Sunday, March 31, 2013

"The Awakening" Movie Review – Sometimes Ghosts are Real

Runtime: 107 minutes
Release Date: August 17, 2012
Rating: R
Director: Nick Murphy

Florence prides herself on uncovering paranormal hoaxes and saving people from wasting money on charlatans. As the author of several popular books on the topic, she opens the film by exposing another group of fraudsters. She hasn't yet chosen her next case when she gets a surprise visit from the dashing and handsome Robert. He works in an all boys boarding school where a student recently died and the other children keep thinking that they see his ghost.

Florence discovers that all of the children are leaving for their break just as she arrives. She's all alone in the school with the housekeeper Maude, Maude's young son Tom, and Robert. Though Florence assumes that this is just another hoax, she quickly discovers that there's is something far darker in this old building and that she might have a connection to what happened there.

I very rarely read reviews of horror films before I sit down and watch a movie because I usually don't agree with what others say. That is especially true of "The Awakening" because I'm surprised that it got such positive reviews. I rented the film not long after seeing a trailer for it, and I actually came close to falling asleep in the middle. I had a hard time paying attention, and it felt like there was something missing.

The opening scenes when Florence strides into a supposed séance and rips apart the fraudsters was amusing and set up a great tone for the film. When she arrived at the boarding school, there were a few truly spooky scenes that kept my attention. The problem is that the film set it up so that you could put the pieces together yourself and figure out the ending. I don't know about you, but I like my twist endings to be real twists and not something that I can see coming a mile away.

It's one thing is there are a few moments that make you wonder what might happen or help you come up with a possible ending, but it's another thing when the film literally hits you over the head with those moments. Oh, no one else can see that character? Oh, you suddenly know what's behind that door or where that hidden passage goes? "The Awakening" is also one of those films that ends on an ambiguous note, which means that everyone and his brother has a different theory for what really happened. Me, I was just glad it was over.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Bruiser" Movie Review – Watch How You Act

Runtime: 99 minutes
Release Date: October 9, 2001
Rating: R
Director: George Romero

Henry is the type of man that you work with for years and never really notice. His job at the fashion magazine Bruiser doesn't offer him the chance to shine, and he mainly sticks to the background. When he does make a suggestion, people either ignore him or push his ideas as their own. Henry keeps asking his best friend about his money, which the friend invested, and he never gets any information.

On the same day that he learns that his friend stole all of his money, he discovers that his wife is in the midst of an affair. It doesn't help matters that his wife constantly nags him and treats him like crap. She even talks to him on the phone while with her lover, never realizing that Henry can hear everything they say. He finally snaps when he wakes up and finds that he has an white mask covering his face. Knowing that no one knows who he is, he decides that now is the perfect time to get his revenge.

When I read the plot synopsis for "Bruiser," I wondered how I made it this far in life without hearing of this Romero flick. Now that I actually sat down and watched the movie, I completely understand. There's nothing inherently wrong with "Bruiser," but I found that I struggled to pay attention. Jason Flemyng almost seems to do too good of a job with Henry. When it comes to acting like the by the books man that he is at the beginning of the film, he does an excellent job. He does a less than great job when it comes to playing a man hell bent on vengeance.

Romero does do a great job of interjecting a few bits of humor into the film, but it wasn't enough to keep me interested. Since this review ran a little short, let's toss out some trivia for you.

The Misfits appeared in the film and played two songs. The band worked out a deal with Romero: he directed one of their music videos, and they appeared in his movie.

This is the only film that Romero wrote and directed that isn't part of his Dead franchise.

Romero doesn't consider "Bruiser" a horror film, but his distributor packaged it as one and even changed the poster to fit the horror genre. That backfired for them seeing as how the movie went straight to video instead of playing in theaters.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Hold Your Breath" Movie Review – Watch Out When Driving by Cemeteries

Runtime: 87 minutes
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Rating: R
Director: Jared Cohen

A group of pretty young late teens/early twenty-somethings decide to take a camping trip in the woods and go to a big concert together. They all attended high school and graduated together, and doing one group thing in the summer is part of their ritual. Johnny (Randy Wayen, "The Haunting of Molly Hartley") decides that everyone needs to sacrifice their cell phones, and he locks the phones in the glove box.

