Blood Runs Cold

Blood Runs Cold is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Short, subtitled, senseless slasher sizzles

Blood Runs ColdBlood Runs Cold (2011) – Not rated

After retreating to the woods near her hometown for inspiration, a musician reunites with some longtime friends and a former beau, only to learn that they have company: a psychopathic killer with an ax.

I liked Blood Runs Cold. I have some trepidation in admitting that. Blood Runs Cold is subtitled which will turn some people off right away.

We are not given any background on the killer. There is no escape from a prison or release from a mental institution. The characters don’t find a secret diary or ominous picture album. The killer doesn’t even talk.

The filmmakers simply set up their premise, four friends run afoul of a psycho with an axe, and run with it. This is just a pure lean slasher with all the fat cut off. The setting (Sweden) is a gorgeous winter wonderland and the temperature during filming hovered at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blood Runs Cold knows exactly what kind of film it is and doesn’t overstay its welcome at a brief 77 minutes. It is not as good as Cold Prey but if you want a slasher and don’t mind subtitles, give it a whirl.

Pardon the brief review but my computer died over the weekend so I’m borrowing the wife’s laptop for a bit.

Yet Still More September Netflixiness

For some reason, Netflix got an overload of recent titles. Sadly it is mainly dreck from Discovery and TLC:

Anime: My Bride is a Mermaid

Room 237

Documentary: Ain’t in it for my Health: Levon Helm, Family Affair, Louder than a Bomb, Love Free or Die, Room 237, The Secret Disco Revolution

Family: The Lost Medallion, Care Bears: Ups and Downs

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Upside Down

Foreign: Talaash, Ritual

Music: Madonna MDNA: Live from Miami

Television: 2012 Apocalypse, Alaska Most Extreme, Alien Planet, America’s Cutest, American Hot Rod, American Underworld, Arctic Roughnecks, Bear Attack!, Behind Bars, Bering Sea Gold, Bermuda Triangle Exposed, Big as Life: Obesity in America, Brew Masters, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, Call of the Wildman, Carfellas, China’s Mega Dam, Combat Cash, County Jail, Croc Attack, Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside the Concordia, Desert Car Kings, Dinosaur Revolution, Dirty Money, Doomsday Bunkers, Explosions Gone Wrong, Extreme Christmas Trees, Extreme Drug Smuggling, FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, Finding Bigfoot, Four Weddings, Gang Wars, Gator Boys, Get Out Alive, Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda, How do They Do It?, I Was Bitten, Is It Possible?, Killer Whales, Killing Bin Laden, King Tut Unwrapped, Last Man Standing, The Little Couple, Long Island Medium, The Man Who Lost His Face, The Man with Half a Body, Mayday! Bering Sea, Mega Engineering, Megaquake: Hour that Shook Japan, Monsters and Mysteries in Alaska, Monsters Inside Me, Moose Attack, The Mortified Sessions, My 600-lb Life: Melissa’s Story, My Cat From Hell, My First Home, The Silence, Worst-Case Scenario, World’s Fattest Man, Wild Animal Repo, When Fish Attack, When Fish Attack 3, When Animals Bite Back, What Not to Wear, Weed Wars, Weird or What?, Untamed Alaska, Unleashed: K9 Broward County, Ultimate Car Build Off, Track Me if You Can, Tornado Rampage 2011, Too Cute!, The Tiniest Girl in the World, North Woods Law, On Death Row, Pig Bomb, Pit Boss, Pit Bulls & Parolees, Police Women of Dallas, Powering the Future, Rattlesnake Republic, Ragin’ Cajuns, Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids, Swamp Brothers, Swamp Wars, Surviving Katrina, Sunrise Earth: Alaska, Sturgis: Motorcycle Mania, Speed of Life, Somali Pirate Takedown, Snow Men, Sinking of an Aircraft Carrier, Secrets of the Secret Service, Secrets of SEAL Team Six, and new episodes of Family Guy, Stalked: Someone’s Watching, Sister Wives, Sins & Secrets, Say Yes to the Dress, Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, Oddities, Nightmare Next Door, Louie, Disappeared, Dual Survival, 19 Kids and Counting, Hoarding: Buried Alive, I (Almost) Got Away With It, Cake Boss, Deadly Women, and Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?

