COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, TIDELAND, THE HOT ROCK, DIAMONDS OF KILAMANDJARO, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, THE HIRED HAND, DAY OF THE JACKAL, and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Sunday, November 6, 2011

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS: TRULY SCARY!

Every so often a movie comes along that delights to no end. It's one of those movies that not everyone has heard of or that actually lives up to the hype that preceded it. When it happens, which is rare, it is one of the best times you have with a movie. Such is the case with GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.

The movie falls into the category of lost footage films that became popular with both THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films. Both were films put together with supposedly lost footage of some group or person that just now were being released. That happens here as a producer of reality television shows opens by telling us about the proposed series called "Grave Encounters". It was supposedly ahead of it's time, a reality show about ghost hunters before they were common.

Led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), the group investigates haunted locations in an attempt to offer proof of the paranormal. In reality as we watch this raw footage unroll we learn that it's all a gag to him and his crew, a group that doesn't actually believe in ghosts let alone having seen one. To them this is nothing more than a way to get on TV and be known, a way to make money.

Along with Lance we have Matt White (Juan Riedinger) their tech specialist, Sasha Parker (Ashleigh Gryzko) a paranormal expert, camera man T.C. Gibson (Merwin Mondesir) and renowned psychic Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray) who is actually an actor pretending to be a psychic. This group comes together to prove or debunk the supernatural in the series. With five episodes in the can they head out to their latest location, an abandoned asylum where nefarious tests were run on the inmates and where a few of them escaped to take down the doctor who committed these deeds and kill him.

At first we see them try and coerce a handyman into claiming he saw a ghost for $20 and get to hear from a local historian who gives them the background on the location. Afterwards the current care taker unlocks the building and lets them in, padlocking the door from the outside once they're in (lockdowns are a part of several ghost hunting shows on air now). Matt sets up cameras in steady positions throughout the building and the crew has equipment of their own and the show begins filming.

Nothing happens at first. The stage is being set for the viewer, that feeling of disbelief and the hope that something will happen only intensified by the setting and the use of night vision cameras shooting in the dark. If you hate hand held camera films you might not like this one but its not as intrusive as some have been in the past. There's a feeling of dread in the air as they walk the abandoned halls finding wheel chairs overturned gurneys. But little happens at first.

When it does it's something simple. A tug, a push and finally we see Sasha's hair lifted by something not there. While this may seem spooky to us it's even worse for those involved as this is the first actual paranormal encounter that any of them have experienced. They are in over their head and soon find that these ghosts want to do more than just play with them.

As things progress from bad to worse, they decided to stick together in the lobby and shut down the shooting. They have enough to put together and episode and have had enough. Sending Matt to pick up all the stationery cameras, he disappears and the group soon find themselves searching for him. And while doing so, they encounter more than they can handle.

There's the set up of the movie. It was seen in the previews that were available before it was released. And for some reason it never got a wide or well played release to theaters which is sad. That's because this movie offers more scares and jumps, more creepy and chilling sequences than any movie I've seen in quite some time. While the similarly themed PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was gave me goose bumps, this one gave me more scares and had me more frightened at times. And even in scenes where you knew something was going to happen, the tension was so well developed that you felt relief after jumping.

The actors are all quite believable. While none of them are well known recognizable faces it works to their advantage. It would be hard to believe someone like Tom Cruise as Lance knowing that he's, well, Tom Cruise. With unrecognizable faces you believe that maybe this really is lost footage. Okay not really but it helps make it more believable.

Being a fan of horror films its rare for me to watch one and not feel cheated these days. So many go for the cheap scare, the gore extreme or the simple torture porn film, never relying on atmosphere. This movie drips with atmosphere. Although made on a small budget you'd never know while watching it. Instead you hope that no current group of ghost hunters have to experience what this team does. The movie is one of the best horror films I've seen in years. And having watched so many of them that's saying something.

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ATTACK THE BLOCK: PURE FUN

When you've seen as many movies as I have it's rare that one surprises you, which takes you off guard and delivers on the hype that surrounds it. But that's just what happened this week with the release of ATTACK THE BLOCK.

The story takes place in a London building project where low income people live in a high rise apartment complex doing the best they can. Among the tenants is a young woman named Sam who is mugged as the film opens by a group of early teens. This gang of sorts begins to take her belongings when a meteor falls from the sky and crashes into a car on the street.