When they start driving by a ramshackle cemetery, Jerry (Katrina Bowden, ("Piranha 3DD") warns them that they should all hold their breath or risk being possessed by evil spirits. Oddly enough, this is an old urban legend that I learned from The Baby-Sitters Club series of books when I was a kid. Their stoner friend takes a large hit and begins choking, which leads to him inhaling as they pass by and inhale one of those spirits.

If this movie actually came out in October, which is the official release date, I want to know who was hoarding all the copies! After watching one trailer, I knew that I wanted to see more, but it didn't pop up here until a few weeks ago. Now that I've seen it, I have to say that I actually liked it even if it is pretty cheesy.

The stoner manages to let the spirit of a multiple murder get into his body, and that killer goes on a rampage. This leads to some fun elements like him attacking a police officer and an interesting execution method, which involves electricity. The other friends decide to take a trip and look for help since their car broke down, and they wind up investigating an old mental hospital. We get the requisite shots of a couple sneaking off to engage in some fun, and some gratuitous scares after one friend sneaks away from the group. We even get some funny scenes that involve the jock/asshat of the group freaking out when he winds up chained to a real electric chair.

Horror movies from Asylum get a bad reputation, but I freaking love them. They did a smart job of casting Bowden, who in recent months went from the stereotypical blond bombshell to a woman with the potential to be a real scream queen. She still has some work to do, but she's as entertaining here as she is in "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil." Seth Cassell aka Kyle aka stoner friend is another standout in the film. He goes from playing the funny loser friend to a man possessed by a serial killer who can't stop killing and then back to a stoner after the ghost leaves. He looks so confused about what happened that you can actually buy him in the role.

Like most Asylum films, "Hold Your Breath" suffers from some problems. The ending is so bad that I actually found myself wincing and praying that it would end quickly. The film quickly goes from a fun and slightly cheesy film to one that is over the top and so cheesy that you might need some wine by the time the credits roll. I still enjoyed myself though, and it gave me faith in Asylum again.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

976-Evil II – This is Why You Don't Call 976-Numbers

Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: April 22, 1992
Rating: R
Director: Jim Wynorski

Remember Spike from "976-Evil"? He was the guy who basically set off a string of murders because he called the number 976-EVIL. Ah ha! I bet you didn't see where that one was going. Well, Spike is now back for this pretty terrible sequel that lacks the originality and downright fun of the first one.

Part of this is because Spike basically turns over the film to Robin, who is the same pretty generic blond heroine of many 1980s films. That's not to say that she appeared in them, but the same character usually popped up in the sequels. Robin's dad is a police officer, who believes that Spike is responsible for a series of killings in their home town. He locks him up, leaving Robin as the main figure.

Robin eventually discovers that her former professor is the one behind the actual killings. Even after he dies, he still gets to come back and kill a few people because they make the mistake of calling the 976 number. Robin also learns that he uses astral projection to reach his victims, meaning that no one knows how to catch him or what to do. When she asks her dad for help and he refuses, because hey, your main suspect is dead, she decides to enlist Spike and bring down the real killer.

"976-Evil" is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies from the 1980s. While the film is pretty bad at times, I still find it entertaining enough to watch every year or so. Not everyone feels the same way though. My best friend hated it so much that he wouldn't even give the sequel a chance. After finally seeing it, I kind of wish that I skipped it too.

It's not that "976-Evil II" is really such a bad film, but it lacks all of the fun elements of the first one. The original wasn't filmed on a large budget, but this seems like someone took that budget, slashed it in half, slashed it in half again, and handed over the few dollars that were left. The acting, save for Patrick O'Bryan, was pretty dull, and most actors seemed like they didn't know what they were supposed to do. By the time I reached the end, I deleted it from my Netflix queue and vowed to forget it existed.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Don't Go In the Woods" Movie Review – Do Horror and Musicals Go Together?

