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Often times very funny
Clerks. (1994) C-92 min. D: Kevin Smith. Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Walter Flanagan, Al Berkowitz. $27,000 B/W film about a day in the lives of two unhappy clerks, one who works at a convenience store and the other who works at a video store. Smith's first film, often times very funny, but tends to drag on a bit and some of the acting is slightly bland. Some laugh out loud moments, such as the offscreen sexual encounter between the main character's ex-girlfriend and...well, I won't spoil it for you. But offscreen is indeed where it belongs once we find out the messy details. The big-screen debut of Jay and Silent Bob, who play drug dealers who spend their days outside the stores (but business seems to be very bad). Originally rated NC-17 for sexually explicit dialogue. RATING: 6 out of 10. Rated R for graphic sexual dialogue.
Throws in every single genre cliché imaginable
Saw (2004) C-100 min. D: James Wan. Leigh Whannel, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Mike Butters, Michael Emerson, Monica Potter, Ned Bellamy. The millionth serial killer movie since SILENCE OF THE LAMBS throws in every single genre cliché imaginable (how many times are the main character's wife and daughter going to be threatened in a movie like this?) not to mention surprisingly bad acting (except Glover) and an twist that is obvious from the opening minute. A doctor and a photographer are chained to pipes on opposite ends of a filthy torture chamber, victims of the Jigsaw, a serial killer who plays games in order for his victims to kill each other. Of course, the doctor's family has been taken hostage and time is of the essence. More gruesome than scary, with the all-too-familiar Hollywood shootout climax (isn't this supposed to be an independent film?) but there are some tense moments here and there. RATING: 5 out of 10. Rated R for graphic violence & gore, grisly images, and profanity.
Boston Legal (2004)
Review of "Head Cases" (SPOLIERS)
Pros Excellent start to the series. Upbeat, fast-paced, well-acted, and some interesting new characters in Brad Chase & Lori Colson. The opening credits are cool looking & the music is funky, wild, and different. The cases were also funny & the dialogue was witty and executed perfectly.
Cons Rev. Al Sharpton's cameo was excessive & unnecessary. Also, Alan Shore worked better when he was the lone "insane" lawyer.
Summary - A definite lighter tone than The Practice but also worth the wait.
RATING: 8 out of 10
For a while, it works
The Jackhammer Massacre (a.k.a. Jackhammer 2004) C-89 min. D: Joe Castro. Aaron Gaffey, Kyle Yaskin, Bart Burson, Nadia Angelini, Evan Owen, Rob Rotten, Rachel Rotten, Desi O'Brian. A direct-to-DVD revenge/slasher movie details a successful businessman's fall into insanity and growing love for his jackhammer, thanks to drugs. The first slasher movie in memory to blame its killer's antics on drugs...for a while, it even works too (with some nasty & gory special effects). It's nice to see a direct-to-DVD slasher gorefest. Unfortunately, the film's horrendous acting (worse than anything the 80s slasher films had to offer, which is really sad) and laughable last 20 minutes lead to its downfall. There is no excuse for the filmmakers to have been satisfied with the amount of bad acting in this movie (though the lead, Aaron Gaffey, isn't half bad). RATING: 3 out of 10. Rated R for graphic violence and gore, grisly images, drug use, sexuality, adult themes, and profanity.
Maplewoods (2003) C-87 min. D: David B. Stewart III. Thomas Reilly, Elissa Mullen, Christopher Connolly, John Weidemoyer, John Martineau, Francesco Constante, Steven Brown, Brian Dugan, Sean Hutcheon, Peter Hock, Victoria Katz, Robert Schiller, Dave Stewart Jr, Jerry Puma, David B. Stewart III. A team of highly-skilled military operatives embark on a mission to clear the area of Maplewoods from flesh-eating zombies (results of a Nazi experiment gone terribly wrong). Delightfully cheesy in its own way, this low budget gorefest features hilarious dialogue and some examples of awful overacting. But if not taken too seriously, MAPLEWOODS can be enjoyed for what it is. RATING: 3 out of 10. NOT RATED (graphic violence, grisly images, profanity)
Head of State (2003)
Head of State (2003) C-95 min. D: Chris Rock. Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Nick Searcy, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens, Tamala Jones, James Rebhorn, Keith David, Tracy Morgan, Stephanie March, Robert Stanton, Nate Dogg, Funkmaster Flex. Amusing farce as Rock, an alderman, picked to run for President of the United States after the original presidential candidate dies in a plane crash two months before the election. Obviously, he is being set up to lose, but (of course) begins winning over the people. Several laugh-out-loud moments and a funny performance by both Rock and Mac. However, Givens' stalker ex-girlfriend character is completely unnecessary and just plain sick as opposed to funny. RATING: 7 out of 10. Rated PG-13 for sexual innuendoes, profanity, adult themes, violence.
