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3 A.M. (2008)
The Word 'Appalling' Comes To Mind For Lack of a Worse Word
I'm asking myself how it is I came to this place in my life that I could willfully sit through something this bad and not have sucked out my own soul through my mouth with a truck mounted industrial vacuum and incinerated it in a pool of igneous rock forming magma, then thrown what was left of me in the makings of a lodge fire for kindling.
If this was based on a true story as claimed, I empathize with the sheer sterilizing boredom the original persons must have felt for having gone through this. If you can imagine the most shallow, slow-witted, idiotic people conceivable, and then multiply that x 4, you'll be thinking of people smarter than the starring cast of this pseudo-movie. While the plot itself might have been the only salvageable evidence at the scene of this train wreck, it's quickly torn asunder by the abysmal direction, a script produced in a 2nd grade class project, and the cringe-inducing acting of its mentally challenged cast.
Just when you're thinking this can't possibly be serious, the soundtrack starts playing in what I'd best describe as those free CD's they giveaway for buying stereo equipment. Y'know, the one's labeled 'Music'. If there was something that was supposed to be scary in this movie, between the laughter during what was intended to be poignant moments, and the rush to find earplugs when the soundtrack starts braying, you'll fast see that any entertainment value in this wannabe b-movie quickly loses its novelty. The only marginally redeeming possibility for this tripe once you hit the halfway mark, might have been found in some random gratuitous nude scene with one of the few ill-cast brainless token girlfriend characters, which sadly, never happens. How these actors aren't all wearing safety helmets and name badges is the only thing 'scary' about this straight-to-DVD stinker.
If you haven't stopped this slow motion car accident before it ends, you'll want to point fingers at someone for stealing this time from your life, or if like me, for having fought a grueling war of attrition to endure it all without your face spontaneously exploding. As much as I'd like to blame it on the burgeoning independent film scene in Kentucky, or Illinois, or wherever this pile is from, or even on York Home Video, I can't, because this is in fact the worst 'thing', in my knowledge, to have come from either state, or the Distributors ever, all time. If you're like me you'll find some consolation in using your new DVD as a dog fetch throw toy, or chilled lager coaster.
Think Road House meets Billy Jack...but not in a good way
This was pretty abysmal, and all things considered, I probably should have known better when it said written and directed by Adam Marcus. Except that I had no idea who Adam Marcus was. Given his track record, justifiably so. The depressing part isn't so much the plot (which was written by your little brother in crayons), as much as it was watching Val Kilmer sink to new lows in his otherwise mostly storied career. When I tried to rationalize why Val Kilmer would stoop to the level of this ostensibly lost A-Team episode script directed by appointed directors like Marcus, all I could come up with would be his contempt for the real world equivalent to the radical right-wing Minutemen-like goons littering this pseudo-entertaining steaming pile of straight-to-vid. As it turns out, I was at least partially right, Kilmer did this movie for personal/political reasons (according to the related trivia).
I would write a summary, except I'm loath to spending more than the 90 minutes I already wasted watching it. You've seen it before, except this time it isn't Steven Seagal fighting for the rights of Native Americans, or Billy Jack fighting for the hippie commune, it's Val Kilmer fighting against a shoestring budget, and implied Halliburton employees as laughably stereotypical rednecks for the sake of immigrant rights and liberal ideology. A great cause, but ill-conceived and poorly executed here.
But don't take my word for it, no really. I want someone else to have to endure what I did.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Best Vampire Movie Since Near Dark
There are titles in this genre that generally seem to miss the mark. Contrived efforts either made too "stylish" and unnecessarily complicated, or too "over the top" and laughably unbelievable. The few exceptions that managed to stand the test of time (for me anyways), shared an element of tangibility. Meaning at some point I actually bought that this could be happening while watching it. This was one of those movies, and quite frankly, the first vampire movie to have done so for me since possibly Near Dark.
People will name drop several entertaining (if not campy or facetious) romps through the bloodsucker genus to splatter film archives for the latter half of the 20th century - Salem's Lot, From Dusk Till Dawn, Fright Night, Lost Boys, Vampire Hunter D, Interview With The Vampire, Vampires, and the always popular Underworld and Blade trilogies etc, but outside of Nosferatu, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), and the above mentioned Near Dark, there has been little in the way of anything genuinely frightening about them. 30 Days of Night manages to bring back some of the very raw and chilling elements of a good vampire story.
The cast, while never very devoted to the development of any characters, also isn't "selling" the cliché archetypes you've come to expect from the recent spate of "high school horror" monster/psycho affairs. The acting is surprisingly good by the leads, and to some extent the support (no doubt credit is due to Slade for careful directing here). The first clue this was something to pay attention to was not only the shot selection, but also that the actors themselves aren't caked with make up. Slade wants you to see these people as real, a believable setting you can relate to. The storyline, conceptually, may be the weakest link here. Group of survivors in a town under siege needs to ban together to stay alive, and improvise survival strategies as they go etc etc. Not exactly a high calorie plot for the fiction novel devotee, but rest assured you're never quite sure who makes it. The setting is really the sell point here. Snowed in and locked away with no chance for help in an Alaskan town that sees no daylight for 30 days, it really conveys well, and almost reminds of scenes from John Carpenters remake of The Thing.
