The FP

Director: Brandon Trost/Jason Trost

Notable Cast: Jason Trost, Lee Valmassy, Art Hsu, Caitlyn Folley, Nick Principe, James DeBello, Sean Whalen, James Remar, Clifton Collins Jr.

Rating: UR

Review:  You know there are some hardcore DDR fans sucking down Code Red Mountain Dew and blasting Skrillex while prepping in a basement somewhere for the day all gang wars are settled by a deadly version of the hit video game Dance Dance Revolution.  Until then, we only have the Trost brother’s The Warriors-esque territory piece sure to throw mainstreamers into a tizzy.  An instantaneous cult classic amongst niche rave-type gamer nerd audiences, The FP should not be viewed by anyone averse to coarse language, made up slang, whack ass crackers, towns without ducks, or ghetto punk hipster types.  The FP represents the wild creativity missing from so many movies these days, as studios opt for reboots and remakes over filmmakers like Brandon and Jason Trost, attempting to infiltrate Hollywood via bold/wacky ideas.  The FP is nuts in the least amount of words possible.  Bonkers, bananas, crazy town…but can be enormous fun.  I wasn’t joking when I said the Trost’s script creates a language only understood in The FP universe, pulling a Diablo Cody of sorts in their hyper genre film.  But such an act stands for prime cultivation of a project, constructing a brand new world our imaginations can be transported to.  Film is all about a fantastical journey that plucks us from reality and offers something different.  The FP does just that, filled with robust originality on a spellbinding level.  But the Trost’s Hollywood inexperience also exists in their ambitious midnight movie, which is to be expected as The FP seems like the brainchild of a bunch of silly young guns making a pet project for themselves.  But I love that “f%ck you” attitude and I love B-Movie fun, so The FP was right up my alley.  Push on Trosts, marching to the beat of your own house electronica techno thumping….

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388 Arletta Avenue

Director:  Randall Cole

Notable Cast: Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner, Devon Sawa

Rating: UR

Review:  A horror movie doesn’t have to be good in order to strike fear.  Sometimes the worst horror movies can be terrifying, even crafted with a thin plot or unrealistic motives.  388 Arletta Avenue falls into said category, a creepily boring entry into both the home invasion genre and first person camera genre.  The audience is given our creeper’s point of view as he sets up hidden cameras around his victim’s house, and from there the cameras take over to observe a cat and mouse type game between psycho and husband.  But watching the prep work wasn’t all that exciting, as we play peeping Tom and listen to heavy breathing from our apparently asthmatic foe.  Not to mention for anyone who has seen ATM, the same lunatic may as well have fled Canada and graduated to family torture instead of small time booths.  Hooded man, no clear reasoning, ending scene featuring the killer plotting his next attack?  Check, check, check.  388 Arletta Avenue attempts to be seedy psychological horror, as our villain literally toys with the family for fun, but characters respond so irrationally it’s a struggle trying not to scream dectective advice.  That said, how can you not be shaken just thinking about a crazed mad man walking about your house with full freedoms while you sleep or go out?  Paranormal Activity had the same lasting effect on me, fearing what it is we cannot see.  Still, 388 Arletta Avenue plays the slow burn card too far and rarely jolts excitement for more than mere seconds, preventing a truly horrifying home-grown experience.  Hide yo kids, Hide yo wife…wait, no, just don’t be an idiot and reveal your hidden spare key to the public.  Seriously?  The flower-pot hanging in your front entrance?  The whole “hiding in plain sight” thing doesn’t work every time…

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Director: Ridley Scott

Notable Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Patrick Wilson, Sean Harris

Rating: R

Review:  Ridley Scott: A sci-fi genius.  The Alien franchise: Indefinitely hung amongst the rafters of sci-fi’s greatest.  Jon Spaihts: wrote The Darkest Hour to minimal acclaim.  Damon Lindelof: Most notably wrote for “Lost” along with Jon Favreu’s bland Cowboys and Aliens.  Top notch director, top-notch franchise…and two honest Hollywood unprovens still waiting to make their triumphant big screen mark.  Not to mention the sci-fi genre may very well bet he hardest genre to write for, wanting to both entice mainstream audiences yet hold onto the technological and exploratory nature the genre boasts.  Could two young guns create an engaging back story for the Alien universe to appease hordes of Ridley Scott worshipers?  Or would Spaihts and Lindelof crumble under the universal pressure such a task demands?  As a lover of Alien and obsesser of Aliens, it was hard convincing myself Prometheus had anything to do with Ripley and Newt minus some set piece tidbits and a rushed end scene depicting our beloved alien creation.  Prometheus itself played more as a stand alone piece of science fiction literature, setting up an inevitable sequel to in fact be the true Alien set up.  Questions are stated, doors are open, minds are jump started…but Prometheus’ script leaves far too many cliffhangers to connect any dots minus the obvious “Hey, I’ve seen that giant space chair before” or “oh my god, yes, that is in fact an alien!”  Besides that we’re bombarded with Albinos, tentacles, and black goo…oh my?  Prometheus is flooded with brand new ideas, rich developments, and steady building blocks that should lead into something interesting.  But to take 2 hours plus and only give us the tiniest taste of what’s yet to come seems somewhat of a tease, not to mention a rather ambitious script gets too muddled with complexity to even effectively build story at points.  To quote Lindelof himself, Alien was more of a “haunted house” story where some bad luck saps answer the wrong beacon.  Prometheus attempts to explain just why these angels of death want to infest our insides while tearing space marines apart, but not very well if I still don’t know why.

