Saturday, January 14, 2017

Phantasm V: Ravager


   Maybe it's because I read all the negative reviews beforehand, which lowered my expectations, but I really enjoyed Phantasm: Ravager. It's quality is on par with literally all the others, don't let the fact it's a newer movie fool you, it's still a direly low budget shlockfest. And fans need to get real. Low budget today is not the same as low budget 20 years ago. A minuscule budget nowadays means lots of computer generated elements. In fact, I was surprised as how slick some of the effects looked, and how many practical effects there ended up being. In fact, this flick was a blast.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion


   I've realize that at this point, the Phantasm movies have moved beyond the horror genre. This is just sci-fi absurdism. Phantasm IV is the abstract apogee of a franchise known for being weird, nonsensical and confusingly dream-like. It's not a bad movie... It's a pretty bad movie all things considered, but it's familiar and marginally enjoyable all the same. I know a lot of fans appreciated this one more than the previous, and while I know why, I don't really understand it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead


   Woah! Why is this movie so divisive? It looks like the Phanbase is split down the middle on this one, and it's the movie's sense of humor that seems to be the deciding factor. I honestly didn't give a shit about the humor. It didn't make or break the movie for me, I just got to laugh a few extra times than normal. Moreover, lets be honest. This franchise was never all that scary to begin with. The first one was like an R rated Goosebumps book (I say that as absolute praise) and the series never really departed from that- but it does get crazier! Lord of the Dead is proof enough.

Phantasm II


   Okay, so, this is the extent of my re-watching of the Phantasm franchise. I had only ever seen I and II, but I figured I should brush up before pushing on ahead. I found myself enjoying Phantasm a lot more than I had when I first saw it a few years ago, and I remembered liking Phantasm II even more. So how does it hold up? I'd say half and half. There's a lot of treading water in Phantasm II, but when it gets down to brass tacks, it's a seriously enjoyable ride that has all the trademark fittings of a Don Coscarelli movie.

Phantasm


   Few movies are as casually weird as Phantasm are. I mean, sure, once you've plumbed the depths of cinematic weirdness, Phantasm might come off as kid's play... but still. It starts like every other 70's slasher movie- almost. A man is getting it on with a beautiful woman in a cemetery when right after the gratuitous tit-shot... she stabs him to death! Gasp! What follows is a beautiful story about a strange tall man-alien who steals corpses and shrinks them down to half size so he can transport them to another dimension in barrels to use as Jawa-like slaves. NOPE. NOTHING STRANGE HERE AT ALL.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mirai Ninja


   Holy crap! How have I never heard of this movie until last night? This is an amazing little movie. It's a video game come to life in all the best ways imaginable. (Which isn't coincidental since the movie was produced in part by Namco, who later actually made an arcade game about it.) The hero is a cyborg ninja who fights robot ninjas, and eventually teams up with human resistance fighters to rescue a princess from the evil robot overlords. Sure, it's a story we've seen a million times, but it's also the concept behind just about every other beat-em-up arcade sidescroller ever. For a 90's kid like me, Mirai Ninja was pure bliss.

Steele Justice


   This is the second time I've seen Steele Justice, but it's only the first time I've seen it on Blu Ray. I never would've thought that this old catalog title would've made the jump to HD, but I couldn't be more glad that it did. Now I can appreciate Martin Cove's best stab at becoming his own 'Rambo' in full high definition. Because what's a catchier name than JOHN STEELE? There is none, that's what. You can only bask in the amazingness of a movie that ends with the bad guy saying "There is only Black Tiger law!" and Steele replies... "And the only justice... is me." Dead serious.

