Happy Halloween! Here’s a few horror memes because they all float down here.
Okay, you parents are probably out tonight trick-or-treating with your young’uns. I know I will be taking my adorable granddaughter Dorothy out and about. Those without children may be attending parties, especially with it being a Friday.
For the rest of you, there are slim pickings at the theater. Since there is no new Saw movie, they are re-releasing the original for one week only. New horror movies would be Horns, Ouija, Annabelle, and Dracula Untold. Ouija and Annabelle have very bad reviews and are watered down PG-13 ratings anyway. Dracula Untold wasn’t good but was at least passably entertaining.
Netflix only has two Halloween films and they are definitely bottom of the barrel. Halloween Resurrection was based on the thought of hey, why go out on a high note with a definite ending like Halloween H20? Why not pit kung fu fighting Busta Rhymes against Michael Myers? At least the other one (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers) gave Paul Rudd his start in films.
Still Netflix has plenty of wonderful horror films you might have missed. Try Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next, Evil Dead 2, World War Z, American Mary, Event Horizon, and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and I doubt you will be disappointed.
All Cheerleaders Die is currently available on instant Netflix.
All Cheerleaders Die (2013) – Not rated
“When a high school outsider joins the pep squad to carry out a vendetta, supernatural forces intervene — and a ghoulish battle of the sexes ensues.”
“There’s only one outcome when people play games with me, Maddy. They lose.” – “Play time’s over”
“Tracy that was like a week ago. I didn’t know you then.”
All Cheerleaders Die starts off as a somewhat typical cheerleader story, albeit one where the lead cheerleader dies tragically a few minutes in. The football players are dogs and the cheerleaders are bitches (no, really, that’s what they call themselves). Maddy is trying to fit in (or is she?) and forgets about her old friend, Leena, who happens to practice witchcraft.
Then, one night before school, an incident gets wildly out of hand. There is a huge fight between the cheerleaders and football players. A car chase and an unexpected supernatural event close out the first act. The film then turns into a very entertaining black horror comedy.
The special effects throughout are very low rent but usually serviceable. Performances, while not great, are actually pretty good for this type of low-budget fare. Yes, most of the ‘kids’ look quite a bit older than high school age but that’s not unexpected.
If you like your horror movies with a feminist slant then this will fit the bill. Writer/director Lucky McKee’s other film on Netflix, The Woman, is an extremely difficult watch and I don’t recommend it.
Mine Games (2012) – Not rated
“When a group of friends find a remote abandoned mine and decide to explore, their excitement turns to fear as they’re hunted by a mysterious force.”
The beginning of Mine Games is not at all promising. Almost every teen slasher cliche in the book occurs within the first fifteen minutes. The title opens as “The Evil Within”, not Mine Games. The Mine Games title is very clever whereas The Evil Within is terribly generic.
We start with what appears to be a dead body lying in a creepy mine. We then travel to another part of the mine where a woman is held captive behind a barred door. Cut to the usual group of twenty-something victims buying snacks on their way to a camping adventure. A headline on a newspaper reports a couple of recent murders. One of the young people is a medium and another is on medication that they may or may not have remembered to take.
They drink. They realize they might be lost then they may or may not have hit someone that they abandon. The vehicle breaks down. Obviously there is no cell phone reception. This is just six minutes in – kudos for the speed run. Shortly after that we hit the young couple having sex, the abandoned cabin in the woods, the exploration of the creepy mine, the splitting up of the group, and the guy who brought psychedelic shrooms tropes.
While this is completely eye-rolling, once the movie gets them out of the way, it turns into a fairly interesting mystery. I will say that while none of them are a standout, the young actors acquit themselves well. This is another pretty good low-budget horror movie to take a look at.
A little bit of Halloween goodness and I highly recommend watching Battle Royale or Django Unchained if you haven’t seen those.
Action/Adventure: Django Unchained
Documentary: Nova: Rise of the Drones, E-Team
Family: Adventure Planet
Foreign: Battle Royale, Battle Royale 2, We Are The Best!, Age of Uprising – The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas, Jackpot, Missing (2008), Queen Margot, Triad
Horror: Mr. Jones
Television: Darknet and new episodes of Freakshow, Small Town Security, The Carrie Diaries, Sons of Anarchy, and R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour
Thriller: In Fear
Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited are all currently on streaming Netflix. My granddaughter Dorothy and I have sat through all of them.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series (2011) – Rated TV-PG
“In deep space, Earth’s Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, patrols the Guardian Frontier, where he must face invasions from the evil Red Lantern Corps.”
