Archive for the Crime Films Category

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)

Posted in 1980s Movies, 2013, Action Movies, Crime Films, Cult Movies, Detectives, Exploitation Films, Gangsters!, Grindhouse Goodies, Nick Cato Reviews, Revenge!, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Tough Guys!, Vengeance!, Vigilantes, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2013 by knifefighter

Suburban Grindhouse Memories No. 64:
Flamethrowers, Meat Grinders, and State Senators…
By Nick Cato

 

exterminatorposter

 Released six years after DEATH WISH (1974) but two years before FIRST BLOOD (1982), 1980’s THE EXTERMINATOR is a combo of these two classics with a dash of TAXI DRIVER (1976) thrown in. I recently revisited this on DVD, but in the fall of 1980 (when I was in the 6th grade), me and a buddy managed to get into this violent R-rated flick one Saturday afternoon at the always reliable (and now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema, Staten Island’s best bet of being admitted when you were underage.

After an opening flashback scene set in Vietnam (which features a grisly, non-CGI decapitation courtesy of FX whiz Stan (ALIENS) Winston), we flash forward to 1980 New York City. John Eastmand (played by popular TV star Robert Ginty) works at a meat packing plant along with his best friend Michael, who had saved his life in Vietnam. When they bust a group of thugs robbing beer from an adjacent warehouse, Michael again comes to John’s aid, but the gang follows Michael home and throws him a severe beating that leaves him paralyzed. Fueled by this event, and fed up with the state of the city’s crime rate in general, John goes on a mission first to get the guys who crippled his buddy, then wage all-out war against the mob, pimps, and all kinds of low lives.

John transforms into a vigilante a bit too quickly (in the scene immediately after he visits Michael in the hospital, John already has a gang member tied up and threatens him with a flame thrower). But this is a sleazy action flick, so subtly and character build-up be damned! His arsenal includes a .44 magnum with custom, poison-tipped bullets, an AK-47, and a foot locker full of military-issued hand grenades and knives.

Minutes later, John goes to the gang’s hideout (one is played by THE WARRIORS’ (1979) Irwin Keyes), tells the girls to leave, and then proceeds to shoot one thug and take two others hostage. But his partial-heart leads to one guy surviving, and one of the hookers he let go is interrogated by Detective James Dalton (played by Christopher George), who is on the trail of the vigilante the news has labeled “The Exterminator.” Former ABC-TV news anchor Roger Grimsby appears as himself during a newscast, giving the film a real-time feel (at least if you lived in NY at the time).

With the gang taken care of, John sets his eyes on a mob boss who has been shaking his employer down for years. He does some stake-out work and manages to drug him and drag him to an isolated warehouse, where he chains him from the rafters and dangles him over a huge meat grinder, then proceeds to shake him down for money to support his fallen friends’ family. After he gets the mobster’s keys, safe-lock combination, and a promise that there are no surprises at his house, John goes out to his NJ home and is attacked by a guard dog the gangster “forgot” to tell him about. Now severely ticked, John returns to the warehouse and lowers the Don into the meat grinder, and while nothing is shown (besides shadows and chop meat coming out of the bottom), the scene is still quite disturbing. It also received the loudest cheers from the evidently blood-thirsty (or justice-thirsty?) audience I was with.

In the second most memorable sequence, John visits a hooker (ala TAXI DRIVER) who gives him info on an underground operation that exploits young boys. John shows up at the illegal brothel and quickly destroys the place by burning the owner and shooting a freaky-looking pedophile in the groin (said pedophile is played by FRANKENHOOKER’s (1990) scene-stealing freak David Lipman). The pedophile also turns out to be the State Senator from New Jersey!

In-between investigating the vigilante killings, Detective James manages to find the time to date a doctor (played by Samantha Eggar). In one scene they meet for a late-night shag session in an empty hospital room, but as things heat up they’re interrupted by an alarm: it seems Michael’s ventilator has gone off, and little do the detective or doctor realize John had come by to help his buddy pull the plug on himself. This John’s a real angel of mercy I tell ya…

With plenty of shoot-outs, a motorcycle vs. car chase scene, a goofy side-plot involving the CIA that leads to a partially head-scratching finale, a poor old-woman getting a beat-down, and a nasty scene of the aforementioned State Senator burning/raping a hooker with a red-hot soldering iron, THE EXTERMINATOR is a trashy revenge/vigilante film that has developed quite a cult following over the years. And like most NY-lensed genre films from this time, there are plenty of shots of Times Square back in all its sordid glory, complete with pimps, hookers, and glorious theater marquees that will have cinema-philes hitting the pause button to read the film titles (of course we couldn’t do this in the theater so it was nice finally seeing what was playing!).

This is a genuine blast of old-school, politically incorrect action film-fare that has almost no conscience whatsoever, and it manages to work despite its ho-hum performances from most of the actors. Too bad the sequel, 1984’s THE EXTERMINATOR 2, failed to deliver the goods.

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

John (Robert Ginty) about to make mince-meat out of a local mob boss in THE EXTERMINATOR.

John (Robert Ginty) about to make mincemeat out of a local mob boss in THE EXTERMINATOR.

 

 

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FRESH MEAT (2012)

Posted in 2013, Cannibals, Crime Films, Dark Comedies, Family Secrets, Film Festival Movies, Fugitives, Horror, LL Soares Reviews, New Zealand Horror with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2013 by knifefighter

FRESH MEAT (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Fresh-MeatAfter recently getting some buzz at the Tribeca Film Festival (I didn’t think they even showed horror movies there), the New Zealand film FRESH MEAT (2012) got a small theatrical run and popped up on cable OnDemand. So I wanted to check it out for CinemaKnifeFight.com.

The basic plot, of criminals on the lam ending up in a house where things go from desperate to worse, has been done several times before, in movies such as Xavier Gens’ above-average scare flick FRONTIER(S) in 2007. Unfortunately, right off the bat, we get some comedic elements, as each member of the family which will later be taken hostage by criminals is introduced with “witty” comments onscreen, like the fact that over-achieving college student Rena Crane (Hanna Tevita)’s main interest in “Girls.” Or that her dad, Hemi (Temuera Morrison) is a college professor and author of several books, all of which are sadly unpublished. Are you laughing yet?

