Sunday, September 30, 2012

Safe (2012)

Jason Statham has already well established himself as one of the best action stars of the 00's, and it's not hard to see why. The man has got an incredible presence, he can kick copious amounts of ass (himself, by the way, he hardly ever uses a stunt double), he can genuinely act as far as action movie standards goes, and he's got a fantastic sense of comedic timing and deadpan delivery which is just plain charming.

He reminds me a lot of Bruce Willis, actually, now that I think about it. Maybe it's the baldness but Statham does have a little Bruce in every performance he gives. He's like if John McClaine knew how to kick-box, which would have been admittedly handy for him to know. And like Bruce, I wouldn't be surprised, and indeed I would expect, that Jason Statham is going to go down in film history as one of the all-time greats in the action movie department.

His biggest problem is that his movies aren't stone cold classics like "Die Hard." I mean, they can be good, but I don't think a movie like "Crank," as entertaining as it was, is going to be brought up in 20 years to be placed alongside some of the best of the genre. I could be wrong, and maybe it's just the curmudgeon in me talking, but he needs a "Predator" or a "Terminator" or an "Aliens." He needs something that's going to still be talked about and be influential 20 years from now. Then he'll be set.

Tell me you can't see him saying "If it bleeds...we can kill it."

"Safe" is certainly not going to be remembered in 20 years, nor is it one of Statham's best movies, but it's far from his worst, or even bad. In fact it's an acceptably decent crime thriller that manages to be entertaining and full of enough surprises and overall feeling of "what the crap is going on here" that it never gets boring or dull. It's another Jason Statham vehicle that knows the strengths of its lead, and plays to them. What people came to see is Statham wrecking people like a freight train, and damn it, that's what "Safe" gives you. It's not that complicated.

Well, in actually it is slightly complicated, since the story is twisty-turny enough to force you to occasionally blindly accept what's happening on screen as something that makes sense, even when you have no idea what's going on. It's that same problem all movies involving crime syndicates and crooked cops have - which is that everyone is out to double-cross everyone else, everyone has a hidden agenda, and none of them can talk about it in anything other than confusing "cop talk" that drops names and connections quicker and denser than a neutron star traveling twice the speed of light.

Alright, it's not that bad. I think "The Departed" just traumatized me so much with the "I don't know what's happening" that I'm still suffering PTS syndrome. The setup is that a young Chinese girl, Mei, played by newcomer Catherine Chan, is a math prodigy with a true photographic memory. She is kidnapped by the Chinese mafia and used as a sort of walking calculator/information storage unit. Jason Statham is Luke, a guy with a mysterious but violent past who has run afoul of the mob.

I don't really want to give away much of Statham's past, because that is something that is uncovered as "Safe" progresses, and it's handled in a good way and keeps the narrative moving as more is revealed. I especially don't want to say more since it would give away a very disturbing and powerful scene early in the film which shows what the mafia did to Luke, and why he has to basically become a bum and never be friends with or even talk to anyone. I won't say what exactly it is, but it's messed up.

He's either a bum or auditioning for "Rocky 7."

When Mei is given a long, very important number to memorize, she becomes a target of another mob who tries to capture her. Running away, she is rescued by Luke, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. While keeping her safe, Luke works to bring down both mobs, and the people responsible for his past, using the information in Mei's head.

There's a bit more to it than that, but that's the basic idea. Any more would be giving too much away. And honestly I'm not sure if I could accurately describe the series of events that go down. I'm not too good with the plots of gang related movies. It eventually boils down to "these guys are shooting these guys because why not" with me. It doesn't mean it's bad or stupid. I just suck at following the double-crosses. Besides, everyone in this movie is basically a criminal, so it's near impossible to judge who's a good guy based on their actions.

But who gives a rip about story, am I right? Why care about story when you've got Jason Statham kicking butt? "Safe" does contain the prerequisite amount of Statham soul-punching awesomeness, which is what one would expect. It's just as silly and over-the-top as the standard action movie fare, but the one thing that did strike me as interesting was the occasional sudden out-of-nowhere violence that occurs.

 "D' yew know wot dey cool a Quarta Pounda 'n Fronce?" #youtotallyreadthatinhisvoice

There were two occasions that I recall which made me sit back and say "Whoa! Didn't see that one coming." And while it was jarring and on occasion ever so slightly disappointing, it made sense so I can't really be mad at it. I mean, if someone were in a shootout and went around a corner without properly checking it first, then yes, there is a measurable probability that a bad guy he didn't see might come up beside him and shoot him right in the head. That's what happens to one of the "good guys," and you know what? It makes sense. Should have cleared those corners better.

Something out-of-nowhere also happens during the final confrontation, but it still made perfect sense, and made me wonder why you don't see more of that. "That" in this case meaning "characters acting intelligently." It may be a tad anti-climatic, but it's certainly keeping in character. It's actually quite Tarantino.

I wasn't 100% fired up about watching "Safe," but in the end I had a surprisingly good time with it. What I thought was going to be painfully standard and by-the-numbers turned out to be a unexpectedly thoughtful and emotionally carried action film. The last lines of the movie actually got me to say "Awww, that's so sweet," and I was dead serious. It's a very touching moment between Luke and Mei which was heartwarming, and very well acted all around.

And I also got to see Jason Statham stab someone in the neck with a fork. Bon anniversaire.

It's about to get so badass in that bar...

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Safe" is a fun action film with unexpected depth to its characters, which keeps you invested throughout its slightly overly-complex narrative. It's a solid Jason Statham entry, however not one of his best or most entertaining, but fans of his will be pleased. Recommended.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dredd (2012)

Sometimes it's difficult to lie to myself.

I'm an animal.

We all are animals. There are certain things, particular phrases, that can come up in conversation that will immediately cease any other thought processes in our brains besides the most basic Neanderthalic ones. For example: SEX. See? I now have your undivided attention.

But there's more than just the titillation of sexual deviancy, isn't there? There's also violence, which can cause just as strong of a knee-jerk reaction. I'm sure I can't speak for everyone here, but I can guarantee you that I, for one, am immediately paying attention to any movie that advertises that it contains people getting shot in the face.

I mean, for crying out loud. "Shot in the face." Is there a phrase in the English language more inherently hard-core than that? And I'm not talking one between the eyes, or the classic zombie standby of "shoot 'em in the head," because that always involves the top of the skull. No, I mean shot in the eyes/nose/mouth/we'll-need-your-driver's-license-to-ID-you area of the face. That's freaking brutal in an animalistic, dominating fashion. They don't kill you, they shoot you in the face. It's castration without breaking the Man Code.

So when I heard that "Dredd" had a lot of violence, I was mildly interested. But when I heard that there was a lot of people getting shot in the face, "Dredd" officially had my attention.

What? What more do you want from me? I already admitted I'm an animal.

And yes, "Dredd" does contain face-shooting. And while it may not have as many bullets specifically destined for people's mugs as one might expect, there's still a lot of bullets going into a lot of people. What that boils down to is that "Dredd" is fantastically entertaining in regards to amount of pure unadulterated bloodshed. If that's what you signed on for, you shall be quite pleasantly satisfied.

