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Thursday, November 27, 2014

SR Podcast (Ep. 33): Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Movie Commentary: November 2014



So it’s Thanksgiving when everyone is thankful. Here at Simplistic Reviews we’re thankful for some great films including some really crappy ones. But this time we decided today was the best to explore one the greatest films Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Everyone come! Sit around the table. Pour a glass of whatever wets your whistle.
Grab your turkey and stuffing, and make sure you save some room for a SR Movie Commentary!

Today we explore the greatness that is John Hughes and touch up on our geography. We will laugh and shed a tear. We’ll talk about a fantastic soundtrack and do you have any room for some Bacon, some Kevin Bacon!?!?

Everyone sit around the fire and let’s listen to Simplistic Reviews Movie Commentary of Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

Eh well maybe you shouldn’t listen to this SR Movie Commentary with the family at Thanksgiving…or should you? Only one way to find out right?


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Captain America

VINTAGE

Now-a-days comic book movies have become the saving grace of the summer blockbuster season. What were once exorcises in a maligned art form are now the most highly anticipated events of the year. So for the next few weeks we're going to take a look at comic book films from back in the day. When they were still paying their dues. When all the answers to every problem wasn't an army of digital effects artists and programmers. All aboard the “Action Movie Time Machine”. It's time to visit the first

The year is 1979. A nuclear power plant known as Three Mile Island, had a near melt-down. Robert Duvall loves the smell of napalm in the morning". Young men and women with radical hairdos mourn the death of punk legend Sid Vicious. All this and Reb Brown throws his shield as “Captain America”.

THE SKINNY
It all begins with Steven Rogers, Reb Brown, who has just returned home for a long stint with the Marines, from which he has been discharged. His plan now is to see America, as he drifts from town to town in his killer '70s pussy-mobile. Complete with seagull “van art”. With his military career behind him, Steve plans to get along by selling his paintings... Not the Captain American you remember from the comics?
This is all fine and well until he receives some distressing news from Jeff, an old friend who asks Steve to meet with him. As Steve makes his way to meet Jeff's home, a group of teamsters attempt to  kill Steve by creating an oil slick on the cliff side road Steve is traveling on. Steve loses control and slides off the edge of the cliff. Miraculously, Steve emerges unscathed and doesn't seem to be alarmed in any way.

This oil slick scene consists of Steve trying to regain control of his van for over thirty seconds. It doesn't sound like much, but believe me, it's classic '70s goofy. Aside from it being goofy, this scene stands out because one talented madman had to operate the van, sliding on the edge of a cliff, as they filmed the scene. Bravo!
Eventually Steve arrives, only to find Jeff murdered. He meets with Simon Wells, a scientist who once worked with Steve's father conducting secret experiments and carrying out highly classified projects for the United States government. Simon suggests that perhaps Jeff's death and the attack on Steve could be connected. Someone must be trying to get their hands on Jeff's data concerning the Neutron Bomb which he has been building. And Steve was attacked because...his father, who is now dead, did...umm...stuff..?

Steve's father was developing a special steroid to boost the average man's strength and endurance. This synthetic steroid is called the “F.L.A.G. Serum”. Simon now wants Steve to follow in his fathers footsteps by taking the FLAG Serum and using his increased strength to help protect the Neutron Bomb.

This is around the time our story develops in two ways;
The first being a terrorist crime boss plot  to build a Neutron Bomb and detonate it in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Az. The bomb will kill everyone within so many miles, but leave everything else untouched. With everyone dead, his men will be able to walk right in and steal the city blind.

The second is Steve wrestling with the temptation of his newly found freedom and instead taking on the responsibility of becoming a super soldier and fighting off terrorists. What helps Steve make up his mind is several more attacks on his life by hired goons. One of which is almost fatal. Steve's life is saved when Simon injects the FLAG Serum into Steve while he is unconscious. The serum works and Steve recovers almost overnight.


With Steve now on board, Simon has a red, white and blue costume designed to conceal Steve's identity while he's fighting for America. This new outfit comes with a Plexiglas shield, a refurbished van complete with high-tech doo-dads and a patriotically painted motorbike.
With the Neutron Bomb now complete, Steve races to intercept it in transport. Once he does, Simon meets Steve to disarm the bomb before it blows...which he does... The End.

