Saturday, August 31, 2013

Scary MoVie

It’s been 7 years since Scary Movie 4 was released, and in that time the Hollywood parody genre has gone through a real rough patch with garbage like Meet The Spartans, Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, Vampires Suck, A Haunted House, Dance Flick and more being vomited into cineplexes across the country. I’m not saying Scary Movie 4 was good. It wasn’t. I haven’t thought the franchise was funny since the original came out in 2000, and each subsequent film in the series became worse and worse.

So out of nowhere the Weinstein’s decide it was a good idea to bring the franchise back and crank out a new sequel in record time to feature parodies of a lot of current horror, and not horror, movies. And now here’s Scary MoVie. See what they did there with the “V” in “Movie” being the Roman numeral for 5? Clever, eh? Not really? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
Jody and Dan Sanders (Ashley Tisdale and Simon Rex) discover that once they adopt their young nieces and nephew a malevolent spirit has come with them. They set-up a surveillance system all over the house to document the haunting.

The storyline is a combination of the main plots of Mama, Paranormal Activity and Black Swan. None of them are pulled off particularly well, and the parodies of other popular films and television shows, such as Insidious, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Cabin in the Woods, Inception, Sinister, Ted, the Evil Dead remake, War of the Worlds, the Madea films and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are just as weak. There are even jokes about the Dos Equis old dude, Katy Perry’s old ass single “I Kissed a Girl”, the Mentos/Diet Coke YouTube videos, and a jab at Army of Darkness, none of which is particularly funny. The film basically a rapid fire stream of lame jokes that don’t really feel like they connect in any way, probably because the movie was mostly reshot last minute to include the Mama storyline by writer David Zucker.
The parts that director Malcolm D. Lee (Roll Bounce, Undercover Brother, The Best Man) is responsible for are actually kind of funny. His Fifty Shades of Grey bit worked for me, especially the Hellraiser portion. The Black Swan stuff is fun due to the insane performance of Molly Shannon as the dancer replaced by Tisdale and a cameo by Usher. His Rise of the Planet of the Apes subplot is crap and missed the mark on more than one occasion. The Inception stuff worked and the bit where we get to see what a dog is dreaming cracked me up. The Paranormal Activity stuff is hit or miss (the pool cleaner robot party was a nice surprise though). I hear a Hunger Games bit was left on the cutting room floor that was actually funny. Sad.

However, the David Zucker material is lamesauce across the board. His parody of the Evil Dead remake, which is based off the trailer since that flick was released in theaters one week before this was, is the only high point. Everything else is absolutely dreadful and unfunny. The portions he added involve people slipping and falling, non-stop poop jokes and watching Simon Rex getting beat up for 70 minutes straight. And what the hell was up with that Mexican maid character?! He ruins the flick singlehandedly. Remember when The Zuckers were the masters of the pardoy film?
The performances are pretty unbearable. Tisdale looks constipated for the whole movie (but damn if she doesn’t look hot in that black wig when she’s impersonating Jessica Chastain in Mama), Simon Rex is a walking punching bag and the cameos by Sharlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Kat Williams, Terry Crews, Snoop Dog, Jasmine Guy and Heather Locklear are mostly wasted opportunities. It’s interesting looking back on the previous films and realizing that the only thing that made the latter entries watchable was the supremely talented Anna Faris and her awesome comic timing. Her presence is sorely lacking here in the extreme.

What pissed me off even more is that the movie is only 73 minutes long and the remaining 15 minutes is an end credits sequence padded out with blooper reel footage (which is funnier than the actual film) to fill out the run time. Seriously?!
If Scary MoVie was never tampered with I’m sure it could have been a fun little distraction on a lazy Sunday. As it is it’s a schizophrenic mess of clashing comedic sensibilities and poorly written sketch comedy bits based on popular flicks. It’s borderline unwatchable and barely entertaining. Skip it.

0.5 out of 5

Note: This review is of the Unrated cut.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ghost Shark

After the gigantic social media event that was SyFy and The Asylum’s Sharknado, you’d think that the only thing that would be able to top such a ridiculously WTF?! premise as that would be a sequel. You’d be wrong. Dead wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present unto you… Ghost Shark.
The spirit of a great white shark, brought into existence by dying in a magical cavern after being attacked by some drunks, vows revenge for its death by haunting and killing the residents of the seaside town of Smallport via passage through any mass of water, be it a swimming pool or even rain.

