This movie is not the Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence jail comedy. Its about a crew fighting a killer amoeba. Although the overall quality of films the last five or ten years has spiked downward, sci-fi has spiked upward in quality with some wonderful films that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. The current film “Life,” for example, is a very interesting “Alien” knockoff about what would happen if we discovered alien life on Mars. The answer: nothing good. We think we’re getting “E.T.” and instead we’re getting something worse than The Thing. This film has interesting characters, some believable science, and is a tremendously inspired production. The director uses long, painstakingly crafted sequences to draw us in and (hopefully) make us forget we’re watching a movie. The performances of Jake Gylllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds draw us in, and, although the film is similar to “Alien,” it scares us.
The new film “Phoenix Forgotten,” produced by Ridley Scott, is a found-footage film in the style of “The Blair Witch Project” about the Phoenix Lights UFO incident from 1997. A group of teens witness the event and decide to investigate further and film what they find. Bad idea. It turns out that the incident is much more sinister in nature than they thought. Will they survive? Maybe not, but their quest proves somewhat compelling as all of us are curious about UFO’s. The film is well-made, acted, and scored and delivers some terror on a low budget. It’s not great, but you could do worse.
Tired of big Hollywood stinkers like “Assassin’s Creed” and “Beauty and the Beast”? Ready for some serious B-movie fun? Prepare yourself for two movies out on DVD that are way more entertaining than that “Boss Baby” crap.
First up is the 2009 remake of “Night of the Demons,” which stars Shannon Elizabeth (from “American Pie”), Monica Keena (from “Freddy Vs. Jason”) and Edward Furlong (no introduction needed). This film follows the basic plot and features many of the same exploitative elements (read: boobs) that made the 1988 movie with Linnea Quigley (who cameos here) so much fun. In short, a bunch of dorky college kids plus a drug dealer (Furlong) get together at an old New Orleans manor to celebrate Halloween. Soon they discover that the house is a conduit for demons who want to possess seven of them and take over the world. Can Edward Furlong and company stop taking heroin and playing spin the bottle long enough to save the world?
This is a $10 million film that went straight to video, probably because the original film is not nearly as famous as classics like “The Omen” and “Halloween.” The story is acceptable and the special effects, makeup effects, and other technical attributes are really good. The only actor to make an impression is Furlong, who plays his part convincingly and with pathos. He deserves a chance at a comeback. Overall, the film is about as good as the original, which means it’s undistinguished but tons of fun. Readers are advised to rent it on Netflix.
Second up is 1988’s “Nightmare at Noon,”(aka “Death Street U.S.A.”) a truly whacko ripoff of “The Crazies” about a mute albino (played by Brion James) who starts a government experiment by contaminating the water of a small town, turning those unfortunate people who drink it into crazed killers. Meanwhile, a scummy lawyer (played by Wings Hauser) and his wife pick up a hitchhiker (Bo Hopkins) on their way into this town while the sheriff (played by George Kennedy) and his daughter try to figure out what’s going on.
Basically this starts as a zombie film, turns into sort of a western (“High Noon” is playing at the town drive-in.), and then it turns into a high-concept “Blue Thunder” kind of thing. It’s completely crazy and absolutely never dull. George Kennedy is great, the technical credits are good and the music by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer are very effective. Bo Hopkins and Wings Hauser are quite the team, having also starred together in “Mutant,” In short, this is a crazy killer B film that is worth seeking out.
I should note, in closing, that I had never heard of either of these two films before picking them up. As a result, they were much better than expected. Check out “Night of the Demons” (2009) and “Nightmare at Noon” if you want good old-fashioned B-movie fun! –CoolAC
I thought I knew what to expect from “Ghost in the Shell.” I assumed it would have great visuals and a mindless plot. I was right about the visuals. Although the futuristic city portrayed in the film looks a little too close to “Blade Runner,” overall the film is convincing and occasionally mind-blowing in terms of its visual impact. The surprise about the new film is that director Rupert Sanders has a story to tell, and tells it well. What would it be like to be an android (or, actually, a cyborg) with no body to call your own and memories you can’t trust? This film tells you.
