Movie reviews

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Turbo_Kid_review

There can be a thin line between homage and pandering. Turbo Kid, which lands with a resounding thud on the wrong side of that line, is a reverse engineered attempt at 80s nostalgia. With its bright Reagan era palette, thinly veiled Nintendo Power Glove, and earnest post-apocalyptic cheese but soft-pedaled BMX bike aesthetic, it’s meant to recall movies like Megaforce, Metalstorm, Ice Pirates, and Spacehunter. If you can name the subtitles of any of those movies, Turbo Kid thinks it’s for you!

But reverse engineered nostalgia requires a deft touch that eludes this group of filmmakers, who have all the energy and know-how of a crowdsourced movie crew. Without that touch, you’re liable to end up being as bad as your source material, and all the more cringe-worthy for aping it. It takes a Robert Rodriguez to craft a Planet Terror. For some reason, Turbo Kid is chock full of tone-deaf splatter humor. I’ve seen my share of cheesy 80s post-apocalyptic movies shot in rock quarries. I don’t remember any of them being showered in blood and viscera. Turbo Kid eventually has to whip out an umbrella against it all.

Michael Ironsides, looking more like someone’s grandfather than Michael Ironsides, seems to have lost his appetite for chewing scenery, which results in a curiously laidback villain. He’ll get to you when he gets to you. The highlight of this weirdly cloying enterprise is the wide-eyed Laurence Leboeuf as the hero’s love interest slash sidekick. Leboeuf brings almost too much energy to every scene, playing her role like a souped-up Cheri Oteri crossed with a blissed out Jodie Foster. The movie can barely contain her.

Turbo Kid is available for video on demand.

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Big_Sky_review

Someone needs to attack a van carrying mental patients to a treatment facility. Don’t ask. So he brings along his mentally disabled younger brother, who hasn’t taken his meds that day. The younger brother freaks out and shoots everyone. Later, the younger brother will dry hump a kidnapped girl while she’s passed out and tied up. He’s in the running for the worst possible guy you could bring along on a heist.

The twist in Big Sky, a movie where the big reveal is that kids were allowed to play unattended near a swimming pool, is that one of the patients being transported is an agoraphobe. The only way she can travel is closed up in a big metal box, which means the heisters didn’t see her. Now she has to set out under the big sky because her mother, who was riding in the van, is slowly bleeding to death from a gunshot. So the agoraphobe wraps herself up in cloth, puts on some gloves, and sets out across the desert, taking tiny baby steps, one at a time, very slowly. Meanwhile, her mother bleeds out. Big Sky is not about people doing effective things.

The character who takes the biggest slice of Big Sky’s dumb character cake is an addled druggie who attacks the agoraphobe heroine out in the desert. She has pepper spray to defend herself. She brandishes it. He takes it from her. Then he pepper sprays himself in the face. This actually happens. He pepper sprays himself in the face. He holds down the nozzle and waves it around his face as if he were applying spray-on sunblock. This allows the heroine to escape. Imagine a bad guy disarming someone by taking her handgun and then just going ahead and shooting himself. There’s a term for this in drama: deus ex moron.

These are the sort of characters who inhabit Big Sky, a thriller that goes to such ridiculous lengths to generate its supposed thrills that you’re still going “wait, what?” while it’s carrying on as if it just made sense.

Big Sky is currently available for video on demand. Support Qt3 by watching a guy pepper spray himself on Amazon.com.

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Seventh_Son_review

20 years ago, Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s Prisoners of the Mountain was nominated for a foreign language Academy Award. That should have been his cue to jump into the sarlacc throat of Hollywood. It didn’t happen. He’s spent the last decade doing internationally funded historical epics starring people who don’t make box office in America. Somewhere in there, he also directed Seventh Son, which was Legendary Pictures’ hope for their own Lord of the Rings. Hence the impressive talent assembled behind the scenes, including Bryan Singer cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, who recently shot Drive for Nicolas Winding Refn; longtime Martin Scorsese production designer Dante Ferretti, whose other credits include The Name of the Rose, Cold Mountain, and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd; and John Dykstra for visual effects, whose career began with Silent Running and then a modest sci-fi project called Star Wars. But after Bodrov completed Seventh Son, it sat on the shelf for more than two years. This year, it was unceremoniously defenstrated into the dreaded January release window, alongside Jupiter Ascending. It flopped.