If Sharknado was ridiculous, Ghost Shark is absolutely ludicrous. In a good way, mind you. There are some incredibly and stupefyingly hilarious events that take place in this flick, such as seeing the title character gliding along a slip’n slide devouring fat kids, launching out of an open fire hydrant or even ripping some poor sap who drank a glass of water in half from the inside out. I was cackling at all the clever and inventive uses for the shark’s superpower that the writer came up with.

Unfortunately that’s about all I can say about the film that’s genuinely enjoyable.
For one, the film looks incredibly cheap. Embarrassingly so. I’m assuming the entire budget went to the special effects and everything else took a backseat. Every set, location and costume is just bottom of the barrel. Even the shark prop itself looks like a small rubber toy that has been made to look like an underwater lightsaber via Photoshop.

The actors are atrociously bad. Sure Richard Moll, as the town drunk who knew something like this event would eventually happen due to the Native American magic infused cavern of local legend, seems to be genuinely enjoying himself, but everyone around him is as lifeless as can be. Lead actress Mackenzie Rosman (7th Heaven) is the television equivalent of Kristen Stewart - slack jawed and vapid. She mechanically recites her dialogue and looks so uninterested in everything going on that when her character proposes the idea of the ghost shark early on I laughed out loud because I didn’t even think she believed it herself. Everyone in this film is just as bad, from the Gotye lookalike Dave Davis as the sort-of love interest to even the dude playing the town sheriff. Everyone is just there to get a paycheck and offers nothing except monotone line deliveries, unlike the cast of Sharknado. If there was one movie where outlandish overacting would have been right at home, this is it.
Another major issue is the pacing. Right from the start in Sharknado there was always something going on to keep the viewer interested. In Ghost Shark there are way too many lulls where nothing of note is happening. So many in fact it took me two days to watch the film in its entirety because I kept falling asleep. For a movie like this that is inexcusable.

I rightly blame all the issues writer/director Griff Furst (Arachnoquake, Swamp Shark, Lake Placid 3) for not knowing how to keep events interesting even during pointless dialogue scenes and how to direct actors to look like they might actually give a shit about what’s happening in the story regardless of how goofy it may be. His dialogue scenes are barely edited travesties of boredom where we are shown a long shot with all the actors involved and rarely is there a cut to a close-up. One take wonders aren’t always appropriate when you’re trying to create a feeling of tension or unease, even in a cheesy flick such as this. I haven’t seen any of his other films so I can’t say that this is a gaff in all his projects, but since he’s helmed a large handful of low budget flicks prior to Ghost Shark and he’s still making rookie mistakes like this I am going to assume the worst.
The off-the-wall kills and fun shark attack scenes are the only thing keeping this flick afloat. The most disappointing aspect of Ghost Shark is that it had the potential to outdo Sharknado at every turn due to the bizarre premise, and it barely even utilized its full potential. Budget could have been an issue. Lack of talent most likely was the culprit. However, someone out there thinks this is franchise material because a sequel is in the works already – Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws is due for release sometime in 2014.

I recommend Ghost Shark for the gory goods and not much else.

2 out of 5

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Super Shark

As many of you may have figured out by now, I love a good bad movie. Ridiculous, silly and cheesy – these are the words that I like to use when describing a B-movie. I’m a connoisseur of crap. I can’t help it, they just entertain me. So on my quest to find another flick to add to my roster of stand-by guilty pleasures, and based on the recent viewing of one perfect specimen known as Sharknado, I decided to mine the never ending waves of bad killer shark movies and stumbled across a little ditty called Super Shark.

A mining operation cracks open a deep underwater cavern that unleashes a gigantic monster shark that has the ability to walk on land. A disgraced OIB Agent (Sarah Lieving) and a drunken boat captain (Tim Abell) take it upon themselves to find a way to stop the predator from wreaking havoc upon the beaches.
Oh man, is this flick bad. I mean bad bad, but in a good way. Does that make any sense? Probably not, so I’ll explain in a little more detail the ways in which Super Shark sucks in the areas of, well, everything.

