Monday, January 16, 2017

Red State, Good. Tusk, Bad. Yoga Hosers, Middle of the Road.

Runtime: 88 minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Rating: PG-13
Director: Kevin Smith

You know those smug teens that walk around and act like they're hot shit because their daddies just bought them a brand new Mercedes or Range Rover? Apparently the Hollywood equivalent of a brand new car is the chance to star in your own flick. That is the only reason I can imagine anyone casting these two young ladies in starring roles.

Yoga Hosers follows the “adventures” of Colleen M. and Colleen C., two best friends who work in a convenience store owned by Colleen C's dad. They do things like leave stupid notes on the front door about having heavy periods or a UTI to spend more time rehearsing in the stockroom with their 35-year-old drummer. As with most teens, they're also addicted to their phones and never seem to put the devices down, and Colleen M. has a massive crush on Hunter, the heart throb of their school.

After Hunter invites them to his cool party and they get stuck working, they tell him to bring the party to them. He shows up with his best friend and tries to kill Colleen M. because, hey why not make him a random serial killer? Before he can kill her though, a strange little create pops out and kills him. The “Bratzis” as the flick calls them are a combination bratwurst and Nazi bred by a former Nazi to try and take over the world but let out too early. It's up to the two Colleens to defeat the Bratzis with their dope yoga skills.

I'm on the fence about whether Yoga Hosers is just as bad as Tusk or a small step up. At least Tusk had some talented actors. This one has the daughters of Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp playing spoiled teenagers and seemingly struggling with those roles. Neither one is that great of an actor, and it doesn't help that Smith lets them sing multiple times throughout the film. It's distracting and just plain annoying.

Yoga Hosers is the kind of film that will appear really dated in the next few years. It almost felt like Smith wanted to make a “hip” or “cool” film because so many scenes practically shouted, “Hey! Look at me! I understand current slang.” If I heard the word basic one more time, I thought I might scream. There is one scene where they must say it a dozen times or more in just a few minutes.

I'm honestly shocked that people in Canada didn't hate this film. The Canadian jokes never start out subtly. All the jokes are right there in your face and seem more bullying than friendly. From the way they throw in “bout” and “eh” references to the fact that almost every character loves hockey, it's just a little too much.

The only reasons to watch it are for the performances by Tony Hale and Natasha Lyonne. Hale plays Bob, the owner of the shop and Colleen C's dad, while Lyonne is his manager and girlfriend. The two are so funny together that I want to either see a spin off film or a Netflix original show that stars the two of them. They're definitely the highlights of the flick.

As someone who became a huge Kevin Smith fan after seeing Chasing Amy, I'm so disappointed by his last two horror movies. Here's hoping that he does a better job with Moose Jaws, his third and thankfully last film in the Canadian horror trilogy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Slasher Season 1 Wrap Up

Slasher is one of those shows that wound up in my Netflix queue because it sounded fairly interesting. While similar to the Scream series, Slasher is a so-so take on a similar theme.

The series starts out on Halloween Night in 1988. A man opens the door to a man dressed as an executioner who he assumes is his best friend. When his friend shows up though, both wonder about the other man. After slashing the friend, the executioner brutally kills both the man and his pregnant wife.

Years later, the baby that the executioner actually cut out from the woman, returns to town. Sarah moves back with her husband Dylan to start fresh. Dylan quickly gets to work as the new editor of the local paper, while Sarah makes friends and opens a gallery to display her artwork. We learn that a young woman went missing five years ago and that her mother once owned the space the gallery now occupies.

It doesn't take long before the executioner returns, or at least a reasonable facsimile of him. The executioner starts offing people based on the seven deadly sins. He takes down a nosy neighbor, who it turns out, murdered her husband after learning that he was involved in a pornography ring that included Sarah's mother. He takes out some other not so nice people, including the wife of Sarah's best friend and her partner, who she had an affair with, because they saw the missing girl the night she went missing and did nothing to help her, despite seeing that she was clearly drunk.

Of all the deaths, the best death is a tie between Brenda, Sarah's grandmother, and Justin, the partner/husband of her new gay best friend. Justin does cocaine laced with rat poison and literally convulses and bleeds from every orifice in the middle of a charity fundraiser before dying. Poor Brenda gets a cinder block tied to her ankle and pushed into the water. Well, they were all kind of evil, so I guess they deserved it?

