one word reviews of Movies and TV

Listen Now!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Hard Ticket to Hawaii

BONKERS

Welcome back for another ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. This time we will be visiting another Andy Sidaris film. If you are easily offended by bodacious breasts and explosions, oh boy, this movie isn’t for you. And with that said, I have our destination programmed. All aboard!

The year is 1987. The hippie beatnik community mourns the loss of artist Andy Warhol. Bill Cosby wins back his ex-wife and save the cute little animals in “Leonard Part 6”. U2 hadn’t found what they were looking for and Andy Sidaris continued his boob-a-licious action epic with “Hard Ticket to Hawaii”, complete with it’s own theme song. ‘Cause that’s what all the greatest action flicks have -- theme songs.

THE SKINNY
Hard Ticket to Hawaii” picks up right where “Malibu Express” leaves off. Or does it? What should be Cody Abaline and Contessa Lucianna meeting up in Hawaii for a sexy rendezvous, is instead Rowdy Abaline and Donna making love aboard the boat “Malibu Express”. For some reason the boat is the only thing that managed to live on in this spiritual sequel. It's explained later that Cody is Rowdy's cousin who has gone on to become an actor. Well, that explains that.

Donna, Dona Speir, is a Federal Agent living and working in Molokai Hawaii with her roommate and co-worker Taryn, Hope Marie Carlton, who is living in Hawaii as part of the witness protection program. In Las Vegas she witnessed some pretty heavy mob activity and now she is being protected by the government after testifying against mobsters. I'm sure this goes without saying, but both Donna and Taryn are played by former Playboy Playmates.
Though Donna is a Federal Agent, she and Taryn work as couriers. They fly packages and people in a single prop plane between the Hawaiian islands. During one of these trips, the girls are to deliver a touring couple to the remote end of the island so they can do it out in the open and not be disturbed. While doing so, a  crate containing a python that has been contaminated by cancer ridden rats is mistakenly lost and the killer python escapes onto the island. This isn't important now, but we'll see it again later.

Before the girls return home for the day, they interrupt a drug deal...or a diamond smuggling ring. I'm not sure which. A remote controlled helicopter is flown from Mr. Chang's boat off the coast that is sent in to deliver diamonds to a group growing marijuana in the wilderness of the island, lead by Mr. Romero.
Just as the girls discover the diamonds, they are discovered by Romero's hired muscle. With the use of nun-chucks and ninja stars the women manage to make it back to their plane and back to home. Here they relax topless in their jacuzzi while they figuring out what should be done with the diamonds.

Later that night, Donna and Taryn are attacked by more of Romero's men. I guess it isn't easy to make a clean get away with the name of the company you work for painted on the side of the airplane you're escaping in. The girls manage to scare the goons off, but now they know they will need Rowdy's help to save themselves and bring the criminals to justice.
As Rowdy and his partner Jade make their way to meet Donna, they are attacked by Romero's men. This scene is fuckin' bonkers! A man who goes by the name “Skater” rides his skateboard passed Rowdy's jeep, concealing a shotgun behind a blow-up doll. Skater takes his shot, wounding Jade and Rowdy retaliates by firing a rocket at both Skater and then the blow-up doll, exploding them in mid-air. It is truly the work of a b-movie master.

Meanwhile, Edy, a local hotel and restaurant owner, is kidnapped by Romero's men. They know that Edy has been helping the girls stay in touch with Rowdy and their Federal contacts. This isn't so important to the story. It just adds urgency to the film.
Donna, Taryn, Rowdy & Jade develop a plan to rescue Edy, which they do, and in the process they blow away all of Romero’s hired goons. Now only he remains, and if he is going to save face with his employer/business partner, Mr. Chan, he will have to take care of Donna & Taryn himself.

While the gang is away, Romero infiltrates Donna’s home and catches her off guard. First he attacks her with a knife and she retaliates with a harpoon gun she stores in a closet. After composing himself he attacks again, but this time she disarms him and stabs him in the gut with his own knife. THEN, he attacks once more, but this attack is timed perfectly with the return of the cancer rat infected python that erupts out of the bathroom toilet. LOL! It bites Romero in the face and kills him FINALLY!

