If You Build It, Everything Will Be Awesome!

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THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, and Will Ferrell

Synopsis: Everything is awesome.

Rating: PG for Lego type violence and brick on brick action.

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that shakes the very foundation of your being and rocks you to your very core.

The Lego Movie is such a movie.

What exactly makes The Lego Movie such an exceptional standout in a sea of lesser movies?

Is it the wonderful visuals? The funny voice work by a very funny cast? The perfect blending of story and humor with a thoughtful message about learning to put down the instruction manual from time to time and follow your own path?

Nope. it’s the Legos.  Every movie should have Legos. And every movie that has been made would be better if it had Legos.

The Hunger Games? Decent movie. The Hunger Games with Legos? Super awesome!

Jaws? Great movie. Jaws with Legos? Boom.

R.I.P.D? You know what, let’s skip that one…

If you haven’t seen The Lego Movie yet, then for Heaven sake screw it together and buy a copy! I mean, here’s a brief synopsis lf this charming tale of fun and adventure:

In the all Lego universe, happy go lucky Emmet (Chris Pratt) happily goes about his life in the city of Bricksburg, getting up early, driving safely, and doing his construction job with a positive attitude and a smile on his face.  One day Emmet catches the pretty and mysterious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) snooping around the construction site, and while chasing her discovers the mysterious Piece of Resistance, an object that has been prophesized to save the Lego universe.

Now Emmet the ordinary becomes Emmet “The Special,” the being destined to stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who wants to used his Kragle superweapon to freeze everyone and everything in the universe.

I know what you’re thinking – is Emmet truly “The Special?” Well…maybe. Not quite. Sort of. Not really. But thankfully he has a team of Master Builders in his corner to help guide our goofy but lovable protagonist along to find his courage and train him to become The Special. They are the aforementioned Wyldestyle, the mysterious blind wizard Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) who offers all kinds of wisdom and advice, and superhero extraordinaire Batman (Will Arnett) who offers no help whatsoever.

Emmet and his pals travel from one amazing Lego world to another, trying to stay one step ahead of Lord Business and his Super Secret Police which is lead by Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), a cop with personality issues. Can Emmet become a Master Builder and put an end to Lord Business’ plans to really mess up Taco Tuesday?

The Lego Movie is a glorious, enjoyable action fantasy with lots of humor and a heartwarming ending.  If you watch this movie and aren’t charmed down to your shorts by this movie, we can no longer be friends.  Seriously, I will un-friend you on the spot if you don’t love this movie. This is what it’s come down to. I am drawing a line in the sand here compadre.

But I wouldn’t worry. You’re going to love The Lego Movie, and we’re going to be friends for a long, long time.  Can I crash at your place for a few weeks?

 

Home Is Where The Kicking Is!

homefront-movie-review-jason-stathamHOMEFRONT (2013

Directed by: Gary Fleder

Starring: Jason Statham, Izabela Vidovic, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Clancy Brown, James Franco

Plot: An ex-DEA guy moves to a quiet town with his daughter and runs afoul of some meth dealing rednecks and killer bikers who are just dying to get their asses kicked because the ex-DEA guy is Jason Statham!

Rating: R for bad language, a little sex, meth cooking, and a glorious amount of kicking and punching!

I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I don’t know much about it. I know they celebrate Mardi Gras, shiny beads are valued currency, and vomiting in the streets is encouraged.

New Orleans is in Louisiana, another place I know very little about except from what I’ve learned from the various movies I have seen.  According to action/thriller type movies Louisiana is one giant swamp. Seriously, the swamp is everywhere! Also, just about everyone in Louisiana lives along the swamp in a decrepit old shack with a rickety porch. Rich people live in giant mansions or plantations that are pretty but still in a swamp, so they’re “swamp pretty.” Oh, and there are alligators everywhere, because in the opening credits of every movie set in Louisiana they have a shot of a giant gator slithering into a murky swamp.  But the most important thing I’ve learned about Louisiana from the movies is that the people who live there are vicious bunch of greasy loons who don’t own shirts with sleeves that really hate you and want to kill you.

And I thought New Jersey was unpleasant in spots.

Okay, I’m sure the real life Louisiana is a wonderful place. But movie Louisiana is a rough and terrifying place, especially if you’re Jason Statham and you just moved into town with your daughter like in the movie Homefront.  I mean, how can you hope your kid will make honor roll this year if murderous meth addicted rednecks want to kill you? It’s the worry of every modern day parent I’m sure.

Undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) has infiltrated a biker gang that is about to make a meth deal so huge Walter White would flip his pork pie hat. But since this is a movie, Broker’s cover is blown and the deal goes to heck, leading to a massive gun battle which kills several cops and bikers and leaves Broker with a death mark on his head by the gang’s leader Danny T (Chuck Zito) who really hates going to jail when his drug deals go wrong.

Two years later, Broker (now a widower) has moved to a small Louisiana town with his cute daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovoc) hoping to put the violent DEA years behind him and have a life that doesn’t involve pretending to be a greasy biker.  Their awesome Daddy-Daughter time is short lived when Maddy kicks the crap out of a bully one day in the schoolyard.

