Friday, May 31, 2013

Now You See Me (2013)

Director: Louis Leterrier
Notable Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

I'm all about a good mystery flick. A thoughtful mystery caper with style and a pinch of action courtesy of director Louis Leterrier? With a cast like that? "Now You See Me" was a film that had a lot going for it, but because it focused on magicians and a plot to rob banks while on stage it felt like it was either going to be brilliant or a disaster. If you would consider it lucky, the film does manage to be decently entertaining with tons of energy and a slick style to make it a great popcorn flick. Like many other popcorn flicks though, the film most certainly rides on that energy and chemistry the entire time and in hindsight, "Now You See Me" ends up being a rather hollow and incohesive film experience.

When the Four Horsemen (Eisenberg, Fisher, Harrelson, Franco) arrive on the magic scene as a team each with a valuable talent/skill in magic, they seem to be the biggest thing to happen. When the four of them rob a French bank while on stage in Las Vegas, it gets law enforcement nervous. That's when they send Rhodes (Ruffalo) in to investigate. With the help of an INTERPOL agent (Laurent) and an ex-magician who sells their secrets (Freeman), Rhodes will have to start thinking two steps ahead of a team of magicians who seem to be able to predict every move.

Much prettier than the four horsemen looks I would have expected.
There is definitely an element of 'cinematic' entertainment to "Now You See Me." I say cinematic specifically because director Leterrier adds enough glitz, glamor, and style that this film definitely feels like a summer blockbuster. It has a massive globe trotting plot of a slew of characters, mostly cast with A-listers, and the visual effects are top notch. The characters have pretty strong chemistry and there's moments of wit that made the film fun. Hell, there was even a pretty stellar action sequence in the second act with a pretty effective escape fight and car chase. If you look at "Now You See Me" it's a perfectly accessible film that hits all the basic points to be entertaining and fun.

Yes. Fire. It's like magic.
...the problem then remains is that "Now You See Me" is the kind of film that is fine when you aren't thinking about it. After the fact though, this film ends up being one of very little depth and almost no sense to the plot. After the first act, which I quite enjoyed, the movie then kicks into high gear rapidly careening through locals and mystery plot points as we switch to the FBI Agent for a protagonist. Here, the film seemingly loses its foundational humor and charm (including abandoning our leading magicians to be plot devices then true characters) and becomes a ridiculously overlarge Scooby-Doo whodunit mystery. While the action and pacing is lightning fast, the film would have been better off to take its time with pushing tension and suspense rather than blitzing the audience with its overzealous style and non-sensible red-herrings ill-explained "coincidences" required to even buy that this will all work out in the end. The beauty of true magicians is that we are meant to believe it is real despite what we are seeing. "Now You See Me" never, ever feels like it could remotely be real and thus loses "the magic."

Ironically, I felt like the smartest man in the room by the end of the movie.
That being said, for a summer popcorn flick I can think of a lot worse films. It's fun, the action was a nice surprise, and it has its fair share of fun moments (although the bubble sequence was headache inducing). Unfortunately, for a film that is supposed to be a mystery thriller at its core its not all that thrilling and the mystery is completely daft half the time. Give it or leave it the film wasn't offensive, but it didn't impress either. I would suggest a rental before purchase.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Package, The (2013)

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Notable Cast: Steven Austin, Dolph Lundgren

Now that "The Expendables" and the "Fast & Furious" franchises have kick started this trend of pairing or teaming up a slew of action stars together, even the lower budget films have been running with this idea. I was intrigued by the idea of having Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren duke it out for "The Package" as one caters to a younger audience and the other to an older, but I kept my expectations low due to its rather low budget and straight to home video release. Fortunately, the film came out as far more competent than I expected - even if its still not great overall.

Tommy (Austin) has been working has a hired hitter for a local crime lord to earn some extra cash for his 'specific skill set.' When he is specifically chosen to deliver a small package to a rival crime lord only known as The German (Lundgren), Tommy finds himself being chased by killers, thugs, and assassins. What could this package be and why does everyone seem to want to kill for it?