The infectious snake them makes a play for Donna and Rowdy returns in the nick of time to save his love by firing a rocket into it’s face -- followed by the line; “Just when you thought it was safe to take a pee.”. LOL!
Rowdy & Donna then pay Mr. Chang a visit. How do they know who he is or how he’s involved? I have no idea. Donna draws her “hand cannon” on Mr. Chan and blows his ass out of a window.
And like the first film, this ends with all the remaining players involved aboard the Malibu Express celebrating a job well done.

THE VERDICT
Well Andy Sidaris has done it again. He took a simple premise and managed to jam as much crazy shit into it as humanly possible.

Much like the previous film, “Malibu Express”, this has mediocre acting and a convoluted story that left me asking myself a lot of questions when I say it for the first time. Having seen Hard Ticket a number of times, I now have a strong understanding of the story, but at one time there were A LOT of whos, whats & whys rolling around in my head. The reason for this is that there is so much back story for each character, which is so casually introduced, that much of it is easy to miss. Very little of which is actually important.

While the films of Sidaris often fall short of being great, I have to give him credit for putting so much effort into them. His films are independently produced and often straight to video. His use of flashy boats, high flying panes, fast cars, faster women and a healthy dose of explosions give his films the esthetic of having a higher budget than they actually had. Sidaris films are like any episode of “Magnum P. I.”, but with Tom Selleck replaced with a big breasted naked woman, plus three or four other wild elements like exploding snakes or exploding blow-up dolls for good measure.

These flashy things don’t make a his movies good, but they always seem to be filmed and produced with a certain level of skill and professionalism that adds a sense of quality to them, even if they have a jumbled story with plot twists that are beyond belief.
 
I believe this is why Andy Sidaris has such a loyal following of fans. His films aren’t masterpieces, but you will always know what you’re going to get and you’ll be entertained no matter what. Speaking of being entertained, “Hard Ticket to Hawaii” is only going to get a two bullet rating from me based on the technical stuff alone, but it gets ten bullet for shier fun!

Some last things to keep your eyes open for are movie posters from Andy’s previous films located in Donna & Taryn’s home. The informant who rats on Edy is the same cross-dressing man from “Malibu Express”, played by Michael A. Andrews. There is a manhole cover that is obviously just a painted trashcan lid. And finally, as Rowdy and the gang infiltrate the home of Romero to rescue Edy, He encounters one of Romero’s guards on the beach. He talks the guard into playing catch with a Frisbee only to replace the Frisbee with one that has razor blades imbedded in it. The blades cut off the guards fingers when he tries to catch it and then slices into his neck -- killing him.

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, February 23, 2015

Map to the Stars

HOLLYWEIRD
Map to the Stars - Hollyweird

Quick story about David Cronenberg; My earliest memory of his work is actually not even a film he directed, it's a film that he appeared in. As a kid I remember watching "Nightbreed" and being scared out of my mind. Sure there are plenty of monsters and mutants in the film, but the one thing that stood out to me was a guy in a mask with a zipper and buttons for eyes. Only later would I find out that man behind the mask was David Cronenberg, the same guy behind classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners." In the past decade or so, Cronenberg has taken a departure form the "body horror" that had made him famous, and has concentrated on more intimate character pieces like "Eastern Promises" and "Cosmopolis." Now, in what I might call his most interesting work in quite some time, Cronenberg takes on Hollyweird and all of it's kookiness in "Map to the Stars," starring Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska.

The skinny on "Map" is this; young Agatha (Wasikowska) arrives in town and is greeted by limo driver, Jerome (Pattinson). Agatha has just gotten into town via Jupiter, Florida and is looking for Benji Weiss, the young star of the "Bad Babysitter" series of films. Meanwhile, we meet Havana (Moore) the daughter of movie star who died in a fire who is receiving counseling from Dr. Stafford Weiss (Cusack). Havana gets word from her agent that a film is being produced about her mother's life and naturally Havana feels she is best actress for the role. The film plays out where we learn more about all of the major characters in the film and how weird do things get? Well, this is a Cronenberg film after all......

Based on reviews that I've been reading about "Map" this is really a love it or hate it flick. I've read that some people are disgusted about the insinuated and pretty much apparent incest connotations, as well as the casual nudity and dark subject matter. This is where I say "grow up!" Sure, some of the content is a little over-the-top, but you'd be a fool to not think things like this happen in Hollywood.

