Zombeavers (2015) – Raw Review

Zombeavers is oozing with delicious gooey cheesy goodness.

 

Given the state of zombiemania in television and film it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of injecting mother nature with an undead virus.  This isn’t an especially new concept to be sure, numerous movies have spoofed the undead horror trope time and again using everything from humans, to livestock, to hamburger patties.

 

This begs the question – Why watch Zombeavers?

 

I’ll be honest, I got out voted. My wife and parents decided on the movie while I was busy taking care of the kids. Pfft. Not that I was entirely opposed to seeing the movie, it looked silly and stupid, but also like a movie you needed to be in the right mood to see.  Turns out Zombeavers is a helluva lot of fun. (Writer/Director) know exactly what type of movie they are making, embrace the silliness and go out of their way to siphon every single laugh possible out of every single scene.

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The premise is simple enough. Barrel falls off a truck. Barrel rolls into pond. Toxic something or other leaks out onto beaver dam. Horny college kids go to cabin that’s right next to pond. Queue shenanigans. The movie is campy as hell. All the creature effects are done using puppets, remote control mock-ups and latex. They are done well and it’s clear the production team had a lot of fun making the movie.

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The acting is pretty decent all around. Several hollywood staples appear in the movie, including: Rex Lin, Brent Briscoe, and Robert Shafer. The college kids do a terrific job as well. Cortney Palm, who previously showed up in a small but solid role in Sushi Girl, plays Zoe, the caustic bad girl who is constantly talking shit and stirring up trouble. Along with Hutch Dano the two carry the film through a series of comedic homages and horror references.

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The screenplay is fairly simple in structure (given that it’s emulating standard zombie tropes) but well written. The dialogue is snappy and quick, timing the comedy well from beginning to end. The movie is ripe for endless beaver jokes and the filmmakers don’t miss the opportunities.

 

Zombeavers is a hoot for the casual horror fans and a riot if you enjoy zom-coms. It’s not going to win any awards, but you’ll probably not be sorry you spent 70 minutes checking it out.

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Jurassic World (2015) – Raw Review

I was a bit hesitant to go spend theater prices on Jurassic World after the first flood of reviews hit the internet. So many of them were extremely critical of the film for numerous reasons, not least of which is the inevitable comparison to the original Jurassic Park from 1993.

 

In the end I capitulated to my wife’s request to see the movie opening weekend. A decision I knew was inevitable for two reasons. My wife is the boss, and I’ve always been a fan of the dinosaur franchise first released when I was sixteen years old.

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Turns out, I’m extremely glad we went to see Jurassic World. The movie is every bit what you’d expect from a summer tentpole film about the accident heavy industry of dinosaur DNA recombination. Not to say it’s a perfect movie. It isnt. There are some specific problems with the movie, but none of them are enough to undermine the action intense premise that so many people have come to love. The movie delivers on it’s promise to recreate the epic survival action adventure of the original film, while upping the ante considerably for a new generation of moviegoers.

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The movie is set in the same universe as the first three films, but now the company is run by billionaire Simon Masrani, played deftly by Irrfan Khan. Handed off by John Hammond (the late, great Richard Attenborough), Masrani has finally achieved the vision of a fully functioning theme park. It has everything you can think of, a water monster show, a dino petting zoo, mini-dino rides for kids, safari rides through the wide open park, etc. The attention to detail on the park’s exhibits and attractions is fantastic and helps add to the environment and immersion into the Jurassic world.

 

This time around the catalyst for disaster sits squarely with the company’s genetics team. BD Wong reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu, the mastermind behind genetic splicing a new and never before seen super predator dinosaur. A portion of the populace will assuredly be annoyed that big business corporate eggheads are once again the irresponsible villains of a Hollywood movie but if the shoe fits. The motivations behind the development of bigger and more theatrical exhibits are well established in the beginning act and, let’s face it, entirely believable.

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Concern over the screenplay has been considerable since writing duo  Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Planet of the Apes writers) original script was reworked by Director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, who conspired on the wonderful indie sci-fi Safety Not Guaranteed. The final result however works pretty well and the seams between the two versions of the screenplay are smoothed out well enough they don’t result in a mess of a story.