We Are the Flesh


   I think it's pretty funny how all of the negative reviews for We Are the Flesh on IMDb cite the movie as pretentious. It might be, or it might not be. I don't think it is, but who am I to say? This movie is nothing if not weird, but I think most people are just disappointed it's not more shocking. It's not a shocking movie, and those expecting to be shocked will probably just be bored. It's up there with Enter the Void and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears as one of the flat-out weirdest movies I've ever sat through. Do I regret it? Unlike most, I really don't.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ninja


   I don't appreciate Scott Adkins half as much as I should. He is the second coming of the quintessential 80's action star. He's part Michael Dudikoff, and part Sho Kosugi, but with Schwarzenegger muscles, and Van Damme skill. He puts all of this to good use, and then some, in Ninja, the most authentic 80's action movie not actually from the 80's. It's a non-stop ninja fest from the start, letting Adkins showcase his skill and his muscles. He might not have the charisma of a Dolph Van Dammezenegger, but he makes for a superb action figure.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dreamscape


   "I'm doing this because it's exciting." Rarely are movies so straightforward, providing honest and simple reasoning for characters' actions. Dennis Quaid plays Alex Gardner, a 20-something psychic who gets sucked into a top secret experiment run by scientist Paul Novotny, played by Max Von Sydow. Novotny pitches the fantastical project to Gardner, a way into people's dreams simply because "No one's ever done this before-" "-Because it's exciting." He's not wrong, and while Dreamscape eventually grows complex and full of danger, its honest motives are adventurous and exciting like a brand new Fantastic Voyage.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Lights Out


   Lights Out might just be my favorite current horror flick, right behind It Follows. I love horror movies that live up to their initial promise and precious few ever genuinely do. Lights Out is one of those precious few. The opening is creepy, and immediately offers up a really interesting concept married to some really cool visuals. The idea is simple, the monster in this movie lives in the darkness and will disappear when the lights are turned on. Such a simple idea, but a really fascinating one if used properly- and this movie uses it properly.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Shadow


   The middle part of a 90's cinematic trilogy of 40's pulp comic book heroes, preceded by The Rocketeer and succeeded by The Phantom, The Shadow is just as much fun as either- and easily as stylish. I don't think anyone in the 90's was particularly clamoring for this specific brand of heroism, because sadly, all three movies under-performed at the box office, dooming all the plans that were made for extravagant franchises. Maybe it's just as well- because despite how much fun they are, all three were slightly off the mark, and once again... The Shadow is no exception.

Hangman


   There was an excellent faux-documentary about a fictional serial killer that came out in 2007 called The Poughkeepsie Tapes. There was a brief segment in that movie where they showed the killer hiding out in a couple's house while they walked around and went about their business, only to kill them later when they least expected it. It was a terrifying scene, and one that seems to have been stretched into a full length movie with Hangman. However, this movie is a found footage movie, and one of the better examples of what the genre is capable of. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Cast a Deadly Spell


   A movie nerd like me couldn't think of a better way to usher in the new year, than by watching an little-known movie like this that turns out to be a total treat. Cast a Deadly Spell has too good of a pedigree to stay in obscurity forever. To date I know of no official DVD release, to say nothing of a Blu Ray, but apparently you can stream it on Amazon. It stars Fred Ward (Tremors), Julianne Moore, Clancy Brown, and David freakin' Warner. The icing on the cake? It's produced by Gale Anne Hurd and directed by Martin Campbell. Hot damn.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Pack


   I've never found dogs or wolves particularly scary. Like, even in most movies when someone's getting attacked by a dog, my inner animal-lover just sees a hard luck dog who needs to be loved. Maybe then he'll stop mauling people to death. I'll take him! The Pack is the first movie to actually unsettle me when it comes to dogs. These dogs weren't potential house pets, they were cinematic monsters, leaving The Pack to evolve from a simple survival thriller, into a ferocious creature feature. We need more back-to-basic horror flicks like this. Bottom line? The Pack is simply inspired.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sinners and Saints


   There is an ineffable quality to the action stars of the 80's and 90's. From the lower rung, featuring guys like Dolph Lundgren, and Carl Weathers, to the mid range like Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal, to the top two genre titans: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can beef up and snarl one liners to your heart's content... but you still won't be one of them. Action movie throwbacks like Sinners and Saints do their best to generate that same quality, but while the movie is a lot of fun, it only ever captures the same aftertaste quality of this latterday action resurgence.

