Piranha 3DD – Review

Piranha 3DD (2012) –

Directed by John Gulager. Starring Danielle PanabakerVing RhamesDavid HasselhoffChristopher LloydGary BuseyJean-Luc BilodeauDavid Koechner

The only achievement of this film, as far as I am concerned, it that it has managed to get the lowest score so far on my blog. Of course, I was never expecting to see a masterpiece from a movie with such title… But at least I was hoping for something just as self-consciously trashy, funny and splatter  as the deliciously camp B-movie first part (which itself was a remake) directed by Alexandre Aja in 2010.

There have been several trashy splatter/exploitive horrors in the past (mainly in the 80s and early 90s) which I still consider classics within their own genre (Re-Animator, Society, possibly even Tremors and to a degree the Evil Dead movies just to mention a few). Why couldn’t this have been one of them? All the ingredients seemed to have been there: an R rating (18 here in the UK), tits-galore right from the title, exploitive 3D, horrible little hungry monsters (piranha in this case), and a series of more or less famous stars willing to play along…

Unfortunately what I found was the most un-inventive, uninspired, un-funny, un-scary, dull piece of junk I have seen in a very long time… (Well, I guess that by itself is quite an achievement since I do watch quite a lot of movies). Yes, it’s boring too, despite being only 83 minutes long.

How can somebody like Christopher Lloyd, the man with a resume sporting such masterpieces like One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest and Back to the Future, could have accepted to have his name associated with such an insult to human intelligence is beyond me! Was your rent really so behind, Chris?

The film is badly conceived, badly filmed, really badly post-converted into 3D (possibly the worse conversion I’ve seen since a cheap stereoscopic comic I had when I was 10!). The story (if we can call it such) makes no sense (there’s a piranha in the swimming pool… well, get the f**k out it!). The characters (again… characters?!) all merge into one  and even the gore is way below anything one would have hoped for such a movie and most of the potentially gruesome stuff is happening off camera (I guess they didn’t have enough imagination to figure out how to make it on camera!)

For the first 30 minutes or so, you don’t really know how to take it. It seems a film aimed at 14 or 15 years old kids who are hoping to get a peek at some boobies for the first time in their lives… except that this film is actually rated 18…which kinda defeats that purpose. So in the beginning it all starts building up as a straight horror (a bad one of course, but still a horror). Only once David Hasselhoff shows up you actually begin to get a hint of the fact that this is all supposed to be taken for a laugh… If only it were remotely funny. The  “jokes”  (please notice the inverted commas) are so puerile and genuinely unfunny that it becomes almost embarrassing. Not only we are not laughing with it, but we are not even laughing at it… in fact we are just not laughing at all.

This is one of the few films where  not even the endless outtakes during the end credits can make you smile (And when I say ‘endless’ I do mean really endless.. What an indulgent and embarrassing moment!. There is nothing worse than seeing a whole bunch of actors and grown-up film-makers laughing at things which are not even remotely funny to us outside.

To be honest, I think the film doesn’t even deserve such a detailed review, so I’ll just stop here and urge you to give it a miss, even (and especially) if you love this genre.

3/10

Insidious – Review

Insidious (2010) 

Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick WilsonRose ByrneTy Simpkins

I’m going to be quite upfront in reviewing this film: the plot is preposterous, it has virtually no original ideas, it is a derivative from all sorts of films we’ve seen before, the end is ludicrous, and yet it scared the living daylight out of me, like very few films have managed to do in the last few years. Just for this reason I would recommend it to every horror/thriller fan out there. It is one of the most skilfully made horror I’ve seen in quite a while.

Director James Wan certainly knows how to create the most tense atmosphere out of a simple scene where a person is walking along a corridor. His mastery in the use of sound, in the use of music (or better, when to use music and when silence is a lot more powerful), the positioning of the camera is to be admired.

Wan clearly knows that the anticipation to an event could be a lot more powerful than the event itself. He knows that the fear of seeing the devil can be a lot scarier than the moment when the devil actually reveals himself.

There are some incredibly tense sequences (a particularly creepy one involving a baby monitor) throughout the whole first part of the film. There’s a constant sense of dread as the camera moves around the empty rooms of the house and when the scares come, they really make you jump, however expected some of them might be.

A lot of time is spent in building some believable characters and making the audience care about them (credits due to both Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne too of course) and it’s good to see the “usual sceptic” changing his mind and actually believing the supernatural.

The film looses a little bit of its edge and its eerie atmosphere once the supernatural get officially introduced, and yet even the reveal of the Devil (which is usually quite a let-down in any other horror films like this one) still manages to be incredibly unsettling. Since the script is a bit obvious and a photocopy of films like Poltergeist (including the Ghostbusters team and the not-so-reveal of the fact that it’s not a haunted house, but a possessed child), and of course the Exorcist, I can only deduce that it’s the direction of Insidious that really makes it work.