The bully’s Mom Cassie (Kate Bosworth), the queen of the greasy meth addicts demands revenge, and when her equally greasy husband nearly gets his spleen handed to him when he picks a fight with Broker, Cassie calls upon her brother Gator Bodine (James Franco) to bring to bring balance to their white trash world by killing the brooding stranger and his pretty daughter.

It turns out Gator is also the local meth dealer who has the sheriff in his pocket and evil on his mind.  When Broker easily dispatches two of Gator’s thugs at a gas station (seriously, would you take a swing at a a brooding bald guy with a “I love beating people to death” bumper sticker on his truck?), Gator breaks into Broker’s house and discovers files that reveal Broker’s secret undercover past.

With his newfound information, Gator contacts his girlfriend/meth business partner Sheryl (Winona Ryder, seriously) who happens to know the biker gang that Broker infiltrated years before because she used to be a meth addicted biker whore before she became a meth addicted drug dealer. Hey, everyone chases success in his or her own way.

Sheryl informs Danny T she knows where his old buddy Broker is hiding, hoping to leverage this info into a mega south eastern drug distribution deal for her and Gator’s meth business. But wouldn’t ya know it, dangerous meth dealing bikers just can’t be trusted, and Danny T dispatches a hit squad led by the sadistically greasy Cyrus (Frank Grillo) to kill Broker, Maddy, and probably Sheryl and Gator if they don’t go along with the plan.

It’s a home invasion of the hillbilly kind as the evil bikers attack Broker’s house with more firepower than your average Marine platoon. But since the home belongs to action hero extraordinaire Jason Statham, a man who kicks the crap out of more people before breakfast than you do before a million breakfasts, you know little Maddy is going to have a safe place to call home when the smoke clears.

Hopefully the house is still standing.

Homefront is by no means an original movie – there have been lots of films featuring a hero up against bad guys who run the town – but the final five minutes of the movie are well worth the rental, particularly if you’re not a fan of the sometimes off putting James Franco. I won’t spoil it for you, but Jason Statham does to Franco what millions of people wanted to do to him after his dreadful co-hosting of the Oscars in 2011.

Thanks Jason. We owe ya one.

 

Catching Sequels!

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THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland

Plot: Katniss and Peeta are back for more wacky hijinks as they once again step into the arena of death in a dystopian future! It’s an all out laugh fest!

Rating: PG-13 for violence, near nudity and for flogging Gale,  the handsome guy.

In case you didn’t know, DVD Critics Corner! has been around for a few years. I think it’s due to clean living, my lack of other hobbies, and the unbelievable fact that no one has told me to stop.

Anyhoo, when running a movie review blog during a sequel crazy era in movie history, it was only a matter of time before a sequel to a movie I’ve reviewed has arrived at the top of my DVD queue.  That movie is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games and the second film in the four part Hunger Games movie saga; a saga not quite as epic as The Hobbit saga and not nearly as stupid as the Twilight saga, but a saga nonetheless.

Catching Fire picks up shortly after the events of the first film. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have survived the 74th Hunger games, but they are far from safe. President Snow (a seething Donald Sutherland) fears the young winners have sparked a rebel movement among the people of Panem who for some reason are growing tired of an oppressive government that starves them and kills them for no reason. Kantiss and Peeta embark on a “victory tour” of the 12 districts, but they stray from their “we love the facist world we live in” script and a few riots are started, which doesn’t look good on Panem’s version of Entertainment Tonight.

Snow knows he must kill the two troublesome kids who are making him look bad without looking like the type of guy who kills troublesome kids who make him look bad. So when the 75th Hunger Games rolls around a short time later, he pulls the end all be all of dick moves by futzing with the rules: All tributes for the next Hunger Games will be chosen from previous winners, which means Katniss and Peeta are going back in the jungle for another chance at violent death, facing a bunch of former winners who are really happy they were plucked from their lives of luxury with the overdressed elite of Panem and forced to fight for their lives again.

To make things even worse, the new game designer Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has promised his best buddy President Snow that Katniss and Peeta will certainly die in his game arena, which is filled with killer monkeys, random flash floods, and a mysterious fog that not only cleans and exfoliates the skin, it eats it off completely. No more unsightly blemishes!

Katniss is severely worried that this time Snow has finally got her trapped in a no win situation, but her good ol’ buddy and District 12 mentor Hamish (Wood Harrelson) calmly advises her to make as many allies as she can with the other disgruntled tributes, promising her that things will work out in the end.

The game sequence in Catching Fire is as thrilling and suspenseful as the first movie, but it’s not as long because there are other things going on in Panem (like the growing underground revolution against Snow’s regime) and the movie was almost over when the game sequence begins. The games itself are just a side event that leads up to the important stuff: the final scenes where Katniss learns who her true allies are and what part she’s going to play in the next movie.

I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Shleader of the Shrevolution.

