20130930: Horror Preview--Meatball Machine

Meatball Machine
  1. Fundamentals
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2005, NR, 90 minutes, action, horror, SciFi.  Spoken word is Japanese.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 896 users.  Estimated budget: low.  This is a remake of Meatball Machine, 1999.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 43% from 65 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Yodai Yamaguchi
    5. Starring: Issei Takahashi as Yochi, Aoba Kawai as Sachiko.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Shy factory worker, Yoji, trudges through life.

    2. Alien parasites control people and get them to fight each other.

    3. The people Yoji works with try to get him sexual experience.  After yet another failure along these lines, Yoji finds an alien, and takes it to his work.  He tries to drill into it, and fails.

    4. Yoji prevents his boss from raping a woman, Sachikio, who works near the factory.  He gets beaten up and fired, but meets the woman, anyway.  She was a victim of child abuse at the hands of her father.

    5. In the middle of their revealing discussion to one another, one of the aliens attacks her.  He tries lamely to stop it, and fails utterly.  She attacks him, then leaves.  Yoji wakes up in a place where an alien hunter hangs out.  The alien hunter explains some of the history of the quiet invasion, and tells him that the only way to save Sachiko is to kill her and the parasite.  The hunter's daughter was partially saved from the parasites, but is still somewhat infected.  So the hunter infects Yoji so he can feed Yoji to his daughter.

    6. Yoji and Sachiko fight each other.  Way too many minutes on the internal shots of tiny parasites in context-free wiggling.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Ugly, poorly crafted; short on ideas, long on poor execution.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 Soft focus, wobbly camera.

    2. Sound: 3/10 Harsh, staccato, irritating.  Anti-relevant background music.

    3. Acting: 1/10 What acting?

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Short on ideas, long on poor execution.

    5. SFX: 1/10 So much obvious effort, so badly done.


20130929: Comedy Review--The New Year

The New Year
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, 2010, 96 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 4.4/10.0 from 113 users. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, but 'no consensus yet; 71% liked it from 95 audience reviews.
    4. Directed by: Brett Haley, screenplay by Elizabeth Kennedy and Brett Haley.
    5. Starring: Trieste Kelly Dunn as Sunny Elliot, Lance Brennon as Glen, Ryan Hunter as Isaac, Linda Lee McBride as Amy, Kevin Wheatly as Neal, David McElfresh as Bobby.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Sunny was valedictorian at her high school, but she drops out of community college when her dad gets terminal cancer.  She takes a job at the local bowling alley, and has been dating the local martial arts instructor, Neal.

    2. Her high school nemesis, Isaac, now a fledgling stand-up comedian, drifts back into her life.  She is conflicted.

    3. At a party, Neal goes home early.  Sunny goes home with Amy and Bobby.  Before she leaves, she kisses Isaac.

    4. The next day, her father goes to the hospital.  Isaac drops everything and stays with her while she waits.

    5. The narrative continues, with more disappointments: her father does not get better, the bowling center is going to close, Neal wants to break up with her, Christmas and New Year's Day come with no improvements.

    6. It would seem that Sunny will continue, probably making the big adjustments as needed.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Slow moving, but with plenty of good moments.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Very nice.  Consistently good.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Well-miked, no problems.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Mostly good.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10  Stayed true to itself; no jump the shark moments.

20130929: Thriller Review--Nude Nuns with Big Guns

Nude Nuns with Big Guns
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, released in 2010, NR, 91 minutes, action, comedy, thriller. Spoken language is English.
    2. IMDB: 3.8/10.0 from 3,795 users.  Estimated budget: 85,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 28% from 529 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Joseph Guzman; written by Joseph Guzman and Robert James Hayes II.
    5. Starring: Asun Ortega as Sister Sarah, David Castro as Chavo, Perry D'Marco as Father Carlitos, Maxie J. Santillan as Mr. Foo, Sarah Emmons as Butch, Aycil Yeltan as Sister Angelina, Emma Messenger as Mother Magda.
    6. Viewed streaming from Netflix.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. This is definitely an exploitation film.

    2. There are plenty of rape, murder, nude women, fear and horror, blood splatter, breast implant scars, drug trafficking, and implied sex.

    3. Nuns are treated badly and sometimes killed.

    4. One of them thinks she's heard a message from God to chastise the guilty, of whom there are plenty.

    5. She accomplishes a lot of that.  If you have any beefs with the Roman Catholic Church or with biker gangs, this might feel satisfying for a few minutes.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence summary: It is not worth watching, except for the laughs.
    2. One star of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 Not good, often bad.

    2. Sound: 3/10 Variable, but mostly bad.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Uniformly bad.  Emma Messenger was one of the worst. 

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 Sort of made sense at times, and set up a sequel.  The visual and logic gaffes are too many to mention.


20130928: Horror Review--The Pact

The Pact
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, released in 2012, rated R, 89 minutes, horror, mystery, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.7/10.0 from 11,034 users.  Estimated budget of 'low.'  That was the consensus.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% on the meter; 41% liked it from 8,241 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy.
    5. Starring: Caity Lotz as Annie, Casper Van Dien as Bill Creek (policeman), Kathleen Rose Perkins as Liz, Agnes Bruckner as Nicole Bellows, Haley Hudson as Stevie (psychic).

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Annie feels she needs to go home for the funeral of her mother, whom she blames for her drug addiction of four years before.

    2. Annie experiences several cliches of the supernatural: framed pictures fall off the wall, leaving broken glass; jars pop out of the refrigerator; boxes fall off of shelves, spilling open and dumping their contents.

    3. Things do not get better for Annie after viewing the corpse at the mortuary.

    4. She gets attacked by something with poltergeist effects.  She survives this, and gets Liz out.

    5. She meets Bill Creek at the police station; Bill's familiar with Annie's sister Nicole.  Annie moves to a motel; Liz gets absorbed into public services.  She hallucinates being attacked, then wakes up scared.  She gets on a motorcycle and prepares to drive off in her T-shirt and panties.  Great stuff.  A child in an adjoining motel room reminds her to wear a helmet, and Merry Christmas.  Nice.

    6. Somehow (right) papers are left in her purse, which she discovers at a diner.  They indicate an extra room in her mother's house.  She goes there with Bill, and they open up the room, which is quite underwhelming.

    7. She goes to visit Stevie, who is supposedly a psychic.  Stevie gets nothing at first, then noses around to a room where Annie's mother put the children when the were bad.

    8. Stevie riffs on "Judas!"  and convulses.  She and Stevie and Stevie's assistant all see a vision of a woman in a white and red dress in the room.  Annie searches on the Internet; finds there was a San Pedro serial killer named Judas.  She sees a picture of the dead body of the last known victim of Judas.  It matches the vision.

    9. Annie finds the location of a picture someone has e-mailed her on her cell phone.  The picture had an image of the last victim.  At the actual site, Annie sees nothing out of the ordinary.

    10. Bill takes a camera to the house.  He sees lighted areas through the camera that he does not see directly with his eyes.  Hm.  The spirit or whatever strikes (weapon was unknown) Bill in the carotid; he bleeds out.

    11. Stevie tells Annie how to make a do-it-yourself ouija board, which she does in the room where the punishments took place.  She starts seeing the man whom her research indicates is Judas.  So...is it a ghost, or is it a real live serial killer?  The question seems open, and the visual effects as the killer died reinforce that.