The onscreen words get even more clever when the bad guys are introduced. This begins with a prison truck carrying some dangerous criminals, including Ritchie Tan (Leand Macadaan) whose crimes include not just murder but “selling fruit without a license.” His rescue team, including his girlfriend Gigi (Kate Elliott), brother Paulie (Ralph Hilaga) and hired gun Johnny (Jack Sergeant-Shadbolt), shows up at a gas station where the prison van has stopped. After Johnny completely screws up with some dynamite trying to blow the truck’s doors open, and almost kills everyone involved, we learn via his onscreen intro that he is the “explosives expert.”

Escaped convict Richie is injured and has a broken/bleeding hand after Johnny’s attempt to “rescue” him, and his gang brings him to their car and takes off after a shootout with the prison guards. They then tear up the asphalt as they are part of a high-speed chase, being pursued by a police helicopter.

The fleeing criminals end up in a densely populated neighborhood and when they see the door to the Crane family’s garage is open, they drive in, to avoid being detected by the helicopter, and then proceed to take the family members inside hostage.

Meanwhile, Rena is home for school vacation and learns the troubling news that her dad and famous cooking show host mom Margaret (Nicola Kawana) have had a major epiphany and now are part of a cannibal cult that worships a boy prophet named Solomon Smith. Well, Dad seems obsessed with Smith and his teachings (that eating human flesh makes you immortal) and Mom just seems to find the meat especially delicious, and a key ingredient for some great recipes she’s trying out. They have also indoctrinated Rena’s brother Glenn (Kahn West) into their new lifestyle.

So it’s the criminals versus the cannibals. But where a movie like FRONTIER(S) took this subject matter into some pretty dark territory, FRESH MEAT can’t seem to decide whether it wants to have fun with it all, or take it seriously, which results in an uneven tone throughout. Some directors are great at combining comedy and horror, but for people who think it’s an easy trick to master, you could not be more wrong. Most people who attempt it, mess it up. And the director here, Danny Mulheron, gives us a mixed bag of presents – some we want, and some we could do without. Mulheron’s previous directing work was mostly in television, but one of his bigger credits was for being one of the writers and stars of Peter Jackson’s MEET THE FEEBLES (1989).

Let’s look at the pluses first. The cast for this one is pretty good. I especially liked college girl Rena and badass girl with a shotgun, Gigi, who slowly start to fall for one another (Gigi has a great look, with shorts and especially sexy stockings to match that pump-action shotgun of hers). Gigi might just be my favorite character here, and actress Kate Elliot previously had roles in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (which was shot in New Zealand), as well as several New Zealand television series. In fact, most of the cast come from New Zealand TV (and it’s amazing how many of them had roles in one of the many POWER RANGERS franchises, which I’m guessing were also shot on location there).

Badass criminal Gigi (Kate Elliott) just might be my favorite character in FRESH MEAT (2012).

Badass criminal Gigi (Kate Elliott) just might be my favorite character in FRESH MEAT (2012).

Maori actor Temuera Morrison, who plays Rena’s increasingly insane father, is kind of New Zealand acting royalty, having previous starred in the amazing 1994 drama ONCE WERE WARRIORS (which I suggest you seek out instead). He may be more recognizable to American audiences as the cloned warrior who became Boba Fett in the most recent STAR WARS movies EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) and EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005). Morrison is a plus in FRESH MEAT, until his character gets more and more over-the-top in his behavior, becoming so unbearably unbelievable in the final act of the film, when he completely loses his mind, as to border on irritating.

There’s little suspense as the criminals invade the house and think they have the upper hand. We know it’s only a matter a time before the flesh-hungry family turns the tables on them. By the time geeky next door neighbor Shaun (Will Robertson) pops in, because he has a thing for Rena, and is invited to share the family dinner by Hemi, and then the cops show up, things degenerate from clever and well-acted to chaotic and just plain silly.

In FRESH MEAT, the family taken hostage is more dangerous than the criminals. (from left to right, Nicola Kawana, Temuera Morrison and Kahn West)

In FRESH MEAT, the family taken hostage is more dangerous than the criminals (from left to right, Nicola Kawana, Temuera Morrison and Kahn West)

With a more assured hand to keep things sharp and smart until the end, FRESH MEAT could have been a tasty morsel for those who enjoy cannibal movies (there sure seem to have been a lot of them in recent years). As it is, it’s a clever, fun movie that runs out of ideas in the final act, and goes for complete anarchy instead of a satisfying conclusion.

I’m not really sure how this one got selected for the Tribeca Film Festival, but its festival pedigree made me expect something a lot better, and I was pretty disappointed with this one.

Not a complete loss, but not a complete success, either. I give this one two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives FRESH MEAT ~ two and a half knives!

NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, Magic with tags , , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)
By Michael Arruda

Now You See Me Poster(THE SCENE: A glitzy stage at a Las Vegas hotel.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are on stage performing magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience.

L.L. SOARES:  And now for my next trick. I ‘ll pull a rabbit out of my hat.

(Reaches into top hat and pulls out a roaring lion.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  That’s not a rabbit.

LS:  Oops, I must have grabbed the wrong hat.

MA:  Thanks, Bullwinkle. For my next trick, I shall make LL disappear.  (Aims magic wand at LS.  There’s a puff of smoke, and suddenly LS has vanished.) (The crowd gasps in wonder.)

Where did he go, you ask?

Who cares!  (Laughs maniacally).

Seriously, though, I’m reviewing today’s movie NOW YOU SEE ME (2013) solo, so L.L. can enjoy his day off, wherever he is in magic land.  Rest assured, he’ll be back again soon.

Today’s movie, NOW YOU SEE ME, is a high octane tale of a group of magicians who rob banks and then give the money to their audience.  Needless to say, they’re very popular.  They’re also wanted by the authorities.

The movie opens with quick introductions of the four principal characters.  There’s J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) a magician who specializes in card tricks and illusions, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a mentalist who can read people’s minds—he used to be famous but now is reduced to using his ability to con people out of money—, there’s Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Atlas’s former assistant and girlfriend, who now performs on her own, and finally there’s Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) who uses his sleight of hand talent to steal people’s wallets.

These four folks each receive a mysterious invitation which brings them together at an abandoned apartment where they receive instructions that we the audience are not privy to.  The next time we see them they are known as The Four Horsemen and they are performing on a huge Las Vegas stage, financed by billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).  It is on this stage where they pull off their first infamous stunt, robbing a Paris bank and showering the audience with the money.

The Four Horsemen are quickly arrested, but lead FBI investigator Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) can find no evidence against them, as their crime seems to have been pulled off by magic.  He is forced to let them go, which really irks him since they make a complete fool out of him in the interrogation room.  Frustrated, Rhodes makes it his mission to bring the Four Horsemen to justice.  He is aided by a beautiful French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) and his right hand man Agent Fuller (Michael Kelly.).