The interwoven plot is interesting and the film is a Chuck Palahniuk, David Lynch, and Bret Easton Ellis mash-up of insane and maniacal proportions. At first I thought this film was actually written by someone of Ellis' ilk, but upon further inspection the writing duties went to Bruce Wagner, who is best known for writing "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors." It's odd for Cronenberg to go with a writer that has so few credits to his name, but the writing is actually very well done, visceral, and perfect for the film.

Now, a lot of people were in love with Julianne Moore's performance in "Still Alice," but I would go as far as saying that her turn in "Map" was vastly superior in it's weirdness and fearlessness. We all know that Moore is a great actress that has been overlooked for awards for years, but wouldn't it have been nice if she was rewarded for a role that required more than just having an ailment and having to overcome it? I'd say yes, but I'm sure a lot of people would go against me. Outside of Moore, the supporting cast is solid, and it's good to see that John Cusack is still getting work that matters and not falling into the same trap that has confounded Nicholas Cage for the better part of a decade. I don't know what it is, but Cage and Cusack to me are almost one in the same. "Map" also shows me more of the talent that I know is residing inside of Robert Pattinson. He had a great turn in "Cosmopolis" and showed me more in last year's under-appreciated "The Rover" and albeit a small role, he is still good in this film and his scenes with Mia Wasikowska are small, but tragic.

All in all, "Map to the Stars" is an interesting and dark take on celebrity and the toll it can take on those with weak constitutions. While this film does seem more in the wheelhouse of someone like Lynch, it's great to see David Cronenberg's take on Hollywood since he is mostly a director who is always on the outside looking in, on his own accord of course. And while I do like that he is taking more chances on projects like "Cosmopolis" and "A Dangerous Method" I would like to see him get back to his older, body horror work one day.

Fun Fact: Hollywood was established in 1853 with a single adobe hut just outside of Los Angeles, California.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The New Simplistic Reviews App


Get the New App Here

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes a motion picture is only worth one. Simplistic Reviews gives you a minimum one word review from avid film buffs Justin Polizzi, Matthew Stewart and DJ Valentine. If one isn't enough, you can read on and enjoy their further analysis of the film or television show. Simplistic Reviews is, for lack of a better word, GOOD.

The Android App is the best way to read reviews and listen to podcasts.

Features:
·      Material Design
·      Customize the feeds you want
·      Multiple Layouts
·      Star reviews and/or podcast for later viewing
·      Homescreen Widgets
·      Pick a theme with the built in theme changer
·      Translate reviews into your own language
·      Stream or Download Podcasts
·      Filters for last 24hrs and Unread reviews
·      App works on all Android 4.0 and up to allow you to stay updated with everything that is Simplistic Reviews



Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Oscar Prediction Podcast (Ep. 40) 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY


Hooray for Hollywood? Naw, it's time to skewer Hollywood and rip them and new one, of course while picking the winner's of this year's Academy Awards.

The boys go over all the essential categories from Best Score all the way to the grand-daddy of them all; "the award where they could have had 10 nominations, but they decided to go with eight."

Will "Boyhood" be this year's big winner? Will "Birdman" fly above the competition? Why was "Gone Girl" only nominated for one award? Why is the Academy in love with films that feature people with disabling diseases?  Is it a fetish that they secretly have that we don't know about?

All this and much more as the Simplistic Reviews Crew gives Hollywood the old "what-for."


Show Notes:
Hugh Jackman Hopping At Tony Awards

Music Notes: 

If you're not interested in our ramblings, just check out our picks below:


Best Animated Feature*

Matt
Should Win: The Lego Movie / Will Win: Big Hero 6
DJ
Should Win: The Lego Movie / Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Justin
Should Win: The Boxtrolls / Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
*Matt and DJ know that "The Lego Movie" isn't nominated, and it's a crime that it isn't.

