Movie Review: FREAKS OF NATURE

Leave a comment

freaks of natureColumbia Pictures
2015
R

“I think I’m having brain withdrawals.”

In Freaks of Nature, we welcome you to Dillford, where three days ago, everything was peaceful and business as usual: the vampires were at the top of the social order, the zombies were at the bottom, and the humans were getting along in the middle. But this delicate balance was ripped apart when the alien apocalypse arrived in Dillford and put an end to all the harmony. Now it’s humans vs. vampires vs. zombies in all-out, blood-sucking, brain-eating, vamp-staking mortal combat – and all of them are on the run from the aliens. It is up to three teenagers – one human, one vampire, and one zombie – to team up, figure out how to get rid of the interplanetary visitors, and try to restore order to this “normal” little town.

Freaks Of Nature was apparently released to theaters on the same day that another so-called “horror comedy” going by the name of Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse was released. Only, Freaks Of Nature was only in 100 or so theaters on October 30th, 2015. I don’t remember seeing this in any of the local Omaha theaters at the time; each one, though, had a showing of the Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. Which I still haven’t watched. For reasons.

The original script to Freaks Of Nature started life under the title “Kitchen Sink”, something I vaguely remember being reported on back in 2011. It was evidently so memorable I promptly forgot about it until I was doing the usual background investigation on this for the review purposes. Huh. It was filmed in 2013, but was held back by Sony until it was just dumped with little to no fanfare on the previously mentioned date, then slipping into DVD/VOD relative obscurity. Which isn’t necessarily a death sentence, but the question remains: is Freaks Of Nature worth checking out?

Since I’m big on using food-related analogies, I would compare Freaks Of Nature to a good plate of goulash. And in case you were wondering (or aren’t very familiar with the concept of “goulash”), I’m talking about the American Midwest version that really only has the name and maybe the inclusion of beef as the only connection to the original Hungarian dish. It consists mainly of ground beef and macaroni in tomato sauce, and depending on the recipe can include corn, onions and garlic, diced stewed tomatoes, with the option of cheese to be added for taste.

And like goulash, Freaks Of Nature turned out to be a hot mess, but a surprisingly tasty hot mess that was made better with cheese. And if you go back to the original script’s title, you kind of get the idea that the creators of this were in on that fact. The base of this movie feels more like a John Hughes coming-of-age rom com that also features vampires and zombies dwelling together because…reasons. Then aliens invade, and a human, a vampire and a zombie from the local high school have to set aside their prejudices and band together to figure out what the aliens want. Which turns out to be a chemical compound found in the town’s Riblet factory.

For the most part, Freaks Of Nature was enjoyable on a certain level. It’s a movie that’s in desperate need of a focus, but for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s certainly way better than Vampires Suck. Worth a look-see.

Advertisements

Movie Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW

Leave a comment

Movie Review EDGE OF TOMORROWWarner Bros. Pictures
2014
PG-13

“Now listen carefully. This is a very important rule. This is the only rule. You get injured on the field, you better make sure you die.”

When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Major William Cage, an officer who has never seen combat, is assigned to a suicide mission. Killed within moments, Cage finds himself thrown into a time loop, in which he relives the same brutal fight–and his death–over and over again. However, Cage’s fighting skills improve with each encore, bringing him and a comrade ever closer to defeating the aliens.

Edge Of Tomorrow is a science fiction movie that I remember seeing the teaser trailer for once while waiting for another movie to begin. It consisted of Tom Cruise in a mech suit of some kind, wondering around a battlefield with things blowing up around him…and that’s about all I remember before my brain began drifting to other, much more interesting things, like wondering if there was time to go get a package of Reese’s Pieces to mix in with my popcorn (I opted not to go). I wasn’t really planning on ever watching Edge Of Tomorrow, more out of disinterest in yet another gritty science fiction war movie, let alone one that features Tom Cruise in there. But, yet again the great ogre that is boredom reared its ugly head one weekend afternoon, and spying this on the streaming decided to kill off a couple of hours. The resulting reaction was…mixed, at best.

