Latest Reviews
Saturday
Nov082008

House

The other day, I was contemplating what movies I should go see so I could write about them on this here blog. There were some great ones to be sure, but the listings had a movie called House on it. I had never heard of it, so I did some digging and read what it was all about. The film is adapted from a book by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, who are Christian authors and write darkly themed novels around the Christian faith. The story follows two couples who end up in a house in the woods and end up playing a game with a killer called the Tin Man. His rules are this:

1) God came into my house and I killed him.
2) I will kill anyone who comes to my house like I killed God.
3) Bring me one dead body and I'll let rule #2 slide.

An R-rated Christian horror movie about a satanic killer who claims to have murdered God? I was intrigued and as I sat there, I realized I had to see this movie, if nothing else than to see how they wrapped a Christian message into the bloodletting. However, the message was weak, if not nonexistent. If anything, the Christian message is overshadowed by the satanic imagery. There are tons of references to Satanism, but little to no mention of Christianity. The films says that "light destroys darkness" and that's about as far as it delves into a blatant promotion of Christianity. I have a sneaking suspicion that the film wanted to make the Christian message as subtle as possible so they could appeal to a wider audience. If you look hard enough, you'll see that the characters are being tempted throughout the whole movie and, despite the rules saying that if they kill somebody they'll live, it's the opposite. The point of the film is to put temptation in their faces and see if they give in. If they don't, they'll be saved. Still, you have to dig pretty deep to find this hidden message.

Basically, Christians are going to walk out of this wondering why it was considered a Christian themed movie and non-Christians certainly aren't going to be converted. That's a big problem considering what it was trying to accomplish. However, this whole crisis could have been averted if it were actually a good movie. Well, it's not. Surprise!

There are a few things I'm sick of when it comes to the construction of a horror movie. First, I'm tired of seeing a twist ending. Although some work, most do not and ruin anything the film had going for it. Second, I hate characters that are so stupid they can't see the evil right in front of them. And lastly, I hate when a horror movie relies on cheap jump mechanics to scare the audience. God forbid a film actually has to try to create suspense through the use of an effective ambiance. Unsurprisingly, House falls into all of those traps.

The movie isn't scary in the slightest and the twist is absolutely ridiculous and doesn't seem to make much sense. It was like the writers of the story came up with the twist first and tried to work the story around it. It didn't work. And where do I begin with these characters? Usually, old house in the woods+people acting psycho=get the hell out of there, but not for these numbskulls. House felt like it had read the book on horror film clichés and used every single tactic.

As to be expected, the dialogue was laughable and the acting was uniformly bad, excluding Bill Moseley who is the man in everything he does, although he's severely underused here. I mean, what was this movie trying to do? It's not interesting, scary, or smart. It doesn't bring forth a Christian message from its supposed Christian source and actually seems to play up more aspects of Satanism. House is in limited release right now, but let's hope it quickly reaches DVD and rots away into oblivion.

House receives 1/5

Friday
Nov072008

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

Warning: Spoilers follow

The Haunting of Molly Hartley is one of the most inept and idiotic scary movies I've seen since An American Haunting. Calling this film a horror movie is like calling Schindler's List a comedy. The only thing to be frightened about is the thought of actually having to sit through this train wreck. This is undoubtedly one of the worst films of the year.

Here's the main problem with this movie. It feels like it should be playing on the CW at the teenybopper time slot between moronic shows like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. It has all the ridiculous drama you would expect from those programs including an "Oh no she didn't" catfight.

Slapping this should-have-been-direct-to-DVD film on that channel would actually be quite fitting since it shamelessly rips off the premise of the CW's Reaper. That show is about a dude whose soul is the devil's on his 21st birthday. This film is about a chick whose soul is the devil's on her 18th birthday. Totally different.

By telling you about her connection with the devil, I've pretty much ruined the movie for you since that's supposed to be a big reveal late in the story, but if you have any sense, you'll figure it out yourself very quickly. It's so plainly evident that I figured it out not even 15 minutes into the film.

