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50 Movies in 100 Days: Curse of the Puppet Master

February 17, 2013

Curse of the Puppet Master

This movie was just pretty flat out bad.  A mad man who was getting people to carve puppets and then would put their souls into them and us them to commit murder if need be.  Overall, can’t think of anything that was all that redeeming about it.  I think that I would put the one good thing from it was the opening scene/credits where there were tons of living puppets and they looked wonderfully creepy, but beyond that, nothing redeeming.

The story is that a man runs a puppet/amusement shop sort of thing mainly with puppets.  A few of them are normal puppets with strings, but many of them are living puppets which do their tricks.  His daughter comes back to college and looking for an old hired hand, her father said he left.  He finds a new puppet maker and his daughter falls for him.  There is a group of jerks in the town which go after the daughter including breaking into the house.  However things go sideways when one of the living puppets save her.  Her father then takes a number of the puppets and goes and kills the jerk.  Well, he watches, and the puppets kill.  The new puppet maker is now pouring himself completely into his work and falls sick, so the owner sends his daughter off to get a fictitious item of the puppet fair thingy and he puts the puppet maker into a new mechanical robot puppet thing, so that there would be a better interface or something like that, it is hard to understand it all.  The daughter comes back and his horrified, and then her father is sucked into something and the film ends.

I’m going to lump the acting, direction, sound, etc, all into one fell swoop, this film had no one of note in it, and you can see why with how lousy the film is.  The one thing the film had going for it was that some of the puppets looked creepy beyond that the whole look and feel of the film was nothing to write home about.  The acting was nondescript and the characters about as boring as you can get with no  reasonable plot development or character development throughout the whole thing.  The jerks were jerks simply because they were jerks, the puppet master probably is explained in some of the earlier puppet master films, but is a weak character, his daughter is dull and there is nothing going for this film acting wise.  The plot is predictable, which at times can be okay if it is done well, but this wasn’t, and you can have a predictable plot with interesting characters, but these characters like previously stated weren’t interesting.

Now, normally I’m one to like this sort of horror film, but there are a rare occasion during a film series where nothing is entertaining and with this film, there isn’t anything that is entertaining.  If you want to see the puppets that are alive, watch one of the many other puppet master movies and skip this one.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: D-

Overall Grade: D

 

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50 Movies in 100 Days: The Experts

February 17, 2013

The Experts

Time to party like the 80’s, this is a hilariously absurd movie.  John Travolta with a mullet makes this movie, and the completely absurd plot makes everything work.  A Soviet town which looks like something from middle of the USA in the 1940’s is being used to train KGB agents for the infiltration of America.  Of course, it is set in the 1980’s, so the Russians are a bit backwards, which is where John Travolta and Arye Gross come in.

Anyways, more on the plot again now.  It is completely absurd like I said. A Russian officer goes to New York City to try and find something to bring the Russian training into the current time frame.  He ends up recruiting two young “hip” seeming former club owners, Travis and Wendell for a club that he says in the small town USA, Nebraska in particular.  They think the town is off and lame, so when they open up a new style club, it ends up flopping, they convince the Russian  officer to get them some stuff from the states,  and they end up creating in the people the idealism of the American freedom, some of the old steadfast KGB agents who decide to blow up Travis and Wendell, they escape, to get captured again when Wendell’s girlfriend turns him in, but by that point in time, the people in the town want to have freedom, so they escape again and  take almost the whole time with them to the USA and New York City, they realize that it feels wrong, so they take them to a small town in Nebraska to settle them there.

The acting is pretty hilarious.  John Travolta seems stoned throughout much of the performance, which is okay because it isn’t meant to be a serious film.  Arye Gross is maybe even more over the top.  His character goes through massive mood swings.  And they manage to change the whole town to their side in seemingly the matter of months, but, hey, it is a secret fake US town in Russia, so it is allowed to be hilarious.  Kelly Preston shows up as a KGB Agent who is sent by the committed Russian officer to break the boys and seduce Travis, but then she falls for Travis, and her performance/accent is as hilarious as almost everyone else in the film.

The film itself  actually has some solid look to it, the Russian town actually looks like it was a step back in time.  So Dave Thomas did a pretty good job with the look and feel of things, getting the actions of the people right.  And it was a great excuse for them to throw in almost every house song from the 80’s into a single film.  The sound track isn’t good, 80’s house music, isn’t all that great, but it is pretty hilarious, and it works wonderfully with the film.

