as does the stereotypical cop. Out of the dozen or so characters, more than half could have been dropped from the movie with the slightest of impacts. Perhaps this freeing up of screen time might make us care about the few survivors, giving them the room to breathe and be more rounded out. As it stands, I had as much empathy for the characters as I do for Idol contestants.

And let’s get this out there. One of the bad guys is played by Julian McMahon (aka, Dr. Doom in the FANTASTIC FOUR movies). I’ve had people complain that as a villain, he isn’t menacing enough and is as bland as beige wallpaper. After ruining one of Marvel’s greatest super villains (for some), here  he is with his brush and paste, beiging it up once more. Plus, isn’t he Australian? An Australian in an Australian movie…that doesn’t sound Australian. Hmm.

But the sharks, yeah! The sharks!

Remember DEEP BLUE SEA? I actually quite like that movie. But that came out in…1999? One of the first uses of CGI for shark effects in a major movie. I can also remember Casper Van Dien appearing in a straight-to-DVD feature called SHARK ATTACK. The cover for the sequel contained a shark that looked like it has been made out of a washing-up bottle on a kids’ TV show.

We’re now in 2013, and from this movie, it appears shark special effects have gone nowhere in the last 15 or so years.

The CGI is horrific, evening cartoonish at times. This was obviously designed with the 3D at the forefront of their designs (I watched it in 2D) but even then, the makers seemed to have this in mind for the first five minutes and then forget about the 3D until the finale. It’s as obvious as rewatching JAWS 3-D (1983).

But none of these issues can compete with the sloppy writing. Bad, bad dialogue. Twists that are so obvious they don’t actually qualify as twists. Shotguns that sit in water for hours and still work. And then can shoot underwater. I’m no gun expert, but this feels a tad off.

(Actually, after writing this I went and did some research. Shotguns can fire underwater—so that’s today’s something new learned out of the way. Thanks BAIT! —but lose momentum almost instantly by the drag of the water. You can shoot a paddling pool through the water and it won’t pop. YouTube it.)

In summary, BAIT is a bad, bad movie, and this is from someone who loves shark movies.

A movie like this isn’t supposed to be an Oscar winner, but if you want some good old fashioned shark-munching fun, there’s better out there. There’s also worse. Let’s separate the great whites from the cookie cutters.

SOME OF THE BEST (AND WORST)  SHARK ATTACK MOVIES

JAWS_Movie_poster

JAWS (1975)
My own greatest movie ever made that stands up to repeated viewings. Forever. The shark is out of sight for the most part, jump scenes are textbook and wonders are done with the score. An immortal movie that will never truly go away. Plus, characterisation is second to none with our favourite three men and a boat. That’s some bad hat, Harry.

220px-Jaws2_poster

JAWS 2 (1978)
I also like JAWS 2 very much. Things get straight into it in comparison with the first as the mystery was given away with the first movie. Great performances all round. I can remember watching this one over and over as a kid.

deepblueseaDEEP BLUE SEA (1999)
Was it makos here instead of great whites? I can’t remember. Been that long since I’ve seen this one. Sharks are genetically modified to give them bigger brains so scientists can extract more of the ick that can cure Alzheimer’s. What can go wrong? More action than horror (think DEEP RISING and ALIEN RESURECTION from around the same time), this still has some great moments. And Samuel L. Jackson. How can you forget the woman who is bitten in half and still keeps swimming for a few more seconds? Lovely. I’ll have to watch this again to see how it’s aged.

thereefTHE REEF (2010)
A fairly recent Australian movie in the lines of DEEP WATER (2006), based on a true story and an absolute corker. A fella who delivers boats for a living takes a few friends and family out, but the boat hits a reef and starts to sink. The solution? Swim for an island a few kilometres away. The problem? A shark takes a liking to the group of swimmers. Fantastically shot and heart wrenchingly realistic, this has one of the most upsetting scenes (for me) I’ve seen in a horror movie in a good few years. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t have much in the way of blood and guts. It doesn’t need it.

The creature from "Peter Benchley's CREATURE"

The creature from “Peter Benchley’s CREATURE”

PETER BENCHLEY’S CREATURE (1998)
Benchley! The master! The brain behind JAWS! The man behind…this piece of crap? What could be worse than a shark eating people? How about a man-shark that looks like something the Power Rangers forgot to fight? A mess.

redwaterRED WATER  (2003)
Rapper Coolio (remember him?) was nominated for an Academy Award in this big budget thriller about a bull shark terrorising a river community. Actually, he wasn’t. He was poop in this, and everything about the movie is poop. I would go into more constructive feedback, but I already spent 90 minutes watching this that I’m not getting back and don’t want to waste any more.