They also turn to Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an expert in debunking magician’s tricks, but Thaddeus is more interested in his own personal gain and isn’t all that keen on sharing information with the FBI and Interpol.  To make matters more difficult for both FBI Agent Rhodes and Thaddeus is that the four magicians are protected by the deep pockets of their benefactor, Arthur Tressler, until Tressler becomes a victim himself, and then all bets are off, as everyone wants a piece of the Four Horsemen.

(A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN walks onto stage and approaches MA).

WOMAN:  I’m here to be sawed in half.

MA:  Of course you are!  Man, I wish I were a magician right now.

WOMAN:  You’re not a magician?

MA: I’m afraid not.  I’m just here to review a movie.

WOMAN:  I was really looking forward to getting sawed in half.

MA:  Well, I don’t have a saw, but I’ve got some pretty sharp teeth!  (smiles).  Why don’t you help me review the movie instead?

WOMAN:  I’d rather get sawed in half.  (Exits).

MA:  I should have become a magician.  Oh well.

Back to the movie.

I had mixed feelings about NOW YOU SEE ME.  It actually sounds better than it is, and yet, with its frenetic style I couldn’t help but like it.  It’s entertaining fluff, but it could have been better.  It could have benefitted from some hard hitting realism that could have turned it into an edgy thriller.

The cast is second to none and is certainly one of the highlights of this movie.  Jesse Eisenberg is his usual wise-cracking intellectual self as J. Daniel Atlas, and he’s sort of the leader of the four magicians.  Woody Harrelson as mentalist Merritt McKinney was my favorite of the four, and I could have watched an entire movie based on his character alone.

Isla Fisher is fine as Henley Reeves, although her character is less interesting than Eisenberg’s and Harrelson’s.  We just saw Fisher as Myrtle Wilson in THE GREAT GATSBY (2013), and her role here is larger, and as a result she’s more memorable.

Dave Franco is also very good as Jack Wilder, and yes, Dave is James Franco’s younger brother.  We’ve seen Dave Franco a lot lately, in films like WARM BODIES (2013), 21 JUMP STREET (2012) and FRIGHT NIGHT (2011).

But one of the ways where NOW YOU SEE ME goes wrong is it doesn’t develop these four folks at all.  It does a bang up job of introducing these characters, but as the film goes along we never really get to know them, and during the film’s second half they actually take a back seat to Mark Ruffalo’s FBI character Dylan Rhodes.

This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. I like Mark Ruffalo a lot, and he actually delivers the best performance in the movie, as the guy who wants to nail these magicians so badly he can taste it.  I had no problem with the Ruffalo storyline and wouldn’t change it at all.  He’s one of the best parts of the movie.

(There is a huge crash and suddenly THE INCREDIBLE HULK stomps onto the stage.)

HULK: How come Hulk not in NOW YOU SEE ME?

MA:  Because Mark Ruffalo played you in THE AVENGERS (2012), but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be you in every movie he makes.  That would be typecasting.

HULK:  Hulk will smash puny magicians!

MA:  Well, maybe your next villain will be a magician.

HULK:  Maybe Hulk’s next villain—will be you!

MA (laughs nervously) Hey, I hear Thor is backstage.

HULK:  Thor???  (Exits by smashing through a wall behind MA.)

MA:  That was easy.

HULK’s voice off-stage:  You not Thor!

(There is a scream and a long haired man is tossed through the air from somewhere backstage.)

MA (to man as he crashes into the audience):  Sorry about that.  (calls backstage)  Keep looking!  Thor’s back there somewhere.

HULK:  Thor?

MA:  Back to NOW YOU SEE ME.

The problem is the film doesn’t do with the four magicians what it does with Ruffalo—add some depth.  One reason so little time is spent with the magicians is they don’t know who they’re working for.  Sure, Michael Caine’s billionaire Arthur Tressler is financing them, but he’s not the guy who got them all together in the first place.

So, since they don’t know who they’re working for, (and I’m assuming they’re getting paid handsomely for their efforts) we never see them plotting, and we don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing, because even they don’t know!  The four magicians are in serious need of major character development.

In effect, this tale becomes very one-sided, with Ruffalo’s FBI agent dominating the proceedings as a law enforcement officer with a passion for justice, but the magicians are largely reduced to supporting players.  They pull off their stunts and then they disappear.  After the way they were first introduced in this movie, I expected more.

The supporting cast is excellent.  Besides Ruffalo, my other favorite performance belongs to Melanie Laurent as Interpol agent Alma Dray.  She’s exceedingly attractive, and she and Ruffalo share a nice chemistry.  I also enjoyed Michael Kelly as Agent Fuller, as he shares his boss’s frustration over constantly being one step behind the magicians.

And of course, you can’t go wrong with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, and they’re excellent here, just as they were when they teamed up in the Christopher Nolan BATMAN movies.

It’s an A cast, and they really deliver.

So does director Louis Leterrier, who also directed CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010) and THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008).

HULK’s voice:  Thor?  Yoo hoo. Where are you hiding?

MA:  Here, Leterrier has directed a fast paced thriller with a lot of cool scenes including a pretty decent car chase.  Sure, it’s all pretty lightweight, but it’s still fun.

I loved the spirited music score by Brian Tyler.  It’s really a major part of this movie.

The screenplay by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt works best when dealing with the snappy dialogue between the magicians themselves and between them and FBI agent Rhodes.  In terms of story, I liked the set up a lot, but as it goes along it lacks the necessary teeth to get the job done.

The reason we don’t know who the magicians are working for is because this revelation will serve as a plot twist late in the movie, which frankly, I could have done without.  Who is the mysterious person who’s pulling all the strings?  It’s not an answer I enjoyed, as it’s not a very realistic revelation, and it takes away from the plot.

The whole movie is not that realistic, and I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised, since it’s a film about magicians.  Still, if I can’t believe it, I can’t really buy into it.  Some of the things we’re supposed to believe—like transporting a man from a Las Vegas stage to Paris so he can rob a bank—are pure fantasy.  What is this?  STAR TREK?

Now, they do show later on how they pulled this off, and obviously it’s not magic but there’s a lot that happens in this movie where I scratched my head and said, “Really?

But that’s not to say NOW YOU SEE ME isn’t an entertaining movie.  It is.  I just would have liked it even more had I known more about the four main magicians, had I believed in some of the plot points more, and had the film had more of an edge to it.  This one plays like a PG movie rather than a PG-13 flick.