So the whole time, I sat there and waited for the climax hoping that something would happen along the way. Unfortunately, the film has one of the most unsatisfying climaxes I've ever seen in any horror movie. The movie builds (read: does nothing) for an hour and 20 minutes and it doesn't even give us the satisfaction of a final showdown. Molly ends up in a room on the eve of her 18th birthday, the clock hits midnight, people talk, movie over. There's some inane twist shortly after, but it does nothing to make a remarkably bad movie any better.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley was a chore to watch. It's only about an hour and 26 minutes, but it feels at least double that. Anybody over the age of 14 that can sit through this garbage deserves some kind of medal. Unless you want to see one giant long cliché scare tactic (a flock of birds loudly flying by, a hand coming out of nowhere, a dead person coming alive for one final shock, etc.), I'd skip this one. The performances were actually pretty decent, but when the rest of the package is so dismal, what's it matter? I thought I had safely secured my top three worst films of the year; that is until I saw this nonsense. The Haunting of Molly Hartley is a complete disaster from start to finish.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley receives 0.5/5

Saturday
Nov012008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is like watching an actual porno. You thoroughly enjoy it while it is playing, but you feel slightly dirty afterwards. Kevin Smith’s newest sex romp may very well be the raunchiest, most uncomfortable movie I’ve ever sat through and yes, I’m recommending it.

The film follows Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) who have been best friends their whole lives. They live together in an apartment, but can’t pay the bills. After the heat, water, and power get shut off, they decide to make a porno to make some extra money. Although their relationship is purely platonic, they realize during the shoot that they may have deeper feelings for each other than they previously thought.

Kevin Smith is the Quentin Tarantino of comedy. Just like Tarantino, Smith has been lauded for his clever writing and interesting dialogue between characters. Ranging from Clerks to Dogma to the more recent Clerks II, Smith has made seriously funny movies that hide a layer of sweetness under all of the smut. Still, Zack and Miri Make a Porno doesn’t quite feel like a Kevin Smith movie. In a way, it feels more like a Judd Apatow movie. Instead of creating humor off of the interactions between the characters like Smith usually does, the jokes work more as throwaway one-liners, much like Apatow films.

While Smith does his best to provide his trademark style of film, Seth Rogen is more akin to Apatow movies and since those are usually flat out hilarious, you would think there wouldn’t be a downside, but there is. The problem is that the two styles don’t seem to mix very well. It was a mish-mash combination where Smith’s trademark dialogue was overshadowed by Rogen’s one-liners.

Still, there are some good laughs to be had. I had a good hearty chuckle on more than a few occasions, but not enough to make the film more than a good waste of time. The issue here is that only one or two jokes will stay with you. You’ll think back on the film and remember how you laughed, but forget why you were laughing. The jokes were instantly forgettable and as such, the film fails to reach greatness.

I also found the relationship between Zack and Miri to be too inconsistent and unbelievable to strike any kind of emotional chord in me. As with any movie of this type, the two protagonists somehow find out they have deep feelings for each other. In this film, those feelings are found through making a porno. A porno? Really? I couldn’t shake the idea that most women who give up their values to star in a low budget porn movie would probably end up emotionally scarred, not falling in love with their co-star.

Don’t get me wrong. This is still a decent time at the movies and I suspect many people will come out of it shocked at what they have just seen. This is one filthy film. It is without a doubt, one of the most vulgar movies I’ve ever seen. In this regard, many people will love it and herald it as a comedy masterpiece, but those people will probably be about thirteen. Zack and Miri Make a Porno is worth a look, but like an actual porno, it’s pretty worthless after you’re done with it.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno receives 3/5

Friday
Oct312008

Saw V

The Saw franchise is a rare breed indeed. Any horror movie that is moderately successful usually gets enough sequels to fill up a whole rack in Blockbuster. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all of those franchises started out strong and then were run straight into the ground by lackluster or downright lousy sequels, but Saw has managed to be entertaining through all five movies thanks to some clever stories, interesting twists, and a serial killer that we all love to hate.

If you’ve been keeping up with this franchise, you already know that Jigsaw died in the third movie. If you haven’t, I apologize for ruining that for you, but you can’t talk about the new movie without discussing the previous ones. You’ll get over it. As the end of the fourth film showed, Detective Hoffman is now set to carry on Jigsaw’s legacy. This entry picks up precisely where part four left off with Agent Strahm locked in the room with the dead Jigsaw. He finds a way out, gets ambushed, and wakes up to find himself in a death trap. He survives and has reason to suspect Hoffman may be connected with the now deceased killer. Hoffman must finish off all loose ends, so while Strahm investigates the matter, Hoffman sets up one final game.

Take a second and think of the popular horror franchises out there. Now think about their stories. I bet you can’t. The fact of the matter is that no matter how revered a franchise like Friday the 13th or Halloween may be within the horror community, they don’t have much in the way of their stories. That is why I’ve got to hand it to all of the writers that have contributed to the Saw films. They attempt to give us intriguing narratives filled with twists and turns that all somehow fit into the overall story arc and they mostly succeed.