Dull and incoherent
Dreamcatcher (2003) C-136 min. D: Lawrence Kasdan. Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg, Mikey Holekamp, Reece Thompson, Giacomo Baessato, Joel Palmer, Andrew Robb, Eric Keenleyside, Rosemary Dunsmore, Michael O'Neill, Darrin Klimek. Based on the novel by Stephen King, this overlong tale rolls about 3 or 4 films in 136 minutes and just turns out to be dull and incoherent. Four longtime friends with extrasensory powers reunite for a weekend camping trip and find themselves in the middle of a war between a military vigilante and an unstoppable force. About an hour passes before top-billed Freeman makes his first appearance, while we get to know the four friends whom could have had a whole movie made around them (as opposed to the sci-fi 360 the movie pulls on its viewers). RATINGL: 3 out of 10. Rated R for graphic violence, grisly images, and profanity.
Suspect Zero (2004)
Almost walked out on it
Suspect Zero (2004) C-99 min. D: E. Elias Merhige. Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley, Carrie-Anne Moss, Henry J. Lennix, Kevin Chamberlin, Julian Reyes, Keith Campbell, Chloe Russell, Ellen Blake, William B. Johnson, Jerry Gardner. Kingsley's creepy performance is the only positive thing about this disgustingly terrible film which concerns a serial killer hunting other serial killers, doing a favor for the FBI. Also thrown into the mix is some stupid psychedelic ritual to catch serial killers using sound waves or something. Utterly inept film is poorly directed by Merhige, shoddily photographed, and contains just about every 90s serial killer movie cliché ever conceived. Almost walked out on it. RATING: 2 out of 10. RATED R for graphic violence, grisly images, and profanity.
Sorority House Massacre II (1990)
Sorority House Massacre II (1990) C-80 min. D: Jim Wynorski. Robyn Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago, Michelle Verran, Dana Bentley, Jurgen Baum, Toni Naples, Mike Elliot, Bridget Carney, Bob Sheridan, Gunnar Johnson. More or less a sequel to SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE instead of SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, this laughable sequel has five sorority girls buying a house for cheap, where gruesome murders took place five years earlier. You might have to be a rocket scientist in order to figure out what happens next. Contains elements of JASON GOES TO HELL, as well as NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST, but ultimately still a MASSACRE film, one of the weakest of the lot. RATING: 2 out of 10. RATED R for graphic violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity, adult themes.
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) C-90 min. D: Deborah Brock. Crystal Bernard, Jennifer Rhodes, Kimberly McArthur, Patrick Lowe, Juliette Cummins, Heidi Kozak, Cindy Eilbacher, Atanis, Ilitch, Joel Hoffman, Scott Westmoreland, Michael Delano, Hamilton Mitchell. The killer from SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE returns, reincarnated as an evil rocker (!) who sings and dances (quite badly) before dispatching his big-breasted bimbo victims with a huge drill on the end of an electric guitar. No, we're not making this up! The producers score two points for trying to be original with completely unoriginal material, but the execution is miserably inept (and overlong). Gore galore, but that's about it. RATING: 2 out of 10. RATED R for graphic violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity, adult themes.