But I had fun, and I was entertained for its nearly two hour running time.  If you like Mark Ruffalo, you definitely will enjoy this movie.  The same can be said if you’re a fan of Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg.  As long as you’re not expecting anything too deep or hard hitting, you’ll find NOW YOU SEE ME a pleasurable way to spend two hours, especially inside a cool theater in the middle of a heat wave.

I give it three knives.

HULK’S voice:  Puny Thor not back here! Little man tricked Hulk!

MA:  That’s my cue.

For my final trick, I shall make myself disappear.  (Snaps his fingers, and in a puff of smoke, MA vanishes.)

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives NOW YOU SEE ME ~ three knives!

PAIN & GAIN (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Based on a True Story, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, Dark Comedies, Detectives, Satire, Tough Guys! with tags , , , , , on April 29, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PAIN & GAIN (2013)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Pain-Gain-Poster

(THE SCENE: INTERIOR of the Sun Gym. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are working out on exercise machines)

MA: Welcome to another edition of Cinema Knife Fight. This time around, we’re getting some cardio, to get in the mood to review the new movie PAIN & GAIN.

LS: That’s funny. You told me we should go to the gym because a lot of hot chicks work out here.

(MA shushes him and then smiles for the camera)

MA: Why don’t you take a break from the treadmill to tell us a little about this week’s movie?

LS: Okay.

PAIN & GAIN is the new movie from Michael Bay, the director who gave us such cinematic “classics” as ARMAGEDDON (1998), PEARL HARBOR (2001) and the TRANSFORMERS movies. I have to admit, I’m not really a fan. But the trailer for PAIN & GAIN looked pretty good, so I was curious to check this one out.

MA:  I wasn’t sure what to make of the trailer.  I couldn’t tell if it was going to be a quirky comedy crime thriller with an edge, or just plain dumb.  Well, now I have my answer, but more on that after your plot summary.

And I certainly hope you were being sarcastic by calling the TRANSFORMERS movies classics.

LS: What do you think?  In the movie, Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder who also trains other people at the Sun Gym. He has actually done pretty well for himself, considering he spent some time in prison for fleecing elderly people out of their money.

MA:  Also considering he’s an idiot.  There haven’t been too many other lead characters to have an entire movie built around them who have been this stupid.  Inspector Clouseau comes to mind.  But this is an unfair comparison.  Clouseau was funny.  Wahlberg’s Lugo is just plain sad.

LS:  I don’t know, he made me laugh a few times. And I think that’s the point. That this really happened, even though Lugo and his guys were pretty dim bulbs.  But back to the synopsis.

Despite his checkered past, Lugo wows the gym’s manager, John Mese (Rob Corddry), during the job interview, even betting he can triple the gym’s membership or he will resign. Lugo makes good on his promise, and is climbing the corporate ladder at the gym. But he wants more.

He is also a big fan of Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong, from the HANGOVER movies), a motivational speaker who says the world is made up of “do-ers and don’t-ers” and Lugo is determined to be a “do-er.”

His plan to get the money and lifestyle he thinks he deserves involves kidnapping and torturing an obnoxious client at the gym named Victor Krenshaw (Tony Shalhoub, from the MONK TV series, 2002 – 2009), a very unlikable character who, nonetheless, has been very successful at amassing a fortune. The plan is to get him to sign over his money and assets to Lugo and his partners, since Lugo thinks he deserves the money more than Krenshaw does.

MA:  And Lugo thinks he can get away with this because, as he tells his partners, “I watch a lot of movies.  I know what I’m doing.”  That’s the level of competency where talking about here.

LS:  Once again, I think you’re missing the point.  It’s supposed to be funny.

MA:  Well, it would be funny if these guys were bumbling idiots, but they’re not.  They’re very dangerous men, mostly because they’re not too swift up here (points to his head) if you know what I mean, and they go about committing crimes like they’re experts, when in reality they’re sloppy amateurs.

And that’s the word that dominates this movie:  amateur.  Why in the world am I at all supposed to be interested in a group of guys who commit crimes who are strictly amateurs?  I really didn’t get this movie.

LS: What’s so hard to get? Don’t you ever laugh at police footage of morons who try to get away with crimes and screwing up?

MA:  Yeah, when it’s two minutes worth of footage.  But two hours and ten minutes worth of these guys?  Ugh!

LS:  I dunno, it went by pretty quickly for me.

Lugo’s partners include Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), an African-American guy who also works at the gym and who is also obsessed with bodybuilding, and Paul Doyle (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a muscle-bound ex-con who comes to the gym looking for a job. Paul has become born-again since his prison days, but that doesn’t seem to prevent him from going along with a plan that involves kidnapping and inflicting bodily harm.

The problem is, Krenshaw is a merciless jerk who won’t break under weeks of captivity and abuse, and it takes a while for our criminal trio to complete their get-rich-quick scheme. Afterwards, Krenshaw vows to get revenge, with the help of a very capable retired detective, Ed DuBois (Ed Harris). Lugo and his friends also get into some serious trouble when they get greedy and decide they want more money.

(ROCKY comes over)

ROCKY: Yo, like that’s the treadmill I use whenever I’m here.

LS: Good for you.

ROCKY:  It’s my favorite treadmill.

LS:  So?  What’s your point?

ROCKY:  Well, if it wasn’t too much trouble, I’d like to use it.  I’m training, and I came here to use my favorite treadmill.

LS:  Why don’t you go chase some chickens or something?  I’m busy reviewing a movie here.

ROCKY:  You know, you’re kinda rude.  (turns to MA)  Your friend has a big mouth.

MA (shrugs): Some people find it endearing. Anyway, I’m sure we can find another treadmill.  (turns to LS)  Hey, you don’t want to piss this guy off.  It’s Rocky Balboa, for crying out loud!

LS:  I piss off whoever I want to piss off.  It’s a free country!

MA (to Rocky):  We are in the middle of a movie review.  Would you mind coming back later?

(ROCKY glares at them for a few minutes, in stony silence, contemplating whether to pound them to pulp)

ROCKY:  You got five more minutes.  (Exits.)

LS: Go drink a protein shake or something.

ROCKY (outside gym door):  Yo, Mick.  Where did you put those chickens?

LS: Based on the true story of a crime that happened in Miami in the 1990s, PAIN & GAIN is both a crime movie and a dark comedy. The funniest aspect of the movie is that, as we already made clear, these three criminals are actually pretty dumb, and make some pretty awful mistakes along the way.