SharkAttack_Cover-265x393SHARK ATTACK (1999)
Title needs an exclamation mark, in my opinion. Casper Van Dien was in STARSHIP TROOPERS and nothing good since. Poor bloke. He’d make a great John Sheppard in the MASS EFFECT movie. Anyhoo, here he stars with GHOSTBUSTERS’ Ernie Hudson (why Ernie? Why?). I won’t sum up the plot, or acting, or effects. Just watch the trailer. It basically shows the complete movie in about three minutes.

sharkattack2SHARK ATTACK 2 (2000)
Better? I think this is better than the first one despite the aforementioned atrocious DVD cover. This one scores points for having a very well done non-CGI man bitten in half. I think he waves to some kids on his way down. Nice. Title definitely needs an exclamation mark.

megsharkMEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS (2009)
The movie that started so many pub-based arguments. Not the discussion over which hideous CGI creature would win (and to be honest, who gives a toss?) but the immortal question: can a shark jump out of the sea high enough to eat a plane? The answer, it appears, is hell yes. Discovery Channel: pull your socks up. I want less ecological studies and more plane-munching.

A film that is so unbelievably bad…it’s worth a watch. Get some friends, get some drinks, and prepare to experience a master class in floating turdology. Ladies and gentlemen, MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS.

© Copyright 2013 by David I. Russell

(For more ruminations by Mr. Russell, you can check out his blog here).

MOVIE 43 (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Anthology Films, Bad Situations, Controverisal Films, Dark Comedies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Raunchy Fun, Sex Comedies, Sleaze with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2013 by knifefighter

MOVIE 43
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Movie-43-Poster

I’ve always been a fan of anthology movies, and they’ve been making a comeback lately. Most of them have been showing up in the horror genre—in fact, the anthology horror flick V/H/S  was one of my favorite movies of last year. So I was really interested in seeing MOVIE 43 as soon as I heard about it. There hasn’t been a good comedy anthology movie in a long time. The most famous was probably 1977’s THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. There were also 1974’s THE GROOVE TUBE and 1987’s AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON. In a way, the fake trailers that accompanied the main movies in the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration, GRINDHOUSE (2007), were also a variation on this concept too, since most of them were pretty funny. The basic idea is that a bunch of different directors and casts get together to make a bunch of short films, usually with a wrap-around storyline to tie them all together.

No matter how much fun these kinds of movies are, one thing that almost always happens is that the short films in question turn out to be a mixed bag. Rarely are they all equally good (or bad). And MOVIE 43 is no different. Made over the course of three years (as directors and stars had time), MOVIE 43 is at least a fresh idea compared to most of the comedies that have been in theaters lately. So how do the short films measure up? Let’s take a look. (I’ll give each one its own “grade” and then an overall rating at the end.)

The movie begins with its wrap-around story, in this case called “The Pitch,” and starring Dennis Quaid as Charlie Wessler (the name of one of the movie’s producers, by the way), a deranged guy who forces his way into the office of a movie studio head named Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) in order to pitch his movie ideas. We then get the various pitches, which make up the other short films in the movie. Get it? This wraparound segment was directed by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers (who gave us THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) and, more recently, THE THREE STOOGES, 2012)

The Catch” is the first short. It features Kate Winslet as a businesswoman named Beth, who going on a blind date. Her date is Davis (Hugh Jackman), a famous, successful lawyer and philanthropist, and she’s amazed that he is still single. When they go on their date, all seems to go well, until they go to a restaurant and Davis reveals that he has a very strange physical condition she was not expecting. I will not reveal what it is, but, despite the A-list cast, I thought this was one of the weaker entries. While it is funny when Davis’s deformity is revealed, and Winslet is great at playing it completely uncomfortable, it’s soon obvious that this is going to be a one-joke sketch and after a few minutes, I was already eager to see the next one. This one has good acting, great production values and prosthetics, but doesn’t have much of a pay-off. This segment was also directed by Peter Farrelly and is at least better than “The Pitch.” (I give this one a C, since there’s no real payoff.)

Homeschooled” is one of the better entries. This one features Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber as parents who are homeschooling their high school-age son, Kevin (Jeremy Allen White, who is also really good on the Showtime series, SHAMELESS). Things get out of hand when it’s revealed that they not only teach Kevin at home, but also want to give him the “whole high school experience,” including bullying and..er..dating. (I give this one a B)

The Proposition” stars Anna Faris and Chris Pratt as couple who are celebrating their first year of being together. To commemorate the special occasion, Vanessa (Faris) wants Jason (Pratt) to do something extra special in the bedroom. What she wants might surprise you, and chances are good it may repulse you as well. Kind of funny, depending on your sense of humor. (I give this one a B-)

Veronica” might be the weakest of the bunch. Neil (Kieran Culkin), a cashier at a grocery store, is having an increasingly explicit conversation with his girlfriend, Veronica (Emma Stone), but he left the microphone on that he uses to announce specials over the intercom in the grocery store – so all of the customers get to hear the most intimate details. The customers look like a bunch of homeless people, and this is another one that pretty much is one-joke that goes on too long, except, unlike “The Catch,” this one isn’t funny at all. I thought it was a waste of Emma Stone, who is usually pretty good. Director: Griffin Dunne. (I give this one an F, since it’s pretty pointless).