Best Musical Score

Matt:
Should Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel / Will Win: The Theory of Everything
DJ:
Should Win: Interstellar / Will Win: The Theory of Everything
Justin:
Should Win: Interstellar / Will Win: Interstellar

Best Adapted Screenplay/Best Original Screenplay

Matt:
Should Win: Inherent Vice & Birdman / Will Win: American Sniper & Birdman
DJ:
Should Win: Whiplash & Birdman / Will Win: Whiplash & Birdman
Justin:
Should Win: The Theory of Everything & The Grand Budapest Hotel / Will Win: Sniper & Birdman

Best Cinematography

Matt:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Birdman
DJ:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Birdman
Justin:
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel / Will Win: Birdman

Best Director

Matt:
Should Win: Boyhood / Will Win: Boyhood
DJ:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Boyhood
Justin:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Boyhood

Best Supporting Actress

Matt:
Should Win: Emma Stone / Will Win: Patricia Arquette
DJ:
Should Win: Emma Stone / Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Justin:
Should Win: Emma Stone / Will Win: Meryl Streep

Best Supporting Actor

Matt
Should Win: Edward Norton / Will Win: J.K. Simmons
DJ:
Should Win: J.K. Simmons / Will Win: J.K. Simmons
Justin:
Should Win: J.K. Simmons / Will Win: J.K. Simmons

Best Actress

Matt:
Should Win: Rosamund Pike / Will Win: Julianne Moore
DJ:
Should Win: Rosamund Pike / Will Win: Julianne Moore
Justin:
Should Win: Rosamund Pike / Will Win: Julianne Moore

Best Actor*

Matt:
Should Win: Michael Keaton / Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
DJ:
Should Win: Jake Gyllenhaal / Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Justin:
Should Win: Michael Keaton / Will Win: Bradley Cooper
*DJ understands Jake isn't nominated for "Nightcrawler" but he should have been.

Best Picture

Matt:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Birdman
DJ:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Boyhood
Justin:
Should Win: Birdman / Will Win: Boyhood






Friday, February 20, 2015

SR Podcast (Ep. 39): Miami Connection - Movie Commentary: February 2015

Friday Night Movie Night!


Tagline: Survival the ultimate test...

The year is 1987. Motorcycle ninjas tighten their grip on Florida's narcotics trade, viciously annihilating anyone who dares move in on their turf. Multi-national martial arts rock band Dragon Sound have had enough, and embark on a roundhouse wreck-wave of crime-crushing justice. When not chasing beach bunnies or performing their hit song "Against the Ninja," Mark (taekwondo master/inspirational speaker Y.K. Kim) and the boys are kicking and chopping at the drug world's smelliest underbelly. It'll take every ounce of their blood and courage, but Dragon Sound can't stop until they've completely destroyed the dealers, the drunk bikers, the kill-crazy ninjas, the middle-aged thugs, the "stupid cocaine"

...and the entire MIAMI CONNECTION!!!



Podcast Notes

Deleted Scene "Music Store"

Music

Dragon Sound "Friends"
Dragon Sound "Against The Ninja"

Miami Connection OST - Jon McCallum - Trainyard

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The House of the Devil

FUN
The House of the Devil - Fun

Like I mentioned in my review of "The Guest," I love the 1980s, especially 80s horror, but one genre always kind of eluded me; the devil-worshiping/possession genre. I simply don't find those types of films very scary or unnerving. This goes double for, get ready for it, "The Exorcist." I simply don't get the appeal of what so many people call "the scariest film ever made." I also think the market has been flooded with these possession/evil house/devil worshiping found footage type films, and while they are low budget, and make a ton of money because we have enough sheep who go to the theater to waste their money with lackluster fare like that. But, every once in a while I'll take the advice of a friend, or in this case a blog (thanks Slaughter Film) and go out on a limb and watch something I normally wouldn't, and than I wonder to myself why it took so long to finally get around to this movie. That movie is 2009's "The House of the Devil." Directed by Ti West, who has also worked on the anthology series "V/H/S" and directed "The Sacrament" brings to glory of late 1970s and early 80s Gothic horror to life by recreating a film that is suspenseful and a crap ton of fun.

"House" is the tale of Samantha, a struggling college student looking to move out of her dorm room that is constantly being used by her over-sexed roommate. Desperate for money after finding the house of her dreams, Sam calls about a babysitting job the night of a lunar eclipse. After losing hope on the job, she receives a call from Mr. Ulman, the man who placed the babysitting ad. Dragging her friend Megan along, Sam accepts the job and heads to the Ulman residence. Upon arrival, as the viewer, you already have the sense that something isn't quite right about Mr. Ulman, who is played to creepy perfection by consummate creeper, Tom Noonan. Creeped out, Sam is about to leave, but now desperate, Ulman tells Sam to name her price. She's seizes the moment knowing that her new house is on the line. The film progresses with Sam exploring the house, hearing noises, and finally learning the secret the Ulmans have been hiding all along. To spoil the third act would be a disservice.