In conclusion, not only is The Hunger Games: Catching Firea sequel to The Hunger Games, it is a sequel to a movie I have written about in a previous entry in this blog. You’re welcome, Katniss, Peeta, and all your  kooky revolutionary pals.

Now go play nice.

Click here for the DVD Critics Corner review of The Hunger Games

Kids In Spaaaaaaaaaaace!!!

enders-game-film-poster

ENDER’S GAME (2013)

Director: Gavin Hood

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley

Plot: In the future, a super smart kid named Ender Wiggam is shot into space and trained to fight a war against a race of alien bugs who tried to take over Earth decades earlier. Will Ender save humanity, or is he just another no good lazy slacker with his iPonepads and instavine video things…

Rating: PG-13 for some violence and sci-fi explosions with space fighters flying around going pew! pew! at one another.

Ender’s Game is based on a huge series of science fiction books written by Orson Scott Card. How huge? Currently, there are 14 in the series, with two more on the way. Also, there is a series of Ender’s Game short stories, and a comic book series based on the books.

That is a heck of a lot of reading. I have to take a nap after I proofread my shopping list.

Luckily Hollywood (that’s where the movie making folks live!) wanted to help all of us avoid such a lengthy reading list so they adapted the fourth book of the Ender series into a big screen sci-fi adventure.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those Hollywood folks are really watching out for us!

In the near future, an alien bug-like species called the Formics invade Earth hoping to turn our lovely little planet into an alien bug vacation destination. The Earth’s military forces fight back and drive the Formics away, but millions of lives are lost in the process. Determined not to be caught with their pants down again, the International Force is formed to train the best and brightest young people how to fight the aliens should they ever return.

Fifty-something years later, a brilliant young cadet named Ender Wiggan (Asa Butterfield) is acing the training programs and defeating everyone in battle simulation games. Naturally the other cadets dislike being beaten regularly by a tiny kid with a weird first name, so they hate him and want to punch him repeatedly. It’s nice to now that even in the future, your classmates will still be homicidal dicks.

International Force Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) sees potential in young Ender, and sends him off to Battle School, which is an orbiting space station conveniently located in outer space. Ender and his fellow newbies start their training to be space soldiers or something by playing a game that involves shooting lasers at each other while floating around in a huge zero-gravity dome. I’m not sure how this trains cadets to be better soldiers, but flying around and shooting stuff sounds like a hoot to me, so sign me up baby!

As Ender learns the ins an outs of space cadet life, he makes some friends like Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfield) who helps him catch up on training when he’s promoted to another unit, and makes some enemies like Commander Bonzo Madrid (Moises Arias) who helps no one because he’s a homicidal dick.

But Ender presses on undaunted and his skills as a space soldier/alien killer impresses Graff so much he is given command of his own squad who show Bonzo and the other haters how Ender gets his game on!

See what I did there?

Ender’s Game isn’t all fun and…well, you know. There are a lot of serious issues Ender tries to come to terms with throughout the movie: like death, sacrifice, honor, and whether or not kids should be emotionless machines trained to kill a species who may not be looking for a fight this time around.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff for a sci-fi adventure film, but nobody ever said a sci-fi movie had to be non stop laughs and amusement. Ever see The Adventures of Pluto Nash? I rest my case.

The movie concludes with Ender and his Battle School crew prepping for a huge battle just outside the Formic’s home planet. With some sage advice from former war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley sporting some sick facial ink), Ender prepares for war.  Can Ender and his army of drone fighters defeat an alien race that lives in dirt tunnels and yet were somehow able to master intergalactic space travel?

Seriously, how do giant bugs with no visible grasp of technology build spaceships with laser weapons?

Maybe we’ll find out in the next movie – Ender’s Game 2: Catching Bugs!

Proper Planning prevents.. Something, Something, Something!

Escape-Plan1

ESCAPE PLAN (2013)

Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Sam Neil, Vincent D’Onofrio

Plot: A prison escape expert is double crossed and finds himself in a high tech prison that is really super hard to escape from. I mean, they have lots of guards and locked doors and everything!

Rating: R for gunplay and bloodshed and guys getting clubbed and tazered. Surprisingly, not one single prison shower joke.

Without a doubt prison is number three on my list of places I hope to never go.

Number two is a live taping of the CBS sitcom Two Broke Girls: a show which deserves to be called a “comedy” the same way Schindler’s list could be categorized as a “the feel good movie of a lifetime.”

Number one on my list of places I hope to never go is the popular mall store Hot Topic. The loud music, the rubber bracelets, the posters and t-shirts featuring bands I’ve never heard of; Hot Topic is the overstocked  Sarlaac pit I hurriedly dash past on the way to the soft pretzel guy.

I loves a good soft pretzel.

Anyhoo, a high tech escape-proof prison is the setting of Escape Planwhere the guards are cruel, the discipline is swift, and the cafeteria menu is loaded with sodium and carbs! Oh, and you’ll probably die trying to escape.

Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a structural engineering genius and prison escape expert who is paid by maximum security prisons to try to break out of their prisons. It must be a pretty lucrative job because Ray has a huge office building with a fun support staff and an oily partner named Clark (D’Onofrio) who probably won’t screw him over.

Ray is approached by the CIA to break out of a super top secret prison so secret, they can’t tell Breslin and his team where it is. Ray takes the job along with the huge check that comes with it, but before he can say “you can always trust the CIA,” he’s thrown in a truck, drugged and taken to the super-secret prison which is code named The Tomb, where everyone lives in tiny cubicles and there is no windows to the outside world. Sounds like my old apartment in New York.

Turns out (big surprise here) Ray has been royally screwed over. The warden who was supposed to be his contact is in fact another guy named Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) who knows nothing about Ray’s real identity and assignment and has different set of orders: Keep the breakout expert locked away forever or maybe longer, and kill him if he tries to escape.

Ray now has to put all his skills to use to break out of the most secure prison ever built. Luckily he’s befriended by a veteran con named Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) who knows plenty about the prison and also wants to escape before the warden can torture information out of him about some master criminal named Mannheim who Rottmayer works for.

Escape Plan is full of suspense and intrigue as Ray teaches Rottmayer the intricacies of prison escape planning while trying to uncover the identity of the bad guys who wanted him locked up. Can these two tough guys put aside their differences long enough to realize that they love each other like no other prisoners have loved each other before?

Oh wait, that’s another prison movie. Forget I said that.

Things draw to a slam bang conclusion as Ray and Rottmayer lead a full scale riot to escape the escape proof Tomb. There’s a great plot twist at the end when Ray finally learns who put him in the Tomb which nearly cost him his life, but I’m not ging to give it away because I don’t like to spoil things. Also, I have a terrible short term memory so I don’t remember what happened at the end of the movie any way.

Speaking of movies, did I tell you about Escape Plan starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

In conclusion; if you grew up watching the action movies of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, you’ll enjoy seeing these two big screen legends share a movie for the very first time.

If you were too young to remember or weren’t even born when these guys ruled the summer blockbuster movie season, you’re obviously one of those “millennials”  the internet news reports are always yammering about. You with your fixie bikes and SXSW festival things. I bet if Sylvester Stallone was an iPhone app you’d know who he was! Now get off my lawn!

I’m just kidding. You youngsters are fine.

Seriously get off the lawn. I just seeded.

A Wolverine Abroad!

wolverine

THE WOLVERINE (2013)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Hal Yamanouchi, Famke Janssen

Plot: Did you ever see The Bad News Bears go to Japan?  It’s exactly like that.

Rating: PG-13 for shooting and stabbing with the claws and more stabbing with swords. There’s a whole lot of stabbing.

I’m not a big follower of the X-Men movies and characters, but I do know that Wolverine (also known as Logan) played by Hugh Jackman is without a doubt the most popular character of the bunch.

Sorry Halle Berry.

And what’s not to love about this Canadian loner? He’s mean and surly, he’s quite fond of mumbling, he loves a stiff drink and a good cigar, and when push comes to shove he unleashes his adamantium claws and turns his foes into thinly sliced deli meat.

Oh, and he calls everyone “bub.” Love this guy!

The Marvel folks love Wolverine so much he got a second movie to star in all by his angry self. This movie, simply titled The Wolverine has our moody hero traveling to Japan to settle old scores, make some new enemies, and figure out once and for all what the hell is up with Japanese game shows!

As the movie opens, poor Logan/Wolverine is living alone in the woods of his native Canada, still brooding about that time in  X-Men: The Last Stand where he had to kill fellow X-person Jean Grey, who Logan loved but she only loved him as a friend, and we all know how those kinds of relationships turn out!

One night Logan is approached by a mysterious girl named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) who has been sent by a Japanese bazillionaire Yashida to find Logan and bring him to Japan for a reunion. Turns out a young Yashida was saved by Logan when the A-bomb destroyed Nagasaki at the end of World War II, and since he’s a bazillionaire now he wants to pay Logan back with what I assume will be one of those giant Publishers Clearinghouse checks and a lifetime supply of Omaha Steaks.

Logan travels with Yukio to Japan and reunites with Yashida who is dying of old age. He makes Logan an incredible offer – Yashida has the technology to transfer Logan’s mutant healing power to his frail and dying body so he may live again, which will also take away Logan’s immortality which he always hated anyway.

I can see why Logan hates being immortal. I mean, how would you like it if you stayed young and healthy forever while the jerks in your life grew old and died?

Wait, can I change my answer?

Anyhoo before Logan can give his final answer, Yashida dies. At the huge funeral, all heck breaks loose when members of the Yakuza (the Japanese Mob) try to kidnap Mariko (Tao Okamoto), Yashida’s granddaughter and heir to the family fortune. Logan and Yukio (who by an amazing stroke of luck is a master of martial arts) prevent Mariko from being taken, and Logan is now on the run with Mariko as they try to figure out what the heck is going on and who wants Mariko dead.