 

Chris Pratt is an excellent choice for the role of Owen, an ex-navy specialist who is working on a behavioral side program with velociraptors. He does a great job with the part given taking advantage of every opportunity to lighten up the screen. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job as the chief officer in charge of park operations. A pure businesswoman she is focused on doing the best job possible, to the exclusion of just about everything else. A lot of the criticism of the film has come on the idea that Howard’s character is an out-dated female stereotype. A depiction of women as one dimensional, utterly uncomplex and emotionally undeveloped. Can the argument be made? Sure. Does it ruin the movie? Only if you let it.

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In truth, most of the characters in Jurassic World are utterly uncomplex. All of them have very one dimensional development as characters. Vincent D’Onofrio is entirely focused on development of a military weapon using dinosaurs. Jake Johnson, one of control room tech geeks, is a fanboy who is there purely for laughs. Even Chris Pratt is woefully one dimensional as the Badass. The most interesting character in the entire movie, and probably the only one whose depth is layered and intriguing Masrani, the billionaire park owner. What might easily become yet another carbon copy money man who is willing to do anything to make a buck abruptly heads in the other direction. Conscience of Hammond’s dream to ‘spare no expense’ in creating attractions that will dazzle the world, Masrani deals with the results of Jurassic World’s inevitable blunder as a true human might, with concern, introspection and some actual honest-to-goodness humility.

 

The special effects of the dinos are amazing. Twenty two years has made a huge difference in CGI and puppet technology. If you were amazed by Jurassic Park’s ability to place actors alongside imaginary monsters back in the day then you should be thrilled with the results in Jurassic World.

 

The primary criticism I have of the movie is directed squarely at the storytelling decisions in the second act. At times, decisions are made specifically to setup further plot points that are sloppy. Some of the scenes are telegraphed so overtly as setup to future development I found myself mumbling to the screen in disappointment. Not to mention they throw away a perfectly good character at the midway point in what is a completely unnecessary decision.

 

In the end Jurassic World is a decent picture. It does a good job of revitalizing the franchise after the disappointing second and third installments. It’s not a perfect movie but as far as summer tent-pole films go, it’s a decent action adventure story that takes care enough to pick up twenty two years after Jurassic Park left off.

Infini (2015) – Raw Review

Infini Is The Best Sci-Fi Horror Film Since Event Horizon.

 

We all know Science Fiction is just as cool as Horror but suffers from the long founded belief that the science part needs to make sense, be smart, and not take too many liberties with science in general.

 

I disagree. A good movie is a good movie regardless of what genre it’s tackling, and what makes a movie good you ask? Well of course I’m going to tell you.

 

  • Good Writing.
  • Good Acting.
  • Interesting (not necessarily original) concept.
  • Worldbuilding.
  • Invoking a Sense of Wonder.
  • Good Directing.  

 

Infini came as a complete surprise because it hits the mark in everyone of the categories. Whats even more surprising is the movie was written and directed by a relatively new filmmaker named Shane Abbess out of Australia. If this is the caliber of movie he’s going to provide everytime then he’s won over a fan for life.

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Infini takes place in the 23rd century, or thereabouts, and follows a search and rescue team who are sent to investigate a disturbance (that’s putting it mildly) at a mining colony on the further edge of the galaxy. The disturbance being a biological outbreak of some kind. Body horror in space never gets old.

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The movie begins like gangbusters, setting tension right from the get-go and not letting up on the gas for quite sometime. If you enjoy movies that throw you right into the world and let you try and figure out what’s going on you’ll enjoy this one. It’s not until the midway point that the movie slows down and begins it’s close examination of what exactly is going on and why.

 

The writing in this film is super tight, crafted with the right amount of detail and a cadence that makes everyone of the characters feel natural. Abbess writes much like Aaron Sorkin, with a rhythm and feel for words. Of course great writing means little if the acting isn’t up to snuff, but in this case it’s excellent. The troupe of actors, each with their own style and personalities, handle the material deftly and never once did it feel like any of them were trying to fit into the scenes.

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On to the concept! It’s very cool. Humans can travel across the galaxy via what’s called Slipstreaming – being digitized and sent via data packets. It’s dangerous therefore highly controversial, but useful due to the timelines involved. Relativity can be a bitch. Ever see Interstellar.  

 

Hardcore fans will probably rip the science part…well..apart but as a layman I found it worked. Science Fiction can get bogged down in tropes, and doubly so in trying to explain all the little super-science nuance and rules for how futuristic technology work. Infini does it right by not trying to justify itself. The movie establishes the rules and moves on. A few times, when necessary to the story, a rule is explained in detail or another aspect of travel is revealed but it’s always to advance the story, never to try and cheat the story.