Runtime: 83 minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2010
Rating: NR
Director: Vincent D'Onofrio

"Don't Go in the Woods" opens with a group of friends driving down the highway. The group has their own rock band, and they decided to spend some time in the woods, getting back to their roots and creating new songs for their upcoming album. One of the young men bring a large bag of weed with him, which another throws on the side of the road, claiming that they don't need it.

Once they arrive, the same man gathers their cell phones and smashes them, letting his friends know that they shouldn't contact anyone during the weekend. Things start out slow, as the group finds the perfect camping spot and beds down for the weekend. Eventually, a group of girls turn up, invited by one of the men for the weekend. As they frolic around the campfire, creating new tunes, it quickly becomes clear that there is something in the woods that isn't happy to see them.

I was walking through Family Video a few months ago when a black and red case caught my eye. I did a quick read through of the plot and decided to add it to my mental list, as I already had several movies in hand. A few weeks later, I discovered that the film was on Netflix and planned to sit down and watch it with the boyfriend and roommate. Despite some truly bad reviews, I actually kind of dug this film.

There are some people who down the film because it's basically a horror musical. What's wrong with that? I would probably classify "Repo: The Genetic Opera" as a horror musical, and I love the hell out of that film. I still sometimes burst into song and then it takes me a few minutes to realize that I'm singing a song from a film that probably only ten percent of the world ever saw.

I will admit that "Don't Go in the Woods" has its slow points. There's only so much singing that you can take before you want to see someone get their head chopped off, and the film sometimes relies too much on singing and not enough on the horror elements. My roommate thought the singing was pretty atrocious and started rolling his eyes every time someone started, but I did the little head bob along with the music.

The main problem with "Don't Go in the Woods" is that it doesn't contain enough scares, blood, or gore. There are a few too many scenes where people go running through the woods or take a long walk for no real reason, and those scenes should feel spooky, but they tend to feel a little dull and boring. It's still a great first effort from Vincent D'Onofrio that proves he's just as good behind the camera as he is in front of the camera.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flashback AKA Mörderische Ferien AKA Murderous Vacation – German Horror Done Right

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: April 6, 2000
Rating: R
Director: Michael Karen

Foreign horror films have a tendency to make me sit up and wonder what the hell is wrong with American horror directors. "Flashback," which also goes by several other names, is one of those films.

The film opens up with scenes of a young girl named Jeanette spending time with her parents. While everything seems normal, a man breaks into the house and eventually murders both of her parents in front of her. "Flashback" then jumps several years into the future. After spending years in an institution, Jeanette is now a young woman, and her doctor thinks that she is ready to live outside the institution walls. He finds her a job working with a friend's step-children and teaching them French.

From the moment that Jeanette arrives at their house, something seems odd. All three of the "children" are actually close to her age, and none of them seem particularly excited about meeting her. She has to walk around the entire house just to find someone who can let her in, and by the time she does, someone steals her bags off the front porch. Lissy, Melissa, and Leon keep leaving her at home to go out and party, and they frequently mention their dislike of their stepfather.

Jeannette also has to deal with the housekeeper, who thinks that she needs to rule them all with an iron fist. She doesn't approve of Jeannette for the way she dresses, the fact that she actually goes into town with her charges, and her blossoming relationship with Leon. That relationship takes Jeannette by surprise, and it quickly becomes clear that she never really dated anyone before. After one particular party at the house, Jeannette starts suffering flashbacks of what happened to her family. The more she works with the teens and the closer she grows to Leon, the more it becomes clear that there is something wrong.

"Flashback" is an excellent movie because it offers several different possible explanations for what's going on, and you won't know exactly what happened until the very end. Is the man who killed her parents back for vengeance? Does the unseen step-father have something to do with the events? Is Jeannette the crazy one? Are the kids involved? This is the kind of film where I kept thinking that I knew what was going on, but then there was another twist, and I was wrong. It's also the type of film where you actually need to pay attention or you might miss out on something special.