What works so well in "House" is the look of the film. The opening credits are something right out of a Wes Craven film, mixed with Hammer Horror, and a dash of Italian giallo. The hair styles are to the era, the score is reminiscent of something Ric Ocasek. However, even with all of these 80s elements, the film is still very contemporary and can fit into any era.

The one gripe I see that people could have is the pacing of the "House." There isn't a whole lot of "action" until about an hour into the film, but just like the films of yore, the build-up is part of the fun of this film. However, in this day and age of instant gratification, jump scares, and found-footage dredge (which is ironic since I actually enjoyed "V/H/S") it's refreshing to see a movie like "House" but I"m sure that's the reason why this film hasn't gotten much traction outside of die-hard horror fans who have been watching the genre for decades.

Overall, "The House of the Devil" is great and it pains me to think that it took me so long to finally get around to this film. The production design is strong, the acting is believable and likable, and the villains are creepy. It's everything that you would want in a suspenseful horror film. New school kids beware, this IS your Daddy's horror film.

Fun Fact: The Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey in 1966

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine - Malibu Express

FLAT - but not flat chested

February has a lot going on. There is Valentines Day, Black History Month, Women In Horror Month, American Hearth Month, as well as about two-dozen other days devoted to nonsense like eating ice cream for breakfast. Also during this minimal month of made-up celebrations is the birthday of notable filmmaker Andy Sidaris. Every February 20th we at Slaughter Film try to sit down and watch a few of his films, Malibu Express being his fist independent feature. Before that Sidaris worked in television mostly, and since, he has developed quite the reputation of making films that showcase some of America's finest “Bullets, Bombs & Babes”.

The year is 1985. Dairy Queen invents the “Blizzard”, Nintendo give birth to the Mario Brothers, Dr. Herbert West re-animates the dead in “Re-Animator” and Rock Hudson dies of AIDS.

THE SKINNY
Things kick off with Cody Abilene, Darby Hinton, a private investigator who lives on a boat, drives a red DeLorean and carries a .44 Magnum, even though he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with it. Cody is a native Texan who has moved to Malibu for work and along the way he has made friends of some pretty colorful characters. Some of which include his boat neighbors May and Faye, a big breasted stock car driver June Khnockers, all three of which are Playboy Playmates and Sexy Sally, a phone sex operator among others. Are you starting to notice a theme here?
 
As Cody investigates, he discovers that Lady Chamerlain's nephew Stuart is secretly a cross dresser who has been sleeping with Sean the butler. Stuart's wife, Anita, is also sleeping with Sean and so is Stuart's sister Liza. Sean is an ex-con who owes a loan shark thirty thousand dollars and he also has a nasty habit of secretly recording and photographing the sex he is having with this family. Soon Sean winds up dead and the rest of the film becomes a “who-done-it?” with Sean being the keeper of everyone’s dirty laundry.

While Cody is trying to piece together the murder he manages to sleep with Contessa, his two hot boat neighbors, a local lady officer who Cody brings in for help, some random girl he borrows a car from, and, maybe a few others that I forgot about. I kinda lost count. There is also a sub-plot about a family a backwoods bumpkins who keep challenging Cody to a street race.

Cody finally gets close to the computer smuggling ring when he learns that Liza is good friends with Johnathan Harper, a computer salesman and exporter, and she plans to invest in his business. Cody apprehends Liza and Harper, but not before Harper's men – Peter, Paul & Luke – try to rub out Cody.
With some quick help from June Khnockers, the stock car driver, she and Cody manage to lose the hired muscle in the desert.


The film ends with Cody throwing a party on his boat – named the “Malibu Express” by the way -- to celebrate a job well done. He is accompanied by all the other major players, the various women he plowed and even Liza. Cody then tells them that Contessa wrote him a letter explaining to him that Sean was the person selling the computers to the smugglers and that she was the one who murdered him. She then planted evidence to frame Liza and even wore a mask to look like Liza when she did it. While Cody was perusing Sean's killer, Contessa would be able to freely escape the country and no one would be the wiser that his death was an assassination.
The problem with this explanation is that Cody just told everyone, so all the cloak and dagger was for nothing. I assume what happens next is that the party turns into a giant boat orgy. The End.

