May 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
Historical epic films have come a long way since the silent era and despite taking few to more liberties, it’s a notable genre that makes audiences and critics interested in any part of history and how it happened. But lately, the genre has taken a different tone when it went from being grand-scale with practical effects and rich acting to CGI orgies and downright stupid decisions. And one might say that the fault of it is Oliver Stone’s Alexander but in my guess, I think Zack Snyder’s adaptation of 300 sealed that deal more since think about it, name one movie in recent times that cashes in on this. You can’t find one, can you?
And who to blame other than Zack for this new take of genre than comic writer and artist himself Frank Miller himself. Now he is influential at the start and I have read Dark Knight Returns and few issues his run on Daredevil to see it but following Sin City, he start going downhill with such divisive works as All-Star Batman and Robin and Holy Terror!. I have read those as well and yeah, I can see why it’s not good. He even try his hands on directing by taking Will Eisner’s The Spirit character and turn it into nothing but one hero’s hardcore love for the city, Samuel L. Jackson wearing a Nazi uniform and well… This!
Above all that, 300 is one work that belongs in “Post-Insanity Frank Miller” era and it’s easy to see why. As narrated by Dilios (David Wenham), the story told about the rise and fall of Sparta’s king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who decide to go to war against the Persians as lead by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) after a few sets of threats. With him and soldiers that’s either Spartans or Arcadians, they travel and fought against their enemies even by ultra-violent and graphic means with the story ending with all but Dilios fallen to the battle and Dilios deciding to lead more soldiers which is left told in a sequel I haven’t yet seen.
And that’s the whole movie in a nutshell. Sure, there is subplot involving Leonidas’ wife Gorgo (Lena Headey) facing her own dilemma in Sparta and Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan) changing sides after being rejected by Leonidas but is it really worth mentioning anyway. Taking shot-for-shot adaptation aspect that started with Sin City with few additions added for this film, Zack had done a good visually take on the mini-series and some acting can be taken from granted like Dominic West’s villainous turn as Theoron and pre-famed Michael Fassbender is hypnotic as Stelios. Then again, he’s hypnotic in other movies anyway and uh, I have a man crush on him!
But are there faults to this? Oh yeah because I once liked this movie back when it was released but came to hate it thanks to it being the starting catalyst of what I called the “Brostorical Epic” genre which uses historical epics and gave it a adrenaline rush with style over substance and massive male-dominated aspect which is later seen in Immortals, Pompeii and the upcoming re-adaptation of Ben Hur. Sure, you can throw in a female or two in there but really, this is now historical epic made for bro-centric audience who thinks shirtless fighting guys are awesome and kick-ass.
Another fault is of course Frank Miller and I already brought up on him a bit. Granted, he did know its history since he’s a fan of The 300 Spartans and there’s a DVD featurette which explained why some is accurate to real life so he is not half-assing it. But given his views on Sin City and Holy Terror! when it comes to woman, race and so on, he turned a notable event in history and used his controversial motifs big time. Now to keep this in mind, it’s kind of a expanded adaptation with Zack as one of the co-writers and a little has been changed from the source material. It doesn’t help that a scene involving Gorgo getting butt-fucked by Theoron is not in the book since Theoron is part of the few movie additions. If you think about it, this is the kind of level that gets a massive criticism from SJWs in a similar way as adding rape sequences in Game of Thrones.
Lastly, the acting is cheesy and hammy especially from Gerard, David and Rodrigo. In fact, Rodrigo is the best part of the hammy acting more so than the one who gave us the infamous “This is Sparta” meme. And at times, I may give credit to the visual style but it’s also distracting since it felt like I’m watching a post-apocalyptic nightmare than something that exists in the past. And yeah, Zack is all about the color scheme in his movies but this really looks like a movie where its print has been pissed by somebody in the editing room and wiped it out to make it look like it. Mind you, the comics are using that color style as well but the comic book is at least artistic and well-done so translating it to film form… only works if it’s animated.
That being said, I don’t know if I’ll recommend the movie. Despite not liking it now, I can watch it for the hilarious homoerotic overtones because hey, I like A Nightmare On Elm Street II and The Lost Boys even with these overtones after all but as a distorted action-packed historical flick, those last six words are the exact reason why Pearl Harbor divided audience big time so I give it a no on this one. Before I finish up, I should explain that I’m taking a minor break on Snyder movies because I am planning something different next month and while one or two “nostalgia lookback” reviews is involved (depending on my timing), next month is a theme that involves three movies (and something extra) that I liked and I won’t spoil you much but it is related to a commemorative month.