Aboard the scientific exploration vessel Prometheus resides a team of researchers focused on finding some intelligent form of life which could in fact be our creators.  Led by Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green), Weyland industries has so kindly funded the team with full freedom granted by surviving Weyland associate Meredith Vickers (Theron) and robotic assistant David (Fassbender).  The crew discover another system with a livable sun much like our own solar system, and land Prometheus upon its equivalent of Earth.  Exploring deeper what appear to be man-made caves, the crew uncovers livable air conditions and closed off rooms, pointing towards some kind of existing species.  But what’s interpreted as an invitation may be much more dangerous than expected, as the crew probes deeper into this fresh new planet’s mystery.  In uncovering all the answers sometimes we may discover something better left unearthed, a lesson the Prometheus may have to find out on for itself.

“Still overpaid for this damn planetarium….”

Prometheus is undoubtably epic and looks every bit the part of super techy sci-fi blockbuster.  Scott removes the franchise out of its dark and seedy space station stylings, opening up a vibrant world and shedding some light with a colorful nature introduction.  Let there be light!  Also gone is Alien‘s claustrophobic atmosphere, again expanding the universe to a much broader degree emphasizing the franchise’s new revival.  Scott utilizes beautiful long zoomed out landscape shots, accentuating the grand nature of surroundings and keeping our insignificant humans in perspective as they wander around foreign settings.  Everything Scott does in direction correlates directly to Prometheus‘ big world thematic elements which I’ll discuss momentarily.  But for now, staying with cinematic victories leads to casting.  Michael Fassbender always ends up portraying some sophisticated and debonair chap, which carries over to his role as the artificial David.  So complex and unpredictable were David’s actions, being the proverbial wrench in Prometheus’ plans.  But Fassbender does so with such cold mechanical status and emotionless purpose, making David convincingly more creation than man.  And while Noomi Rapace admittedly is no Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), she stands steadfast as a strong female lead even though her job isn’t ass-kicking like Weaver’s was.  Idris Elba delights, Theron is a cold-hearted bitch (or is she?), Pearce pulls a Benjamin Button, and two bumbling scientists get ravaged in a matter of minutes all leading to strong play from the cast.  Prometheus certainly aligned all their stars to ensure a successful mission.

But where things get messy starts in analysis of story.  Tons of big ideas are challenged by Prometheus, immensely ominous ideas possibly too complicated for one film.  Meddled with are notions of a grand creator, human kind’s thirst for knowledge at any price, the greed of one man, trust in blind faith, creations turning against creators, religion vs. science…universal sized questions.  Questions that take centuries of brain prodding and information scouring to even scratch some profound surface.  But while intelligible and thought-provoking, perfect for a science fiction setting, I felt little connection to the Alien franchise itself.  Mysterious actions shroud every character and event, but explanations sometimes trail and leave big ideas open.  I’m being as vague as possible for a reason, but there are moments where Prometheus downright doesn’t add up.  Just as an example (spoiler to follow, but not a big one), why doesn’t Captain Janek (Elba) roll video feed back on Millburn (Spall) and Fifield (Harris) to discover their grisly deaths while he was satiating Vickers’ lustful desires?  We have the technology to map out entire cave systems with unmanned robots apparently, yet our video camera’s don’t have rewind buttons?  Prometheus is brimming with tight sci-fi writing and grandiose revelations, yet weighs itself down getting lost in a mish mosh of ideas too worldly for its own good.  Sure, people will argue the scientific prowess and genius writing is something to marvel, and I do respect the mentally stimulating grounds Spaihts and Lindelof traverse with the utmost clean complexity,  but Prometheus could have benefitted via a more streamlined delivery and spaced out mind explosions.  Prometheus borders being work to decipher.

But work is rewarding, and Ridley Scott still orchestrated and wonderful symphony out of numerous conflicting ideas.  Curb expectations and gear up for the proper tone, like don’t expect the running and gunning of space marines or memorable quotes akin to “Game Over Man!”  Danger still looms and a few brief moments of thrilling action peek through, but Prometheus again is more much about the discovery.  Who are we?  Where did we come from?  Our writers thought better to tackle those questions first before leading us to blood thirsty extraterrestrials, but maybe a sequel will help strengthen Prometheus‘ brainy attitude and incorporate Alien‘s more foreboding nature.  Think of it this way: If Alien and Prometheus were labeled in high school, Prometheus would be the bow tie wearing, pocket protecting, thick rimmed glasses sporting super genius while Alien would be the ‘roided out jock.  Nothing wrong with either, just pick your type.

Final Rating: 7.5 space jockies out of 10

Also, is it just me, or did Prometheus’ technology seem more advance than Alien’s?