I was so excited about seeing this movie that I actually recommended it to multiple people. I even spoiled it for my best friend by telling him the whole plot and the ending because I didn't see it coming. I had the chance to watch the film on Netflix, which thankfully provided a dubbed version (unlike "Battle Royale 2," which I will probably never watch because I seldom have time to sit down and watch a film with subtitles), but the site recently took the film down. If you get a chance to watch it, please do.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Sinister" Movie Review – Don't Watch Home Movies of Other People

Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: R
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Director: Scott Derrickson

"Sinister" opens with one of the best scenes from recent movies. A family of four swings from a huge tree, and as the opposite side of the tree starts tipping over, all four are hanged.

The film then jumps to Ellison (Ethan Hawke, "Gattica"), a true crime writer, who wrote a hit book detailing a murder in Kentucky. After several other books failed to capture that same level of success, he decided to move his family into a smaller and cheaper house while he works on a new book. He fails to mention to his wife or children that a family was murdered there and that the daughter of that family went missing, which he wants to cover in his new book. The sheriff in town (Fred mother fucking Thompson) doesn't want him there because, as he points out, Ellison usually makes police look bad in his books.

One night, Ellison discovers a projector, camera, and a box of Super 8 films in the attic. Each of the films has a title that seems like an ordinary family get together, but he discovers something entirely different when he watches the footage. Pool Party shows a family tied to lawn chairs and dragged into a swimming pool to drown, while Family Hanging Out shows the opening scenes of the film. He also watches a family burned to death when someone sets their car on fire, another family killed when lawn mowers roll over their heads, and a family who get their throats slit.

Ellison eventually gets some help from a deputy who he calls Deputy So and So. The deputy finds some information for him on the murders and puts him in contact with a professor (Vincent D'Onofrio) after he finds some odd symbols on the videos. The more Ellison digs into the history of the footage, the more odd things begin happening in his home. His pre-teen son suffers from night terrors, and his younger daughter begins painting dark images on the walls. Ellison gets so caught up in learning what happened to those families and why it happened that he doesn't realize he's putting his own family in a terrifying position.

There was something about "Sinister" that highly annoyed me, so let's get it out of the way first. They constantly mention money problems that they have because of Ellison not bringing home as much money from his books. I can think of at least six instances where they mentioned money problems. Yet, there's no mention of his wife working or trying to find a job even though their kids are both in school. They also have enough cash to purchase a second house before selling the first, and when things get hard, they just move back into their original mansion. That's not money problems.

Other than that, I really liked the film. Director Scott Derrickson is also the man behind "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," two films I really liked. He also wrote the screenplay for "Urban Legends: Final Cut," another film I liked, but he sadly did some rewrite work on "Scream 4." With "Sinister," it looks like he's finally getting back on track.

The movie is interesting in a way that I cannot really explain. Hawke is incredibly memorable as a man who is so caught up in his work that he doesn't realize how it might impact those around him. There are also some truly creepy scenes that involve a dark figure that keeps turning up in those videos. And those videos! Even though they were just little short scenes that take less than a minute, they are so creepy and odd that you can't help watching and waiting for the next one. "Sinister" is one of those films that I'll likely wind up buying in the near future.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Eerie, Indiana Season 1, Episode 4 – "The Losers"

Marshall hears his parents arguing over a missing briefcase. His mother gave it to his dad years ago, and it brings him good luck. He also filled it with some important documents for his big presentation at work, which means it's even worse that he lost it. He claims that he didn't lose it but that it somehow went missing.

To get it back, he decides to go deep into the world of missing objects, eventually locating the central lost and found department. It's basically the place where every missing item in the world eventually ends up. While working to get back the briefcase, he learns that he can make a trade that winds up with him landing in the missing department and his dad getting back his briefcase.