THE VERDICT
Before I share my thought on “Captain America”, I would like to cover a little bit of Marvel movie history.

This is the second time Captain America was portrait in any live-action incarnation. The first being a fifteen part serial starring Dick Purcell, from 1944. It was a poor adaptation of the then Timely Comics character. Purcell played District Attorney Grant Gardner who became Captain America to prevent a mad doctor from acquiring equipment to build super weapons. No super soldier serum equals no Captain America in my opinion.

Now, years later, Marvel had been trying to take the company in other directions. They were chomping at the bit the to have more of their characters adapted into film and television. The only problem was that the technology, at the time, wasn't powerful enough portray some of the more fantastic super human concepts. The various production teams that worked on these projects were also often limited by budget. These shortcomings resulted in either one of two things.

They had to re-imagine certain character elements, simplifying them to help sell the overall production. Or they tried to make do with what they had and failed miserably. The Incredible Hulk television show was a good example of this. Rather than adding ridiculous prosthetic makeup and costume to Bill Bixby's character (David Banner) to make him look like the Hulk, they just painted Lou Ferrigno green. They kept it simple, focused on the characters and it worked.

The same goes for this film. Reb Brown actually plays the son of Captain America. This way Universal Studios didn't have to spend the extra money turning the film into a period piece set in some foreign country so Captain America could punch Hitler in the face. What doesn't work so much is that his shield and costume are completely re-invented. He looks nothing like the Steve Rogers/Captain America from the comic book and comes off pretty goofy. But, after all, it was the '70s. If I'm not upset about Batman's “Tumbler” not looking like the classic Bat-mobile, or that he has shark repellent in his helicopter, or that “Bat-nipples” are a thing, I guess I can't get to excited about a Plexiglas shield and motorcycle helmet.

The REAL problem with “Captain America” is that it is a '70s made for television movie of the week. And with that it has hammy acting, poor edits, mediocre special effects, it lacks a major comic book villain and it drags a bit in the middle. Is it a great film? No. But it is a pretty fun super hero time capsule.

It aired on CBS long before my time, but I could imagine being a child back in '79 – sitting in front of the television, patiently waiting for the movie to start and complaining that the commercials are taking too long. Mmmm, the sweet smell or nostalgia. 
  So in conclusion, “Captain America” isn't for everyone. But for those of you who are comic nerds or if the '70s were your heyday -- you're going to love it.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!















Monday, November 17, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

EXPERIENCE
Birdman - Experience

Let's not get it confused; "Birdman" is not a superhero film in the traditional sense. Strike that, in barely any sense. If anything it's a study in our so-called worship of superheroes and superhero films. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. "Birdman" is a film experience that will either excite or confound, will awe or confuse; in short, it's not a film for the masses, but it just might be one of the most technical and well acted films in all of 2014.

"Birdman" stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, the former star of the superhero series "The Birdman." After having fallen on hard times after declining to star in a fourth installment of the franchise, Thompson hopes to reinvent himself on Broadway by directing and starring in a revival of  "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." After an accident with one of his stars during rehearsal, Riggan is forced to hire method actor, Mike, played by Edward Norton, to fill in, which leads to Mike and Riggan clashing. If that wasn't enough, Riggan is also dealing with his new girlfriend possibly being pregnant, a daughter fresh out of rehab, and a Broadway critic looking to destroy his show with a bad review. And the cherry on top; Riggan is haunted by a voice tempting him into fate; the voice of his Birdman past.

At the surface, "Birdman" can be summed up very easily. It's the story of a man searching for something more, something that people don't see on the surface. Searching for a purpose beyond what has been expected of him for so many years, in essence, it's pretty much the true story of Michael Keaton. Look at Keaton's career post-Batman, outside of maybe "Jackie Brown" there really isn't much to write home about. "Batman" made his career, and after that ride was over, there wasn't much left. The fact that Keaton recognizes that "Birdman" is almost autobiographical.

