May 6, 2011

Twist and Shout!

There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a fresh new genre movie without knowing too much about it in terms of plot or storyline, only to be blown away by a fine twist ending that you DIDN'T see coming. Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating slightly as there are more satisfying experiences but I think you get my point. Anyway, my point being is that why do reviewers, whether mainstream or niche, feel the need to broadcast the fact that there is a twist coming?

I find it incredibly frustrating watching a movie knowing that there is a twist coming, surely the impact is increased when you are unaware and it takes you by surprise. I know that sometimes distribution companies use these twists or shock endings as a major selling point, for example The Sixth Sense or even Saw V with its You Won't Believe How It Ends tagline, but I do believe that it is possible to sell or promote a movie without taking this surprise away from the viewer.

Personally speaking I am never ever happy with my reviews, just ask my wife who will testify to this, but I do try to take pride in the fact that I will never reveal too much with regards to a movie's plot and I will never make mention of the ending of a film. This is something I have honed over the years and I have tried my utmost to adhere to. A review should whet the appetite, or warn you off as the case may be, it should never be a scene by scene recap. Why would I want to watch the damn thing if I know what is going to happen?

Now there are thousands of review sites/mags etc out there so you are bound to find differing opinions on everything. However I tend to stick to reviewers that I trust the opinion of, which I grant you is a fairly small list, and I only read the review if it is something I have no plan on reviewing myself. It is possible to review the movie, I suggest reading the definition of the word review, without resorting to lazy writing. Four paragraphs of plot reveals and one that is a brief summation does not constitute a review.

Before people throw their toys out of their playpen I should clarify that the above rant is directed towards reviews of new releases. I would never expect a review or look back of an older movie to necessarily keep the lid on twists and turns that are everyday knowledge. Time will almost definitely always reveal spoilers. Maybe I am alone in taking enjoyment of the unknown when it comes to movies? Maybe people feel safe knowing exactly what to expect?

As is always the case opinions are like assholes, we all have one but some make more noise than others. Just have the decency to warn someone before you let rip in their face.

May 5, 2011

Driving Straight Outta Hell!

Nicolas Cage hasn't exactly been setting the world of cinema alight in recent years, in fact he's been in his fair share of stinkers with none more so than the god-awful remake of The Wicker Man. Holy shit that was bad. What I want is the Cage that tore up the screen in movies like Wild at Heart and Face/Off, the bad-ass persona he can play so well. The good news is that this is a return to form, but it is by no means a one man show. Pretty much everything about Drive Angry hits the mark.

In Drive Angry Cage plays John Milton, a man on a mission, a mission to hunt down the Satanic cult and its leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) in order to rescue his Granddaughter from their clutches and avenge the murder of his daughter. The whole time Milton himself is persued by a sharp dressed man known only as The Accountant (William Fichtner). Along the way he meets a hot young lass named Piper (Amber Heard) who tags along for the ride. Cue car chases, naked bodies, murder, mayhem, guts and gore, all in 3D and all just about as much fun as is legally possible in an hour and 45 minutes.

Drive Angry is all about having a blast while watching a movie, right from the start with a short narration about bad-ass motherfuckers you can pretty much gauge what the tone of this movie will be. Cage himself is spot on as the vengeful father and Amber Heard impresses no end in her role as the feisty Piper, however it is Fichtner who steals the show here, he drops one-liners for fun and chews up every scene he is in. His is definitely one of the most fun performances I have seen in years. Fantastic stuff! On top of that though there is a solid supporting role from David Morse as Milton's old buddy and Tom Atkins kicking ass as a tough as old boots police captain. It was great to see him back on the big screen and taking no prisoners.

A cast is only as good as the material they are given to work with though and here the writer/director team of Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier come up trumps. There past work has been a mixed bag in my eyes, their most recent work being My Bloody Valentine 3D, which was pretty good fun for the most part. Here though everything just slots into place perfectly with even Farmer himself popping up as a right royal asshole. The pair obviously had a great time making this flick and it does indeed show on the screen. This is an old school style road movie slammed in the blender with exploitation stylings and dragged kicked and screaming into the 21st century.

The fact that this was shot in 3D didn't really make any difference to me as it would have been fun regardless, such as the redux of Piranha was. Here though it is used to good effect with the carnage flying off the screen at you, at the same time though not taking your attention away from the film itself.