Oh, and to make things interesting, a mysterious blonde lady (Svetlana Khodchenkova) uses her mutant powers to rid our man Wolverine of his healing powers – which makes Logan rethink his usual fighting technique of letting the bad guys shoot him repeatedly until they run out of ammo and then killing them.

The Wolverine bounces from on action scene to another as Logan battles Yakuza thugs on the roof of a bullet train, fights ninjas in a Japanese village, and battles a giant silver robot samurai because it’s freakin Japan and they invented giant silver robot samurai. The film drags in spots to give Logan a few romantic scenes with the lovely Mariko, who should know that The Wolverine aint got no time for love when there’s bad guys to be sliced and diced bub!

Once again, Hugh Jackman does a fine job as the super stabby anti-hero we all know and love. Personally, I think Jackman should get some kind of award for the  thousands of hours he spends in the gym to achieve the super ripped physique required to play Wolverine. At the very least I hope his gym gives him free towels or coupons for free smoothies at the juice bar. That would be nice.

This Movie was in my Netflix Instant Queue: Zombie Hunter!

This month DVD Critics Corner takes a look at a few of the movies that have been collecting dust in the Netflix Queue. These “direct to DVD” gems never made it to your local cinema for some reason. Do we really need to know why? Of course we do.

This review contains lots of SPOLIERS, but let’s be honest, you are never going to watch this movie. Ever.

BD-2D-Zombie-Hunter

Title: ZOMBIE HUNTER (2013)

Director: K. King

Cast: Danny Trejo, Martin Copping, Claire Neiderpreum, Terry Guthrie, Jade Reiger, Jason K. Wixom, Jake Suazo

GENRES: Action and Adventure, Horror, Action Thriller, B-Horror, Campy, Zombie Horror

This Movie is (According to Netflix) Violent and Campy

Rating: Not rated, but probably R.

Netflix Synopsis: When a street drug turns junkies into an army of zombies, Hunter finds himself with nothing but a beat-up car and a trunk full of guns and booze. Eventually, he stumbles across a small band of survivors.

The Dealy:

A TV newscast is running a story about the latest designer drug that is sweeping the country – NATAS: more addictive than marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, and caramel mocha latte combined. We see a pair of teens in a flop house shoot up the pepto bismol colored drug, then turn into zombies and eat each other.

This is your brain. This is your brain on NATAS being eaten by a zombie. Any questions?

The movie cuts to a year later, and like every zombie movie the United States is now a barren wasteland. Pockets of survivors run and hide from the zombie hoards now roaming the countryside. It is here we meet the star of Zombie Hunter, a rugged loner who travels the highways killing zombies one at a time and living each day one at a time. He is:

Not Danny Trejo!

This friggin guy!

Sorry fans of veteran bad ass character actor Danny Trejo, but”El Machete” isn’t really the star of this movie, even though his face is on the poster and his name is above the title.

Truth be told, he’s in the movie for about twenty minutes.

I know. I feel violated too.  But since the budget of Zombie Hunter was about the size of a Junior High School production of Annie, I guess they thought having a B-List action star Danny Trejo in the film for a few minutes is better than nothing, right?

Dear Lord, why must they fill my house with LIES!!!

The lead in Zombie Hunter is a known only known by one name: Hunter. A zombie killing drifter, Hunter (Martin Copping) is man who’s made up of so many different movie characters it’s a wonder he’s able to walk straight:

Like Mad Max, he drives a black muscle car, wields a double barreled shotgun, and wears black leather biker duds.

He speaks (and narrates the film) in a low growl like a spaghetti western era Clint Eastwood or Christian Bale when he’s in Batman mode.

Like the Ents in the Lord of the Rings movies, he is tall, stiff, and about as expressive as a tree.

While cruising through the wastelands of New Mexizona or wherever Zombie Hunters was filmed, Hunter hooks up with a small band of survivors hiding out from the zombie herds. They are an eclectic group of intellectuals you wouldn’t want to be on line with at Starbucks much less fighting for survival in a post zombie apocalyptic wasteland. Let’s do a roll call!

Alison (Claire Neiderpreum) – A pretty girl who cooks for the group and tries to keep morale high. Her turn ons include guns, trucks, and lunk-headed loners who dress like post apocalyptic Australian cops.

Father Jesus (Danny Trejo) – A priest who carries a bible in one hand and an axe in the other. Me thinks Jesus was a bit of a hellraiser before the zombies came calling, but I’m not going to question a man who can slice and dice a dozen zombies and still have time for Sunday service.

“Fast Lane” Debbie (Jade Reiger) – The zombie apocalypse was especially hard on Debbie. Most of the men in America are dead so it’s really difficult for a whore like her to find a drunken redneck with low standards to hook up with. Lucky for her the survival fortress they live in has a stripper pole for her to practice her job skills!

Jerry (Terry Guthrie) – A mechanic who can’t seem to get a car started when needed, Jerry says “I’m getting to old for this shit” so many times Danny Glover gets a cut of his salary.