    12. Toward the end the killer is shown to have complete heterochromia, just as Annie does.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence summary: Thriller or supernatural horror is the ambiguity; tepid is the execution.
    2. Three stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10  Varies.  Some of it is clear, well-framed, good focus.  Other parts are dark past where the cameras can handle it---the end product is pixelated.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Horribly variable.  During normal conversation, I needed volume at 40 on my set to barely hear the words; during music or 'psychic' encounters, 10 was too loud.  Bad sound is tough to forget.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Casper Van Dien is the only actor I recognize; he did a good job, and I wish his part had been bigger.  I hope Caity Lotz is better in future films.  The other actors may as well have been desk chairs.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Are the drivers in the film (a) mental illness (b) crafty serial killer or (c) supernatural forces ?  Apparently the film chose (b), since the cops did not throw her in jail, social services let her have her child back, and a bank gave her money for selling the house.  The obligatory cliche final scene did not register as a plus for me.

20130928: Thriller Review--Kill List

Kill List
  1. Fundamentals
    1. British live action feature length film, thriller, 2011, NR, 95 minutes, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 6.2/10.0 from 15,593 users.  Estimated budget: 500,000 UK pounds.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 76% on the meter; 57% liked it from 7,482 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Ben Wheatley; screenplay by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump.
    5. Starring: Neil Maskell as Jay, MyAnna Buring as Shel (Jay's wife), Michael Smiley as Gal (Jay's old comrade in the trade), Emma Fryer as Fiona, Harry Simpson as Sam, Struan Rodger as the Client, Mark Kemper as the Librarian,

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Three parts
    2. Suburban domestic discord.  He's out of work, they are running out of money.

    3. Shel and the son want Jay to go to work again.

    4. Gal stops by with Fiona (an HR professional) to offer a job.  Jay cringes from the idea, but the need for money changes things.  There is a lot of tension at the dinner party.

    5. The job has a 'Kill List' of three, all in the UK, so locally.

    6. Gal and Jay talk about Kiev (a botched job, 8 months previous, reason why Jay is not working) but are not very clear about it.

    7. Fiona is not exactly what she claims to be.  At least that's what is indicated by her drawing a symbol in the cardboard backing of the bathroom's mirror.

    8. The new job.

    9. Gal and Jay meet the new client.  Jay gets his hand cut in an blood ceremony to seal the deal.

    10. First target is a priest.  They break into his church, wait for his session to be complete, kill him in his offices.  They bag the body, then incinerate it.

    11. Jay talks to Shel video over Internet.  Shel is ex-Swedish military; she seems to know what Jay does.  Jay confirms the first part was done; Shel asks whether it was clean.  Shel notes that Fiona stopped by and left a present for Gal.

    12. Second target is the Librarian, who seems to make snuff films or something as bad. The Librarian asks Jay (while Gal is elsewhere) if Gal knows who Jay is.  He also thanks Jay.

    13. Jay goes postal on the Librarian, and Gal tells Jay, 'you're cleaning that up.'  At this point, I hope the film will resolve that exchange.

    14. Jay kills two more people; at least part of that was in the second assignment.  They find a good sized pile of cash in the process.  There is a lot of cleanup associated with it.  Then there was the bonfire for the bodies.

    15. Third target is delayed.  Jay goes home, Gal coming with him.  Jay sees a shrink, Gal tells him to just drop the last part of the job.  Shel suggests they find alternates to finish the job.  Gal likes this as well, but the Client says no on all counts.

    16. Third target is an MP, which bothers Gal less than the priest.  Gal and Jay fight in the early tension as they start the job.  Gal's still interested in Fiona, but does not seem to pursue her directly.

    17. Seventy-one minutes in, twenty-four minutes to go.

    18. They camp in the woods near the MP's estate.  The MP is supposedly alone in this huge house.
    19. They approach at night, and spy a gathering of people with torches (fire, not electric).

    20. Everyone is in a decorated white robe, each with a straw mask.

    21. A woman hangs herself; from the great lei she was wearing, she was a designated sacrifice.  Jay kills one of the 'officials,' a guy in a white suit, then shoots several more.

    22. Gal and Jay attempt escape via a tunnel.  The people of the gathering come at them, front and back.  Gal and Jay have plenty of ammunition, and the people of the gathering seem not to have guns.  They do kill Gal with knives, though, when he gets separated from Jay.

    23. Jay survives, but is disturbed by Gal's passing, and by not knowing what the motives of the Client are.

    24. The group from the MPs country estate follow Jay to the cottage where he meets Shel.

    25. Jay tries to take them on; Shel shoots a few of them as they invade the cottage.

    26. Jay is forced into a knife fight with some anonymous person who looks to be a hunchback; they are both in the stupid straw masks.

    27. The masks come off.  Jay's killed his son (the hunch in the hunchback) and horrified Shel (the rest of the hunchback).  The Client and Fiona are there.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Avoid this one.
    2. One sentence summary: First it's domestic angst, then it's last gig for tired assassins, then it's the ending from left field.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Starts out fine.  Good lighting, framing, focus, colour. The last segment is dark to the point where nothing is recognizable in many frames.

    2. Sound: 6/10 Runs a bit low during the conversations.  The would be extra annoying if not for the subtitles on Netflix.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Good.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Part one, OK.  Part two, OK. That is, made sense, motivation seems on pace, quite willing to continue for the resolution.  Part three, what happened here?  What does this have to do with the rest of the film?  First, there was the clip of Fiona drawing the symbol on back of the mirror.  Second, the 'sign in blood' requirement when starting business with the Client.  Frankly, those seem rather tenuous to hold the film together.

20130928: Comedy Review--Next Stop Wonderland

Next Stop Wonderland

  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film released in 1998, rated R, 104 minutes, comedy, drama, romance, chick flick.
    2. IMDB: 6.5/10.0 from 3,389 users.  Estimated budget: one million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 74% on the meter; 68% liked it from 3,695 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by: Brad Anderson.
    5. Starring: Hope Davis as Erin Castleton, Alan Gelfant as Alan Monteiro (the plumber/diver), Philip Seymour Hoffman as Sean (the ex), Callie Thorne as Cricket, Ken Cheeseman as Rick, Pamela Hart as Berit, Diane Becket as Seana, Holland Taylor as Piper Castleton, Robert Klein as Arty Lesser, Victor Argo as Frank, Roger Rees as Ray Thornback (Alan's professor), Cara Buono as Julie, Jose Zuniga as Andre de Silva.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Erin's boyfriend (Sean) has dumped her. I see why immediately.  Why she would ever do anything with Sean is not so easy to see.

    2. The film is irritating and all too self-aware; incidental music is all too often wretched.

    3. Halloween at the hospital: the nursing staff scares the hell out of the toddlers.

    4. Erin's mother Piper places a personal ad for Erin in the local newspaper without advising Erin.

    5. Sub-plot: the aquarium where Alan is working is planning an addition.  Not everyone likes this, and the aquarium grounds are vandalized.  Arty Lesser and his construction company want to build a prison there.

    6. At an aquarium party, Frank asks Alan to kill one of the aquarium attractions and Alan's money loan from Frank will have the interest removed.

    7. The ad does its work; Erin gets 60 messages on the first time she checks.  Yikes, so many people, so many losers, at least in their telephone presentations of themselves.  She skips most of these, and the skips most of those that she meets.  The men she meets are unacceptable for one reason or another.  The Emerson quote (a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds) was a deal-breaker for three of the possibles, one of which was Alan's brother.  She notices that two men watching her with a third were men she had met before.

    8. 'The only person who can help you is yourself.'  Right.  Women do not need men.  Point asserted again and again and again.

    9. Seventy-eight minutes into the film, she still has not met Alan, but a Brazilian man (Andre) is very interested in her.  Erin likes Brazil and Brazilian music, so that goes smoothly for a time.  Alan is with Julie; this is doomed from the start.  Alan with Julie heats up for a moment; so does Erin with Andre.

