Monday, October 27, 2014

Escape from Tomorrow – Honey, did that seem normal to you?

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Randy Moore

Jim, his wife Emily, their son Elliott, and their daughter Sara, are on their last day in Orlando. While taking a phone call on the balcony of their hotel room, Jim discovers that he just lost his job. Rather than tell his wife what happened, he decides to keep it a secret to avoid ruining their last day. The family heads off to have some fun together.

While on the monorail, Jim sees two young girls get on with them. The girls pretty much make out without actually kiss, give him enticing glances, and generally act like huge sluts. Emily notices, rolls her eyes, and gives him a gentle smack before realizing that her son keeps staring at them too. Though the family plans to spend most of the day in the parks, Elliott gets sick after Jim takes him on a roller coaster. Emily agrees to let him take Sara to the Magic Kingdom while she takes Elliott back to the room and they can meet up later.

While on one of the rides, Jim gets distracted and loses sight of Sara. He later finds her outside the ride, sitting on the ground, and crying over a scraped knee. A man in a motorized wheelchair accidentally hit her and knocked her down. Jim snaps at the man before taking her to the medical center. This gives him the chance to stare down the nurse's shirt and halfheartedly listen as she talks to him about the cat flu sweeping through the parks.

It's kind of hard to explain this movie, so let's just say that a lot of weird crap happens. Jim keeps seeing the same two girls from the beginning making out around the park, acting like they might make out, or run off with two guys. At one point, the two girls ask him to run away with them but they turn him down. He also has far too much to drink and throws up, which embarrasses his wife, and he sees rich businessmen fondling the Disney princesses.

Escape from Tomorrow caught my eye when I saw the cover. How can you resist a cover like that? Unfortunately, the movie really failed to deliver. This turned out to be one of the most confusing movies I've watched in recent months. As I watched the film, I kept thinking that there would be some wild and crazy twist at the end. I thought maybe it was all a figment of his imagination, that it would turn out that it was all a dream, and I had about a dozen other theories. Turns out that the ending makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie.

I can point out that Emily is easily one of the most annoying characters I've seen in awhile. The director wants to show that the two aren't happy but he goes a little too far. At one point, Jim attempts to kiss her while riding a ride with their kids in front of them. She acts like he tried to rape her and she had to fight him off. She then yells at him for not putting sunscreen on their daughter, for daring to take their son on a (gasp) roller coaster, and snaps because he bought her a souvenir from the park. It got to the point where we all rolled our eyes as soon as she opened her mouth.

Setting a horror movie in a park like Disney World and the way the director and actors did it, i.e. filming late at night, keeping things low key, and doing it without the permission of Disney, took some balls. It had a great premise, but this movie just lost me.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Movie Review - Sharknado 2 : Yes, They Come Back

Runtime: 90 minutes
Release Date: July 30, 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Fin and April are back from the first movie and ready to tackle New York. Actually, April wrote a book called How to Survive a Sharknado, which shockingly my Spellchecker say is not a word, and she gets to shill it on Live with Kelly & Michael. Fin is clearly unhappy about things, pointing out that he did in fact lose several friends and apparently no longer cares about the other survivors from the first movie. Fin also isn't happy because he has to see his sister Ellen and her husband Martin. The two were once best friends, but I guess he didn't want his friend marrying his sister.

When Fin looks out the window, he sees a sharknado forming in the sky. In a nice twist to The Twilight Zone, we have to wonder if it's really there or all in his mind. Of course it's really there! The sharks attack, April gets attacked, a bunch of people die, and the plane makes an emergency landing. Emergency workers carry April off as she lost a hand in the battle, and Fin goes off on his own to save his family from the sharknado invading NYC.

I didn't necessarily like the first Sharknado movie, but I definitely didn't love it either. I think the roommates (of which I now have two) were probably a little surprised that I picked it out. I have to say though that I kind of loved it and I thought it was a lot better than the first. A bunch of reviews claimed it was a far cry from the first one, not as good, and something that even fans of the first wouldn't care for, so I must be in the minority.

Ian Ziering gave an interview where he talked about how they went overboard and just threw in as much as possible, and that's pretty clear within the first few minutes. The number of cameos in the movie is just insane! Here's a quick sample:

-Kelly Osbourne
-Andy Dick
-Tiffany Shepis
-Perez Hilton
-Billy Ray Cyrus
-Biz Markie
-Richard Kind
-Al Roker

There were a lot of times when those cameos pulled you out of things and made you remember that you were watching a bad horror movie. How can I possibly pay attention when I'm constantly looking to see who will be next and what I know him/her from? I'll also point out that I had a hard time believing that Vivica A. Fox and Ian Ziering could have been former crushes of each other until I found out that they are literally the same age. Eh, the roommate didn't even realize Vivica Fox was the same woman from Independence Day when he saw this one.