MA:  See, I just didn’t find this all that funny.  I found it painful.

LS:  Well, that’s good right? Pain and gain?

It is amazing they are able to get away with as much as they do. Their stupidity involves everything from Paul (Johnson) befriending (and being easily manipulated by) Krenshaw, when he is supposed to be keeping the man prisoner; to supposedly clever, elaborate plans that just aren’t very well thought out. As Lugo says at one point, they actually do their best work when they “wing it,” because thinking doesn’t come very naturally to these guys.

MA:  And that’s part of what I didn’t like about this movie.  It’s incredibly obvious that Paul is being manipulated by Krenshaw, so obvious that it’s anything but interesting.  The story here is just about as stupid as the three main characters.  I found this one hard to like.

LS:  Despite the fact that I wasn’t expecting much, since it’s directed by Bay, I found myself enjoying this movie. It has a good story, and some very funny moments, and the acting is probably the biggest plus going for it.

MA:  I can’t argue with you there.  The acting is all very good.  Trouble is, they’re playing characters I couldn’t stand.

LS:  Wahlberg has been in some good movies and some awful ones, but he really shines in a role like this one, and is spot-on as Lugo, who thinks he is much smarter than he actually is.

MA:  You’re right.  Wahlberg is spot-on as Lugo.  I can’t take away from his performance, because he succeeds in creating a character I couldn’t stomach.  My problem with PAIN & GAIN isn’t with the performers or the performances.  They’re all excellent, across the board.

LS:  Anthony Mackie is also good as Doorbal. But for me, some of the best scenes involved Johnson’s Paul Doyle. I really think that the man formerly known as The Rock has come a long way as an actor over the years. I find him very likable onscreen, and despite his intimidating size, he’s able to bring real humanity to a lot of his roles. The first time I really started becoming a fan was in the above-average revenge drama FASTER (2010), and while I don’t think PAIN & GAIN is as good as that movie, I thought it was a decent flick, and Johnson was my favorite actor in this one.

MA:  I have to agree with you yet again.  Johnson is excellent at Paul Doyle, and I also agree that he has a very likeable screen persona.  This role also gives him a lot more to do than in the last film I saw Johnson in, the awful G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013).

LS: Yeah, I’m sorry I missed that.

MA: Sarcasm, again?

LS: But of course.

MA: Sadly, this movie isn’t much better.  PAIN & GAIN is an ugly film with unpleasant characters who make boneheaded decisions.  Frankly, they have no business being in a movie that is over two hours long.

Again, I like Dwayne Johnson here, but he’s playing a character I grew tired of right after I got to know him.  Any one of these three guys might have made for a memorable stooge if some of the other criminals in the movie had some smarts, skills, or vision, but there’s none of that here.  These guys are all idiots.  It’s like watching Dumb and Dumber, and Even Dumber.

It’s like watching The Three Stooges become criminals.  Well, shouldn’t that be funny?  I don’t know.  If they start hacking up dead bodies with chainsaws and barbecuing severed hands on an outdoor grill, I’m not sure how funny that would be.

LS: I thought that stuff was funny!

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MA:  You know, I wanted to laugh, and in another context I might have found this funny, perhaps if these guys weren’t complete numbskulls, or if the movie generated some style, some pizzazz.  It tries, but its attempts at being quirky are quashed by a general sense of simplicity that keeps this one from taking off.

LS: And I liked that it wasn’t afraid to get gruesome at times. But I get what you’re saying, and the movie isn’t a total success over all. But, for most of its running time, I had fun with it.

MA: I don’t mind gruesome, but in this case I just wasn’t laughing.

 (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER comes over)

ARNOLD: I do not know why you like that big wrestling man so much. I was the Governor of California you know. I was a much bigger deal than him.

MA: That’s nice, but we’re not talking about you right now.

ARNOLD: Well, maybe you should be. I am much better than any of the new action stars. Just because I took some time off for politics doesn’t mean I’m not a big star anymore.

LS: Relax, Arnie, we’re not putting you down.

ARNOLD: And I want to use the elliptical machine. That’s the one I use every time I come to this gym.

MA: But I’m using it.

ARNOLD: It’s mine.

MA:  Could you wait just a few minutes?  We’re almost done with our review.

ARNOLD:  Let me hear you say that my movies are better than the one you’re reviewing today.

MA:  For me, that’s easy.  I didn’t like PAIN AND GAIN all that much, so yeah, I like your movies better.

ARNOLD:  I’ll be back— to use the elliptical machine.  (Exits)

MA:  Let’s not be here when he returns.  He looked a little agitated.

LS: Let’s go use the weights.

MA: Okay.

(We jump to the weight room, where LS is lifting a huge barbell over his head)

LS: Wow, I like it here in Cinema Knife Fight Land. I can lift 500 pounds without breaking a sweat.

MA: Yeah, we’re like superheroes here.

LS: Makes you think twice about going back to the real world, huh?

Anyway, back to the review. I was talking about the cast of PAIN & GAIN.

Ed Harris is another stand-out as private detective  Ed DuBois. He doesn’t appear in the movie until later on in the story, but he’s the kind of actor you can count on to elevate whatever movie he’s in.

MA:  I don’t know.  I thought Harris came into the film a little too late to be much of a factor.  I mean, I wanted to know more about him, but he doesn’t really do a whole lot here, so I can’t say I liked his performance all that much.  It’s hard to like what amounts to a pretty standard and very small supporting role.

LS:  And Bar Paly (previously in the horror film, THE RUINS, 2008) is extremely hot as Russian stripper-turned-co-conspirator Sorina Luminata, whom the boys trick into believing they work for the CIA.

I also liked the supporting cast, including Rob Corddry as gym manager John Mese, Rebel Wilson (who, after roles in movies like BRIDESMAIDS, 2011, and PITCH PERFECT, 2012, is on the verge of becoming a star in her own right) as Doorbal’s girlfriend (and eventually wife) and Emily Rutherfurd, who has some funny lines (even if she’s not onscreen very much) as Ed DuBois’s wife, Carolyn.

I didn’t think PAIN & GAIN was a great movie, but I thought it was a lot of fun, and I liked the cast a lot. This one surprised me, because I didn’t expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did. I give this one two and a half knives.

What did you think, Michael?

MA:  I think that this one suffers from a case of the stupids, and unfortunately, for me, there was nothing else about it to make up for the fact that its characters were unlikeable and its story unworthy of my time.  Even the film’s strong cast couldn’t save it.