Marshall instead decides to work with the man in the field (who also had a big role in "Gremlins"). He manages to get his dad's briefcase back, just in time for his dad's big presentation. The field worker also takes over the lost and found department, sending the head of the department out into the field. "The Losers" gets high marks for making the department head search the sewers for missing objects LOL.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Greystone Park Movie Review – Not Even Oliver Stone Could Save This

Runtime: 79 minutes
Release Date: September 6, 2012
Rating: R
Director: Sean Stone

"Greystone Park" is the kind of film that proves that you don't need to follow in the footsteps of your famous parents. Directed by Sean Stone, the son of award-winning director Oliver Stone, the film apparently came about as the result of a conversation that the two shared with one of Sean's friends. The men decided to take a group of friends into an abandoned mental institution to see what happened. That does not mean that this is a documentary because it is filled with the same typical faux screams that you would expect.

There are so many flaws with "Greystone Park" that I literally don't know where to start. You know how some films try to make the footage look older or show disturbances by adding graininess? This film does that so often that there were moments where I literally didn't know what was happening because I couldn't see the action.

The other problem is that there really isn't a lot of action. Whenever something remotely scary starts happening, the film automatically starts showing screwy footage, like the ghosts don't want you to see what they do. For example, two people might be in one room and hear a scream from another room. The moment they run down the hall and enter that room, the film shows rolling footage. When it finally goes back to the action, the characters basically explain what happened.

I usually like to write longer reviews for horror films, but I just want to put this one behind me and move on to the next film.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Frozen Movie Review – Not to be Confused with the Crappy Shawn Ashmore Flick

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2012
Rating: PG-13
Director: Andrew Hyatt

Mike (Seth David Mitchell) and his girlfriend Emma (Brit Morgan, "True Blood") decide to take a camping trip in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of winter. As my roommate so eloquently put it, "Hell to the no." Mike seems a little more excited about the trip, while Emma makes it clear that she only came along because it's what he wanted. She seems even less enthused when he pulls their truck over to the side of the road and announces that they need to take the snowmobile to reach the actual campsite.

While moving across the snowy hills, they hit a rough patch and both are thrown from the snowmobile. Emma wakes up, and she and Mike manage to setup their tent and settle down for the night. Both hope that help will soon arrive, but instead, Emma wakes up the next day to find Mike gone with only a pool of blood left in the snow. To make matters worse, she starts seeing a lonely hunter in the woods, and he makes it clear that he is coming for her.

Let's make this clear that this is absolutely not the "Frozen" film starring Shawn Ashmore. At some point, I'm sure that I will review that one, and you can already guess how I feel about it. "The Frozen" is a slightly better film, though it still has some faults. The film goes a little too far making you sympathize with Emma, to the point where I actually hoped that she would die and die soon. It shouldn't be surprising that there's a scene where she finds an engagement ring in Mike's bag not long after he disappears. It's clear that the filmmakers want you to root for her, but she isn't a very interesting character.

"The Frozen" also makes the mistake of having a cliché ending that almost anyone would see coming. I'm not going to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but you can watch the first thirty minutes of the movie and still know how it will end. The rest of the film just sort of plods along, hoping that you stick with it.

The sad thing is that this film has a lot of potential. The idea of being stranded in the middle of the snowy woods with no one around for miles and finding your sole support system missing is a harrowing thought. Emma naturally breaks down a few times, but she does things that are just absolutely stupid. Many people who watch this will find themselves yelling at the screen, not in a fun way but in a way that makes you want to rip your hair out.

The other problem that I had is that Mike literally disappears too quickly. How cool would it be if they started working together to find their way back to civilization, only to have Mike disappear the night before they start off? Instead, Mike disappears so quickly that you barely get a chance to know anything about the character. When she finds the ring, there's nothing that makes you sad because you barely know Mike. It just makes me a little sad because this movie could be so much better.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eerie, Indiana Season 1, Episode 3 "The ATM With the Heart of Gold"

Marshall's dad just created a brand new ATM that will leave others in the dust. Instead of an ordinary screen, this one shows the smiling face of a man named Mr. Wilson. The ATM is such a hit that people in town start flocking to it. Before long, Mr. Wilson is the most popular man in town.