This is one of those 80’s films that is so bad that it is great.  It is hilarious, intentionally, and just hits on every level of 80’s-ness.  If you aren’t up for a film that is very cheesy and absurd, then this isn’t for you, but if you want something to look back at (and reflect back upon if you were born in the 80’s or love the 80’s) and feel “nostalgic” about, this is a great film for that, extremely over the top, but very fun.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: B+

Overall Grade: C-

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50 Movies in 100 Days: Dead Heat

February 13, 2013

Dead Heat

The best way that I can describe this movie would be to call it the poor prequel to Big Trouble in Little China.  This is a completely absurd buddy cop sort of film.  It is an 80’s film, and it is completely over the top.  There is very little that makes complete sense in this film, and it is totally okay.  This movie is cheese.

Two cops are investigating a string of dangerous daylight crimes, but the criminals seem to be super human.  They find a drug in their blood stream and track down a pharmacy that has a large order of it come in.  There they stumble across a machine that re-animates the dead.  One of the cops dies and they find out why the criminals are never repeats, the machine doesn’t keep the cells stable for that long, so they have 12 hours to solve the crime and take down the ring.  After that they run through a series of undead bad guys and things go from bad to worse as they start to unravel the mystery with everything being completely absurd.

The acting is over the top absurd 80’s like you’d expect.  The film stars Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo, to call them good actors would definitely be an overstatement, but the film isn’t meant to be anything more special.  The rest of the cast has the quintessential 80’s feel.  It works because the film is really cheesy and the lines are cheesy and the action is cheesy, so who cares if the acting is cheesy.

The best way to describe how this film looks and feels is the 80’s.  The special effects are cheesy, there is a scene where a bunch of dead animals come back to life, and they are completely absurd and over the top.  This is what really reminded me of Big Trouble in Little China, the stuff that completely over the top and makes no sense, but for the 80’s, the practical  effects just aren’t there, but they are fun to look back on and laugh at.

This is a film that if you enjoy some 80’s absurdity, you’ll love.  It takes itself a bit seriously, but it is so goofy and you can ignore the fact that it might have been semi-serious when it was made.  The cheese flows and it is fun mindless entertainment.

Entertainment Grade: B

Critical Grade: Doubtful there is one, D

Overall Grade: B-

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50 Movies in 100 Days: God Bless America

February 7, 2013

God Bless America

The best way to describe this movie is a pitch black comedy about the sensationalism of America and how horrible people are famous when they should be ignored.  It’s incredibly dark, closest dark comedy in terms of the dark humor I’d compare it to Teeth, but this one might even have Teeth beat, it is less uncomfortable than Teeth to watch, but it really hits hard to some issues about how we as America are obsessed with celebrities, and how we hold up and mindlessly repeat what people say because someone says it.

The story starts with Frank, and insomniac with migraine issues, a lousy job, and a general contempt for reality television and faux celebrities.  His life isn’t all that great, his daughter hates him, and his ex-wife is getting remarried, he loses his job because he was trying to be nice to someone, and his Doctor tells him he has a brain tumor that really is as risky to operate on as it is to leave in his head.  He almost kills himself one night but comes up with one thing he has to do first, as he is watching an MTV like Sweet 16 show.  He wants to take out the spoiled brat of a girl on the show who complains that she didn’t get the right car, that she couldn’t find the right dress, etc.  So he goes to her school where he meets Roxy as he is spying on the other girl.  Roxy basically thinks he’s a creeper until she happens to see him kill the girl.  He takes off in a hurry and again tries to kill himself, but Roxy stops him, because she has a laundry list of bad people whom she wants killed and she tells him about her family life which is terrible.  They go off on a killing spree, killing bad people, like the sweet 16’s parents, people who talk and don’t turn their phones off during movies, someone who takes up two parking spots at a mall, and several others (this is where it gets tiring at times because there is a distinct political slant to the film which ignores one side of the aisle, even though I don’t disagree with who they are killing because they aren’t good people, it is obviously tainted one way).  They eventually end up deciding that moving to France and just getting away to somewhere that dislikes America as much, seems like a great plan.  However, then Frank finds out that Roxy had lied to him, and she comes from a normal family, but she’s just an teenager who doesn’t like the world.  He leaves her (which I should point out, they aren’t having a creepy relationship, well, it is creepy, but not creepy sexual).  Frank goes off on one last mission which changes their relationship, and everything.