We’ve already talked at length about the cast, which we both agree was good, so let’s get to the real culprit here, the writing.  Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay, and these are the same guys who wrote the screenplays for CAPTAIN AMERICA:  THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) and the NARNIA movies.  While I liked CAPTAIN AMERICA, I can’t say that I liked the NARNIA movies, but the point is these guys are capable writers, and their screenplay here is fine as well, in terms of dialogue and characterizations.

But the characters they create here- or at least write about—since it’s based on a true story, as we’re constantly reminded —are so difficult to like, I just couldn’t get into this one.  I found these folks unbearable to watch.  This movie should have been called PAIN AND PAIN.

I didn’t like any of the three lead characters, didn’t care what happened to them, and really just wanted to see them behind bars ASAP.  They’re a bunch of idiotic losers.  Even Dwayne Johnson’s Paul Doyle, the most sympathetic of the three, is such a sad character you just want him to go away.

That’s how I felt about all three of these guys.  Just go away!  I don’t want to watch a movie about you anymore!

And then, the guy they kidnap and steal from, Victor Kershaw, is the most unlikeable guy in the whole movie.  He makes the three demonic stooges seem like saints!  So, just who am I rooting for here?  I can’t even root for Ed Harris’s detective because he’s hardly in it.

LS: I dunno, why do you have to root for anyone? Why not just sit back and enjoy the movie.

MA: That’s a fair point.  I guess I just had difficulty enjoying a story about people who I didn’t like all that much.  I mean, if I were sitting at a bar listening to these guys talk, I don’t think I would have stayed there very long.  I would have picked up my drink and moved somewhere else.  They were just too shallow.

LS:  But that’s the point.  That these shallow guys actually got away with this crime, at least for a time, anyway.

MA:  But I also didn’t think the jokes worked.  Most of the laughs come from situations that are so ridiculously painful you can’t help but emit nervous laughter, like when Paul Doyle barbecues those hands.

LS: They looked kind of yummy to me.

MA: Any attempt at real humor doesn’t work here.  The lines and jokes just aren’t sharp enough.  When Daniel Lugo throws barrels containing dead bodies into the water and then doesn’t make an effort to make sure they go down to the bottom, I’m wondering why am I watching a movie about these clowns?

The best scene in the film is when porn king Frank Giga (Michael Rispoli) tells them he won’t do business with them because they’re obvious amateurs, and he tells Daniel that the things he says are laughable.  It’s the one scene in the movie that ring true.  And the one guy who speaks the truth in the film, Giga, is rewarded by getting his head smashed in.

LS: Maybe the truth hurts.

MA: PAIN & GAIN is a wannabe cutting-edge thriller – think Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES (2012) only without the stylish direction and edge-of your seat writing.  In that film, there were real characters and real threats.  Here there are just a bunch of idiots pretending to be criminals.

LS: Isn’t it ironic that SAVAGES was based on fiction, and PAIN & GAIN was based on magazine articles by Pete Collins about real-life criminals.

MA: You make a good point.  A good fiction writer will write solid well-constructed stories.  All kinds of weird crap happens in real life, a lot of it unbelievable, but just because it really happened doesn’t make it a good story.  And I think that’s the problem with this movie.

I can’t say that it worked as a comedy either.  The jokes aren’t very funny, the writing isn’t all that witty, and I found myself laughing only when things got so ridiculous it was easier than crying.

Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this one, and if so, I’m guilty as charged.  For me, watching PAIN & GAIN was like imagining what it would be like if The Three Stooges starred in an R rated crime movie directed by Michael Bay.

LS (doing Curly imitation): Coitainly

MA: Now, if the director was Quentin Tarantino, then that would be a different story!

LS: No argument there. Michael Bay is no Tarantino. But he’s also not as horrible as I previously thought. He is capable of making a decent movie, and PAIN & GAIN is a decent flick. But I understand your dilemma. If it didn’t work for you from the get go, then it probably felt like a long movie to sit through. I just was more receptive to it, I guess, and I thought it was a fun night at the movies.

MA: I give it one knife.

Okay, that wraps things up.  Thanks for joining us everybody.  We’re outta here

LS:  We’ll see you all again next week.

(ARNOLD returns.)

ARNOLD:  I’m back.  And I’ve brought my friends with me.  (A group of beautiful strippers accompany Arnold into the gym).  We’re ready for the ultimate work-out.

STRIPPER 1: Ready to work those abs, Arnie? (the other strippers giggle)

MA:  On second thought, maybe we’re not outta here.

LS:  I don’t think I’ve reached my target heart rate yet. It’s time to take a page out of Rocky Balboa’s playbook and chase some chicks around.

MA:  Er, actually he was chasing chickens, but I like your idea better.

(ROCKY pops his head in)

ROCKY (angrily): Yo, can I use my treadmill now?

—END—-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives PAIN & GAIN~ one knife!

LL Soares gives PAIN & GAIN~two and a half knives.

TRANCE (2013)

Posted in 2013, Crime Films, Criminal Masterminds, Danny Boyle Movies, Enigmatic Films, Femme Fatales, Gangsters!, LL Soares Reviews, Mind Experiments!, Psychological Thrillers, Rosario Dawson with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by knifefighter

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

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Danny Boyle has become a director who a lot of people equate with quality product. My favorite movie of his remains TRAINSPOTTING, which was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 1996, but  before and after that he made such memorable films as SHALLOW GRAVE (1994), 28 DAYS LATER (2002), SUNSHINE (2007), SLUMDOG MILLIONARE (2008), and 127 HOURS (2010), the latter of which had James Franco memorably cutting off his own hand after a rock climbing accident. So a new Boyle movie is usually something to look forward to. But then again, this is the same guy who also made the completely awful A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997), so you can’t expect a home run every time.

I had mixed feelings about TRANCE when I saw it, and continue to feel ambivalent about it in retrospect. Boyle’s new movie seems brilliant at times, and ridiculous at other times, but fairly entertaining throughout. It’s one of those movies that feels the need to be overly complicated, trying to keep the audience constantly guessing what is really happening, and these kinds of movies tend to be more tedious than riveting.

When TRANCE opens, we meet Simon (James McAvoy, who most people will remember as the young Professor Xavier in 2011’s X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), who works at an auction house in London that deals in expensive paintings. We get an interesting crash course in what employees are supposed to do in the event that there’s a robbery; how to keep priceless masterpieces out of the hands of criminals. So of course, there is a robbery for real, led by criminal mastermind, Franck (the always terrific Vincent Cassel), and Simon, who was always told not to try to be a hero in such situations, decides to be a hero, and gets cracked in the head for his troubles.