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NNWIJ: Shark Night 3D (2011)

Director: David R. Ellis

Notable Cast: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore, Donal Logue, Chris Zylka

Rating: PG-13

Review:  Shark Night 3D: wonder what David R. Ellis’ film is about!  Should have just stayed with Untitled Shark Film, or Watch College Kids Get Eaten By Sharks.  Did I just flick on the SyFy channel by accident?  Might as well have.  All the chum filled debauchery starts when Sara (Paxton) invites some college friends back to her home town, partaking in some lakeside fun.  Little does she know locals have populated the lake with man-eating sharks though, putting a damper on weekend activities.  And that’s it.  Shark Night 3D.  There are sharks.  It takes place mostly at night.  And was in 3D for theaters.   Yup, not a thinking man’s horror movie if you couldn’t catch on.  Disappointing, considering the recent Netflix Watch Instantly hot streak I’d been riding.  Oh well, all good things have to end eventually and Shark Night 3D knocked my “Days Without A Bad Netflix Viewing” sign right back to 0.  Now hey, I’m all for mindless entertainment, and between you and me the state I was in for Shark Night 3D warranted a low focus kind of deal.  But with that said, not even a day full of 16oz. Budweiser cans and stomach busting BBQ couldn’t set Shark Night 3D straight.  First off, I can take zero plot as long as horror aspects step up like gore and kills (you know, all that good stuff), but Shark Night 3D‘s PG-13 rating handicapped any kind of serious genre fun.  Every tasty shark snack ended blandly with some gurgling, watching the character bob up and down 2 -3 times, and a final jacuzzi jet of bloody bubbles.  Every.  Time.  Variation is the spice of life, making Shark Night 3D as bland as unaltered tofu.  Not to mention all of Ellis’ characters apparently have gills, spending unimaginably long spurts under water with no oxygen.  I’m sorry, I try that stuff all the time (holding my breath, not fighting genetically enhanced sharks) and I’m panicking after 20 seconds.  So, you understand my superhero amazement watching what seems to be a 5 minute scene of underwater action where characters never even seem to struggle with the simple act of breathing.  Not buying it.  And, well, that’s really it in Shark Night 3D.  The big twist revealing our hillbilly shark trainer’s motivation lands far too off base to be believable, and as villains are nothing but backwoods stereotypes.  What could have been a hard R rated scare fest turns out to be nothing but a soft piece of teen horror not even effective enough to ward me off summer vacationing at an almost exact replica Shark Night 3D‘s Louisiana Gulf setting.  Lake, wave runner, boat…yeah I can’t wait.  Jaws was so craftily put together, Spielberg had me cowering from even the smallest puddle.  Shark Night 3D?  Not so much.  David. R. Ellis put me to sleep with his aquatic terror…literally.  Had to finish this beauty in the morning.  But if you ignore my warning, be ready for lots of mindless chatter and far too little suspense or excitement.  So happy I skipped the 3D theater viewing…

Netflix Rating: 1/5

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The Dictator

Director: Larry Charles

Notable Cast:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, John C. Reilly

Rating: R

Review:  Welp, Sacha Baron Cohen is back to belittling America with his new character Dictator Aladeen.  Well to be fair, Aladeen belittles everything.  Men.  Women.  Politics.  Nuclear Missile Heads.  Cows?  But where Borat and Brüno had a given shock value based on the mockumentary style shooting, The Dictator tries to spice things up with actual actors playing out a Hollywood plot.  And you know what?  I didn’t care for the addition.  With a film like Borat, viewers get a genuine reaction from the “supporting cast” who are oblivious to Sacha hiding behind his foreign mask.  So much comedy comes from people’s irrational thoughts and perceptions of Borat, a stereotype who isn’t even real.  This also gives Cohen the opportunity to exploit such fears and phobias with improv comedy, taking an unpredictable moment and ending with a result much funnier than intended.  The Dictator lacks such flair, and is rather confusing in delivery.  Cohen’s edgy comedy seems forced and almost mean-spirited at times, instead of the playful jesting in earlier works.  Audiences can’t differentiate if Cohen is being sarcastic, humorous, or opinionated via his character Aladeen.  How fantastic would it have been throwing Aladeen into a mocumentary medium, sending people away for execution in a crowd full of unsuspecting townspeople?  Sick, but hilarious.  That’s what Cohen does, well when he’s not lending his acting talents to random side projects like Sweeny Todd and Hugo (which he does a delightful job in).  For The Dictator, usual magic just wasn’t there, not to say Brüno was watchable either though.  Suffice to say, Sacha Baron Cohen still has the ability to make us laugh and has hilarious moments playing the ruthlessly moronic dictator.  But with negative notoriety, Aladeen surely won’t be rising back to power for any type of dictator comeback.

Ruling Wadiya with an iron fist, Aladeen (Cohen) is secretly developing a nuclear program strong enough to overpower surrounding nations.  Aided by his second-hand but rightful heir Tamir (Kingsley), Aladeen exploits his power on a daily basis and garners much attention for his tiny nation.  But with that attention comes U.N. questioning, eventually leading to possible nuclear arms inspections and regulations.  Wanting to avoid such a hassle, Aladeen offers to visit America in hopes to deliver a speech to the U.N. that will throw them off his radioactive trail.  But in America he is double crossed, and his identity is compromised.  No longer recognized as the feared Aladeen, he must navigate New York and find a way to take down whoever decided to defame his character and plant an impostor in his place who lobbies to turn Wadiya into a democracy.  But can a man who as been pampered and spoiled all his life survive the tough urban streets long enough to infiltrate the U.N.?  Aladeen can only hope his impostor blows cover if he ever wants to be graced with the title of dictator again.