Can we also point out that the director could have replaced Tara Reid with a cardboard cutout or a wooden box and got the same results? I know that it's one of the things fans laughed about with the first one, but she was even more annoying her. She had so little emotion on her face that I was just praying for a shark to eat her head off. Sigh.

At least we did get Kari Wuhrer! As a long-time Sliders fan, and yes I even watched the "bad" seasons, I did a little happy dance when she popped up. Unfortunately, she doesn't get nearly as much screen time as the other characters. I also had to give it up for seeing Judah Friedlander. It was so weird seeing him without his glasses that it took me a few minutes to figure out who he was, but it did make me want to go back and watch Feast for the first time in years.

Sharknado 2 did have some fun moments, and it kept me and my roommates laughing and singing the theme song. What more could you ask for?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Willow Creek – Jim, are you fucking kidding me?

Runtime: 77 minutes
Release Date: May 2014
Rating: NR
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Jim is obsessed with Bigfoot, so much so that he convinces his girlfriend Kelly to take a trip to the site of the infamous Bigfoot video captured in the 1970s. Kelley seems more comfortable shopping or at least in a hotel or spa, but Jim is completely in his element. The two travel to the town associated with the original Bigfoot sighting to film a video that Jim can hopefully use to prove that the creature exists.

The early part of the trip goes off without a hitch. They check out the local statues and museum devoted to the creature, and they even dine on a Bigfoot burger. They also meet some locals who don't really believe in Bigfoot, but even that doesn't deter Jim. Things do get a little serious when Kelly points out that she really needs to move to Los Angeles to get more acting jobs and Jim points out that he'll never live in the city.

After documenting the area, they decide to head to the woods and the actual scene of the original footage. They come across a local who makes it clear that he wants them out. The man snaps at them and eventually yells at them until Kelly convinces him to turn the car around and leave. This leads to them taking a back route and finding their way to the original site. When they find that things really do go bump in the night, they might not make it out alive.

I was so excited to see Willow Creek that I went right to the local video store and grabbed a copy on the day it came out. Now that I've seen it, I'm not sure why I wanted to see it so bad. An online review called this the best Bigfoot movie ever made, and after watching it I had to laugh. There is nothing, absolutely nothing about the actual creature in this movie except for the background and the premise.

Reading the synopsis, you might expect something completely different. I read that it was about a couple in the woods trying to find Bigfoot, and I assumed it was The Blair Witch Project mixed with a Bigfoot story. Instead, I got a movie about a couple on a weekend trip together. Seriously, go back and read the first few paragraphs I gave as a plot description. Would you believe that this is almost the first hour of the film?

I know that directors want to set up a story, but Bobcat took things a little too far with this one. We see Jim and Kelly driving around, talking with locals, eating doing their research, and doing other crap. By the time they actually get to the woods, over half the film is gone. Then we get a few scenes of the two making out in the tent and hearing noises in the woods. I will admit that when something starts attacking the tent and the noises start, the movie gets a little unsettling. Unfortunately, that doesn't last long.

After maybe 5 to 10 minutes of that, it's morning. They then go in the woods and try to find their way back to their car, get lost, and end up back in the exact same spot. We then get another few scary minutes, and boom, the movie's over. It was incredibly disappointing and not at all what I expected. I hope someone takes this same idea and does something better than Willow Creek.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ghostquake Movie Review – Haunted High

Runtime: 84 minutes
Release Date: August 25, 2012
Rating: NR
Director: Jeffery Scott Lando

Ghostquake, better known as Haunted High when it originally aired on television, is one of those films that seems like someone put it together after a night of drinking. Does that mean the movie is so god awful that you should avoid it? Eh, not really. Does it mean that you should immediately run out and add a copy to your collection? Eh, probably not.

Set at the fictional Holloman High School in New England, Ghostquake tells the story of a bunch of random high school kids trapped inside the school. One of those kids, Quentin, finds himself brought into the basement by a teacher who seemingly has pedophilia in his eyes. Instead of raping him or trying to get him to pull his pants down, the teacher goes off on a tangent about how he knows that Quentin has a connection to Danforth, the former headmaster of the school. Danforth apparently operated some crazy cult out of the school in the 1950s. Quentin drops some old gold coins on the ground, and when he grabs them and runs, the teacher reveals that he hid one under his shoe. That coin combined with him knocking over a time capsule somehow lets the ghosts of Danforth and his assistant come back to this world.

While all of this is going on, we get a brief introduction to your stereotypical high school kids. There's the bad boy with a lecherous dad who smokes, the goodie-goodie perfect singer with a crush on her teacher, the nonthreatening lesbian goth girl with a crush on the singer, the straight A student, her jock boyfriend, and let's not forget the overweight nerdy guy obsessed with the paranormal who somehow is so good with computers that the court ordered him to never touch one again.