"Who are you, the acting police?"
Obviously the appeal of this film is the head to head showdown and/or partnership of our two leading action heroes. "The Package" does end up being more about Steve Austin's character than Lundgren's villain though. While Lundgren does eat up a lot of the scenery as a sick crime lord with no remorse in gutting anyone (while making smoothies and describing whey they're healthy in one scene), the film very much sticks with Austin as a protagonist to drive the action. While Austin is fairly strong in the action sequences, the man is a terrible, terrible actor. I just recently watched "Maximum Conviction" with him and needless to say, the man can't even deliver the occasional action one liner correctly. It's frustrating throughout this film to watch him act like a tree trunk.

Believe it or not, I actually quite enjoyed the plot of the film though. It might tend to run into a few chiche moments, like Tommy's girlfriend or the final twist about what the package exactly is, but overall it moves at a brisk pace and throws in enough action sequences to keep an action fan entertained. While some of the action might not make sense, for example, why do the men keep working with their construction equipment at night while multiple men are duking it out in the ally, but its fairly strong anyway and keeps the film moving. The film has some solid moments of plot structure that kicked up a notch, including a very interesting dynamic between Tommy and his boss that had me intrigued, and that really makes a difference in the end.

It beats "In The Name Of The King 3", eh?
While I wouldn't consider "The Package" a great film overall, it does succeed on a few levels that surprised me. It has some pretty strong fight choreography, some solid plot elements, and Lundgren once again steals the film when he's on screen. It's too bad the final fight wasn't all that great, but it's take it or leave it. "The Package" will entertain action fans, even if it doesn't blow them away.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Red Scorpion (1989) [Matt's Reveiw]

Director: Joseph Zito
Notable Cast: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Brion James

As the golden age of action film making manifested itself into the early 90s, there were a few overlooked gems that existed. Normally, as a writer that focuses on modern cult cinema, I don't get to dig out these kind of under-viewed classics, but as it would have it a beautiful new Blu Ray of "Red Scorpion" ended up in my collection and I just happened to be starting a running feature for the site about Dolph Lundgren. Thusly we start with what was supposed to be one of Dolph's big lead roles in "Red Scorpion." A film directed by Joseph Zito and starring Dolph? "Red Scorpion" is B-grade action gold even if it's a film that fell through the cracks far too much when it was initially released.

Lt. Nikolai Rachenko (Lundgren) has been chosen for a very special assignment. He is sent to infiltrate an anti-communist African rebellion to assassinate it's leader to help the Russian led government. When he discovers that the rebels are the good guys against the oppressive Russians, he fails his mission and is disgraced. Now its up to him to help these rebels fight back against the corrupt military that turned their backs on him.

He must see Dolph's haircut.
It's pretty easy to see that "Red Scorpion" is 'technically' not going to be good film. For the same reasons that the film is B-grade action gold, it's going to be a film that will earn the ire from those not of a cult film taste. Even compared to other Joseph Zito films like "Invasion U.S.A.", "Red Scorpion" feels a little subdued by a hindered budget and some odd moments in the film. Other than some smaller elements, which will be talked about in a minute, "Red Scorpion" succeeds as an entertaining action flick with a larger than life hero and some fun moments. The action is pretty solid, there is a pretty impressive/explosive car chase that occurs at the the end of the first act, and Dolph keeps a larger than life feeling on screen. He delivers a few classic one liners that had me rolling on the floor and, despite his short shorts in the last half, I was loving Dolph in this role.

They hate those shorts too.
Now the film is far from perfect as the story comes off as a bit silly with its obvious anti-Russian/Communist themes (well, it is an American action film from 1989) and the film can be uproariously cheesy. The entire middle portion as our hero goes from being a tool of war to a man respectful of his life and its meaning drags a bit and can be a bit of a bore. Seeing Dolph learning to hunt wild pig and befriend a 'bushman' from Africa has its comedic merits and it does give him a bit of character arc without overloading him with more than 10 lines of dialogue, but it drags.