Still, they seem to be messing around with the formula a bit too much. The writers are taking a simple premise established in the first film—a dying man teaches those who don’t appreciate life how precious it is through self mutilation—and making it unnecessarily convoluted. This entry explores the relationship between Jigsaw and Detective Hoffman and how he came to be the killer’s apprentice. Therefore, the timeline jumps around a lot, but it doesn’t just jump around in the context of this film. It jumps around within all five of them. There are aspects taken all the way back from the first movie that are explored in this one that don’t seem prudent to what this picture is trying to accomplish. I actually found myself a little befuddled by the end. Last year, I walked out of Saw IV scratching my noggin and it happened again this year with Saw V.

In a way though, I welcome that confusion because if the film didn’t jump around through the whole franchise, Tobin Bell wouldn’t be in it. Bell is deliciously evil as the serial killer Jigsaw, but plays it perfectly cool, almost in a way that you kind of want to hang out with him. He puts people in death traps, but claims he has never killed anybody in his life. He always gives them a means to survive and in the process teaches them that they aren’t leading their lives the way they ought to. Although Jigsaw met his demise two movies ago, his inclusion is a necessity because there is no franchise without him.

Despite its somewhat confusing story, I still had fun with this one. It’s probably the weakest of the five, the twist is underwhelming, the story is confusing, and it left plenty of questions on the table (to be answered in the inevitable Saw VI: Death of a Franchise), but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Saw V isn’t going to convert any non-fans over to the dark side, but it will provide enough blood, guts, and thrills to satiate those souls who’ve already been tainted.

Saw V receives 3.5/5

Friday
Oct242008

Disaster Movie

Never before has a title been more fittingly appropriate than Disaster Movie. It truly is a disaster of a movie. Void of class, wit and intelligence, it’s not just one of the worst films of the year. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

This atrocity is brought to us by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the same clowns who gave us such cinematic turds as Epic Movie, Date Movie and Meet the Spartans. The laughing stocks of Hollywood, these two have time and again released terrible, shameful, stupid films to the undeserving public.

In fact, I believe that every time one of their movies is played, our collective IQ’s drop. Did you feel that? That was a screening of Disaster Movie finishing and you getting stupider. To be honest, I fear for our world. Surely the fact that these two bozos keep getting the money to make their celluloid abominations is a sign of the apocalypse.

One of the fundamental problems here is that every other film they are spoofing is infinitely better, with the possible exception of 10,000 B.C. They spoof Iron Man, Get Smart, No Country For Old Men, Enchanted, Juno, Indiana Jones, Beowulf, Wanted, Kung Fu Panda, High School Musical and more. So despite its implied title, it rarely spoofs actual disaster movies. It should have been called Any Movie to Come Out in the Last Two Years Movie.

Just like many spoof movies rely on randomness to produce laughs, so goes Disaster Movie. But the difference between this and, say, The Naked Gun films is that they were actually funny and still are today thanks to their jokes being snatched from the film world rather than pop culture. In this picture, the wisecracks not ripped from another movie almost always stemmed from pop culture which makes future viewings irrelevant and nonsensical. Miley Cyrus shows up to promote her album as she dies, Jessica Simpson appears to sing badly and Michael Jackson hides in a trunk with a young boy. Michael Jackson? Really? The jokes in the film are old hat, poorly constructed and won’t make sense a few years from now.

Another problem is that Friedberg and Seltzer do not understand that it is not inherently funny to simply have characters from other movies show up just for the sake of being there. You have to give them something to do to make it funny. Iron Man shows up at one point in the movie and a cow is dropped on him. Shortly after, the Hulk shows up and a cow is dropped on him. Then Hellboy shows up. Guess what happens? A cow is dropped on him. It was like the filmmakers wanted us to say, “Oh, how funny! It’s Iron Man, but this isn’t an Iron Man movie! Tee hee!” But it isn’t funny. It’s disheartening to think that the only gags they could come up with relating to these heroes were to hit them with cows. These guys couldn’t create humor onscreen if God himself had written the script.

It’s rare for a movie to be so bad that you can herald it as one of the most abysmal things ever to be put on screen, but then along comes the truly appalling Disaster Movie. It is dreadful in every way and it deserves no recognition whatsoever. The only reason to ever watch this dreck is to see just how low filmmaking can go.

Disaster Movie receives 0/5