Did it deserve it? Who can say. Is it a bad movie? Maybe. Whatever. Do I count it among my guilty pleasures? You bet. This is no made-for-TV throwaway B-movie starring Adrian Paul alongside Syfy level production values. The top-notch behind-the-scenes talent comes through with a procession of imaginative set pieces. And in the lead, Jeff Bridges’ grumpy old wizard is a thing to behold. Imagine Gandalf crossed with Mr. Miyagi crossed with The Dude, but with the One True Beard and Mustache to bind them all. An astute Lebwoski-phile might figure his tavern intro as the bad-ass mage variant of “Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here…”. He and Julianne Moore play their hero and villain roles as if they were exes at an uneasy standoff after a bitter divorce, but with crazy CG action sequences.

Although the two young leads are both duds, the rest of the cast is a lively group sparingly applied: not nearly enough Olivia Williams (Is there ever?), a brief but delightful Kit Harington appearance, and the distractingly hot Antje Traue (Man of Steel, Pandorum) bound up in a Ren Faire dress. To be fair, the costumes in Seventh Son are as aces as the rest of the production values. When Julianne Moore meets the ingenue, she takes the time to compliment her shoes.

The witch-hunters vs. witches world-building plays out a bit like The Witcher. In fact, this could be a Witcher movie, except for the fact that Bridges is such an unrepentant goofball. “It’s near impossible to battle demons when you have wet feet,” he grunts to his new apprentice, sending him off to get his shoes repaired, and reminding him to pick up flour, salt, grease, and bacon. “Fucking witches,” he will later mutter after briefly breaking down some backstory about the end of the world. He has a bitchin’ Bat Cave and the Witcher version of a Batmobile. It’s like he finished the main quest a long time ago and he’s at the level cap, so he can’t be bothered to do side quests anymore. This stuff is like DLC to him.

Seventh Son is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it at Amazon.com.

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Air_review

Djimon Hounsou is known for showing up as a henchman in far-ranging places such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Furious Seven, and Seventh Son. Which is too bad, because the Academy Award nominee from Amistad can still hold a lead role. Check him out in a Thai action movie called Elephant White. His colleague is unlikely heartthrob Norman Reedus, one of the few actors from The Walking Dead whose performance manages to transcend the low bar of TV sincerity barely attained by the rest of the cast. If you’ve got serious indie movie cred, you might know Reedus from Boondock Saints. I’ve never seen Boondock Saints.

In Air, a microbudget movie written and directed by one of Rockstar’s main writers and produced by the guy who did the Walking Dead comic books, they’re in charge of maintaining a mysterious underground bunker whose purpose is revealed as the movie progresses. Basically, they’re janitors awakened from suspended animation for an hour or so every few months. Why are they here? What are they doing? What’s going on in the wider world? Stop guessing, because you’re liable to get the right answers and accidentally ruin the movie for yourself.

But Air isn’t trying to be a mystery so much as it’s trying to be a relationship movie. However, the inherent problem with the genre of men-in-a-bunker/lifeboat/spaceship is that you can only do so much with men in a bunker, lifeboat, or spaceship. So it takes the sort of serious writing chops that went into Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, or Duncan Jones’ Moon. It takes the sort of serious writing chops that go into making, say, a good stage play. But with Air, we get a facile morality play that decides to escalate itself into a paranoid confrontation just in time for the climax. After this supposed burst of excitement provided by two men at each other’s throats, the whole enterprise just sort of, uh, stops breathing. Without better material, Hounsou and Reedus are left to thrash about without much motivation. A timer flops down numbers on the wall. That’s how long until the movie is over. Once it’s done, it turns out that Air is, ironically, a slight and curiously airless affair.