The problem with Slasher is that the creator admittedly drew too much inspiration from American Horror Story. Anyone who watched a full season, let alone all the seasons, knows that Ryan Murphy doesn't know how to edit himself. Slasher suffers from the same problem. There are just too many stories going on at the same time.

Slasher starts out as a show about a girl returning home to the house where her parents both die. She then learns that her mom was an amateur porn star who slept with almost every man in town and that her biological father was the original executioner. We then find out that Dylan was obsessed with the story of her parents before they met and actually sought her out because of her connection to that story.

There's also the missing girl, who it turns out was abducted by a cop in town. Straight out of Room, he kept her locked in his basement with his mentally impaired wife upstairs while he had sex with her and eventually got her pregnant. To make things even worse, Dean McDermott, aka Mr. Tori Spelling, plays the cop.

I really liked the first few episodes of Slasher and looked forward to finding out who the new executioner was and the back stories of each person he murdered. As more stuff came my way though, I started losing interest. Here's hoping if it gets a second season that it focuses on just one story.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Good Neighbor Movie Review

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: March 13, 2016
Rating: NR
Director: Kasra Farahani

Sean and Ethan are two typical high school students who decide to play a “prank” on their elderly neighbor, Harold. According to Ethan, Harold is a horrible man that formerly beat his wife and eventually killed the poor woman. As the more tech-savvy of the two, Sean agrees to help Ethan set up cameras around Harold's house and to do random things that make it look like the old man's house is haunted.

Though some of their friends are less than thrilled about their plans, Ethan in particular points out that Harold deserves it, if only for what he did to his poor wife. They do things like make the lights in his house turn on and off and the television suddenly come to life. When Harold seems defensive about his basement, the boys even call the cops and report that they heard a woman screaming. The cops investigate and find nothing.

As they ramp up their hauntings, Harold seems to slowly lose his mind. Not only is he defensive of his basement, but he particularly freaks out when he hears a bell ringing. Harold ignores an older woman who shows at his doorstep to see him, and he stops leaving the house like he did in the past.

While all this happens, The Good Neighbor inter-cuts a few scenes of a courtroom battle. We see Ethan's mother, the cop who came to the house, and others. They talk about the body found in the house and whether someone is to blame. It isn't until the last few minutes that we learn who they found in the house as well as the fates of both our main characters.

The Good Neighbor is an interesting film, but it's hard for me to say if I actually liked it that much. James Caan is perfectly cast as Harold the neighbor. It's sometimes hard to believe that the man is as old as he is, so seeing him here was definitely eye-opening. If you ever watched ER, you'll notice one of the main characters from that show popping up as his former wife in flashbacks.

Without ruining anything for those who haven't seen it, this film does a good job of setting up Harold's backstory. Instead of just showing the whole story at once, the director smartly reveals just a little at a time such as his wife crying frequently, why the sound of the bell sets him off, and even how and why he got the cat that the guys see on their cameras.

The most realistic thing about this flick is the teenagers themselves. Far too many films have teenagers talking and acting the way the adult writers expect, but Sean and Ethan, as well as all their friends, actually seem like teenagers. You can believe that the two, especially Sean, would do something this mean and stupid just to have a little fun.

While the courtroom scenes are distracting at times, those scenes add to the overall plot of the film and will keep you invested and wanting to know what happens in the end. Once you learn the connection between Harold and one of the teens, the last scene in the film and some of the other plot details will suddenly make a lot more sense.

The Good Neighbor is currently streaming on Netflix.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tales of Halloween Movie Review – Anthology at its Best

Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: October 16,2015
Rating: R
Director: Lots!

Tales of Halloween is an anthology flick that weaves together 10 different stories that take place over the course of Halloween. Packed with cameos from writers, directors, and actors featured in other horror films, it's entertaining for those who love 70s and 80s slasher and horror films.

Adrienne Barbeau, who any horror fan will remember from films like The Fog, plays a DJ at the beginning of the film. She does a great job of introducing each segment and wrapping up the movie in the end. Her smooth and sultry voice definitely creates a setting that will make you feel like you're back in the glory days of the drive through watching all your favorites.

On first glance, Tales of Halloween seems like one of those movies that only has one or two good stories. When describing it to my roommate, it started telling him about my favorite anthology story, then remembered another one I liked, then another, and wound up telling him to just watch the damn thing. While some stories are definitely stronger than others, there really aren't a lot of bad stories.