The body paint might be a little overkill, particularly in a mid day siege.
"Red Scorpion" tends to be a little overzealous in its broad stroke themes, but at least the film is entertaining as hell. It has some great bad dialogue, the film is populated with fun character actors, and the action is pretty top notch considering its limited budget. Is it going to be an action film for everyone? Nah, but if you love that old school over the top and limited brain capacity style that the 80s delivered in action then this is a must have.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sadako 3D (2013)

Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa
Notable Cast: Satomi Ishihara, Koji Seto, Yusuke Yamamoto, Ryosei Tayama, Ai Hashimoto

While "Ringu" it's American remake "The Ring" kick started a world wide fascination with J-Horror and Japanese ghost films, the series took a quick dive into oddities and obscurities with its eventual sequels. Now I haven't read the books that this series is based on, but judging from synopses and reviews - they equally go towards being odd and obscure. Thusly, when it was announced that our favorite long black haired villainous girl Sadako would be returning to the big screen based on the novel "S", I was more intrigued than excited. Would it be a return to form for the ghostly killer or would the modernization of having her kill through an internet video be completely asinine? Oddly enough, "Sadako 3D" is both.

When a video of a famous internet artist committing suicide goes viral, a teacher (Ishihara) has to keep her students from watching the supposed "cursed video" in class. Well, at least searching for it. It would seem the video is hard to come by. Yet, a string of suicides all linked the video have become an epidemic that the police are investigating. When the teacher witnesses a long haired woman reaching through the monitor to grab one of her students, she realizes that the curse just might be real...

"Rebooting the franchise?! O.M.G."
My expectations going into "Sadako" were pretty low. The last few "Ringu" movies left a bit to be desired, you can read reviews of them here on the site courtesy of Eric, and the new obsession with 3D films certainly didn't add to my enthusiasm. Luckily, "Sadako" isn't nearly as mediocre as the last few films and it pulls on some great plot elements to make it work. It has some decent acting in the film and director Tsutomu Hanabusa generally knows how to craft a good modern ghost story. The first half of the film is full of intriguing ideas (including how a 'wandering video' somehow appears and disappears online) and "Sadako" builds a pretty fun mystery flick that almost has some artistic touches to it. Even the latter half of the movie, as it careens into full on horror - almost a monster flick in the third act which doesn't sit so well - the film does keep your attention as you wonder just how Sadako has come back and what she wants with our lead character.

"It's show time!"
Unfortunately, the film also succumbs to a few elements that halt it from being as scary or as good as it could have been. Firstly, the film has terrible CGI. With a focus on 3D scares, it loves to throw things like CGI glass shards or an oddly green screened falling person at the audience and the visual effects do not impress. In fact, even the rather substandard special effects seem like a breath of relief as the film starts to throw far too much cheesy 'scares' and CGI elements into the audience. When the Sadako monsters show up in the last act (I know, I know - the idea is silly but it does provide some much needed energy and it works in several spots), the physical effects are much better than the visual ones and it makes one wonder why they didn't use more throughout the film.

Secondly, for all of the stronger moments in the film and specific scenes that worked for me, the film generally makes no sense at all. I love the idea behind the film with a man's viral video of suicide as an act of sacrifice to resurrect Sadako who's looking for the right time and vessel to come back the throw down with humanity, but beyond that there was a lot of massive loop holes and poor writing to be had. Characters come and go from Sadako's realm to the real world as visions (and as hostages at one point) and the ending dumbfounded me. I really had no idea why the ending actually ended Sadako's terror reign, but whatever. There is a scene in the middle of the credits that adds a bit of mystery to the film and a post credits scene that most certainly indicates this was meant to reboot the franchise, so stick around to watch those if you buy or rent the film.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout...
Was the film as strong as "Ringu?" Absolutely not. It's muddled in it's narrative and tends to focus too much on CGI jump scares to prove as haunting as some of the previous entries. It is, however, quite a fun little J-horror film that deserves some attention from fans of the franchise. If you have seen some of the other sequels, then you know that plot holes and silly writing are something of a regular and you probably won't mind it too much here. It's a fun mystery film with some solid moments and horror fans are encouraged to at least rent the film. If you have a 3D TV, then you might as well buy it as it comes with both 2D and 3D versions which is nice considering the low price point.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

You can order "Sadako 3D" at the link below to help support Blood Brothers and our friends at Well Go USA for it's June 4th release.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Orca (1977)


Aka "Orca: The Killer Whale", "The Killer Whale"