Air is available on video on demand. Watch it on Amazon.com to support Qt3.

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Unfriended_review

To enjoy Unfriended, which is feasible without lumping it into the “so bad it’s good” category, you have to accept a few things. First, it’s about dumb kids. The setting is social media, so that’s expected. But this is also a slasher movie, so the dumb kids are mandatory. Second, it’s committed to its gimmick, so you can’t expect any more than you’d expect from, say, a found footage movie. And third, it’s not good so much as admirably competent for a movie built around a gimmick. Despite the dumb kids and the gimmick, it’s very solidly an R-rated horror movie.

Unfriended relies on a mundane familiarity with Skype, Gmail, Youtube, Facebook, and so forth (either Twitter wasn’t on board or these kids don’t Tweet). It relies on the sounds, the interfaces, the rhythm of copy pasting, alt tabbing, the hitch of a bad connection, how someone might swirl her cursor around before clicking on something. This is the language of Unfriended, a logical next step after the social media mystery Catfish. It plays particularly well streaming to a computer. Ideally, a laptop. I would have felt awfully foolish seeing this in a theater.

Nacho Vigolando did something similar with Open Windows, an Elijah Wood Hitchcockian thriller that goes off the rails and dares you to object as it gets increasingly silly. But Unfriended’s “is it supernatural?” angle lets it get away with a little more. The ensemble cast, convincingly led by Shelley Hennig who could very well kick off a scream queen career, is enough to pad out its 80-minute running time. Contrast this with the brevity of the memorable segment in VHS called “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, which is a Skype call between two people.

Sure, it’s cheap. But it’s effective, with its share of easy puzzles and expected twists. The inevitable movies that will use this gimmick from here on out are probably going to be a whole lot worse. You might as well get in while the getting’s still good.

Support Qt3 by watching Unfriended on Amazon.com.

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Good_Kill_review

The history of warfare is partly a history of being able to stand farther and farther away from the people you’re killing. From longbows to muskets to battleships to aircraft to missiles to drones in Afghanistan remotely piloted by airmen in Las Vegas. This latter distance is the subject of Good Kill, in which Ethan Hawke and Bruce Greenwood are mostly secure in the knowledge that their targets are always and only bad guys. If kids get in the way of their drone strikes, they’re suitably upset about it. So when the CIA tells them — over speakerphone, no less! — to just blow up innocent bystanders, and then some first responders for good measure, they get even more suitably upset. As the new girl on the job and bleeding-heart-on-her-sleeve liberal, Zoe Kravitz actually cries about it. She’s just that sensitive to what’s Right and what’s Wrong. Don’t worry, she’ll turn in her wings before the movie is over.

Good Kill is convenient pap with characters declaiming superficial political stances in lieu of dialogue and shots of the hero’s home from the same angle as shots of the drone targets because, uh, reasons. What a disappointment considering Good Kill was directed by Andrew Niccol, who previously directed the smart and intimate Gattaca. And then he went on to direct the not smart In Time and the even less smart The Host, each with ballooning budgets. With Good Kill, Niccol is obviously pining for smaller and more cerebral message movies, but the message here is obvious, facile, and ham-handed. In the end, Good Kill decides to find redemption by shooting a Hellfire missile at a serial rapist. Hurray for vigilante drone strikes!

Good Kill is in theaters now in limited release.

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Run_All_Night_review

All you need to know about Run All Night is that at a certain point in the movie Liam Neeson as a washed up former hitman and Common as a hi-tech assassin fight each other with flaming sticks and it makes perfect sense.

When Jaume Collet-Serra directed Orphan, he took the “evil kid” genre and breathed life, character, and craft into it. Here he does the same thing with the Liam Neeson action genre. Granted, it took him three tries. Who can remember the dopey Unknown and Non-Stop? But unlike those earlier Neeson pieces, Run All Night has a clever character-based script with a great cast led by Neeson, Ed Harris, and Joel Kinnaman (it’s a shame Kinnaman is doing his best work in box office under-performers like this and the Robocop reboot). Also among the cast members is New York played by New York itself instead of Toronto or Vancouver, and Run All Night isn’t afraid to run amok in the streets to prove it.