The best might be The Ransom of Rusty Rex. Two men decide to kidnap the child of a rich man, one of who is played by Sam Witwer of Being Human, as he goes trick or treating by himself. When they call his father, played by the amazing John Landis, he laughs and tells them to keep the kid. They quickly learn that this little boy is actually a demon and that once he latches on, he never lets go.

Friday the 31st is a close second. This story opens with a girl dressed as Dorothy running for her life through the woods with a deformed slasher, a la Jason, on her tails. After he catches and kills her though, a space ship appears in the sky, and drops an adorable little claymation alien on the ground. When he denies the alien's wish to trick or treat, the alien takes over the woman's body and chases the killer around. While it may not sound like much, it got the most laughs out of me, especially when the slasher wound up losing his arm and later his head because of his own tools of death.

Trick is probably the one that has the best ending, though it takes awhile to get going. Two couples kick back on Halloween night as they have a few drinks and smoke. A girl dressed up as a witch shows up to trick or treat and then brutally murders the man who answers the front door. Several other kids then show up and chase the adults through the house, killing them one by one. In the end, we learn that the adults had a little fun of their own mutilating and killing children.

I was also a fan of The Night Billy Raised Hell. Billy is stuck trick or treating with his slutty teenage sister and her boyfriend. The boyfriend convinces poor Billy to play a prank on a man living in one specific house. It turns out that the man is actually the Devil, played by the awesome Barry Bostwick, who promises to show Billy some new tricks. They then set out on a night of mischief filled with robbing convenience stores and murdering people. When the cops show up to arrest poor Billy though, it turns out that the Devil left him tied up and stole his costume for one of his minions, leaving Billy to take the wrap.

Keep your eyes peeled for cameos from Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton, John Savage, and Joe Dante just to name a few. Tales of Halloween is currently streaming on Netflix and is more than a fun way to waste 93 minutes.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Submerged Movie Review – Not for the Claustrophobic

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Steven C. Miller

You could put Tim Daly in anything and the odds are good that I would probably watch it. In fact, he's the sole reason I watched Private Practice. While I only watched Submerged because of him, it turns out that it wasn't that bad.

The movie follows a young girl, not that young though like college, and her friends. Jessie sneaks away from her dad to spend the weekend with her friends at a lake house. Hank, her father played by the super yummy Tim Daly, sends his best man Matt to pick her up. Matt is both a driver and a bodyguard and played by Jonathon Bennett. I find it strange that most of his know him from Mean Girls but that a whole new generation knows him as a host on Food Network. Odd.

Anyway, it turns out that Hank is worth a lot of money and that there are people willing to do anything to get that money. We know that because people show up in a dark car and attempt to kidnap Jessie. All they actually do though is hit the car hard enough that it crashes over the side of a bridge. When the kids try to escape, our bad guys shoot at them. With Matt in the front seat and the other characters in the back, they need to find a way to work together and hopefully escape before time runs out.

Review for Submerged were absolutely terrible, which I find strange because it was actually pretty entertaining. Yes, most of the characters were those classic stereotypes. We have the poor little rich girl who has everything handed to her on a silver platter and still isn't happy, the douchy frat boy you want to punch in the face, and the girl who cares more about hooking up than anything else. When they actually land in the water though, you'll find yourself caring about what happens to them and even wincing when the bad guys thwart their escape attempts.

Like I said up top, this is not for the claustrophobic. Some of the scenes in this film reminded me of The Descent, especially in regards to Matt. The kids in the backseat actually have room to spread out and move, but he's stuck in the front seat of a limo with a bum leg and almost no space to move. It left me feeling really unsettled and wondering what I would do in a similar situation.

And okay, the movie isn't fantastic. Bennett really doesn't come across as the type of guy you would hire to protect your kids. Even when he's doing ass kicking stuff, you still want to giggle because he looks like a huge dork. And Mario Van Peebles, who yes, is also in this flick, looks like he showed up to make $20 bucks and decided to only do $20 worth of work. Even Daly isn't his usually sparkling best. The end also felt so much like a TV movie that I had to look it up to see if this aired on television first.

So while it did have some flaws, I actually enjoyed it. Submerged may just make you wonder what you would do if trapped in a car with the water rising all around you...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Dead Room Movie Review – Too Long and Yet Not Long

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Rating: NR?
Director: Jason Sutter

Similar to The Amityville Horror, The Dead Room deals with a haunted house that was so terrifying it forced a family to take up and leave in the middle of the night. In the hopes of finding out what actually happened, three investigators arrive and decide to spend a few days filming the house and looking for signs of ghosts.