    10. Sean comes back and wants to re-unite with Erin.  No such luck.

    11. Andre is about to go back to Brazil, and wants Erin to come with.  She gears up to do this.

    12. Alan gets to meet Arty Lesser, who tells Alan that he is at a turning point in his life.

    13. Erin gets held up in traffic.  She tries to make it using a train.  More rotten camera work.

    14. Missed connections.  Erin does not go to Brazil.  Alan does not solidify his position with the big-time gangster Lesser.

    15. During the last two minutes, Erin and Alan connect on the Emerson quote, and go for a walk on the beach.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Who cares?
    2. One sentence summary: It was not good, it was not bad, it was as interesting as porridge.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 4/10 Never in focus. The poor framing and wobbly camera movement is distracting and counterproductive as well as amateurish.

    2. Sound: 7/10 Some of the jazz by named artists is rather good, but does not really add much.

    3. Acting: 4/10 Hope Davis is uniformly bad; the extra layer of chain smoking was a layer I could have done without.  Holland Taylor was fine, Alan Gelfant was OK.  Hoffman was as irritating as usual.  Just about nothing seems to have enough buoyancy to counterbalance the dead weight of Hope Davis.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 Slow developing.  Is the payoff worth the long wait? No.  So many sub-plots were left unresolved.  The Brazilian trip goes down the tubes.  Too many characters, too many dangling ends.


20130927: Comedy Review--John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, released 2012, rated R, 99 minutes, comedy, fantasy, horror.
    2. IMDB: 6.4/10.0 from 16,464 users. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 61% on the meter, 54% liked it from 9,128 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by: Don Cascarelli.
    5. Starring: Chase Williamson as David Wong, Rob Mayes as John, Paul Giamatti as Arnie Blondestone, Clancy Brown as Dr Albert Marconi, Glynn Turman as Detective Appleton.
    6. Viewed streaming from Netflix.  Wow, commercials on Netflix for a decidedly minor film.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Overview: Dave does an interview with a skeptical Arnie Blondestone.  The film consists of 90% flashback footage.  That's usually a loss of one star for any rating I make.

    2. Brilliant acting, useless script.

    3. The film is a sequence of disconnected ramblings of drug addicts hallucinating.

    4. From reading movie wikia, I gather that the book was much better than the movie, and that there was too much content in the book to put in the movie.  Fair enough.  However, I think the deletions took the film beneath critical mass--it no longer made sense.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence summary: Drug induced hallucinations dominate this inchoate pile of steaming nonsense.
    2. Two stars of five for cinematography and acting.  Two blackholes for screenplay and SFX.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Clear, well-framed, good lighting.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Musical numbers are too LOUD, conversation is too soft.  Having to adjust the volume significantly is a pain.

    3. Acting: 10/10 Excellent for a schlock film.  The screenplay demands many 'turn on a dime' moments; these fine actors handle the load quite well.  I enjoyed veterans Glynn Turman and Paul Giamatti.  Chase Williamson was a pleasant surprise.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 There are plenty of witty moments, especially with these actors, but no logic to speak of.  The constant hard shifts of the narrative are tough to put up with, especially since there seems to be absolutely no justification for any of them.  I say that at one quarter through the film, half way through, three quarters through, at the end.  It just does not resolve, even in the last, the worst, 10 minutes.  The logic crashes, the bad SFX, and the unmotivated actions add up to useless chaos.  Worse yet, the last scenes indicate a sequel is threatened.

    5. SFX: 0/10 Absolutely terrible. Schlock at its worst.  If one is aiming for cheap-jack cult film (bad for the sake of bad), then this garbage is right on the money.

20130927: Documentary Review--Afterlife Investigations

The Afterlife Investigations
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action documentary, 2008, NR, 72 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 7.8/10.0 from 5 users.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: no website entries.
    4. Directed, produced, and written by: Tim Coleman
    5. Narration: Donal MacIntyre.
    6. Watched on Hulu+; to add insult to injury, there were commercials with this piece of nonsense.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Absolute bovine scatology.

    2. Mediums in Scotland, the Scole group.  Physical mediumship...knocking on tables, disappearances.  All the usual lies.  Always in near darkness, often in some foreign language.  What a crock.  The 'actual video' and photographs were ridiculously poor and meaningless.

    3. Time spent in Italy with Marcello Bacci, a guy who has a vacuum-tube radio through which the spirits speak.  The Scole group get a few answers in English.  Supposedly Italian scientists have verified that, in a particular case, the voice heard over the radio match the same voice recorded before the spirit's death.  So, they tried this with the radio in a Faraday cage (no signals coming in), with the radio turned off, with the vacuum tubes removed.  Still the voices came through.  That makes the show all the less convincing.

    4. Return to the Scole Hole.  Some 'actual video and audio' looks and sounds just terrible.  The SPR (Society for Psychical Research) vetted the phenomena in the Scole Hole.  Of course they did; that is why they were brought in.  Nothing new.

    5. Apports--goodness; material objects just teleport in from other places and times, and bang on tables.  Cliche.

    6. Italy again--low light, out of focus, levitation.  Sure, cliche.  Apported objects showed in Italy as well.

    7. Scole--floating, disembodied hand.  Cliche.  Again.

    8. The 'incredible' images shown were blurs for the most part.  Another group of images consisted of writing in languages the mediums supposedly did not know.  The assurance that the films were not tampered with were totally unconvincing.

    9. Next came video recordings.  Ah, nice, new material for the spiritualists.  However, the old enabling rules are still there...swap out film, swap out memory chips, whatever.  The spirit video was just nonsense again.

    10. Audio--the evidence is right up there with 'Paul is dead.'

    11. 25 minutes left; the Scole Report came out in 1999, whitewashing the efforts.

    12. Jump to 2006; the The Skeptic magazine's editor Chris French (PhD in psychology) was unconvinced.

    13. Visits to the US: tried to repeat the Scole phenomena.  Levitating table with crystals on top that do not fall off during various rotations.  The light show was quite a bit like the one in Scotland.  Well, this was done near Hollywood.  'Voices were projected from high up in the room' and no one could do that.  Oh, really?

    14. One of the SPR investigators, Montague Kean, died before 2010.  They asked the real life Alison DuBois to contact Kean via his widow, Veronica.  Supposedly Kean is interested in talking to the living to help bridge the gap.

  3. Conclusions
    1. The point of the film seems to be to accept all the old cliches, plus a few new lies--this is the mark of a mockumentary.
    2. This is not to be confused with 'Investigating the Afterlife' from 2008, which looked marginally better.
    3. One line summary: Another disgusting fake.
    4. One star of five; four blackholes for sound, acting, screenplay, and SFX.
    5. The Scole experiment ended in 1998.  Bacci still entertains a small audience in Italy.  What was the point in dredging all this nonsense up again in 2010?

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 Where do I begin?  Bad focus, poor lighting, unrecognizable images.  Bad SFX passed off as real events.

    2. Sound: 2/10 Terrible.  Lots of undecipherable noise purported to be messages from beyond the grave.  Also, we have voices and lips being out of sync.  The narrator lisps.  Stupid incidental music.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Supposed to be a documentary; instead, is a totally unbelievable mockumentary.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 This feels like spiritualism 101.  The frauds are reported as facts one after another.  Nice.  I suppose a total newcomer to the subject would think of all this as interesting.  The overall effect is, "let's screw over all the next ignorant generation," with many of the same tricks and tomfoolery as used since 1890.  "Can't be explained by physical laws" gets used over and over again.  I'm not a professional skeptic, but I could explain a few of these.  I've seen the lies and the explanations before.  Hardcore skeptics could wipe out every lie in this charade.