Dorothy’s chant: “No man escapes the manhunters!”
In the age old question of Marvel vs. DC, you have to give movies to Marvel. Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Batman series was great but then you have drivel such as Man of Steel, Jonah Hex, and, of course, Green Lantern.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series was made at the same time as the movie but is actually quite engaging, even though it didn’t find enough of an audience to last more than a season. The writers did a great job of having individual stories while at the same time having multi-episode arcs as well as a steady progression to the series finale.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-11) – Rated TV-Y7
“Batman travels both time and space to fight crime in this animated series, which finds the Caped Crusader teaming up with his fellow superheroes.”
This is definitely a very kiddie oriented version of Batman. Rather than the dour Kevin Conroy Batman, this one has Diedrich Bader doing the growly yet much lighter in tone Batman. As befits The Brave and The Bold moniker, each episode features at least one guest hero, sometimes many.
Dorothy likes this version best because it is very light, often reminiscent of Adam West’s Batman. I enjoyed it for the never-ending roster of DC guest heroes and villains. Aquaman is an absolute hoot in this series and appears many times. Bat Mite I could do without but thankfully he doesn’t infest too many episodes.
Justice League (2001-3) – Rated TV-Y7
“Anything’s possible in this animated series when world-famous superheroes band together to fight crime as the Justice League of America.”
Justice League relates the story of the core Justice Leaguers: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, J’onn J’onzz, and Hawk Girl. I enjoyed the series more than Dorothy. There wasn’t enough humor to hold her interest I expect and that facet was not improved upon with Unlimited.
Kevin Conroy returns as Batman and the rest of the voice cast is quite good. The guest villains are also quite well-voiced with Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) dominating though Mark Hamill steals scenes as Solomon Grundy.
Justice League Unlimited (2004-5) – Rated TV-Y7
“As humanity faces new villains, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and dozens of other animated superheroes create a league to combat each menace.”
Justice League Unlimited picks up right where Justice League left off, including the relationship between Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. The difference is that our core members are joined by a cavalcade of other DC heroes. The best of the bunch is The Question (expertly voiced by Jeffrey Combs) who appears in five episodes.
I expect that we will be trying Young Justice next before moving on to the Marvel animated canon.
Amazon Prime has four volumes of Kevin Conroy’s Batman: The Animated Series as well as three volumes of Superman: The Animated Series streaming.
I saw Dracula Untold in the theater the other night.
Dracula Untold (2014) – Rated PG-13
“Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.”
“My father was a great man, a hero, so they say. But sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero, sometimes what it needs is a monster.”
Once upon a time, Universal decided to reboot its long-storied horror franchises with a film starring a handsome, up and coming actor, featuring a lot of stylized fighting, and heavily utilizing some new-fangled computer generated imagery (or CGI for those of you into acronyms). That monstrosity was Van Helsing. It was a good idea followed by a series of bad choices thereby ruining a potential franchise opportunity.
Did Universal learn from this opportunity? Not really. The reins for Dracula Untold were handed to a first time feature director, Gary Shore. He was given a script written by two first-time writers, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.
You would think that I would like illogical storylines since I adore fantasy, horror, and science fiction and those things by definition stretch the imagination. I have no problem accepting a ludicrous premise as the basis for a movie. The logic just has to be internally consistent.
I love Dracula. My favorite Dracula is the Christopher Lee Hammer version but this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the charms of Universal’s Bela Lugosi, the sexy Frank Langella version, or even the made-for-television Jack Palance version. There are certainly plenty of good ways to interpret an iconic character.
That said, I did not care for Luke Evans’ interpretation. He delivers his lines well but appears to be suffering from constipation throughout the film. His performance does have some magnetism to it but he comes off poorly in his scenes with Charles Dance.
Charles Dance is not the only Game of Thrones veteran in the cast. Art Parkinson, the quite neglected Rickon Stark (whatever happened to him?), plays Vlad’s son. It is not as thankless a role as Rickon but is still fairly minor with a single good scene. Sarah Gadon plays Vlad’s long-suffering wife, Mirena (sounds like Mina, hmmm).
One of Dracula Untold’s strongpoints is also its downfall. The action remains brisk at a mere hour and a half and no scene outstays its welcome. Unfortunately, with this being an origin story with a lot of required exposition, there is precious little time to develop a proper villain. Still it could be done except that the script basically decides that there should be a plethora of antagonists so none are actually developed.