The "brood", or family of vampires really is one of the defining qualities of this movie. There is something so cold, but so unforced about them. There is no Anne Rice script here, no lonely or lost soul you feel compassion for. They've been reduced down to the vampire essence, at the top of the carnivore food chain, speaking an ancient dialect among one another about how to best conduct war on man, to achieve their end to ultimately feed. One aspect I'd like to see become trend is you never feel like the effects get in the way. In perhaps the best use of GGI I've seen in some time, the effects are literally seamless. These almost reptilian hunters use their ability to stalk and hunt the weaker prey. There are no frills, bells, whistles, politics or high drama here. 30 Days of Night is a chilling, and primal human last effort to survive when the Hunters find their prey at their most vulnerable.
The Forgotten (2004)
Underrated Tale Reminiscent of the Twilight Zone Episode "And When the Sky was Opened"
This movie instantly reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode called "And When the Sky was Opened" dealing with the story of alien abduction and subsequently a more sinister cover up to conceal that abduction by way of erasing the memory of their existence altogether. As to be expected Julianne Moore really carries this movie. Gary Sinise and Dominic West are no "weak links" per se, though they aren't ever significantly challenged enough by the script to be developed. The supporting cast beyond that is really quite T.V. at best.
Never saw the alternate ending but plan to. The theatrical ending as described accurately by others just doesn't fit. It's contrived and rushed more than it is obvious, and leaves the movie a little more forgettable. Still, the concept itself behind the story remains chilling and laudable recognition. The idea that aliens could be doing this and you'd never know because of vulnerability of your own memory is a compelling one.
I wouldn't be surprised to hear this story evolved from or was influenced by Rod Serling's version. Not the complete bust as a few have described, though not earth shaking either. An entertaining little haunt that's worth the watch nonetheless. Some decent scares here.
I give this a 7/10 only in hopes to raise the average to at least a 6. It's more accurately a 6/10 considering what the lesser acted Twilight Zone episode is rated with a similar story.
Dumbed Down Braveheart/Gladiator Derivative Drivel is Shallow Eye Candy - Think "The Cell"
Spectacular cinematography and effects alone do not a movie make. Rife with historical inaccuracies, one dimensional archetypal heroes, a limp and woefully cliché plot, and an arbitrary use of the word 'freedom', this is one cheese fest that can almost be completely experienced in its commercials alone. While the acting isn't dreadful per se, the script itself does nothing to help the actors along. Fueled by bullet time slow motion, and hyper-stylized digital tints, it was much like watching a CG pilot of a movie yet to be fully developed.
The silliness begins but unfortunately doesn't end with the super model factor. For no good reason other than to apparently show they had all worked out, these Spartans went shirtless through battles. I suppose on the logic that their P90X bodies would somehow prevail over the much less attractive but more practical chest plates and armor actually worn at the time. Just when you're done trying to justify that to yourself in order to take these guys seriously for another hour, armies of lost LOTR orcs and cave trolls start appearing.
If you can stomach the inaccuracies (eg: battling without armor, monstrous mutations, time line of Battle of Thermopylae, the actual use of Mt. Taygetos and societal morality in general) what you're left with is an aesthetically pleasing but puerile recycle of Braveheart and Gladiator. To quote Kenneth Turan: "unless you love violence as much as a Spartan, Quentin Tarantino or a video-game-playing teenage boy, you will not be endlessly fascinated (with 300).
French Connection II (1975)
Gritty Street-Wise Cop Action With Teeth
The French Connection and its sequel are the Grandfather to such classics as To Live and Die in L.A., Copland, and Narc, and the anti-thesis of all of those 80's flops either far too "Hollywood" or far too "by the book". Hackman is still the "knock down, drag out", shoot first ask later 2-fisted narc that doesn't know what Miranda means that he was in part I, but with a change of scenery that takes him across the pond. The terrain has changed, but the raw unadulterated character acting of Hackman still makes it one hell of a roller coaster ride.
Rife with dirty cops, drug smugglers, and French thugs, this movies direction and writing reminds instantly that it is part of the production catalyst that would later see series like The Shield have such success in prime time TV. The 70's rarely pulled punches when it came to top billed cop movies, starting with Dirty Harry, the original French Connection and then snowballing into classics like Serpico. The French Connection II is no exception. This movie won't disappoint any fan of either the original, or anyone that wanted to see for themselves Gene Hackman carrying a lead action role almost through the screen.