    5. SFX: 0/10 Absolutely terrible. Dull, repetitive (some images 15 times or so), unconvincing, often ridiculous.

20130927: Horror Review--Occupant

  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 85 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 4.6/10.0 from 1,063 users.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and 28% liked it from audience ratings.
    4. Directed by Henry Miller, screenplay by Jonathan Brett.
    5. Starring: Van Hansis as Danny Hill, Cody Horn as Sharleen Hunt, Thorsten Kaye as Joe (the doorman), Jamie Harrold as Harold.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Young man's (25 year old Danny Hill) grandmother dies; he comes by to identify the body.  She was in a rent controlled apartment.  The doorman's shyster relative convinces him to move in and stay for twelve days until he can get a court order completed.  This should protect him against moves by the landlord to oust him.  The apartment has 3500 square feet, and the rent controlled rate was 675/month, which is cheap for NYC.

    2. Cody drops by and stays the night.  She had inquired at his work to find out where he was.  She's gone the next day without explanation.  Eventually he finds her camera and tries to reconstruct what she recorded.

    3. The landlord tries a number of ploys (cable guy, pizza guy, the painter, exterminator) to get him to come out and get locked out.

    4. The mirror scene is where the film jumped the shark for me: the mirror image keeps looking back and talking; the primary image goes quiet and turns away.  Hm.  The moving shoes was an ongoing joke I could have done without.

    5. The exterminator kills the cat.  Gratuitous. Someone kills the exterminator.  Whoever could that be?  Also, who is the old guy who keeps showing up at the elevator?

    6. By day nine I had given up on the film.  Danny had left the exterminator in the stairwell.  The doorman explains how the exterminator has a bottle of heart medicine in his pocket.  Amazing how that works.  Later that day he re-finds evidence that the cat is dead.

    7. He gets into altercations with the neighbors when he starts hacking down walls in the middle of the night.

    8. Danny's descent continues after the landlord cuts his power.  The doorman seems willing to enable anything Danny wants.  He starts building with the materials the doorman brings.

    9. Eventually, though, they change the doorman.  When the lights go back on, he loses it for a while, again, in the middle of the night.  He gets to talk to the police.  Perhaps that should have been a major clue.  Then he finds the cat for sure.

    10. Day twelve.  Danny's circling the bowl.  He can't get in touch with the lawyer.  He still has a dial tone.  He loses it once again.  He catches himself in one of his own traps.

    11. After Danny's dead, the lawyer shows up with the court order.  Now Danny can leave the apartment safely.

    12. Joe, the old doorman, returns; someone else moves in.  Someone who pays full price, I expect.  The child of the renter views the full clip of Cody's video recording, including Danny dragging her dead body away.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Uninspired psychological drama, not horror.
    2. One line summary: Miserable acting by the lead to go with the not engaging screenplay.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 6/10 The camera work uses some odd filters in several places. There are periods where camera shake is just too irritating.

    2. Sound: 9/10 The incidental music is about ten times creepier than the screenplay.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Van Hansis does not have the chops to play the lead.  Unfortunately all the other roles are more or less unimportant and of little note.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Somewhat mysterious, but not engaging.


20130926: Documentary Review--Counterfeit Culture

Counterfeit Culture
  1. Fundamentals
    1. Canadian live action television episode length film, 43 minutes, 2013, NR, documentary.
    2. IMDB: 7.8/10.0 from 12 users.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' and no ratings my audience members.
    4. Directed by: Geoff D'Eon and Jay Dahl; written by Geoff D'Eon.
    5. Narrated by Ann-Marie MacDonald.  Todd Gilmore, RCMP; Tim Phillips, British journalist on counterfeiting;
    6. Viewed on Hulu+

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. 'Theft on a colossal scale,'  'affects people in every country.'

    2. The theft is bait-and-switch on a grand scale.  Goods are sold as one brand, but in fact are not made by the company who owns the brand.

    3. This includes: medicines, car parts such as brake pads, clothing, accessories, telephones, other electronics, commercial jet parts, military avionics.

    4. Part of the enabling processes would be that we use the Internet for mostly anonymous transactions: buy something from a website, never see who is selling it or the store they are selling it out of.

    5. Cognitive polyphasia--holding two very different opinions simultaneously about the same issue.  Example: thinking it is morally reprehensible to steal something, but at the same time wanting items that we cannot afford, or wanting things we can afford, but only purchase at much cheaper prices.

    6. Counterfeit goods are now about 10% of the world's total economy, about 700 billion USD.  Putting an end to it?  Unlikely.  Counterfeiting is like the game 'Whack a mole', but with far too many moles and far too few whackers.

    7. Examples: fake copper top batteries that explode, fake OTC drugs, fake guns, fake toothpaste, sunglasses (fake Ray Bans 40 dollars, real ones 200 dollars; real ones have UV protection); fake car parts, like brake pads (takes +40 yards to stop at 80 mph was the example).

    8. Purchasing counterfeits leads to easy money, which leads to more easy money, which leads to organized crime, which leads to injection of the counterfeit goods all over the globe.

    9. Canada Goose Jackets.  These cost about 225 dollars for the genuine article, half that much for the Chinese knockoff.  The knockoffs are loaded with health risks in the filler: feces, beaks, feet, unclean feathers, and other bird parts.

    10. China is the largest manufacturing nation.  They have the ability (revered culturally) to copy anything (!) precisely.  This leads to China being the source of 75% of all counterfeit goods marketed in the world.

    11. There's a village in southern China where the only industry is copying artwork.  Copies of any great (or not so great) artwork can be copied for about 50 dollars.  Part of what engenders this is the reverence for exact copying in Chinese calligraphy, which is not easy to learn, and takes much time even after one masters it.

    12. One city in China had a complete fake Ikea store and a fake Apple store.  The Chinese government shut down the Ikea store at least.

    13. Copies of luxury goods are big in Shenzen China, as one segment explored.  Rolex watches, DVDs of any movie that has been released, high end purses, and the like.  One example was high end headphones, 300 dollars in NA or in EU, 40 dollars in Shenzen.

    14. Fake drugs--about 15% of all drug sales are fake.  In Africa, it is more like 50%.  In China, about 300,000 die every year from use of fake drugs.

    15. Canadian case: a woman used OTC drugs bought over the Internet for cost savings.  At her autopsy, several elements were found that were very bad: strontium (the radioactive isotope), chromium, manganese, cobalt, arsenic, selenium, uranium (!).  At the end of the road, there was a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in India near a rare earth mine; it was thought that the pharmaceutical plant helped themselves to some free waste to cut costs.

    16. Mary Schiavo (aviation attorney): fake parts are in the supply chains for commercial airplanes.  Her team traced fake parts to Marine One (the president's plane).  A crash in Columbia of an American Airlines plane proved that scavengers showed up first, cut out and took hundreds of parts, and these parts were being offered within the week.  The Concorde disaster in 2000 started with a bogus part being attached to the plane.  To make things worse, commercial airlines fly planes to foreign countries to be serviced.  Bogus parts often find their way on to the planes, and inspectors are out of the loop.

    17. Counterfeit parts also find their way onto the avionics of US military airplanes.  In 2012, 1800 cases were published by the Senate investigatory committee.  In the 1990s, the US military changed from buying directly from manufacturers to buying from parts brokers.  The investigation of the chips led back to Shenzen, the same city mentioned above.

    18. The bogus chips are often recovered from e-waste circuit boards.  The method of recovery includes holding the circuit board over a fire until the component's solder melts.  This much heat may just as well fry the chip.