Sam makes her getaway with this distraction and gang leader Moses takes a closer look. What he finds inside the car is a small creature with grey skin and sharp claws that takes a swipe at him and runs. The gang follows it and after shooting a few fireworks it's way, kills the creature.

Unsure of what they've got on hand they decide it's something they can make money off of selling pictures to some tabloid magazine. The safest place they can think of to hide this discovery is in the complex on the block at the apartment of the local drug dealer. All seems fine until the gang looks out the window to see numerous other meteors landing in the neighborhood. It appears this is a full fledged invasion and these kids aren't about to let their block be taken over.

Things begin to change when they witness the first creatures to come out of these meteors though. Rather than the tiny grey skinned being these are fully grown monsters. As the kids describe them they seem like gorilla alien wolf-like things. Yes that's an apt description but worse. The fur covered creatures are an incredibly dark black but present a wide oral opening filled with green glowing teeth. Not only that they're fast too.

Moses is picked up by the police who've been driving around with Sam trying to find the gang. After he's handcuffed and tossed in back, the police are attacked and eaten by the aliens who then try to get inside their van. With a little help, Sam and Moses escape and head for the rest of the gang.

Now it's on as the gang decides to take on these creatures. Unable to decide if it's just an invasion or if it's something the government has come up with to exterminate the people in the block, they arm themselves with whatever weapons they have and set out to defend the block.

The movie offers a nice blend of humor, suspense and sheer terror as the aliens chase the kids up and down the streets and in the apartment complex. This is a night when not everyone will make it out alive and one can only hope their favorite characters live.

There's the set up but it doesn't do justice to how good this movie truly is. The photography is fantastic, never making things so dark that you can't tell what's going on or see anything happening. Well lit by street lamps and headlights the creatures are clearly visible rather than the usual thing that happens these days with creatures rarely seen. Here they're quite visible and on screen enough that you get to completely enjoy them.

Being able to see the creatures makes this movie. They are at both scary on one hand and interesting to see on the other. You don't want to look away, you want to see them and see them often. Fortunately the film's director agrees and offers plenty of them to watch.

The movie doesn't try and pretend to be a serious take on an alien invasion. Instead it goes full out to offer an entertaining look at what might happen if aliens decided to invade the wrong neighborhood. There are plenty of chills and thrills from beginning to end.

As I said at the start it's rare for me to find a movie that surprises me or leaves me completely entertained. This movie does the trick. As the end credits rolled and had I had the time I felt like I could have watched it all over again right there and then. It will take a prominent space on my shelf. While most folks will be rushing to watch CAPTAIN AMERICA this week, I would recommend that you track this one down instead. I've seen both films and enjoyed this one much more.

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THE GUNS OF NAVARONE: GREAT GUNS BLAST ON BLU-RAY

One of the great joys that have come of the invention of blu-ray is the chance to witness great classic films in the most pristine prints possible. True many of these films we've been able to watch pretty clear over the past decade or so but with the new format we are finally getting the most complete and cleanest pictures possible. So we're fortunate that films like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE are having a chance to be rediscovered in this way.

It's World War II and 2,000 soldiers have found themselves stuck behind enemy lines in Greece. Their only way out is to have ships come in from the ocean and rescue them. The only thing stopping this is two massive guns that use radar accuracy to stop anything passing the island of Navarone. Buried in the recesses of the mountain there, bombs have failed to take them out. Only an elite team can do so.

Gregory Peck starts as Captain Keith Mallory, an ex-mountain climber and undercover spy for the allies who has been asked to lead this team. Their mission includes climbing the steep rock walls of Navarone to get on the island where no one would expect any sane man to do so. Accompanying him on this mission will be Col. Andrea Stavros (Anthony Quinn), a man who has worked with Mallory before and who has sworn to kill Mallory once the war ends; Cpl. Miller (David Niven), not the most disciplines soldier but the most skilled at demolitions; Pvt. "Butcher" Brown (Stanley Baker), an expert hand to hand combat soldier; Pvt. Spiros Pappadimos (James Darren), a soldier who has family still on the island; and Maj. Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle), a friend of Mallory and the man who put this project together.

Posing as fishermen, the team makes their way to the island, getting to know one another along the way. After one incident, they hurry only to find themselves in the midst of a terrible storm while trying to dock. Their ship wrecks but not before they rescue their gear and begin the hard climb up the side of the island in the midst of the storm. Everyone clears the climb with the exception of Franklin who breaks his leg. Saddled with the wounded man and with the Germans hot on their heels, the group heads to the point where they are to meet the resistance fighters on the island.