May 16, 2016 § Leave a comment
There is some points where I don’t know if I regret doing reviews that is related to my past ones really because reviewing one dumb movie by The Asylum is one thing but reviewing another 2012 exploitation movie? Well, I can admit that it’s not by the company this time around so what am I gonna look at this week? 2012: Curse of the Xtabai, a movie made by Matthew Klinck whose notable work is 2008 minor cult classic Hank and Mike and a bunch of stuff. This movie is also notable for the first to be made entirely in Belize and that place there has few movies filmed there before like The Dogs of War and Alien Origin.
And this is the paragraph that gets somewhat awkward since I don’t know how to take this. 2012: Curse of the Xtabai is also the director’s last movie since he passed away at January of this year at Belize. Now I’m just gonna point out that if I offer some criticism, that is my intention prior to finding out about his passing and anything I said that might come off as negative is only towards the movie and not towards the late filmmaker. I mean, he might be a nice guy back when he’s alive and if anything, the intention of this movie is not by cash cow or related standards so Matthew’s reason for the movie is his dream and passion so by respect, I am only just looking at the product and see if it’s good or not good in my personal opinion.
With that out-of-the-way, let’s see how this movie fares. Following the opening credits that reminds me on Film Ventures International opening credits to movies seen in Mystery Science Theater 3000, we meet protagonist Nehandra (Nehandra Higinio) who’s a teenage high schooler who work up from her nightmares that might seem like premonition. She watched news reports of a nearby cave explosion and then tell her mother (Miriam Antoinette-Ochaeta) about the dreams and those dreams might relate to the legend that is the Xtabai. She is off to school and some strange virus is breaking out around the town which includes one of her students to went in seizure vomiting experience. Meanwhile, her brother Tommy (Tomas Fabian Serrut) is burning up and mother takes him to the hospital before the soldiers arrive to cover the roads and be alert.
The mother is walking to school to warn Nehandra about this but the soldiers warn her to not take a step and she did so she got killed by the army, all witnessed by Nehandra and her schoolmates. Thinking the cave and Xtabai is really happening, she decides to find archaelogist John Jones (Arran Bevis) in the bar and offers money to take her and her buddies to the cave to stop the chaos that’s going around. He agrees and together, they decide to go on the journey that revolves walking, checking stuff in the woods and hiding from the army. Also, Jones have a secret agenda since he wants one of the statues as payment for his life. That one of the statues is enough to stop the Xtabai by the way.
They kept on the journey and along the way, they have a swimming montage (no joke) and two female students having a catfight (again, no joke) before few died under the power of the Xtabai (Shelley Glionna), the remaining survivors along with The Maestro (Jim Goodchild Arnold) and mayan elder known as Mister Nic (Nicasio Coc) to retrieve those statues. However, The Maestro sense something and the Xtabai turned him into a corpse while Jones found one of the statues and stabbed Ian (Ian Flowers). Nehandra took that statue off him and along with the other one, Mister Nic prepares to do a ritual that stops the Xtabai and its virus outbreak once and all for all. However, Jones has none of this and wants to take the statue but he got killed by the only two surviving high schoolers in the cave.
The ritual worked, Nehandra and the two high schoolers walk back to their town and Nehandra finds Tommy alive and not sick ending with her being the only relative taking care of the kid. Okay, I gonna give some positive notes here. While it is hardly a 2012 exploitation vehicle (note that 2012 is referred to as a plot point), it is an okay shot-on-digital horror vehicle that took place in a country that’s hardly filmed so that’s something. And the acting is by a bunch that are first timers in acting, I give kudos to Nehandra and Arran for this and while they are not high-profile actors, maybe they’ll act again in a future movie. The only other positive is a unique storyline and a surprisingly good soundtrack (except for one song that’s heard in one of the premonition scenes) so that’s all I could give for positives.
And is there any negatives to follow? Well, it is not an awful movie by any means but there is a bit of cheesiness in there, notably the acting of the soldiers and the Xtabai’s appearance. If anything, I could see Matthew doing a B-Movie type horror and it’s understandable since filmmakers have a passion for schlock, just look at James Franco doing one about the making of The Room or Tim Burton looking at Ed Wood’s life. It is also dragging a bit with one montage and few scenes and sadly, I might have the feeling that I may not watch this again after this review.
