Friday, May 6, 2011

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is one of the best films I’ve seen in a really long time. Combine Earnest Goes to Camp with Friday the 13th and you’ll have this masterpiece. Tucker is the more macho of two hillbilly best friends, and he’s a really nice guy who has spent his entire life savings on a vacation home—a super rundown cabin in the woods where he and his best friend Dale can drink beer, go fishin’, and just get away from it all. These college kids have shown up and are ruining things. Eight frat/sorority kids go to the woods to drink and have sex (like most college kids do in the movies). There’s the standard campfire legend of “killers in the woods” to set the stage, and then the kids decide to go skinny dipping. One girl falls off a rock and knocks herself out. These two hillbillies who are vacationing in the area and happen to be fishing in the area see she hasn’t come up for air and rescue her. The frat kids think the hillbillies have captured their friend and they go after them.

College kid perspective: Two psychopathic hillbillies have captured their friend Alison (Cerie from 30 Rock—the hot dumb assistant to Liz Lemon) and now are systematically picking each of the friends off, one by one. The kids will do anything they can to get Alison back, and their self-proclaimed leader, Chad, is slowly losing his grip on reality. From the kids’ perspective, everything they do or see could verify this psychobilly killer theory.

Hillbilly perspective: A group of college kids have shown up and done everything they can to disturb the peaceful vacation Tucker and Dale had all planned out at the new vacation home. The kids clearly have all agreed to some sort of suicide pact and are killing themselves off, on Tucker’s new property. Not only that, but they want Alison to kill herself as well, so they’re storming the vacation home doing anything they can to make sure Alison ends up dead, as well. From the hillbilly perspective, everything that Dale and Tucker see happen could verify this college kid suicide pact theory.

Somehow, this movie pulls off total camp, but you get suckered in 100%. You know none of these coincidences would ever happen in real life, but it’s so outrageous that you buy it. All of it. The entire theater was cracking up at MANY points in the movie. Not a couple of times—MANY times. You actually enjoy seeing how the next frat kid is going to kill themselves because you know it’s going to be hilarious and not at all what you expected. The acting is better than most horror films, as is the budget. The special effects (mainly blood spraying in hilarious ways as people keep killing themselves accidentally) are very well done.

If you’re a fan of Shaun of the Dead, you’ll likely get a huge kick out of this. It’s probably not a film to watch by yourself, since it isn’t much of a thinking-man’s (or -woman’s) film. It doesn’t have the zombies that Shaun does, but it is equally well done and equally entertaining. This is leaps and bounds better than anything I’ve seen recently. Thank you Minneapolis Film Festival for bringing this film to my attention. Well played.

…Also, never trust a guy named Chad when he’s carrying an axe in the woods… just sayin’…

Spoiler alert!!! All of the trailers for this film basically show the entire film and spoil all of the hilarious scenes. If you can get away with NOT seeing a trailer for this film, you’ll do yourself a favor seeing the film absolutely unknowing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kunoichi: Lady Ninja

Kunoichi: Lady Ninja opens with bad guys storming a sanctuary for women (known as a convent). Heads (and eye balls) roll – literally. Then the daughter of the original owner of the convent comes back and scares away the bad guys. The convent hires the help of paid assassins to defend the convent against further attack. Meanwhile, the remaining women train to be ninjas.

There are additional battles between the some other bad guys, who are some sort of evil warlords with magic powers, and the remaining women, complete with hokey effects and fighting. The main bad guy is capturing brides and grooms for his own sexual purposes, so the paid assassin thinks some of them should get married to lure the bad guy to them. It works and then they infiltrate the stronghold as submissive women. But they’re actually ninjas. But the bad guys refer to them as Hori women and I keep thinking they mean whore-y women. Weird. One of the bad guys has energy bullet magi and can shoot invisible bullets (an endless supply) out of his hands that blow things up. The guy winds up a major one and throws an energy ball at one of the lady ninjas. She somehow absorbs it with a glowing light from her vagina – yes, really that just happened. She throws it back at the guy and he explodes. What just happened?!

There’s more useless plot and then three of the girls get hung up on crosses as bait for the other ninjas. The monk hands out various ass whoopins (way more than the lady ninjas, in fact) and fights the bad guys in one crazy blow out at the end. Then all of their collective magic glass eyeballs combine to make a super sweet sword for which to kill lots of bad guys. Not sure why she needed a magic sword –seems like a regular sword would have done the exact same thing.