The script is a mishmash of every monster movie ever made and the inclusion of the sharks’ ability to walk on land (it has to be seen to be believed) is a thinly veiled attempt to add some sort of uniqueness to the creature. Sadly it isn’t pulled off quite as well as you’d hope.

The interior scenes all look like they were shot in different rooms of the same house. The d├ęcor is the same in each one (except the bar) and it’s plainly obvious that it’s the same house used for the exteriors of the villain’s home as well. Additionally, there are two boats used by different characters in the film, and when their exteriors are shown they are revealed to be the exact same one.
The special effects of the shark are of the Playstation 2 variety (ever play Jaws: Unleashed?), and the walking tank contraption used during the underwhelming finale suffers the same fate. When the shark is underwater it doesn’t look that bad, but once it comes to the surface and begins stomping around to devour random beachgoers it looks horrendous. What’s worse is that when the titular character eats someone they literally disappear from the shot completely a moment before the mouth wraps around them.

The acting is abominable. Leads Sarah Lieving and Tim Abell have zero chemistry together, appear to have memorized their dialogue a fraction of a second before the director yelled “Action!” and they look totally disinterested in what they are doing, especially in any scene involving the shark walking on land when their characters are present (they just stand there looking at the horizon reciting their lines robotically). Funnily enough, John Schneider and Jimmie “JJ” Walker get top billing and are barely in the movie. Schneider can’t successfully pull off his slimy businessman villain role and Walker capitalizes on his J.J. character from Good Times as the annoying DJ of a local radio station. Epic fail.  Although I was surprised to see Bobby Rice (the web-based fan shows Star Trek:Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: PhaseII) in a small role. Kudos!
The script by director Fred Olen Ray, Clyde McCoy and Antonio Olivas is just a garbled mess of clich├ęs and random occurrences to build a body count to alleviate viewer boredom. For example, there’s a group of random lifeguards who offer nothing to the plot (except for a pointlessly laughable love triangle) and receive a decent amount of screentime only to be unceremoniously killed off at the film’s midpoint in some half-assed attempt to get a the same reaction from viewers as Samuel L. Jackson’s death in Deep Blue Sea. Another being that the shark is attracted to the signals given off by radios? I’m talking a little boom box sized radio. Most likely the shark was trying to get the characters to stop playing crappy Coldplay covers.

Freed Olen Ray’s direction is pitiful. Uninspired, cheap and beyond lazy is the name of the game and he shows yet again why he’s been making nothing but ultra-low budget soft core porn and schlock for the past couple of decades.
But strangely enough all these faults come together to make for a surprisingly entertaining B-movie. The ocean of cheese the shark swims through is so thick that I couldn’t help but be swept up in the gleeful goofiness of the whole thing. Seeing the title character walking and jumping all over the beach like some sort of hyperactive dog who wants to play with its owner put a smile on my face, as did watching it take out a submarine and dodging torpedoes. I lost my shit when the slo-mo shot of the walking tank drop kicking the shark in the face popped up. Craptastically awesome.

Super Shark doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what’s on the surface – a hokey movie about a giant shark eating people. In that respect I give it total props. It’s a total guilty pleasure type of flick that I regretfully admit that I got a kick out of. It’s definitely not something I’d call a good movie, or even a decent movie, but if your idea of a fun weeknight is making some popcorn and cuddling up to watch a bad monster movie on SyFy, this is your jam.

3 out of 5

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The World's End

Edgar Wright’s collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are kind of awesome. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two of my favorite movies, and when I heard that they were getting together for another flick (to finish off what is now being called the “Cornetto trilogy”) I got pretty excited to see what kind of geek infused comedy they would come up with. The end result is The World’s End.