The other thing that most people will notice about this film, are the extremely long takes that have become a staple for director Alejandro González Iñárritu. From "Amores Perros" to "Bitful" Iñárritu, much his his fellow Mexican filmmaker, Alfonso Cuarón, has made a living on the long take. While it's a risky decision, especially with the subject of "Birdman" which is essentially a play, the editing is perfect and gives the illusion that you are actually watching a one-take film. If you are a smart observer, you'll see the cuts and where the edits are made, but they are done extremely well and "Birdman" will definitely be in Oscar contention on it's technical merits alone.

Aside from being a technical film, "Birdman" is also able to be a film that is thought provoking, but also a little confusing for a lament. One of the biggest mistakes that someone might make going into this film is believing that it's a superhero film.....its not, in the traditional sense. What I do find the most interesting is that there are a lot of hints that Riggan Thompson might actually be a superhero, and it's all in how you interpret what you see. Without giving out spoilers, there are tons of ways to interpret "Birdman," and that could be a turn off to some people who were expecting something a little different.

All in all, "Birdman" is a film worthy of your attention. It has fantastic acting, wonderful directing, and it's just quirky and weird enough to demand more than one viewing. It's likely that both Keaton and Norton will be nominated for Oscars in addition to several technical nominations, notably direction, editing, and cinematography. "Birdman" certainly does fly, but it will make your brain work.

Fun Fact: Alfred Hithcock's 1948 "Rope" is an early example of the perceived "unbroken shot" technique.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Survivor


In an attempt to find something totally awful and remarkably unremarkable to close out “1980s Post Apocalyptic VHS Rentals”, I discovered a little film that goes by the name “Survivor“. It has a four star rating on IMDB and over half of the dialogue is dubbed inner monologue, written like some prose poem. Sure signs that I’ve found myself a turd in the rough. But ya know what?… It isn’t as bad as all that.

Out there somewhere, relegated to someone’s musty basement and stored on reels of magnetic tape, only now finding their way to the human eye by Youtube and what not, are wretched works of post apocalyptic fiction. I have failed to find one of these films. Perhaps it’s a good thing. I know they are out there. Somewhere. But the “Action Movie Time Machine” isn’t about traveling time to find stinkers. It’s about finding the obscure, the little known and about finding out Action Movie roots.

With that said, the “Action Movie Time Machine” is synched into a parallel time stream for the year 1998.

The year is 1987. Construction begins on the Channel Tunnel, connecting the UK and France. Wang Chung gets everyone to “Have Fun Tonight” and Reagan tells the Soviets to “Tear down that wall!”. Also a nameless astronaut kills a guy in “Survivor”.

THE SKINNY
“Survivor” begins with our main character, an unnamed NASA astronaut, played buy Chip Mayer. Well the man’s real name is Christopher Mayer, but he is credited as “Chip“. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll call him “Astronaut Chip”.

For NASA, Chip was given the task of deploying a laser defense satellite from his space craft, “Challenger 2”. It seems in this time stream President Reagan’s “Star Wars” project came to fruition. But before the satellite became operational, WWIII began and Chip watched the whole thing unfold from space. This whole NASA/astronaut plot was also used in a similar movie “Def-Con 4“, about an astronaut who return to a post-WWIII Earth in search of his family.

Chip later re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and began traversing the post nuclear war desert-like landscape of Europe, searching for a place to live. Though the war is over, scavengers and survivors still fight to the bitter end if they think there may be drinkable water near.
One of these very scavengers, a Turk who nearly killed Chip, told him about a “promised land” south of Budapest. Since then Chip has been traveling the railways on his solar powered rail car…thing, in search of it. Soon this leads Chip to a night time run-in with a pair of survivors who live on a boat in the desert (what was once an ocean). This run-in gets him stabbed and left for dead, then found and taken in by a former Soviet credited as “The Woman”. Since she has red hair and is a communist, I think I’ll call her… “Red”.

On Red’s sea side villa (a wrecked and rusted out ship), Chip and Red share a tumultuous relationship. A relationship based exclusively on suspicion and sex. This is fine and well, until one day as Red is fishing for lunch, a man grabs her by the hair and drags her off. Chip see this and chases after them.