I know this movie has a handful of wildly hilarious parts in it (not to mention the really bad heavy metal soundtrack thrown in), but it just doesn’t keep your attention. In fact, I fell asleep three or four times while watching it and had to back up so I didn’t miss anything. If you fast forwarded to some funny parts, it might be worth watching, but as an entire movie, it’s kind of a dud that doesn’t make a whole lot of linear sense. Not recommended.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Return

This Russian movie was recommended to me by a friend who likes his plots simple and direct and moving. This movie has all of these things and, despite not being all that uplifting, has even MORE than just these things. It’s about two brothers who arrive home to find their father has returned from a 12-year abandonment. They go on a fishing trip and things don’t turn out like the boys expected.

The movie starts with a group of boys jumping off a tower into the water. It’s a long way down and they all agree that if someone uses the ladder to climb down, they’re a chicken. The youngest boy, Ivan, can’t make the jump so he simply stays at the top until his mother eventually shows up. Ivan meets up with his friends who razz him because he was too scared to jump. His brother also calls him a coward and Ivan dukes him in the mouth. They then race home on foot through their small city to be the first to tell their mother on the other one. Their mother is outside and tells them their father is asleep.

They haven’t seen their father in 12 years, when he walked out on the family. There is no explanation as to why he’s returned, nor what he wants. The boys are a little leery about it, but Andrei does his best to buddy up with his father, while Ivan, extremely stubborn, does everything he can to make his dad’s life miserable. They decide to go on a short fishing trip which turns into more than any of them bargained for.

Along the way, the new dad tries to see what kind of men his kids are going to grow into. He berates them, hits them, and is generally just mean to them. However, he teaches them all kinds of street/camping/living skills along the way, so it’s not all bad. The dad is no a mission to do something, and he ever divulges what that is to the boys. They end up taking a repaired boat to an island where the dad has buried something in a small burned out house. He retrieves it from the ground and brings it back to their camp. Then things get weird.

Ivan, the stubborn one, is really upset with how he’s being treated and constantly mocks his older brother for kissing up to this guy they don’t even know if it is their father. The boys are constantly scuffling, but they seem to end up fishing and things are fine. Most of the time.

I won’t ruin the ending of this film, because it wasn’t how I expected it to end up. As I said, it’s simple, but it’s also intense. For me, the best part about this film was the scenery and camera shots. The shots of life in the city are dark, drab, and muted. Very grim and very well filtered (or whatever the director did to the shots). However, all of the ocean shots, and grassy plains shots, and the forest shots are simply brilliant. Extremely vivid colors and contrasts. This movie makes me wish I had seen it on the big screen. The copy I watched was letterbox, so you got a good perspective, but it really is visually awe-inspiring.

The movie itself goes from intense to dragging, but very appropriately, depending on the scene at the moment. It isn’t dull, but the pacing of the film is well-done. It shows boys being boys and a gruff father trying to toughen up his boys. There are some aspects of the film that are left completely unresolved, so you’ll have to deal with that. But in my own head, this allows the viewer to make up whatever he or she wants it to be. The storyteller isn’t just going to give you all of the details – he’s going to bring you in and let your imagination help you through some of it. Very well done foreign film. I’m glad I saw it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This movie starts out in the “olden times” (literally, the screen says this) with a topless pilgrim running through the woods with a carnivorous turkey chasing her. Turkey comments on her “attributes” and then kills her. The turkey was cursed/possessed when a Native American was angry that the white man had begun to take over, so he vowed to kill at the white people he found – through the use of a killer turkey. Flash forward to modern days where there’s a bunch of college students heading home for thanksgiving break. Then out of nowhere (I’ll warn you in advance since my friends HATE these kinds of surprises), a dog gets killed. You guessed it – Evil Turkey comes back to life.

The college kids have a breakdown on the road and end up having to camp in the same town where this horrific first thanksgiving killing happened. And it also happens to be the anniversary of the first Thankskilling. The kids make it home alive to their respective families, but the turkey has begun its killing spree. That’s not all this evil turkey does – let’s just say he uses gravy flavored condoms. Hahaha. The college kids eventually get stuck in one of their houses with the turkey and have to find out a way to kill it.