THE VERDICT
“Malibu Express” isn't one of Andy's best. I attribute this to it being the first he both wrote and directed. It seems like he didn't know if he wanted to make a spy movie, a murder mystery, a sex comedy or rip off “Smokey & the Bandit”. The action falls flat, as does the comedy and most of the plot. There are so many characters involved that it's easy to forget who is doing what or why I should even care. The film starts with the notion that Soviet Russians are stealing computer secrets and by the end of the film the Russians have been brought up once, maybe. Not to mention the terrible ending where everything literally needs to be explained to the audience. In the medium of cinema, you mustn't tell the audience what happened. You have to show them.

There is also a strange amount of jokes made at the expense of homosexuals. And not just characters in the film, but homosexuals in general. Not sure why these jokes were an important to the film but they stood out like a sore thumb.

The only thing that works in this movie, I'm sorry to say, are the topless women. Who am I kidding, I'm not sorry. These women are amazing!

The Playmates and the porn-stars in “Malibu Express” were all filmed during a time when breast implants weren't yet popular, like they became in the '90s, and before the terrible fashion sense of the later '80s had taken hold. To compare these women to those of  the “Friday the 13th” franchise, they most resemble the women from the first four films. Happy-go-lucky, naturally cute, girl next good types. Where in the later “Friday” films the women were all big hair, terrible fashion and became generic unlikeable character types.

These women all had a great attitude and were not only fun to watch, but they seemed like they were having fun during the making of the film. Especially Lynda Wiesmeier, aka June Khnockers.
So in the end, we all learned that Andy Sidaris likes to make action movies that are teeming with titties and I learned, that I like that... If you're interested in other boobie-action movies, check out my review of “The Lost Empire” by Jim Wynorski.

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!

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 38) Mid-February 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY


On this mid-February edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys attempt to break the record for most obscenities and deplorable subject matter brought up while still staying under the guise of a film and television review program.  Jairo from the True Bromance Film Podcast stops by to help them accomplish their mission.  They discuss the Spidey-Pocalypse...they discuss Michael Jordan's Hitler mustache....they disgrace anyone who watched 50 Shades of Grey...and they get all their frustrations out on Hollywood with one of their favorite games, Hey F*%khead.  All that and more on the Simplistic Reviews Podcast.  Seriously...take a shot whenever you hear an F-bomb. You'll be in rehab around halfway through

SHOW NOTES

MUSIC NOTES

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Simply Indie: Awaken

MUDDLED
Awaken - Muddled

I love it when we receive screeners to review, it's a lot of fun. It shows that people trust us enough to make a fair assessment of their film. However, here is the sticking point. There is a fine line when you are reviewing a film where you feel a duty of both congratulating a film for it's merits, while at the same time giving it constructive criticism. This is the crux that I have with 2014's "Awaken" a small independent film directed by Mark Atkins and starring Natalie Burn. While I do appreciate the production design and some of the performances, "Awaken" is a muddled picture where you have to take the good with the bad.

We begin the film on a mysterious island where we find Billy (Burn) waking up on a beach. Venturing into the jungle, we find out that she isn't alone. Instantly on the run, Billy meets Nick and Todd who tell her that she needs to meet Quentin, played by Robert Davi, who tells Billy the island isn't what it seems. Moving to another part of the island, we meet Rich (Jason London) and Kat (Christa Campbell) who are dabbling in organ trafficking and are awaiting the arrival of the mysterious "Mao." As the film progresses we find out more about Billy's history and how she made her way to the island as well as who "Mao" is and why she is heading to the island. I'll leave you in suspense.

So, "Awaken." I will say that much of the camerawork is fairly well done, including many of the flyover shots that highlight the island and the crystal clear water. The editing is pretty tight and the action scenes are shot fairly well, including the special effects of bones snapping and bullet hits. The acting is decent, and I especially enjoy seeing Vinnie Jones, who plays the tough-as-nails Sarge, and Daz Crawford who plays Stitch, a soldier that has already spent 44 days on the island, evading his captors. Burn also plays the role of the tough female protagonist quite well. While her character might be a little cliché, at least there is some fleshing out of the character. I'll also mention Jason London's performance as both goofy, but at the same time something right out of a 1980s film. It's hammy, but at least it's entertaining.