Sorority House Massacre (1986)
Surprisingly good of its kind
Sorority House Massacre (1987) C-74 min. D: Carol Frank. Angela O'Neill, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio, John C. Russell, Marcus Vaughter, Vinnie Bilancio, Joe Nassi, Mary Anne, Gillian Frank, Joseph Mansier. Surprisingly good of its kind, this slasher flick, one of many MASSACRE films of the 80s, has more character development, symbolism, and backstory than it has any business having. A college student pledging for a sorority spends the weekend in the sorority house with her future sisters, sensing that her psychotic brother is coming after her. Guess what happens next. Lines like `Hold on, where's my brain?' make this film an Oscar contender (*sarcasm alert*). For slasher fans and horny guys looking for lots of big breasts and erotic butt shots. RATING: 5 out of 10. RATED R for graphic violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity, adult themes.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
A horrendous, relatively bloodless excuse for a slasher film
Slumber Party Massacre (1982) C-77 min. D: Amy Holden Jones. Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso, Andree Honore, Gina Mari, Jennifer Meyers, Joseph Alan Johnson, Brinke Stevens, Rigg Kennedy, Jean Vargas, Anna Patton, Howard Furgason. Originally scripted as a spoof of teen slasher flicks, the producers scratched that idea and filmed it with serious intentions. Big mistake! A horrendous, relatively bloodless excuse for a slasher film (even by slasher standards) has way too many false scares, horrid acting, inane dialogue, and is extremely slow. The `plot' concerns a psycho, armed with his electric drill, out to crash a high school slumber party. This film has a reputation of being the best of its kind, but that distinction goes to SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, not this shlock. RATING: 1 out of 10. RATED R for graphic violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity, adult themes.
'Rodney' (2004) Rodney Carrington, Jennifer Aspen, Amy Pietz, Nick Searcy, Oliver Davis, Matthew Michael Josten. Down-to-earth husband/father in middle America quits his job that he hates and starts doing stand-up comedy, much to the dismay of his wife and kids. Saw the pilot at an ABC Premiere Party @ Times Square on August 22 and although this looks like 2004's answer to Roseanne/The Drew Carey Show, it is a lot better than it has any business being. Some of the jokes fell flat, but that often happens in a pilot episode (especially one on ABC). Several supporting characters are realistic people whom anyone could know. I had never previously heard of Rodney Carrington, but he seems to know what he is doing and delivers one-liners in a swift manner. Certainly promising.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Adult-themed BACK TO THE FUTURE
The Butterfly Effect (2004) D: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber. Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Waters, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, Eric Stoltz, Lorena Gale. A young man who blacks out traumatic events in his life discovers a way to supernaturally alter his past, but eventually discovers that changing one minor detail completely screws things up. When he tries to change it, things get screwed up even more. A more adult-themed BACK TO THE FUTURE has some disturbing scenes (i.e. Stoltz's pedophile father character is reprehensible) and a good performance by Kutcher (who also executive-produced). Thankfully avoids the clichéd Hollywood shootouts, twist endings, and obligatory teen movie rock music soundtrack and concentrates instead on the story and performances, both of which far exceeded expectations. RATING: 8 out of 10. Rated R for violence, profanity, nudity, adult themes.
Faces of Death III (1985)
Faces of Death 3 (1985) D: Conan le Cilaire (John Alan Schwartz). Michael Carr, John Alan Schwartz. Incredibly fake third entry in the FACES OF DEATH series is nothing more than a collection of re-enactments and cheesy acting in supposed `death footage.' The piece on `serial killer' Michael Lorenzo (played by director John Alan Schwartz, credited here as Conan le Cilaire) is especially dumb (and badly acted). What's worse is the budget looks larger this time around, proving that you don't have to be low budget to create cinematic trash (if you even want to describe this monstrosity as `cinematic'). Being a subject in a death clip (being burned alive or hell, why not getting my throat slashed) would be preferable to having to sit through this junk. RATING: 1 out of 10. Not Rated (MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY).
Beautiful, sad masterpiece of film-making
Monster (2003) C-109 min. D: Patty Jenkins. Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen, Annie Corley, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Marco St. John, Marc Macaulay, Scott Wilson. Theron delivers perhaps the greatest performance by a lead actress ever, playing female prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos, executed in 2002 for murdering seven men in 1989. Ricci also hits home as her lesbian lover Selby. The murders are gruesome and disturbing, especially the last murder that is extremely hard to watch, as Aileen murders a man who simply wants to help her. Highly recommended, though not for the squeamish (or close-minded). The film does a good job of not excusing Aileen's behavior, instead just serving as an explanation of how a human being could turn into someone so cold, heartless, and devoid of any redeemable qualities whatsoever. It's a beautiful, sad masterpiece of film-making. RATING: 9 out of 10. Rated R for violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.
Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)
Nowhere near as bad as it could have been
Psycho IV: The Beginning. C-96 min. D: Mick Garris. Anthony Perkins, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, CCH Pounder, Warren Frost, Donna Mitchell, Thomas Schuster. Above average made-for-TV sequel has Norman Bates calling in a radio show doing a special on matricide (children who murder their mothers). In flashbacks, Norman tells the story of how his mother (Hussey) emotionally and mentally tortured him, leading to his insanity. Thomas is a delight to watch as young Norman Bates and Hussey is delightfully demonic as Norman's mother, but Perkins (in one of his last roles before dying of AIDS in 1992) catches a serious case of monumental overacting, especially during a poorly-written final chase sequence. Though the least of the four PSYCHO films, nowhere near as bad as it could have been. RATING: 5 out of 10. Rated R for graphic violence, grisly images, and adult themes.
Open Water (2003)
Frightening low budget chiller
Open Water (2003) C-79 min. D: Chris Kentis. Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Estelle Lau, Michael E. Williamson. Frightening low budget chiller shot on DV tells the story of a married couple who are on vacation scuba diving. They get stranded when their tour boat leaves (after a realistic error by the boat crew) and struggle for survival as sharks surround them, waiting. Director Kentis shot it documentary-style, which adds to the realism. Only complaint is the acting is a bit wooden from the leads, their characters aren't as likable as one might hope, and some of the soundtrack is slightly inappropriate for a film of this type. However, the scares are truly frightening and the ending, while unconventional, is probably the most unexpected (and realistic) of all possible endings. RATING: 8 out of 10. Rated R for profanity and brief nudity.
AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Shame on the producers for wanting to please Hillary Duff fans
Alien Vs. Predator (2004) C-101 min. D: Paul W.S. Anderson. Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye. Apparently, Sigourney Weaver was told of the idea of making this film and she said it `sounded awful.' Boy, was she ever right! One of the worst films of 2004 is so sloppily written and acted that it is a wonder I remained in the theater. The `plot' concerns some kind of archeological dig in Antarctica and step right into the middle of a war between the Aliens & Predators, blah blah blah blah. The studios' controversial decision to release this as PG-13 as opposed to R (since all of the other films from both series were rated R) translates into hardly any gore, lousy editing, and virtually incoherent fight sequences. Shame on the producers for wanting to please Hillary Duff fans as opposed to the real fans of both series, who were seriously robbed of a good film (unlike last year's far superior FREDDY VS. JASON). Awful! RATING: 1 out of 10. Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, grisly images.
Eating Out (2004)
Wild, funny, sexy, raunchy, and excellent in every way
Eating Out (2004) C-90 min. D: Q. Allan Brocka. Scott Lunsford, Jim Verraros, Emily Stiles, Ryan Carnes, Rebekah Kochan, Jillian Nusbaum, Billy Shepard. Straight hunk Lunsford has a thing for fag hag Stiles, who only falls in love with gay men. So Lunsford's gay roommate Verraros (from American Idol fame) has an idea: pretend that he's gay. However, complications arise when Stiles hooks her new admirer up with her gay roommate Carnes
and so on and so forth. In the mold of the late 30s-early 40s Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn comic farces, this screwball delight features the most talented cast in an independent feature one could possibly ask for (especially Stiles, who definitely has a career ahead of her) and filled with laugh after laugh. It definitely helps when the cast is beautiful to look at (Verraros is hot as usual but wow, Carnes is a real looker). Wild, funny, sexy, raunchy, and excellent in every way. FYI: According to director Brocka, who introduced this film and had a Q & A (along with Stiles) at the 2004 Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, EATING OUT was shot in 10 days on a budget of just $50,000. The phone sex scene was shot in one take. RATING: 10 out of 10.