The big surprise is that once you look past the absurdly high R-rated body count, you’ll find an unlikely story about fathers that spans four generations. It’s great to see Neeson expending huge amounts of ammo, racking up property damage, slugging bad guys, choking a henchman with the gross rotary hand towel in a New York public restroom, and fighting Common with a flaming stick. But who knew you’d get all that in a movie you can take your dad to on Father’s Day?

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Wild_review

Resist the temptation to think of Wild as a chick movie. Given the press, that might be hard to do. Writer Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada was adapted for the movie, and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon have used the movie’s publicity to advocate for women’s issues in Hollywood. Good for them. But this isn’t an issue movie. Instead, it’s a survival drama, minus the kind of catastrophe you get in 127 Hours or Into the Wild. That the lead character is a woman, and that she is largely defined by her relationship with another woman, shouldn’t even be an issue. It is, of course. But it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be Wild’s identifying characteristic.

What makes Wild stand out is how it recreates the state of mind of someone alone in the wilderness. The visuals are gorgeous as the geography progresses from the barren desert through the cold and into the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest. It’s no accident this progression reflects Strayed’s state of mind. The muted soundtrack is music remembered from a radio playing in a car or heard from another room. Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s deftly edited flashbacks are sometimes a split second or sometimes drawn out sequences, all presented in the style of someone left alone with her thoughts and recollections, all telling us a bit more about this woman.

And this is a woman worth meeting. Another thing that sets Wild apart from stereotypical chick movies is that Wild isn’t about someone who was failed by her parents or betrayed by her spouse. She isn’t rising above a perceived victimization, finding her strength. She’s an already strong character taking stock of the decisions she has made. Reese Witherspoon shows no trace of Tracy Flick, a role that’s hounded her ever since Election. Grimly bearing the burden of that colossal backpack, she shows grit, weariness, self-awareness, and complexity. This is how you work your way out from under a career of romantic comedies. Once again, Laura Dern reveals herself as an actor who deserves far more recognition than she gets. Who else consistently channels raw emotional intensity like Dern? It’s exhausting, in a good way.

As a procedural about an absolutely ass-kicking hike, Wild considers simple issues like having the right shoes and stove fuel. It also deals with the maddening loneliness, offset by bursts of camaraderie among fellow hikers. Wild is a warmly humanistic movie, full of good people. But it’s scary for a woman to be alone in the wilderness in a different way than it is for a man. The isolation when you see that lone hiker in the distance has very different implications for a woman. Wild acknowledges this, but doesn’t cheaply exploit it.

Wild is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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Maggie_review

Maggie isn’t a zombie movie so much as an elegy about terminally ill children. Who will turn into zombies. It takes place in the rural malaise following an averted zombie apocalypse. Arnold Scharzeneggar has brought home his infected daughter and now he has only to wait until she turns. Will he take her to a quarantine center? Will he put her out of her misery himself? Will his accent be explained? These are the questions the viewer must ponder.

The script calls for quiet grieving. Schwarzenegger is clearly out of his depth. But so too is the haggard farmer he affects. What parent is prepared to watch his child wither and die? What could have been the weakest part of the movie — an action star trying his hand at quiet emoting — kind of works. Kind of.

But then there’s the rest of the movie. First time director Henry Hobson has a nice eye for prosaic detail and dying light (the movie could have been called Twilight of the Living Dead and not just for its tween lead and tween romantic subplot (it could also have been called Foxcatcher, although you have to see the movie to understand that one)). But Hobson takes too long going nowhere in particular. The slow burn fizzles out and trails off. He furthermore displays a singular ability to undercut every scene by serving it with either rolling thunder underneath or syrupy music drizzled on top.