Gary King (Simon Pegg), a middle aged man-child, returns to his hometown with his crew of reluctant high school friends (Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan) to recreate a pub crawl they attempted when they were 17. Little do they know that nearly the entire population has been replaced with robot duplicates bent on world domination.
The humor from the previous films is definitely there, although events play out in a slightly more serious manner than they usually do. The cast is top notch with a surprising guest spot from Pierce Brosnan. The typical Wright style is in full effect (those extreme rapid fire shots of beer being poured) and the underlying themes of coming to terms with your past mistakes and growing up fits into the other two films’ themes nicely. The characters are nicely drawn, each having their own ticks and issues to deal with (teen bullying, unspoken love, falling out of favor with a friend, asshole tendencies) and part of the fun is watching these people working out their problems while getting absolutely piss drunk.

And then the second half of the film shows up out of nowhere and ruins everything.
Seriously, The Stepford Wives robot aspect is never really hinted at outside of the townspeople not remembering who these pub crawlers used to be back in the day. Big whoop! Not much of a clue if you ask me. Simon Pegg’s character randomly picks a fight in a restroom, discovers that his opponent is a blue-blooded robot and suddenly every single character, including Nick Frost, becomes a kung-fu expert/professional wrestler. It totally took me out of the movie and killed any sense of connection I had to the characters and story up to that point. It’s sad too because I was really enjoying the film until what can only be called "the worst episode of Doctor Who... EVER" began.

It’s almost as if during the making of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Edgar Wright became hooked on filling his films with outlandish CGI, special effects and martial arts action. The World’s End feels more like it’s connected to that film that the other two in this supposed trilogy. I just didn’t see the need at all to add this completely distracting plot twist in because it really goes nowhere outside of filling the last half with non-stop chase and bizarre fight scenes. It does introduce an interesting theme of conformity for the betterment of mankind, but the way it’s all heavy-handedly worked into the script is just infuriating. And the fact that the twists keep coming and getting more and more ridiculous as the movie goes on… words do not describe how annoyed I became while watching this flick.
The performances are the one thing that holds this ridiculously overblown mishmash of gargantuan proportions together. Simon Pegg is the immature and arrogant leader of the pack and he pulls off the difficult task of making his character likable while acting like a selfish asshat for most of the movie. He’s charming and brash, but somewhat pathetic, and watching him come to realize that sometimes growing up is overrated is a highlight of the film. Nick Frost plays what is probably the most consistently funny character once he hits his stride halfway through the film as the repressed Andy. He gets all the best lines and whenever his characters lets loose it’s a blast. Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum, Cinderella Man, Pu-239) isn’t known for comedic roles, but he comes off as a natural straight man as Steven and his character is given a handful of great moments. Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: AnUnexpected Journey, Sherlock, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) isn’t given much to do that’s funny, but he makes what would be some dumb catch phrases hysterical (“W.T.F.”). It’s Eddie Marsan (Jack the Giant Slayer, Snow White and the Huntsman, Sherlock Holmes, Hancock) who comes out of nowhere as the sad and lonely Peter and steals the show. Known for playing hardasses and villains, he turns Peter from a very cowardly and melancholy fella into a very fun ass whoopin machine that gets fits of giggles when the shit goes down. He cracked me up.
Unfortunately the lovely Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day, DOOM, Jack Reacher) just randomly pops up now and then to complicate things and act as the pinnacle of a love triangle involving herself, Gary and Steven. She’s not bad in the role, far from it, it’s just that the part is written so badly and broadly that there’s not much to like. It’s sad because she’s one hell of a talented actress.

Outside of these actors and their contribution onscreen, nothing can really make up for the mess that this flick becomes, especially in the case of the completely stupefying and unnecessary epilogue. I mean, seriously?! Wright and company thought that was a good idea to go that route? It had already gone off the deep end as far as I was concerned in the finale, but this just kicked it off the ledge and headfirst into the pit of What The Fuck.
The World’s End is a complete missed opportunity to tell a simple story of friends reconnecting with each other and reminiscing about their youth over a massive quantity of alcohol. Instead what we were given is the equivalent of as if Swingers turned into a giant insect invasion flick. Nothing about the last half feels organic or is all that entertaining to be completely honest. It just turns into a rapid fire stream of special effects and goofy fight scenes.

What’s worse is that I was really looking forward to Edgar Wright’s upcoming addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Phase III entry, Ant-Man. If The World’s End is an indication of what that flick could possibly turn out to be I am more than a little skeptical it will be on par with the other films in the series. Don’t drop the ball like you did here dude. The geek community will never forgive you.