This film is pretty awful, even for an independent horror film. The acting is atrocious and probably a bunch of friends getting together and winging it – pin intended. It’s clearly some film students having fun with buckets of blood and newly learned special effects skills. I won’t even comment on the chuckle-worthy-but-terrible sparely-used CGI (thank you for that, director Jordan Downey). It isn’t intended to be a Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s still so far from good, it’s almost painful. That being said, I’ll probably show this during my poultry-themed bad movie night around Thanksgiving. We love a good theme night!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Roller Blade Seven

Roller Blade Seven is a really awful post-apocalyptic movie by this terrible director who puts roller skates, roller blades, and skateboards in a bunch of movies that are all stupid. I’m a bit confused about the plot of this movie. It’s kind of like Mad Max in that it takes place in a dessert. Which is doubly funny since it appears relatively easy to sneak up on people, despite the sever lack of any sort of obstacle or tree to hide behind and sneak up on someone. To add to this, there are miles and miles of concrete throughout the desert which makes it much easier to skate around.

Father Donaldo (the director of the film) sends a girl in an incredible hot (in the 80’s) ripped swimsuit and roller blades into the Wheel Zone with a samurai sword while he repeats ridiculous advice ad nauseum. Hawk (the producer of the film) has been summoned by Father Donaldo to go after their sister who has been captured and taken to the Wheel Zone. Rhonda Shear (amazing host of USA’s Up All Night) is some sort of security guard / gatekeeper of the Wheel Zone. She harasses this guy dressed as Elvis for not wearing skates, and then lets Hawk, a long-haired guy with a receding hairline, through without problem. Hawk fights a couple ninjas on skates and eventually catches up to his sister as she’s killed.

Hawk tries to get out of the wheel zone and is confronted by a stupid clown wielding nerf baseball bats uselessly and eventually becomes his friend. I’m unsure of how ANY of this happens since there is no dialogue during this part of the movie – only terrible music playing while various people skate around in circles and fight each other and mostly pose with swords in their hands. Simply stupid. They actually fight to banjo music, which angers me considerably.

Hawk meets up with a spirit guide and also with Karen Black (who you’d recognize since she’s been in like 200 movies, but never actually “made it”). Neither of these people serves any purpose at all, aside from feeding Hawk Psychedelic mushrooms and teaching him to roller skate. There’s a guy named Pharaoh in a lather mask and a wheel chair who is clearly a bad guy with a gravel-y voice, but it isn’t really explained what his tie is to the movie. There’s a black night that seems to be pulling some strings as well, but I don’t get his role either. Oh wait, there’s also a random guy in shorts and sports coat sitting under an umbrella in the dessert. Seriously, none of the characters are connected.

This movie would be considerably shorter if they would cut out all of the repeated scenes. Seriously, there are like 25 instant replays for almost every scene. It’s AWFUL. These people spin around and face off with each other without ever swinging their swords that they don’t know how to use. Then there’s a significant use of smiley faces throughout the movie that I can’t tell if it’s kitsch or just someone’s little kid got on the set before each shot and put these things all over the place.

This is going straight to the second worst movie ever created, on my personal list. (Nothing will ever beat out Barn of the Blood Llama – ever.) The whole thing angered me and I wanted to punch the screen out of my tv. The acting in this film is brutally painful and just infuriating. There are completely unnatural and quirky head tilts that make people look like an insect and their hand motions throughout the film are moronic. I hated every second of this film. Not even Rhonda Shear could save this film. They should have taught some of the actors to skate before putting them in a movie called Roller Blade Seven. And for that matter, there aren’t seven of ANYTHING in this film!!! What is the significance of the SEVEN!!!!! This movie makes me want to kill.

That being said, I’m going to try to make it through the sequel to this movie without punching a goat in the spleen…

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Men Who Stare At Goats

This is a story about a reporter (Ewan McGregor) who interviews who he thinks is a crazy person (played by Stephen Root) who talks about being trained by the military to stare down animals and ultimately kill them with their minds. Some sort of telepathic soldiers. The reporter doesn’t believe him (at first), but sadly, the reporter’s wife leaves the report for his editor and in a desperate move, the reporter sends himself to Iraq. He tells his x-wife he’s joined the military, but he’s on his own dime.

The reporter runs into Skip, played by George Clooney, at a restaurant and they strike up a conversation. Skip was in the army with Stephen Root and also trained in psychic warfare. He gave the background on how the pentagon funded this insane program. The army was attempting to create “warrior monks” who can pass through walls and see into the future. Jeff Bridges plays the soldier who wrote the instruction manual on psychic warfare. Clooney takes the reporter into Iraq with him so he can write a story on the Army’s program.

Skip and McGregor get captured on the way, during a conversation in which Skip spouts off all crazy-style. While in custody, some fire-fights break out and they escape and eventually get rescued by the Americans over there. The pair commandeers a car and drive into the dessert to continue their journey. There’s continual backlog to get you caught up to where we are at currently in the dessert. There was a “goat lab” in the basement of one of the military buildings – this was where they learned to kill goats with their minds.