movie-43-poster03

iBabe” is a parody of iPod commercials, where people listen to an MP3 player that just happens to look like an attractive, naked woman. When it turns out that there has been a rash of accidents where adolescent boys have been hurting themselves trying to get intimate with the iBabe, the company that makes it (headed by Richard Gere) has a meeting to try to determine what the problem is. This one was okay – but nothing great – although nudity is always a plus in my book. (I give this one a C)

Superhero Speed Dating” features a lonely Robin (Justin Long) trying to get a date in a Gotham City bar on “speed dating” night. Unfortunately, a mean-spirited Batman (Jason Sudekis) shows up to torment him and ruin his chances at finding a girlfriend. Featuring Leslie Bibb as Wonder Woman, Uma Thurman as Lois Lane, and Kristen Bell as Supergirl, with a very funny appearance by Bobby Cannavale as a thuggish Superman. For some reason I always find superheroes indulging in bad behavior funny, so I liked this one. The performances are also spot on, especially Sudekis, who is pretty sadistic as a real jerk of a Batman. (I give this one a B)

Middle School Date,” features Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl from KICK-ASS, 2010) as a girl who is spending time at her boyfriend’s house when she has her first period. Unfortunately, everyone in the house is completely clueless, and her young boyfriend thinks she is bleeding to death. Not as funny as it could have been, but it foreshadows Moretz’s upcoming role in the remake of Stephen King’s CARRIE. Directed by Elizabeth Banks. (I give this one a C-)

Happy Birthday,” is probably my favorite of the shorts. Pete (Johnny Knoxville) gets his buddy Brian (Seann William Scott) a special birthday gift – he’s kidnapped a leprechaun (Gerard Butler shrunk down by CGI) and demands the sprite give them his pot of gold, with hilarious results. The last line of this particular short is killer. Directed by Brett Ratner. (I give this one an A)

Truth or Dare” is another good one. This one features Stephen Merchant (a familiar face from the British version of THE OFFICE and cable series like HBO’s EXTRAS with Ricky Gervais) on a first date with Halle Berry. To break the ice, they indulge in a game of Truth or Date that starts out innocently enough and gets more and more deranged as it goes on, and they dare each other to do more and more outrageous acts. Could have been a lot crazier than it is, though.  (I give this one an B+)

Victory’s Glory,” is set in the early 1960s and features Terrence Howard as the coach of a black basketball team giving his kids a pep talk before a big game against an all-white team. This is one of the sketches that was hurt the most by the trailer for the movie, which gives the joke away, but in the movie itself, with more R-rated dialogue, it’s actually somewhat funny, even if it is another one-joke bit. Directed by Rusty Cundieff. (I give this one a B-)

When the end credits begin, you may not want to get up and rush out the door too fast, because there’s one more short to come, “Beezel” features an “adorable” cartoon cat that is actually pretty vicious (and perverted) when his master (Josh Duhamel) isn’t looking. The object of the cat’s ire is Duhamel’s new girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks), who threatens the very close (too close?) master/pet relationship. We’ve seen this plot before (most recently in the far superior TED), and it’s actually one of the weaker entries in the movie. I just didn’t find it that funny. Directed by James Gunn, a director I normally like a lot. (I give this one a D.)

Meanwhile, the wraparound story (“The Pitch”) escalates, popping up between the shorts, as Quaid’s character grows more and more demented, eventually pulling out a gun and demanding the studio buy his movie treatments. For the most part,  the wraparound story works to tie things together, but isn’t  funny, a fact that the cast seems to realize themselves, as everyone kind of gives up toward the end and the actors break character. (I give this one an F)

There are also a couple of fake commercials that are actually pretty good. One is called “Machine Children” and the other, which is better,  is a very clever short short commercial for Tampax, of all things.

I’ve listed the directors who I know worked on specific shorts, but it is very difficult to track down a list of who directed what (without going to see the movie a second time). Maybe this is on purpose, but other directors who worked on the movie include: Steven Brill, Steve Carr, James Duffy, Patrik Forsberg, Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan van Tulleken.

The big draw of this one is the cast—which is made up of some very big names who actually worked for scale (there is no way the budget could have covered them all otherwise) —doing outrageous things. Unfortunately, not all of the material is good enough to appear in (most isn’t), and over all, this movie seems to think it is much more shocking than it really is. In fact, in several cases, I don’t think it went far enough to be truly daring, although MOVIE 43 does earn its R rating.

From what I can tell, most critics have given this movie dismal reviews, but I didn’t think it was all bad. MOVIE 43 is a very mixed bag, with some shorts delivering laughs, and others not. If you like anthology films as much as I do, you might want to check it out, but go to a matinee showing (don’t pay full price). I give it two knives, and that’s probably being generous.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives MOVIE 43~two knives.