    19. 'This situation will never change until consumer habits change.'   The money from the thirst for cheap fakes fuels the whole cycle.  "We've got to grow a conscience.'

  3. Conclusions
    1. This is a must see.
    2. One sentence summary: Fake products can be harmful to your health and your economic welfare.
    3. Five stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 9/10 Clear and sharp.

    2. Sound: 9/10 Rather good.

    3. Acting: N/A

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Good logical development.

20130926: Horror Review--Tamara

  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. Canadian live action feature length film released in 2005, rated R, 98 minutes, horror, fantasy, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 5.0/10.0 from 6,481 users; estimated budget, 3.5 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 32% on the meter; 38% liked it from 93,981 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by Jeremy Haft; screenplay by Jeffrey Reddick.
    5. Starring: Jenna Dewan as Tamera Riley, Katy Stuart as Chloe, Chad Faust as Jesse, Bryan Clark as Shawn, Gil Hacohen as Patrick, Melissa Elias as Kisha, Matthew Marsden as Mr. Bill Natolly, Claudette Mink as Alison Natolly.
    6. Seen streaming on Hulu+; had commercials.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Opens with witchcraft paraphernalia (from various eras and regions) with someone handling the objects.  Segue to a late teen girl (Tamara) seducing a tall handsome teacher (Bill Natolly), only to be discovered.  It was a daydream in class, but an important one.

    2. The Natolly likes Tamara, but as a good writer.  She gets razzed for everything: successes, failures, the books she carries.  She writes an article for the school paper in favor of drug testing, and that brings out a lot of resentment, even though the testing was going to happen anyway.  The jocks (Shawn and Patrick) and their cheerleader friend Kisha are the worst.

    3. The 'cool' kids construct a prank to make Tamara think Natolly wants to meet her for a tryst at a motel, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Alison Natolly thinks she is pregnant, and she and Bill are extra pleased with each other.

    4. Tamara's father is a demanding jackass who belittles the mother who abandoned them; this makes things worse.  Tamara casts a spell to make Natolly love her; she's unaware of the planned prank. She can't complete the bloodletting part of the spell.

    5. She gets a badly filtered telephone call from someone representing themselves as Natolly.  She promises to meet him; the prank is on.  They trick Tamara into stripping while they film from the next motel room.  "You look like a cheap ugly whore," says Shawn.  "Welcome to reality TV!"

    6. The jocks (Shawn and Patrick) get her in a headlock and try to get her to quit thrashing around.  Tall, buffed, 200 pound jocks (plural) versus one 90 pound non-athletic girl who reads.  Right.  They throw her into some furniture resulting in a fatal wound.  "It was an accident," and "I'm not throwing my life away because of this loser," show the acceptance of responsibility by the jocks.

    7. Accident?  This was murder by entitled self-regarding scum.  One needs to see that for the revenge part to be the least bit justified.

    8. The six of them (Shawn, Patrick, Kisha, Roger, Jesse, Chloe) bury her in the woods.  There's a disconnected dream sequence.

    9. Tamara revives (logic jump here) and wakes up in her own bed (deleted time there).  She goes back to school dressed as a vamp, to the surprise and shock of the crew who attacked her.  She sets about using magic to get revenge.

    10. Tamara encourages Roger (the AV guy) to finish his failed suicide of years before.

    11. Tamara visits Natolly.  She tries and fails to seduce him.  Next day, Tamara visits Alison Natolly, the school guidance counselor.  She starts psychological war against Alison.

    12. Tamara casts a spell on her father to make him eat the beer bottles he had been drinking from.

    13. There's a big party coming up (rich kid's parents out of town).  The perpetrators decide not to let Tamara be a downer for them.  Tamara crashes the party and puts a spell on Shawn and Patrick.  Using demonic domination, she gets them to have sex.  Kisha discovers the two of them in bed.  Tamara puts a spell on her as well, to eat uncontrollably.

    14. Jesse and Chloe contact Natolly to try to end the madness.  They discover Mr. Riley bleeding and about to die.  They also discover the spell that Tamara is using.  It requires the blood of the user be spilled (done) and allows the user to control others through touch.

    15. Patrick and Shawn try to kill Alison, who retaliates with a screwdriver to Patrick's neck.  Bill's call to the cops worked.

    16. At the hospital, Kisha stabs Jesse fatally and beats up Chloe.

    17. Bill and Chloe confront Tamara.

    18. The ending sets up a sequel.  Please, no.  This first installment had no heroes, no actors, no dramatic tension; it does have failures of logic, continuity, and SFX.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Little meaningful adult supervision.
    2. One line summary: Please, no sequel to this rotten teen revenge mess.
    3. Two stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 A little grainy.

    2. Sound: 8/10 OK, but not great.

    3. Acting: 3/10  Twenty-somethings as teenagers were not very believable.  Jenna Dewan was particularly poor.  Bryan Clark, Gil Hacohen, and Matthew Madsen were ridiculously bad.

    4. Screenplay: 6/10 This is a film about teenagers with wobbly to broken moral compasses, and next to no oversight.  Police were on camera for about half a minute, and they did not arrest the obvious suspect of a murder.  Some of the logic breakage was painful.  The hospital is supposed to be a working one, but is next to empty, which working hospitals never are.

    5. Special Effects: 3/10 Sad. The glass and blood on Mr. Riley were not credible. Kisha barfs up her guts during multiple heaves; a few seconds later, the same stretch of floor is completely clean.  Roger's on camera suicide was poorly done.  The 'worms in the arm' part was not believable at all.


20130925: Horror Review--Madison County

Madison County
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, UR, 81 minutes, mystery, thriller, horror.
    2. IMDB: 4.2/10.0 from 943 users.  Estimated budget, 70,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' on the meter, and 18% liked it from 249 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by: Eric England.
    5. Starring: Colley Bailey as James, Matt Mercer as Will, Ace Marrero as Kyle, Joanna Motomura as Brooke (Kyle's sister, Will's girlfriend), Natalie Scheetz as Jenna, Nick Principe as Damian Ewell, Adrienne Harrell as Erma.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Opening sequence: young woman wakes up in the back of a pickup, wearing just bra and panties.  She jumps out and runs.  The man driving the truck stops, runs after her with a shovel.  He knocks her out, carries her back, throws her into the back seat.  A local looks on, says nothing, seems unperturbed by it.

    2. Three young men (Will, James, Kyle) and two young women (Jenna, Brooke) go for a trip to the sticks to interview an author of a book about a serial killer in Madison County.  The author has no phone or computer; hence letters and the current interview.

    3. About 24 minutes in, the group reaches Madison County and stops for lunch.  They ask about the book, Devil in the Woods, the book's author David Randall, and the main character in the book, Damian Ewell.  They eventually get the author's address and go there.

    4. They find a nice house on private property, but no one answers the door.

    5. Kyle does some more digging for information, while the other four hang out at the address they were given.  Kyle looks over a cemetery (looking for headstones), then areas nearby.  He sees two girls topless in a stream, and tries to start a conversation.  The villain comes up behind him, the girls see him, Kyle turns, and gets stabbed to death.  The girls do not react at all even though there is a freshly dead human body in the stream with them.  This is like the opening sequence: the lack of affect at outrageous events.

    6. The foursome explore near the house.  Will and Brooke get separated from James and Jenna. Further James and Jenna get separated.  Clever.  Will buys his real estate while relieving himself.  Brooke sees the body of her boyfriend and runs.