2 out of 5

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sadako 3D

The original Japanese version of The Ring (Ringu) was released back in 1998 to critical/audience acclaim and huge box office numbers overseas. A friend and I were able to get ahold of a VCD a few years later, just a handful of months before the American remake was due to hit theaters, and we both agreed that it was the most original, and surprisingly frightening, horror thriller to be released in some time. Unfortunately the many Japanese sequels/reboots/television shows were garbage, but the American version was exceptionally awesome. It too was followed by a completely inane sequel (The Ring Two) and soon after that my interest in Japanese horror began to wane. They all seemed to feature either ghostly children or undead women with really long hair tormenting someone in bizarre ways (The Grudge, The Eye, Spiral, etc.). It was tiresome.

Jump ahead to 2012. Someone in Japan thought it was a good idea to bring the Ringu series back from the dead, only this time in 3D. Sadako 3D serves as a modern day sequel instead of a complete reboot as most people I know predicted it would be. Does it break the craptastic cycle of its predecessors?
The story involves a cursed internet video that will cause anyone who is crafty enough to find it to immediately commit suicide. Young school teacher Akane (Satomi Ishihara) seems to be connected to it in some supernatural manner, and after some investigation discovers that the video is acting as a new method to allow the evil Sadako to continue spreading her curse of death upon civilization.

I can understand the need to update the mythos of the series to utilize the current methods of communication, i.e. smartphones, internet, etc. I can also understand the need to use the 3D aspect to make the scares seem to jump out at the audience. It worked in the 50s, why not now? I can understand the plot point that the video causes the viewer to commit suicide. It’s more than a little topical when you have an epidemic of bullied teens killing themselves as an escape from their pain.

What I don’t understand is everything else in this ridiculously dumb ass movie.
Seriously, nothing in this flick connects in any way. It almost feels like a series of vignettes that happen to feature the same main character of Akane. Random stuff goes down, people keep dying (mostly due to their own stupidity) and no one really seems to mind. The rules set up in the other movies have become an afterthought because anything goes no matter how off-the-wall it is (the butterfly wallpaper bit?!), and usually involving some sort of lame 3D effect. I don’t know how many times Sadako’s hand/hair lunged out at the screen from some computer monitor, but I think it might be in the upper 40s. I had a hard time keeping track of what was going on and why. Once the army of random Sadako trollspidergremlins showed up in a piss poor attempt to pad the runtime with an overlong rip-off of the raptor kitchen scene from Jurassic Park is when I stopped attempting to make sense of the garbage flying by on screen.

The cursed video, which this time is of a popular V-logger supposedly committing suicide (but is actually being killed by an invisible Sadako), seems to be all the rage amongst high schoolers. All the teenage characters know someone who has seen the video and died, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from intensely attempting to track down the clip online, some even in the middle of Algebra class, to check it out for themselves. Are writers Yoshinobu Fujioka & Tsutomu Hanabusa (who also directed) that out of touch? Do they think all teenagers are completely suicidal imbeciles? They turn every character into an utter moron, so much so that I was getting increasingly angry as the movie trudged onward.
Hanabusa knows absolutely zilch about how to build tension, make characters likable or even how to properly tell a story. This whole flick is a mess from start to finish with little to no entertainment value whatsoever. It’s painful to be completely honest. Painful because the original film was so creatively creepy and this completely unnecessary sequel just shits all over it. When the ending came around and made absolutely zero sense, even with all the exposition that had just come before it, I realized that I had wasted 90 minutes of my life. The fact that this is set up to be the starting point for a new franchise (Sadako 2 3D comes out later this year in Japan, and is actually in 4D since it requires you to download an app to your phone before going to the theater so your Galaxy S4 can fuck with you while you watch it) angers me beyond words.

Are Japanese audiences willing to continue patronizing something as soulless and creatively bankrupt as this crap? If so I’m going to have to christen The Ring/Sadako series as the Saw of Japan. This concept is no longer scary, it’s flat out stupid. Skip it.

1 out of 5