Meet them they do only to find two women, one of which is the sister of Pappadimos, Maria (Irene Papas). They take them to shelter but somehow the Germans catch wind of where they are. A trek across the island with the Germans following on their trail and seeming to know every step they take lead them to one conclusion: there is a traitor among them.

The film moves forward with the team avoiding their pursuers, captured and then trying to find a way to carry out their mission. Another fly in the ointment comes about when the timetable they had is moved forward giving them less time to accomplish their task. They must get to the guns and destroy them or the ships coming to save those 2,000 men will also be lost.

This is one of those great epics made in their heyday that was filled to the brim with world renowned stars. The cost would be too high to do so these days. It's an action film with brains, one that features as much story as thrills if not more. Our heroes for the most part are well defined, the enemy perhaps not as much as we witness one German officer who would prefer their answering his questions as opposed to torture by an SS agent. This is the type of film made as Hollywood was slowing down from major event films and gearing up for smaller pictures. Sad but true.

The entire cast here performs so well that you'd swear they were the actual characters they portray. Peck's Mallory is dead set on accomplishing the goals he was given but at the same time racked with guilt over possibly leaving behind a wounded friend. Quinn does a great job as the expert in going undercover, the plotter and yet a man with a grudge. Niven is flippant throughout only to come off as the offended man defending leaving behind Franklin. Baker and Darren give small roles with little meat enough character to make them seen and remembered. And Papas, a star in her own country, is larger than and filled with life.

The direction by J. Lee Thompson is amazing, especially considering he wasn't the original director and came in with something like 2 weeks to take over. This film would have been a major task and accomplishment for any director with enough time provided but with that limitation only makes his contribution that more apparent.

One of the main things I considered when watching this film was that there are so many movie lovers out there who have never experienced this movie. There is a generation of movie fans who only witness what's come out in the last ten years at most, unwilling or unable to see great films like this. With studios willing to give the go ahead on these classics to come out on blu-ray, with restoration organizations willing to save films like these, many of which are actually deteriorating in their film cans, it gives those who appreciate movies the chance to see them in pristine condition. One of the special features included shows just how much they were able to save of this film and how and that in itself is fascinating.

It's sad that today's generation of film lovers have limited themselves to only the current films being made or those that came out in their lifetime. There is a treasure of films out there waiting to be seen and that are being placed on blu-ray format. We need to encourage this generation to look past their own lifetimes and to see what came before. So many of those movies far outshine what's coming out currently. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE is pure proof of that. While watching this film at just under 2 and a half hours, I never once found myself looking for the remote and the fast forward button. The same can't be said for most new films. I encourage readers to seek movies like this out, to encourage young viewers to watch films like this, to realize the treasures that we still have a chance to witness and to contribute to organizations interested in preserving these pieces of cinematic history.

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HAWAII FIVE-O FIRST SEASON: REMAKE LIVES UP TO ORIGINAL

It seems like whenever anyone in the film or TV industry decides to remake a popular series they always get it wrong. They either try to spoof the original poorly or create a show that is similar in name only. But when they do get it right it’s a sight to behold. Such is the case with HAWAII FIVE-O.

The original classic series in the 60s and into the 70s was known first off by its guitar twanging theme song performed by The Ventures. With scenes of the islands, surfers and hula girls, we were introduced to a special task force the fought crime in Hawaii. Led by Steve McGarret (played by Jack Lord), the show was an instant hit that lasted past the 10 year mark.

The new series uses the same names and locations but twist them just enough to bring them into the 21st century. Hawaii has changed quite a bit since the sixties and it shows just in the opening credits which continue to use the same toe tapping theme song. So how do we change characters?

To begin with McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) is now a Special Forces commander whose transporting the brother of an arms dealer named Hesse (James Marsters). As Hesse’s men attempt to snatch the brother back, the transport goes wrong, the prisoner dies and Hesse kills Steve’s father. Returning for the funeral and to catch the arms dealer still in the islands, he’s offered the job of creating a special law enforcement branch in Hawaii with no holds barred, put together by the governor (Jean Smart). He turns her down and sets out on his own to seek revenge.

The officer in charge of the investigation is Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan). A Jersey cop transplanted to the islands to be near his daughter (moved there by his ex) he’s not at all an islander. The two meet as Steve checks out the crime scene of his father’s murder and Danny catches him there. After finding a few more pieces of the puzzle, Steve agrees to the governor’s request and now the pair forms an unlikely team.

As they track down leads a few other characters join them. Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) is someone Steve knew from the past, a man his father trusted. He’s on the outs with the Hawaiian police department because they suspected him of stealing money. A simple denial is all Steve needs to trust him. When the time comes for an undercover female agent, Chin brings in his cousin Kono Kalaua (Grace Park). A week from graduating the police academy, but saddled with her cousin’s legacy, she jumps at the chance to be part of the team.

With pieces of the puzzle coming together and the team assembled, they go out in search of Hesse to bring him to justice. Keep in mind, we’re just talking about the pilot here. The rest of the series is just as exciting and fast paced.

The rapport between the characters is crucial to what makes this series work as well as it does. They joke with one another, they get angry at each other, but in the end they work together and work well. Each actor brings something special to their roles as part of the team. O’Loughlin is big on action, Caan the family man who cares about his friends, Kim has ties to most of the community and Park is the fresh face who’s taking it all in. If the actors could not meet the requirements of the stories being told, it would all fall apart. But each does an amazing job.

In other episodes the team takes on Serbian mobsters, gangs connecting to the mainland, foreign ambassadors and someone fans of the original show will be glad to hear about. McGarrett has an arch foe in this series carried from the original in Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos), an criminal genius who appears in various episodes, or at least his name, from the get go. By the first season’s conclusion, he turns the world of this team around in a cliff hanger that leaves you guessing.

If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon for this show, now is the time. The new season just started and there’s little doubt that it will have as many thrills, as much action and great stories as season one has. Pick up the first season and climb aboard now. This is one series that not only is worth watching but is worth adding to the collection on your shelf.

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BAD TEACHER: IS BAD FUNNY?

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a fan of the latest craze in movie comedy. For some reason the success of one movie that featured extreme vulgarity (THE HANGOVER) has resulted in numerous movies being released that seem to think the funniest parts were due to the rudeness of the language or visuals used. The fact is the funny parts commented on those items or around them but they were never the funny parts. That being said is BAD TEACHER a funny movie? In short, yes.

Cameron Diaz stars as Elizabeth Halsey, a teacher with little to offer. She's just marking time until she gets married to a rich available husband. While this is supposed to be her last year, her engagement collapses and she returns the next. Looking for a solution she decides that the reason she can't catch a top notch available male is because her breasts aren't big enough. She opts for augmentation but can't afford it and thus the main idea behind the movie kicks in, her trying to find a way to make the money.

At the school an overachieving teacher is found across the hall from Elizabeth. Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) is that do gooder type person who is filled with all sorts of goofy sayings and feel good quotes. Yes, she's most obnoxious. And of course Elizabeth takes an immediate disliking to her.

Falling in between the two is new substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) who happens to be the grandson of an expensive watch maker. The dollar signs flash and Elizabeth is ready to set her trap. Unfortunately for her Amy makes her move first and the competition is on.

While this is happening Elizabeth does her best to make it through each day failing to inspire or teach any student who happens to fall in her path. Instead she simply plugs in the TV and shows her class movies that involved teachers like STAND AND DELIVER and LEAN ON ME. When she discovers that the teacher who has the students with the highest grades in a state wide test wins a check for over $5,000 she makes the decision to start teaching and hope it works.

Complications and skullduggery come into play as well as a revenge seeking Amy. But along the way Elizabeth ends up helping some of her students. She helps them find their way through the terrible time known as Junior High. And she finds something more in herself as well. She also happens to unknowingly find someone else in the school's gym teacher Russell Gettis (Jason Segel). How it all ends makes for some funny moments.

So the story along with the numerous laughs interspersed throughout is the good part. What's the bad? If you were paid a quarter for every time the F bomb or vulgar word for breasts were uttered you would be able to fill a theater with patrons. For some reason Hollywood seems to think this makes it funnier. It doesn't and the shock value wore off on me back in Junior High when that sort of thing was funny. Granted there are occasion when the words can elicit some great laughs (think PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES or George Carlin's famous piece on the 7 dirty words) but when its just tossed in over and over it becomes annoying.

Diaz does a decent job here but she needs to rely on more than her looks to get her through a movie. While watching her talk about trying to save up enough money for plastic surgery one can't help but wonder if she's had her face done and if so where did that cash come from? Timberlake is showing that he can actually act and do a good job in comedy and drama. A Segel is a wonder, offering a subtle portrayal here of a goofy yet loveable guy. His is the most realistic portrayal of the bunch. Punch shows that she has the chops to pull of some great comedic moments and is someone I'm looking forward to seeing again. After some great bit parts in some hilarious movies its nice to see her star rising.

All in all if you can get past the language barrier this movie is funny more often than not. But know ahead of time if you are easily offended then this is not the movie for you. For everyone else, sit back and have a laugh.

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ARENA: B MOVIE BATTLES

Perhaps I shouldn't be amazed when I see a name star perform in a low budget film like ARENA. The pay must be good and I'm sure the promise that it was intended to be much more was there. The good news is that when a name actor like Samuel L. Jackson appears in these films the amount of money raised to take it above schlock comes about and a half decent film comes out.

Kellan Lutz is David Lord, a rugby player whose pregnant wife was killed in an accident. Now David is on a landmark binge, getting drunk in the worst places in the world. Being the tough guy he is it also helps land him kidnapped and placed in the most dangerous game on the planet.

DEATH GAMES is an online viewer only match up between modern gladiators who fight to the death. The enterprise is led by Samuel L. Jackson as Logan, a man who has hidden the location and electronic trail of this show so that even the FBI and Interpol have been unable to locate him. As for the viewers most think that its all fake, that it's just special effects. They aren't aware that when these combatants fight one actually never walks away.

Recruited for the games David resists all attempts to brainwash him. Jackson's team does this to all entries, changing them from violent individuals to cold blooded killers. When David begins to show signs that he's ready for the next level, he's tossed into his first match.

The combatants fight in a virtual world so that viewers can witness them in all sorts of locations. But the hand to hand combat and the weapons used are all real. In his first match David refuses to be a part of it all, immobilizing his opponent but not killing him. It doesn't matter as the show has its own executioner and encourages viewers to vote thumbs up or down on the loser. Thinking its only a game, they always vote down.

While Kadden, the show's executioner and brainwasher, thinks David needs taken down more to be willing to fight, his captor Milla thinks coercion is their best bed. She also has taken a personal interest in David as well and begins tending to his wounds, both inner and out. Eventually David finds what he thinks is an escape. Logan had offered him a deal, ten deaths and he would be free. David changes the deal.; ten deaths and a match up against Kadden, which Logan accepts.

Each match continues and David wins one after the other leading to the eventual match up with Kadden. And each win makes both Kadden and Logan just a little more nervous while encouraging both David and Milla. Scarred for life, David's strength comes from his desire for revenge. Or does it? A twist at the end that caught me completely off guard stepped this movie up a notch.

While interesting in some spots the movie does have a ton of weaknesses. For an online viewing experience that is supposedly generating tons of money to Logan, how is it that college students and cubicle working hacks can afford to watch it let alone bet on the outcome? Why wouldn't someone recognize David and try to get him help? If someone could afford the technology to create a virtual world without glasses for these people to fight in, couldn't they make more money creating worlds for everyone to visit?

Two other items dropped the movie down a notch or two for me. The first is that this theme has been used over and over again beginning with the original DEATH RACE 2000. Folks battling for their lives as entertainment is not original. The only saving grace here for that is the twist. The second is what is becoming the obligatory kinky sex scene. Here Logan's two female oriental computer geniuses are entwined while he watches and giggles. Come on, really? The shock value wore off years ago and now it just seems like scenes like these have to be included just to guarantee an R rating.

ARENA isn't the best movie of this sort ever made but its not the worst either. Teetering on the edge of torture porn (a genre I hate) but not quite going over, it does offer some decent action and fight sequences and displays some genuine acting ability in its stars. If you're looking for something to rent and the top flicks are gone, then this one is worth you while if you're not squeamish.

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BARNEY’S VERSION: A LIFE OF LOVE

BARNEY’S VERSION is one of those movies that critics love. They talk about the depth of the story, the fantastic acting, the way the movie felt and looked. And for once those who would discuss these and others items of the film have it right. This is one fine movie.

Paul Giamatti stars as Barney Panofsky, a studio producer looking back at his life. When it opens we see him doing his best to disrupt the life of his ex-wife by calling her husband at 3AM. From there we see him stopping at his favorite bar only to be hassled by an ex-police detective who’s just released a book about the murder of Barney’s best friend Boogie (Scott Speedman), a murder that the detective still believes Barney committed. But the body was never found. This confrontation leads to Barney’s reflecting on his life.

We’re taken back to the early 70s when Barney was living in Europe surrounding himself with bohemian friends all interested in art. But this isn’t a world Barney can be a part of, just an observer of. He marries a free spirit believing he is the father of her child only to part ways with her once the baby is lost and he discovers there was no way he was the father. On a binge with his friend Boogie, he misses a message and goes to his wife only to find she’s committed suicide.

Barney returns to Canada where he gets work with his uncle and eventually becomes a studio head. Along the way he is introduced to a young woman who catches his eye played by Minnie Driver. This woman is a non-stop talker whose father is a wealthy man. He also possesses the attitudes of such a man, greatly displayed when a dinner for the two prior to their marrying is held. Barney’s father Izzy (Dustin Hoffman), an ex-cop, is invited to dinner only to have Driver’s father offer him angry glances and demeaning comments.

At the wedding things are going as planned. Barney’s friends are there, the party is in full swing and much heavy drinking follows. While watching the hockey game at the reception, and after far too many drinks, Barney is told that his father in law has made comments about his own father. Heading to have it out with the man, he gets a glimpse of a woman that he finds amazing. After the confrontation with his father in law finishes, he meets this woman, Miriam (Rosamund Pike). Enamored with her, he follows her to the train station and asks her to run off with him. She turns him down but remains in his heart.

The story continues involving all of these characters but to attempting to describe the story without giving away too much is just ridiculous. Suffice to say that Barney does lead and interesting life. And he eventually finds an amazing love that stays with him forever. But with each step he takes, Barney seems destined to screw things up. He doesn’t want to, it just seems that he always takes the wrong turn.

The film won an Oscar for make up and it was well deserved. The progression in age for Giamatti is amazing to watch. In one of the extras he discusses how much it helped his performance, giving him a reference point with which to grab hold of his character at that time in his life. Giamatti also won the Golden Globe for his performance here and he deserved that as well. This is one of the best things he’s ever done.

The film may be a bit long for some, may take a while to unwind that today’s fast paced movie goers might not want to sit for. But in doing so you’ll find a full, rich story that is better than most told these days. And in the end you’ll discover a few truly touching moments and that at the heart of it all is a love story that’s as sweet as they come.

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HOWLING, REBORN: MORE A HOOT THAN A HOWL

I guess when you get to a certain number of sequels you have to omit the number and add something new...like reborn. As a fan of the original THE HOWLING, I was always disappointed in the sequels. While the original had a limited budget, it was filled with something original, a new take on the whole werewolf story. But the rest lacked even the small budget of the first and the only thing worthwhile in any was the laugh inducing marsupial werewolf in the third one. Or would that be were-kangaroo?

Well it's been a few years and the series died down a bit. Chances are the newest group of horror film lovers aren't old enough to remember the original or haven't seen it. So it was time to dust off the old and make it new. Or at least give it a shot.

Will Kidman is a troubled teen. He's about to graduate and has the hots for the new girl in school, Eliana, who also happens to be dating the school tough guy. Which isn't a good thing for will since he's the designated school geek. But opposites attract and sparks fly between them.

When they meet at a secretive party together, weird things begin to happen. Like Will noticing several new kids from the school hanging around in a sort of...pack? When it seems he's been drugged, Will ends up seeing all sorts of things.

As the days progress Will senses something else is different. He never had the chance to know his mother, an artist we saw killed while she was pregnant with him during the films opening sequence. But some link between his mother and what's going on with him now will turn up and explain why he's changing. You got it, somewhere along the line Will has werewolf blood in his veins.

Will's attraction to Eliana grows and with it the viewer begins to wonder if she isn't tied into the whole thing. Could it be that she's the member of a clan of werewolves sent to recruit Will? Or perhaps it was her group that saw to the demise of Will's mother? Only time will tell.

This movie is perhaps not the worst film in this series but it works at it. It offers few scares and fewer fresh and original scenes than most. And the werewolf costumes seem like costumes. I'm not quite certain yet if that's the fault of the make up man at work here or the cinematographer who allowed them to appear like suits. In any event it ruins the effect of a real live werewolf captured on screen.

The story is weak and rarely finds a reason for the viewer to care about anyone from the hero to the villain. Instead we get the usual back story and a twist that seems unoriginal. I'll say it again, while this isn't the worst of the series or the worst werewolf movie, it does leave you wanting to watch one that is done better like perhaps the first in the series. But if the rest of the series have been checked out when you go looking and this is left? It might be worth giving it a look.

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WRONG TURN 4, BLOODY BEGINNINGS: JUST WRONG

I saw the first film in this franchise some years ago when it arrived on DVD. I wasn't thrilled but I didn't hate the film either. It felt like they were taking the horror genre Wes Craven started with THE HILLS HAVE EYES, an inbred cannibalistic mutant family, and relocating it to the back hills of West Virginia. The location change shows Hollywood's contempt for anything found in flyover country. I think they still think DELIVERANCE was a documentary and that folks outside of New York and Los Angeles are all this way.

But things progressed from there. With the quick return on investment from the first film a franchise was born and the sequels began. I had a hard time even finishing the second (and I'm not quite sure I did) and never bothered to seek out the third film. I wish the same could be said for the newest fourth film which is subtitled BLOODY BEGINNINGS.

Yes they've decided the best way to go with this one is to take us back and show us where it all started. Never fear though even with this one we could still go back a few more years and have a part 5! Lucky us!

The film opens in 1974 at a sanatorium where a new doctor is being shown around the facility. The head of the place takes her down the secluded hall where the worst patients are, including three inbred hillbillies from West Virginia. One had eaten 2 of his own fingers, another forked out his eyeball and eaten it and the last has filed his teeth into sharp points. All three suffer from a malady where they feel no pain. Of course another patient steals a hairpin from this new doctor, tosses it to the 3 brothers who then escape and let the rest of the inmates out to wreak havoc on the sanatorium and kill all in charge.

Fast forward to 2003 and the obligatory nude sex scene introduces us to two couples enjoying one another's company. They're interrupted by a friend who enters and tells them they have 5 minutes to get dressed and ready and then she's leaving. The group is heading for a weekend in the woods at a cabin their friend owns. They take cars to a designated dropping point and decide, even though a terrible winter storm is on the way, to take their snow mobiles and head out.

Of course they get lost and where to the end up? At the infamous sanatorium from the start of the film! They enter and are not surprised that the building is warm, thinking that of course someone takes care of the boiler in the place to make sure the pipes don't burst. After a series of stereotypical stupid ideas ("hey let's divide up and search the place!") they turn in for the night, sleeping (and of course having sex) in various rooms.

During the night the first victim is killed, one of the boyfriends who can't sleep and sneaking around the building comes upon the body of a friend who was separated from the group. The next morning when he can't be found they search for him only to have his girlfriend find the 3 cannibals snacking on his body.

She runs screaming for the rest of them to get out but not before another is lassoed with a piece of barb wire which after a tug of war between the cannibals and her boyfriend decapitates here. With no winter clothing they can't leave so are forced to find a way to overcome the incredibly intelligent inbreds. Well, they seem incredibly intelligent compared to the stupid things these kids do.

The movie is little more than a way to show off a body count and various gory set pieces. In the extras you discover that the movie was shot in 19 days and while the photography and technical aspects of it are pretty good, the whole set up and story makes you wonder if the money couldn't have been spent better elsewhere.

I'm not a fan of movies that have been termed torture porn. I hated HOSTEL but at the same time appreciated the SAW films. At least those had some story behind them, some mystery to solve. Fans of this sort of film are not horror fans, they are body count fans. They live and breathe to watch some new form of torture or murder occur. That's not scary and honestly becomes quite boring after a while. And truth be told that's the biggest sin with this film. It's boring.

If you're a fan of the series then by all means enjoy. If you like little more than watching the body count rise and various forms of blood gushing incidents happen then you'll like it. If you want a horror film though or something that doesn't have the dumbest group of kids around then pass it by.

I leave you with one of the stupidest thing that happens in the movie. It irked me so I have to share it with you. The group, minus a few friends who've been killed, captures the 3 inbreds and one says he's going to kill them by lighting them on fire. Another tells him not to, that it will only drag him down to their level and they're above that. Needless to say he dozes off guarding them so they escape, kill him and later on the rest of the group. Yes they all die but then again if you noticed the title this is only the beginning and had they not then it would be the end, eh?

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