I was very impressed with the cast that this film put together. It is true that Scarlett Johannson is rather miscast as the heroine, but this is only because her character is supposed to be Asian. She should have asked for rewrites to tailor the part more to her. However, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano (the Japanese action star), Juliette Binoche, and Michael Pitt are excellent in their roles.
The film is getting a lot of flack for supposedly “whitewashing” Japanese material. On the contrary, the film is very respectful to the magna and anime series, and to such a degree that I’m rather stunned. The scenes where the protagonist discovers the truth about herself are rather affecting. This film succeeds in capturing the essence of the film series, and I would not mind a sequel to this film. If you like science fiction and especially if you like anime, check it out! – CoolAC
Currently showing on HBO and available on Blu-Ray and DVD, “Cop Car” is a terrific thriller that you probably haven’t heard about or seen. It’s about two child runaways who find an abandoned cop car in a remote location. They decide to break into it, explore, and take it on a joy ride. Little do they know that someone’s in the trunk, and that corrupt cop Kevin Bacon will do anything to get his car back.
The first thing I noticed about this film is how well it portrays children; the kids seem like real kids. Between saying swear words for the first time and being totally unaware of the danger of driving an apparently empty car, their naivety is stunning and believable. Secondly, Kevin Bacon’s performance is one of his very best. He doesn’t overact. and so he creates suspense about how dangerous he is. The third thing is how well-crafted this film is; it takes a simple scenario and creates a Hitchcockian level of suspense around it.
In short, “Cop Car” is a great thriller that is well worth your time. The performances are great and the suspense is real. Don’t miss it! –CoolAC
How do you feel about 3D? For me, it’s a decided “meh.” Some films, such as “Prometheus” and “Tron: Legacy,” benefit from the process, while others, like “Pete’s Dragon,” just use it as a gimmick. Forget about “Avatar,” which had great 3D effects but an uninvolving story. If you want to have real fun, go to one of the granddaddys of 3D films, 1981’s “Comin’ At Ya!”
The film, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray in 2D and 3D, is a Spanish take on the spaghetti western starring Tony Anthony, a very poor man’s Clint Eastwood, and Victoria Abril, who went on to star in several Almodovar films. The plot is simple: Anthony’s fiancée (Abril) is kidnapped by a no0good villain (Gene Quintano) on their wedding day. To get her back and get revenge our hero must spring into action. Although this is a thin plot, I find it superior to other 3D films that followed in the ’80’s like “Jaws 3D.” However, the excellent music score and the inventive action really make the film stand out.
Although I do not have access to the 3D version, I was charmed by all the objects thrown at the screen (often in slow motion) such as snakes, rats, bullets confetti, other weapons, explosions, etc. The acting is pretty decent too and the film delivers non-stop action. Is this a great film? No, but it’s better than a lot of Hollywood’s westerns like last year’s “The Magnificent Seven.” It’s not terribly expensive to buy, so I’m recommending a purchase. It’s a good film to sit back and watch with friends, beer, and weed. If you want to have a good time, check out “Comin’ At Ya!” It’s a unique experience! –CoolAC
The new film ‘Gold’, starring Mathew McConaughey, proves that not all that glitters is gold. His company Washoe Mining skyrocketed and became the darlings of Wall Street after striking gold in Indonesia. Unforeseeable events occur which complicate things, such as the mines being taken over by the Indonesian government. Meanwhile other big companies, like Newmont Mining, are trying to buy them out on the cheap or shut them down through any means necessary.
Much of the film makes McConaughey look like an impulsive lush. He has some positive attributes also. He is hard working and visionary. Tenacious too. He has a loyal girlfriend, well played by Bryce Dallas Howard. And part of the main character’s drive is his dream of supporting her on a big ranch. So it is revealed his vision is not entirely greedy.
I can’t give the plot twists away. However, the films plot lends credibility to some age old adages. Namely, one in the hand is worth two in the bush. And also that physical assets trump paper assets. This film gives useful insights into the mining industry. It shows that the miners themselves take large financial risks, while the shareholders are seeking safety and secure investments. This creates friction and inherent instability in the mining industry. This film also boasts great cinematographic shots of the river and jungle in Indonesia. And McConaughey’s performance was Oscar worthy – though he got stiffed. His performance as a balding, overweight, partier (yet at the same time charismatic, relentless, adventuress, visionary and business-oriented was worth the ticket price alone. –Steve