The beard, real or fake hair?  Leaves a hell of a rash I bet…

Sacha Baron Cohen is a funny man.  No denying the fact he has talents others lack.  Or more correctly the shame and boundaries others have engrained in their civilian brain.  The Dictator was proper misuse of comedic stylings more suitable for off the cuff humor as I stated earlier, something Cohen and collaborator/director Larry Charles (Borat/Brüno) seem to misread.  Here, Aladeen’s interactions with other characters like Anna Faris’ love interest Zoey were more awkward than funny.  And not awkward funny.  Just awkward, trying too hard, sad.  Problems arise when Aladeen grabs Zoey’s boobs, and instead of laughing via situational humor I’m wishing Anna was a random girl on a random motorcycle with no idea why the weird foreign man is using her hooters as stabilizers.  A perfect Borat moment, but not as funny with trained actors for some reason.  Aladeen’s humor felt repetitive and predictable after a while, just saying the meanest or most politically incorrect statement available.  Yes, death to America, praise 9/11, blah blah blah…there’s a point where cutting edge and overkill meet, and Cohen brashly passes that point with far too much film left to go.  But, as I said, Cohen still rules at points such as playing his own dim-witted body double picked straight off the farm.  Watching him bumble around the U.N. stage and make a mockery of such proceedings hit me hard, proving The Dictator still had some fight and the prospect of huge Borat type laughs.  As far as witty political satire and intelligent social commentary, let’s just say The Dictator‘s funniest moment involved Sacha Baron Cohen pleasuring himself for a full scene.  Cohen won’t be breaking any third world barriers with this one.

The Dictator felt more like filler material than an actual film, just a project to keep Cohen busy and hopefully get a few chuckles.  All the usual crude jokes and no holds barred type comedy that made Cohen famous are found, but execution lessened Sacha’s attempts.  I take it back, The Dictator feels less like filler material and more like a cheap Borat sequel, charting familiar territory.  With Cohen’s ambition for out of the box comedy, The Dictator had an aura of safety and lacked uproarious bouts of insane laughter Cohen once achieved on a weekly basis with “Da Ali G. Show.”  I wanted something more dangerous from The Dictator, a film with more balls than brains.  And as Aladeen so grossly showed us in full view, not even the balls aspect is substantial.  Cameos liven up The Dictator and provide momentary relief, but the likes of Edward Norton and Megan Fox may have backed the wrong political party this year.  The Dictator will be adored by some and isn’t a chore to get through, but this is one follower who wasn’t convinced by Aladeen’s false proclamations.  Move on Sacha, there’s nothing left of explore with Aladeen’s character.

Final Rating: 6 revolting Wadiyans out of 10

Wouldn’t mind rocking the Olympic’s foundation though, give every competitor a gun!


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NNWIJ: The IT Crowd (2006-2010)

Creator: Graham Linehan

Notable Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, Matt Berry, Noel Fielding, Christopher Morris

Rating: UR

Review:  Good British TV bests good US TV any day I’m convinced after becoming crack level addicted to “The IT Crowd.”  Sitting on my Netflix Recommendations since I first got my ratings input, I was always too busy for a proper go at the series.  But with Edgar Wright’s “Spaced” in the books, my UK obsession had to continue.  And now I’m even more hooked.  I don’t say this very often, but “The IT Crowd” was flawless.  Every episode was raucously hilarious, even the first where it’s just some nerds dredging around the basement of a successful  British company.  Reynholm Industries, run by Denholm Reynholm (Morris), buries their IT department far below the action in the dreary surroundings of Reynholm’s underworkings.  Roy (O’Dowd) and Maurice Moss (Ayoade) work as a dynamic techie duo, avoiding actual work at all costs and angrily complaining about the technology illiterate.  Jen (Parkinson) on the other hand has just been hired for a managerial positing at Reynhold Industries, and lies about her computer knowledge to secure running the IT department.  Roy and Moss test Jen and uncover her secret, but grow as a friendly team who support each other’s comical qualities.  Also present are Richmond (Fielding), the goth who works in a secluded room and only emerges momentarily, and Denholm’s equally power-hungry son Douglas (Berry).  Now the common misconception here is “The IT Crowd” never surfaces from the basement, and viewers will be barraged with jokes about comic books, thick rimmed glasses, and computer pro lingo.  False.  Yes, Roy and Moss could be expert Geek Squad agents, but the comedy centers around their awkward personalities meshing into “normal” society.  Be it Roy’s love life or Moss’ living situation, the comedy is not confined to a stuffy basement.   Cast chemistry also plays a tremendous part of “The IT Crowd,” working together like old pals.  Chris O’Dowd has a firm grasp on all types of comedy be it physical, geek, witty, or slapstick.  He has the most picturesque reactionary faces, among the likes of Will Forte, generating huge laughs without even muttering a line.  Ayoade on the other hand perpetuates Moss’ quirky tendencies to an unimaginable level, cementing Maurice as a memorable character which Ayoade gets lost in.  Parkinson wins over with sweet innocent charm and blatant lack of skills, in a cutesy ditzy kind of way.  But best of all is Matt Berry as Denholm’s son, one of my all time favorite TV characters as of now.  Every line out of his mouth matched the last in quality, and Berry’s operatic voice emphasised such a strong delivery that only made the dimwitted Douglas’ un-educated ramblings that much more unjustifiably powerful.  Mr. Berry caused tears at some points as I indulged in non-stop laughter, only strengthening a show already in the highest echelons of TV with his surprise introduction.  Christopher Morris does a bang-up job as Denholm himself, thinking back to the drunken appreciation party, but Matt Berry blows him out of the water in the Reynholm family.  I do wish Fielding had a more frequent presence on the show though, as his representation of the gothic community was relentlessly on par.  Bloody hell, “The IT Crowd” is brilliant stuff all around only a wanker would avoid it.  Please watch this show at all costs, and don’t judge by the surface themes.  Wonderfully well written and full of charismatic characters, Linehan’s comedy is one for the ages.  Boy I was sad to see it end.  “The IT Crowd” gets a full recommendation from this guy, loving every single winning minute. 