One of the biggest issues I have with "Awaken" is the way characters appear in the film, and are never heard from again. I understand that some of the characters are pretty extraneous, but the plot holes are a little hard ignore, especially Quentin's arc who is working with Rich and decides he is going to leave the island, and I guess he does, because after a conversation with Billy, Nick, and Stitch, he is never heard from again. I even stuck around after the end credits and I got nothing. The other plot line that ended abruptly was that of Daryl Hannah's Mao character. Similar to Quentin, Mao leaves at a moment of truth and is never heard from again. While I understand how story lines end and a character's arc can end, it's odd that it would happen without any explanation.

Overall, "Awaken" is a brisk watch that can be muddled at times, but there are also some memorable performances by Burn, Crawford, and London which will keep you interested. Atkins has a knack for framing and composes some really nice shots as well, but overall, "Awaken" is a pretty run-of-the-mill tale in the vein of TV's "Lost" and "Turistas."

For more information about "Awaken" check out the links below:
Awaken Film
Awaken Twitter
Natalie Burn Twitter
Natalie Burn

Monday, February 9, 2015

Taboo Films: Martyrs

Martyrs - Sad
SAD

As I continue my masochistic voyage to find films that are so-called "taboo" this brings me to another film that I've seen bits and know the ultimate ending, but never took the time to watch it from beginning to end. That film is 2008's "Martyrs." While you could easily write the film off as a rip-off of Eli Roth's "Hostel" unlike "Hostel" which dealt with douche-bag American tourists caught up in a clandestine human torture-for-pay ring, "Martyrs" examines deeper issues like child abuse, the fallout, and exploration into whether there is a life after death, however, this is done in a very disturbing and sad way.

This tale begins with a young girl running away from an undisclosed location seemingly injured. Cut to the same girl, named Lucie, who is living in an orphanage. Lucie eventually meets Anna, and the two become close friends. Cut to 15 years later and the home of a father, mother, and two children, the perfect family. Comes a knock on the door and boom, a shotgun blast to the chest ends the father's life. Waiting in another location, Anna, is waiting in a car and receives a call from Lucie. As the story progresses we learn more about Lucie and Anna and their sordid histories. There are also hidden passageways, women with weird metal blindfolds, and of course a notorious third act that kind of flips the whole film on it's head, and oh yeah, torture of the highest degree.

Now, I could just spoil the ending of "Martyrs" and spare you watching the film, but I really feel that would be an injustice. Despite the harrowing story and bleak ending, this film is rather interesting in the manner of subject it's tackling. At it's core, "Martyrs" is quite philosophical albeit very hard to watch some of the tougher scenes in the film.

The performances by both Morjana Alaoui (Anna) and Mylène Jampanoï (Lucie) are both strong and very believable. There is a lot of subtext to their relationship and while you might feel worse for Lucy, it's really nothing compared to what Anna endures the third act of the film, but even that is unfair to saying since both women endure unmentionable horrors.

The final aspect of this film that really gets me is the ending. Now this might be slightly spoiler-y, it needs to be said. The fact that the main villains are old people is extremely disconcerting, not to mention they seem to be rich, well-off, old people. The fact that younger people continue to play victims to an older generation who think they have a right to knowledge that no one else has gained yet feel the need to discover this through the anguish of others, is a major concern, and rightfully so. The main villain of "Mademoiselle" is demonically evil, but at the same time lays out her plan and concerns in a way that both makes sense and is interesting. I'm not saying it's right, but the idea of creating a "martyr" to obtain knowledge from another realm of existence is an interesting, and terrifying, idea.

At the end of the day, "Martyrs" is a thought-provoking film that could be mistaken for a "Hostel" rip-off, but there is a lot more going on in this film. It shows not only the horror of abuse, but the lengths that some will go in order to obtain, and protect, knowledge. It's a difficult sit for those adverse to, dare I say it, "torture-porn," but it's a film worth your attention and time.

Fun Fact: As this review is being written, Hollywood has decided it's time for a remake. The Goetz Brothers and "wonderful" Blumhouse Pictures will be helming the remake that will hopefully be released.....never.

Copyright © Simplistic Reviews