I have reviewed a variety of “Jaws” rip-offs here on Blood Brothers but most had the link of being low budget independent films jumping on the killer ocean monster band-wagon. This is where “Orca” differs as it is a big budget studio film taking a big bite out of the chum filled “Jaws” pie by being financed by Universal rival Paramount and big time producer mogul Dino De Laurentiis. The final results are mixed but overall this has to be the best of the “Jaws” clones to emerge from the great white’s wake.
“Orca” has a grizzled fisherman (Harris) having trouble paying off the mortgage on his boat and decides to attempt to capture a killer whale to sell to an aquarium. In the process he wounds a male and kills its mate which gruesomely gives birth to a miscarried calf on the deck of his ship. Thanks to numerous ‘educational’ sessions shown in the film about orcas, we, the audiences, have learned that orcas have intelligence comparative to humans and that they are vengeful creatures. This unintentional killing of the male orca’s mate sets up the rest of the film which has the male following Harris, killing various crew members, to coax him back out to sea for a final confrontation.
There is no question that “Orca” was made to capitalize on the “Jaws” phenomenon occurring at the time but unlike its other low budget clones, “Orca” doesn’t always follow the same pattern set up by “Jaws”. Sure it has a man-killing sea creature luring a fisherman out to sea but what makes “Orca” different is the whale displays reasoning and intelligence in its actions. In “Jaws” the shark shows up and kills mindlessly, including its clones that substitute other creatures in the shark’s place like “Tentacles”, “Piranha” and even “Grizzly”. Here it has motivation for its actions and even can garner some sympathy from the audience. This however is where the film gets itself into some trouble.
The film gets a little cheesy, even dipping a little into camp territory, when the filmmakers try to build up sympathy for the Orca. Scenes of it and its family swimming around to a marvelous score by Ennio Morricone seems to be trying just a little too hard and sequences showing how terrifying and cunning it is just comes off unintentionally funny. The weak storyline of a male getting vengeance on the death of its mate is workable but there are just too many sequences that become amusing and loads of aquarium stock footage does get annoying.
Richard Harris is just marvelous here playing the surprisingly complex Nolan. One would expect him to be a one-dimensional “Captain Ahab” type but he makes emotional decisions one wouldn’t always expect. Charlotte Rampling plays a sexy intellection professor type oceanologist that has an equally complex relationship with our captain, hovering between love and hate, as she tries to help him along on his quest. Bo Dereck on the other hand is just pure eye candy, nothing more and nothing less, and does exactly what she was hired for which is to look pretty for the camera and act helpless in the shadow of looming death.
The best part of Orca isn’t the cast nor the title character (though the animatronic special effects are good) but the mournfully gorgeous Ennio Morricone score and the rich cinematography. I seriously wanted to go buy the soundtrack after first seeing the picture and is on par for being Morricone’s best scores of all time.
Overall “Orca” left with mixed emotions on the final product once the credits rolled. I respected the film for not completely following the “Jaws” plot mold and I dug the attempted effort to build up motive and sympathy for the title creature but too many moments plummet the film into unintentional amusement to respect the film as a whole. The complex characters, haunting score and beautiful photography due make some of the more silly moments easier to swallow and it’s a revenge story with an animal in the lead, which is extremely rare in live action films. Come to think of it I can’t think of another one off the top of my head until Universal stole the idea for the laughable sequel "Jaws: The Revenge".
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Parker (2013)

Director: Taylor Hackford
Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Nick Nolte

As part of our ongoing series "Jason Statham: The Never-Ending Five O'Clock Shadow," it was necessary for me to finally watch "Parker." There are multiple reasons why I wanted to see this film. It has the ever awesome ass kicking Statham in it. It's an 'R' rated action film. It's based on the same novel series as the cult favorite "Payback." SOLD! Too bad "Parker" can't live up to ANY of the previous reasons. In fact, it's quite the antithesis of what I expected from the film. It's much more comedic, bright, and bouncy than I would have ever expected a Statham led "R" rated "Parker" film to be. It has a few moments, but overall it's quite the let down.

Parker (Statham) has a decent thing going. In an almost Robin Hood like fashion, he's a thief of money from those undeserving and generous with it once he swipes it. After a botched heist on a State Fair, Parker is left for dead by his comrades when he won't give up his share for them to do a second heist. Now he's out for vengeance, to get his cut of the job, and to deliver the pain to those who left him for dead. Unfortunately to do that, he might have to take on a realtor (Lopez) to help him with the lay of the land.

