Category Archives: Rating: 0-0.75 star

Lost After Dark (2015)

lost after dark

I was coming off the disappointing Curse of Downers Grove and felt things couldn’t get much worse when I decided to watch Lost After Dark, a low budget slasher movie. I turned out to be very very wrong. Compared to Lost After Dark, Downers Grove is a damn near-masterpiece.

I didn’t actually expect it to be any good, though I was hoping the film would surprise me as I had rather quite enjoyed 2003’s Wrong Turn, a similar sort of movie about a bunch of young people who find themselves being hunted down by a bunch of cannibalistic inbreeding freaks.

Wrong Turn was not generally well-received, but I remember it being tense and scary. Lost After Dark was the complete opposite. As a homage to 80s slasher flicks, the premise is that a group of young people find themselves lost after a vehicle breakdown, and soon after the carnage begins.

Apart from moronic cardboard characters, the film suffers from a distinct lack of genuine scares or intriguing developments. A big reason is the laughably designed killer, who looks more like a parody than someone you ought to be running from. And while the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not exactly tongue-in-cheek enough to be fun either. Throw in some tame, unimaginative killings, bad acting and a “keep gettin’ ’em cheques” performance from Robert Patrick in more or less an cameo role, and what you end up with is film that’s bad but not consciously bad enough to be “so bad it’s good.”

I understand the aim was replicate that retro 80s slasher vibe, though the problem is that the vast majority of such films from that era were actually really terrible. Why you would want to aspire to recreate that without trying to surprise us with something different or intelligent is beyond me.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Gallows (2015)

the gallows
The poster and the teaser trailers looked promising

Hory shet. Just when you thought found footage movies could not possibly get worse, here comes The Gallows, a strong contender for worst film of the year. I was stunned it got a theatrical release because you can grab any low budget horror movie off the video store shelf and it’ll be more watchable than this piece of shit.

The crazy thing is that the premise of the film isn’t that bad. In 1993, a school play called The Gallows results in the accidental death of a student when a prop error turned a fake hanging into a real one. Twenty years later, a new production gets underway, and a bunch of students end up trapped in the school as a malevolent force comes after them. There four main characters are: a footballer (Reese Mishler) who decides to star in the play so he can get close to his crush (Pfeifer Brown), his jackass friend who’s a bit of a bully and dickhead (Ryan Shoos), and the friend’s cheerleader girlfriend (Cassidy Gifford).

It’s not a great storyline, but it’s a workable one (if you ignore why the same school would ever want to stage the same production). And yet The Gallows manages to make the worst of it. For starters, it has no business being a found-footage film. It should have just been a “normal” horror film. Instead, the filmmakers had to come up with a lame excuse for some student to film everything. And yes, he films and films no matter what is happening. That alone makes the film lose all credibility, and what makes it worse is that the shoddy camerawork renders the visuals practically unwatchable. People who get nauseated from hand-held footage are warned watch at their own peril. Actually, that goes for people who don’t get nauseated from hand-held footage too.

Nothing makes sense. It makes no sense that a kid who has nothing to do with the school play would be filming it during rehearsals. It makes no sense why he would be filming when he’s badly hurt or running for his life. It makes no sense why they would want to break into school to trash the set. It makes no sense why some of the characters end up at the school with them. And it certainly makes no sense why anyone wanting to do something illegal would film the whole damn thing from start to finish. It’s one pathetic contrivance after another.

On top of all that, the film is not scary at all. Even ignoring that it’s just about impossible to follow what is happening on the screen at times, the tricks are ones we’ve seen a zillion times before. People freak out for no reason and walk around in silence for ages before some unseen entity snatches one of them into the darkness. Rinse and repeat.

Add to the dung heap a dose of bad acting, a lot of bad dialogue and completely undeveloped characters no one gives a shit about — oh and a laughably bad ending — and what you end up with is this sorry excuse for a movie that should never have seen the light of day. It may have been made on a shoestring budget of US$100,000, but that’s no excuse. It’s the worst. The worst.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Left Behind (2014)

large_left_behind

Maybe the end of the world really is upon us. Because there is no other explanation for how a film like Left Behind not just got made, but actually received a cinematic release. The only thing that made sense about the film is that it stars Nicholas “I’ll do anything” Cage.

Left Behind is like that Damon Lindelof TV show The Leftover, except it is directed by a career stuntman who doubled for Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies. 

The story goes like this: one day, all of a sudden, millions of people around the world disappear into thin air. Literally. All that’s left are their clothes and whatever’s on them. There’s an explanation for this, or at least a theory of the explanation, and it’s Biblical. Little did I know, Left Behind is a Christian movie about the end of the world, supposedly based on some obscure and utterly insane reading of the Bible. Even most Christians would agree that it is complete BS.

But that’s not the problem. There is nothing wrong with the type of movie it is or the premise per se — it’s the horrendous execution that makes Left Behind god-awful in any religion.

Although it’s about the end of the world, the movie centers on what happens on a flight from New York to London when the “disappearances” take place. Nicholas Cage plays a philandering pilot who dodges the birthday of his visiting daughter (Cassi Thomson) and spending time with his uber-religious wife (Lea Thompson) and young son so he could get naughty with a stewardess (Australia’s own Nicky Whelan). Also on the flight is a famous investigative reporter (Chad Michael Murray), who for some reason tried to hit on Cage’s daughter just before take-off. Also on the plane are — and I am not kidding here — a kind Muslim, a mean midget, and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. None of them disappear, of course, because they’re not true believers (or at least in the right god).

Even putting all the sanctimonious religious stuff aside, Left Behind is still an abomination. The script feels like it’s written by aliens because none of the dialogue or reactions even resemble what a normal human would say or do. Just say your little brother disappears into thin air right in front of your eyes. All that’s left of him is his clothes. And you can see that the same thing has happened to a lot of people around you. So what’s the logical thing to do? Yes, that’s right: go to the hospital to look for him! I mean, just in case he miraculously slipped out of his clothes without you noticing and decided to go there for some reason. And that’s actually one of the more reasonable things that happens in the movie.

The characters are horrible. They’re either disgustingly unlikable or they’re so noble it’s cringeworthy. And they’re played by actors — famous or otherwise — giving the most atrocious performances of their lives. I understand the budget was only US$16 million, but the inside of the plane looked like it was made in someone’s living room. The special effects looked like they were taken from the cut scenes of a Playstation 1 game. And the ending — my god, the ending. Apparently there are more books in the series, but it’s obvious there aren’t going to be more movies, so I have no idea why it ended the way it did. Everything about it was just an unfathomable mess.

This is the kind of movie that gives religion a bad name. It’s the kind of movie that gives bad movies a bad name. Have you ever had a dream where everyone is acting all weird and nothing makes sense? Left Behind is that dream, but worse. It’s a goddamn nightmare.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Spring Breakers (2013)

spring-breakers-poster-1

I thought Project X, that sorry excuse for a film about three losers who decide to throw a massive house party, was the worst movie of 2012. Spring Breakers is more attractive visually and has much bigger names attached to it, but it’s pretty much the Project X of 2013, except more pretentious.

Written and directed by Harmony Korine (Gummo), Spring Breakers is about four college girls – Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens and Rachel Korine (the director’s wife) – who head to a spring break party full of drunken rowdiness and intoxicated/drugged up debauchery in skimpy outfits. After a brief brush with the law, they meet Alien, a local gangster played by a corn-rolled James Franco, causing their world to spiral out of control.

That doesn’t make it sound too bad, except that it is. Spring Breakers was made with the intention to shock and disgust audiences with the despicable behaviour of college students on spring break. This means there’s lots of raunchy dancing, drug use, alcohol abuse and nudity and swearing, which is not necessarily bad if done in the right way.

But Korine’s approach feels gratuitous and contrived, with a really lame narrative structure that jumps around and repeats pointlessly behind an even more irritating Terrence Malick-style voiceover that only accentuates how unattractive and unlikable the protagonists are. Most of all, despite decent performances from all four of them, they don’t feel real. Stupid and obnoxious, yes, but not genuine people.

James Franco’s acting is actually fairly strong in this, but his character is a laughable parody. He’s hilarious (unintentionally), actually, but only because he is so pathetic. In fact, there are several moments in this movie that fall between unintentionally funny and cringeworthy, and none of them are intended. The film’s Wikipedia page calls it a “comedy drama” but it’s really an “unintentionally comedic drama.”

Spring Breakers would have still been salvageable had the story been interesting or compelling, but there wasn’t really much of a story to speak of either. And the ending was just flat out horrible. A ridiculous and fitting end to a loathsome movie.

0.5 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 8

Men in Black 3 (2012)

mib3-poster

I still remember the hype surrounding the original Men In Black in 1997, which officially catapulted Will Smith into big screen superstardom. I also vividly remember watching Men In Black II in 2002, and falling asleep during it. So when Men In Black III, which comes 10 years after the sequel, hit our cinemas, I didn’t have much interest, though I did eventually catch it on DVD.

This time, with Tommy Lee Jones quite literally “too old for this shit,” they got Josh Brolin to play a younger version of Agent K to team up with Will Smith’s Agent J in a plot commonly seen for third movies in a franchise — time travel, in the vein of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (classic film and arcade game).

As expected, MIB III was a tired old affair trying to milk the dollars. It wasn’t horrible, and it was an undoubted upgrade over its immediate predecessor, but there just wasn’t anything that could get me excited. I love aliens as much as the next X-File fan, though in this case they weren’t enough. Josh Brolin was surprisingly good and convincing as the younger Tommy Lee, who still got top billing despite the very limited screen time, though there were just too many Will Smith-esque dry jokes for my liking.

I know some critics found the film unassuming and fun, but I just couldn’t bring myself to like it. And I can’t believe they have confirmed another one.

2 stars out of 5

Ted (2012)

Ted-movie-poster

I keep reminding myself to watch more of Seth MacFarlane’s stuff, especially the sharp and cutting Family Guy, but for whatever reason I just haven’t found the time. I was fortunate enough to watch Ted on a long-haul flight last year, and notwithstanding the effects of my soothing in-flight Xanax, I found the film to be a cracking good time. Not perfect by any means, but different enough and funny enough to make it one of the standout comedies of the year.

Marky Mark Wahlberg plays John, a kid whose wish that his teddy bear — Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) — would come to life. Sure, they are celebrities for a while, but eventually they grow up and have the face the realities of life, including John’s girlfriend, played by Mila Kunis.

At its core, Ted is a buddy movie where one is a screw-up (in this case the teddy) who holds the other guy back from realizing his full potential, but in all honesty the film is all about the laughs and the crude jokes. The script is somewhat inconsistent, but when it comes to generating laughs, Ted delivers. There are times when MacFarlane tiptoes around the edges of good taste (and in some cases steps over the bounds), but it really depends on what your personal limits are. For me, the vast majority of it was fine, and even the ones that were dangerous elicited a guilty chuckle.

MacFarlane does a wicked Ted, with a low, alcoholic voice laced with a thick Boston accent. Marky Mark is also perfect playing his typical dropkick-with-a-heart-of-gold character, and Mila Kunis shines as his sassy girlfriend. Special mention goes out to Giovanni Ribisi, who delivers a hilarious performance as a psycho obsessed with Ted.

In all, Ted is an acquired taste that may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but as warped as it is the film is also undoubtedly funny.

4 stars out of 5

Flight (2012)

flight-poster-US

Denzel being Denzel is pretty much how I would sum up Flight, Robert Zemeckis’s (trying saying that quickly three times) first live action film since the awesome What Lies Beneath from 2000.

Denzel plays Whip, a skilled airline pilot who dabbles in women, alcohol and drugs. But when he miraculously lands a crashing plane and saves nearly everyone on board, he is hailed a hero — until the authorities start looking into his toxicology reports. Should the pilot’s state of mind and body be relevant if it wasn’t his fault that the plane was crashing in the first place? Shouldn’t all that matter be the fact that he saved people’s lives? And just how far would you go to protect your reputation even if it isn’t real? Those are the type of questions Flight asks its viewers.

It’s a fascinating story about truth and addiction and one man’s battle against demons that threaten to consume his life. Denzel is of course brilliant as the complex Whip, which is why he got another Oscar nomination, but the one who stole the show for me was Brit Kelly Reilly (I last saw her in the 2008 horror Eden Lake with Michael Fassbender), who plays a recovering drug addict with demons of her own.

Flight is a heavy drama tackling depressing issues, so there was a sense of gloom throughout the whole film, but you know the emotional lift will come eventually after Whip hits rock bottom. In that sense I found the whole thing a little predictable, though I can’t deny the effectiveness of the dramatic sequences and the performances. It’s one of those films you can appreciate but won’t be much more than a fuzzy memory in a few years.

3.75 stars out of 5

Smiley (2012)

smiley-poster-internacional-399x600

I was surfing YouTube for film trailers one day at work and I kept seeing ads on the right hand column for this slasher flick called Smiley, featuring a killer with — you guessed it — a mutilated smiley face. The trailer looked generic and horrible but I watched it anyway, and it is a decision I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

In short, Smiley is one of the worst movies of the year. Pathetic and derivative plot, laughable acting and zero scares, not even visceral ones. The idea  is a mish mash rip off of Candyman and Scream — that if you type a silly phrase into a webchat three times, Smiley will show up and kill the person on the other side. Of course, some moronic girl, played by Caitlin Gerard, decides to do it, and watching Smiley kill someone traumatizes her. The bodies then start piling up, and surprise surprise, no one believes her and thinks she’s going crazy. This was about the same point I wondered whether I was going crazy because surely the film could not be this abhorrent. But it was.

Caitlin Gerard is pretty to look at but all that crying and screaming and acting scared convinced no one. Even at 95 minutes I wondered regularly if the film was ever going to end. The end.

0.5 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 5

Man on a Ledge (2012)

20130801-224136.jpg

The aptly titled Man on a Ledge is about — wait for it — a man (Sam Worthington) on a ledge. It looks like he’s there to commit suicide, but there’s more to the story because Worthington is actually an ex-policeman turned ex-crim who stole a very valuable diamond from a douchey businessman played by Ed Harris. Elizabeth Banks plays a negotiator with the most perfect hair in the world despite being summoned at a second’s notice, and Anthony Mackie is Worthington’s old partner. And Ed Burns plays an officer with the most annoying voice in the world (actually, that’s just because he’s Ed Burns).

Man on a Ledge is a fairly interesting film with a nice set up but it should have been a lot better. It’s a crime thriller that works backwards in the sense that you start off at a climatic situation without knowing what is going on, and the film takes you through various twists to turns to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Personally, I like such films, but the execution here is too weak to make the film compelling. Apart from the implausible plot and the even more impossible stuff that happens in the film, the tension was never there — even though you have a man standing on the ledge of a building the whole time!

Sadly, despite the great cast and interesting set up, Man on a Ledge is straight-to-DVD fodder.

2.5 stars out of 5

Piranha 3DD (2012)

20130801-224054.jpg

I watched the predecessor to this film, Piranha 3D, for some reason I cannot recall. I had been expecting a gimmicky Jaws-like tribute in 3D that was enjoyable in a campy sort of way. As it turned out, it was gratuitously gory, tasteless and not nearly fun enough. It was a film made for the stupid generation who just want to see naked girls and carnage. I think I gave it 2 stars, even though looking back on it I can’t see how it could have been so high.

The title of the sequel, Piranha 3DD, should give audiences a fair idea of what they are in for. With a smaller budget (US$5m vs US$24m for the first film) and a lesser known cast, Piranha 3DD tried to make up for it by upping the gore and tastelessness to a new level, including coming up with possibly the most gruesome sex scene in history (you can take a guess). Maybe I am showing my age again, but is this seriously supposed to be funny? What is wrong with people these days?

I have trouble remembering the plot but it had something to do with a family water park and the prehistoric piranhas being unleashed on the poor patrons. As expected, the carnage is epic and there’s a lot of over-the-top blood and guts and people screaming and fish being blown up. Strangely, I found all of it mind-numbingly dull.

The only positive worth noting from this film, if it can be called that, is an extended cameo from David Hasselhoff as himself, playing a douchebag parody of himself (potentially accurate depiction). Unfortunately, even that is nowhere near as funny as the filmmakers thought it was.

0.5 star out of 5

Project X (2012)

20130801-223941.jpg

I don’t care if everyone else in the world liked it or thought it was making some kind of meaningful social statement — Project X is without a doubt one of the worst films of 2012. This is one movie I will gladly admit I didn’t get it.

The film is allegedly based on the antics of Corey Worthington, the worthless Melbourne party boy who shot to international fame for about 15 seconds after holding a party at his parents’ house that spiralled out of control. The story itself was newsworthy, I get it, but I just didn’t understand why people think trashing your parents’ house is a cool thing to do.

That didn’t mean Project X had to suck though. But it did. Badly.

As the story goes, three friends want to throw a party to make themselves more popular. They invite a lot of people and the invitations go viral, and as a result the house is flooded with losers. Drinking, dancing, drugs, sex, infantile behaviour — all the stuff you would expect — ensues, before things get so out of control that police, firefighters and media descend upon them.

The movie is largely captured by a handheld camera belonging to one of the three protagonists, which adds to the obnoxiousness of the whole affair. If the movie was actually funny it would have made a huge difference on my opinion but sadly it was criminally unfunny, so much so that I have genuine fears about the future of humanity. It would be false advertising to market this movie as a comedy.

Add on top of that unoriginal, mean-spirited, moronic, charmless, and infuriating (and many more words not suited for this family-friendly blog), and what you end up with is one of the worst movies of the year, or any year. Sometimes movies are just bad. Project X is loathsome.

PS: It’s frightening that a sequel is in the works.

0.25 stars out of 5 — and only because I don’t believe in zero stars

Iron Sky (2012)

20130801-223846.jpg

I was excited about Iron Sky, or at least the concept of Iron Sky, which is about Nazis who fled to the moon (and colonised it) after their WWII defeat but are planning their return to conquer the world in 2018. It’s a premise so deliciously outrageous that it seemed like a cult classic waiting to happen.

With great expectations come great disappointment, and unfortunately Iron Sky was at best a mediocre farcical comedy that couldn’t quite get over the hump. The jokes were largely based on the idea that the Nazis were stuck with their primitive 1940s technology and their outdated political ideals, which worked for a while but soon became stale. The tone was also all over the place, making the film feel like a complete mess at times despite the occasional good joke.

The film also employs a cool colour scheme of mostly all greys and blues, which made it almost graphic novel-esque, and I kind of liked it, even though the dreariness got a bit annoying by the end.

In all, it was simply not good enough to be just a good movie, and not bad enough to be a guilty pleasure or cult classic; just a worst place to be for a film — frustratingly mediocre.

2.25 stars out of 5

Recent Movie Reviews: Part III

Admission (2013)

20130719-040916.jpg

Two of my favourite people in the world, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, together at last in a comedy about America’s university admissions process — sounds like a winner to me.

But unfortunately, Admission is just OK. Fey plays an admissions officer at Princeton and Rudd plays a teacher desperately trying to get one of his unusual but gifted students into Princeton. The student also may or may not be Fey’s long lost son.

Admission is a fairly average rom-com with a somewhat unusual premise and is driven by the charisma of its two stars. Fey’s character has a personality similar to Liz Lemon’s and Rudd’s character is like Rudd in every movie he’s in — which is awesome. The jokes are clever and provide some fascinating insights into how the admissions system works at prestigious US universities, but at the end of the day the film just isn’t funny enough. Amusing in spots but too bland and flat overall, which is a shame given the potential it had to be something memorable.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie 43 (2013)

20130719-041056.jpg

The rule of thumb for ensemble movies these days is the greater the number of stars the worse the movie. Movie 43 stars Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Justin Long, Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Stephen Merchant, Johnny Knoxville, Gerard Butler, Sean William Scott, Chloe Grace Moretz, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel, among others. I guess that tells you how good it is.

Seriously, I have no idea how this film was made. What did the producers have over all these stars to force them to be in this turd? And calling it a turd is really a compliment.

The film is essentially a collection of comedic sketches strung together by a forced narrative. There are apparently two versions, the first of which is a pitch made by Dennis Quaid to Greg Kinnear, a film executive. The version I watched was the British one, which is about a bunch of kids searching for the most banned film in the world, Movie 43, which they are stunned to discover actually exists.

As for the sketches, let’s see…there is the one where the whole joke is Hugh Jackman having a scrotum on his neck, another one making fun of home schooling, one about a team of black basketballers being terrified of their white opponents, and so on and so forth. And those are the less offensive ones. There’s also the Anna Faris one about her wanting her boyfriend to defecate on her during sex, a really pathetic one about a young girl getting her period, and a really boring and lame one about superhero speed dating. The only sketch I found mildly amusing was the one where Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry dare each other to do a bunch of crazy things, but that was probably only because the rest were so utterly unwatchable.

I’m just dumbfounded by how bad this movie is. I don’t believe in zero star films, but this one tempts me. I don’t wish the experience of watching this monstrosity on my worst enemy.

0.25 stars out of 5

Mama (2013)

20130719-041154.jpg

One of my most anticipated horror movies of the year, starring Jessica Chastain and Jaime Lannister (I mean Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or whatever his name is). The main reason is because visionary Guillermo del Toro served as an executive producer, and del Toro seldom disappoints (The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth both rank high on my list). I mean, did you see that trailer with those two freaky little girls scampering around?

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but Mama wasn’t quite as scary or different as I wanted it to be. Basically, a dude in financial ruin plans to kill his two young girls and himself, but before he gets the chance he is “terminated” by an unseen force. Years later the freaky ass girls, who somehow survived on their own, are found and put under the care of the dude’s brother, Mr Lannister, and his girlfriend, Chastain.

The freaky girls kind of become more normal but they keep referring to someone as “Mama”, who you and I both know is very scary and loves hanging around doing spooky things. Much of the movie is about Chastain learning to accept looking after the girls and finding out just who the heck Mama really is.

There are plenty of old school scares in this one — a combination of “boo” moments and atmosphere — but as usual it’s when Mama begins to appear to us on screen that things become less frightening. Still, it’s much classier and well done than your average horror flick these days, delivering on a decent ending whereas most such films tend to crumble and self-destruct. I don’t know how much del Toro influenced the film but I believe there are some nice touches of eerieness that can be attributed to him.

Mama didn’t scare the crap out of me like I wanted it to, but it will probably still be one of the standout horror movies of 2013.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Last Stand (2013)

20130719-041307.jpg

Here’s a shock. Arnie is still acting (and I use that word in a very loose sense).

The former Californian governor is back as a sheriff of a small town that happens to be the final stop before a highly wanted fugitive makes his away across the Mexican border. Arnie and his gang of local cops and a couple of misfits must dig deep and stop this guy because no one messes with Arnie. That’s the story in a nutshell.

As bad as that sounded, The Last Stand, which received almost no buzz in the lead up to its release, is actually a very solid action flick. I was surprised how effective it was in creating entertaining action sequences and even the humour was pleasantly unexpected. Lots of guns fights, explosions and “holding down the fort” type activity, like an adult version of Home Alone. It’s fun.

Arnie might be closing in on 100 years old, but his charisma as an action hero seems like it will never fade. The supporting cast is pretty decent too, and includes Johnny Knoxville, who manages to keep his obnoxiousness under control to everybody’s amazement.

I suppose credit has to go to Korean director Kim Ji-woon, who made a nice little action movie out of practically nothing. The Last Stand will likely be forgotten in a year or two, but I’ll remember that I had a good time watching it.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Host (2013)

the-host-poster

There is only a handful of times in a life that one will see a movie that is so laughably pathetic that they don’t even know how to react to it. The Host is one such movie.

Based on a book written by the skilled pen of Stephenie Meyer, the author who bestowed upon us the Twilight Saga, The Host tells the story of how mankind has been mostly taken over by an alien race. These aliens, who look like big dandelions and are called “Souls” (convenient), inject themselves into human bodies and use them as hosts (hence the clever title). The consciousness of the original human owner is erased and replaced by the alien, who still retains the human’s memories and knowledge. One particular alien called Wanderer takes over the body of a young girl, Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), whose consciousness refuses to subside and battles the alien for control of the body. The alien is moved by this wonderful love Melanie had as a human with Jeremy Iron’s son, Max Irons, but there’s also some other dude (Jake Abel from I Am Number Four — Kevin Bacon’s son?) that fancies her — cue patented Stephenie Meyer love triangle.

It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Twilight. Shudder.

I can imagine this kind of story working as a novel, but as a film (especially one that is merely hoping to cash in on Twilight‘s popularity) it just had no chance. I tried to give The Host a genuine shot, but the plot had more holes than Prometheus and the love triangle made the one in Twilight seem like the greatest love triangle of all time. I found myself either shaking my head or bursting out in laughter from the unintentional hilarity for almost the entirety of the torturous 125-minute running time.

Technically, the visuals and the direction of Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time) are fine. Even the performances from the all-star cast (which also includes William Hurt and Diane Kruger) are not too bad, considering the lines they had to spew out. But there is little anyone could do when the source material and the screenplay and dialogue are so awful. For starters, Saoirse Ronan has conversations with herself all throughout the movie because she is, um, trapped within herself. Trust me, it’s stupid.

Then there are the questions. Of all the relationships in the world, the alien is moved by one between a young girl and guy who have known each other for a couple of months? WTF? Why does Wanderer (“Wanda”) go from hated enemy one second to the most beloved and trusted ally the next? Why does Jake Abel go from wanting to kill Wanda one second to wanting to make out with her the next? Why does she have to make out with people for contrived reasons? (There is, I swear, one scene where the guys take turns making out with her). The list goes on.

And the ending, which I will not give away, is the icing on the cake. You have to see it to believe it.

What else can I say? The Host is dull, lacking in tension, excitement and heart, and just plain absurd. Avoid it if you dare.

0.5 out of 5…

Movie Review: Red Dawn (2012)

Red-dawn-Poster

Given the recent tensions in the Korean Peninsula, I thought it would be apt to review Red Dawn, a strong candidate for the worst movie of 2012.

A friend told me the other day that I needed to be more definitive in my movie reviews and tell readers to avoid certain movies at all cost. I don’t think I can ever do that because I truly want to believe that every movie has its merits, but I suppose Red Dawn is about as close as it gets to an unwatchable movie.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Red Dawn was supposed to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. A remake of the successful 1984 film of the same name about a hypothetical Chinese invasion of the United States (changed to North Korea during post-production for the remake — I guess they just dubbed the voices? They probably think all Asians look the same anyway). An all-star cast led by Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Peeta from The Hunger Games (Josh Hutcherson), Aussie bombshell Isabel Lucas and Josh Peck (who starred in that other piece of shit from 2011, ATM — review here). How could things go so wrong?

Honestly, I don’t know. I just know Red Dawn was completely devoid of excitement, drama, tension and most of all, common sense. I scratched my head so many times that my scalp bled for a week.

Hemsworth is a US marine who returns home to visit his father, the town sheriff, and his brother (Peck), a high school football star. Boom, the North Koreans invade, and somehow Hemsworth and a bunch of school kids evade capture and take cover in the woods. Instead of crapping their pants and organizing drunken orgies, the kids decide to become super soldiers and fight back. Go America! F*&% yeah!

Perhaps this concept — kids becoming effective soldiers in an unexpected attack — could have worked 30 years ago. Heck, it kinda worked in 2010, when Aussie filmmakers pulled off Tomorrow, When the War Began (review here), based on the classic novel by John Marsden. But here, thanks to a clumsy script, uninspired direction and cliched plot points, Red Dawn felt like a B-grade affair made by a bunch of people who have lost all touch with reality. Top that off with cheesy dialogue, a predictable storyline, no surprises whatsoever, shitty performances and poor special effects, and what we have on our hands is a royal mess.

Forget how ludicrous the idea of North Korea invading the US, on its own, sounds for the moment. Even if we can accept the premise for a couple of hours, there are still just too many gaps in logic. Why did the North Koreans choose their pointless suburban city? Did they have a presence in all cities? Why did they let the kids run off without pursuing them in the first place? Why is the North Korean army capable of taking over the United States, seemingly with ease, but incapable of standing up to a few kids who have no idea what they are doing? Why can’t trained professional soldiers beat a few kids who just practiced shooting a few bottles in the woods for a week? Why do they keep allowing the kids to sneak into the city to carry out guerrilla attacks and then let them sneak out again? Why do they keep letting the kids get on rooftops (ie, trap themselves), and then let them get away? What the heck were the North Koreans doing in that city again?

So many questions, so little answers.

Hemsworth and Hutcherson exhibit barely passable acting skills, but you could tell from their faces that they knew they were starring in something that was going to be panned for eternity. Peck, on the other hand, was unbearable — a whiny, self-absorbed, greasy-haired douche who discovers the world is not all about him and decides to suddenly grow up and turn into a world-saving hero. None of the other characters were memorable, except for maybe the Chinese, sorry, North Korean army chief (Will Yun Lee), and that was because he played the lead character in the awesome PS3 game Sleeping Dogs!

I’m ashamed to say that I initially thought Red Dawn would be good and was excited to see it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an absurd joke (complete with unintentional laugh-out-loud moments) and a complete waste of 93 minutes of my life. There were times when I wanted to stop the torture but I persisted until the brutal final shot, which was, of course, the American flag.

0.5 stars out of 5

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 3)

Here’s Part I and here’s Part II.

New Year’s Eve (2011)

I still cannot believe I watched New Years Eve, possible one of the worst abominations ever to hit the big screen in recent years. Putting all the biggest stars in the world (I’m not even going to attempt to name them all) in a romantic comedy about the yearly celebration has to be the most contrived idea since…Valentine’s Day, which was obviously trying to cash in on the success of ensemble films like Love, Actually.

The biggest problem with such films is that it are so in awe of the fact that it has all these big stars that it doesn’t bother with anything else – it’s as though seeing them on screen is reason enough for audiences to fork out some money. For some, that might be good enough, but for me it was pure torture (and I didn’t even fork out any money).

The other obvious problem is that with so many stars it’s impossible to give them a decent character or a decent plot to work with. Not unless you’re freaking Joss Whedon. As a result, you end up with a bunch of half-assed, obnoxious characters you don’t give a crap about doing very annoying and contrived things.

All of this could be forgiven to some extent if this romantic comedy was actually romantic, or funny. I don’t know about romantic, but it certainly wasn’t funny. Perhaps a couple of chuckles at most, but the rest was pure cringe city.

0.5 stars out of 5!

Footloose (2011)

Everyone knows about the song, but personally I have not seen the original with Kevin Bacon. In fact, I knew nothing about it other than the spoof scene from Hot Rod a few years back.

The remake is said to be better, though if you ask me I don’t really see why it had to be made in the first place. Professional dancer Kenny Wormald comes to a small town which has banned all unsupervised dancing due to a tragic accident involving some teens three years ago. But you can’t stop a man who wants to get down and boogie, and so Kenny finds himself up against church reverend Dennis Quaid while simultaneously trying to court his rebellious daughter, played by Dancing with the Stars champ Julianne Hough.

The plot is cookie cutter and the feel is very 80s, but I suppose Footloose does have a little bit of that country charm. And it does have a lot of energy. I’m not a big fan of dancing but if you are you might end up enjoying it more than I did. At the end of the day, however, I can’t see them remaking this one in another 27 years.

2.5 stars out of 5

Tower Heist (2011)

Ben Stiller movies aren’t what they used to be, but at least he hasn’t fallen as low as Adam Sandler these days.

Tower Heist, which combines the comedic talents of Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick (Mr Ferris Beuller himself), Casey Affleck and Gabourey Sidibe, plus one of my faves, Michael Pena, is nowhere near as good as it could or should have been, but it’s still relatively harmless fun that can be enjoyed on a lazy afternoon.

Basically it’s about a bunch of employees at a luxury apartment complex inNew Yorkwho are cheated out of their life savings by a wealthy businessman who lives there (Alan Alda), and come up with a scheme to try and get that money back.

It’s your typical heist movie with your regular bunch of misfits and quirky characters, and for the most part the chemistry is strong. Eddie Murphy returns to form a little (I don’t even want to mention the trash he has been involved in lately) but to be honest I didn’t find Tower Heist particularly clever or funny. It had its moments and there’s not a whole lot to dislike about it, but it’s a shame it couldn’t have been more memorable. A poor man’s Ocean’s Eleven, perhaps?

3 stars out of 5

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

I assumed it was “remake” of an original I haven’t seen before, but apparently the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian is not related to the Arnie films of the 80s and features a new interpretation of the Conan mythology.

Whatever.

I’m a sucker for sword and sorcery films and there haven’t been a lot of high profile ones lately, so I suppose you could call Conan a guilty pleasure of mine. Jason Mamoa (who also played a barbaric fellow on season one of Game of Thrones), gives a pretty decent, if not uninspiring portrayal of the relentless, sword-wielding titular character who is out for revenge against those who killed his tribe and father. I’m sure he’s more believable than some beefy eastern European guy with a funny accent and a gap between his front teeth anyway.

The action in Conan is brutal and bloody, just the way it ought to be. Mamoa’s physicality is an advantage here, but it’s unfortunate that his character was not more interesting. Rachel Nicols plays the love interest (body double, people) and Avatar villain Stephen Lang and a freaky Rose McGowan are the central villains.

I have no idea why this film had to be 113 minutes, which was way too long and had me yawning through most of the second act. If they had pared it back to a compact 90 action-packed minutes it would have been a much more enjoyable ride.

Nevertheless…

2.75 stars out of 5!