Category Archives: 2 stars

Predators

Predators (2010): United States – directed by Nimród Antal

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, some gore, and language

One mustn’t expect a great deal going into a film titled Predators.  The name is a sign of its throwback cheesiness, a reminder of past 1980’s action films like its namesake, Predator.  The plot is even sillier than the title, and in a self-aware cheesy film this wouldn’t normally be a problem.  Predators, unfortunately, so relentlessly treats its silliness in such a serious manner that it occasionally crosses the line into dullness.

One might recall that in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 original there was a creature from a distant planet, one that pursued its victims with an intense zeal.  Its goal in life was merely to hunt, to kill creatures and take pleasure from the hunt and the kill.  In Predators the scenario is reversed: instead of a small band of humans on earth hunted by one predator, there is a small band of humans on a foreign planet hunted by a pack of predators.

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A Walk in the Sun

A Walk in the Sun (1945): United States – directed by Lewis Milestone

Not rated by the MPAA – contains a little war violence, walking

In some respects All Quiet on the Western Front hasn’t aged particularly well.  Acting as an art wasn’t that advanced in 1930, and many scenes feel, today, forced and obvious.  In spite of these small complaints, I am rather fond of the film, as the final act is remarkably powerful.  My appreciation of Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front makes his 1945 effort, A Walk in the Sun, that much more disappointing.

The story follows the landing of an infantry platoon on the Salerno beachhead, in 1943 Italy.  The squad has vague orders to penetrate inland, and a farmhouse and bridge are given as primary considerations.  In spite of this brief historical context, the film isn’t really about any historical incident or battle.  It is more concerned with the soldiers who do the walking and fighting.

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The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009): The Netherlands – directed by Tom Six

Not rated by the MPAA – contains exceedingly disturbing material, nudity, bizarre and disturbing gore, blood, language

Note: If you have heard of The Human Centipede and are still interested in watching it, you may be curious to read this review.  If you have not heard of the film I strongly urge you not to continue reading or look up other information concerning the film.

Looking back at cinema certain countries have created more disturbing and disgusting films than others.  Germany is responsible for trash such as Nekromantik and a number of others.  Italy has thrived for many years, granting cinema-goers a great many sick and twisted giallo and horror films, with titles like Cannibal Holocaust and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom topping them all.  Japan has been the master for the past 20 years, with Takashi Miike’s entire oeuvre leading the way.  But most of these films remain hidden in niche markets among movie lovers, something that has changed a bit with the release of The Human Centipede (First Sequence).

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House of Wax (2005)

House of Wax (2005): United States – directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Rated R by the MPAA – contains language, sexual content, momentary wax nudity, violence, blood

The 2005 remake of House of Wax is a singular brand of generic film.  It was made, and exists, only to be seen briefly when released and then forgotten.  No effort was made, and most likely not intended, to ensure the film would stand the test of time.  The film does everything it needs to do to cover all its bases, with the aim of a quick, short, and hopefully profitable run at the box office (though the $30-$40 million budget would belie any intention of a quick turnaround).

All this being said, House of Wax isn’t actually a terrible horror movie.  It is a terrible film, but not actually a terrible horror movie.  There are some major problems with the film, but it does a number of things perfectly adequately and actually manages to roll a story up into a neat but shallow package without resorting to too many cheap tricks.  And it does feature Paris Hilton, in a role crafted to take advantage of her image in 2005.

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Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds (2008): United States – directed by Gabriele Muccino

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some language, mature themes, and a little sexual content

Seven Pounds is a bit of a confused and broken movie. It starts out deliberately so, with flashbacks and a foggy exposition. By the time things start making sense the story becomes less interesting and it is increasingly difficult to empathize with any of the primary characters.

There is one main character, Ben Thomas (Will Smith).  At the beginning of the film he is making a phone call to 911, informing them that there has been a suicide and they need to send an ambulance.  “Whose suicide?” They ask.  “Mine,” he replies.  At this point the movie starts jumping around chronologically.  It is, at first, difficult to tell what scenes are in the present as the movie takes no pains to explain anything.  Eventually the narrative calms down and it becomes clear that certain scenes are flashbacks, though by this time any mystery has been eliminated.

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The Terror of Tiny Town

The Terror of Tiny Town (1938): United States – directed by Sam Newfield

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some violence, not-so-good songs, and little people

The exploitation film didn’t really get underway under the sixties, at least in the mainstream.  Sure, there were niche pictures before then, but toward the end of the 1960’s and then throughout the 1970’s a wide variety of films were created interested in simply one thing: selling themselves by virtue of certain content, actors, or settings.  The world now has blaxploitation, sexploitation, nunsploitation, Ozploitation, Nazisploitation and a slew of just plain exploitation films, usually involving blood, gore, violence, and nudity.  But it all got started many years ago with something much smaller: midgetsploitation.