The supporting cast has the kind eyes and severe faces you’d expect in a rural malaise. And then there’s poor sporting Abigail Breslyn, who made her mark in movies by being humiliated in Little Miss Sunshine. Since then, she has been run down by zombies in Zombieland, thrown into a trunk and rudely beaten in The Call, and trapped in a ghost jar in Haunters. At this rate, I’d lay good odds that she’ll be one of the first to go in this fall’s Scream Queens, a Fox TV series from the creators of American Horror Story in which one major cast member is killed every episode. She’s left to do the heavy lifting in Maggie, despairing as the zombie make-up on her baby round face gets thicker and the contact lenses in her wide eyes get more opaque. If Maggie had trusted her more than its stunt Teutonic casting and the artsy indulgence of its freshman director, it might have shown more signs of life.

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Everly_review

Everly begins in the moments immediately following a rape, which might lead you to think you’re in for a revengesploitation movie. Not quite. Partly, but not quite. It’s certainly superviolent, and there’s a lot of lovely grindhouse in the proceedings. But this is no simple chicks vs. dicks polemic. It’s an almost-comedy of cartoon violence proportion, in which other women are also bad guys and victims, in which Salma Hayek’s cleavage should get equal billing, in which there will be “a lotta dead whores”. It’s not female empowerment. It’s victim empowerment, in which the victim happens to be a woman, a mother, and a daughter, all significant factors, none more central than the other. Writer Yale Hannon, whose credits include the TV shows Parenthood, Big Love, and In Treatment, deserves a lot of credit for elevating what could have been a forgettable action movie or a facile rape revengesploitation session.

Director Joe Lynch swatted clumsily at low-hanging fruit in the putative comedy, Knights of Badassdom. But in Everly, he’s on surer footing with what is essentially a parlor room drama in which the parlor room is going to get trashed. By unfolding in real time, in one location, with a rogues’ gallery of visitors, Everly is like Quentin Tarantino’s take on Rope. But it’s a crazily multinational melange, filmed in Serbia, with a largely Japanese cast, set in an indeterminate American city, and with Hayek’s accent unchecked. Everly is everywhere and nowhere.

It’s been 20 years since Hayek writhed into American cinema in From Dusk till Dawn. She wears those years proudly in Everly, a movie uninterested in immaculate youth. Older action heroes are normally the domain of men (one of my favorite exceptions is Janet McTeer in the otherwise unremarkable Cat Run), but Everly doesn’t need its heroine to be young, or to have superhero fighting abilities, or slick gun skills, or snappy one-liners. Everly is about someone who’s been rode hard and hung up wet within reach of a shotgun she doesn’t know how to use, but she’s desperate enough to give it a try. In fact, a lot of the charm in Everly is its almost videogame conceit whereby the more dead bodies populate an area, the bigger the available arsenal. And the boss monsters in this movie! Hoo, boy!

Everly is available on video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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Dead_Snow_2_review

“Is there a carnival in town?” This is the reaction of one of the characters upon arriving for the climactic sequence of Dead Snow: Red vs Dead. He will later reiterate the sentiment: “What the fuck is going on? It looks like a computer game.”

Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola’s sequel to his 2009 zombie movie wants more than anything to be outrageous, funny, and self-aware. Instead, it’s just messy, overblown, and winking. Ha ha, I’m a carnival and a videogame, it insists. It even proclaims itself “an entirely new genre”.

The original Dead Snow played more like a slasher movie. The Nazi zombies were its backstory, but it was mainly concerned with dispatching good looking young people in a remote cabin. And although it appreciated the silliness of Nazi zombies — we’ve come a long way since Peter Cushing in Shockwaves — it was clearly a horror movie. Not so with this sequel, which is a slapstick comedy with all the finesse of a tank driving through a house.

It’s always a bit disappointing to see horror going full comedy. A lot of us horror fans died a little when Sam Raimi resorted to Army of Darkness. Funny and grim can go hand in hand, as Raimi demonstrated adroitly in Evil Dead II. Most gore is inherently ridiculous, so there’s no need to push it. But Dead Snow: Red vs Dead giggles merrily as it dispatches old folks, people in wheelchairs, children, and even infants. And none of this is grim, because it’s all played for laughs. Remember in American Werewolf in London when the Nazi monsters burst in and slaughtered the family watching The Muppet Show? That was hilarious and horrifying. That was how to do funny and grim. When you stop and wink at the camera, the grim goes out the window and the funny just feels strained.