Once Danforth escapes, he sends his assistant to dispatch some of the teachers and students left trapped in the building. In the middle of all this, we meet Danny Trejo. He has a name, but I don't really care what they call him because he's clearly just playing Danny Trejo. The old cult members killed his younger sister, and he's remained behind as some type of guardian ever since. He pretty much just hangs around for years working as a janitor in case something bad happens. Danforth randomly kills a bunch of kids as they look for a way to escape and Danny Trejo tries to bring him down.

The copy of Ghostquake that I rented had Charisma Carpenter's name listed on the front above the title next to Danny Trejo and her picture on the back. After watching it, I want to know she owed money to that necessitated doing this movie. She's in it for maybe three minutes and has lines that pretty much amount to "who are you?" and "ahhhhh!". Being a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, it was a little unsettling to see her in such a minor role in a bad TV movie.

This is the type of movie where you see very little. The perfect singer girl has the assistant ghost (ha!) come after her and make her sing as high as she can, which causes her head to explode. We get to see her face and head getting bigger and bigger, but then the camera moves to the wall, and we see the explosion from her shadow. Another girl gets dragged down inside a toilet, and someone else gets suffocated/has her neck broken by a musical instrument. See? The movie showed so little that I'm still not even sure how she died!

I know that Ghostquake is just a television movie and that I shouldn't judge it too harshly, but damned if it wasn't bad for a TV movie.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Quiet Ones Movie Review – Kind of Based on a True Story

Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: April 25, 2014
Rating: PG-13
Director: John Pogue

Joseph Coupland is a college professor who believes that there is no such thing as the paranormal and that science can explain everything. He shows a film that seems to indicate a child who is the victim of possession. After showing his class what he captured, he claims that he can identify a medical condition/mental illness that would fully explain every symptom of a so-called possession.

Coupland brings Brian, one of his students, out to an old manor home. He plans to work with a young woman named Jane and identify which disease led others to think she was possessed. He introduces Brian to his two assistants and the patient. Jane claims that everything odd that happens to her or around her is the result of a doll named Evey. Coupland thinks that by doing a series of experiments on the young girl that he can definitively prove that possession doesn't exist.

Concerned about some of the things he saw Jane do, Brian decides to do some research on his own. He learns that a young girl named Evey has telekentic powers and the ability to set fires with her mind. She was part of a cult that died when a fire broke out in a house. All of the members and Evey herself all died. Brian then decides that she must really be possessed. Both sides must then fight to prove whether she really is possessed or if she's just crazy Evey kills them all.

The Quiet Ones had a good premise, but it wasn't really a me kind of film. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with films set in past decades, and I even have a soft spot for the 70s. I couldn't stop pointing out all the furniture, decorations, and clothing that I loved. There was just something about this movie that I couldn't get into while watching. The movie was plodding at times, and it felt a lot longer than it actually is.

The real standout of the movie is Olivia Cooke. Cooke is probably best known for her role on Bates Motel, but it took me about halfway through the movie before I realized who she was. She really does a good job of channeling a completely different character. She also had some good chemistry with Sam Claflin, who played Brian. I've only ever seen him in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, so I wasn't sure what to expect. He's clearly in good shape given that he occasionally looked like he might burst out of his button up shirts, which made it hard to buy him as a geeky/nerdy guy. I did, however, have an easy time buying that he would care about what happened to a girl he just met.

The Quiet Ones also did a good job of tying up the beginning of the film with the later part of the film and showing the connection that the professor had with the original case. It's just hard to believe that someone would deny something so much. I also enjoyed some of the experimentation scenes. It reminded me a lot of the history I read as a psychology undergraduate.

This all makes it sound like I liked the movie but I really didn't care for it. The Quiet Ones was just a little too slow and lacked the excitement that you would expect from a possession flick.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dead Weight Movie Review – Love in the Time of Infections...

Runtime: 89 minutes
Release Date: March 30, 2012
Rating: ?
Director: Adam Bartlett and John Pata

Charlie and Sam have the perfect relationship, or so it might seem on the surface. When Dead Weight starts, Sam calls Charlie at home and asks if he saw the news. She then guesses that he's actually sitting around reading comic books instead of doing something productive, since it seems like that's all he does. Charlie flips on the news and hears of a deadly infection spreading throughout the country. It hasn't yet hit his hometown of Toledo, but it has hit Sam's current town of Milwaukee.

The film then jumps an unspecified period of time into the future. Sam now finds himself traveling across the Midwest with three other men and one woman. He frequently thinks back to his time with Sam, which gives us a better glimpse of their relationship. We learn that she originally moved to Milwaukee for a three month internship that turned into a job she took without talking to Charlie first. Despite the two having some serious issues, he only cares about finding his way back to her.