When they crash their car again, they are rescued by the Americans that set up the psychic warriors operation and things start go get weird on the reporter. Not just weird, plain ridiculous. This is where I totally lost interest in the movie. It doesn’t wrap up nicely, it just gets frustratingly stupid.

The movie is slightly entertaining, but it’s so unrealistic that you just can’t buy what they’re trying to sell to the viewer. It’s difficult to follow for this reason and I’m thinking this is why the movie didn’t make a big splash, despite having a bunch of top-notch actors in it. Sad reality, but if the story line had been less “off the deep end” it would be a lot easier to believe…

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dynamite Warrior

Dynamite Warrior (Kon Fai Bin)– In this Thai Martial arts films, some water buffalo herders (yes, Asian cowboys) are attacked by this random masked guy – Jong Bong Fei. He’s not an ordinary cattle rustler – he shoots giant bottle rockets at them and then rides a giant bottle rocket like a surfboard into the fray to kick even more ass. All of this, painfully CGI’d to anger me. He then whips all the cowboys’ shirts off – I’m hoping he’s looking for some sort of unique tribal mark or something, rather than just being creepy.

Here’s the premise of the movie: In the early 1900s, a tractor salesman comes to Siam and tries to sell the new American invention to the poor farmers. They don’t seem interested, mostly because of the cost. The tractor salesman decides to find someone to steal everyone’s cattle to make his tractor proposition seem more appealing. A bad guy has just gotten out of prison and goes into the woods to find his henchmen. They get propositioned by one of the rich people in town who is working with the tractor salesman. The rich guy has come to offer them jobs stealing buffaloes and killing buffalo traders for a fee. The guy he gets is a huge oaf of a man who uses two thick bows to beat people down. I don’t mean arrows, I mean the actual bows are used as clubs.

Then there’s a random guy who is a cattle trader with a tattoo/brand on his chest and has some sort of magical power where he can put the spirit of animals into other people with tattoos and kind of possess them into being fighting machines. They attack the bottle rocket-shooting guy and it’s a pretty close match. The bottle rocket guy appears to be trying to stop the cattle rustling. To kill the magic guy, the cattle rustler must find the menstrual blood of a virgin born with a greater zodiac sign than the magic guy. Jong Bong Fei is the only one that can defeat the magic guy (who we find out murdered Jong’s mother and father). It gets a little confusing on who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy in this film. Eventually it gets explained, but if you’ve made it this far in the film, then you’ve already committed a lot of time to it. Cut to an EPIC battle at the end of the movie. It isn’t very often that I actually hope a movie will end sooner rather than later, but this film’s final battle seemed to go on forever.

I’m not a huge fan of Thai-style martial arts – it’s all knees and shins, rather than hands and feet (it’s very close combat and not as suited to awesome camerawork like traditional kung fu or jui jitsu. On top of the lack luster fighting style, it’s just an ok film. I don’ think I’d recommend it, but there are some hilarious bottle rocket fighting scenes. Not enough to hold your attention or really wow you, but there are a couple. And, for the record, there IS a Thai dwarf in the film, but not an obvious Thai-Lady-Boy.

You probably should watch the English dub of this as well as the subtitles (that’s my favorite way to watch kung fu movies). Apparently, all of the actors they used for the English overdub have watched too many Cheech & Chong movies since they all sound like bad impressions of those guys. It’s pretty awful.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dead Snow

I was completely sucked in by the front of the DVD case with Dead Snow. Nazis AND Zombies? Sold! Then throw in some snow and the search for Nazi gold? How could this movie fail?

Some Norwegian medical students (not sure why they were written as med students, but whatever) are on winter break and head to a secluded cabin in Norway. A random guy shows up in the middle of the night and warns them about the Nazis that were frozen here in this area during World War II. The random guy leaves and goes off to his tent. And the zombies get him.

The zombies then show up at the cabin and attack the people inside. Some make it, some don’t. The next morning, the zombies have disappeared…. Or have they?!? These aren’t third shift zombies apparently! Then the epic and timeless battle of human vs Zombie commences for another hour.

The film is mildly amusing, with some one liners that even translate well across subtitles. The action is good and there’s lots of running and blood spraying and intestine pulling. The plot is, at the very least, unique. The effects are fairly well done and inventive (how often do you get to mount a giant machine gun to a snowmobile? Not often enough, I say!). But the film seems like it drags for a while before getting started. This film wouldn’t go over well at Bad Movie Night – it just isn’t interesting nor funny enough by the half-hour point.