Statham as a man of the cloth...and of a clown?
For a Statham vehicle, I was shocked at how poorly this film portrayed him as the bad ass we all know him to be. Let's be honest, he doesn't play the most vulnerable kind of anti-hero nor is he all that good at playing a thoughtful crook who cares for people. We see hints of that in some of his other films, a bit here and there in the "Transporter" series perhaps, but "Parker" wants us to buy into this idea very much so...and completely blows it with a terrible character arc. Early on we have a scene with him helping out a hostage from panicking and doing something stupid. The scene is supposed to be heartfelt and show us a side of this anti-hero for us to like. It comes off as forced and silly - particularly when it comes to him setting out for revenge against those who left him for dead. Should we be rooting for him to kill them all or should we be waiting for him to to turn the other cheek and just call it a day? Half the time "Parker" doesn't know either and we end up with a wishy washy hero that fails to intrigue. Not to mention seeing Statham as a priest and then a Texan oil baron (complete with terrible accent) in disguise has to be one of the saddest things I've seen on film all year. It's B-action film gold if your mood is right.

Even beyond a lead character who rarely lives up the kick ass nature he has in other films, "Parker" is a film that fails to live up to it's own premise. For an "R" rated flick, the violence and indulgences of it's allotted extremes seems a bit tame. Granted the entire feel of the film is much more upbeat and silly than I expected even throwing in some humor here and there, but even then the film seems to play it down. The violence is occasionally brutal, including the highlight hotel room assassination attempt that has Statham push a knife through his own hand, but beyond that and an occasional 'F' bomb rarely did this feel like a rated 'R' flick. Hell, even "The Last Stand" (which was released at roughly the same time) is more hardcore than this and it has Johnny Knoxville as a sidekick.

Ten gallon gallon accent.
Rarely did I feel like "Parker" was a terrible film, but it was certainly a dud compared to the expectations I had of it. The film rarely delved into the darker subject matter its plot wanted to go to, the lead character was confused and often wishy washy outside of a standard Statham performance, and the action was second fiddle to the the over emphasized plot. There was one sequence, the hotel fight in the middle of the film, that felt like a good time for the film to turn into the "Parker" I wanted, yet it ended up being a lone highlight in a mediocre and generic action film. By far Statham's weakest film to date. A sheer disappointment.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Last Shark, The (1981)


Aka "Great White", "The Last Jaws", "Jaws Returns"