It’s a Disaster! week – Redline

Redline is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Micro-budget thriller is passably entertaining.

RedlineRedline (aka Red Line, 2013) – Rated R

Trapped deep underground amid twisted wreckage after a terrorist bomb derails their subway train, a handful of surviving commuters discovers a second bomb ready to detonate — and that the saboteur may still be among them.

Redline was written by Tara Stone and director Robert Kirbyson. It is a bit too streamlined for a disaster movie as no one knows each other on the train yet minutes later, they all know each other’s names.

Clearly, Redline has no budget as the detonation is all shaky cam and after that we essentially have a three-room play (two subway cars and a bit of tunnel). Naturally we have a young ethnic man who is mistaken for a terrorist.

Acting is all over the (subway) map. Unfortunately most of them seem to be acting individually rather than responding to the other actors around them. For once, character actor John Billingsley (Enterprise, True Blood) has a significant role and thankfully doesn’t overplay it.

Hilariously Kunal Sharma, an American of Indian descent, plays an American of Brazilian descent mistaken for an Arab. Hollywood is apparently still convinced that any ethnicity can play any other ethnicity. Still it provides jobs I suppose. I did find it funny that when the time came, the other characters were in no great hurry to free him.

Redline is a passable waste of an hour and a half but it isn’t really a disaster movie so much as a hostage movie.

People Watch: Can you pick them out of a Gray’s Anatomy lineup? John Billingsley (Sam in Redline) played Jacob Nolston in two episodes. Joseph Williamson (Mason) was intern Pierce in 22 episodes. Mark Saul (Boyd) was Dr. Steve Mostow in 37 episodes.

It’s a Disaster! week – Eve of Destruction

Eve of Destruction is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Ring of Fire – Fire + Energy = Eve of Destruction

Eve of DestructionEve of Destruction (2013) – Not Rated

Scientists drill a hole in the universe to harvest a limitless pool of ‘dark energy’, but the experiment goes horribly wrong and wipes an entire city off the map. Now, the effort to save the world, becomes the ultimate threat that could destroy it.”

Okay I know the above miniseries sounds nothing like Ring of Fire (“Stemming from a small town, a volcanic eruption triggered by an oil rig ignites a domino effect that threatens all of humanity around the world.”) but trust me, this is the same exact miniseries. Instead of Terry O’Quinn as the greedy yet sympathetic capitalist, we have Treat Williams as the greedy, slimy capitalist. Instead of Michael Vartan as the scientist who knows everything, we have Steven Weber as the scientist who knows everything.

Eve of Destruction takes forever to get going and, as with Ring of Fire, it could have been trimmed down into a two hour movie. It’s not like you are going to care about any of the characters except perhaps the Russian electrician.

Production values are decent. Special effects are not but they are better than Asylum. Direction and pacing are pedestrian. The script has no better a handle on science than most of these do.

One of the main faults that both Ring of Fire and Eve of Destruction have is that they take a local disaster and make the scale global so that it seems more important. If you are going to write soap opera characters so that you can endanger them then you really don’t need a global stage. Do you need more motivation than that the characters want to save themselves and their loved ones?

It’s a Disaster! week – Category 8

Category 8 is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: An order of magnitude worse than Category 7.

Cat. 8Cat. 8 (2013) – Not rated

When a government experiment to harness the sun’s power goes horribly awry and sends a massive fireball hurtling toward Earth, it’s up to a renegade scientist to save the planet by reversing the cataclysm — against seemingly impossible odds.”

Netflix calls this Category 8 but all the advertising materials call this Cat. 8. My assumption is that this is not made by the Category 6 and Category 7 people but by people who want you to think that it is related. Also since Category 7 was subtitled “The End of the World”, one would think there wouldn’t be a Category 8.