  Chips follows for days, through the desert, until he discovers the ruins of some sort of underground facility that contains fresh water. As Chip investigates the facility, he sees people living and working underground. Operating machinery and growing plants that don’t need sunlight. This is a self sustaining facility. There is just enough food, water and electricity for one hundred and fifty people. If a baby is born, then someone must die. That’s just how closely this ecosystem is balanced.

This ecosystem has been maintained for years by a council of scientists (An engineer, a surgeon, a biologist ect…), but has since been overthrown by Kragg, Richard Moll, who has pillaged the facility’s resources and raped it’s fertile women. Kragg sees the apocalypse as not the end, but the beginning and himself as the future. He wants to control the facility so he can breed a new race of people who will eventually repopulate the Earth and exterminating all other survivors.


 
Chip learns all about the facility and Kragg from the council, who also tell him that Red originally worked at the facility and escaped after Kragg claimed her as a sex slave. The council then assign Chip with the task of killing Kragg, which would free Red and allow the ecosystem to return to a balance.

Chip agrees and moves to confront Kragg. When he does, Kragg explains his rather interesting world philosophy and asks Chip to join him. Things go south pretty quick. A bit of a cat and mouse chase takes place before they engage in hand to hand combat and soon, Chip manages to stab Kragg up through the jaw and out his head.
 
After this, the film ends with Chip and Red, now back at her ship, watching the sun set together. So… what about the people living in the facility? Oh well. The End.

THE VERDICT
If my synopsis seemed a bit sparse it’s because there is a pretty simple story with very little dialogue. As I mentioned in the beginning, most of what’s said is Chip’s inner monologue or voiceover from the Turk or Red who fill in back story. It’s kind of a strange way to tell a story, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work. It reminds me a lot of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, which is heavy on noir like inner monologue.

I also like the idea of watching WWIII unfold from space. Seeing the blinding white flashes at either end of the Earth’s surface, hearing nothing due to the vacuum of space and wondering if you’re the only human left alive. It’s a pretty heavy idea and I don’t think I’ve seen it (“Survivor” and “Def-Con 4” talk about it but don‘t show it.). Not even in a contemporary film which would be infinitely more feasible with CGI. Perhaps someday.

I admit, “Survivor” wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It isn’t the best but it is competently made and held my attention. It was a shot in the dark and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. Watching this on Youtube is a lot like renting VHS back in the day. You see the name, the cover art and a brief description, and that’s all you’ve got.
There were hundreds of thousands of films released on VHS and over half were straight to video. It was easy to feel cheated by spending your hard earned money renting a pile of crap with superb cover art. At least this way I don’t get charged late fees or have to worry about rewinding the damn thing. In a strange way “the digital age” and Youtube are breathing new life into that old rental experience. The adventure and the mystery is still there, it’s just a little lazier.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nightcrawler

TURN
Nightcrawler - Turn

Coming off of the heels of my review of "Zodiac" I liken that review to more of a catchup and brush up on Jake Gyllenhaal and where he is as an actor. The more I see, or re-watch of his career I wonder why he isn't as popular as most other actors of his ilk. I really don't think there is an actor working right now that takes as many chances and transforms himself as often outside of maybe Christan Bale. He takes on difficult roles, owns them, and is still able to play someone that we the audience slightly relate to. This brings me to his latest role, another turn in his career that you could also call a career-defining role. That film is "Nightcrawler" a gritty neo-noir in the vein of "Drive" "Network" and a dash of "Collateral."

"Nightcrawler" takes the classic trope of following the American Dream to extreme, but somehow, necessary lengths. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a small-time crook looking for a chance to prove himself. Fate knocks at his door one evening when he witnesses a woman being rescued from a burning car by two police officers. It's not the women's distress that catches his attention however, it's the cameramen who capture the harrowing rescue which appears on the news the next day. Being the go-getter that he is, Bloom procures funds to buy a camera and decides his calling is to "nightcrawl."

Finally capturing some useable footage, Bloom delivers the goods to late-night news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) and the two begin a working relationship much to the chagrin of Nina's co-worker Frank Kruse who finds the "if it bleeds, it leads" method of news broadcasting lacking. Bloom continues to thrive in his new calling and teams up with Rick, a homeless Angelino looking for a shot, just like Bloom.