He wakes up in a hospital bed, with a case of amnesia, and an angry Franck, who wants to get his hands on Goya’s “Witches in the Air” (a wonderful painting, by the way) which has gone missing. Simon knows used to know where it was, but can’t remember anymore. So Franck takes him to a hypnotist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson, who has been in everything from KIDS, 1995, to JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, 2001, to  SIN CITY, 2005, and Tarantino’s half of GRINDHOUSE – “Death Proof,” 2007 ).

So far, so good. This one’s got a solid cast and a compelling premise.

The bad guys wire Simon up with a microphone, so they can hear his sessions and get the painting that much quicker once they learn where it is. But something goes wrong. Elizabeth gets wise to what’s going on and wants a cut of the money the painting would bring. She also plays mind games with the bad guys, demanding that they let her hypnotize them as well, to make Simon feel “less vulnerable.” And it turns out, not everyone has all their cards on the table – various characters have hidden motivations that we are not privy to at first, and things get complicated.

By the time we get to the big reveal in the last half hour, I wasn’t sure if I liked this movie or not. It went through some highs and lows getting to the big explanation, but once we get there, I was pretty satisfied with how things ultimately unravel.

McAvoy is a decent lead character, both sympathetic and unlikable in equal turns, and Cassel (who was so terrific in movies like Gaspar Noe’s IRREVERSIBLE, 2002, and Darren Aronofksy’s THE BLACK SWAN, 2010) plays bad guys like this well. But the movie is easily stolen by Rosario Dawson in every scene she is in. Sexy, smart and electric on the screen, it is Dawson who ultimately won me over for this movie, and it is her character who I wanted to reach the end with all the marbles.

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I still think that TRANCE is a little too complicated for its own good, and for a while there, you’re not sure if certain crosses or double-crosses are real or in the minds of characters that have been hypnotized. But for the most part, I liked this movie. I just don’t think it’s in the same league of Boyle’s best films.

If you’re a Boyle fan, or enjoy a good thriller, you should check TRANCE out. But be prepared for a bumpy ride getting to the answers.

I give it three knives out of five.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives TRANCE ~three knives.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2013)

Posted in 2013, Crime Films, Drama, Family Secrets, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , on April 9, 2013 by knifefighter

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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After last year’s DRIVE, I’ve been looking forward to more dramas starring Ryan Gosling. He’s an actor I noticed fairly early on (in movies like 2001’s THE BELIEVER and 2006’s HALF NELSON) and it was pretty obvious then that he was going to be a big star. The fact that he continues to pick interesting projects is to his benefit. So when I heard this one was directed by Derek Cianfrance, who also made BLUE VALENTINE (2010), another interesting showcase for Gosling, I was doubly convinced this was going to be a good one.

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES takes place in Schenectady, New York (supposedly, Schenectady literally means “the place beyond the pines”), and it begins with Luke (Gosling), a stunt motorcyclist for a traveling carnival. The movie doesn’t really dwell much on what Luke does with that ‘cycle, but it’s actually kind of amazing. Three guys drive motorcycles into this big metal ball and then they drive inside of it, upside down and across, at high speeds, and somehow avoid colliding with and killing each other. I wanted to know more about this fascinating profession, but THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES just uses it as an interesting bit of background, which I found disappointing (how do they do it?).

Luke finds out that a girl he had a fling with the last time he was in town, Romina (Eva Mendez), has given birth to his son, and that she is raising the baby with another man, Cofi (Mahershala Ali). Luke is upset when he finds out, and demands to be a part of the child’s life. He quits his job at the carnival, because he wants to stay in town, but he has trouble finding work, until he meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn, who was also really good as Daggett in last year’s KILLING THEM SOFTLY), who has his own garage where he fixes cars (it’s actually the garage attached to his house!). Robin offers Luke a job as a mechanic, and a trailer in his backyard as a place to live.

Luke can barely support himself, but he’s intent on getting enough money to take care of his son, and he still believes he can get Romina to run away with him. Money seems to be his biggest roadblock in these plans. Robin tells him a way he can make more money—robbing banks. Turns out Robin used to do it himself in his youth, and he knows how to pull it off. The fact that Luke is an expert motorcyclist doesn’t hurt, either, since it gives him a great getaway vehicle.

This first storyline is pretty interesting, and reminded me of the strong character development that director Cianfrance gave us in BLUE VALENTINE. Unfortunately, this is just one of three stories in the film (which are kind of separate but interconnected at the same time). I would have really liked to see more of Luke and Romina, but we only get to focus on them for a short time.

The second storyline involves Avery (Bradley Cooper), a cop who has a run-in with Luke. The movie then follows him as he gets involved with a scam involving some corrupt cops (led by the always reliable Ray Liotta as Deluca). Should he blow the whistle on the corrupt cops, or should he just go with the flow? His conscience tells him one thing, but it’s made clear to him that cops who rat on their own may not have a long life expectancy.

The final storyline focuses on the sons of Avery and Luke, now in high school, and both of them are troubled. Avery’s son AJ (Emory Cohen) has become pretty volatile since his parents’ divorce, and trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. Jason (Dane DeHaan), Luke’s son, seems more clear-headed at first, but he spirals down once he meets AJ (who transfers to his school) and starts getting involved in his shenanigans.

The acting is very good. Gosling is the obvious stand-out here, but Cooper is quite good as well (in a less compelling role). The boys who play their sons are good here, too. Cohen is spot on as a troubled kid who is constantly acting out, and DeHaan (who was so great in last year’s CHRONICLE) is riveting as a good kid gone bad. The support characters are good, too, including Eva Mendes (I wish she had had more screen time, she’s really good here), Rose Byrne as Avery’s wife (a less developed role) , and Mendelson.

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The script however, is not as strong as BLUE VALENTINE. In that previous movie, Cianfrance was able to show us the slow disintegration of a marriage and make it captivating. I really enjoyed that film a lot. In comparison, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES is good, but kind of a letdown. Part of the problem is the triptych sequence in which the stories are told. In BLUE VALENTINE, we got one storyline throughout, and it was made stronger as we examined the characters closely over time. In PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, we never get to spend enough time with any one set of characters, and it hurts in establishing that connection between movie and viewer.