Charles Dance’s character rules the screen but he can do a lot with a little. Dominic Cooper’s Mehmed is unfortunately a little generic aside from an absolutely ridiculous scene late in the film. No spoilers but we’re shown that Dracula is much faster and much, much stronger than a human yet that appears to not be the case when they meet. Obviously the writers and director thought this scene was very clever but it was more eye-rolling than anything else.
Speaking of eye-rolling, apparently not only are the Turkish soldiers uber-elite but they are capable of free climbing cliffs in FULL ARMOR. Not only does Dracula do this but so do many members of the Turkish army. The Turkish army also has no problem outmarching a group of refugees who have a good headstart on a fairly short trek. The silliness just takes you out of the suspension of disbelief necessary for this film.
While Dracula Untold is not worth your time or money, it is pretty, Charles Dance is great, Luke Evans isn’t bad, and the movie itself is a brisk hour and a half. You could do worse for Halloween. I’m just hoping for better. I’m looking at you Ouija, Horns, and Annabelle.
Another week, another new batch of films to watch on Netflix – obviously the big one is The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.
Action/Adventure: Canopy, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Machine Gun Preacher
Comedy: Liberal Arts
Documentary: A Brony Tale, GMO OMG, Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory, Mudbloods
Faith: Mission Air
Family: Ace Wonder
Foreign: Chashme Buddoor, Policeman
Horror: The Taking of Deborah Logan
Television: DTLA, The 100, and new episodes of Last Man Standing
Thriller: Metro Manila
Airplane vs. Volcano is currently available on instant Netflix
Airplane vs. Volcano (2014) – Not rated
“A commercial airliner enters dangerous territory over a ring of active volcanoes, which prevent them from escaping to safety and landing.”
“The pilot, he’s knocked unconscious but everything is okay. If there’s anybody able to give us a hand with any medical training, please help us out” – “That’s a volcano!”
Since the recent Asteroid vs. Earth was from The Asylum, it should come as no surprise that this too is an Asylum production. It honestly takes less than a minute to be ridiculous. A man buries seismic sensors in about three inches of sand (that’s what I hate about Asylum – they can’t even be bothered to try). The sensors pick up vibrations (no, not of the guy walking around though I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that) and then the guy notices that the water is roiling and there are two new islands. Ow, my brain hurts. That is all within the first minute.
The exterior shots show a huge jumbo jet but the interior is a tiny fraction of that space. I was envious of the leg room that the passengers had. Well, until they encountered the volcano anyway.
The usual direct-to-video suspects, Dean Cain and Robin Givens, are present. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who plays Jim Kirkland, was also Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington in the old Welcome Back, Kotter series. He is actually pretty good as is Tamara Goodwin, who plays the lone stewardess. Several of the other actors are low-budget veterans.
Airplane vs. Volcano is really bad but it is more entertaining than most Asylum entries. It was also bad enough to have me laughing in several spots. They do run through all the old cliches of the 70s airline disasters (engines leaking fuel, radio down, autopilot not working, pilot and co-pilot taken out, etc.) and the ones that Airplane spoofed so well. It honestly seems as though the Kondelik brothers (writers and directors) simply created a checklist of things to go wrong and inserted them into the ‘script’. By the way, Airplane II is currently available on instant Netflix so surely you should just go watch that.
When they run out of disaster cliches, they simply open the airplane door in midflight and send a passenger out to repair the plane with his tools in the middle of the volcanic eruption. Don’t worry though – they have tied him a safety line comprised of a series of seatbelts. No, I am not kidding and this is only shortly past the halfway point.
The non-airplane parts are just dreadful and poorly acted but not in funny ways. The cloud reaching the beach had dreadfully bad special effects. The army actors are especially bad.
If you want to laugh at a bad movie, this will fit the bill. Otherwise, avoid.
Alistair MacLean’s Air Force One is Down is currently available on instant Netflix
Alistair MacLean’s Air Force One is Down (2013) – Not rated
“When a sabotaged Air Force One crash-lands in the Mediterranean, the first female U.S. president is taken captive by a Serbian strongman.”
I grew up as a voracious reader and, obviously, an avid movie-goer. When I was about 12, I read Alistair MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra. Over the course of a few years, I read every Alistair MacLean book in our library. All of his books were slim, easy reads compared to today’s thriller market and I really liked that I could finish one of his books the same day I started.