While all of this is going on, Marshall notices that his best friend Simon seems flush with cash. He starts buying a lot of snacks, has brand new running shoes, and he event treats Marshall to ice cream. When Marshall asks him about the cash, he starts changing the subject. It comes out that people in town suddenly have problems with their bank accounts, i.e. they have unexpected and unauthorized transactions.

Marshall eventually discovers that Simon formed a close personal relationship with Mr. Wilson. Every time he went to the ATM, Wilson gave him money, which he took from other people's accounts. Simon decides that he doesn't care if people lose money because having cash made him one of the most popular people in town. It all comes to a head when Marshall sees him with some of his new friends. When pressed, the other boys admit that they don't have any clue what his name actually is, and Simon decides that he needs to make things right.

They head back to Mr. Wilson and put all of the remaining cash in deposit envelopes, which they push back into the machine. With every bit of cash that comes through, Mr. Wilson loses some of his original humanity. He goes back to looking like a computerized ATM and everyone in town gets their money back again. At the end of the episode, Marshall and his dad watch as the city removes Mr. Wilson, and his dad wonders if the world just isn't ready for something like that.

Eerie, Indiana Rating: Eh, more interesting than "The Retainer," but not as interesting as "Foreverware."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eerie, Indiana Season 1, Episode 2: "The Retainer" - "Maybe They're Not Speaking English, Maybe We're Speaking Dog."

Marshall learns that he might need a retainer, which doesn't exactly thrill him because of something that happened a few months ago. A boy he knew from school got a retainer, and a few hours later, he started hearing what dogs think. As Marshall explains to his friend Simon, it's because the retainer tunes him into a different frequency.

Simon is less than thrilled with the idea that dogs can talk, but Marshall once again explains that away by pointing out that maybe they are speaking dogs. It doesn't help that the dogs clearly want to overthrow the world. They mention how much they hate humans and the way that humans treat each other. The trio of boys wind up in the pound, where the dogs give them a list of demands that humorously include no more leashes. Marshall and his friends end up saving the day, though their friend Steve disappears in the process.

The episode has a minor flaw that irritates me. Marshall mentions that the story with Steve happened in the past, and he actually remembers the events while sitting in the dentist's chair getting his own retainer. After coming home and showing his sister his new retainer, the first dog Steve heard talk suddenly appears in his driveway. Marshall flips out and then finds Steve's retainer stuck to the dog, and he acts like the story just happened.

It's still a cute little story though. There's a cute little poodle, complete with French accent, that wants to take over the world and gives their demands. It's also pretty funny to see the three boys wandering through a pound, listening to a bunch of random dogs talk about wanting to destroy all humans.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

After Midnight Movie Review – Like Trilogy of Terror

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: November 3, 1989
Rating: R
Director: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat

Two college girls decide to take a class on fear, though one of the girls keeps having visions and nightmares that make her think this might be a bad idea. After the professor makes one of their classmates literally pee his pants in front of everyone, the stereotypical jock decides to get even when the professor treats his students to a night in an old house. "After Midnight" then segues into several shorter films.

There are a few different stories here: one involves a group of friends who get lost in the middle of the night, one surrounds a couple who wander into an abandoned house after their car breaks down, and one tells the story of what happens to the professor and student. My favorite story is the last one, "All Night Messenger."

Alex works at a company that records messages and passes them along to clients. When she comes back to work after vacation, her boss lets her know that she had to fire some other workers, so Alex is stuck working the phones all by herself. Things seem fine, until a random man calls with a weird message for a woman. When Alex calls the woman to pass along the message, she breaks down and tells her that the man keeps stalking her. The man then decides to start stalking Alex, leading to some truly spooky moments.

I really loved this segment, and it's not just because it stars Marg Helgenberger and her former husband Alan Rosenberg. No, there is just something really entertaining about this one. It starts off on a lighter note and quickly turns into this dark and interesting story. It's also one of those films that you can scream at the television. Why doesn't she take the time to call downstairs to the security guard and warn him that someone is threatening her? Why doesn't the other woman call the cops and tell them that some stranger keeps calling her and stalking her?