It’s the near future of…2015, and in a totally ironic reversal, Germany has been invaded…by a horde of intergalactic aliens called the Mimics, sort of a hive-minded Lovecraftian horror that managed to kill all the humans in their way. Five years later, the world’s combined military forces have finally managed their one victory, led by a sergeant in a mech suit that was dubbed the Angel of Verdun. This provides a much-needed boost of moral for the humans, and before you know it a major offensive in France is planned, with public affairs officer Major Tom Cruise William Cage being recruited to cover the day of the assault. Major Cage has a slight disagreement with this idea, and so he’s busted down to Private, labelled a deserter, and assigned to the J Squad for the battle. Of course, the battle itself doesn’t go well, and Private Cage dies taking out a rather large Mimic, getting covered in its blood with his dying breath. The End. Oh, wait, no…Cage wakes up again, reliving the last 24 hours leading up to the battle, with the memories of the previous attempt fresh in his head. Realizing he’s stuck in his own personal Groundhog Day hell, he proceeds to spend maybe hundreds of the reiteration of the same day trying to figure out a way to stop the Mimics once and for all. And this involves hundreds of times trying to convince the Angel of Verdun that he’s not nuts and help him do so. Of course, the standard time loop wackiness ensues, leading to finding the Big Alien Brain behind all this, which might involve Cage having to make the final assault without his timey-wimey powers.

As I was watching this, I kept asking myself, who was it that decided that Tom Cruise, of all people, needed to be an action star? This seems to be his modus operandi with movies since the end of the 20th Century. You would expect him to maybe be in a parody of an action movie, like with Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots) and his brother Emilio Estevez (Loaded Weapon 1). I don’t watch a lot of Tom Cruise movies, but going over the filmography page on IMDB, it seems that after doing Eyes Wide Shut, there’s been a lot of action movies on his list. And okay, he was in the action movie comedy Tropic Thunder, which is an awesome movie and everyone should go see it. But still, Tom Cruise still seems…off as a choice for action hero material. But, I digress.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I say that I’m unfamiliar with the Japanese novel this movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill. Which is a very Japanese sounding name, there. And from what I’ve gleaned on the interwebs, there was a lot of plot streamlining for the movie, so one could say that Edge Of Tomorrow is loosely based on the novel. That said, my impression of Edge Of Tomorrow is essentially Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. That’s the movie in a nutshell, minus the having to travel to distant planets to battle the alien horde. Mind you, I happen to dig the whole “stuck in a time loope” trope, when it’s done well, and here it’s done pretty good. Also, you get kickass mech suits and the late, great Bill Paxton as the Master Sergeant, with a whole lotta stuff blowing up. In other words, it’s an sci-fi action movie that tries to be smarter than what it really is, and the result is a rather enjoyable popcorn flick that you don’t have to think too hard about, as all the technical stuff is spelled out for you. You can just sit back, munch on some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Overall, I did enjoy Edge Of Tomorrow the same way I enjoyed the original Independence Day, right down to the “hooray human endurance” happy ending. Mind you, I don’t understand why Warner Bros. decided to play up the movie’s tag line–“Live. Die. Repeat.”–upon the home video release. To many, that’s the actual title of the movie. I had a co-worker refer to it as that, asking “Have you seen Live Die Repeat?”, which took him describing the plot to make me realize he was talking about this movie. Regardless, you should check this out some time as a rental if you haven’t done so.

Movie Review: INDEPENDENCE DAY Resurgence

Leave a comment

independence-day-resurgence20th Century Fox
2016
PG-13

We always knew they were coming back. After ‘Independence Day’ redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global spectacle on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.

Independence Day is one of my Top 10 Favorite Sci-Fi B Movies. When it came out back in 1996, I watched it at least three times in the theater. I’ve owned it both on VHS and DVD, and if it’s playing on a television channel while I’m bored surfing channels, there it will stay until the end, no matter at what part of the movie it’s at. It’s one of those blockbusters that benefited from a rare combination of a simple yet engaging story, a dynamic cast, and some impressive blow-em-up effects. In short, I absolutely adore Independence Day. Or, ID4, if you will.

That said, I also will not hesitate to say that a sequel was really unnecessary. Given the success of the original movie, a sequel was pretty much expected, but for a while it just didn’t seem to happen. And I wouldn’t have complained. Really, the story for the first movie was self-contained and satisfying in and of itself. No need to continue on, as this was a one-and-done situation. But then, here we are, twenty years after the fact, and a sequel comes out of nowhere, invading the unsuspecting populace who have been lax in our vigilance and attacking.

There’s a metaphor in here, somewhere.

But, I’m not here to philosophize about possible hidden metaphors inside a sequel to a Sci-Fi B Movie from the mid-1990s. It’ll give me a migraine headache using all them big college-soundin’ words and all. No, I’m here to give my long-awaited thoughts on a movie that was released at the beginning of the summer blockbuster season of 2016. And here it is:

Independence Day: Resurgence was definitely a movie. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It continue twenty years after the events in the first Independence Day (that, too, was a movie), where the entire planet has been more-or-less united and have some kick-butt backward engineered alien fightin’ weapons just in case the aliens come back because of last time. Which, they do, but not before an intergalactic Siri shows up in the moon to be greeted by one of our super laser cannons. Then the bigger-than-the-last-ship mothership shows up, with a pissed off Queen alien, and wastes no time smacking down our own defenses and clamps down onto the Atlantic Ocean to begin laser drilling to get to the chewy nugat center of our planet. And since Will Smith’s character died before this movie, the only hope lies in Will Smith’s character’s son, what’s-his-face, and a bunch of ruff-n-ready fighter pilots whose names I don’t remember and I don’t care enough to look them up. Then Jeff Goldblum is brought in to make it all worth watching (it works), then the wacky scientist who looks like Data from Star Trek TNG wakes up from the coma he was in from mind-melding with the alien (totally not dying, which would have made much more sense), wanders around with his butt hanging out, his legs completely fine and not at all problematic having been IN A COMA FOR TWENTY YEARS, and wastes no time trying to figure out the mysteries of Intergalactic Siri; then the former president from the first film does something noble and heroic, the band of forgettable young fighter pilots reenact the best part of the first movie, things go boom, then Wacky Scientist says something that made me groan loudly, setting up another sequel. The End.

As you could probably surmise by my little exorcise in run-on sentence writing, I didn’t exactly think of Independence Day: Resurgence to be a mind-blowingly entertaining big budget Sci-Fi spectacle. It was entertaining, yes, but mind-blowing? No. Not like I found the first movie. Independence Day: Resurgence is what you would call a glorified rehash of the first movie, only several years in the future and shiny new gadgets and stuff. Okay, sure, the world is mostly united (the small African country being a holdout), but that aside, we all know things are about to go boom. And boom, they go indeed.

Is this an entertaining movie? Yes. Greatly so. Is it a good movie? Yes, in that it is what it is. Meaning, it’s a Sci-Fi B Movie. Does it up the ante? Yeah, yeah it does. Is it as good as or better than the original Independence Day? No. It’s not. But, I will recommend watching Resurgence at least once. However, unlike the original ID4, which I will drop everything and rewatch whenever it comes on, I really don’t see watching ID4:R again on my own volition.

Movie Review: V/H/S/2

Leave a comment

1-27 - Movie Review: VHS2Magnolia Home Entertainment
2013
R

Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static-white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil. From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes V/H/S/2, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes–a second generation with no loss of quality.

The second anthology film of found footage style horror shorts after the surprisingly good first one, continues on in the style of wrap-around story while watching original shorts that the first movie did. Why mess with a proven formula? Here, it works just as well, if not a bit better. Let me give you the run-down:

With a wrap-around story called “Tape 49”, involving a couple of private investigators checking out the disappearance of a college kid, who seems to have a rather odd videotape producing obsession; one goes to find the kid, while the other checks out the video tapes. It doesn’t end well by the end of things, as you may have surmised by now. In between the wackiness, we’re treated to four short films in the kid’s collection…

“Phase I Clinical Trials”
A young man receives an experimental cybernetic implant to replace his right eye that he damaged after a car accident. That night, he notices one of the “glitches” the doctor warned him about: he can now see dead people in his apartment. The next day, a red-haired lady shows up, claiming that she had the same kind of experimental implant for her ear to restore her hearing, and that she can hear dead people. And the dead don’t like the idea of being noticed by living people. Wackiness ensues.

“A Ride In The Park”
A cycling enthusiast is riding his bike one lovely day through a state park, when he’s attacked and bitten by a zombie. He reanimates and begins a delightful romp through the suburbs, all the while capturing everything on his Go Pro. Wackiness ensues.

“Safe Haven”
Four members of a news crew are filming a documentary with a mysterious Indonesian cult, when the “time of reckoning” arrives. Wackiness ensues.

“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
Um, a bunch of kids having a slumber party are abducted by aliens. It’s there in the title.

Overall, I think between the first one and this one, they run neck-and-neck to how much I enjoyed them, but I would have to concede that as far as stick-in-your-brain quality, V/H/S/2 has the slightly better collection. “Safe Haven” is hands-down the best one on the list, followed closely by “Phase I Clinical Trials” for a good effective supernatural ghost story. “A Ride In The Park” is a fun take on the somewhat-exhausted zombie genre. And “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”…well, it didn’t falsly advertise. It didn’t suck, it’s just kinda…eh, whatever. Regardless, I would definitely recommend checking this one out, along with the others in the series.

Movie Review: MARS ATTACKS!

1 Comment

1-11 - Movie Review: MARS ATTACKS!Warner Bros. Pictures
1996
PG-13

“I want to thank my Grandma for always being so good to me, and, and for helping save the world and everything.”

AWAKE, EARTHLINGS! It’s later than you think. Don’t miss this hilarious frenzy as Tim Burton directs–and Mars Attacks! SEE!…stars that shine across the galaxy. Jack Nicholson (in a dual role), Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito and a dozen more! SHRIEK!…at mean, green invaders from the angry red planet! Armed with insta-fry ray guns, endowed with slimy, humongous brains–and enlivened with out-of-this-world but state-of-the-art special effects. GASP!…as the U. S. legislature is overwhelmed. (Don’t fear, we still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for us, and that ain’t bad!) THRILL!…as Earth fights back with an unexpected weapon. Take that, Martians!

We have movies based on books, television shows, cartoons, toys, video games, comic books, and even movies based on board games. But, how many movies can boast being based on a series of bubble gum trading cards? Two, that I can think of: the Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and Mars Attacks!. And since I have no intention of watching the former, it gives me great tingly pleasure to tell you about the later.

After an incident involving a stamped of spontaneously combusting cattle, a horde of Martian space ships arrive on Earth, causing more than a bit of a stir in the general population of this fine planet of ours. After massive speculation and news coverage, the Martians finally make first contact with the President and several other representatives of the Human Race populating the planet…where they proclaim their peaceful intentions by zapping everyone there with their death ray in psychotic glee. Of course, all the politicians think this is a result of a misunderstanding, to which they try and reach out to the Martians again…which ends up exactly as how you would expect it, only with more pointing, laughing and general mockery on behalf of the Martian invaders. While the human population is being subjected to either a fiery death or horrific experimentation by the invaders, every attempt to strike back fails…until a plucky bunch of unlikely survivors stumble upon the Martian’s Kryptonite: the music stylings of Slim Whitman. That’s been known to make my head explode, as well.

I remember watching this in the theater along with my buddy Scott and loving every single cheeseball minute of it. Even now, so many years later, I like to throw it on and revel in the intentionally cheesy homage to the Sci-Fi B-movies of yore. Sure, the pie-plate-and-string saucers and rubber suit with visible zippers are replaced by 90s-era CGI, but everything that makes the old movies like this fun are there: the hammy acting, the star-studded cast working it all with a scene-chewing glee, the fun absurdity of the story, the whole thing ending on Tom Jones aping a Disney animated movie scene. Yeah, I can understand why so many just don’t get the movie and don’t like it as much. But for me, this is the glorious homage to the cheesiness that I love so very, very much. Mars Attacks! comes recommended by your Uncle NecRo.

Movie Review: The DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)

Leave a comment

daytheearthstoodstill[2008]20th Century Fox
2008
PG-13

“This body will take some getting used to.”

Klaatu is an alien whose arrival on our planet triggers a global upheaval. As governments and scientists race to unravel the mystery behind the visitor’s appearance, a woman and her young stepson get caught up in his mission — and come to understand the ramifications of Klaatu calling himself a “friend to the Earth”…

Remakes. Reimaginings. Revampings. Redeux.

*sigh*

Is there no end in sight for these? Being a “glass is half empty” kind of guy, I would have to say no. We’re doomed to be subjected to these until the end of civilization as we know it.

The original The Day The Earth Stood Still is, and forever will be, a milestone sci-fi classic. Its message of an alien finding humanity in the midst of Cold War paranoia reverberates to this day, with the film studied and taught in universities and colleges. Scores of writers, directors, actors, and general sci-fi geeks point to this film as being a huge influence on how they view the genre. I personally was captivated with it when I first watched this on the small screen when I was 10. It’s not a perfect movie, no, but it’s one that still holds water today.

And thus ends my gushing about the original. You’re welcome. On to my take on the remake…

I should begin, really, by stating that this remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still is, for all intents and purposes, a well-made movie. The effects are lavish and well done. The story keeps you interested. And, for better or for worse, Keanue Reeves really was the perfect pick for the alien Klaatu. And no, that wasn’t a dig at the man’s acting abilities. Seriously. And including John Cleese in a cameo as the professor was probably the big highlight for me.

No, the big beef I have with the remake is the decision to make the story one of those Eco-Terror-Guilt Burger types that seem to be popping up more and more in the Cineplexes. This seems to lead to some incredible leaps of logic here, as Klaatu is pretty much hell-bent at exterminating the human population, while failing to see the parallels between us and his race of peeps. I’m sorry, but when I’m preached at that heavily in a movie that I came to escape real life (not gonna get into a rant about global warming, or whatever they’re calling it now), especially when it’s obviously based on political propaganda, I tend to get irate. That, and Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s kid) is this punk kid who needs to be slapped more than once, that ungrateful little brat…

Anyhoo, while aesthetically speaking, The Day The Earth Stood Still remake is a great blockbuster-type sci-fi flick, the thinly-veiled Hollywood propagandizing (yeah, I made up that word, there) will definitely make fans of the original- and intelligent people in general- feel rather insulted…