As with 6 and 7, 8 is a two-part television miniseries. In a case of diminishing returns, the only star in 8 is Matthew Modine (6 had Brian Dennehy, Randy Quaid, Thomas Gibson, and Nancy McKeon and 7 had Randy Quaid, Gina Gershon, Shannon Doherty and Robert Wagner).

Disaster movies are my kryptonite. The hit to miss ratio on disaster movies is, well, disastrous but I just can’t stop watching them. Cat. 8 is not an exception. Neflix’ description is terrible and inaccurate but the actual premise is just as ludicrous.

Matthew Modine is the misunderstood, principled scientist Dr. Michael Ranger. Obviously, in spite of being out of work for a while, he knows more than any other scientist on the planet about the dangers of the solar flares that the experiment has triggered. He also knows more than any other scientist how to restart the core of our planet. Apparently he has multiple areas of expertise. He has also spent all of his ample free time building a device in his barn. I wonder if that will be useful?

I will say that I never knew that military bases were so ridiculously easy to infiltrate. They do this not once but multiple times in the miniseries.

The Secretary of Defense is our chief villain here, if for no other reason than that shows seem to require one. He carries out a really pointless vendetta against the only person who can save us. At one point when he confronts Dr. Ranger in a chair, you can see that he regrets not having a mustache to twirl.

The special effects are serviceable but not flashy. On the other hand if you only have one star then eye candy would have gone a long way here. Why does every falling satellite, including the International Space Station, strike a major city? I thought the Earth’s surface was 3/4 water. Sadly, the destruction of London and Chicago are only shown generically and are not cathartic at all.

The science is beyond laughable but you might guess that just from my description of the device Dr. Ranger builds in his barn. Cat. 8 ultimately commits the cardinal sin of disaster movies – it is boring.

It’s a Disaster! week – Aftershock

Aftershock is currently available on instant Netflix

One Line Review: Boring beginning and rapey ending scuttle an otherwise interesting mix.

AftershockAftershock (2012) – Rated R

A dim American tourist traveling in Chile convinces three attractive young women to accompany him and his friends to party in a coastal city, but the fun stops when a major earthquake devastates the area and they must fight for survival.

(Pollo describing women at a club) “They’re all the same. They just want to be upgraded to business class.”

I applaud the efforts of this independent production to try to make a horror disaster movie. I can’t really think of any other films offhand that have tried to merge those two genres. Aftershock has a great tagline: The only thing more terrifying than Mother Nature is human nature.

If you found that above quote to be a tad misogynistic, even out of context, you would not be wrong. Aftershock had to be trimmed to receive an ‘R’ rating and still contains “strong bloody violence including rape, language, drug content and some nudity”. Yes, Aftershock contains a rape scene and multiple instances of misogyny, violence against women, and various other things that would generally knock it out of the running for women and men with any sensitivity.

Aftershock is filmed from the perspective of three male friends (Eli Roth, Ariel Levy, and Nicolas Martinez) even though from the midpoint on the film is more actively focused on their three female companions (Andrea Osvart, Natasha Yarovenka, and Lorenza Izzo). There is a brief scene with Selena Gomez that will have you wondering if she just happened to be on vacation there.

Aftershock was filmed in Chile and you can catch some minor glimpses of life there which are fascinating. Unfortunately almost the entire first half of the film is just young people going to clubs and dancing. The film takes way too long to set up the central earthquake, perhaps due to budget constraints.

After the earthquake, you can really feel Eli Roth’s Hostel fingerprints on this. People are horrific to each other, including our protagonists. This may be realistic and certainly a fair portion rings quite true but that doesn’t make it fun. The ending after the climax is pretty predictable.

I applaud the cast and crew of Aftershock for what they’ve attempted but the first half is boring (unless you like club scenes) and the second half unpleasant. Keep in mind that I’m biased though as rape scenes are a huge turnoff for me.