The stakes reach their apex after Bloom and Rick witness a deadly home invasion which leaves three people dead. Sensing a breakthrough, Bloom puts all the pieces together in order to not only get the best news story, but to create the news himself.

There is a lot that could be given away in my synopsis, so I'll stop right here because all the fun of "Nightcrawler" is to actually go on this twisted journey that features some of the best acting to date from Gyllenhaal. His take on Lou Bloom, starting from a scab who is stealing manhole covers and reselling them to a scraper, to a video camera-wielding scab making real money and becoming his own boss. One scene which stands out is Lou and Nina's discussion about compensation for footage which Lou is trying to sell. While Nina tries to stonewall him, Lou knows everything he needs to say in order to shut her down and not only gets what he wants, but turns the tables in favor of his eventual endgame.

There is a lot of talk about "Nightcrawler" also being the "Network" for this generation. Well, having seen "Network" I say that is a pretty easy comparison being that this film is namely about the sensationalism of violence in our society and the apathy that news directors have in order to keep showing up the worst of humanity. Russo's turn as Nina Romina is very similar to Faye Dunaway's turn as Diana Christensen. Both are cutthroat newswomen, but unlike Christensen, Romina, while she thinks she is in control, is overtaken by Bloom who knows much more than she thinks he does. This also brings up a good point; how we obtain information in this day and age. Unlike 1976, there really wasn't a precedent for the Internet and the sharing of information at a massive scale. Lou is able to position himself where he knows more about Nina than Nina almost does which gives him all the advantage he needs in an situation, which leads to some of the film's best, and intense, scenes.

The Gilroy trio of Dan, Tony, and John, who direct, produce, and edit, respectively, create a vision of Los Angeles that is lively, dreamlike, and something out of a horror film all at the same time. However, my one minor gripe is the score of James Newton Howard. The score simply doesn't seem to fit the setting of this seedy underbelly of LA. It's a little too.....chipper? And this isn't even to say that the score is bad, it just doesn't fit.

Overall, "Nightcrawler" is everything it sets out to be; a social commentary with top-notch acting, solid action sequences, that looks great to boot. As it stands now, Gyllenhaal's performance is by far my favorite of the year, and it will be a shame if he's not one of the five nominees for an Oscar this year.

Fun Fact: Gyllenhaal lost over 20 pounds in order to obtain the gaunt look of Lou Bloom.

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - The Bronx Warriors 2: Escape From the Bronx

ENTERTAINING

We narrowly survived the Bronx. Now, will we be able to “Escape From the Bronx“? Oh yeah, the “Action Movie Time Machine” is synched into the appropriate time stream. All aboard to visit the sequel to “1990: The Bronx Warriors“. Now I don’t want to hear any complaining. This parallel time destination was very difficult to pinpoint since it didn’t take place during any specific time. Just “several years later”. I had to fast-forward through nearly an entire decade before I found it. Even if it’s fast forwarded, a decade is WAY more time than I ever want to spend in the Bronx.

The year is 1983. James Woods grew a tummy vagina in “Videodrome”, Michael Jackson & Vincent Price hit the MTV airwaves in the form of “Thriller”, and NASA’s Challenger space shuttle takes flight for the first time. All this and Henry Silva commits genocide in “Escape From the Bronx”.

THE SKINNY
Picking up where we left off, several years later, the General Construction Corporation is another god sized corporation, much like the Manhattan Corporation of the first film. They have managed to pay off the governor of New York who in turn has granted the GCC permission to forcibly relocate the inhabitants of the Bronx to a cookie cutter suburb in New Mexico. With the people gone, the GCC will build a new, lavish city for the rich on top of the ruins of the old one. It’s like the Delta City from “Robocop”.

The only problem with this is, the people don’t want to move from their urban homes and when they resist they are either shot or set on fire by the “Disinfestation Annihilation Squad“. Oh and one more thing, there is no cookie cutter suburb in New Mexico. That is all just a story to tell the media. As the residence are being relocated, the GCC keeps coming up with clever ways for “accidents” to happen. Accidents that kill everyone.

The gangs of the Bronx have banded together and have found refuge in the underground tunnels of the Bronx. Trash has been keeping busy collecting ammunition for the immanent war against the GCC.