The other stories aren't nearly as strong as "Night Messenger." Most of the stories in "After Midnight" are just ordinary 1980's stories that you watch once and forget about, but damn it if that one story isn't worth watching again and again.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Battle Royale Movie Review – Where I Lose My Street Cred

There is no reason why you shouldn't know the plot of "Battle Royale," so let's just gloss over it, okay? A class of teenage students learn that there are the newest group picked for Battle Royale, which is a battle to the death. It's a way for Japan to protect itself by weeding out the weak. The students must fight until only one person remains standing.

They each receive a bag filled with supplies before being sent into the wilderness of a remote island. While some students find themselves armed with grenades, crossbows, or guns, others discover a pair of binoculars or a pot lid tucked inside. When two classmates decide to team up because of the crushes they had on each other before the competition, they enlist the help of yet another student, though they all know that only one person can walk away free.

Let me share my "Battle Royale" story. I had a "thing" with a guy a few years ago who absolutely loved this movie. Needless to say, once I sat down to watch it, I had to figure out a way to tell him that I really didn't like it. I walked away from the movie wondering why so many people loved it because in my mind, I was actually a little bored.

Cut to a few months ago when I was talking about "The Hunger Games" and how it was clearly a ripoff of this movie to a friend. He, a big time horror movie fan, had never heard of it before. I then discovered that my boyfriend had never seen it either. While wandering through Family Video, he picked it up and decided to rent it, despite me whining and complaining in the middle of the store.

Was it as bad as I remember? Actually, not at all. Will I be adding it to my list of favorite horror movies or movies in general? Not a chance. "Battle Royale" wasn't nearly as long and dull as I thought it was the first time I watched it. It actually has some of the greatest death/murder scenes from any film over the last ten years or so. While it might not necessarily be the best death of the film, my favorite death comes when a girl stabs another boy to death (starting in the nuts) after she repeatedly tells him to leave her alone.

I'm also a little shocked by Suzanne Collins, who still maintains that she never heard of the movie or the book before working on "The Hunger Games." Look lady, one similarity might be forgivable, but this is just ridiculous! What would you say if I told you that I just watched a movie about teens forced to kill each other, given survival items on a rolling cart, and two teens hide out together in a cave while they start having feelings for each other? Yeah, that isn't "The Hunger Games," that's "Battle Royale."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Divide Movie Review – The Lucky Ones Died in the Blast

Runtime: 112 minutes
Release Date: January 13, 2012
Rating: R
Director: Xavier Gens

In the not too distant future, nuclear war rips apart New York City. When the first bomb goes off, a group of residents of the same apartment complex try to escape to the street. When more bombs go off, a small group of those people find refuge in the basement, where Mickey the superintendent lives. The basement was built as a bomb shelter so it serves as the only safe place in the area.

Among those trapped inside are the smart young woman Eva, her boyfriend Sam, Adrien, Devlin, Josh, his best friend Bobby, Marilyn and Wendi, her young daughter. Mickey pretty much takes over, rationing out food and setting up rules for the residents. Everything goes fine until a group of men break into the basement. Clad in biohazard suits, they kidnap Wendi and drag her outside while the others hide. Josh, wearing the suit of one of the men they killed, sneaks outside and finds Wendi and some other children strapped to beds.

Josh rushes back to the basement, but not before he finds himself exposed to the contaminated air. As he begins suffering radiation sickness, Marilyn loses her mind over losing her daughter. The film kind of spirals from that point on, leading to every person's attitude and behavior changing as they deal with life inside the basement.

"The Divide" is such an odd movie that I'm honestly not sure what to say. This is the type of film where one character loses his mind and starts walking around in women's clothing, where another woman decides to start a sexual relationship with a man because she assumes that's what men want and that's what she needs to do to survive. Of course, that also means that she winds up completely degraded by the same man.

It's also the type of film where you start to root for the bad guy. Mickey starts off the film as the man who clearly doesn't want anyone inside his space. He knows that there are a limited number of rations and that he doesn't have enough food for everyone, which is why he slams the door before anyone else can get inside. Throughout the film though, the other characters become so obnoxious that Mickey actually comes across as a better person.