    7. Jenna and Brooke find each other.  James talks to Erma at the diner again.  Erma lets him know his time on earth is limited.  The killer goes after the young women first.  Jenna runs decoy for Brooke, who neither runs away nor helps her friend.  The killer does Jenna in with an axe.

    8. James is captured along with a father (David Randall, from an earlier scene) and daughter (the young woman from the first sequence).  James and the daughter escape, but the David does not.  Brooke makes it back to the diner, which is now deserted.  Erma claims she has not seen any of Brooke's friends, then offers to drive Brooke to a doctor.  Then Erma (Damian's mother) knifes her to death.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Low budget, plus very low RT scores.
    2. One sentence summary: Avoid big ratty looking men with pig masks.
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Jumpy camera work for perhaps four minutes, but usually quite good.

    2. Sound: 6/10 High differences in sound levels.  Poor choices of incidental music.  Accents?  Actors sound like Los Angeles television most of the time.  Conversational sound levels were consistently clear.

    3. Acting: 6/10 I've seen much worse.

    4. Screenplay: 5/10 This was pretty thin.  Perhaps the kids might have set a date and a time and a place to meet the author first?  That's too much to ask, I guess.  The lack of affect by the locals could have used better exposition.  Of course, this helps the "by the time you figure it out, it's too late" feeling of helplessness.

20130925: Horror Review--Baby Shower

Baby Shower
  1. Fundamentals
    1. Chilean live action feature film, 2011, NR, 91 minutes, horror.  Spoken language is Spanish; English subtitles on Netflix.
    2. IMDb: 4.2/10.0 from 365 users.  Estimated budget: 900,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' on the meter; 26% from 195 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by Pablo Illanes.
    5. Starring: Ingrid Isensee as Angela, Patricia Lopez as Soledad, Claudia Burr as Olivia, Kiki Rojo as Manuela, Francisca Merino as Claudia, Sofia Garcia as Ivana, Alvaro Gomez as Julio, Pablo Krogh as Ricardo, Nicolas Alonso as Felipe (Angela's wayward husband).

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Four women friends go away to a country house for a baby shower.

    2. Differences, past and present, surface.

    3. Angela has had a tough year.  Her mother dies.  She gets pregnant with twins.  Her husband is leaving her accompanied by one of her friends, supposedly.  Angela joins a support group which seems a bit like a cult. "Don't talk, don't think," Soledad tells her.

    4. Her friends will not tell her which one it is.  She asks them to go while they are having tea.  The pack up, but the car will not start.  They come back to find the telephone disconnected.  Then the poisoned tea kicks in. Manuela and Ivana become quite ill.

    5. Ricardo clubs Julio, then stabs and imprisons Ivana.  Ivana gets out of her cage, she steps into an animal trap.  Soledad from the cult comes by, rips open her knife wound, then uses a shovel to sever her leg above the trap.  Claudia sees this, for which she is beaten and sodomized, just about the time the poison starts hitting her.

    6. Olivia did not drink the tea, so perhaps she will survive?  She hitches a ride, only to be picked up by the murderer Ricardo.  She jumps from the truck, but gets shot soon after.  Julio ties her up, but she manages to escape.  Felipe shows up.  Felipe kills Ricardo, but Julio stabs Felipe.

    7. Manuela is sacrificed for her blood.  Angela escapes for a while, but the babies decide to come.  Shortest delivery ever.  Julio gets his head shot off by Soledad for helping Angela.

    8. Soledad steals the first baby, and does not tie the cord.  Angela may just bleed to death, but Olivia returns with help.  Angela has the second child, and apparently the medics reached her in time.  The officials cannot find Soledad or the first child.

    9. Final shot: Soledad nursing the first child at a lakeside high in the Andes.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence summary: Strongly similar to Wrong Turn, just with beautiful, charming, murderous country folk, set in Chile.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Beautiful.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The incidental music is too loud by far, massively overbearing at times.  Other than that, the actors were well miked, and the foley sound was quite good.

    3. Acting: 8/10 Rather nice.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Consistent, if twisted, logical progression.


20130924: Horror Review--My Little Eye

My Little Eye

  1. Fundamentals
    1. Canadian live action feature length film, released in 2002, rated R, 95 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 5.6/10.0 from 8,359 users.  Estimated budget: 2 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 65% on the meter; 38% from 8,881 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Marc Evans.  Screenplay by: David Hilton.
    5. Starring: Stephen O'Reilly as Danny, Kris Lemche as Rex, Sean CW Johnson as Matt, Laura Regan as Emma, Jennifer Sky as Charlie, Bradley Cooper as Travis.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Six fools agree to live in one house for six months.  They get a million dollars if they succeed.  Does the desire for money overcome one's other obligations?

    2. Part of the proceedings occur in the Canadian winter, and the furnace breaks down.

    3. Are the crows and owls in the attic bad omens or just something one should expect (cold winter, relatively warm attic)?

    4. The packages from the outside tend to contain messages to the individuals.  The six contestants always hope for food.  During the film they get bricks (sad tale from the younger days of one of the women) and a letter notifying the death in the family of one of the contestants; the next package has champagne and a gun (gun violence in the past of one of the men).

    5. The 'bloody' hammer next to one of the women in bed one morning was a further shift.

    6. A visitor drops in who is an internet programmer.  He's never heard of them.  Not a good sign.  Before leaving, the visitor steals a piece of Emma's underwear and hides it in Danny's room.  Emma feels OK invading everyone else's space.  Great stuff.

    7. Soon after the visitor leaves they find some of his gear near the drop site with blood on it.

    8. Emma keeps asserting his guilt; Danny hangs himself.  Game over, according to the rules.  They radio for help.  No one responds.

    9. Rex cobbles together an internet connection.  He cannot find any reference to their contest.  Hence no subscribers.  The company that planned the contest has a stub beta site with heavy encryption, or so it seems.

    10. Then they get to see the betting odds on each of their characters.  As in many mysteries, it's 'follow the money.'

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence spoiler: Over the Internet snuff reality show with online betting.
    2. One sentence summary:  Does the desire for money overcome one's other obligations?
    3. Three stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 Better than webcam quality, but not always by much.  Some of the exteriors were just fine.  The split screens (multiple points of view) were sometimes interesting.  The switches from narration filming (good, steady, well done) to the POV of the reality show camera people (so-so to poor webcams) is a little jarring.

    2. Sound: 4/10 Bad microphone problems, but incidental sounds are much creepier than the oddly planned visuals.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Fine if you like twenty-somethings who still reside in the teen maturity range.

    4. Screenplay: 9/10 Initial objectives seem clear enough.  The actual objectives take time to surface.  It's an old theme (snuff films) updated to the Internet setting (online betting, current video).

20130924: Horror Review--Mutants


  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, released in 2008, rated R, 83 minutes, horror, SciFi.
    2. IMDB: 2.3/10.0 from 415 users.  Estimated budget: four million USD
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet' and 4% from 176 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Amir Valinia.  Screenplay by: Jody Jones.
    5. Starring: Michael Ironside as Colonel Gauge, Steven Bauer as Marcus Santiago, Louis Hertham as Griff Theriot, Tony Sensamici as Commander Sykes, Sharon Landry as Erin Theriot, Jessica Heap as Hannah, Armando Leduc as Sergei Petrov, Richard Zeringue as Braylon, Derrick Denicola as Ryan Theriot.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Manufacturer Braylon, who owns the Just Rite Sugar Company, hires biochemist Sergei to design a food additive to increase consumer return rate.  Instead, the additive changes human test subjects into overactive and voracious mutants.

    2. 'Nothing is going to derail our plans.'  That is a clear indication that stated plans will fail, and there will be lots of collateral damage.