Ricky (Jason Wixom) – Alison’s younger brother. He’s either 11 or 20, it’s hard to tell. Good thing his sister has his back or else Father Jesus is using him as a shield during the next zombie attack.

Lyle (Jake Suazo) – He’s a fat, slovenly, selfish douche nozzle. You will be glad when he dies.

Hunter learns the survivors want to travel to a nearby air base where they hope to find a plane to fly them to an island in the pacific with minimal zombies and no income tax laws. But before Hunter and his new pals can put their plans into action, the zombies attack again because this group of hardened survivors forgot rule #1 of surviving a zombie attack: Lock the front gate!

Oh, and to make things even more difficult for Hunter and crew, for reasons not explained some zombies have mutated into 9 foot tall monster zombies with giant claws and cloven hooves for feet. Look, they paid some computer guys a lot of money for CG blood splatter and decapitations, they might as well throw in a few Resident Evil style mutants! For as the late great Alfred Hitchcock famously said “Who needs plot exposition and character development when you’ve got cloven hooved mutants!” *

Zombie Hunters has everything you’d expect from a low budget direct to Netflix zombie apocalypse adventure, and for that you have my deepest condolences.  The problem is the movie rips off so many other zombie flicks and mainstream action movies it neglected to focus on the two things that would have made Zombie Hunter a totally awesome direct to DVD horror fest:

visual_zombiehunter

Danny Trejo and a big axe.

Dump the Mad Max wannabe who mumbles his dialogue, get rid of the 5 people from different backgrounds trying to live together in harmony during an apocalypse, just give me 90 minutes of Danny Trejo slicing and dicing  zombie hoards.

That’s all I want. Is it too much to ask?

 

* – Alfred Hitchcock did not say that. It might have been David Lean.

A Leatherface Only A Mother Could Love!

Texas-Chainsaw-3D-Poster

TEXAS CHAINSAW  3D (2013)

Director: John Luessenhop

Starring:  Alexandra Daddario, Trey Songz, Dan Yeager, Tania Raymonde, Keram Malicki-Sanchez 

Plot: A girl inherits a Texas home with 3 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths, a full dining room, and a friggin loon with a chainsaw!

Rating: There’s a guy with a chainsaw hacking people to death. What do you think?

I’d like to kick things off with a little song I wrote just for this review, sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song:

Let me tell you folks a story ‘bout a creepy kinda place,

Where some stupid teens got introduced to good ol’ Leatherface.

There was blood and guts and carnage, disembowelments – how bizarre!

It’s a hootenanny at the Texas Chainsaw Massa-car!

Okay, I haven’t gotten the rhyming part down yet. Maybe I’ll be a rapper!

In 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre introduced the innocent movie audiences to Leatherface, a unique fellow who wore masks made of human skin and enjoyed turning unsuspecting teenagers into Purina Dog Chow with his huge chainsaw.  Naturally people loved the guy.

TCM spawned three sequels, a remake, and a prequel to the remake. Among the highlights of those many movies:

In Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986) Leatherface has a climactic chainsaw battle with Dennis Hopper, who was probably on a ton of drugs at the time and thought he was actually having a fight to the death with a big guy with a chainsaw.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1997) was actually filmed in 1994 and featured two unknown actors named Matthew McConaughy and Renee Zellweger.  Renee and Matty were very pissed when the movie was released in a few theaters in 1997 to capitalize on their new fame, which is kind of silly when you think the guy who starred in Failure to Launch and the girl who gave us New in Town actually gave a crap about their reputations at one time.

The true star of the super grizzly 2003 remake surprisingly titled The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the tiny tank top our heroine Jessica Beil wore throughout the movie.  That flimsy patch of transparent cotton clung tightly to Miss Biel’s svelt figure during all the running, jumping, bouncing and jiggling she had to do to avoid being shredded by Leather’s mighty chainsaw. Simply outstanding.

Now comes the latest chapter in the Leatherface saga, this one simply entitled Texas Chainsaw. Ignoring all the previous storylines, this movie picks up right after the events of the original.

A blood soaked teen escapes the Sawyer farmhouse and is rescued just before Leatherface can do his famous cut you in half with a chainsaw. The local Sherriff (Thom Barry) is about to arrest Leatherface and the Sawyer clan when a group of vigilantes led by King of the rednecks Burt Hartman (Paul Rae) attack the farmhouse and burn it to the ground. A baby is found and quickly adopted by one of the attackers because bloodthirsty vigilantes cannot be bothered with adoption agencies! Thinking that the Sawyer clan is wiped out, the townspeople go back to their peaceful non murdering lives.

Twentysomething years later, we meet Heather (Alexandra Daddario), a strong willed woman who believes her midriff should be exposed for the world to see at all times. Heather receives word from a lawyer that her Grandmother (who she never knew about) has passed on and left her a very nice estate in sunny Newt, Texas. Thinking this is a road leading to riches, Heather and her midriff head off to cash in on her dead Granny’s estate.