It’s just another day in the hood for Trash, until he returns home to visit his parents and finds their home is being looted. He fights past the looters to find that his mother and father, the people who brought little Trash into this world, the only parents in the world willing to hang a poster of their gang leader son in their living room… So he finds them dead. The DAS set them on fire when Trash’s father fought back against their eviction.

Trash is enraged and flees to the tunnels to gather support from the remaining gangs. Trash is out for blood.
 
Meanwhile, a nosey reporter, Moon Grey, ventures into the Bronx to conduct some hard hitting detective work to expose the GCC killings. Once she finds her way into the tunnels she happens into the underground lair of the Bronx Warriors (the various gangs). Together Moon, Trash and the rest discuss a plan of action. They decide to fortify the tunnels with weapons and booby-traps to protect themselves from the DAS while Trash, Moon and a man named Strike venture to the surface to kidnap the President of the GCC. With President Henry Clark in their grasp they will be able to hold the DAS and the GCC at bay while getting the attention of the media.

The leader of the DAS, Floyd Wrangler, Henry Silva, is one bad dude. He’s the type who isn’t interested in the finer things in life, just killing. He is the one behind all of the so called “accidents”. Wrangler is hip to the underground tunnels and starts to mobilize units for an invasion. Scratch that. It’s not an invasion, it’s an extermination.
While the DAS mobilization begins, Trash, Moon and Strike, who is now accompanied by his nine year old bomb making son, snake their way through the tunnels to a ground breaking ceremony where they grab President Clark. Moon creates a distraction and gets shot in the process. Trash & Strike pull Clark into the tunnels and lead the DAS and police into a maze of bombs cleverly placed by Strike’s son.

After the kidnapping heroes reunite with the Bronx Warriors, they are soon joined by the DAS and police. A battle breaks out and for a while the Warriors seem like they are going to win. This brings Wrangler to call for “the gas”. They begin pumping poison gas into the tunnels and those who survive move above ground where the fight continues.

Now I know your worried about President Clark, wouldn’t the gas get him too? Well he managed to escape during the fighting but when Wrangler finds him his is shot twice in the chest. As it turns out, Wrangler had a side agreement with the Vice-President of GCC. Like I said, Wrangler is one bad dude.
The battle continues and much like the first film, it’s hard to tell who the winner is. Everyone is dead except Trash, Strike and his son. The goals of the Bronx Warriors and the GCC were never reached. The Bronx is all but leveled and burning and then the credits roll. The End.

THE VERDICT
I like that our protagonist and hero is named Trash. He is written off by the police, the government, and the upper class as some gutter rat because, well, that’s more or less what he is. A piece of garbage blowing through the Bronx streets. But this is also what has made him a survivor. Living on the mean streets is has made him tough and has taught to fight and win. He is the victor of the proletariat against the untrustworthy and murderous bourgeoisie. Viva Trash!

In a nut shell, this class warfare concept is the heart of “Escape From the Bronx”. This idea has been done before, but as a sequel to “1990: The Bronx Warriors”, it really stands out. Most sequels offer up little more than “more of the same”, especially when there is a decrease in budget. But this film expands upon the original in a way that makes me want to watch third Bronx movie. If there was one.

Using words like “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” implies some European philosophy. Don’t forget that these films are Italian, and it shows. While the action in this film is more developed with shootouts and explosions, it still has a somewhat subdued feel. Things explode, but they explode slowly. This isn’t really a fault of the film, but a noticeable cultural difference in the way American and Italian filmmakers work their craft. This is something that is seen quite a bit to those who watch many European films.

Also, the dialogue, again, is dubbed. While it sounds good, there are some bits of dialogue that… aren’t natural. In the scene where the President of the company is kidnapped, a police officer comments on the way Strike runs. “Look at him run…he‘s such a fag!”. LOLWUT?! It’s like if a character, ANY character is on screen the dubbers felt compelled to have them say something. Many laughs can be had at the expense of this mostly good film. Just add a few tasty brews.
 