It’s a Disaster! week – It’s a Disaster

Obviously with the name It’s a Disaster, this is the ideal movie to start off It’s a Disaster week. It’s a Disaster is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Not a disaster, entertaining but not greatly so.

It's a DisasterIt’s a Disaster (2012) – Rated R

After gathering for Sunday brunch at one of their homes, four couples realize they are stranded together as the world may be coming to an end during an apocalyptic crisis. Nevertheless, they continue to deal with their various relationship issues.

What would happen if four couples were having brunch when the apocalypse began? Honestly it could look a lot like this. Writer/director Todd Berger has an excellent grasp of inter-couple dynamics.The couples are all well-realized and dysfunctional in various ways.

Tracy (Julia Stiles) brings her new boyfriend Glen (David Cross) to her regular Sunday couples brunch. The hosts are on the verge of breaking up but don’t want to tell their guests. Another couple is perpetually looking to spice up their sex life. The third couple just can’t commit. The brunch is actually for five couples but one of the couples is perpetually late (you know someone like that, don’t you?). Their arrival is perhaps the funniest moment in the movie.

The unthinkable occurs (offscreen) early in the movie. Part of the joke is that our characters are so self-absorbed that they don’t realize until fairly late in the film and even then they are in quite a bit of denial.

It’s a Disaster is extremely low key. There are very few hilarious moments, just amusing situations as things spiral out of control. The actual disaster is never shown, just gleaned from scraps of information.

Unfortunately this is also It’s a Disaster’s weakness – it’s not laugh out loud funny and not exciting. The entire film takes place at the one house. It’s a Disaster is not a disaster but it is just mildly amusing.

People Watch: Writer/director Todd Berger appears briefly as irate next door neighbor Hazmat Hal.


Yet More September Netflix Goodies

September streaming goodness on Netflix (I recommend Side Effects):

Action/Adventure: Chicago Overcoat

Anime: Welcome to the NHK

Love Actually

Comedy: Love Actually, The Kids Are All Right, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Critical Care, Bob Saget: That’s What I’m Talking About, The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Sherri Shepherd: It’s My Time to Talk

56 Up

Documentary: Hank: Five Years from the Brink, Seven Up, 7 plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, 49 Up, 56 Up, 65_RedRoses, Crime After Crime, Hating Breitbart, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

Drama: Christopher and His Kind, Gimme the Loot, Simon Killer, The Wise Kids, Blue Collar Hooligan

Foreign: The Treasure Hunter, Masquerade, Something in the Air, Yossi, Kidnap, La Sirga

Horror: Paranormal Asylum

Musical: Nine

Call the Midwife

Television: Durham County, Love/Hate, Inspector Morse, Nanny 911 and new episodes of Call the Midwife and New Girl

Side Effects

Thriller: Shadow Dancer, Side Effects

The 7 Battle Age Adventures of Sinbad Dogs & Asylum Dinosaurs

Age of Dinosaurs, Battle Dogs, and The 7 Adventures of Sinbad are currently available on instant Netflix

Age of DinosaursAge of Dinosaurs (2013) – Not rated

Using breakthrough flesh-regeneration technology, a biotech firm creates a set of living dinosaurs. But when the creatures escape their museum exhibit and terrorize Los Angeles, a former firefighter must rescue his teenage daughter from the chaos.

Okay let’s pretend that this exists in a world where Michael Crichton never wrote Jurassic Park. Even then, this is a really terrible movie. There is no actual disaster that releases these dinosaurs from their warehouse prison. There is just a minor mishap and they realize that they can leave.

At one point, in order to keep her safe, Gabe (Treat Williams) locks his daughter in what appears to be an airtight box…and then leaves! Stupidity abounds here as well as Asylum’s tacky special effects. Avoid.

The 7 Adventures of SinbadThe 7 Adventures of Sinbad (2010) – Rated PG-13

In this updated version of the classic tale that’s loaded with action and monsters, modern-day shipping magnate Sinbad must complete seven immense tasks in order to avert a catastrophe that threatens to wipe out the world’s population.