Netflix Rating: 5/5

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Piranha 3DD

Director: John Gulager

Notable Cast:  Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Chris Zylka, Katrina Bowden, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Gary Busey, Ving Rhames, Meagan Tandy, Jean-Luc Bilodeau

Rating: R

Review:  Excuse me while I have a special moment of B-movie nostalgia as Piranha 3D was the review that started my little blog that could.  Still reminiscent is the giddy laughter and outlandish fun Alexandre Aja achieved with his surprise horror/comedy remake.  And the thought of a second?  Pure popcorn movie bliss, right?  Especially since John Gulager teamed back up with writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the same team who spawned “Project Greenlight” Season 3 winner Feast?  Feast stands as a top-notch B-Movie homage utilizing witty horror comedy and genre love to win over specific audiences including this hardened vet, despite two sub par sequels.   Victorious water slides gushing waves of red blood seemed imminent given the writer’s background (Saw 4-7/Feast 1-3, The Collector).  3DD itself was backed by a promise to blow Piranha 3D out of the water, which already offers a plethora of gore, laughs, and gorgeous Double D’s.  Plus we get to see the under water varmints try to “hassle the Hoff?”  Yes, in theory pre-production looked oh so promising for Piranha 3DD.  But then the dreaded release date change slapped prospective fans with a harsh realization, eventually ending with an uber limited release (86 theaters) accompanied by simultaneous Video On Demand access.  Given zero motivation to hike 45 minutes just to pay an overpriced fee for the full 3DD action, I rounded up some reluctant friends and powered up the old XBOX.  Prepared for the next hour and a half we were not.

Looks like Lake Victoria couldn’t contain the ferocious piranhas who put a damper on last year’s spring break.  Heading upstream the hungry swarm sets its sights on Big Wet, a new local water park run by step-father Chet (Koechner) and step-daughter Maddy (Panabaker).  But when piranha are discovered in the lake Big Wet draws its water supply from, Maddy fears opening day will be nothing short of a blood bath.  Chet on the other hand has big plans for financial gain, mainly his adults only swimming areas, which cause his focus to be more on the money.  It’s up to Maddy and her friends to ensure the safety of park goers and prevent another Lake Victoria from happening, gaining no help from Chet or the higher-ups.  Hell, it wouldn’t be much of a film if our aquatic demons didn’t break up Big Wet’s first party though!  A few old friends and some new celebrity cameos stop by to offer some fresh flesh to the piranha horde, relying on Maddy to save the day.   And you thought a child pissing in the pool would be the worst of your summer fun problems…

“Yes, excuse me, I was wondering what your refund policy covered?”

You can’t fault Piranha 3DD for false advertising, that’s for damn sure.  Every single perverted instance Gulager got the chance to showcase some free bouncing 3D-DD action, and I mean EVERY, the cameraman abandoned plot and cued clichéd angelic music for the jiggling jugs.  Very nice, and with variation too!  I’ve never seen so many struggling actresses willing to bare all just to be eaten alive.  Tasteless and bordering the fine line of overkill, Gulager definitely outdid his original counterpart on the sexy scale.  But then Gulager faltered where I couldn’t believe: gore.  All the Feast‘s were a splatter-tastic mess, but Alexandre outdid John in terms of swimmer body count.  I can still picture the female ripping in half as she’s carried out of Lake Victoria, spewing guts into the tainted water.  Piranha 3DD brought the severed limbs, chewed up bodies, decapitations, and showered innocent blood on unsuspecting patrons…but Aja’s kills were overall more memorable.  Eli Roth’s head getting caved in, Jerry O’Connell’s legs being stumps, the D-Day-esque beach scene?  Piranha ties the score by out-doing the violent antics of Gulager’s park of terror.  But where Gulager picks up a point with Melton and Dunstan is their sick sense of humor.  These guys are turning into gross-out kings, not afraid to sacrifice any character to the piranha horde and expose bodily fluids with zero shame.  Again: see Feast.  The screenplay is much more juvenile than Aja’s original as well, like a bunch of rambunctious teenagers thinking it would be hilarious if a piranha tried to eat through a guy’s butthole.  Childish laughter ensues, comedic gold is thought to be struck.  Genius!  These moments either sink hard or swim strong, but usually do strike some kind of laughter be it eye-rolling or belly busting.  A huge recommendation is watching 3DD with a solid group of buds, because the lesser quality jokes at least provided fodder for our own enjoyable riff track.  Enter Piranha 3DD with the correct mindset, aka think back to your awkward pre-pubescent stage, and you will be MUCH better off.

Cast wise 3DD does include some nice surprises for a slapstick horror movie (minor spoilers to follow if you’ve avoided any advertising material).  David Hasselhoff’s egotistical appearance makes for a fantastic change in pace, playing a douchey version of himself (I’d assume?) for laughs.  We also are treated to another opening celebrity kill in both Gary Busey and Clu Gulager (John’s father who has appeared in over 125 titles), mirroring Aja’s formula.  And in true Gulager character manipulating fashion, Paul Scheer and Ving Rhames reprise their roles from the original after their deaths were left rather open-ended.  Returning to Big Wet, the unlikely duo try to face their liquid fear starting in the kiddie pool as per psychiatrist’s orders.  Oh yeah, Ving Rhames has shotgun legs too.  This is the insanity that Gulager brings to the horror genre, where Aja’s film tried to clench onto some reality at least.  Panabaker takes command in scream queen fashion, Koechner is Koechner, Doc Brown fights a laughing diarrhea baby, Martinez is a freak, Bowden falls prey to vagina monsters, Bilodeau is elected for the new manhood comprised role a la O’Connell, and Bush plays one of the meekest nerd heroes ever to survive a horror film.  Seriously, there was a point my group was rooting for Bush to get axed.  Horrible.