I have seen countless “Jaws” rip-offs in my time but never one that actually got BANNED due to the fact. Yes Enzo G. Castellari’s 1981 Italian horror opus “The Last Shark” got a brief one week release in the United States under the title “Great White” before being pulled from theaters thanks to Universal filling an injunction getting it banned from the United States for copyright infringement due to numerous scenes stolen, or 'copied', from their films “Jaws” and “Jaws 2”. This unwanted attention the film garnered made it a staple for every cult film fanatic to hunt down, I mean how many films actually get banned in the United States? After finally seeing the picture I can honestly say it is hands down the biggest “Jaws” clone I have ever seen… and I have seen a lot! What else should I expect for a film that actually got banned for the fact…
The plot will sound a wee bit familiar as a small coastal community has an unwelcome visitor in the form of a giant great white shark who starts to eat local swimmers and fishermen. A local writer (James Fanciscus – substituting for Roy Schieder) and fisherman (Vic Morrow – substituting for Robert Shaw) know in their gut it’s a great white but the local government officials won’t have any of it as the news of a shark would hurt the communities profits (sound familiar?). So it’s on with a a wind surfing competition (mimicking the boat race in “Jaws 2”) and predictably it becomes a blood bath and our two heroes have to head out to sea to kill the beast before it digests the entire cast.
Saying “The Last Shark” is a “Jaws” rip-off is an understatement of the century. If one would play a drinking contest and take a swig every time a scene was stolen from “Jaws” or “Jaws 2” then they would die of liver failure before the end of the picture. A mayor turning a blind eye to the situation: check, Robert Shaw-esque fish hunter: check, shark pulling around a pontoon-like floating device to mimic yellow barrels in “Jaws”: check, main character’s child being threatened by the beast: check, bombastic repetitive ‘monster is coming’ score: check, mechanical shark head popping out of the water: check. Hell Jaws even takes down a fucking helicopter ala “Jaws 2”… just not as well executed and ‘believable’. So just a kind warning – don’t play a drinking game to “The Last Shark”.
The cast is of unusual high caliber, even if it made up of fading Hollywood stars. James Fanciscus (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, “The Cat O’Nine Tails”) is great as always but Vic Marrow (who was later tragically killed on the set of “Twilight Zone: The Movie”), looking like a Robert Shaw clone, is a little confused, having his character change from an Irish accent to Brooklyn accent throughout the picture causing for some unintentional laughter. Many of the rest of the cast is full of seasoned Enzo G. Castellari veterans and Italian cult fanatics will had fun playing ‘spot the character actor’.
Castellari has made it clear in interviews that he was never a fan of horror films but when the Italian film market started to gear towards the horror genre in the late 70s, away from the Spaghetti Westerns and crime thrillers he was comfortable with, he had to change in order to keep a job and it’s obvious he’s not comfortable in the genre. Castellari just isn’t able to craft any real horror suspense and he shoe horns in very odd action/stunt sequences into he film more suited for his action/western pictures of the past (though surf boards exploding into the air due to a shark attack is quite humorous).
When the shark is finally revealed my wife let out a huge chuckle, but in all honesty for a low budget Italian flm the mechanical shark didn’t look all that bad. It’s just perhaps they show it TOO much ( like “Jaws: The Revenge”) and having the damn thing roar (again like “Jaws: The Revenge) is just ludicrous dipping the film into camp territory. The miniature effects do leave a lot to be desired (like many Italian films) and the destruction of the model helicopter will sure to have any cult knock-off film buff hit the floor laughing.
“The Last Shark” has the reputation of being the biggest “Jaws” rip-off of all time and it thankfully lived up to that lovely prestige stapled to its fin. Viewers will no doubt have feeling of deja view as they watch numerous scenes lifted from more popular American counterparts but there’s enough B-movie mayhem and entertainment to make this worth watching. Hey in all honesty I can say I enjoyed it more than both “Jaws III” and the lamentable “Jaws: The Revenge”. I just find it ironic that the film would be released as part of the “Jaws” franchise in various foreign countries, even being retitled as “Jaws Returns” in Japan. Take that Universal! For years more people had heard about this nortorious picture than had actually seen but thanks to a little cult label called Retrovision Entertainment finding a loop hole in the legal system, “The Last Shark” has finally been given it’s first ever official home video release in the United States for all us cult film fanatics to finally see. So throw away your crummy bootlegs and support this wonderful DVD label!
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Director: Justin Lin
Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Gina Carano, Luke Evans, Joe Taslim

When Justin Lin took over the "Fast & Furious" franchise, his style and attentive penchant for action made a terrible film like "Tokyo Drift" watchable. It was when he started really building a film arc with "Fast & Furious" in 2009 that this franchise actually became interesting. Although the sixth entry into the series, with a title card on the film reads "Furious 6", might not be as surprisingly fun and awesome as the previous film "Fast Five," it might just be bigger and dumber than any film before it - which is actually a compliment considering how entertaining it is. The writing might be hit or miss and some of the characters might be throw away, but it fully knows this and runs with it anyway. A true statement to just how well Lin knows this series.

After the Rio heist, Dom (Diesel) and his crew have scattered across the world to enjoy their wealth even if they are still considered international criminals. When Hobbs (Johnson) shows up on his doorstep with pictures of Letty (Rodriguez), Dom decides he needs to help out the law enforcer catch a team of thieves trained in 'vehicular warfare' and led by Shaw (Evans). With the help of his brother in law Brian (Walker) and some selected members, Dom is out to reclaim his past - and set things right for the future.

"I swear to God, if you mention 'family' again I will go and do a "Timeline 2"...seriously."
First things first, if you are at all offended by silly one liners, extensive moral discussions about the value of family, relentless action sequences, or generally dislike plot progressions that seem completely illogical - then what the hell are you doing reading this review? It's a movie called "Fast & Furious 6." It stars Vin Diesel and The Rock. You will not like this. If, on the other hand, action films get you excited and you wanna see ridiculous amounts of banter and the laws of physics completely ignored - then you should skip the rest of this review and immediately go see this film. Seriously. Just go see it.