Drive Angry is without a doubt the most fun I have had at the theater since I saw the aforementioned Piranha. It is pure escapism and is meant to be enjoyed as an over the top rollercoaster ride. Do not be fooled into thinking there is a hidden depth to this movie, although I am sure there is if you want to find it. Just kick back, grab a beverage of your choice and enjoy this ass-kicker of a movie.

Welcome back Mr Cage, I think you owe some thanks to Messrs Farmer and Lussier for dragging your career out of Hell. If not I am sure Fichtner will kick your ass!

May 4, 2011

New Animated Flick From The Creators of Coraline



NEW YORK and PORTLAND, OR, May 4, 2011 – Focus Features and LAIKA, the two companies behind the Academy Award-nominated animated feature Coraline are reteaming for LAIKA’s next two projects. The first of the duo, ParaNorman, will be released nationwide on August 17th, 2012. The second, yet-to-be-named, picture will be released nationwide in 2014. Following the groundbreaking CoralineParaNorman is only the second stop-motion animated feature to be made in 3D. Focus CEO James Schamus and LAIKA President and CEO Travis Knight made the announcement today.

As on Coraline, Focus will hold worldwide distribution rights to the movies, and Universal Pictures International will release them overseas. Coraline is Focus’ second-highest-grossing movie of all time, with over $75 million domestically. The picture earned Golden Globe, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, and Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature Film; and was named one of the year’s 10 Best Films by the American Film Institute (AFI) with an AFI Award.

Currently in production, ParaNorman is being directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, from Mr. Butler’s original screenplay. Mr. Fell was director of The Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away. Mr. Butler was storyboard supervisor on Coraline and storyboard artist on Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. The voice cast includes Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show), Jeff Garlin (Toy Story 3), John Goodman (Monsters, Inc.), Bernard Hill (Titanic), Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Leslie Mann (Rio), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (How to Train Your Dragon), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), and Tony and Emmy Award winner Elaine Stritch (30 Rock).

In the comedy thriller, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Mr. McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, moronic grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

Arianne Sutner, animation producer on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Travis Knight are producing ParaNorman. Academy Award winner Brian Van’t Hul (King Kong, Coraline) is the movie’s visual effects supervisor; Emmy Award winner Nelson
Lowry (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride) is its production designer; and Tristan Oliver (Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Academy Award-winning Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) is the director of photography on ParaNorman.

Mr. Schamus commented, “Everyone at Focus is proud to be partnered with LAIKA again on their newest wondrous creations. Travis Knight is both an extraordinary businessman and a visionary artist who we know will shepherd these projects with imagination and originality. We’re thrilled to have ParaNorman as our next movie together, one which marries the stunning visuals of 3D stop-motion with a compelling, heartfelt, and funny story anchored by a terrifically relatable underdog hero.”

Mr. Knight added, “ParaNorman is a story of intense beauty and emotional truth. It’s audacious, has genuine heart, and is funny as hell. We’re incredibly excited to share this wonderful story with the world.  And we’re privileged to work again with Focus Features, with whom we share a commitment to bold, distinctive, and enduring films.  LAIKA and Focus are truly kindred spirits. James Schamus and his extraordinary team have built their reputation on original thinking, old-fashioned muscle, and an unerring fidelity to creatively rich and thematically challenging cinema. We’re thrilled to extend the relationship that began with Coraline and look forward to being a part of the Focus/Universal family for years to come.”

Teen Horror Forget Me Not Coming To DVD and VOD

For Immediate Release

Forget Me Not
ON MAY 24, 2011

Phase 4 Films is pleased to announce the DVD & VOD release of FORGET ME NOT on May 24, 2011. The cast includes Cody Linley (“Hannah Montana” & “Dancing with the Stars”) Carly Schroeder (Mean Creak & Firewall) and Chloe Bridges (“Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam”).

Its graduation weekend, and Sandy Channing, the popular class president of her small-town high school, should be enjoying the time of her life. But when her friends start disappearing, Sandy discovers they have unwittingly awakened the vengeful spirit of a girl they wronged long ago. Fighting for her sanity, Sandy must unlock a dark secret from her own past before it's too late.

Phase 4 Films will release Forget Me Not on May 24, 2011. It will be available for $29.99 SRP at all major retailers.
FORGET ME NOT Specifications:
Street Date: May 24, 2011
Pre-Order Date: April 19, 2011
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 102 Minutes
Rating: R
Sound: 5.1 Surround Sound
SRP: $29.99
DVD Aspect Ratio: (16x9) Widescreen
Language: English
Bonus Features: Trailer, Deleted Scenes and Alternative Ending

May 3, 2011

Polly (2009) - Review

If JABB Pictures debut movie Spike was the newborn of the family, growing and learning as it played out, then their follow-up Polly has all the swagger of a pissed off teenager. It’s an ugly movie that is quite happy to bludgeon you in places yet it has an assured restraint about it as well.

The Polly of the title is a young lady who through misfortune finds herself kidnapped and held prisoner by serial killer Charles Morgan Lee. She is the sole survivor of this madman and we the viewer get to witness her ordeal.

The movie cleverly fills us in with information and pictures of Lee’s crimes and history without ever implying any sympathy for his actions. In a time where screen villains are seen as cool or a marketing tool it was nice to see this killer portrayed as a cold and unforgiving individual. Although we do follow Polly’s ordeal I saw this movie as much more of an examination of the criminal mind, rather than of the victim.

Polly is definitely a far more visceral piece of work than the previous movie Spike, and I saw the influence of movies such as August Underground and Torched, although nowhere near as graphic as those. The influences for me were far more in the tone rather than being overtly gory. Sure, there are some scenes that are disturbing and almost painful to watch but these came across to me as extensions of Lee’s mind rather than an excuse to throw some gore at the screen.

Aside from being a more visceral movie it is also a more assured and technical film, I personally thought the inclusion of the on screen text was a great idea and helped give the film an almost documentary style feel to it.

The only downside to Polly for me was the rather abrupt ending, but that is only a minor point in an otherwise very good movie. It kept me entertained throughout its 50 minute or so running time, and having watched it not long after Spike saw the progression of director Jason Hoover. He obviously learned from his experiences of his debut picture and put the knowledge to good use with Polly. Personally I recommend watching Spike and Polly back to back as they compliment each other well with their examinations of twisted minds.

Review by Jude Felton

Spike (2009) - Review

Man takes his dog for a walk, dog smells something interesting, the man investigates. Low and behold hidden beneath the undergrowth is the body of a dead girl. Quite the quandary for the poor fella, what should he do? Of course logic and good sense would dictate that he would call the police. Yeah, well that isn’t going to happen as he decides to take the body home with him.

Spike, which is the name of the dog, is a short, sharp kick to the Jacobs from JABB Pictures. Running to a brisk 25 minutes this movie did a fine job in leaving me wanting more, as it gets in, does the damage and then leaves without warning. The subject matter is macabre, yet this is not a graphic movie. Sure the implications are there, and as such it is probably more effective because of this.

What I found disturbing about Spike, aside from what will become obvious as you watch it, is the complete sense of detachment from the body. At no time is any thought or consideration given as to how or why she ended up a corpse. Whether this was intentional or not I do not know, although I will say that it did compliment the cold detachment of the life that the man leads.

Shot with a budget of absolutely nowt Spike is an effective movie that only hints at what is to come from JABB Pictures. It isn’t perfect, I felt a couple of the scenes could have been tightened up a little but on the whole it is well worth checking out  Director Jason Hoover has crafted a twisted story, one which builds nicely to JABB’s second movie Polly, more on that though in a separate review.

Spike itself is a movie in which all involved are learning the craft, but it appears that they are quick learners. Independent filmmaking has its detractors, due in part to the amount of crap that gets thrown into the world yet when it is made with passion, as this obviously was, it is hard to ignore.

The DVD of Spike also contains the short films Dolls and In Heaven and can be purchased at JABB Pictures Official Site.

Review by Jude Felton

May 1, 2011

The Mechanic Coming Soon To DVD

May 17th will see The Mechanic released to DVD and Blu-ray through Sony. I missed this at the theater so I will be checking it out. Starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland it's a remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson flick.

Arthur Bishop is a ‘mechanic’ – an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. It’s a job that requires professional perfection and total detachment, and Bishop is the best in the business. But when his mentor and close friend Harry is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed – he wants those responsible dead.