Accompanying Heather on her quest is the standard group of victims you find in any horror fest; poor misguided youths who make bad decisions and get picked off by a killer with a tricked out Garden Weasel. Let’s do a quick role call!

Ryan, Heather’s boyfriend (Trey Songz) – A likable doofus who is not nearly in the same league as his sexy galpal. Luckily he will be killed before he realizes their relationship needs some serious work.

Nikki, Heather’s best friend (Tania Raymonde) – Since movie rules dictate that she’s not allowed to be as hot as our heroine, Nikki differentiates herself by being easier than first grade math. She’s the girl who reflexively yells out “Woooooo!” when the word party is uttered.

Kenny, Nikki’s boyfriend (Keram Malicki Sanchez) – He’s the one who goes off to investigate the strange noise coming from the cellar, never to bee seen in solid form again. Poor Dope. Good thing he dies before he finds out his girlfriend is the Queen of Whore Island.

Naturally, things get a bit messy when Heather and her pals discover that (big surprise) Leatherface (Dan Yeager) is living in the basement of the house and is not very pleased with a bunch of stupid kids making a mess in his Grandma’s nice house. Heather escapes the carnage and finds the Sherriff who offers to help, but his plans are thwarted by Burt and the surviving vigilantes who want to finish what they started years ago.

When Heather learns the identity of her chainsaw wielding cousin and what happened to her real family on that fateful night (A note to movie cops – never leave a big box labeled “evidence” lying around so anybody can read through it!), who will she side with when Leatherface has his final showdown with Burt and his evil posse?

Despite the unique plot twist at the end, Texas Chainsaw does very little to differentiate itself from the previous entries to the franchise. There’s stupid young people, angry old people, lengthy conversations about the importance of family and the ties that bind us together.

It’s like Fried Green Tomatoes if Fried Green Tomatoes had a large man with a human skin mask wielding a chainsaw.

You know, something we all can relate to!

The Smith Family Vacation!

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AFTER EARTH (2013)

DIRECTOR: M. Knight Shyamalan

STARRING: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz

PLOT: Father and son do some bonding on a fierce planet that used to  be earth.

RATING: PG-13 for intense scenes with CG animals and a big ass alien bug!

2013 was not a good year for movies set on earth in the future.

In Oblivion, earth 63 years in the future is a desolate wasteland populated by creepy robots and Tom Cruise, who is also a creepy robot.

In Elysium, earth circa 2157 is so messed up the only person the poor people can turn to is Matt Damon!

Yes, Matt Daaaaamon.

Matt Daaaaamon.

After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden is set over 1,000 years in the future, where a long abandoned earth has been reclaimed by nature.  The streets and highways have been replaced by green fields, the skyscrapers replaced by towering trees, and the adorable woodland creatures that used to populate earth have been replaced by bloodthirsty animals who are as vicious as they are computer generated. But there is no longer a Starbucks on every corner, so I’d say new earth is pretty damn great!

As the movie opens, human kind abandons earth because we forgot to pick up after ourselves and we left the water running or something.

They relocate to a planet called Nova Prime where everything is peaches and cream for about one thousand years until an alien race attacks, determined to wipe out mankind with huge six legged beasts called Ursa who hunt humans by smelling their fear.

But General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) of the United Ranger Corps has learned to mask his fear using a method that in no way involves the use of Axe body spray. The Rangers defeat the Ursa thanks to Cypher’s mind control trick, and Cypher is elevated to Fresh Prince levels of famous, but he’s become estranged from his family, especially his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) who wants to be a Ranger just like his awesome but neglectful Dad.

Hoping to reconnect with his boy, Cypher takes Kitai along on a Ranger Corps business trip to a neighboring planet, but things take a turn for the sucky when the ship is damaged in an asteroid storm, sucked into a wormhole and crash lands on earth.

Cypher and son survive the crash, but Cypher is severely injured and the only way to call for help is to find a distress beacon located in the tail section of the ship which is now miles away.

A brief aside: it’s comforting to know that designers and engineers 1,000 years into the future will still make ships with only one distress beacon that will still be located in the tail section of the craft – the one freaking thing that always breaks off and hits the ground miles away from where the rest of the ship will crash!

Kitai agrees to take on the dangerous mission to hike to the tail wreckage and signal for help.

Can the young Ranger in training survive the harsh flora and fauna of the planet of earth?

Can Kitai defeat the Ursa creature that escaped from the wreckage and is now stalking the jungle?

Why are Will and his son talking in some kind of weird Australian/Jamaican/ New Zealand accent?

Did you know the Six Sense guy directed this? Man, remember what a good movie that was?

Contrary to what you may have heard, After Earth is not the worst movie ever made. Not by a long shot.

As a person who loves watching, studying and absorbing bad movies since the cable company plugged the box into the house over 30 years ago, you can believe me when I tell you After Earth no danger of being added to the list of cinematic abominations that are in fact the worst movies ever made.

Smokey and the Bandit III is on this list.  The Ghost Rider movies are on the list. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle is on the list. Twice if I had my way.