In terms of “popcorn movie” status, Piranha 3DD delivers horror on a different intellectual level than Piranha.  Yes, that is possible.  3DD adopts more of a “screw the story, let’s kill people” mentality and throws characters directly into piranha filled pools.  Fish in naughty places, exploding flatulent cows, 3D puke, and a cornucopia of breasts is what 3DD delivers.  Sounds like a B-Movie dream, and absolutely entertains.  But after all the pools are drained and the bodies are swept away, something just feels missing.  My intelligence wasn’t insulted or underwhelmed by any means, but left is a sense of “what the hell did I just watch” where Piranha left us with “I need more.”  Gulager again leaves the franchise off with another open ending, but I’m not 100% positive I want him to try again.  Well no, I take that back, I’ll always watch a Gulager film as long as he’s given the chance.  But Piranha 3DD is all glitz and glam, providing entertainment in choppy sequences instead of a flowing stream.  Worth the watch for true horror lovers, but a lifeless floating carcass to anyone not prepared.  3DD speaks for itself….

Final Rating: 6 water jet screwing employees out of 10

Not sure that perfect beach body is going to help you now….


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Exit Humanity

Director: John Geddes

Notable Cast: Mark Gibson, Jordan Hayes, Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley, Stephen McHattie, Brian Cox, Adam Seybold

Rating: R

Review:  Yet another creative entry, yet another Bloody Disgusting Selects presentation.  Zombies and the Civil War…I’m listening.  Wait, no, Zombie Civil War…NOW I’m listening.  Somebody needs to pen that script ASAP.  But for now, I’ll live with John Geddes Southern genre piece with a focus horror fans may not be expecting.  New venues and periods are always welcome in the zombie genre, as sexy coeds can only be munched on so many times before repetition sets in.  So why not break the mold with colonial atmospheres and old-fashion defenses?  No machine guns, flame throwers, landmines, or laser technology for our pioneer cast.  Just the wilderness, outdated survival skills, and the walking dead.  For a casual horror fan, non horror fans, or occasional zombie fans, Exit Humanity stands as tired and dated as comparing the actual Civil War to a battle like D-Day.  Everything we’ve seen before, only on a toned back scale.  But those who can bite into the fleshy core of Exit Human will find a zombie film told only around one man’s harrowing and wretched journey, crafting the plague as a means to discover what makes a true man who he is.  The blood and guts all play background to a wonderful story penned by Geddes and narrated by the stoic Brian Cox, so to call Exit Humanity a slow burn isn’t too far off base.  Slow burn for a zombie movie that is, already considered one of the slower paces found in horror today.  So take the lumbering dead heads, put them in a much less advanced time, and that will be all some people will need to judge Exit Humanity.  Not for everyone, but John Geddes’ script is something horror writers try to do over and over again with zero success.  You go Geddes.

Taking place as the Civil War winds down, Edward Young (Gibson) returns home only to find evil and terror unleashed amongst all.  No longer do the North and South bicker, but a new common enemy has reared its decaying head: zombies.  Killing his wife and scaring away his son, Edward’s homecoming is riddled with sadness.  The lone soldier sets out to locate his boy, taking lingering anger out on the zombies who populate his path.  Along his travels Edward meets a man named Isaac (Seybold), also looking for a missing family member taken hostage by a group of rebels hell-bent on finding a cure to combat the zombie outbreak.  Working together as a reliable team, Isaac and Edward run the forest red with blood as they reach closer and closer to their prize.  But the heartless General Williams (Moseley) is waiting at their finish line, promising to pose quite the problem between his faithful henchmen and warped thinking.  Edward has given up on the notion of humanity as outcomes turn bleaker and bleaker, but does enough fight remain in the worn down being to see Isaac to victory and possibly make a miracle discovery of his own?

Bonus to living miles away from your neighbor?  Miles for your murderers to walk…

So why will some people hate Exit Humanity?  Geddes didn’t create a run and gun zombie movie with flashy special effects and adrenaline ride action, so those in need of constant elevated heart rate are out.  Geddes sets up theatrical acts and walks us through the tumultuous life of Edward Young, dissecting his current state in increments.  As already stated, Brian Cox provides a constant read through, revealing Edward’s inner thoughts as we watch the actions unfold on-screen.  Such a unique voice guides us on a journey through Edwards soul and mind, unlocking the true motivations for his brash outbreaks and reasoning for his sorrow.  It’s one thing to witness a man’s life fall to pieces, but hearing him rationalize sorrow through well thought out journal entries adds a meaningful note to Edward’s character.  Exit Humanity is a character analysis and spends a ton of time developing Edward well beyond horror standards, but the sacrifice there lies with disappointing the horror population not giving a hoot about story.  What is a strength can also be a weakness, depending only on the individual.

A stellar cast also populated Gedde’s undead terrain, crafted expertly I might add to fit timepiece feel and overall colonial style.  Just like being transported to Williamsburg, except instead of annoying tour guides you get chased by flesh hungry monsters!  Another great idea…but back on topic.  Mark Gibson plays title character Edward Young, torn by the harsh realization all hope is lost and life has now become meaningless.  Through fits of rage he expresses true emotion, howling out with pure fury like a mad wolf.  Gibson portrays a broken man, and did so with gusto.  As opposition genre actor Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects/The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) pops in as General Williams, yet another villainous role to tack on his ever-growing list, convincing yet again as a psychopath.  Not to forget Wallace, Seybold, Hayes, and McHattie though, as everyone pulls together for a watchable brand of horror characterization.  No hack-jobs to be found as our actors bring the past to life, and death to the undead.