Dead Snow: Red vs Dead doesn’t even have the courage to stick to its own national identity. Martin Starr — unfortunately, this movie has no use for his droll sense of humor — leads a team of Americans bringing in easy jokes about nerds and Star Wars. For a movie with just the right balance of horror, humor, and a towering sense of Norwegian national identity, there’s always Trollhunter.

Dead Snow: Red vs Dead is available for video on demand.

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Wyrmwood_review

Oh Australia, you’ve done it again! Aussie zombie movie Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a revelation emerging from the shambling horde of me-too cash-ins. Brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner — remember those names, because these are a couple of guys to watch — directed, wrote, edited, and even handled production design and sound design in this spirited and immaculately paced splatterfest. Wyrmwood has all the energy of a first-time director in love with his job, but perfectly willing to homage his influences. It freely riffs on Sam Raimi’s playfully slithering camera, George Miller’s classic post-apocalyptic outback chic, and the sickly visceral red splat of Romero and Savini’s full color zombie movies. But Wyrmwood is also refreshingly original, with its own unique take on zombie ecology that feeds into the can-do frontier spirit of the Australian outback and a mad scientist sequence so outrageously nonsensical that it wouldn’t feel out of place in a Resident Evil game. In fact, part of the appeal of Wyrmwood is how it plays as a loving mash-up of movie zombie mythology and videogame zombie mythology. Return of the Living Dead meets Dead Rising.

Although it’s ultimately about a couple of very specific characters, you can’t have a zombie apocalypse without killing a bunch of protagonists. You’ll meet plenty of tough men who know how to weld, headshot, scheme their way out of impossible situations, and even reference their cocks as needed, along with a uniquely Australian take on what would normally be the comedic sidekick. There’s even a last-minute villain totally worthy of being the movie’s hero.

But the real standout in Wyrmwood is its heroine, played by Bianca Bradey, who spends much of the movie acting with her eyes. Her introductory scene is one of the most thrilling zombie sequences I’ve seen since 28 Weeks Later and one of the creepiest zombie sequences I’ve seen since I was a kid and I stumbled across Italian zombie movies. A shambling corpse is one thing. A snarling infected feral zombie is yet another thing. But the thing dangling from the rafters in Brooke’s studio is something else entirely. And Brooke’s eventual contribution to surviving the zombie apocalypse is yet another example of how Wyrmwood is no mere me-too cash-in. It’s an Australian fever dream that has earned a place alongside classic zombie movies.

Wyrmwood is currently available on video on demand. Support Qt3 by watching it on Amazon.com.

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Blood_Beach_review

For the most part, you should leave well enough alone when it comes to tracking down the movies that freaked you out as a kid. You’re just going to be disappointed. Your jaded adult eyes will see right through the stuff of your childhood nightmares. Among my recent disappointments are Without Warning, in which an alien uses a fleshy frisbee to hunt humans such as David Caruso; Prophecy, in which a scalded mutant bear ponderously chases Robert Foxworth; and The Giant Spider Invasion, in which a Volkswagen Beetle is draped in black carpet and fitted with long spindly legs to stand in for a giant alien spider.

But some of the things that freaked me out as a kid hold up wonderfully! Phantasm, Jaws, Mario Bava’s Drop of Water segment in an anthology called Black Sabbath, Them, Dawn of the Dead. So I keep trying. My most recent experiment revisiting childhood terror was Blood Beach, which I was surprised to find in Amazon’s instant watch catalog. It’s a movie about something on the Santa Monica beach sucking people under the sand. What I remember most is being truly freaked out by how little is revealed during the course of the movie. Unlike the cover art on Amazon.com, there’s no gore and certainly no scantily clad women being eaten. Blood Beach is not nearly as lurid as the title suggests. Instead, people just disappear under the sand. That’s it. It even attacks during the day, on a crowded beach.