First gay slasher movie ever: Fun, gory, and scary
HellBent (2004) C-85 min. D: Paul Etheredge-Ouzts. Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Hank Harris, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips, Miguel Caballero, Kent James, Samuel A. Levine. Etheredge-Ouzts, who I met at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, directs the first gay slasher movie ever, a fun and scary film that has nothing (other than the gay angle) original about it, but also doesn't pretend to be original. A serial killer in West Hollywood develops a taste for hunky gay men and sets his focus on a group of gay kids attending a Halloween festival. Ouzts seems to have a grasp on the genre and it shows, as the film is gory, scary, and features characters the viewers actually care about and can identify with. The humor also is a major plus, as there are several laughs spread throughout the film. If this is any indication, then there will definitely be more gay slasher films (HELLBENT 2 anyone?). RATING: 8 out of 10.
Just Married (2003)
More slapstick would have worked
Just Married (2003) C-95 min. D: Shawn Levy. Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, David Moscow, Monet Mazur, David Rasche, Raymond J. Barry, George Gaynes, Toshi Toda, Taran Killam. A film definitely inspired by the VACATION films, Kutcher and Murphy are the perfect young couple who go away to Europe for a honeymoon from hell. Levy seems to have a slight grasp on what makes a screwball comedy work and the stars are definitely likable, but more slapstick would have worked instead of that contrived subplot involving the bride's ex-boyfriend who follows them to Europe and tries to win her back. The dog gag was stolen right from THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, but the mother's nickname is definitely worth a chuckle or two. RATING: 6 out of 10.
I kick a** for the Lord!
Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead - 1992) C-97 min. D: Peter Jackson. Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody, Ian Watkin, Brenda Kendall, Stuart Devenie, Jed Brophy, Stephen Papps, Murray Keane. One of Jackson's first films, a disgusting blood-spattered gorefest that has been labeled `the goriest movie of all time.' And it certainly seems that way! A young man's mother is bitten by a rat monkey and its poison turns her, and others (since people killed by zombies become zombies) into a zombie. Every disgusting thing possible is in this movie: from Kung Fu-fighting Catholic priests and babies in blenders to animated farting intestines and zombies chopped into slush by a lawnmower. The movie is not, I repeat NOT, meant to be taken seriously, with the funniest sequence involving the hero and a baby zombie during an afternoon park stroll. Not for the faint of heart (no eating pasta while viewing) but certainly a delight in its own repellent way. And remember: `I kick a** for the Lord!' RATING: 7 out of 10.
Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation (2001) C-56 min. Well-made compilation of some of the most frightening movie slashers of our time. From Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger to Pinhead, Chucky, and Leatherface, this serves as a supplement to any horror/slasher fan's video collection. Unfortunately, some of the scenes they chose were not the best (there were far bloodier and scarier scenes in the Friday the 13th series than the one they chose from JASON GOES TO HELL) and they left out a few of the classic slashers (Santa Claus killer from SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, Jack Frost, the Thomas Sinclair/Bryan Lawson brother/killer duo from the GLENVILLE films, the URBAN LEGEND killers, etc). But the `film' is more than adequate and provided me with a list of horror movies on my `must-see' list. Commentary on the DVD edition is done by none other than Robert Englund. RATING: 6 out of 10.
Lovers Lane (1999)
Mindless slasher entertainment
Lovers Lane (1999) C-90 min. D: Jon Steven Ward. Erin J. Dean, Riley Smith, Matt Riedy, Suzanne Bouchard, Sarah Lancaster, Anna Faris, Ben Indra, Ed Bailey, Richard Sanders, Carter Roy. Mindless slasher entertainment certainly doesn't score any points for originality, but also goes against the clichéd 90s horror `self-parody' that quickly grew tiresome after SCREAM. A man who killed a couple making out on lover's lane 13 years earlier returns to wreak more havoc. The plot is more complicated than the typical slasher fare, but the film is never dull. Character development is also present here, allowing the viewers to care about the victims. The acting is good for its type (especially Dean as the heroine) and the film has more than its share of eye candy (Smith, who is hunkier than hunky). In the minus column, there is very little blood in the film until the climax and they could have come up with a more clever ending. Good grade-Z popcorn slasher fun. RATING: 6 out of 10.