It would be a jump to classify Exit Humanity as a “fun” horror watch, but that’s not always a bad thing.  Geddes has created a viable piece of cinema within the boundaries of the horror genre, something deserving recognition.  Hell, I would even go as far to call Exit Humanity artistic.  Our director paints a bloody picture of human worth against a barren canvas, embracing the true definition of humanity.  And don’t worry, not lost are scary zombies and gore so promised by the Bloody Disgusting label.  Edward takes spurts of time out of soul-searching to brutalize some festering walking corpses for our enjoyment, armed with a bashing tool, six-shooter, and bolt-action rifle.  Exit Humanity is a thinking man’s zombie movie in the end though, with themes that stick even after the deeds are done.  Geddes manipulated death and monsters to deliver Edward’s hardened journey, defying odds and battling an onslaught of mental anguish.  Screw the North and the South, John Geddes will rise again after a brilliant debut already garnering comparisons to visionary directors of our time.  Not bad for an independent zombie film.

Final Rating: 7.5 racist zombies out of 10

Not very colorful except for the blood though….


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NNWIJ: Spaced (1999-2001)

Director: Edgar Wright

Notable Cast: Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, Nick Frost, Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, Katy Carmichael

Rating: UR

Review:  Life goal: Have a drink with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.  After viewing all their work, how does that not sound like an epic night?  If “Spaced” is any indication, I’d fit right in.  Would have killed for more episodes though.  Such a shame British shows run much shorter season and series lengths, but by golly quality points out why.  Written by nerdist Simon Pegg and ever so bubbly Jessica Hynes, director Edgar Wright’s influence is impossible to ignore and works phenomenally with Pegg’s brain (based off later efforts like Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz) on their early joint TV show project “Spaced”.  Over here in the States we were exposed to Shaun of the Dead first, marking our initial exposure to Pegg and Wright.  Since then the duo have flourished (along with buddy Nick Frost), but getting back to where it all began was somewhat nostalgic.  Not to discredit Jessica Hynes in any way, but she only appears in small cameo’s considering Wright’s other work, so “Spaced” was the launching pad for our guys more than gals.  The story of “Spaced” brings two recently single nobodies together in Daisy (Hynes) and Tim (Pegg) who find a common bond in-house hunting.  After searching to no avail, finally a rentable flat falls under their noses with one tiny catch: it can only be rented to a couple.  So for the sake of living arrangements, Daisy and Tim create a fake relationship for landlord Marsha (Deakin), struggling to keep the truth from escaping.  Antics are had with a loner artist neighbor (Head), Tim’s military obsessed best friend (Frost), and Daisy’s fashionista best-friend Twist (Carmichael).  Antics don’t begin to explain the silliness to follow though, as Pegg plays pretty much exactly who I’d imagine him to be in real life and Hynes plays right into his comedic hand.  Geekish references flood “Spaced” in every scene, and Wright works clever gags into even the quickest shot (the trademark Wright quick cuts).  One of my favorites involves Pegg cowering back with a horrific expression on his face, just as you notice an Evil Dead film poster framed perfectly in the background mimicking Pegg’s exactly reaction…or vice versa how you look at it.  Also, Season 2 starts off with a shot for shot Pulp Fiction nod executed perfectly.  Sly smirk engage.  For the true film fanatic, “Spaced” is an homage filled treat with easter eggs hidden in every scene, bolstered by the love for cinema all involved display.  But again, considering tastes, all these references and side jokes tend to be on the action, sci-fi, horror, and cult film following type side.  An average/simpleton viewer will miss half the comedy itself in these moments, so keep genre in check.  Aside from that though, every single character is an absolute riot.  Pegg’s slacker attitude mixed with high energy make for gut busting rants and top-notch reactionary emotions.  Hynes is just as funny, playing ditzy and oblivious to a tee.  Frost comes in for these really hilarious moments off and on again, playing more of a side character here.  As does Mark Heap, playing the tormented creative soul that is Brian, whose presence typically serves as the cherry on a “Spaced” ice cream sundae via strange social behavior and again bang on facial expressions.  Marsha and Twist round out a cast aided by some noteworthy guest spots along the ride (see how many people you can recognize from recent Wright projects), presenting a tight knit group of characters linked together as charming cast.  All and all: Genius, pure comedic genius.  “Spaced” will always hold a special place in my heart, hitting on areas I personally love, but I implore any one of you to give this quirky sitcom based fun holding wit, spunk, and heart a proper go.  Only passionate lovers of cinema could churn out a love letter like this, as we’re led down one enjoyable/outrageous adventure after the next.  Only fourteen episodes, yet ten times more efficient than any single 20 episode season I’ve seen.