The Invitation


   The Invitation sounded interesting when I read the synopsis on Netflix, but I passed it by without even adding it to my instant queue. But, now that it's the end of the year, there's all these 'best of 2016' lists popping up. Imagine my surprise when I found The Invitation on a few of those. Starring Logan Marshall Green (Prometheus) and virtually nobody else I'm familiar with* (which is quite a feat), The Invitation is pretty hard to classify. It's an understated and creepy movie, but calling it a horror movie has the potential to betray it's own story, not unlike calling They Look Like People a Sci-Fi movie. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Synchronicity


   This atmospheric sci-fi noir tale put a smile on my face far more than once, and despite it's limitations, it was thoroughly watchable. It's not great, or fantastic, but it's really good. Unfortunately it's also the kind of movie that's somewhat hard to review. I don't really know what to say about these kinds of movies because there's not much to discuss. The cast is comprised of mostly unknowns, despite a few minutes from Michael Ironside, the plot is complex to the extent that I couldn't spoil it for you even if I tried. But, it's good. It's not bad. Nuff said? Of course not.

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace


   No movie was ever more of a victim to an uncontrollable hype machine than The Phantom Menace was. But, recently, the majority of Star Wars fans have officially invalidated their own opinions (in my eyes), making themselves look like fools in the process. They complain about shoddy storytelling in the prequels, yet make excuses for the regurgitated nostalgia mess that is The Force Awakens- which isn't ANY better in the storytelling department. The difference? The Phantom Menace actually feels fresh again after the regressive nonsense of The Force Awakens.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


   This movie is not okay. Following my viewing of the fantastically entertaining Rogue One, I decided to revisit The Force Awakens. I take back what I said. This doesn't hold up at all, and what little time has passed since its release has really not been kind to it. This movie is a massive carbon copy of A New Hope, a movie over thirty years old by now with probably billions of fans. I've called The Force Awakens a 'necessary' movie because good will towards the franchise was dashed by the prequel trilogy. But, you know what? Star Wars fans did not deserve the prequels. The prequels were too good for them.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


   May the 4th can hardly claim to be the ultimate Star Wars holiday anymore, not when theaters are packed to see the latest Star Wars movie on Christmas day two years in a row. It feels like the best gift you could ever find wrapped under your tree, even if you know what it is. But, given that this is the second new Star Wars movie I've seen in as many years... I wasn't about to get all teary eyed this time around. It's an odd thing, this Star Wars movie, but hardly a bad thing for that matter. Quite the contrary.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fantastic Planet


   This animation classic does in 70 minutes what most big budget Hollywood sci-fi adventure movies can't in over 2 hours.  Like Gulliver's Travels by way of H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, Fantastic Planet is full of stunning sights, immense scope, haunting creatures, and a sharply self-critical view of human nature. I found myself swept up in it's epic narrative, engrossed in the struggle between the gigantic Draags and the human-like Oms. You'd be hard pressed to find another movie like this, but conversely, there's a little bit of Fantastic Planet in most big sci-fi adventure movies anyways.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

World on a Wire


   I must admit, I was at a bit of a disadvantage when I popped in World on a Wire. I slowly realized that yes, it was based on the book Simulacron-3. You know what other movie was based on Simulacron-3? The Thirteenth Floor. And, can I just say really quick... Fuck that movie. Fuck that movie so hard for wasting such sterling potential. World on a Wire is a million times the movie that The Thirteenth Bore is. It's engaging, intriguing, well-acting, suspenseful, intelligent and exceptionally well written. I thought I was done being mad at The Thirteenth Floor, but I guess not.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Grand Theft Auto Online


   I've talked about GTA V on my blog here before, but I've come to realize that Grand Theft Auto Online is practically it's own game at this point. It actually has more content unto itself than the 'story mode' has. Rockstar has been continually updating and releasing content for GTA:O since it came out, and it's simply staggering in scope. I rue the day this gets shut down, but I predict that won't happen for a very, very long time. The simple fact of the matter is, GTA:O is amazing. Most triple A games these days have multiplayer as a core mechanic, or as an afterthought. There's very little middle ground. But, when you buy GTA V, you're essentially getting two GTA games for the price of one.

Coherence


   Coherence is a movie that absolutely impressed me. It's not perfect, but it's genuinely great despite it's few flaws. It's a science fiction thriller that is intriguing in concept, and haunting in execution. It explores themes of self-identity, uniqueness, and the value we place on both. I kinda wish I could leave my review at that. It was word of mouth alone that got me to see Coherence, and the word was simply "great". My friend insisted that this was a damn good movie, and he was absolutely right.