Dead Snow isn’t scary enough, nor does it contain enough jump scenes. However, it does well on humor without being slapstick. And it has pretty decent gore in it. I’ve seen way better, funnier, scarier, and more graphic zombie movies. This one was just alright. I had high hopes for this film, but it seemed like the awesome concept just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

Remarkable Power!

In Remarkable Power!, late-night talk show host Jack West (played by Kevin Nealon) is found dead at the beginning of the movie. The film flashes back to explain how we got to this point. And I assure you, it’s a complex story.

Flashback – The Jack West talk show is threatened with being cancelled. West’s life is unraveling and his wife is sleeping with a baseball player. Enter Tom Arnold as a private investigator spying on Jack West’s wife. Completely unrelated (or is it?), there’s this kid who lives in Korea Town in Van Nuys—he’s got a Winger poster on the wall and is hitting a beer can pipe, so you KNOW he’s half-retarded. The kid is watching a self-help infomercial about “Remarkable Power!” being hocked by Christopher Titus. The pot kid runs across a guy from the Remarkable Power! infomercial (wearing a neck brace) and ends up in his beach house rolling a joint. The pot kid accidentally kills the infomercial guy in his own beach house. In the mean time, a girl who runs a website that shows pictures of dead people gets photos of the dead body and sends them to the kid online to freak him out. The pot kid freaks and goes to the cops, but they don’t believe him since there is no body back at the beach house. The death-picture girl sees Tom Arnold is investigating and ends up hanging out with him and sharing info.

Flashback – The story flashes back further to explain how infomercial guy got the neck brace, and how the infomercial guy got tied up with some Russian mobsters (because he owed money to his Jewish drug dealer) (I TOLD you it was convoluted).

Flashforward a little bit – On Jack West’s last show, he brings on the guy who’s sleeping with his wife. The baseball player kills Jack West, like we saw at the beginning. The cops mistakenly think the Jewish drug dealer killed the infomercial guy. The end of this film had quite a twist that I wasn’t expecting, and ended up being pretty decent (though a bit convoluted).

In this who-dunnit film, there is some amusing character development that almost reminds me of a non-committal guy-head-nod to Tarantino. The characters are slightly over the top, but are believable in most cases. Yes, there are some unfortunate bystanders who get shot or beat up, but, all in all, the story wraps itself into a little knot that turns into a pretty bow at the conclusion of the film. I liked this one for its complexity and uncomfortable laugh scenes.

A Necessary Death

A Necessary Death is a documentary about a documentary. Gilbert is doing a final thesis for film school in L.A.—it’s about suicide. Gilbert believes if you don’t cross a line in filmmaking, people are going to just overlook your work. His cameraman and sound girl tell Gilbert he needs to do some legal legwork before they’ll agree to the project. Is it even legal to follow and interview someone who’s going to end their life? Are there liabilities or consequences? As it turns out, NOT stopping someone from killing themselves is not illegal—assisting them is criminal, but not simply observing.

Gilbert places an ad looking for people willing to be the subject of his documentary. He assumed this film would be difficult to find a subject; however, he ended up having 11 messages on his answering machine when he arrived home the next day. After watching some of the interviews for potential candidates, his team begins to realize this topic is more than just an “outside-of-the-box” film subject. His sound girl is having serious reservations about helping with this, but the cameraman hesitantly agrees to doing it. Also, we find out that the sound girl is an ex-girlfriend of Gilbert, which may shade some of the project.

The film school won’t condone the project, nor allow the use of the school’s name, nor allow the use of the school’s equipment, nor fund the project at all. However, if the project is completed under the guidelines of the thesis project and turned in by the deadline, it will be accepted as a final project and Gilbert will graduate. So, Gilbert’s mother remortgages her house to help fund the project. Gilbert finds a subject with a brain tumor who wants to choose the time of his death, rather than let the tumor kill him, causing immense pain. The filming goes on and is surprisingly touching for a documentary. Despite some motion-sickness-inducing hand-held shots, it is shot in a real, raw manner that works much better than a flashy Hollywood-feel with added polishing.

The film crew tries to find out what makes their subject tick. They hang out with him, go to the beach, play tennis, meet his mom (which ends up being very heart-wrenching), and stake out suicide places. Gilbert realizes the crew may be too close and wishes they would have shot things more cold than they ended up doing. In fact, their subject ends up changing some of his plans due to some complications with the crew. The experience of shooting this film apparently changed some of the crew and helped some of them grow up. The movie ends very abruptly and with a twist.