Netflix Rating: 5/5

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Area 407

Director: Dale Fabrigar/Everette Wallin

Notable Cast: Samantha Lester, Melanie Lyons, James Lyons, Abigail Schrader, Melanie Lyons, Brendan Patrick Connor, Samantha Sloyan, Ken Garcia

Rating: UR

Review:  Never before have I actually regretted paying to view a film.  Never.  I can even justify bottom barrel bargain bin wastes most of the time based on cheap price.   But 7$ On Demand for Area 407?  Even a Red Box $1 one night rental would be worse than taking a $2 bill and inserting it directly into a shredder.  Did you know Area 407 was shot in 5 days and the actors ad-libbed most lines?  Phew, Ok, I knew there had to be a reason something could be so amateur.  Actually, statement retracted, because that would be an insult to first time directors everywhere.  Area 407 takes the cake on independent horror gone terrifically wrong, trying cash in off of the handheld camera phenomena.  But Fabrigar/Wallin do NOTHING to advance the genre, and instead beat the hell out of overused clichés.  In a nutshell, Area 407 consists of blurred views and characters screaming “WHAT IS THAT!” as they vanish off-screen one by one.  Direction was atrocious offering shallow characters, rambling dialogue, shaky-cam antics, zero build up, and agonizing creature execution.  Every derogatory word to be used against a film fits here: Boring, Tension-less, Predictable, Wit-less, Aggravating, Scare-less, Anti-Attention Grabbing, Flat, Action-less…the list scrolls on.  I respect IFC Midnight for giving lesser known horror films a chance at mass exposure and only hope they continue dredging the horror circuit, but I’m surprised the worst horror film I’m going to see all year was found in their catalogue and not floating about the internet.  My will is strong and I still powered through an excruciating 90 minutes, but Area 407 didn’t deserve a single minute of that unjustified viewing.  Oh I’ll tell you why…

Sisters Trish (Schrader) and Jessie (Lester) board a cross-country flight to LA after a Christmas vacation.  Trish sports a video camera, as the budding pint size documentarian pesters every single passenger on the flight.  While approaching their destination, a patch of turbulence shakes the nerves of those on the plane.  The stewardess attempts to calm her guests, but the turbulence quickly turns from mild to life threatening as the plane starts losing altitude.  Crash landing in what seems to be some desert area, the sisters awake to find a few passengers still alive as well.  Among them are photographer Jimmy (Lyons), Air-Marshall Laura (Lyons), overweight complainer Charlie (Connor), stewardess Lois (Sloyan), and Tom (Garcia).  The group search for help, but discover something is hunting them at the same time.  Survival no longer means just making it home now, as making it home in one piece becomes the new goal.

If I just hide in this turbine…

Alright, let’s get this over with.  Spoilers will absolutely follow.  So where to start with this awful, horrible, no good excuse for media.  First off, the improv aspect.  Works with a comedy like The League, so why not horror, eh?  Because of Area 407, that’s why.   Repetitive lines and inexcusable delivery infected the film like a deadly plague.  You would think such a decision could lead to realistic reactions and moments of actual fear reflected in each performance.  Quite the opposite actually.  Instead we get actors literally stumbling through lines barely mustered up with zero gumption and scene after scene of our confused cast shouting over one another in a fight for screen time.  Honestly, any conversation just turned into distracting uncontrolled chaos even lacking realistic fluidity a normal conversation would possess.  Charlie (Connor) was most annoying in this aspect, playing an unnecessary bad guy who for no reason would lash out at other characters to an extreme extent.  Numerous instances could have used a cut sign from either director as dialogue clumsily pressed on, but poor directorial vision turns Area 407 into a messy, convoluted mish mosh of cardboard characters and zero grade script skills as a result of barley writing one.

Now, what about the horror?  It’s still pretty easy to score jump scares using a first person camera angle as cheap a tactic as that is.  But, Area 407 remained lacking even the smallest scare based on non-existent creature tactics.  You never fully see the beast tracking our survivors, which we assume is a velociraptor based on a quick snout shot and another quick tail glimpse.  But when characters died, the low-budget caused each death to be boring and unimportant, only aided by each character’s unlikable qualities.  Example: Charlie.  Pan to Charlie “I’m just going to the bathroom.”  Random character “Blah blah Blah.”  Turn back to Charlie: Gone.  Seriously?  No blood.  No guts.  Just somebody there and gone.  Every.  Single.  Time.  That is the horror in Area 407.  A quick camera cut.  No gore, no suspense, just here is Charlie: and now he’s gone.  Abra Kadabra!  Wow.  Not to mention, whenever the “creature” showed up, he was a different height and different build.  In ending, a character is killed by the “beast” while its tail is shown above the three food high window placement on an SUV.  Earlier, a silhouette of the head is shown in a house window much higher.   How scared can you really be of a monster who adjusts its height based on the camera angle?   Area 407 plays horribly to every horror aspect, failing to bring out even the easiest bit of enjoyable horror.

Area 407 sucked.  Area 407 sucked on a level not thought suckable.  I timed how long it took for something exciting to happen, and 35 minutes slowly chugged by before there was any looming danger even present.  Thirty-five minutes and all I witnessed was Charlie being a wanker and other characters raising their voices at each other.  Whine whine, bitch bitch, please God make this sh*t end.  Area 407 is the perfect example of exploiting a genre.   Exploiting to the extent of “Hey, here’s something filmed on a camera, it might be what you consider a movie.”  It isn’t.  Watching this piece of garbage bored me to tears, accepting my fate much to early for a film to surrender.  Can’t believe I’m saying this because I feel like I have a knack for digging up a least one golden moment in any film:  I hated Area 407 with every ounce of my soul.  Terrible acting, abysmal direction, vomit inducing cinema, and the worst attempt at watchable entertainment seen in 2012.  But at the end of the day, Dale Fabringer and Everette Wallin have another view and a few more bucks pocketed.  Who’s laughing now, I guess?

Final Rating: 1 terrible velociraptor CGI concoction out of 10



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