If you've reached this point, then you probably need a little more convincing to justify seeing the sixth film in a franchise that was created on car racing. I understand. So let me say that this: "Furious 6" is silly and makes little to no sense plot wise. That's all right though. In the land of Dom and his highly skilled road warriors, this film actually has plot and characters unlike a good portion of the films earlier. Our heroes are all their lovable tough and sensitive selves here and the chemistry between them still runs pretty strong. This chemistry sells its many hard to swallow concepts and ideas. Diesel gravel talks his way through the film using a strong screen presence to win here, while The Rock continues to steal the show more as comic relief here when he's not leaping off of thing and wearing the tightest clothes known to man. As a benefit, Ludacris has essentially become the Q of this franchise which is a role that he does remarkably well. While the middle portion of the film drags a bit as they all do their own thing outside of banter ridiculous lines (including a completely useless jail stint for Brian - which as Dom points out later as pointless too), it's these interactions that lay the ground work for what we truly came to see...

I think the cast list should also be comprised of stuntmen.
Essentially, this time around we also get to see our "heroes" actually be heroes instead of crooks on the run and Lin uses that to many advantages. He builds an entire team of baddies for our guys to go toe to toe with. This includes a villainous Luke Evans - channeling a bit of 006 Sean Bean super crook style here, Joe Taslim, and Michelle Rodriguez. I should also mention that they found a guy bigger than Samoan Thor aka The Rock for a fight later on, which is impressive in itself. Essentially, each of our heroes has their own Bizarro world self to fight (that is hilariously pointed out by one of our heroes in the film). This idea that our 'heroes' are the lesser of two evils makes for some great confrontations and leads us to what we truly came to see...

...and we came to see action. Ridiculous amounts of over the top, outrageous, and exciting action. Justin Lin may have a ton of style as a director, but dammit this guy knows how to do action and he punctuates "Furious 6" with enough action to make Ahhhnuld choke. While "Fast Five" took the franchise to the next level with car stunts, gun fights, and one awesome fist to cuffs, "Furious 6" looks to out do it in every way. More car stunts thanks mostly to cars made to flip other cars, a tank chase which demolishes bridges, cars, and eventually itself, multiple fist fighting beatdowns, and an airplane wreck on the longest runway ever built that lasts for an entire act. Hell, there is even a prison fight shank-off. At this point, this franchise with its exotic locales and over the top action is getting to James Bond level of awesome. What really impressed me the most was the extensive and very strong hand fights that accompanied most of the film. Although the Joe Taslim (oh yes, I have to mention him at least twice due to my love of "The Raid") fight is a little short, the rest of the film has some stunningly awesome fights. As a huge fight film fan, I was ecstatic for this.

"Gina, I know you only have like two lines of dialogue - but just know that I plan to eat those scenes alive."
All in all, despite some issues with its second act, "Furious 6" impressed as a sequel to one of my favorite action films. It still has rigorous action and the chemistry of its lovable characters to sell the entire thing. It also finally addresses the issue of "Tokyo Drift" and its continuity with perhaps the greatest precursor cameo of all time. This one highly comes recommended as it will probably be the most entertaining film of the summer, if not 2013. Ride or die!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Director: John Luessenhop
Notable Cast:  Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yaeger, Trey Songz (as Tremaine Neverson), Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Milicki-Sanchez, Bill Moseley, Gunnar Hansen

Now I'm not going to be one to call the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" one of the best film franchises ever, in fact its been viciously hit or miss in quality, but after watching "Texas Chainsaw" I have to say that this franchise has most certainly hit a new low. Considering how terrible "The Beginning" and "The Next Generation" were, this is quite the loaded statement. There was potential in the idea of "Texas Chainsaw", but terrible writing and horrible execution of its concept make the film one of the worst slashers I've seen.

Heather (Daddario) has just received a relatively big shock. It turns out that she was adopted. It also turns out that her biological grandmother has just passed and left her an estate in Texas. This leads her, her boyfriend (Trey Songz), and a couple friends to road trip down to the estate. Unfortunately, somebody is already in the house. A large man who wears skin masks. A man with a past connected to Heather. Now if only she can live long enough to find out why they're connected...