Somewhere around that time I saw movie versions of some of his works. I loved The Guns of Navarone (1961) with its impeccable (couldn’t resist) cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, and Richard Harris. The story, while taking place on a deadly mission in World War II, was actually all about personal responsibility. It was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture.
Charles Bronson, who would constantly appear in material that did him a disservice, played a great low-key role in Breakheart Pass. He was ably supported in this endeavor by Ben Johnson, Richard Crenna, wife Jill Ireland, Charles Durning, and Ed Lauter. Alistair MacLean wrote the screenplay himself, adapting from his novel.
MacLean also adapted his own novel when making Where Eagles Dare (1968) pairing Richard Burton with a young Clint Eastwood in another rousing mission behind enemy lines in World War II. Also in 1968, MacLean’s Ice Station Zebra was adapted (though not by MacLean) and paired Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent) and Rock Hudson.
Later efforts did not fare as well. Force 10 from Navarone had a good cast using Robert Shaw and Edward Fox to replace Gregory Peck and David Niven and adding hot young actor Harrison Ford but was actually pretty terrible. After that, MacLean’s works were relegated to low-budget movies or made-for-television fare.
MacLean died in 1987 at the age of 64, having already passed on the thriller torch to Jack Higgins and, later, Tom Clancy.
So why do I write so much background? First, it is because this is a blog so I tend to adopt more of a conversational tone as opposed to a straight out review. Second, Air Force One is Down is so far removed from anything MacLean did that MacLean is not even listed as the author of the book on which this miniseries is based on imdb.
I have not read the book Air Force One is Down and wondered why. Looking it up on Amazon shows that it is also referred to as Alistair MacLean’s UNACO and was not actually written by MacLean but by John Denis.
The action in Air Force One is Down is stretched out and severely padded as countless generic people are hunted down, chased in cars, and/or killed off. The relatively few good parts of this miniseries appear to be lifted straight from Air Force One. Instead of an unexpectedly heroic U.S. President, we have a rather generic U.N. super agent, who CAN”T PLAY BY THE RULES, working to foil our generic Eastern European adversaries. Trust me when I say that I have not overused the term generic to describe this miniseries.
Sadly Netflix does not really have anything by MacLean at this time, nor do they have Air Force One which is unbelievably superior to this piece of tripe. So go watch The Hunt for Red October. Do not waste your valuable time on Air Force One is Down.
Gone Girl is currently in theaters
Gone Girl (2014) – Rated R
“With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.”
Casting. That is what I want to talk about here. The single greatest strength of Gone Girl, beyond the story, is the casting. In particular, the casting of Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck is a very likable actor with just a hint of insincerity and smugness. This fits his role in Gone Girl to a T. This was absolutely perfect casting.
I don’t mean to say that Affleck doesn’t give a good performance here because he absolutely does. Its just that this role seems tailor-made for him in much the same was as Schwarzenegger was a perfect Conan and Terminator and Keanu Reeves nailing it as Neo. Rosamund Pike is wonderful as the titular Gone Girl.
The supporting cast is great too. I have never seen the Madea films but Tyler Perry is quite good as celebrity lawyer Tanner Bolt. Kim Dickens impresses as the detective investigating the case. Neil Patrick Harris proves he can handle drama as well as comedy.
Gillian Flynn adapts her own bestseller here. I have not read the book but I would assume since she adapted it, that there are few differences. A lot of the diary sequences are quite thought-provoking and seem a fairly honest and unflattering look at marriage.
David Fincher’s direction is smart, dark, and slick. I find him to be very hit-or-not quite hit. Benjamin Button, Panic Room and The Game were mildly amusing. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was good but so was the original adaptation and Fincher’s did not particularly improve upon that. Alien 3 was an intriguing misfire, the more so if you watch the extended version. On the other hand Fight Club, Seven, and Zodiac were all excellent with Fight Club moving into brilliant territory. I suppose if you have dark material to adapt to the screen, Fincher is an excellent choice to handle it.
Obviously I don’t want to talk too much about Gone Girl because I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the myriad surprises involved. The only negative thing I have to say is that the movie had nearly a perfect ending…and then went on for ten more minutes, actually undercutting the ‘proper’ ending.
Go see Gone Girl. I would not be surprised to see it nominated come awards season.