This film has great acting.  Frank, played by Joel Murray, has a Ricky Gervais sort of look about him, but much better acting chops.  He is very depressing and serious person who can’t lighten up, and plays that to a tee.  Roxy, Tara Lynne Barr, is equally up to the challenge, showing off a disturbing glee and hatred throughout the film.  Her performance is what really drives the film, and Frank is intentionally a blah downer character to have against the excited Roxy.  The rest of the characters are really spoofs of various political commentators, shock jock radio hosts, celebrities, and fake celebrities.  There are easy ties through out most of them to people in real life.  They end up being caricatures and aren’t all that greatly acted, but the film is really driven by the two main characters and exploring their dynamics more than any of the side characters.

Bobcat Goldthwait, yes, that is the name, does a good job directing this film and creating a world that is basically the world we live in, in the US, and creating a story that shows a strong duplicity to the characters in many ways.  Visually this film has a crisp professional look.  It doesn’t seem like a big budget film, but the quality of work done in the film is noticeable.  They also use Alice Cooper for some of the songs in the film, and to me that is great as I’m a huge Alice Cooper fan.

What works well in this film is the duplicity of the characters, they don’t like the heroes and anti-heroes as portrayed by the media and television, but are worried when they don’t hear anything about what they’ve done on the television.  They crave the fame in some ways, or at least Roxy does, and Frank ends up going that way slowly throughout the film. This duplicity builds the film which could be seen as a highly anti-American, which I don’t know that it is, it is just highly anti-American culture/climate of what matters in news/television, etc. and takes away from the political slant because the two main characters probably would lean one ways, but are themselves what they don’t like.  It is extremely dark, so I’ll warn people watching it about that and there is a fair amount of violence, but it is a well crafted film.

Critical Grade: B

Entertainment Grade: A

Overall Grade: B+

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50 Movies in 100 Days: DeadHeads

February 7, 2013

DeadHeads

The best way to put it is that this movie is a poor mans Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.  It is a low budget zombie romance comedy that has a very predictable plot.  However, that is okay, because the dialog is hilarious with some of the better one liners and awkward scenes that you’ll see.  There are definitely some forced lines in there, but the stoner zombie has many a great line that makes it an entertaining movie.  It isn’t on the same level as the other two zombie spoof movies that I’ve mentioned, but it holds its own for an entertaining ride.

After waking having been shot three years earlier, Mike finds out that there are now zombies roaming the Earth, not a ton, but more so in his area.  Things go from bad to worse when he realizes that he is a zombie as well.  He, however, is a higher functioning zombie where he doesn’t just eat and kill but can talk and think, and remember bits and pieces of his old life.   He is befriended by Brent, another high functioning zombie.  Mike finds and engagement ring in his pocket and is confused until he remembers his old girlfriend Ellie, and he wants to go back and find her and give it to her.  Brent decides that sounds like fun, so he tags along.  Along with the help of an uninfected old man they manage to break the quarantined area (along with their new mindless zombie friend whom Brent names Cheese).  They reach the home town where they are captured again, but not before Mike almost asks Ellie but chickens out.  They get help to escape so that Mike to fulfill his mission (and this is after he’s remembered that it was Ellie’s dad who had killed him).  And he finally tells Ellie, and she still loves him and says yes.  That is where the movie ends.

The acting in this film isn’t all that impressive.  The two lead actors are okay, Ross Kidder and Michael McKiddy, Brent and Mike respectively.  Kidder is probably the better of the two, but he also has the best lines to work with in the film.  Benjamin Webster, as a jerk perimeter security officer is probably one of the worse performances I’ve seen in a long while, it seems like something you’d see in a poor highschool short film, he overacts everything, which I think is what they want him to do, and yes, his character is meant to be annoying, but it isn’t annoying because he’s a jerk but because everything is so over the top and you don’t give a rip about his character.

Visually you can tell this film is a cheap film to make, which is kind of nice.  Brett and Drew Pierce do a good job directing this film for the most part, and more so did a very good job writing for this film.  They keep the jokes coming and make them so they aren’t completely predictable in their jokes.  And they tie in other movies like the Evil Dead quite well to their film, which their dad actually worked on.  And for their first feature length film, it isn’t all that bad.

