Monday, May 24, 2010

Avoid this lame Nature Gone Wild movie

Beaks - The Movie (aka "Birds of Prey") (1987)
Starring: Christopher Atkins and Michelle Johnson
Director: Rene Cardona
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A TV reporter and her cameraman (Johnson and Atkins) go globe-trotting in order to unlock the mystery behind a rising string of bird attacks. From eagles, to pidgeons, to chickens, birds are killing people... and they seem organized!

"Beaks - The Movie" is an uninspired and, worst of all, boring copy of "The Birds." There's really nothing to recommend it; the closest the film gets to being suspenseful is a shot of hundreds of pidgeons charging across a plaza. (Although, if you love watching slow-motion footage of doves and pidgeons, you might find it worth while.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

You think I would have learned by now....

... to wait until any movie based on "Saturday Night Live" skits--which are usually more often than not miserable failures--can be rented dirt-cheap. Because this is another stinker.

MacGruber (2010)
Starring: Will Forte, Ryan Phillipe, Kristen Wiig, Powers Boothe and Val Kilmer
Director: Jorma Taccone
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Ex-special operative MacGruber (Forte) is called back into action when the man who murdered his wife, Dieter Von Cunth (Kilmer), steals a nuclear warhead in order to destroy Washington, D.C.

"MacGruber" is another failed attempt to stretch a character that could barely support two minute sketches into a full-blown movie. The jokes and comedy bits are painfully unfunny and they're performed by actors so uncharismatic that it's surprising they are veterans of the "Saturday Night Live" series, and the script is an utter failure as a both a spoof of "MacGyver" and 1980s-style action flicks. It is such a failure that one one wonders if the writers even bothered to watch an episode of "MacGyver" It feels more like someone tried to write a spoof based on an idea of what that television series was like instead of the series itself. And the action movie spoof was so lame it made me wish I had spent the morning watching Steven Seagal's "Belly of the Beast," as I would have saved both time and money by staying home instead of going to the movie theater.

Don't make the mistake I did. There is very little in this film that is worth your time and absolutely nothing that's worth the price of admission at the theater. The only laughs you'll have are during the scenes where MacGruber confronts Van Cunth, and even those scenes are less enjoyable than they might be because Val Kilmer--a talented screen actor--outshines Will Forte to a degree that makes you almost feel embarrassed.

(On a purely technical note, it was mildly troubling to see that computer-generated blood-spatter has made it into big-screen productions now. It's one thing for filmmakers like Charles Band and Len Kabasinski to use CGI instead of blank rounds and squibs when it comes to gunplay, given that they make direct-to-DVD films with budgets that are a sliver of what "MacGruber" was made for, but movies like this really should stick with the old-fashioned, more convincing-looking methods... even if the actors have to be paid $5,000-$10,000 less.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

'Dead 7' isn't worth digging up

Dead 7 (2003)
Starring: John Myles, Matt Emery, Tanya Dempsey, Delia Copold, and Brett Charles
Director: Garrett Clancey
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When a deaf-mute boy is thrown down a pit by a pair of vicious meth-dealers, they and their friends soon become the center strange events and brutal killings. Is the boy's sister avenging his death, or is something more sinister (and supernatural) afoot?

"Dead 7" is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good movie. It's badly acted; based on a script that's so bad that it manages to be predictable and incomprehensibly muddled at the same time, seeming to forget its own storyline at a couple of points; and features gore effects so ineptly deployed that they look even cheaper than they probably were. It's almost unwatchable. The movie manages to tease forth a few chilling moments (mostly revolving around a hole that exists in the woods for no particular reason, and as the meth dealer and pals are being stalked)

However, I give the filmmakers credit for decent camera work. It's the photography rather than the script and badly done effects that provide the scares in this cheap, ameuterish production. The way the camera moves during certain scenes makes the viewer want to get ahead of the lense and see what's happening. This technical aspect of the otherwise lame production earned "Dead 7" a full Star all by itself.

(Which means that unless you want to see some interesting filming with obviously limited equipment, don't bother with this one.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A film of Roman Polanski's Nightmares?

Terror Toons (2001)
Starring: Beverly Lynne, Lizzie Borden, and Kelly Lui
Director: Joe Castro
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Sisters Candy (Borden) and Cindy (Lynne) are left home for the night while their parents attend a wedding. Cindy receives a DVD called "Terror Toons". When the violent, insane cartoon characters of Dr. Carnage and Max Assassin leap from the screen into the real world, the cartoon violence soon causes real blood to flow.

Regular readers of this board have probably seen me rant multiple times about filmmakers needing to be my reviews have probably seen me rant multiple times about filmmakers needing to take their budget and available talent-pool into account when conceiving and executing projects.

"Terror Toons" is exactly the kind of horror film that SHOULD NOT be made on a tiny shoestring budget. It's got an animated DVD (which looks atrocious) from which cartoon characters emerge to slaughter people in the real world (through painfully cheap effects and in costumes that look worse than the animated world they emerged from) and a need for copious gore effects (which the film's tiny budget apparently couldn't even handle).

There's also an issue with the casting. Candy in particular is problematic. I can't tell if she's supposed to be very young or simply retarded. In either case, the casting is bad, first and foremost because of the very, VERY bad boob job the actress is sporting. (And if she's supposed to be a young kid, then the sort of airbags she's sporting on her chest must mean she's the kind chick convicted child rapist Roman Polanski has nightmares about.)

The difficulty of getting a read on what the viewer is supposed to make of Candy is perhaps also a problem with the script... it doesn't seem like the writers put a whole lot of thought into her or any other of the characters in the film; the two cartoon killers seem to be the most realized characters around. And then there's Satan and his monologuing. Huh?

We can add the direction and camerawork to the to the parade of awfulness that is present in this flick, although all i can say about either is that aside from there obviously was a camera present, I'm not convinced the person running it had much in the way of an idea about how to set a scene. And the acting... it is almost uniformly awful. Lynne and Lui are the only two appearing that seem to have even an iota of talent; everyone else deserves to be murdered by cartoon characters come to life for thinking they should appear on film.

With all the negativity I'm spewing at this film, why did I give it even Two Stars? Well, I'm giving some credit for Lynne and Lui, a couple of semi-bright spots in the otherwise pathetic cast of actors. I'm also giving some credit for some nice looking sets once the cartoon characters invade the house and transform it into a cartoon-house (the place still looks like someone's basement or trailer, but at least some effort was made). I'm also giving some consideration for a neat idea, even if it was one that was far beyond the meager means and talent that were available to execute it.

"Terror Toons", despite a concept that seems appealing to lovers of weird movies, is a film that the vast majority of us are better off avoiding. However, it should be required viewing for those of you out there thinking about making your own movie. It's an illustration of why you need to plan your project carefully and realistically before you start. It's a film that the people involved simply were not able to do justice, and you can learn from their example and not repeat their mistake.