Let’s take one of the most beloved films of my childhood, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and severely dumb it down. Let’s take Ray Harryhausen’s incredible hand-crafted miniatures and painstaking stop-motion photography and substitute $0.98 worth of CGI. Let’s take Bernard Herrman’s wonderful score and jettison it in favor of something generic. Let’s take the exotic setting and update it to the modern seas. Let’s take our swashbuckling hero Sinbad and make him a rich jerk.

Let’s take this Asylum monstrosity out and burn it.

BattledogsBattledogs (aka Battle Dogs, 2013) – Not Rated

“All of Manhattan is quarantined when the Lupine Virus spreads like wildfire, turning innocent civilians into ravenous wolf-men. Nothing short of a nuclear blast can stop the monstrous virus — unless someone finds a cure.”

Another Asylum dog if you’ll forgive me, Battledogs at least has an original idea. It is essentially a zombie movie with the zombies replaced by werewolves.

In addition to a somewhat novel concept, Asylum also offers up more than their usual one or two recognizable faces. Craig Sheffer and Kate (daughter of John) Vernon are the stars here. Bill Duke plays the President. Dennis Haysbert, who was the President on 24, plays Lt. General Monning. Ernie (Ghostbusters) Hudson, Ariana (Jurassic Park) Richards and Wes (Last of the Mohicans) Studi are also in it.

This is an Asylum movie, it is stupid and the special effects are dodgy but I will say that this is one of their better efforts.

Terror in Space – Event Horizon

Event Horizon is currently available on instant Netflix.

One line review: Hooey but pretty, entertaining hooey with a good cast.

Event HorizonEvent Horizon (1997) – Rated R

Seven years after it went missing, a spaceship sends a garbled signal back to Earth that sounds a lot like a cry for help. A rescue ship is dispatched to investigate, but the crew soon realizes that something unimaginable has happened on board.”

I thought it said “liberate me” – “save me.” But it’s not “me.” It’s “liberate tutame” – “save yourself.” And it gets worse.”

Oh, to be forced to sing the praises of Paul W.S. Anderson. I have never seen his directorial debut, Shopping, but his sophomore effort, Mortal Kombat is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Event Horizon is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Soldier is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Ditto Resident Evil. Ditto Alien vs. Predator. Never mind that the last two were very much missed opportunities.

His more recent efforts of Death Race, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and Resident Evil: Retribution have been increasingly dumb and decreasingly fun. I have not seen his version of The Three Musketeers and I do not hold much hope for the upcoming Pompeii, in spite of a decent cast. I have no doubt that there will be another Resident Evil with his wife, Milla Jovovich.

Event Horizon is very pretty and stylish. It has been called a cross between Alien and Hellraiser and it does shamelessly rip off ideas from both, though admittedly most modern space horror rips off Alien.

Event Horizon is fun in a check your brain at the door kind of way. The science is predictably and laughably bad. The ship is going to pull 30 g’s so everyone has to be in tubes yet they fail to secure a lot of the ship. The Event Horizon and in particular the ‘meatgrinder’ and gravity drive look pretty cool, although I’m not sure what purpose the large spikes in the engine room serve or the massive number of lights in the service corridor.

There is a good cast assembled. Laurence Fishburne is the star as Captain Miller. Sam Neill plays the enigmatic scientist Dr. Weir. The distaff side of the crew are played well by Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13). Other crewmembers include Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers), Richard T. Jones (Collateral), Jack Noseworthy (U-571), and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot).

While the science is, to put it charitably, dodgy, the first half is quite good. Event Horizon starts off as science fiction and gradually segues into horror. The science fiction aspects are silly but tense. Unfortunately the horror aspects pile on incredulity after incredulity so some may enjoy the first half, some more the first three quarters, etc. Eventually most people will reach the point of hooey but I find Event Horizon pretty entertaining.

People Watch: Noah Huntley who, unrecognizably, plays the Burning Man has gone on to play Mark in 28 Days Later and King Magnus in Snow White and the Huntsman.