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Abbess also adds a nice touch by way of the environment. The mining colony isn’t just there for looks. The environment is extremely hostile and Abbess never takes it for granted ensuring it plays a huge role throughout the story.

 

One area I can see the film catching some flak – the midway point onward. The speed of the movie slows down and the tone moves more from an action vibe to a more metaphysical thriller. That’s not to say the movie gets any less bloody, gory or violent. Hell no, it keep right on with the dark tone.

 

The ending I found fascinating. It’s probably going to be a divisive topic for the viewers but it works if you take the entirety of the film into account. It also has a beautifully done finale that slow boils the tension to critical levels without a lot of over the top set pieces or action sequences.
Infini is a fantastic addition to the sci-fi horror genre and Shane Abbess is going to be a writer/director to keep an eye on.

Spring (2014) – Raw Review

If you have a romantic note anywhere within you, something about this movie should pluck at your heartstrings.

 

Sounds strange to hear this about a movie that is supposed to be genre, dark, and have monsters… Well you’re in for a real treat.

 

Spring is a wonderful movie. An intelligent and unabashedly romantic film, and an amazing example of how you can incorporate mystic/supernatural/horror/sci-fi/fantasy themes into modern romantic storytelling.

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The story follows a young American who while on a trip to the Italian coast meets a girl who is unlike anyone he’s ever experienced. The chemistry between the lead actors Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker is fantastic, believable and adds a level of emotional investment that really upstages a lot of the standard romance tentpoles we get every year.

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The movie is intelligent and well written, a slow burn that is fascinating to watch and powerful in its visuals and performances. I recommend you try and watch it without any spoilers, predisposition or idea about it’s meaning or impact. I’ll just say that it’s a love story first and a genre film second. It also has one of the best endings to a movie I’ve seen in a very very long time.

 

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These Final Hours (2014) – Raw Review

Audiences across the world never seem the slake their thirst for the apocalypse. Movie after movie after movie are made depicting the end of the world, or nearly on the brink. You’d think given the abundance of world ending tales of woe we (the audience) would become hardened to its tropes, accustomed to the standard conventions of finite time on Earth, that filmmakers would give up on trying to create a new feeling or impression of the end.

 

They don’t. They don’t because zombies and vampires and supernatural calamities are an entertaining way to visit terrible ends to our species, without the underlying reality of possibility. We love our apocalyptic tales dressed up in monsters and otherworldly themes that stand no chance of happening in the real. When we do get a tale of the end that tries to stay grounded it’s usually tempered with hope and light. A little cream added to cut down the bitterness of our beverage. Something to take the edge off. Dull the blade so to speak.

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Not in this review. These Final Hours is a razor sharp depiction of life at the end. A beautiful and smartly rendered snapshot of how people might react in the face of complete destruction and devastation. A film that shows the hidden nature of humanity. Exposes the fragility of societal bonds. Shows just how quickly the social contract becomes null and void in the face of extinction. Makes you ask the question – If the world were coming to end, what would my priorities be?

 

The story follows a young man (Nathan Phillips) as those around prepare for an Extinction Level Event to reach Australia. In his quest for a friend’s end of the world party (so he can drug out and enjoy his final hours) he is set on a road of redemption after saving the life of a little girl (Angourie Rice) who has become separated from her father.

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These Final Hours is a tour de force. Writer/director Zak Hilditch does a masterful job depicting Perth during the final twelve hours of it’s existence, creating a landscape that is all at once eerie, haunting, deadly, and fascinating. So many filmmakers are tempted to dilute the atmosphere with endless carnage and action; over the top spectacle from beginning to end, as if to constantly remind the audience that things are horrible. That hell on Earth has come.

 

Hilditch does it right. Relying mostly on subtle set pieces depicting people at their best and worst. Images of what people have left behind. Messages written on sidewalks, cars and garage doors. The occasional remains of those who’ve either succumb to violence or their own self inflicted fate. The subtle environment makes all the more effective those moments when brutality and insanity take center stage for necessity of a scene. The entire landscape is so masterfully staged I found myself wanting to walk among the streets as a ghost, observing, glimpsing the most realistic depiction of the apocalypse I’ve ever seen on screen.

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Adding to the canvas are the performances of an amazing cast of characters living out their time in Hilditch’s tragedy. Nathan Phillips is simply amazing. Playing James, a man who’s never really grown up or taken responsibility for himself. A character who isn’t a hero, isn’t an anti-hero, but just a normal man. Scared, lonely, unsure of himself from beginning to end. His uneasiness and uncertainty is so believable in the context of this film that you feel everything he feels as he’s torn between doing the right thing and doing nothing. After all, if the world is ending why does the right thing matter?