    3. During the first half of this film, the human test subjects are only kidnapped and maltreated, and a few are murdered, namely the ones who escape.  Experimentation is still going on.

    4. During the second half of the film, the breakthrough in the sugar additive is made, and the monsters start being created.  What started as purely chemical research somehow has a viral element.

    5. Griff, Erin, and Sykes find Ryan and attempt to escape with him. Then the violence really starts.  The cavalry arrives to exterminate anything living to contain the outbreak before it spreads to the general uninfected population.

  3. Conclusions
    1. Terrible reviews from IMDB and RT.  See scores below.
    2. One sentence summary: Sugar additive meant to cause addiction causes violent monsters instead.
    3. Final Rating: 1/10, three blackholes for cinematography, acting, and screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 0/10 I've seen 70k budget films with two levels of camera work better than this.  Dark, fuzzy, grainy, low contrast.  The daytime footage is almost as bad.  Much of it looks like bad telephone capture.  Lousy CGI for blowing up the lab.

    2. Sound: 4/10 OK some of the time, hollow and poor too much of the time.  Irritating incidental music.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Michael Ironside and Steven Bauer were competent, but most of the others delivered performances like those in a bad high school play.  Erin is supposed to be Griff's daughter, but she looks like his older sister.  Brilliant casting.

    4. Screenplay: 1/10 Almost all the film is a flashback that does not include the only two competent actors: not good.  The jokes are non-witty and flat.  How this many murders committed in open daylight would not be noticed is hard to figure.  The interaction between Erin and her father was unconvincing.  Ryan getting kidnapped and held for days without being noticed is absurd.  Motivation?  Try another film.  Business logic?  Forget that too.


20130923: Horror Review--Silent House

Silent House

  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length, 2012, thriller, horror, mystery, rated R, 86 minutes.
    2. IMDB: 5.2/10.0 from 12,553. 
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 41% on the meter, 30% from 40,989 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau.  Screenplay: Laura Lau.
    5. Starring: Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, Adam Trese as John, Eric Sheffer Stevens as Peter, Julia Taylor Ross as Sophia.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Sarah, John (her dad), and her Uncle Peter go to the family's lakeside house to pack before selling the place.  Sarah meets Sophia, who claims to know her, but whom Sarah does not particularly remember.

    2. Sarah sets about to clean out the room where she and her cousins used to stay.

    3. After the establishing footage, the film changes mode.  Sarah is alone, and gets scared for a number of reasons.

    4. Sarah cannot find a way out of the house.  Someone seems to be in there with her.  She finds her father badly injured and bloodied.  She decides to try to leave the house so she can get help.

    5. She finds signs of squatters having stayed in the house intermittently.  Again, someone else is there, and she hides from them as best she can.  She keeps encountering locked doors, and the only key she has does not work the first time or two.

    6. She gets out, and meets her uncle in the driveway.  Peter goes into the house with his gun.  They have trouble finding John, but they do find a bloody patch where he had been.

    7. The generator goes out, they are in darkness, and someone takes Polaroid photos.  When the generator starts again, Peter is gone, Sarah is hiding under the table, and she sees odd things.  This includes Peter being dragged away by his feet.  Sarah gets Peter's gun, and takes some shots at unknown targets.

    8. Sarah has a recurrent hallucination of a small girl.  She starts seeing growing blood pools all over the place.  Sophia visits.  Looks like Sophia is also an hallucination.  After all, no one else was shown interacting with Sophia.

    9. As expected, this was a psychological drama, and Sarah finds her way out of her own trap at the end.  There are no supernatural elements.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Psychological drama where abused daughter resolves bad family dynamics.
    2. Final Rating: 3/10.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 2/10  Lots of semi-darkness, vignette filtering, and complete darkness, showing way too much enthusiasm for Blair Witch techniques.

    2. Sound: 9/10 So much better than the rotten visuals.

    3. Acting: 0/10 Elizabeth Olsen is the only actor for a large proportion of the film.

    4. Screenplay: 4/10 Finally resolves with one minute to go.  Misrepresented as horror.

20130923: Horror Review--Tokyo Gore School

Tokyo Gore School

  1. Fundamentals
    1. Japanese live action feature length film, 2009, NR, 109 minutes, horror.
    2. IMDB: 5.8/10.0 from 79 users.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No reviews yet,' for the meter; 25% from 37 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Yohei Fukuda.  Screenplay: Kiyoshi Yamamoto and Yohei Fukuda.
    5. Starring: Yusuke Yamada as Fujiwara.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. Fujiwara, president at a Tokyo school, becomes a target listed on a website.  He seeks to find out why.  He has become part of a game, involuntarily, where others wish to learn his 'secret' for points and prizes.

    2. Running and fighting are frequent activities.  He helps a girl named Yoko, and finds those willing to be allies. He is reluctant to join others.

    3. He has a secret that he must protect, and figures that he must win the game.

    4. That does not work out well.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Bad Japanese high school fighting movie, with no adult supervision in evidence.
    2. Final Rating: 4/10

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Grainy, soft focus, odd filters.  Jumpy framing. Zooming errors.  Sections that are dark with low contrast.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Badly recorded, irritating, industrial techno music.

    3. Acting: 3/10 Running, jumping, screaming, fighting, leering, mugging.  Not much dialogue.  Much of what little there is is taunting by bullies and murderers.

    4. Screenplay: 3/10 Motivations seem murky throughout the film.  The protagonist seemed dissociated from school, parents, food, a place to sleep, and shower after about twenty minutes.  The game was the thing, and the winners of the game seem to be the best bullies.  Oddly, there seem to be no interactions with police, even considering the multiple murders committed in the name of the game.

20130923: Horror Review--Aftershock


  1. Fundamentals
    1. Chilean live action feature length film, 2012, rated R, 89 minutes, horror, thriller.
    2. IMDB: 4.7/10.0 from 3,859 users. Spoken language is both English and Spanish with English subtitles.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 37% on the meter; 27% liked it from 5,328 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Nicolas Lopez. Screenplay written by: Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolas Lopez.
    5. Starring: Eli Roth (also, story and producer credit) as Gringo, Andrea Osvart as Monica, Ariel Levy as Ariel, Natasha Yarovenko as Irina, Nicolas Martinez as Pollo, Lorenza Izzo as Kylie.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. The film starts with nightclubs, something that looks like a rave, broken marriage, and a pointless and awkward Selena Gomez cameo.  There were plenty of self-regarding, shallow, parasitic, non-working idiots who exhibit plenty of class hatred for anyone except themselves.

    2. The quake occurred while the stars were in a nightclub deep underground.  They escape only because one of them had shown a few moments of decency.  The surface was not much better.   Their transportation was rendered scrap.  Their cell phones do not work since the repeaters were down.

    3. The tsunami alarm goes off.  They head for higher ground, as did so many other people.

    4. They encounter gangs of murdering thugs and bad luck, the kind one dies from.

    5. The aftershocks make things much, much worse.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One sentence summary: After an earthquake, idle rich tourists battle gangs, bad luck, and aftershocks.
    2. Final Rating: 6/10

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Absolutely wonderful.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Lovely.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Eli Roth was just terrible.  I hope he quits acting altogether, and gets out of writing and producing.  Nicolas Martinez was often enjoyable.  Ariel Levy was wretchedly bad.  The actresses who played the half-sisters were quite annoying.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The beginning was too long; I was ready for the stars to begin getting hammered by nature after about three minutes.  Instead it was about 35 minutes.  After the lengthy introduction, I hoped all of them would die horribly.  So I guess the screenplay was a success up to the point of the earthquake.  The stars get shredded thereafter with a very small number of survivors, until the tsunami finally shows up in the end.  The screenplay did succeed at its objectives.