Of course, once the film is over and the lights are on, it’ll take you 2 seconds to realize that it was all pretty silly and it’s going to be a lot easier to dismiss it as junk (really scary horror films should really stay with you long after they finish), but while you’re in it I’m sure you’ll be as frighten as a little boy who hears a suspicious noise coming out of his closet at night…

6.5

The Walking Dead (s01 e03)

The walking Dead – Episode 3  (7/10)

EPISODE 3 – Tell It to the Frogs

Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton.  Writers: Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee, Jack LoGiudice

CAST: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Michael Rooker, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Emma Bell, Andrew RothenbergMaddie Lomax

It’s interesting to see how different these last three episodes have all been.
The first one (arguably the best) has been setting up a perfect eerie and uneasy mood. It was truly scary despite the fact that it was marching through a very well-known territory (both the settings and the actually zombies themselves are nothing new and yet it was all terrifying).
The second episode went for the gore and it felt almost like a parody of the genre itself (by saying that I don’t mean to criticise it, however some of the “yuk factor” was so over the top that somehow it became less scary).
Now, having set up the main story and the characters, finally this third episode can afford slow things down a bit. Gone is the eerie atmosphere and the splatter  factor (a part from one scene, where a head gets chopped off). Gone are also the big action set pieces and they all seem to have given way for more character-building scenes.
The makers are obviously aware that this is a TV series after all, where from episode to episode we get to know more and more about each character and they have decided to exploit the format to their advantage by pushing all the right emotional buttons at their disposal.
Last week in my review I wrote that I was afraid the series might end up looking more like a soap opera, but I now happy to say that I was wrong.
What could have been really cheesy sequences about a family being re-united and about a wife betraying the memory of his dead husband by cheating with his ex best friend, in this third episodes exploded into some of the most emotional sequences in the whole series yet, mainly thanks to a particularly well handled direction and some excellent performances.
I must confess , when or main character, Rick Grimes, finally sees his wife and child again, I was almost brought to tears
One  also has to appreciate the boldness of the makers who mercifully went straight for the punch lines and the “big reveal” without over-stretching the storyline of the return of the thought-to-be-dead-husband into 3 or 4 episodes.
Let’s just see how will they now handle the “betrayal” stuff and let’s hope they’ll be able to keep the pace up.
On the downside, I still have some problems with predictably of some of the set ups; for example (SPOILER AHEAD) the fact that the guy on the roof would have use the saw to free himself from the handcuffs was basically telegraphed from last week.
However, for the time being,  I’m still hooked to this.
7/10

The Walking Dead (s01.e02)- Review


The Walking Dead

(episode 2) 7/10

Created by Frank Darabont. Directed by Michelle Maxwell MacLaren. With Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie HoldenJeffrey DeMunnSteven YeunChandler RiggsMichael Rooker

I might have built up too much expectation after first episode last week and even though I still enjoyed this second part, I didn’t find it as stylish nor compelling as the first one.

Gone were all those long silences and eerie atmosphere that made the pilot so intriguing, scary and horrific (in a good one, of course). What was basically a one man show has now become filled with a series of new characters, most of whom are not defined enough to care.

However what lacked in mood was definitely compensated by action packed sequences and a lot of gore, possibly even more than in the first episode, to the point of parody. Which brings me to ask: “what kind of a series does this want to be?” Is it going to be a horror series, or is it going to be a bit of a parody? The whole subplot about  Andrew Lincoln‘s wife and her affair with the ex partner (and friend) scares me a little bit. I really hope this is not going to turn into a soap opera…

I didn’t particularly like the fact that the zombies themselves seem to have learnt how to run and jump over fences on this one. I thought they couldn’t run on the previous episode. Are we back to “28 days later” territory again? And taking about ripping things off from other movies, the idea of having a group of people seeking shelter from zombies in a shopping mall is lifted from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

Also I thought that the whole dropping the key into the hole moment, was a bit silly… Surely they could have found a better excuse to leave that guy handcuffed.

Anyway, the production value is still pretty high and I to be honest I did have a lot of fun watching this (in fact the episode felt faster than the first one did. Was it shorter by any chance?) but I am fearing that it could all possibly run out of steam or ideas sooner than I though.

I’m rating it with a 7 mainly because  I still have a little bit of excitement left from the first episode. Let’s hope it doesn’t go below that.

7/10

Click here to read the review of  EPISODE 1 

Click here to read the review of EPISODE 3

The Walking Dead (s01.e01)- Review

The Walking Dead

(Episode 1)  (7.5/10)

Created by Frank Darabont. With Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden

I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. First the early rumors from the States, then the massive adverts all around our underground stations, then we started to get bombarded by adverts on TV. FX clearly believe that this is going to be the next big thing on TV. And they’re not completely wrong…

There’s a lot to like and appreciate from this first episode and I am definitely going to mention all the things I love about it, but first, let me just talk about what I didn’t like, so that I can get it off my chest. Was it just me or the whole idea about somebody walking up in a deserted hospital, after a sort of coma to find out the world has been taken over by zombies is just absolutely identical to “28 days Later” by Danny Boyle? I was really shocked to find out similar it all felt (even the fact that Andrew Lincoln wakes up very very thirsty, just like Cillian Murphy did). I suppose the problem with doing anything about Zombies today is that we’ve seen so many of them over the years that the genre seems to be pretty exhausted.

Zombies are not as sexy as vampires, they don’t talk, most of the times they move pretty slowly and all they’re interested about is flesh. In other words, let’s face it: zombies are dead boring! Furthermore, after Shaun of the Dead it’s even harder to take them seriously.

(SPOILER ALERT) However “The walking Dead” does manage to bring back, not just the scary part of Zombies, but also that more poignant and sad side of them. Let’s all not forget who zombies are. They are first and foremost dead people, and not just anybody. They could very well be your recently deceased grandfather, or grandmother… or, like in this first episode, the recently deceased wife and mother. The scene where Lennie James tries unsuccessfully to shoot down his wife, is one of the highlights of the episode and one of the most heat-breaking. All of a sudden you can see the potential of a series like this. It might even became a sort of cross between Six Feet Under and A Zombie movie.

Technically, we are really into feature film territory here. There’s nothing that says TV to me, unless we consider TV like the more refined brother of cinema (at least when it comes to series like the West Wing, Six Feet Under, The Wire, 24, Dexter and so on), in which case, this is really like the best TV can be.

The photography is excellent, the camerawork really impressive and so are the special effects, the make up and the stunts.

I really loved how the music was really spare in this episode (this is actually a trade-mark on AMC, I’ve noticed). We are so used to hear music pretty much back to back in these sort of films, that it’s a big relief to find something so brave, competent and sure of its own merits that it refuses to fall into that usual trap of music overload.

The silence in those hospital corridors, along those empty streets, during those darkest nights, it all works perfectly and it enhances the eerie mood and uneasy feel that permeated the whole hour or however long this first episode was.

We’ve seen very little of all the other actors in the series, a part from our hero Andrew Lincoln and the already mentioned Lennie James. They are both very good indeed and I am looking forward to seeing where it all leads to and how their characters will evolve

So, to wrap it all up, though not completely original the series seems to walk through a path which is somehow fairly familiar and yet it is all so handsomely done that I really want to be patient and give it the benefit of the doubt. I shall definitely be watching the second episode and unless that is a complete disaster I’ll carry on till the end.

AMC has really put a lot of money in this series and it shows. The production values are all there on the screen. After their incredibly good work on series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Rubicon, they have all my respect and my trust. The least I can do for them is to give them an hour of each week for the next five weeks.

Looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

7.5/10

Click here to read the review of  EPISODE 2

Click here to read the review of EPISODE 3

Let Me In – Review

Let me In (6.5/10)

Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins

Let me just start by saying that I don’t really see the point of any English Language remake, especially when the new film in question is so close to the original that you sometimes even forget which  one you’re actually watching.

Matt Reeves decided to play it safe, very safe if you ask me. In various interviews he’s been claiming that he never really wanted to make a vampire story, but more of a story about friendship between two people who both happened to be outcast. Well, yes fine, fair enough. But all this was in the original movie too!

There is absolutely nothing new in this film. No apparent reason to have a remake if not for the fact that people are just lazy and cannot be bothered to watch a subtitled film. So, let’s encourage laziness and remake exactly the same film without those annoying subtitles! And while we are there,  let’s add a little bit more blood and gore, that green tint that nowadays seems to be the only color of horror and let’s add more music, filling up every single second of silence in the film (I thought there was just way too much music!!).

I don’t really want to rubbish this film. It was after all very well handled, and at least they didn’t really make fools out of themselves. Let’s face it, it could have been so much worse. Thankfully the director and producers decided to be quite reverential towards the original source (the Swedish film itself was drawn from a novel, which is also one of the sources from this US version) and in the end didn’t really piss all over it.

My criticism is probably a bit biased because it starts from the premises that there was just no reason to remake it, especially just a couple of years after the first one. So let me try for a moment to pretend this is no remake (almost shot by shot in a few cases!) and let’s look at it as a piece of work by itself (it’s hard but I’ll try).

To be honest, it’s beautifully filmed. Every shot is carefully framed and composed, sometimes to the point that it becomes a bit too unreal. The idea of never showing the mother for example, seems a bit too forced in places… and let’s face it. It’s nothing new. Steven Spielberg had done it before in ET (and before that, Tom & Jerry Cartoons or even Peanuts). The parallel with Spielberg is interesting, since apparently Director Matt Reeves did have a meeting with Spielberg before he started filming. Spielberg gave him various tips about directing children (things like “Do listen to what they have to say and don’t force your idea about how they should do things), but also he was the one who suggested that both young actors should keep a diary in which they should write daily, in character.

Whatever Spielberg’s suggestions were, Matt Reeves did a really good job with the 2 kids. The performances from both Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz are very very good indeed! Little Chloe is clearly destined to greatness, as she has already shown her capabilities in “Kick Ass“, and after this one, we can probably even expect some nomination in the forthcoming award season.

So, to wrap it all up. It’s a competent film, without any single original idea in it. If you haven’t seen the original you might like it (or probably think it’s all a bit slow), but if, like me, you’ve seen and loved the original, then you’ll be left with a slightly sour taste in your mouth, wondering “Why… Why… Why?”. Well, probably because some American think it’s easier to spend 29 million dollars than to tell people that they should spend a couple of hours reading a bunch of subtitles in a good film.

6.5/10

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