"The Divide" isn't as bad as the reviews make it out. There are some strong characters in the film, but the plot leaves some holes behind. Why did people break in just to take Wendi? Especially since it seems like they kill her after taking her? Who were those people, and why did they seal the basement up again after breaking in? It's those type of holes that annoy me. The film takes the time to introduce those scenes and show those moments as important, only to completely disregard it again. I guess it's possible that it was just meant to show why Marilyn and other characters started falling apart, but I'm sure there were better ways to do that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Amber Alert Movie Review – How Far Would You Go?

Runtime: 80 minutes
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Rating: R
Director: Kerry Bellessa

Nate and Sam are two best friends, who decide to make a tape to document their relationship before auditioning for a reality television show. Sam's younger brother mans the camera, sitting in the backseat of their car and rarely speaking. While driving down the road, they see an amber alert flash over the screen on the highway, warning about a potential child abduction. After a few minutes, a car passes by, and they joke about how it almost matches the amber alert. After a few more minutes, they realize that it actually is the same car.

Sam immediately calls the police, giving them the information, and they promise to follow up on her lead. After the police point out that they received hundreds of tips, Sam encourages Nate to keep following the car. Though they make several more calls to the police, it seems clear that they are the only ones who might have a shot at saving a young girl's life.

If you love shouting at the screen, you will enjoy "Amber Alert." There were so many times that we screamed at the television that I began worrying our neighbors might call the police on us. Sam is by far the most annoying character I have come across in recent films, and she is so annoying that my roommate wondered aloud why her best friend hadn't yet killed her.

The writer of the film clearly wanted a character willing to go to extreme lengths, but this one just takes it a bit too far. Not only does Sam force Nate to follow the car into an abandoned area, but when the man steps out and tries to talk to them, she offers to get into his car. While the man pumps gas, she sneaks up behind him and plants a microphone in his car, just so they can keep track of his movements. She even goes into his freaking house, which sets up the ending of the film.

Sam is the type of character who is such a shrew that you won't want her to make it out alive. She starts out as a sweet girl, who understands that Nate likes her as more than a friend, and she turns into this shrieking shrew that nearly ruined the movie for me. I don't care how much I love someone, I wouldn't go through what Nate does in this film. To make things even worse, it's her little brother in the backseat! She is willing to do absolutely anything to save the life of a little girl who she never met, even if it means putting her brother and best friend in danger. Who can root for someone like that?

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy "Amber Alert" because I did. It starts out with a basic premise, which is scary enough on its own. What would you do if you saw an amber alert posted on the highway and discovered the same car driving by you? Would you follow it, or would you just sit back and let someone else deal with it? Most of the film takes place inside the car with each character expressing something different. Nate wants to help, but he only wants to help to a certain point, while Sam is never willing to stop.

The problem is that the film jumps from one plot to another. Our main characters eventually come face-to-face with the possible abductor. He swears that it's his daughter and that he's taking her back to his ex-wife. Nate believes his story, but Sam is so sure that he's lying that she wants to keep following him for hours. Even after they lose him on the road, she makes Nate drive around for at least two hours in the hopes that they might see him again.

The other issue is how the film depicts police officers. While chasing the car, they get pulled over by a police car. The officer hears their story and makes it clear that he never got their report, despite being the only cop in the area. He even makes them leave their car while he calls into the station, leaving the man plenty of time to escape. And don't get me started on the other depictions of police officers either. Sam calls the cops six, seven, eight times, and no one does a damn thing. The last amber alert that we had was solved within two hours because the cops busted their asses. "Amber Alert" wants you to believe that the police are incompetent because it keeps the plot moving forward.

I was really excited to see "Amber Alert." I first heard about it a few months ago and kept waiting for it to come out. Now that I've seen it, I'm still on the fence. Nate is such a warm and likeable character that I hate finding fault with it, but that Sam is such a harpy that her character literally tainted the whole film.