 

Balancing out Phillips performance is Angourie Rice, playing Rose the little girl whose fate is altered by a chance encounter. Seeing the end of the world through the eyes of child, she provides a counterbalance in perspective that is powerful, emotional, and devastating.

 

These Final Hours pulls no punches. It’s an end of the world story from beginning to end. It doesn’t cheat. It shows the best of people in the worst of times and it does it extremely well. With grace, beauty and brutality.
This is now my favorite movie in it’s genre and the best Australian film I’ve seen to date. I truly hope those filmmakers from down under keep at it because they are blowing Hollywood out of the water.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Raw Review

Saying Fury Road is the best action movie of it’s kind comes across a bit hyperbolic, but then I’m not sure I’ve seen too many films of it’s kind.

George Miller really has outdone himself. There may not be a more beautifully rendered action movie. The entire film is an exercise in surviving the completely bat-@*## crazy post-apocalyptic universe Max lives in, and it’s so much fun you won’t want the movie to end. The story is extremely simple. Extremely simple, we’re not talking Shakespeare here. However I don’t see that as a problem. There is no obligation to make a survival movie about anything but survival.
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Fury Road kicks you right in the teeth and keeps right on going. You can taste the dirt, smog and gas fumes from beginning to end. The film never really slows down, keeping the action going for most of the movie. Action that is unbelievably visualized and over the top. The stunts are top notch, appearing to be mostly physical stunts and not overly CGI’d. The vehicles, both design and builds, are interesting as hell and reminiscent of Warhammer 40k Orc warmachines. Everything has a purpose, even the ridiculous Cirque du soleil poll swingers have a completely functional use that is both cool and effective.
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The number one criticism the movie seems to be getting is that the plot is too thin leaving the film to rely on a bloated budget and over the top special effects. I’d like to know if any of those people actually watched Mad Max, The Road Warrior, or Thunderdome? With the exception of Mad Max (which has a stronger revenge motive) all the Mad Max movies have the same basic story line… Max get’s ripped off and does what’s necessary to get his stuff back. His primary motivation has always been survival and in Fury Road it’s simply amplified to the point of nearly pure nihilism.  Strangely it seems the most critical of reviews are by people who prefer the original movies and/or Mel Gibson to Fury Road and Tom Hardy.  Lucky for them those movies will always be around to keep watching. Unlucky for them, Mel is gone and won’t ever be playing Max again so on we must move.
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As an action movie Fury Road is already in the elite group of amazing film accomplishments. As a fourth and new installment in Miller’s series on the human wasteland of what once was – Fury Road is a fine addition, kicking Max and the nihilistic warmachine of the world into a new century.Mad Max Fury Road, Mad Max, Tom Hardy, George Miller, action movie, action, sci-fi, science fiction, sci-fi movie, apocalypse, end of the world, Australia, gonzo, crazy, violent,

Remaking ‘The Blob’ Isn’t The Worst Idea

So they are remaking The Blob…Again…

This isn’t the worst idea to come out of Hollywood considering they are remake happy most of the time. Hell even Rob Zombie was working on a remake up until a few years ago.
What’s nice is The Blob lends itself well the periodic updates and it’s been nearly 30 years since the Chuck Russell update, which I’ve said before is one of the best movie remakes of all time.
The big question now is just how well Simon West will pull off and update to a classic monster movie. He’s known for making fun, action packed movies that are usually somewhere between O..K.. and BlahTo compound concern, it’s not clear who penned the current iteration of the screenplay, and that lack of information probably means a lot of hands have had at the script. Adding Samuel Jackson to the cast is a step in the right direction but even the best actor can struggle if the direction, screenplay and editing aren’t up to snuff.
In the end it really doesn’t matter. The 1958 version will forever be a classic. The 1988 version still holds up as a strong and action infused update. The 2016 version will probably be fun if nothing else, and what can you expect from a movie titled THE BLOB!

Sinister (2012) – Raw Review

Sinister Is One Helluva Horror Movie How Sinister made it past me for so long will forever be a mystery. Fortunately the film didn’t evade me forever and earlier this weekend I was able to sit down and take a peek.   Horror movies provide different experiences for everyone. I’ve sat through viewings of The […]

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