But what I didn’t remember because I was too young to know better is the absolute lack of pacing or craft in this 1980 throwaway B-movie. It is unable to achieve anything beyond its premise. Burt Young plays a wisecracking Chicago cop who seems to have wandered in from a different movie, and occasionally John Saxon shows up as a police lieutenant ordering around some extras playing cops. Saxon even gets a bit of dialogue that I thought was the tagline: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, you can’t even get there”. He actually says that. He actually riffs on the Jaws 2 tagline.

There is a weird scene in which a crazy homeless lady watches impassively while a policeman who’s trying to help her gets sucked under. I remember that scene freaking me out as a kid. Why doesn’t she help? Why doesn’t she at least react? There’s also a gross, very 70s-style scene that turns inadvertently funny. A rapist attacks a woman under the pier, ripping open her shirt. She elbows him and breaks free, cowering in terror as he crawls on his belly towards her. Then the Blood Beach creature attacks him from under the sand, biting off his penis. I’ve never seen a more literal representation of someone getting his dick knocked in the dirt.

I still can’t help but begrudgingly admire Blood Beach for playing it close to the vest, mostly leaving it to our imagination to consider what could be doing this. A coronor who ends up being a stand-in for the usual movie scientist briefly speculates on the nature of the creature. We eventually get a glimpse of it before Burt Young blows it to smithereens, which then scatter about and regenerate into a bunch of little Blood Beach creatures. There was no Blood Beach 2 forthcoming to tell us the continuing story. Instead, Tremors will be along in ten years for the definitive take on the genre of underground monsters, of what lurks beneath. But what Blood Beach managed was a weird iteration on the mythology of quicksand, also a fixture of my childhood fears, as a hungry creature that will eat you alive.

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The_Voices_review

There’s a quirky appeal in the early parts of The Voices, as we meet Ryan Reynolds as a shy (ha!) wallflower (right…) working a factory job (as if). Whose cat and dog talk to him, complete with CG moving mouths and funny voices (provided by Reynolds himself). Look who’s talking. The cat is crass, aloof, and murderous. The dog is needy and obliging. When Reynolds meets with his psychiatrist, played by the maternally intense Jackie Weaver, he leans forward for no reason and presses his finger into her desk. It’s the sort of random affectation that made people notice Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. Reynolds is nothing if not earnest. Then Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick as his co-workers arrive on the scene and things get, um, complicated.

Since this is one of those bleakly black comedies, heads start rolling and blood starts splattering. The Voices squanders its quirky appeal and just gets mean and ugly, all black and no comedy. There’s a clever conceit with how the world changes when Reynolds takes his medication, but it’s more a joke of production design than perception. You’d never know The Voices was directed by Iranian expatriate Marjane Satrapi, whose graphic novel memoir Persepolis was adapted into an animated movie. This must be her Hollywood hazing.

However, it’s worth sticking with this black comedy for how it finally finds its groove during the credits. And oh boy, what a groove! This is the movie I wish I’d been watching all along. What a way to redeem ninety minutes.

The Voices is in limited release and available for video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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Preservation_review

The worst thing about Preservation, the second horror movie from actor Christopher Denham, isn’t that it’s bad. This is a no-budget movie shot quick and cheap in parks around Los Angeles that are supposed to pass for the deep dark woods. The worst thing isn’t even that it’s insultingly implausible, with people doing typical stupid horror movie things and contrived set-ups for supposedly scary moments.

The worst thing about Preservation is that it is so shamelessly derivative. The set-up is that a troubled married couple and the husband’s troubled war veteran brother are all going hunting for the weekend. But as they’re unpacking their baggage — and I don’t mean their camping gear — something happens and the hunters become the hunted. You probably saw that coming. But what you didn’t see coming, the supposedly clever twist, is a blatant rip-off of a handful of actually clever movies: Eden Lake, El Rey de la Montana, and Ils, respectively English, Spanish, and French, all superlative horror movies. It’s as if Denham decided, hey, I’ll do an American version of those! And then proceeded to confuse “American” with “dumb”.

Preservation is available now for video on demand.

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