Liam is the lead investigator and the one who most doubts the family's stories. After investigating dozens of other cases, he's heard it all and is incredibly cynical. Many of the things they said remind him of things he heard before. Scott is his right hand man and equally doubtful. He even reminds Liam of cases they worked on in the past that people faked. Also along for the ride is Holly who apparently really is psychic. She finds their stories sad and wonders if they ever found any real proof of the paranormal.

On their first day there, they find nothing in the way of evidence. Holly can't sense any presences in the home, nothing shows up on their cameras, and their other feeds detect nothing. Though they do catch some movement on one camera in the middle of the night, Scott convinces them that it was just the wind. They later capture a rocking chair moving on its own, and Holly sees a shadowy figure that no one else can see. In the hopes of finding more evidence, they decide to spend more time there, which causes the paranormal activity to worsen. As furniture flies through the air and the spirit chases them through the house, they must decide if capturing evidence is as important as their own lives.

The Dead Room had a few things going for it, but most notably, the characters. Liam is the type of character who we need more of in horror films. There are so many movies like this that feature characters dead set on the idea that ghosts exist and willing to go overboard to prove it. Liam is much more mellow and pretty much a skeptic. Even when faced with real evidence, he's willing to find other explanations for what he saw. Holly was fairly interesting too, especially when she actually began detecting the presence, and Scott at least kept things entertaining.

If you think I liked the film because I liked the characters, think again. I put it on Netflix the other day to have something to watch while waiting for a food delivery and kept thinking about fast forwarding. It's a slow movie, and not the type of slow burn that I usually like. So much doesn't happening in the first half that you start wondering if there's an actual ghost or if this is one of those movies that ends with someone living in the basement. It was just too slow for me.

The end to The Dead Room was really good and had a nice twist. I just wish that some of those action sequences occurred early on. By the time we learn what's really going on, I was ready to turn it off. The Dead Room just didn't do it for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Last House on Cemetery Lane Movie Review – Crazy, Crazy Writers

Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Rating: NR
Director: Andrew Jones

Despite being only 82 minutes long, The Last House on Cemetery Lane felt much, much, much longer to me.

John Davies is a successful screenwriter living in London who grows tired of the hustle and bustle of the city. Remembering the fun times he had in the English countryside as a child, he decides to take a break and move back. He finds the perfect home for rent through a local real estate agent. It overlooks the water, has a large property surrounding it, and comes with two full floors. During their meeting though, he learns that there is actually a tenant on the second floor. As she's blind and never leaves, he doesn't need to worry about her. Though he isn't fond of sharing “his home” with someone else, he agrees to rent it.

On one of his first days, he looks outside and sees a beautiful woman playing on the swingset nearby. After chatting with her, he learns that her name is Cassie and that she lives in the neighborhood. Cassie seems a little nervous about being around the house and reluctantly admits that she heard stories about it before. Though interested in the tales, he's even more interested in her.

The longer that John stays in the house, the more unsettled he feels. It starts out slowly. He thinks he feels someone watching him, he finds things missing, he realizes that things moved to new locations, and he hears noises inside the wall. Like most of us, he blames some of it on the upstairs neighbor. She refuses to answer the door or even talk to him, but the real estate agent assures him that Agnes is harmless. Once John starts researching the house and learning about what happened there over the years, he realizes that there might be an underlying reason for all his weird experiences.

Not to be a downer, but this movie really sucked. It was one of those that made me keep grabbing the remote and checking to see how much time was left and feeling disappointed that I had so much time left to go. It's hard to explain, but it felt more like a movie that told us a story instead of one that showed us a story. It was like: here's John, John writes movies, here's this girl, John likes this girl, here's something strange happening, etc. It felt super disjointed and occasionally seemed like the actors didn't even want to be there, which definitely pulled me out of the story.

As a low budget movie, the special effects were particularly bad. The director should have just skipped the idea of adding special effects and tried to give the film an unsettling feel with things like creaky footsteps in the hallway or dark shadows over his shoulder. It lacked anything really new or even different.

As someone with friends in the industry, I know that you can do a lot with a very limited budget. It seems like the director of this one didn't learn that. I kept waiting for something interesting or entertaining to happen, but it felt more like a play that grudgingly walked us through the story...