This is a fun film, crass at times, over the top at times (well a lot of the time), but it is a fun blend of a zombie spoof.  It looks a bit cheap in the quality, but makes up for it with the jokes and a few of the characters, Brent and Cheese mainly.  If you want more of a zombie fix, you’ll enjoy this film.  It doesn’t have a ton of depth, but they keep it a cohesive film and it moves along quickly and isn’t all that long.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: B

Overall Grade: C

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

February 5, 2013

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

I give this movie props, it is raunchy, funny, over the top, and slightly comic book like in how it handles some things, heck there are some comic books even in there.  It is a story that makes no sense, a relic of Cthulhu has been found, which is likely going to bring him forth and the only one who can stop him is this group who has the other half the relic, and the only one that they can give it to is the last remaining relative of HP Lovecraft.

So, I basically summarized the story already, but to go into more detail.  Two slackers, Jeff and Charlie are in a dead end job, there is a girl that one of them likes (and that’s the last we see of that girl).  Then there is a professor who gets pulled from his class by a secret organization which he is a part of, they give him the task of bringing their part of the artifact tot he last descendent of HP Lovecraft, who turns out to be one of the slackers, and a creature from the deep tries to steal the artifact, they run off to their nerdy highschool losers place (who happens to still with his Grandma.  They go off trying to find a sea captain who had run across the sea creatures before.  They end up eventually defeating Cthulhu’s minions in a pretty hilarious manner befitting the film.

The acting and whole film are really low budget, but it works for the film.  It is meant as a completely absurd comedy action film and no doubt that it actually works for the extremely low budget that it is.  Everything is completely hilarious in the action.  But Harry Saine, the director does a pretty good job.  The Kyle Davis and Devin McGinn are the two leading actors and they are pretty hilarious.  Barak Hardley is probably the best comedy in the film as the lonely nerdy friend.  Like I said, the production values are really low, but for the small budget that it likely had, it doesn’t seem cheap.  I started five minutes of the movie Cross, and it had bigger names, and it looked much cheaper in how it was put together.

Overall it was a pretty funny film and is actually entertaining to watch, and isn’t a long watch.  If you are in the mood for something that is completely absurd and full of wonderfully odd pointlessly weird situations.   It isn’t worth all that much more than a silly comedy and anything with Cthulhu mentioned in it, and briefly seen in animated form, is pretty good in my book.

Critical Grade: D+

Entertainment Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C-

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50 New Movies in 100 Days: Season of the Witch

February 2, 2013

Season of the Witch

This is Nicolas Cage and  Ron Perlman as two knights in the middle ages having to fight against a witch, what could go wrong.  Well, technically many things, but surprisingly very few of them did.  It is a goofy movie filled with hilarious lines that are completely out of place and time.  It isn’t as good as Drive Angry but it is is pretty awesome.

The story starts with telling of a book that can bury witches permanently and anything else supernatural and evil.  Then we meet Damien, Cage, and Felson, Perlman, two knights who fight in the crusades and in other church missions.  They end up leaving when they realize that they have killed women and innocent children in their time.  They wander around for a while before coming to a city with the black plague.   The plague is being caused by a witch.  They end up finding out that there is one remaining book in a nearby monastery and they go there with the witch, a priest, and a couple of soldiers.  They face several hardships along the way, but end up making it to the monastery.  However, nothing is quite as it seems, and there is a larger plan in place.

The acting is what you’d expect, Perlman and Cage are pretty good and hilarious.  It is Nicolas Cage as Nicolas Cage in the film like in Drive Angry.  Perlman is definitely a fun actor to watch, his performance was somewhere along the lines of Hellboy and Mutant Chronicles, playing the tough guy and kicking lots of butt.  This is obviously not a film about the acting though with having Cage as a leading man, and none of the rest of the performances were anything of note, and even Cage and Perlman weren’t anything special, they are just very recognizable names.

Directing wise, it seems like a mid-level blockbuster, they had some money to make the film, and there were points in time when there was solid special effects, but maybe because it isn’t like Transformers where everything is special effects, it didn’t seem to rely as heavily on them.  Perlman and Cage both looked fairly out of place in the time period of the film.  Some of the other actors seemed to carry that role much better, but when it is Cage being Cage, you don’t watch it for the authenticity of the piece.

This is a fun film that got universally destroyed by the critics, sitting at 10% on rotten tomatoes, but I think that has more to do now with people liking to use Cage as a punch line for jokes than for anything else.  This was a pointless, mindless film that had some fun action, and slightly clever storyline, and dialog from the year 2011 set back in 1345 or so.  It isn’t meant to be anything more than pointless popcorn flick, and when viewed as that, it really isn’t that bad a film.  There isn’t anything that stands out as special, but there isn’t anything laughably bad, such as in Wickerman.

Critical Grade: D

Entertainment Grade: B-

Overall Grade: C-