Then again, I haven’t seen a bunch of other films following its reviews and I forget a few so is this memorable by many means? In a way, yeah since I never looked at the last movie of any director before (except maybe Scott Harper but moving on) so is an experience I have gone to. If you like obscure horror movies and wanna look at something you never seen before, this is worth checking out and it will depend if you like it or not. I myself don’t mind it and didn’t hate it so with that Matthew Klinck, you may not longer be with us all but at least gave me a movie I might not forget so here’s to you sir.
May 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
Continuing the Snyder Trainwagon (did I just seriously wrote that?) with what is his feature-length directorial debut that is the remake of Dawn of the Dead. And this movie actually came in the right time since the Zombie Apocalypse genre was back in full swing at that time thanks to 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead but as it was riding high, the genre slowly went downhill before it became a dying trend with the exception of few movies like Maggie and shows like The Walking Dead and Z Nation of course. And given that this is one of Zack Snyder’s projects, I thought it was more fitting to talk about the self-proclaimed godfather of the genre, George A. Romero, since he’s highly responsible for the original movie.
George start it out with cult classic Night of the Living Dead and went on to movies like The Crazies and Martin but he cannot let go of the undead which is why he became somewhat a one-trick pony but with few more good ones like Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead. And he also made crap like Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead which one wonder if somebody told him to do something else other than zombies at that time. He didn’t stop though since he’s writing Zombies in comics nowadays. Overall, Romero is and will always be an influential filmmaker despite having flaws. With that out-of-the-way, the question to that is this – does Zack’s take on the 1970s classic live up to expectations?
We get to that shortly so first the synopsis. The movie primary focuses on Ana (Sarah Polley) who returns home from work and thought she’s living a normal life with her husband Luis (Louis Ferreira). However, a day later, their neighbor walks into their room with Luis going to her only to find she’s already dead and bitten him which panicked Ana to hide in the bathroom before she escapes to see her town in panic. She drives before crashes but survive only to find police officer Kenneth Hall (Ving Rhames) along with Michael (Jake Weber), Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and Luda (Inna Korobkina) going to the nearby mall for survival which leads to Ana joining them.
The five then later encountered three security guards – CJ (Michael Kelly), Bart (Michael Barry) and Terry (Kevin Zegers) – already living in the mall and CJ wanted them out but he reluctantly decides to let them stay under their rules. The next day, a truck speeds by and CJ refuse to let them in but surprise, Ana and others thought otherwise and led to only CJ and Bart as prisoners instead for a brief time, with Terry helping the survivors out. With a couple of survivors from the truck dead, the survivors decide to live their life in the mall as their home… but they decide to escape! A mall that has enough food and supplies to survive until the zombies rot themselves to death!
And the plan to escape involves two shuttle buses in the garage that needs to be redesigned with weaponry and shields and travel to the nearby sea to get on to a yacht owned by Steve (Ty Burrell) and with CJ and Bart joining them in the process. Also, they need to pick up fellow survivor Andy (Bruce Bohne) who is surviving in his weapons store near the mall but is starving (which btw, he has enough ammo and other stuff to kill every zombie in sight before he runs to the mall before the others come, I am seriously nitpicking a zombie movie here). Long story short, lives were lost and the escape was successful but with the credits rolling out revealing the remaining fates when they get to an island.
Now this is me being legitimate here but this remake is actually pretty good. While sure, there is a lack of social commentary of consumerism in this one (but maybe they went to social collapse instead) and a few flaws are noticeable but it did have a good cast, got itself a great core, excellent soundtrack from Johnny Cash to Richard Cheese and it didn’t went out its way to be a pointless, money-hungry remake like how Point Break and Poltergeist have suffered so it’s a movie made in the right moment.
So really, I did say it’s a good movie and one could say it’s one of few notable examples on why Zack Snyder is not a hack director. Yeah, it’s just a tad few against many that say he is (and keep in mind, I am kind of the “many” crowd) but hey, this is how he start at the top. It’s his other movies with one or two exception that proves enough that he didn’t stay that way and well, the next movie is the kind that I have issues with. Uh, so anyway, do check this movie and also look up the original in either version since trust me, the 1978 one is a horror classic.