Thursday, August 31, 2017

Film Review: Laid to Rest (2009)

Laid to Rest (Review)
United States/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Screambox
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The film excels as a slasher..."

A woman awakens in a coffin at a funeral house without any recollection of the past. Worst of all, she finds herself targeted by a violent serial killer with a chrome mask...

Laid to Rest is a barebones slasher. The plot takes place over the course of one night. It begins with a woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) with amnesia waking up in a coffin at a funeral house. She dials 911, but she loses contact. Eventually, the mortician shows up. Before he can free the woman, he's impaled and we're introduced to our killer—Chromeskull, a man with a chrome mask and a camera mounted on his shoulder. The rest of the plot follows the woman, who is later known as 'Princess,' as she runs from place to place with a group of good Samaritans. She makes a lot of stupid decisions to move the plot along, too. It all leads to a decent climax and a bloody finale.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Film Review: Demonic (2015)

Demonic (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's difficult to even call it a horror movie due to its lack of horror."

A police officer and a psychologist investigate the death of several ghost hunters at a supposedly haunted house...

Demonic is a generic horror film. The plot follows a cliché group of douchebags characters: John (Dustin Milligan), a young man who believes his mother is calling him to a haunted house; Michelle, John's girlfriend; Brian, Michelle's ex-boyfriend and fellow ghost hunter; Sam, a ghost hunter; Jules, the cult specialist; and Donnie, the tech guy. From the beginning, we know most of this group dies at the house after performing a séance because Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo) discovers their bodies. The only survivor is John, so Lewis calls the department's psychologist, Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello), to question him. So, the film frequently jumps between these interlaced stories: the séance and the police investigation. It's not confusing, and it's not interesting, either. It leads to an interesting ending, though, but it just doesn't resonate.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Film Review: The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

The Stanford Prison Experiment (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most suspenseful films of the decade."

Twenty-four male students are selected to participate in a mock prison scenario in the basement of the Stanford psychology building...

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film based on the actual experiment that took place in 1971. Psychology professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) has planned a special psychology experiment where 24 male students will be chosen to take on randomly assigned roles as prisoners and guards at a mock prison, which is actually just a hallway and three rooms in the basement. All is well until the guards really get into their roles, abusing their power and harming the prisoners. Of course, this leads the prisoners to react in similar ways. However, instead of stopping the experiment, Zimbardo allows it to continue. There isn't much more to say about the plot without spoiling anything or going too deep into the details. It leads to a decent climax, but I kind of wished it had more oomph. It leaves an impression, but it's not so devastating.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Film Review: Violent Cop (1989)

Violent Cop (Review)
Japan/1989
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

" It has some plot and pacing issues, but it is also dark and entertaining."

A violent police officer becomes entangled in a drug scandal when he discovers his colleague is trafficking drugs.

Violent Cop follows Azuma (Takeshi Kitano), a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type of cop. The first half of the film essentially develops Azuma and the cast of characters. It slowly builds on the main plot—the drug trafficking—but it's mostly focused on character. And that's fine for the most part. After the first act, it starts to build up. Azuma discovers a colleague is aiding the yakuza by handing over drugs. And, when that colleague mysteriously dies, Azuma pushes forward with his investigation head-first. He won't be stopped by laws or other cops. He'll serves justice the old-fashioned way. It leads to a strong ending.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Film Review: Phantasm 2 (1988)

Phantasm 2 (Review)
United States/1988
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"[compared to the original] ...this plays out more like an action-horror movie."

After being released from a psychiatric hospital, Mike (James LeGros) continues his hunt for The Tall Man.

Phantasm 2 is a direct sequel to the first film. In fact, it picks up exactly where the first film left off through a flashback. Anyway, Mike has been in a psychiatric hospital ever since his last encounter with The Tall Man. He pretends to understand that it was all part of his imagination, but only to escape the hospital. As soon as he's out, he reunites with Reggie (Reggie Bannister). Reggie believes Mike is a bit unstable, but a tragedy quickly convinces him otherwise. Together, the pair travel cross-country in search of The Tall Man—and they have an arsenal of homemade weapons, too. There's a bit more to the plot, but I don't want to spoil anything. You should know: I think it's absolutely necessary to watch the first film in order to truly enjoy this. (Besides, the original is great.) It leads to a good, abrupt ending.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Film Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a visually-stunning, genuinely exciting, and faithful adaptation of a classic."