If that's not what you signed on for, I have no idea why you're watching this movie.

If anyone was worried about it, allow me to put your fears at rest - this has nothing to do with the cheesy, campy Sylvester Stallone "Judge Dredd" from the 90's. Having never read the comics it is based on, I can't comment on how accurate it is to its source material, but one thing is for sure - this new film is not messing around. It's dark, it's gritty, it's bloody as hell, and there's nothing goofy about it at any point, aside from the laughs some of the more over-the-top kills may generate in their absurdity.

No, seriously. Even with that helmet, it's still not goofy.

When Stallone said "I'm am the law!" it was funny. Some of that had to do with the fact that he can't move half of his face, making it sound more like "Ah am..DA LOG!" That tended to undermine the badassery of the character.

But in "Dredd," when Karl Urban says it, it's chilling. And a lot of that has to obviously do with the darker tone they went with, and the fact that Karl can pronounce words clearly, but more of it has to do with him giving an absolutely stone-cold, relentlessly brutal performance that is hands-down one of the most awesome action movie characters I've seen in years.

Seriously, this guy is terrifying. Ice doesn't come close to how cold he is. The systematic, ruthless proficiency with which he executes anyone violating the law is both scary and scary awesome to watch. And it's not because he's some invincible superhero who can't be shot like James Bond or Schwarzenegger in "Commando" or something; he's just that good at killing, and his tactics and equipment are so superior that nobody can touch him.

The fact that he never once takes off his helmet, so you never see any more of his face than his mouth makes him come across like this anonymous, nameless demon that exists only for punishing those opposed to him. If there's a soul in Dredd, it's buried under the weight of his station. Once again, it's a chilling performance.

Those flames reflected in his visor? Yeah, those are people. People he just set ON FIRE.

I've been a fan of Karl Urban for a long time now, and I've always been bummed out that he's not more of a star than he is. Of course, after his phenomenal turn as Bones in "Star Trek" he's getting more attention, and rightly so, but I've been a big fan of his since "The Two Towers" in 2002. And yeah, after that there was the frankly underrated "Doom" and "Chronicles of Riddick," in which he was great, but he didn't get a movie where he was the star until 2007's bomb that wasn't that bad "Pathfinder." Even in "Star Trek" he's not really in the foreground. In a way, "Dredd" is the first Karl Urban vehicle that has the potential to actually be noticed, a mere decade after he broke into the big leagues.. And for his sake, since he's a really good actor, I hope this is really successful, because I'm freaking tired of nobody knowing who Karl Urban is!

Holding their own in the film are the two other leads, the lovely and talented Olivia Thirlby, and the also talented and usually lovely (in everything but this) Lena Headey. Thirlby plays Anderson, a rookie judge who is also a powerful physic, and Headey is the villain, a former prostitute turned savage drug lord Ma-Ma. Whereas Thirlby is cute and somewhat vulnerable (at least until she begins proving herself and becomes formidable), Headey is an absolute monster, both in appearance and actions. Her scarred visage, jagged teeth and snarling fury is certainly a step away from her character in "Game of Thrones," and I can't help but feel that if Cersei went through the busted transporter in "The Enemy Within," Ma-Ma is what would come out a couple minutes later.

"I'm Queen Cersei. I'M QUEEN CERSEI!!!"

Wow. Didn't think I'd fit a ToS reference in there.

I'm a fan of both of these actresses, and I'm glad to see them getting great roles like this. Thirlby gets to play a rookie cop who, shock of all shocks, isn't annoying, comic relief, or incompetent, which is like a miracle. And of course Headey matches and even one-ups Urban's cruelty with some delightful scene-chewing villainy. The surprising thing is how often the fact that an action movie is made or broken by its villain is lost on so many films. Ma-Ma could have been a "Die Hard" baddy. Not the dude from "Die Hard 4," though. One of the good ones. The Grubers. If they smoked meth. And were chicks.

So yes, there is plenty of hardcore, face-shooting action going on. However, now is the part where I have to inject just a bit of negativity into this entry. And this mostly has to do with lack of variety.

While it is indeed cool to see Dredd shooting lots of people with his absurdly OP pistol of 1000 different kinds of horrifyingly deadly ammo, there came a point late in the film when it began it get a bit stale. And that's a weird thing to say, considering there was a lot of different gear being used, but almost every fight is ended with someone getting shot to pieces. There were few instances when Dredd or Anderson didn't use a gun.

"Aggravated assault on a Judge. Rookie? Judge 'em."
"Put many bullets inside them."
"We've trained you well."

I really didn't notice until later in the film, during Dredd's only fistfight, that there had been virtually no hand to hand combat at all. And while that wasn't a deal-breaker, that fight was so good, and the finishing move so shockingly brutal that I found myself thinking that I wanted to see more of that. After seeing Dredd do things to a man's trachea that I'm not sure is 100% medically possible, I was interested to know what the hell else he could do with his hands.

Then again, one of the primary rules of being a Judge is to never lose your gun, so I guess by hardly ever having to not shoot someone, he's doing his job right. It was just a little disappointing that there wasn't more of that action movie staple. Maybe I was just spoiled by "The Expendables 2," which is very possible.

I also feel I must bring up the abuse of CGI blood. While witnessing the path of a bullet through a person's jaw in super slow motion is indeed something to behold, it's so overtly computerized that it lacks the impact that it should have. Especially since "Dredd," while loaded with CGI, seems like a movie that would be laden with practical effects. Is building a fake head and shooting it so much to ask nowadays?

Face shooting is still awesome, though. That, I cannot take away.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Dredd" is a fun, action packed movie which plays out like a ride through a futuristic, Ridley Scott designed sci-fi slaughterhouse as envisioned by Sam Peckinpah. If you want to see good actors making things die, here's your movie. While I didn't like it as much as "The Expendables 2," in pure tradecraft and execution, it's one of the more effective action thrillers of the year. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Some of you who read my blog with any regularity may remember back to earlier this summer when I was threatened with virtual castration for not worshiping the ground that the Holiest of Holies, Our Lord and Savior Himself, Joss Whedon walked on. Ok, those of you who aren't on my Facebook would have no clue about this, but suffice to say it got far uglier than I was wanting or expecting. After my "Avengers" review, I had a lot of people telling me that I was A) insane for considering it "Ok" instead of a perfect flawless gem sent from On High, and that B) I went into the movie wanting to hate it from the beginning, and that I never gave it a fair shot.

Fine. I still stand by A till the end of my days, but maybe there's a little bit of truth in B. But you can't really blame me for not expecting to love it. I like to use this analogy:

If I have a bag of potato chips that expired 40 years ago, and I dust off the bag, open it up, take out a chip and eat it, and my reaction was "Ewww! God, that's disgusting!" but then I proceeded to eat another chip, have the same reaction only this time I'm dry-heaving, and then another chip and another with the same result every time, by the time I got to that sixth potato chip wouldn't it not only be reasonable but expected of me to be a tad apprehensive?

I'm sorry I can't help myself from not liking the way Joss Whedon writes. I'm very, very sorry for that. And I'm very, very sorry that Whedonites get so enraged by someone having even a middling opinion of him. But why should I expect to suddenly and without warning or cause suddenly adore something he wrote, when every single thing he writes has the exact same things in it that bug me? That would make no sense.

But that's not what I came to talk to you about today. Came to talk about a cabin.

Yes, it's "The Cabin In The Woods," the horror film that was getting all kinds of buzz and crazy good reviews all over the place. The phrase "game changer™" was thrown around quite a bit as I recall. That's enough to get me worried any time that's brought up, honestly. But hey, a lot of people I know saw it and loved it. So why not? Let's give this a spin.

AW CRAP.

I knew that intro was there for a reason. Am I really doing this? Am I seriously having to go back into Whedon territory again? Man, every time one of these comes up I'm having to walk on freaking eggshells. I'm just tired of having every critique I make of this guy's work torn apart while people call me a jerk and threaten to revoke my "Nerd Card." No, you know what? I've got that mess laminated, okay? You don't even know the pristine condition my Nerd Card is in. It's still in its original packaging, bitch. You ain't revoking crap.

But before this gets too negative before I even start talking about "The Cabin In The Woods," let me throw this slightly confusing disclaimer up right meow:

I thought it was good. But I disliked it. But I didn't hate it. I don't think.

I could end this entry right there, because that absurd, confusing sentence sums up my feelings on "The Cabin In The Woods," which was that while I thought it was a well made, generally well written movie, my finals thoughts were so freaking jumbled that I honestly have no idea whether or not I liked it. I just came away saying "What the hell did I just watch?" And it wasn't always in the good way.

This is going to be an extraordinarily difficult movie to write about, seeing as the main draw of this movie is the slow reveal of the lingering big question: "What the crap is going on here?" Once you know what's really going down in this movie, I would imagine much of whatever magic contained would be lost, so I'm going to avoid spoilers as much as I can. Let's say that for now, I won't give anything away that the trailer wouldn't have given away already. Eventually I'll have to get into spoilers, but I'll let you know when I do.

The movie begins as a group of five friends who look like they came from casting call of a "Friday the 13th" sequel get together to go to the titular cabin in the woods. They are all extraordinarily stock in the fact that they are all walking stereotypes for the slasher genre. You've got the Jock, the Whore, the Nerd, the Stoner, and the Virgin. But here's the part where the whole "clever bit" comes into play - that is exactly on purpose.

You know, if I were in a group of people so stereotypical, I wouldn't leave the house.

In a control room, there are a bunch of people following these kids, setting them up along the way to be victims in what can only be called a slasher movie, only in real life. These people are literally setting up these kids to be butchered. The "why" is the big question going on throughout "The Cabin In The Woods," which is why I'm really going to have to leave the description at that. Any more would give too much away, which is something I don't want to do.

The cast has Chris Hemsworth as the Jock, and is probably the most recognizable face around as long as you don't count Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as the two control room guys we follow most of the movie. Nobody else of real note is in it, unless you count Anna Hutchison as the Whore. She was the Yellow Ranger on one of the numerous Power Rangers series. So yeah, there's that. I suppose it's worth noting that "The Cabin In The Woods" contains a scene where you see the Yellow Rangers boobs. That's something I guess.

One person I was excited to see on the cast list was Jodelle Ferland, an actress I really like who tends to always play a creepy young(ish) girl. And what do you know? She's playing a zombie here. And while it was great to see her, why they gave her no lines is beyond me. It's almost like they intentionally wasted talent. There's also another actress I really like who popped in at the end in a surprise cameo, but I wouldn't want to spoil anything. (Protip: Look at the labels at the bottom of this entry.)

Kristen Connolly, playing the Virgin, is the real main character however, and to be honest I liked her. Yeah her part was just as stock as everyone else's, but hey, she was charming and pretty cute as well. So I guess I didn't want to see her die. That means that the movie is doing at least one thing right, because usually I hate characters in slasher movies.

Like this guy.

Oh man. It had to happen at one point, didn't it? The freaking Stoner. You know, it's not that Fran Kranz did a terrible job with this character, it's just that I can't stand that guy. From the minute he shows up, I know that I'm going to have to suffer through endless monologues from them about how "The system is keeping us down!" and "You've got to open your doors of perception, man!" It just gets so old so fast, and I just want them to die quickly as possible. And of course the first time we see the Stoner he is driving a car while smoking from a bong the size of Hulk Hogan's leg. Truly this character will be a delight.

I just miss guys like Shaggy who weren't so militant about "sticking it to the man." He was just mellow, and ate Scooby Snacks. What's so wrong with that?

That also brings me to the spoiler section of the review. I'd advise skipping to the end if you haven't seen "The Cabin In The Woods." Seriously, because you might like it, and I'd hate to ruin anything.

///////BEGIN MASSIVE SPOILERS\\\\\\\\

What it all boils down to, when I have to talk about my real impressions of the movie, was that the story made absolutely no sense to me. At all.

So you've got this group of vaguely defined, government programs around the world that set up and run these sacrifices to these Eldrich Horrors from beyond Space and Time (oh, just call it Cthulhu). My question is: "Why do these Gods care about slasher movie cliches?"

Why the five stereotypes? Why the mythical beasts and movie monster tropes? Why do those suddenly exist in the real world? Are they just there now? Are they created by man? Or the Gods? Why would the Gods know about movie monsters? They watch a lot of HBO, do they? Did they make them as a favor to us and say "Here, use these for our amusement?" Did they have horror movies back before the Dawn of Time? Are the Gods big fans of those? Or are they implying that the slasher movie naturally evolved from these real life TOP SECRET nobody knows about programs? Why in Japan is there the "Scary undead kid with long hair in her eyes" monster? Was that ancient evil always around, but nobody ever knew about it until Japan started making horror movies in the 2000s?

"And lo! Great Cthulhu raised his blasphemous bulk from the black ocean waters and declared Rob Zombie's "Halloween" series to be totally lame."

And you can't tell me that it's just something that mankind did to appease these Gods, because that seems awfully specific to me. It's remarked that the Gods "want them to suffer." Okay. Fine. Take them out to a woodshed and take a blowtorch to them starting from the bottom up. That seems like an adequate amount of suffering to me.

But oh no, the Gods are PICKY about these things. No, the sacrifices have to die in a specific order, according to these human-based horror movie cliches, and if you mess it up, you're boned and the Earth is doomed.

"HAHAHA. HAHAHAHAHA. HA! It's funny because it's referencing other movies. Brilliant.

And once again I ask "WHY?" What possible reason is there for any of that? I'm just saying that it seems like an absurd amount of work to:
1) Set up a space-age technology level underground fortress, 
2) Break all known laws of science and medicine to create these inhuman abominations from Hell 
3) Capture them 
4) Store them 
5) Create a Star Trek level force field around this wooded area 
6) Theatrically stage an entire "Truman Show" style ruse 
7) Abduct and murder five innocent people with movie monsters that are now real somehow 
8) Cover THAT up without being found out and 
9) Do that EVERY YEAR 

Unless that was specifically mandated by the Gods, I would think they would probably stick with the blowtorch in the woodshed.

Of course we all know the reason. It's so directer/co-writer Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon can do Whedon's patented same old "Oh look at me I'm EVER so clever and cheeky" self-referential writing he does in everything he's involved in. And once again, here's where I look like the jerk because I didn't like Lord Whedon's stuff, but there it is. I don't like it, I'm calling BS on it, and I stand by that.

And nowhere is this cheekiness more self-evident than the very end of the movie. I was mostly confused throughout most of "The Cabin In The Woods," but at the end I flat out got mad. The fact that the entirety of mankind is doomed to a horrible, grisly fate just because some baked out of his mind, acid dropping, boneheaded conspiracy nut felt like causally dismissing the human race as "having had a good run" was infuriating to me. And what's worse is that it's honestly really out of character for him in the first place, and especially for the Virgin, who just casually goes along with the "let the Dark Gods destroy us all" plan with little argument.

It's like every Linkin Park song ever written manifested itself into a walking, talking, smoking biped and was finally given The History Eraser Button from "Ren & Stimpy." Of course he's going to be selfish and terrible and stupid and push it because nobody understands him, and it's the only way The Man is going to get off his back. THIS little turd is what finally does us in?!

Somehow...I always knew that guy would be the end of me.

Oh but it's ok that humanity is destroyed. As long as you got to make a statement, that's cool. Asshole.

On the plus side, she's really cute.

///////////END MASSIVE SPOILERS\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

THE BOTTOM LINE - Even though I've bitched about "The Cabin In The Woods" a lot, I'm guessing many people might get a charge out of it, and Whedonites will eat this up with a spoon. Personally I wasn't too impressed with it, and found it to be, like most of the things Whedon writes, full of itself and trying way too hard to be way too clever. That being said, I am actually suggesting you watch this movie on the basis of having a crazy story told in a competent manner. Recommended. (Then come back and read the Massive Spoiler section to see why it's stupid.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Demolition Man (1993)

Today's entry is a bit of a special one, for reasons that most likely only I care about. But I do care, so you'll have to indulge me, because this is my 100th entry for this blog! Huzzah! It's been quite the experiment thus far, and I'm looking forward to many hundreds more.

In thinking of what movie to do for this hundredth entry, I was a bit torn. Do I find an epically bad movie to rant about, or a good one? Finally, after days of debate, I decided to go the less painful route and throw in one of my favorite movies: "Demolition Man."

I love this movie to pieces. I love every hair on its adorable, machismo laden, goofy as hell head. It stars one of my favorite action stars, Sylvester Stallone in a performance that is both badass and hilariously silly. It's got funny one-liners, it's got likable characters who aren't annoying, it's got an awesomely over-the-top villain, it has thrilling action sequences and gratuitous abuse of running away from explosions in slow-motion while screaming "Uaaarrrrrgh!". It really encapsulates everything that was great about the 90's action movie into one big, cream-filled pastry of delight.

He's lucky. Most guys can't pull off a beret.

Of course the 80's were also rife with that stuff as well in their action movies, but for some reason the 90's just had a different feel to them. I think perhaps it's that more money was thrown into them in the 90's, which had a tendency to make them look more polished. Also since it wasn't the 80's anymore, the hair was a bit less unfortunate. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the budget.

For those poor souls unfamiliar with "Demolition Man," the set up begins in the "near future" of 1996. Simon Phoenix, the insane terrorist played with gloriously manic WTFness by Wesley Snipes, is holding civilians hostage in his fortress. Then, from a helicopter, like a bungee-jumping God from the sky comes Stallone, playing John Spartan, a cop so macho that making buildings explode behind him in slow-motion is on his resume.

Seriously. It's listed right underneath screaming "PHOENIIIIIX!!!!"

They have a riveting battle which ends with Spartan apprehending Phoenix, but not before the building (of course) explodes, taking out all the hostages that Spartan thought had been moved. Phoenix is locked up for pretty much forever, but Spartan is also sentenced to a long prison term due to the 30-some counts of unintentional manslaughter. They are both put into a cyro-prison, and frozen.

In the 30 or so years they spend frozen, a truly bizarre, euphoric society devoid of all violence, bad things or even mild impoliteness rises. So when Phoenix gets dethawed for his parole hearing (which for some reason he gets before Spartan), and escapes to go on a killing spree, the police don't have the slightest clue on how to handle this maniac. After all, guns are only in museums, and the last MDK ("murder death kill") on record was more than 15 years ago. The only solution they can think of is to send the man who caught Phoenix the first time, so Spartan is released to bring this guy down, all while having to deal with the annoyingly charming society that he's found himself a part of.

One of the things I love most about "Demolition Man" is how funny it is. There is a lot of humor to be found in the bizarre formality and goody-two-shoes nature of this society, but there's also a lot of social satire going on as well which is quite funny. The only music is 30-second jingles from commercials, and it's very strange to see people singing along to the Oscar Mayer Hot Dog Song with the same joy as Wayne and Garth headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody. Sex is only legal via virtual headset, and even kissing is taboo. Every restaurant is Taco Bell, as there was apparently a "Franchise War" in the future, of which TB was the only one left standing. It's all very Paul Verhoeven.

And the freaking Swear Machine. Best running gag ever. For seriously.

We are given a tour of this absurdly friendly and proper brave new world by Sandra Bullock, playing Huxley, a cop who is obsessed with the violent 90's, but is so far removed from it that she's really more of a fan-girl than a true expert. This is evident in her constant butchering of common sayings, such as "He really matched his meat. You really licked his ass!"

Yeah, it's juvenile, but those parts crack me up something awful. Stallone having to constantly correct her, growing ever more impatient as he does so is just hysterical to me. Sandra Bullock is also just plain adorable in her innocence coupled with possibly not-quite-earned bravado.

 And dang it, could she be more cute?

Also appearing is Denis Leary, who's most likely just there because they needed a guy who could rant, and a young Rob Schneider who not only manages to avoid being soul-punchingly annoying, but ends up delivering one of the best lines in the film: "We're police officers, we're not equipped to deal with this kind of violence!" Jessie Ventura is there also as one of Phoenix's thugs who doesn't have a single line, which while cool kind of sucks since it wastes him. Also if you don't blink you can also catch Jack Black as one of Denis Leary's crew.

But cameos aside, the guy who really steals the show is Wesley Snipes. This is one of the most gloriously over-the-top villainous performances I've ever seen. He's so wacky that he almost seems like a cartoon character in the best possible way, and at no point does it seem like he's taking anything seriously. He just wants to kill people. Phoenix actually has something of a Joker vibe about him, and it makes him a blast to watch.

"Wait a minute, this is the future. Where are all the phaser guns?"

But the thing that always makes or breaks a movie is the action. "Demolition Man" could have honestly used a few more action scenes, if you ask me, but the ones that are there are fun, full of bullets, explosions and mayhem, and hit pretty hard as you've got two great action stars in top form. And yes, it's easy to forget that fact, since today Stallone is shaped like a block of a dozen lumpy 2x4s nailed together and Snipes is currently trying to figure out how to pull an Andy Dufresne through a sewer pipe, back in the day these guys were A-list stars.

Ok, if you ask me they're still A-list, but my taste in film is reputed to be somewhat suspect. I'll never live down dropping an obscene amount of money on that VHS of "Yor: The Hunter from The Future" am I?

But who cares about that anyway, am I right? These movies aren't meant for anything more or less than being a fun time, and "Demolition Man" delivers like few other films can. It's one of my favorite 90's action movies, and if it isn't one of yours, you're incapable of appreciating the finer things in the "awesome" department. And then I just feel bad for you.

I mean seriously. What's your boggle?

"My boggle?"

THE BOTTOM LINE - Few things are as bad-ass as "Demolition Man." It's one of the defining action movies of the 90's, one of my favorites, and if you've never seen it, you need to do so immediately. If nothing else, you'll never look at Taco Bell the same way again. Very Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black Death (2010)

There's something really fun for me about really dark, gritty medieval films, especially when they have a twist of the supernatural to them. The setting lends itself to some fantastic creepy visuals, what with the fog rolling in through dark, dense forests and bogs so nasty looking you can almost smell them. I guess being a fan of D&D makes my imagination go into overdrive when watching films like that, which is why I love stuff like "The 13th Warrior," "Season of The Witch," and "Beowulf."

I even own a bunch of low-budget, cheesy dragon-slaying movies, simply because I enjoy the tone they set. Now, that doesn't mean they're good, but they serve their purpose. And they're surprisingly abundant, which makes sense since I'm pretty sure most of them are just filmed at the local Renaissance Festival, and apparently, John Rhys-Davies will work for mead and The King's Fried Pickles.

While John Rhys-Davies is sadly absent from "Black Death," it stars an actor who I like even better: Sean Bean. And for those of you who are saying "who is that," screw you, that's who. It's not like this guy hasn't been in some huge freaking movies. He's just one of those actors who shows up a lot, but nobody really knows who he is. If you are having trouble placing him, he's the guy who dies in nearly every movie he's in. Yeah, that's the guy.

"No, it's totally cool. I wouldn't expect you to remember me from Lord of The Freaking Rings..."

Sean Bean is an actor I find wonderfully charismatic, even when he's brooding, which he normally is. What I love about him most is his intensity. When his characters go off the deep end, he's freaking scary. Him and Liam Neeson need to do a movie together. That would basically be the best thing ever.

"Black Death" is a movie that really feels like "The 13th Warrior" in both tone and visuals. It's a very cold looking movie, even though there's no snow, and the air just seems thick and heavy. The deep greens and browns of the surrounding forest landscape help with that, as does the wardrobe and design of the characters, who dress mostly in black over their mud-smeared, dull armor. This is a movie that you feel like you need to scrape the dirt off the camera lense in order to see everything. I dig the hell out of the look, and it's a very pretty movie to look at.

The story concerns a monk named Osmund, played by Eddie Redmayne, who's town is ravaged by the black plague. Wanting to leave, he joins a group of soldiers led by Sean Bean, who are on a mission to capture a necromancer who is reportedly bringing the dead back to life, in a town on the edge of a swamp which has mysteriously not been touched yet by the plague. As the story progresses, faith is shaken and the nature of good and evil is explored as the mystery of the necromancer is uncovered.

While "Black Death" is slightly by-the-numbers, in the end it does what it sets out to do very well. It's a very well cast film, with Eddie Remayne and Sean Bean both giving fantastic performances, but the rest of the cast, including Emun Elliott (who was in both "Game of Thrones" and "Prometheus"), was very solid as well. I particularly enjoyed John Lynch (one of the dwarfs in "Snow White & The Huntsman") as the resident bad-ass of the group who carried around a ridiculously overly-serrated short sword that looked more likely to catch on something and get him killed rather than do more damage to someone. But he bit off a piece of someone's neck during a fight, and that's awesome.


Speaking of which, the violence was acceptably brutal for the genre, but never went too overboard with it. There are scenes that could have gotten really grim and disgusting really, really quickly, but since director Christopher Smith knows what he's doing, the violence manages to be disturbing and hard-hitting without actually showing all that much, at least compared to some other ultra-violent splatter-fests.

I also have to give the movie credit for having a pretty effective "I'm not quite sure what to believe anymore" twist near the end of the film, which might pave the way for some good discussion afterwords. And the final end of the film was just unexpected and messed up enough to be really awesome. I'm sure not everyone would agree, but as far as fitting the theme of what the nature of good and evil truly is, it is an ending that really works. It's the rare film that has an epilogue that makes you say "Dude, they need to make that into a movie!"

And yeah, Sean Bean dies. It's not really a spoiler at this point. He dies in every dang movie, and I've seen him die a lot, but "Black Death" contains one of the most epic Sean Bean deaths ever. Not only is it completely hardcore the way this guy goes out, but he has a moment of self-satisfaction beforehand, culminating in the line "I am Death" which is just awesomely bad ass. I always hate to see him go in a movie, but as long as his death scene is sweet, it was all worth it.

He is the only man to have been shot in the face by Batman through a book of Yeats poetry. So far.

THE BOTTOM LINE - I liked "Black Death." It's the kind of movie I can just kick back, drink a glass of wine and escape into a dark fantasy. It ain't high art, but it's entertaining as hell. Recommended.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Borderland (2007)

Ever wonder what happened to your favorite TV characters after their show ended? I always figured Big Pete ended up being an astronaut, and Little Pete ended up running the world's biggest indoor waterpark. Clarissa probably is a struggling artist in San Diego living in a condo with 6 other people, while I always saw her buddy Sam dying in a freak circus accident. Ferguson of course is working as Rush Limbaugh's intern. And I would bet money that Steve Urkel became a professional golfer. Don't ask me why, but I just have a good feeling about that.

Thanks to "Borderland," one thing I now know for sure, however, is the ultimate fate of Cody from "Boy Meets World." He ran afoul of a satanic, human sacrificing cult in Mexico. Somehow, this oddly fits. You learn something new every day.

Yes, today's film stars Rider Strong, best known for his days on TGIF. And no, before anyone asks, he's not actually playing his character Cody. It's just more fun to watch it that way. He and two of his friends, played by Brian Presley and Jake Muxworthy, go down to Mexico in order to party. Apparently there is no party like a Mexico party. Sources tell me that the duration of these said Mexico parties is indefinite.

Anyone who has ever seen a horror movie that begins by young people traveling to another place could spot from 300 yards what's going to happen. After all, in horror movies, if you travel out of the country to party, you're getting abducted and murdered. Unfortunately for them, these chuckle-heads don't know that they are in horror movie. You would think the grainy filters and creepy soundtrack would clue them in.

Also this guy.

And it's really too bad that they didn't see the introductory scene which was a flashback to a year earlier, were a policeman is forced to watch his partner get tortured to death by having their hand sawed off and their eyes cut out. That would have been handy to know, since they could have just decided right then and there to never go to Mexico, because that's what happens when you go there. You get sacrificed to the devil.

Frigging Mexico...

Obviously, "Borderland" is not a movie for those who aren't OK with a bit of gratuitous violence. Of course, this is a pretty "duh" thing to say when the phrase "satanic human sacrificing cult" is involved, but it never hurts to reiterate. And while I wouldn't peg this down as a torture-porn movie like "Hostel" or the "Saw" sequels, there's some pretty rough stuff in here that is not for those with low constitutions. Just fair warning.

It's really not all about the violence, though. Yes that is a big part of it, but giving some context to the bloodshed are some pretty solid performances by the three main characters, particularly Rider Strong, and also Sean Astin, who has a very dark, disturbing turn as one of the cultist cronies. And while at first it was difficult to separate him from Samwise Gamgee or Rudy, eventually he really does just become this creepy sleazeball who has more than a little bit of a psychotic streak.

Pictured above - Rare gang violence in the Hobbit community.

"Borderland" to me seems to be a movie that's very much about style, from the way it is filmed to the color palette that they use to the script itself, this movie is going for something a bit different. And in that respect I'd say that they succeeded, although I'm not 100% on board with everything they did. There is a film grain used throughout, giving it a very cheap look, in addition to a lot of color correcting being done, which has the effect of making the reds, oranges and yellows become very predominant tones. These two things combines really makes "Borderland" look sleazy, which is a point in its favor considering the subject matter.

"Borderland" definitely has a grind-house vibe to it, and when it all comes down to it, yeah it's basically an exploitation flick of the "evil cult" genre. And that's not to say that is a bad thing. Sometimes you're just in the mood to watch something get sacrificed to dark powers. And yeah, this one fits the bill.

And I still choose to believe that it's a really dark sequel to "Boy Meets World."

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Borderland" is a quasi-artsy, quasi-torture film with a sleazy, grimy tone that manages to be pretty brutal without going TOO over-the-top with it, although it has a really nice view from the top couple of floors. It ain't pretty, but as far as thrillers like that go, it's pretty decent. If you're a fan of the genre, Recommended.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jersey Shore Shark Attack (2012)

Welcome to the third and final installment of my SHARK ATTACK WEEK TRILOGY. Today we're wrapping up this parade of admittedly pretty bad killer shark creature features. We've played a madman's lame game and survived sharks in the sand, and now we head to the one place on Earth that deserves to get devoured more than any other: The Jersey Shore.

As you could have probably guessed, I have not had a good time with this particular trilogy. It gets pretty exhausting sitting through dreck like this, and I must say that I think I may have foolishly put too much stock in the hope I may have had for these movies. But this last one here, I was more scared of than any of the others. Because while "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" had the most potential for awesomely bad things to happen, it also threatened to be the most obnoxious, too.

I will admit to never having seen a single episode of "Jersey Shore." And there is a good reason for this. I hate the people on it, and they need to be driven back into their holes with fire. Lots of fire. The fact that these people are still breathing means that they have become immune to the anthrax I've been sending them in the mail.

So spending an hour and a half with these jokers, or at least a bunch of actors pretending to be them, wasn't very appealing to me, but an hour and a half of watching them get eaten by sharks, then we might be talking here. That's the only reason I picked this up. I wanted to see them die. A lot.

Quick, mug for the camera harder. I'll tell them you died with your dignity.

There are two things that I can say about "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" that were surprising to me. First was the fact that this is a full blown comedy. I'm not sure why this was a surprise considering the source material, but hey, there it was. I mean, I had an inkling that it would be funny, but this is full-on zany here. And I must admit, if one were to make a movie called "Jersey Shore Shark Attack," the best course of action would probably be to drop any possible form of dignity and just go for the funny ha-ha.

The second thing that surprised me was that, as hard as this is for me to say, I actually found myself...well I can't say "liking it" because that might give too strong of a positive impression. Let it suffice to say that I didn't hate it nearly as much as I thought I would, even though the actors do such a scary good job of imitating the wastes of oxygen they're spoofing that they are actually pretty annoying to watch. And the only reason I say that I didn't hate it was because, as painful as this is to admit to myself and others, it's actually has a reasonable amount of funny stuff in it, because "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" is actually more of a slam on "Jersey Shore" than a love letter, so to speak.

If the movie had made an attempt to treat these clowns with dignity, it wouldn't have worked. Instead, these characters and the lifestyle they live are portrayed as absolutely ridiculous and stupid. These characters are vapid, shallow egomaniacs who can barely walk and digest food at the same time, and the movie never does a whole lot to make you think otherwise, which is good because nobody would have bought it.

If the army put these faces on targets, no soldier would ever miss.

In some ways it kind of reminded me of one those "Fill-In-The-Blank" movies. Stuff like "Scary Movie," "Epic Movie," or "Meet The Spartans," with characters having clever names like Nooki and The Complication. The original show has "Snooki" and "The Situation" for those of you lucky enough to be unaware of that. On the plus side, unlike the "Fill-In-The-Blank" movies, "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" actually has jokes instead of a slew of pointless, unrelated references that have nothing to do with anything besides the fact that it's a pop-culture thing. Because comedy is easy when all you have to do is write down a list of things people know about and display them at random.

"My ears are burning..."

There were some moments that legitimately made me laugh. Foremost amongst them was a moment when one of the characters is trying to get the shark's attention by luring it with a protein bar he naturally had with him. (In fact he had about 10 of them. Why wouldn't he?) When another character remarks that a protein bar probably isn't the best bait for a shark, he responds "Nothing can resist 25 grams of chewy, peanut butter crunch!" And what killed me is not only the fact that it actually ends up working, but that he was just so sincere about the power contained within this instant-energy snack.

While the cast does a fine job being annoying, there are really only two actors of note that make an appearance. The first is Tony Sirico, aka Paulie Walnuts of "The Sopranos" fame. All he does is stand behind a bar, sell absurdly small drinks and tell a story about how the sharks attacked once before. Not surprisingly, he's the one guy here who isn't a cartoon character, but that's mostly because he's still playing Paulie Walnuts.

"Guido, gabagool, Mameluke, cuisina Italiana, big ass sharks, fowgittabowdit. There. We done here?"

I was more excited to see William Atherton pop in and be a big douchebag. After all, when you've got the man who played not only Walter Peck from "Ghostbusters" but also Thornburg from the first two "Die Hard" movies, that's some smarmy asshole gold right there. And to watch somebody condescending to these chuckle-heads is always a pleasure.

As far as the sharks go, yeah they're still CGI. And yeah, they still don't look very good. I suppose the effects are a bit better than the last two, but that's a bar resting comfortably on Terra firma. At least there was a little bit done with practical effects, but that's something that's barely worth mentioning. I'm just so done with fake looking sharks made in a computer.

Sadly, we really haven't progressed much past that in the CGI shark territory.

On the plus side, we do get to see one of the sharks eat Joey Fatone. That was nice.

So in the end, is "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" worth it? Well, it's better than the other two, I guess. Most of this is because there's some funny stuff in it, but it's still bad. In fact, this whole trilogy was bad. I can only recommend them based on how "good" they are relatively speaking. And relatively, this is the best of the bunch.

Which is a bit like saying that extra cat carcass in your burlap sack pillow made all the difference that 3rd night you slept in the gutter.

I'm just glad SHARK ATTACK WEEK TRILOGY is over. I'm so tired.

"Dees sharks representin' Jersey!? No way, brah! Dat's a brotastrophe!"

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Jersey Shore Shark Attack" is admittedly kind of entertaining. It's hands down the only one of these three I would ever watch again, but that's about the nicest thing I can say about it. Perhaps if one were a big fan of "The Jersey Shore," they would enjoy it. Or maybe not. Either way, I really don't care. Watch if you're really really curious, but don't beat yourself up if you skip it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sand Sharks (2012)

Welcome to the second installment in my SHARK ATTACK WEEK TRILOGY, where I'll be looking at 3 different shark movies to see how they stack up. The first one, "Shark Week" by The Asylum was pretty lame. What horrors from the deep await me next? Read on!

You know, there comes a time, every once in a while, when I have to admit to myself that I've seen way too many movies, and that I may have a problem. This thought occured to me while watching today's film, "Sand Sharks," a movie that was picked up solely for the premise.

I mean, come on. Look at that majesty on the DVD cover. A shark that swims in the sand? That is ingeniously stupid. But it became clear to me that I may have a problem when I began watching the movie and realized that it was the second film I've seen this year starring Brooke Hogan, daughter of Hulk. (Actually, her name sounds amazingly bad-ass when said in that fashion.)

She was the star of the Asylum Film, "2-Headed Shark Attack," which I reviewed earlier this year. Also of interest was the fact that "2-Headed Shark Attack" was also directed by Christopher Olen Ray, who directed yesterdays "Shark Week." And now, without meaning to, I'm watching another shark movie starring Brooke Hogan. I don't know whether to be amused at the smallness of the world, be impressed by my movie consumption, or simply cry myself to sleep over my wasted years.

I can see it now. My tombstone will read: "Here lies Patrick Jackson. He watched low-budget creature features starring the children of professional wrestlers." Classy. Can't wait to die.

Why couldn't I have Royal Tenenbaum's tombstone?

I'm going to cut to the chase with this one. "Sand Sharks," while not good, is a measurable step up from "Shark Week." The reason for this is that A) The production value is slightly higher, B) It's meant to be more of a comedy, and C) It's basically a ripoff of "Jaws" to the point of spoofing several iconic scenes. And while this mostly just made me roll my eyes, in theory if you were to perhaps slam your head in a car door several times and get a severe concussion, then blindfolded yourself and simply listened to the movie with earmuffs on while sticking your head under a pillow, it might be possible to pretend you were watching "Jaws." So that at least puts it up over "Shark Week," although the prep-work involved is a tad excessive.

So yeah, the movie is about sharks that can swim through the sand. They start by snacking on some bikers and random beach-goers before threatening to ruin a "huge" party that the mayor's douchebag son is trying to throw in order to generate much needed revenue for the island town. And just like "Jaws," despite early warning signs and deaths, the authorities refuse to close down the beaches on account of bad business practice.

Now, I said "huge" party because it's clear that "Sand Sharks" only had about 40 extras to use for the party scene, so there's never any wide establishing shots of the crowd, which is kind of annoying to watch because it's clear that if the camera were to scoot a mere inch to the left there would be only sand and air. Also you can see the same handful of people show up many times. This gives the impression that they can either teleport via camera edit, or that during the panicky running around scenes, they are simply running in circles like idiots.

Seems legit.

The funniest part about the party scenes, however, is the fact that you can clearly hear the same 2 guys doing ADR every time you see the crowd. And of course the mixing in the booth is far clearer than the sound they picked up on the beach, which makes it sound really artificial and canned. Just imagine watching "Beach Blanket Bingo" with a guy standing behind you saying "Yeah! Alright! This party's awesome! Wooo! Spring Break!" anytime they started dancing. Sounds fun, right?

Brooke Hogan shows up as the Matt Hooper equivalent, as she is playing a marine biologist. In much the same way that "Alone In The Dark" included Tara Reid as an archeologist, this is a little tough to swallow, to the point that the movie actually makes it the subject of a joke at one point, with one of the characters asking "Doctor of what?" when she is introduced with her professional moniker. On the plus side, unlike Tara Reid, Brooke Hogan has the capacity to actually pronounce the words that are coming out of her mouth. So good job on that one.

Why can't I escape you? And why are you constantly one of the better actors in these movies?!

I'm actually not joking when I say that Brooke Hogan wasn't bad in this. For what this movie is, she did just fine, and is the only character that plays her part fairly straight, which is out of the norm for most of the rest of the cast, who play up the goofiness full blast. Some are worse than others, none more so than our main character, the douchebag throwing the party, played to the zany hilt by Corin Nemec. And while I did appreciate the fact that they're not trying to kid us into attempting the thought of taking "Sand Sharks" seriously, the line between "quirky" and "obnoxious" was obliterated almost the instant he walked on screen.

Just imagine Dane Cook playing Van Wilder imitating Jim Carrey. And never sleep again.

We also have Asylum veteren Robert Pike Daniel playing the Quint equivalent, and yeah, I guess his performance is genuinely salty enough. Although I must say that it's quite distracting whenever you have a guy talking like a pirate in your movie. Especially when it's not about pirates. I just always find myself thinking how much more interesting the film would have been had it been set in the Caribbean in the 1700's. I dunno. At least it'd be unique.

I guess I just don't understand why he's doing a pirate voice instead of Quint's gruff Bostonian accent. I mean, as long as we're ripping stuff off right? Hearing a dude saying stuff like "Yar, I be valuin' me neck fer more'n two thousan' bucks! I catch 'em fer ten, matey!" just does not have the same ring to it. I'm just saying.

I also don't remember Quint having a flamethrower. I'm also pretty sure those don't work that way.

Not so scurvy nor entertaining was Eric Scott Woods, playing the Brody equivalent, whose method of acting appears to be to clench his teeth to the point of shattering between every line reading, and then just look kind of sleepy. I guess being the least interesting person on the screen improves your survival odds in these films.

"Na-hurr...acting."

Finally, the issue of the CGI sharks must be addressed, because like all these movies, the sharks are CGI. And maybe it's just a thing, but I don't understand why it's so hard to make a shark look decent using CGI. I've never seen it done well. Not once. And this is no exception. Again, like "Shark Week," the sharks in this film look like Playstation 1 graphics, although they are a slight step up from "Shark Week." Maybe late era PS1.

Not helping is the fact that there is a real bad disconnect going on with the scale of these things, since once minute they're 30 feet long, and the next minute they're half that size. The worst example was at the end when the momma shark appears, at first literally appearing to be bigger than a blue whale, but then fully emerges from the ground in a building not 10 feet wide, comfortably fitting inside, fins spread and all. It tends to undermine the hugeness of the object.

I guess it was a slight step up from "Shark Week," if only because it didn't take itself too seriously, but it makes me wonder why it's apparently so freaking hard to make a good shark movie. Was "Jaws" just an inconceivable fluke? What happened?

This trilogy seems ill-fated...

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Sand Sharks" is a silly, low-budget creature feature which contains sequences of point-for-point rip offs of "Jaws." Honestly, if you wanted a shark movie that didn't take itself seriously, just watch "Deep Blue Sea." At least that one was somewhat unique. Skip this one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shark Week (2012)

It's time for another trilogy of films! For the next 3 days, I shall watch and talk about 3 similar themed movies. This week, it's SHARK ATTACK WEEK! This is a target rich environment, as shark movies are nearly literally a dime-a-dozen. And what luck! There just happened to be 3 straight to DVD shark movies released lately! Let's do this.

We start off the trilogy by once again taking a trip down to The Asylum, with their low-budget creature feature, "Shark Week." I have to say, it takes a certain amount of both courage and suicidal tendencies to throw in Asylum movies on a fairly regular basis. In a way it's much like Russian Roulette. When the movie is unexpectedly good or amusing in it's cheesiness, it's not unlike hearing that sweet "click" of the hammer falling on empty air in the chamber, and there's that wonderful moment of relief. But when the movie is bad, and man, when The Asylum is bad it's really bad, instead of a "click," all of sudden you're Christopher Walken and your brains are decorating both the wall and Robert DeNiro's face.

But wait? Would that mean I'd be Christopher Walken? Because that would be sweet. Are bad Asylum movies therefore a good thing? I think I'm getting off topic a bit. This movie ate.

"Shark Week" is directed by Christopher Olen Ray, the same man who brought us "2-Headed Shark Attack," a film that while bad at least got women in bikinis right. In fact, I did find "2-Headed Shark Attack" actually decently entertaining especially in retrospect, which is something that I can't say for "Shark Week." And while they were honestly about at the same level of sophistication, at least "2-Headed Shark Attack" had a high body count, funny characters, an attempt at practical effects, a script that made a modicum more sense, and a bunch of ladies who were really, really hot.

"Shark Week" is simply boring. That's the biggest problem with Asylum movies, which is that when they get bad, it's not just that what you're seeing is dumb, it's that it's dull to the point of being an excellent sleep aide. The characters are also next to faceless, with literally no characterization given at all besides the reason why they are here. There are no practical effects whatsoever, and all the sharks are really poorly done CGI that would have been laughed off of a PS1 game. The script is absurdly bad, with the acting being the only thing worse. And there's not a bikini to be found.

All I'm saying is at this point, a sassy little two-piece couldn't hurt your film.

What "Shark Week" is trying to pull off is essentially a combination of "Saw" and "Deep Blue Sea" with a little bit of mafia vendetta thrown in as an excuse to make it all happen. Patrick Bergen plays our villain, a man named Tiberon, who is a drug runner who's son was killed. You can tell he's trying to go for a Don Johnson / Jeff Fahey thing, but he comes off more like that uncle that gets drunk on the holidays and starts in with their political dogma about how "Gov'ment ain't right," much to the discomfort of everyone else in the room.

"Obama's a Muslim Nazi! FEMA camps! THE GAYS!!!"

Joining him is Yancy Butler, who is totally slumming it being in this, as his psycho girlfriend type who I think is supposed to be modeled after Katya from "Die Hard With A Vengeance," but Yancy just looks bored and embarrassed to be there. It's actually pretty sad, although I'd be ashamed too if I was forced to spit out such dreck as "Sharks are gods."

"Offer yourself to the great ruler of time and space, Jabberjaw."

What Tiberon is up to is revenging himself upon the people who he feels are responsible for his son's death. He rounds up the undercover cop who ended up shooting him, the druggie who snitched, the chick who led the investigation, the prosecutor for the investigation, the medic who couldn't save him, and so on and so forth. It's portrayed as this big, intricate mystery as to "why are they all here," and every once in a while there's a scene with a big revelation and shocked faces all around, when I'm guessing the mention of the dead criminal's name would have made it so that all 8 of the victims would have immediately put two and two together, considering they were all right in the middle of the situation.

It's like in "Final Fantasy VIII" when all the characters conveniently forgot they all grew up in the same orphanage. You may say that it never came up, but it's a lot easier to buy the "You are all stupid" explanation as opposed to the "Nobody asked" one. Either way it's dumb.

The whole movie consists of these simpletons walking from place to place going up against bigger and bigger sharks, completely going along with whatever Tiberon wants them to do, because as they convince themselves "They have no choice." Well, perhaps they don't, but there were a few occasions when they straight up unnecessarily put themselves into a dangerous situation for no good reason. Like when they were walking along a beach, saw a shark, and got into the water in an effort to kill it. This gets two of them killed. I just had to guess that they forgot that sharks don't usually remove themselves from the water, and they could have easily just kept walking.

While watching movies like this, I usually try to find maybe one character that I can latch onto, or at least route for to make it a bit more entertaining. For "Shark Week" it was the character of Layla, played by Valerie Garcia. She's the only character given even the slightest bit of personality, as she is playing a tattooed, slightly punk druggie with a sweet haircut that is introduced to us while she is sitting in a bathtub full of water while wearing a dress.

See, at least her introduction is memorable. I don't remember anything about anybody else, but I remember that she was the chick in the bathtub. I was honestly hoping she'd be the one to survive, but unfortunately she ends up getting taken out at the end of the second act. And although she goes out more hardcore than anyone else, after that point I honestly didn't care anymore, because my favorite was gone. But damn it, she took out a shark with a landmine, and that's awesome.

Cupcake, you've got more balls than any of the rest of them. Good on ya.

Look, I hate to bash movies like this. I really do. I love the fact that the people involved obviously love what they do. I want them to keep going. But for the love of criminy, can they please stop overreaching their means by thinking that this horrendous CGI they do is passable? Maybe they can cut back on the monster flicks until their budget warrants it? And if the budget never warrants it, just don't do monster movies. It wouldn't be hard to not do it.

All I'm saying is that when all your budget can afford is cardboard, spraypaint and a Lego set, maybe it's not the right time to try and make "Avatar," you know what I mean?

THE BOTTOM LINE - Even for Asylum fans, "Shark Week" is pretty bad. I was honestly expecting a bit more from the guy who gave us the passable "2-Headed Shark Attack," and no, that's not a joke. An hour and a half would be better served watching that one. At least that one was kind of funny. This is on the low end of The Asylum's scale. Skip It.