20130922: Horror Review--Dylan Dog

Dylan Dog
  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. American live action feature length film, horror, comedy, mystery, PG-13, 107 minutes, 2010.
    2. IMDB: 5.1/10.0 from 10,368 users. Estimated budget, 20 million USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 8% on the meter; 30% liked it from 14,853 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by Kevin Munroe; screenplay by Thomas Dean Donelly.
    5. Starring: Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) as Dylan Dog, Anita Briem (The Tudors) as Elizabeth, Sam Huntington (Being Human, US version) as Marcus, Taye Diggs (Private Practice) as Vargas, Kurt Angle (River of Darkness) as Wolfgang, Peter Stormare (Fargo) as Gabriel.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. In previous years, Dylan Dog was an arbiter of all issues among undead parties; he was respected by all, and he helped keep the peace.  Something went badly wrong, though, and now he is a private detective who investigates infidelity for the most part.

    2. A killing by a werewolf draws him back into the fray.  The victim is Elizabeth's father, an importer (well, smuggler) of rare items.  He is rumoured to have an object of rare power which will change the balances among the undead factions.

    3. Elizabeth hires Dylan to find her father's killer, but the movie is about Dylan trying to circumvent an all out war among the undead.  Along the way, we meet werewolves, vampires, zombies, and ghouls (humans who mainline on vampire blood for strength and youth).

    4. Much of the action is about finding the Heart of Belial, which is sufficient to bring back Belial himself, a  demon of unsurpassed strength.  Vargas wants to use Belial to put down all the other undead factions.  Then again, so does someone else, which is an interesting twist.

  3. Conclusions
    1. The IMDB and RT ratings were impressively bad; see the technical scores below.
    2. One line summary: This is an enjoyable supernatural action film if you don't read the comic first.
    3. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 Always good.

    2. Sound: 10/10 Fine. The actors were well-miked, and the incidental music was good.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Anita Briem was really weak, but I enjoyed most of the other characters as played by Routh, Stormare, Angle, Huntington.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 The story has a well-defined beginning, a long middle, and a conclusive ending.  Exposition of motivation was fine.  I read other reviews after seeing the film, and I'm glad I never looked at the comic of the same name.  Most of the negative energy against the film seemed to arise from the fans of the comic.

    5. Special Effects: 8/10 Mostly good.


20130921: Action Review--Drive Angry

Drive Angry
  1. Fundamentals
    1. American live action feature length film, 2011, rated R, 101 minutes,
    2. IMDB: 5.5/10.0 from 62,304 users.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 45% on the meter; 37% liked it from 38,804 audience ratings.
    4. Directed by: Patrick Lussier.  Written by: Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier.
    5. Starring: Nicolas Cage as Milton, Amber Heard as Piper, William Fichtner as the Accountant, Billy Burke as Jonah King, David Morse as Webster.

  2. Setup and Plot
    1. From IMDB, 'A vengeful father escapes from hell and chases after the men who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter.'

    2. The vengeful father is Milton.  The Accountant is from hell, and is following Milton.  Milton picks up Piper along the way, first to hitch a ride, then to save her life, then for a variety of other reasons.

    3. There are instances of demonic domination, car explosions, murders, vehicle chases, with horribly maimed and injured bodies rising to fight again.

    4. Milton catches up with the kidnapper and more violence results.

    5. There's the initial failure stage, then the second assault.

    6. Liked the ending.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: If you are in the mood for explosions, revenge, violence, and end-of-the-world festivities, this is the film for you.
    2. Four stars of five.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 10/10 No problems.

    2. Sound: 8/10 OK.

    3. Acting: 8/10  I liked David Fichtner's performance as the Accountant.  I usually despise anything David Morse does, but this one was much better than average.  Nicolas Cage's performances vary from excellent (Lord of War) to ho-hum (The Sorcerer's Apprentice); this one was toward the plus side.

    4. Screenplay: 7/10 Has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The middle is rather long, punctuated by the violence and explosions.  Motivation is very clear for the protagonist, and reasonably well portrayed for the other players.

20130921: Mystery Review--Absentia


  1. Production Fundamentals; reception
    1. American live action feature length film, 87 minutes, horror, drama, mystery, 2012, rated R.
    2. IMDB: 5.6/10.0 from 6,613 users.  Estimated budget: 70,000 USD.
    3. Rotten Tomatoes: 'No score yet,' and 48% from 700 audience ratings.
    4. Written and directed by Michael Flanigan.
    5. Starring: Katie Parker as Callie, Courteney Bell as Tricia, Dave Levine as Detective Ryan Mallory, Morgan Peter Brown as Daniel Riley, Justin Gordon as Detective Lonergan.
    6. 90 user reviews on IMDB.  That's quite a few for a 70k budget film.

  2. Setup, Plot
    1. Callie moves back with Tricia, who lives in a burglary prone area of Glendale, CA, USA.

    2. Tricia is pregnant, and aiming to move, but not quite getting there. 

    3. Tricia is moving to get her missing husband declared legally dead after seven years.  A lawyer and Ryan help her with this.  Callie helps push.

    4. While those factors are in play, Callie has been out running; she often goes through a tunnel under the freeway.  She has some odd encounters there.  About the same time, Tricia starts hallucinating her dead husband's presence.  Her shrink helps her deal with this.  After (probably stolen) objects are dumped on the welcome mat, Callie returns them to the tunnel.  Later, she finds twice as much in her futon.  The women discuss this with the police.

    5. Callie and Tricia find another place; Tricia starts dating her baby's father, Ryan, openly.

    6. As the first date was about to start, Daniel shows up.  Ryan sees him, Callie sees him, Tricia sees him.

    7. The police and the hospital figure out that he has been eating animals, including bones.  His memory is shot.  Callie tries to connect with him, as does Ryan.  Tricia, of course, is hurricane level angry. Ryan makes his case as a better mate than the current version of Daniel--the death certificate is accurate, metaphorically speaking.

    8. Daniel speaks with Callie, describing the monster that enslaved him for years. Daniel tells her that he wished that Callie had not bartered with it (the food, the trinkets she returned) since the monster fixates.  Then wham, the monster takes him back and drags him into the tunnel, and absorbs him into the wall.

    9. Unfortunately, while this happened, Callie was high, and the police noticed it, as did Tricia.

    10. The last half hour is about dealing with Daniel being gone again.  The energy for the search is heightened by the existence of other missing persons cases associated with the same tunnel.  Callie helps highlight this, but faces rough sledding convincing anyone.  Tricia has to deal with Daniel's parents.  The cops get a little traction in the matter, but not a whole lot.

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Michael Flanagan's next movie might be worth watching if he has a much bigger budget.
    2. Final Rating: 6/10.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 7/10 The camera work is often top notch. At other times, it is just bush league, so I assume this is a (bad) conscious choice.

    2. Sound: 8/10 Fairly good. Seldom drops out.  The background sounds are sometimes irritating.

    3. Acting: 7/10 Reasonably good. The two women leads were much better than I expected, and I liked the actors who played the two detectives.

    4. Screenplay: 8/10 Has a beginning, middle, and an end.  I had no problems with exposition of motivation.  The technical scores point to a four out of five rating, but the film has no significance for me.  I read about 20 reviews of it, by people who clearly watched the same movie I did.  There tended to be a lot of energy in the reviews from those who gave it high ratings and from those who gave it low.  I could not agree with either group; it's just not that interesting.

    5. Special Effects: 7/10 Not very many of them, which a low budget necessitates. No spectacular gaffes that I noticed.