The first part with Gosling is very good. The second part, with Cooper, felt less fresh to me. A good cop trying to stay clean among corrupt peers has been done hundreds of times before, and the movie doesn’t really give us anything new in that regard. Cooper does what he can with the role, but the truth is, Avery just is not as compelling as Luke, and the movie loses a little steam once Avery’s story begins. The final segment, involving the teenage sons of both men, is good, but once again, not as strong as the first part with Gosling. Over all, it’s an interesting movie, even if it is a little uneven at times, but it’s not as good as it could have been. Cianfrance has shown us what he’s capable of, and PINES just seems to fall a little short.

I liked it, and recommend it to fans of Gosling and Cooper, but it’s not either of their best work. I give THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES three knives out of five.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES ~three knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS for APRIL 2013

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Aliens, Coming Attractions, Crime Films, Demons, Horror, Possessed By Demons with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
APRIL 2013
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A cabin in the woods.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are inside, looking at books.  LS is reading the Book of the Dead, while MA is reading the E-book version of the same.)

LS:  I had no idea the Book of the Dead is available as an E-book now.

MA:  It just came out.  It’s a sign of the times.  It even has this interactive menu.

LS:  Let me see that.  (MA hands the E-Reader to LS.)

MA:  I wouldn’t go clicking any icons if I were you.  It is the Book of the Dead, after all.  At least wait until after we finish this column.

LS:  You’re no fun.  And I’ll press buttons if I want to!  See, I just clicked on the “Kick my Ash” icon and nothing happened.

MA:  Will you stop!  We have a column to do!

LS:  Wimp!  But you’re right.  We do have a column to do.

Welcome to the COMING ATTRACTIONS column for April 2013, where we preview which movies we’ll be reviewing in the coming month.

Up first on April 5, it’s the remake/reimagining of THE EVIL DEAD (2013).  Most people reading this column are probably familiar with Sam Raimi’s 1981 original version. It’s the movie that put him on the map, as well as star Bruce Campbell. Based on the trailer for the new EVIL DEAD, it looks fairly faithful to the original story, but I’ll be surprised if it’s half as good. I’m a big fan of the original and I’m not expecting the remake to blow me away. But, as usual, I would love to be surprised and find out this is a really good version. So we’ll see.

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MA:  Honestly, I haven’t seen the original EVIL DEAD (1981) in years, but I remember it fondly, as well as its sequels. That being said, I was never a big fan of the trilogy.  I liked them, but I didn’t love them.

I am looking forward to this remake or reimagining, or whatever the heck it is.  We just haven’t had a lot of horror movies out at the theaters of late, it seems, so it should be fun to finally have a major horror release on the big screen.

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Also opening on April 5 is a new thriller 6 SOULS (2013).  I know very little about this one, other than that it stars Julianne Moore, who I like a lot.  If it opens near me, I’ll be seeing it and reviewing it.

LS:  Yeah, I don’t know much about this one. But if it does come out near us, you’ll be reviewing it solo.

MA:  On April 12, we’ll be reviewing SCARY MOVIE 5 (2013).  I had enough of this series after just the first movie.  The fact that we’re up to 5 is ludicrous.  All I can say about this one is ugh!

LS: I agree. I also saw the very similar HAUNTED HOUSE (2013), starring Marlon Wayans earlier this year (Wayans was one of the originators of the first few SCARY MOVIEs) and I enjoyed it. But SCARY MOVIE 5 seems to be covering a lot of the same territory, so the jokes may already be stale. I’m not expecting much from this one.

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MA: However, there are a couple of talented writers involved here, Pat Proft and David Zucker. .

Proft has a ton of writing credits.  He worked on the screenplays for the NAKED GUN movies, as well as a bunch of other parodies, including the previous two SCARY MOVIE movies.

David Zucker, of course, is one of the men behind AIRPLANE! (1980), which he co-wrote and co-directed.  He also co-wrote the NAKED GUN movies and directed SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003) and SCARY MOVIE 4 (2004).  So, maybe there’s hope.

Then again, the film stars Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

LS:  On April 19 we’ll be reviewing OBLIVION (2013) starring Tom Cruise.  This is going to be a big science fiction blockbuster starring Cruise as a guy doing cleanup on a destroyed Earth after an alien invasion. It looks like it could have potential, and Cruise is usually okay in these kinds of things.

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MA:  I enjoyed Cruise’s previous movie JACK REACHER (2012) a lot, so I’m kinda looking forward to this one.  The trailers don’t make it look like anything great, but it’s science fiction, so I’m intrigued and hopeful.

It’s directed by Jospeh Kosinski, the guy who directed TRON: LEGACY (2010), which wasn’t too bad.  Kosinski also co-wrote the screenplay, along with a couple of other writers, including Michael Arndt, who wrote the screenplays for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) and TOY STORY 3 (2010).  Arndt is also on tap to write the screenplays for the upcoming HUNGER GAMES sequel and the next STAR WARS movie.

And in addition to Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, OBLIVION also features everyone’s favorite crazy mother, Melissa Leo.  Leo of course nailed that crazy mama persona in her Oscar winning performance in THE FIGHTER (2010).

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LS:  While I think OBLIVION might be fun, I am much more excited about another movie coming out that weekend, Rob Zombie’s new film THE LORDS OF SALEM (2013).  If this one comes out near me, I’ll be reviewing it solo. It concerns some DJs in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts who get a mysterious vinyl record in the mail by a new band that may be steeped in witchcraft. I’ve been waiting for Rob Z to come out with a new original film ever since he made the last two HALLOWEEN films. He’s so much better working from his own original ideas, so I’m very hopeful that this one might put him back on track as an ambitious horror filmmaker again.

MA:  And we finish the month with a review of PAIN AND GAIN (2013),  a movie billed as a— and I’ll try to say this with a straight face— crime drama comedy about weightlifters caught up in a kidnapping scheme gone wrong, starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, directed by Michael Bay.

That about says it all.

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LS:  PAIN AND GAIN might be fun. Both Wahlberg and Johnson have been in good movies, and bad ones, so this one could go either way. But the trailer looks pretty good. It’s the Michael Bay thing that worries me.

MA: Exactly!  And I thought the trailer was all over the place.  I couldn’t tell if it was serious or a comedy, and it turns out it’s both, which is fine, but for some reason I thought it looked goofy.

And that wraps things up for April.  Can I have the E-reader back now?  (LS hands it back to MA).  Hey, what did you do to the screen?

(A giant vine shoots out from the E-Reader screen and wraps itself around MA and pulls him to the ground, where they wrestle violently.)

LS:  Wow, the 3D function really works!  And you don’t even need glasses!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares