Saturday, May 8, 2010

Iron Man 2

So apparently a fairly popular film had a sequel come out recently. I normally don’t know about such things, preferring to focus on terrible films with budgets that roughly average less than a grand budget-wise. This one of course wound up being pretty good, if not as good as the original, and while I haven’t checked to confirm that this made like three hundred million its opening day, I’m pretty confident that it at least did okay.

The plot is the real weak point in the film, as it tends to be more than slightly cumbersome, with the screwing over of the 60s partner and the fatal blood poisoning and the competitive oligarchy and everything else, but despite itself it still manages to give us enough action sequences to satisfy the base audience. While generally good, they do expose one of the main problems with Iron Man in general -- Iron Man doesn’t really have the great rogues gallery that a Spider-Man or a Fantastic Four has, and so a film about him mostly has to rely on how self-destructive the main character himself is. In this, the movie largely succeeds, solely on the strength of Robert Downey Jr. and his strangely uncanny ability to look like a career fuck-up. I can’t explain how he manages to look so much like a lifelong drunk/addict, but good for him for managing it.

The action sequences (both of them) are very well made, both the early one at the racetrack that features so prominently in the trailer, and the climax, that goes on a bit long and manages to not be as exciting as it would have been had the danger to actual humans been more visible. Seriously, with everything that happens it looks quite clear that dozens or hundreds of people must have died in the last half hour, but we don’t see a single one. What the hell? I get that this is designed to be kid-safe, but come on. Don’t design the ending that you did if you can’t carry it out to its logical conclusion.

The acting is of course universally good, as was the first film (though this might actually qualify as better, given that they traded up from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle). Indeed, the whole film is very well made, outside of the general screenplay. Jon Favreau has done a quality job with this, that should satisfy both fans of action movies (though they may be upset that it takes so long for an action scene to occur) and fans of Iron Man comics, who will enjoy little mini-jokes, such as when Stark mentions he’d be happy to become Secretary of Defense, like he was back in the 90s. Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell are both fine villains, though the franchise is clearly heading toward Spider-Man 3 territory, when the franchise is so overloaded with villains that it can’t survive the unnecessarily complex plot. Hopefully Jon Favreau will be able to avoid that trap for the third film, and the series won’t become a problem like Spider-Man and the X-Men both were.

Rating: ***


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Season in Hell

I like to imagine that I don’t overuse the ‘zero stars’ rating too much. Generally, if a film has any redeeming features, I’ll give it at least half a star (as was recently evidenced by my giving Kill the Scream Queen half a star just because two of the girls in it were attractive). Interestingly, almost half of my zero star reviews have been from this very box set, presumably as a cautionary tale for anyone that might have considered a career in movie blogging. Anyway, my point is this is one of the most aggressively unpleasant films I have ever seen.

It’s bad enough that the filmmakers didn’t even make an effort to get it listed on IMDB (though they did include end credits, so I can tell you all that this was the brainchild of Elliot Passantino), and in proper 80s industrial music video fashion, does everything in its power to be awful both visually and aurally. The soundtrack is the most immediately noticeable. It’s set way too loud, and spends the entire length of the film screeching, crackling, giving lots of loud feedback, and featuring nonstop overuse of the echo feature when a character says something. It’s as if they based the entire sound structure off of “Metal Machine Music”, and somehow found a way to make it even more unpleasant.

Then there’s the visuals. I wasn’t kidding when I said it looked like some 80s industrial music video. Remember how a lot of those old videos you’d see on MTV late at night by fairly unknown bands, and they’d frequently either use the mirror duplication tricks or combine reversed negatives with color filters, because the videos were made for like $100 each and those were the cheapest visual effects one could get? Yeah, about 90% of the movie looks like that. It’s as if Passantino were actively trying to make the most completely unwatchable film ever constructed. And if that was his actual intention, then well done, I suppose. This is one mission thoroughly accomplished.

What was the plot about? Well, two characters running away from some annoyingly vague War on Terror-related disaster (actual dialogue: “We were coming up from down south, that’s where the whole current situation occurred”) stop at a farmhouse hoping to find some spare gas so they could make it to Canada, and instead find a maniac that locks them in his basement with his harem. Then everyone starts killing each other, and when we’re down to our last survivor, we get a tedious quote that “Man’s greatest enemy is himself”, just to help drive home that the plot is as bad as the filmmaking.

I can’t even give this credit for having been made in my home state (New Jersey, if anyone was wondering), as if anything it should just be making me embarrassed to be sharing the state with these people. Fortunately, it was done in Totowa, which is far enough north that I had to check Google maps to find out where it is (just west of Yonkers, which figures), so I can happily write it off as yet another North Jersey disgrace that doesn’t reflect on my beloved South Jersey. Seriously, North Jersey? Fuck that place.

Rating: Zero stars


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rose of Death

I hate to say it, but not only is this the highlight of disc 8 on the Tomb of Terrors set, but it’s not even noticeably worse than actual “professional” horror movies of its ilk. Yeah, it’s a lousy movie, but I really can’t offhandedly think of a single horror movie where we get a high school prank gone horribly wrong leading to a double homicide (don‘t you hate when that happens?), and now years later all the kids are back for their class reunion and are now shockingly being murdered one by one, that wasn’t complete garbage. I mean, Class Reunion Massacre? Slaughter High? If anyone is remembering these movies with any fondness, they are bad people and you shouldn’t be talking to them.

So yes, now that you know what the general premise of the film is, you know the entire plot from start to finish, excepting a boring subplot about one of the young accessories to murder and her overall guilt and relationship troubles. So how do the important issues with such a film work? Well, the kills are moderately bloody (you’ll have seen much better than this, but you’ll also have seen much worse -- in fact, you can see much worse on this very disc), if not especially inspired, the killer was not who I initially assumed it was, and there are a couple surprises both in the order of those killed, and in who winds up being killed, so it has that going for it. The ages of the people, always an issue in films that jump forward a decade, mostly work out (the only character that still looks like she belongs in high school actually has someone tell her that, which was a nice touch).

The direction (by L. Alan Brooks) is as lazy as one would expect, though, and the acting is almost universally terrible, the lone exception being the hard-ass boss of an auto dealership (Dave Narramore), who does such a convincing job that, combined with the fact that this is the only movie he’s ever appeared in, I am forced to conclude that he actually is a hard-ass boss at an auto dealership. They clearly made the wrong film and should have made a script that revolved more around him.

There’s not that much else to say about this film. It’s such a rehash of the bad films that came before it that it was almost as if I had seen this multiple times before. While it is still the best film on this disc (and what a sliding scale non-achievement that is), it’s also much more cookie-cutter and forgettable than any of the other three, and it’s almost certainly going to be the first one I completely forget ever existed. I only wish I could make that claim about tomorrow’s entry.

Rating: *


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nightmare Museum

Well, I do always say that I watch these films in the hopes of seeing something I have never seen before, and this certainly delivers in that regard. After this, I think I can make do with some more standard films again.

So yeah, you remember that sex scene in Team America, where two of the puppets got naked and had crazy monkey sex? Now imagine that stretched out over an hour’s running length, and apparently not done for laughs. Yes, this is a vaguely sci-fi adventure set in the year XXX3 where we get a group of Barbie and Ken dolls that have sex for about an hour (interspersed with shots of food when a robot kills one of them) before the abrupt Godzilla-style fight at the end. As an added benefit, all the characters are voiced by actual porn stars, so we can get the moans and dirty talk as accurate as possible.

I have no idea how to interpret this movie. It’s almost as if they just took a regular porn movie and re-enacted the entire thing with dolls, which suggests both that writer/director Igor Pickles (whose only other credit is the prequel Erotic Avengers) has a fetish above and beyond anything I’ve got and that there is a distinct possibility that the porn star voice acting was directly taken from another film and so they may not even be aware that they appear in this film. Now, I’m not saying that’s definitely the case -- after all, once you start having sex for money, being paid to be the voice of a doll that’s having sex can’t be any worse -- but given the cheapness of both this film and the other films in this set, I can’t really rule it out. And why is it in a set of horror movies? And why did this have to be one of the next films for me to review when I’m frantically sending out job applications?

So should you see this? Well, if you’ve made it this far into the review, then you already know whether you want to see it or not. I give it a negative review, as it’s a terrible movie, and more importantly, not my personal brand of perversion (to put it mildly), but there are absolutely people out there that would drool at the thought of this. If you happen to be one of them, please don’t tell me.

Rating: ½ *


Monday, May 3, 2010

The Lunar Pack

I freely admit, the surprising quality of None Left Standing and So Mort it Be left me foolishly overoptimistic about the likely quality that was going to be found on disc 8 of the Tomb of Terrors set. Fortunately, The Lunar Pack was here to set me straight about what I could legitimately expect.

Hosted by Debbie Rochon (who will clearly do anything for a small paycheck) as an Elvira-style character complete with terrible jokes, as she shares with us three short films about werewolves that share a commonality only in their overall terribleness. The first features a vampire and a werewolf fighting, and rather than fighting in any way that would show off that they are, in fact, a vampire and a werewolf, they just kickbox each other a bit instead. Presumably this was inspired by the modern classic Underworld, where we also learned that being a monster isn’t nearly as cool or interesting as wearing leather and dual-wielding guns. Seriously, why even bother making them non-human if you’re planning on making the film like that?

The next short film is done as a detective story (complete in black and white and voice over narration), that seems to be trying to make it a mystery about what the deal is with a housewife that’s been acting strangely recently. It probably would have been slightly more of a mystery, of course, had Rochon not told us before the film started that she was a werewolf, but you work with what you’ve got. Incidentally, each of these short films has its own end credits, which ensures that we get the brilliance of the filmmakers telling us that if we enjoyed this segment (“Sheep’s Clothing”), we can easily find more werewolf films by them on their Geocities page. I won’t lie. That made my day when I saw that.

The final film revolves around a man who is wounded and has his wife killed by a giant wolf out in the wilderness, and now a month later he shows up at the sheriff’s in the hopes of being locked up before the full moon can rise and he kills someone. Now, I will admit that I judged the film a bit too hastily here. When I saw what was clearly a garage with patio furniture inside, I initially thought it was just the most wonderfully nonexistent effort ever expended to try to pull off a sheriff’s office. It of course wound up being the sheriff’s garage at his house, but when the first short film featured a crypt that had an electrical generator inside, I think giving the benefit of the doubt goes out the window. Of course, the remainder of the short film is as lousy as the first two (given that there’s a total of one other major character in the story, guess who the original werewolf turns out to be), but I am curious about one thing. Despite feeling the need for four different end credits sequences, the entire movie was written and directed by Jason Liquori. So why do the werewolves look different in every single segment? Are they supposed to represent different breeds of werewolf, or were the segments just filmed months apart, and they had to keep getting new costumes for some reason? It’s ponderous is what it is.

Rating: ½ *