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Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III (2001): United States – directed by Joe Johnston

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains violence and blood

Watching Jurassic Park III in the theater, as a high-schooler, with a friend, as a fan of the previous iterations (especially the books, but even enjoying the poorness of The Lost World: Jurassic Park), I did enjoy the film.  There were dinosaurs, and they chomped on people.  There were new dinosaurs, and new people, and one familiar face, and that was about it.  I realized that it wasn’t a great film, but I did enjoy it.

Watching it again now it becomes apparent that it wouldn’t have had a theatrical release if it hadn’t had “Jurassic Park” in the title and been executive-produced by Steven Spielberg.  Nine years after its theatrical run it looks like a SyFy movie-of-the-week, with poor dialogue, a terrible script, stupid characters, and rather weak special effects.

The plot is standard and cookie-cutter.  A group of people get stuck on an island that’s overrun with dinosaurs.  But this is the second island from the original Jurassic Park movie [review here], and referenced in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.  Therefore, the film re-introduces Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil), the paleontologist who suffered through the island the previous two times.  A brief scene reunites him with Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern), the paleobotanist from previous outings.  She has married another man and has an adorable young boy, so we know that this is her cameo and nothing more.

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Martyrs

Martyrs (2008): France/Canada – directed by Pascal Laugier

Not rated by the MPAA – contains extremely disturbing material, violence, gore, and grotesque nudity

Martyrs opens with a young girl running, covered in blood.  She’s trying to get away from something, it becomes apparent.  Cut to a little while later, and she’s in a home for sick children.  She can’t talk about anything that has happened, or at least not to the doctors.  But she has a friend and the two of them have become quite close, even though she has not revealed all of the details, such as who or what continues to torment her daily.

Martyrs is the continuation of a line of new French horror films.  They tend to be very dark, very bleak, and quite bloody.  High Tension was the first high-profile film to burst on the scene.  Inside [review here] is more recent and more prone to drawing comparisons to Martyrs.  But Inside is tight and simple, while Martyrs meanders for a while before becoming overwhelmed with a complex plot and then devolving into a Guinea Pig [review here] clone.  There may be a few minor spoilers ahead, in case you are interested in seeing Martyrs fresh-faced and fancy free.

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Inseminoid

Inseminoid (1981): United Kingdom – directed by Norman J. Warren

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, some nudity, and some disturbing babies

Note: Inseminoid contains some grotesque content and cautious readers should be advised against continuing with this review

Inseminoid is blessed with an amusing title and an even more hilarious poster.  The swirling backdrop, the framing reminiscent of the poster for The Thing, the appearance of lasers (though they are merely flashlights attached to the helmets) shooting toward a bizarre, newly birthed alien baby, all while a mostly-naked woman screams in agony.  It is strange and disturbing in equal measure, all the more so because someone thought it was appropriate imagery for a movie poster.

But this was 1981, just a couple years after Alien had spooked the movie-going world into believing that contact with outer-space rocks could impregnate a person.  Inseminoid is clearly a British attempt to capitalize on the science fiction/horror genre.  While a poster this extraordinary would generally portend a disappointingly bad film, Inseminoid is actually rather amusing and entertaining.  It is not a good film, but certainly not deserving of the 2.8 user rating it has over at IMDb.

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The Music Man

The Music Man (1962): United States – directed by Morton DaCosta

Not rated by the MPAA – contains flirting and singing and shysterizing

I realize that The Music Man is often considered a classic musical, and perhaps it should be, on the stage.  On the screen, however, when the story and songs become part of a movie, the equation changes slightly.  Other factors become involved with its success and The Music Man manages to fail at many of these elements.

The story is familiar to anyone who has seen “Marge vs. the Monorail”.  An opening sequence, bizarrely shot on a set shaken to resemble a moving train, introduces a group of traveling salesman.  They spend much of their time complaining about one Harold Hill (Robert Preston), a shuckster so profound that he could sell a drowning man a brick and join him in a melody as he sinks.  Their problem with Hill is that he ruins towns for the rest of the honest, honorable salesmen.  He casts doubt and shame upon their entire profession.

Hill, himself on the trainful of salesman (is there a more depressing or disturbing place to be?), is forced to exit at the next stop, a small town by the name of River City, Iowa.  Discovering an old acquaintance, Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett), he commences his mission of selling the town a boys’ brass band, uniforms and all.  The only catch is that he doesn’t know how to play a note of music.

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