Along the way, Charlie and his group encounter a number of problems. They have a hard time finding food anywhere, aren't sure about shelter, and frequently wonder what will happen next. Three men approach them and attempt to kidnap the only female in their group, which ends badly. They also meet a nice couple with no ulterior motives, but when that couple reveals to Charlie what happened to the town where Sam went, all bets are off.

Dead Weight does a really smart job of bouncing back and forth between scenes of Charlie and Sam in the past and his current location. In a Momento-like twist, the film tells the story of their relationship backwards. We start out seeing him visit her in Milwaukee the last time, and we then get to see his first visit, how he learned about her job, and at the very end, we even see how they first met.

This should make us care a lot about the two characters as a couple but things hit a little too close to home at times. Sam occasionally comes across as if she doesn't care about Charlie as much as he cares about her. She shows clear signs of disliking his lifestyle, as in the way he slacks off at times, and she doesn't seem happy that he's perfectly content to spend the day reading comic books and watching television while visiting her instead of going out and exploring the town on his own. I don't know about you, but if I was in a new city where I knew no one except for one person, I'd probably want us to do things together instead of spending hours wandering through the city on my own.

Maybe if I cared more about that relationship, I would care more about Charlie's journey. As it stands though, Charlie is one of those characters that you really can't care about. The choices he makes and the things he does are completely unforgivable. He even seems to change the way he thinks and acts. He goes from doing whatever it takes to save a girl from being raped, but he then completely deserts that woman in the middle of nowhere and does something pretty bad before leaving her. He justifies his actions by claiming that he does it to get back to Sam, but it really just seems like he's searching for something to hold onto and that makes him go a little crazy.

It's not your typical zombie/infection movie either, namely because we pretty much never seen any zombies. There's lots of talk about infected people, but we never see a single one until the last few scenes of the movie. Most of the film follows the same four people traveling around and looking for food and flashbacks of Charlie and Sam.

While there were some scenes and moments that I truly liked, Dead Weight didn't really feel like a horror movie. It felt more like a sad love story between two characters who really didn't belong together. Though I did feel tempted to shed a few tears at the very end, it just left me wishing that the two shared some better chemistry and had more of a connection that would have left me caring more about their future.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Invoking – Same old, same old

Runtime: 82 minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2013
Rating: NR
Director: Jeremy Berg

The Invoking, also released under the name Sader Ridge, relies on a fairly typical horror movie premise. A girl inherits a house from a family member she doesn't know and takes her friends to check out the house before she decides what to do with it. While a lot of horror movies take this idea and stick with it, The Invoking has a slight twist.

Sam is a college student who has few memories of her early life. She was only five when she was adopted by another family and spent the rest of her life raised by those people. A lawyer called her out of the blue to tell her that her aunt passed away and left Sam her former home. Her ex-boyfriend Mark, best friend Caitlin and friend Roman, who has a crush on Caitlin, all agree to go with her to check out the house.

Once they get there, they find the caretaker Eric waiting for them. He's a reasonably attractive man and a former military vet coming home after fighting overseas in Afghanistan. Eric is initially only there to unlock the gate and let them into the home, but he then gets a little weird. Caitlin, who seems completely oblivious to Roman's feelings, does some hard core flirting with him, but he makes it clear that he has no interest in her.

The first few days go fine, but then Sam starts seeing weird things. Caitlin and Mark do some minor flirting in the barn and do some more major flirting. Sam thinks she sees him attacking her friend and hits him in the back with a block of wood. She then reveals that he once did a bad, bad thing to a guy who once did a bad, bad thing to her. Mark claims that he would never hurt her and that he would never lay a finger on either of the girls.

Sam tries to get over what happened, but she keeps seeing strange things. She keeps thinking that she sees a man shouting at her and beating another woman. Oddly enough, the man she keeps seeing looks suspiciously like Mark. Eric then reveals that the two of them knew each other as kids. Though she has no memories of him at all, he claims that they were once inseparable. When Eric starts encouraging her to tell him about what she sees and that those things are real, Sam doesn't know what to think.

There came a point while watching The Invoking that my roommate looked at me and another friend sitting on the couch and said, "I have no idea what is going on in this movie." As he did a little homework for a college class, he had an excuse. I have no excuse. I watched the entire movie from start to finish without taking my eyes off the screen, except when opening a pack of gummy bears, and I still have no clue what happened.

This movie had the type of ending where you want to pause and rewind the movie just to go back a few scenes and see if you can figure out what happened. Was Eric some crazy serial killer with an unhealthy and unexplained connection to Sam? Were they really friends as kids? What the heck did Mark do to some random guy that ended with him making up for it? What did he do that was so bad that the two of them stopped talking? Why would her best friend keep making eyes at her ex-boyfriend? These were just a few of the unanswered questions that I had at the end of this one.