The only thing After Earth is guilty of is being a boring vanity project Will Smith cooked up to introduce us to his son Jaden in the hopes that the movie going public we will embrace him like a new puppy we will hug, cuddle, take for longs walks in the park and love unconditionally even though the puppy in question has very little acting experience and practically zero on screen charisma.

What a waste of a puppy.

Die Even Harder than the Last Time Time You Died and then Lived Free Again! With A Vengeance!

die hard5A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

DIRECTOR: John Moore

STARRING: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Radivoje Bukvic

PLOT: Supercop John McClane runs out of stuff to destroy in the United States, so he meets up with his estranged son in Russia and destroys stuff there!

RATING: R for gunfire, explosions, violence, Bruce Willis and his potty mouth.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over 25 years since Bruce Willis exploded on to the big screen in Die Hard. The movie made Willis a superstar, and is a crowning achievement in the action movie genre. Willis’s movie alter ego Detective John McClane is one of the greatest action movie characters of all time; a man who has thwarted terrorist plots, killed armies of bad guys, and destroyed more property than your average  Category 3 Hurricane. And like an Energizer Bunny who curses a lot, McClane just keeps going and going…

If you’ve never seen any of the Die Hard movies (and in all seriousness if you haven’t, then we cannot be friends), here’s a quick synopsis of the franchise:

Die Hard (1988) – John McClane blows up an office tower in Los Angeles, kills Alan Rickman, saves Christmas.

Die Hard 2 (1990) – John McClane blows up an airport in Washington D.C., drives a snowmobile, saves Christmas again.

Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995) – John McClane destroys Wall Street, a subway, a cargo ship, and kills Jeremy Irons all with a terrible hangover and Samuel L. Jackson screaming at him throughout the whole movie.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007) – John McClane thwarts a cyber terrorists plot to rob the internet, beats up a fighter jet, miraculously stops himself from killing Justin Long.

Now John “yippee kay yay” McClane is back in A Good Day to Die Hard. This movie takes place in Russia, where the bad guys are big and beefy, the weather is dull and dreary, and those Yakov Smirnoff “In Soviet Russia” jokes are even less funny.  

As the movie opens, McClane is hanging around the Police station loading up his gun and waiting to shoot something when he learns his son Jack (Jai Courtney) has been arrested in Russia and is on trial for attempted murder. McClane heads off to Russia to patch things up with his estranged boy and have one of those charming father/son moments before the execution.

McClane is barely off the plane in Moscow before all heck breaks loose. The courthouse where Jack is being held for trial is attacked by a squad of heavily armed guys; which is par for the course since the Die Hard franchise invented the squad of heavily armed mercenaries that show up out of nowhere. The armed guys are trying to take out a political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who has some top secret info dating back to the Chernobyl disaster that evil Russian official Viktor Chagarin (Sergei Kolsesnikov) needs to destroy the world or to make him rich or something; it’s all the same with these Die Hard villains: money and world domination. But I guess this kind of villain is more exciting than a villain who only wants to control all the used car lots in the greater Sacramento area. To each his own I guess.

Anyway, Jack helps Komarov escape the courthouse attack, and as they flee, they run into dear ol’ Daddy McClane in the parking lot. A massive car chase follows between Jack, the heavily armed mercenaries, and of course McClane who just can’t miss an opportunity to destroy more Russian property than when the Luftwaffe was in town. When McClane finally catches up with Jack (and most of Moscow has stopped burning), he learns why sonny boy has missed so many Thanksgiving dinners: Jack is a deep cover secret agent assigned to rescue Komarov from prison so he can rat out Chagarin to the CIA. When Jack’s cover is blown and Chagarin’s heavily armed thugs destroy the CIA safehouse, the wild and crazy McClane boys are on the run trying to stay one step ahead of Chagarin while trying to figure out the super huge secret Komarov has been hiding all these years. Spoiler alert: It’s not the world’s best Chicken Kiev recipe.

McClane and son move from one action packed shootout to the next as Bruce Willis fires off his usual wisecracks and Jai Courtney does his best to remind you he is not Channing Tatum or Sam Worthington.  Luckily Jack McClane has inherited his Father’s Wile E. Coyote like ability to survive falls from very high places. I figure by the next Die Hard sequel they’ll just admit that John McClane and Wolverine from The X-Men are brothers from a different mother.

A Good Day to Die Hard has all stuff you’ve seen in all the previous Die Hard movies, and judging by the lazy line readings and the “Has the check cleared” look he has on his face for the entre run time, maybe Bruce Willis knows this too. I guess they thought having McClane’s badass secret agent son along for the ride would keep things fresh, but unfortunately Jai Cortney is so wooden it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if his parents were in fact a couple of Adirondack chairs.

But hey, at least John McCLane got to travel to another country in this installment! Okay, he left a huge crater where suburban Moscow used to be, but everyone does something stupid while on vacation.

Did I ever tell you about the time I ate some bad sushi and then went on the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World?

It was not the happiest place on Earth that day, believe you me…

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