I have to say, for all the post apocalyptic flicks of the VHS era, there were only a handful that were memorable. And for good reason. I can’t quite wrap my head around why a production studio would even attempt to create such high concept environments that rely so heavily on special effects, props, futuristic vehicles and weapons. They almost always look like such crap. Fortunately the two Bronx Warriors films are better than most. Maybe because they tried to keep it simple. For more on the Bronx Warriors, visit the official website.

There are a LOT of post apocalyptic, straight to video, buckets or boring shit, and most can be found conveniently on YouTube. So to do this action movie sub genre justice we will be paying a visit to whatever no budget, boring, nothing crap that I can dial in on the ol’ “Action Movie Time Machine”. I’ll save the “Terminator” films and others for another time. It’s only fair.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Zodiac (2007)

PACING
Zodiac - Pacing

There are certain films you see once, and they quickly dissolve from your mind. Not because they are bad by any means, its usually, at least for me, that they are so massive, engrossing, or emotionally investing that my body's automatic response is to forget about them. The best example I can think of at this time is "Inception." While visually stunning, the film as a whole is still very hard to wrap my head around and I've avoided watching it ever since seeing it in the theater. Again, it's not because I don't like it, and hell, who knows, maybe if I saw the film again, I wouldn't like it, especially since it doesn't have an end credit sequence......anyway. This brings me to "Zodiac" probably one of the most slept films in David Fincher's filmography. It's taut, gritty, and paced to perfection with the addition of great acting performances and a truly engrossing story that you nearly forget it based on an actual unsolved case.

"Zodiac" tells the true story of the Zodiac murders that took place across Northern, and possibly South California between 1966 and 1972. Shortly after a unsolved murder in 1969 in Vallejo, CA, a letter is sent to the San Francisco Chronicle which details the crime and claims that another murder was also committed nearly a year prior by someone calling themselves "Zodiac." Spanning the course of nearly 25 years, "Zodiac" recounts the effort of journalist Paul Avery, cartoonist Robert Graysmith, and SFPD Inspector,  Dave Toschi, as their lives intersect closely with possible suspects, and the obsession to catch Zodiac that nearly destroys their lives.

Throughout high school and college, I had an obsession with true crime and serial killers. I wanted to know the stories behind the crimes and what really made people tick. Some of the most infamous murderers of all time seem like something out of a movie, which makes the most sense why some of the most unnerving horror and suspense films have been based on serial killers like Ed Gein, Albert Fish, and Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK Killer. However, if you look at the glut of direct-to-DVD and made-for-TV films about serial killers most of them are, for lack of a better term, lackluster, to say the least. At first glance, you might almost think that "Zodiac" might have the same fate, but there is pedigree to spare.

It's easy to forget that this is even a David Fincher film. Taking into account how diversified his filmography is, "Zodiac" seems like the start of a new Fincher direction. Moving away from dark, gritty horror/suspense films such as "Se7ev" and "The Game," "Zodiac" was at the time his most mature effort to date, not mention his longest film up to that point, clocking in at 157 minutes ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" would top it the following year with a run-time of 166 minutes). While some might see the long run-time as a negative, I thought it gave Fincher enough time to introduce characters, detail the crimes, and get the point across that obsession; either good or bad, corrupts and destroys nearly everything.

While "Zodiac" could be considered the beginning of a new Fincher era, this film was also a breeding ground for what we could expect from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. And of course the renaissance of Robert Downey, Jr., who only a year later would become Tony Stark. While the film is called "Zodiac" the infamous murderer is pretty much a plot point or a foil to the actors. We are witness to his murder spree, but it's the emotion and the portrayals by Downey, Jr., Gyllenhaal, and Ruffalo that drive the film from beginning to end. Fincher is also able to create a giant puzzle where it's the job of the audience of what to believe and reach their own conclusion. Unlike other killers throughout history, the Zodiac Killer was never caught, which creates a true mystery film where there is no right or wrong answer as to who is the true culprit in the crimes.


While "Zodiac" didn't really get it's due in the theater, if you are a fan of true crime, or simply great direction by a master who is dedicated to all of the little details that make a film special, than this film is for you. It features an engrossing story, fine performances, and it delivers where other films about serial killers fall short.

Fun Fact: Over the past 100 years, there have been nearly 20 reported serial killers in the state of California.

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