Scariest portrait ever? Oh yes.
What will perhaps confuse most people watching "Texas Chainsaw" is that it's a direct sequel to the 1974 original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Which does mean that, yes, it completely ignores both the original franchise sequels and the remake series. In a sense, just try to forget those exist when you watch this. Better yet, remember those exist and watch those again instead of watching this. Otherwise, if you're a franchise whore like myself, then continue on with caution.

A woods chase? We need original ideas in this franchise FAST.
The film itself...well, it leaves quite a bit to be desired. Both as a slasher and as a film in general. I will admit, that I actually thought the concept wasn't all that bad. The idea of a long lost family member stumbling on the family secret and having to face it with a chainsaw blazing? I can see why Lionsgate bought into it. The problem with "Texas Chainsaw" is how they go about it. All of it. This is seriously one of the poorest horror films in execution that I've seen get a theatrical release. The acting is horrendous. You know it's bad when Trey Songz as cliche of a character he plays, is one of the better actors in it and the story is down right so poorly written that anything clever that they do inject into the plot, including a third act twist that almost makes Leatherface an anti-hero, is irrelevant due to our apathy towards any of the characters or situations. Whatever good ideas or concepts they had going was lost in the poor execution and cliche slasher elements.

 I will give the film two kudos which sounds odd given what I said in the paragraph previously. Firstly, the film is so bad at times, that it's awesomely hilarious. Not that it ever intended to be, but dammit I was dying of laughter at a couple moments. The "chainsaw throw/run into the woods" moment by Leatherface has to be one of the best bad horror movie moments I've ever seen. I'd be tempted to say that the Redbox rental is worth the $1.20 along for that one moment of hilarity. Secondly, I will admit that the gore was pretty solid here. Granted, there is not near enough of it to truly be awesome, but when it pops up it's worth it.

The saw is the LAW!
If you are a fan of the franchise, "Texas Chainsaw" will probably upset you with just how by-the-numbers and un-frightening it is. It might also upset you just for screwing with the original series and stealing a couple of beats straight from the '74 classic. For me, "Texas Chainsaw" pissed me off not because it was one of the worst slashers I've seen or that it tried to mess with a classic franchise, but because it did all of that and somehow was successful in the box office. Hopefully the upcoming sequels will learn to be better horror films and not rely so much on name recognition to sell tickets. As is, this film is a skip unless you are a franchise whore like myself.

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

Dance in the Vampire Bund Ep. 1-12 (2010)

Ever watch a movie or series and you are left feeling well... indifferent about it?

This is how "Dance In The Vampire Bund" made me feel, nothing. I did not hate it or love it. I am not really sure what to think of it overall. The following sentences and paragraphs will explain.

Synopsis - Queen Mina Tepes leader of the vampire world is hell bent on forcing society to accept vampires into the human world. However she faces an uphill battle against many foes including some of her own kind.

Review - My thoughts on the series are this, the anime had no clear direction from the start. Is it horror, romance, or maybe we want to get the young male audience with some odd "Lolita" fan service? This is mainly where it became uncomfortable for me. The Queen is a child vampire maybe 10 yrs old in the human world, however that doesn't stop the creators from putting her in sexual situations. It was hard to watch at times. I get the fact that the series is ultimately based on Queen Mina, but it stays so focused on her that they miss out on developing any other characters. Which is too bad because there is some interesting characters to play with.
I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine!

About halfway through the series I was about to give up on it and  move on. I hate that feeling, so I fought on and wouldn't you know it, the series got better for roughly 2-3 episodes. For this small story arc it focused on Mina's relationship with her werewolf servant and part time lover Akira. I, for one, really liked this side story. It gave life to a character that was dragged through the series and finally gave us the viewers something to cling on to. Although short lived this little story arc is what makes my feelings twist about this series. In the end, I decided I needed more from this anime. Is there gonna be a second season to give me closure? I am not sure, would I even watch it? This series is so dark and lacking humor of any kind. "Dance In The Vampire Bund" is a lot of things but one thing it is not is complete. Visually it is well done, with all the standard visual effects and the voice acting is good enough.

Overall I will give "Dance In The Vampire Bund":

Written By John Price