While searching for a terrorist, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson), a first-of-her-kind cyborg, begins hunting the truth behind her mysterious past...

Ghost in the Shell is an adaptation of the classic manga/movie. I haven't read the manga, but I am a fan of the animated film. Not the biggest fan, mind you, but I've always enjoyed it. For the most part, this is a fairly faithful adaptation. The film follows Major Mira Killian, known primarily as 'Major.' Major is informed that she survived a terrorist attack, but her body could not be salvaged, so she's given a humanoid robot body. She's then assigned to Section 9 to hunt the world's most dangerous terrorists. Specifically for this film, she's hunting a hacker known as 'Kuze,' who happens to be attacking the company that built her. While hunting him, she discovers more about her past. In terms of plot, the film works, but it doesn't really leave an impression. It's missing a certain oomph factor. It leads to a decent ending, though.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Film Review—Boyka: Undisputed (2016)

Boyka: Undisputed (Review)
Bulgaria/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's a brutal, exciting, and entertaining movie."

While attempting to build his life as a professional fighter, legendary fighter Yuri Boyka (Scott Adkins) finds himself in Russia seeking forgiveness after an accidental death in the ring...

Boyka: Undisputed is the fourth film in the Undisputed series. The plot follows Yuri Boyka, who now roams Ukraine as an underground fighter. His opportunity to become a professional fighter is solidified after he beats Viktor in a fight. However, when Viktor passes away after the fight, Boyka feels compelled to make things right with Viktor's wife in Russia. So, he heads to Russia where he is a wanted escapee. He finds that Viktor's wife is being forced to work for a Russian gang boss to repay a debt. In order to win her freedom, Boyka must beat said boss' best fighters. It's a simple and derivative plot, it's even a bit cheesy at times, but it works. It leads to a surprising ending, too. It's not a big twist or anything like that, but I like the route they took.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Film Review: Phantasm (1979)

Phantasm (Review)
United States/1979
Format Viewed For Review: Shudder
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...one of the most interesting and creative horror films I've ever seen."

A teenage boy and his friends discover a horrendous secret hidden by the local undertaker, an evil man known as The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm)…

Phantasm is a very creative and original horror movie. The plot is difficult to discuss for two reasons: I don't want to spoil anything and it's simply not an easy story to talk about. You see, Phantasm is told in a surreal fashion—like a dream or, better yet, a nightmare. Here's the gist of the story, though. While spying on his brother, Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) discovers the existence of dwarf-like creatures near the funeral home, which he links to The Tall Man—a malevolent, supernatural undertaker. He brings his evidence to his older brother, Jody, and eventually their friend, Reggie, joins in on the suspicion. Together, they confront The Tall Man and discover the truth about the dwarves. It leads to a good climax and an interesting ending. I emphasize 'interesting' because it definitely caught my interest, but it might be for the wrong reasons. It's an ending that's difficult to properly interpret.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Film Review: A Cure for Wellness (2017)

A Cure for Wellness (Review)
United States/Germany/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...it's a plot we've seen before, but its characters are interesting, the mystery is still engaging, and the direction is great."

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company's CEO from a remote "wellness center" in the Swiss Alps, but he soon finds everything is not what it seems...

A Cure for Wellness follows ambitious executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan). He's gotten himself into a bit of trouble and, in order to fix his mistakes, he's sent to the Swiss Alps to retrieve his company's CEO, Roland Pembroke, from a remote spa. Roland Pembroke was only supposed to spend two weeks at the spa, but he's suddenly decided to stay at the wellness center and abandon his life. When Lockhart arrives, he finds himself surrounded by wealthy elderly people who have also decided to permanently stay at the wellness center. Why? Well, Lockhart is determined to find out, especially since the facility's director seems hellbent on keeping him there. It's a very familiar story. You may find yourself asking: have I seen this movie before? However, it's still effective and entertaining. It leads to a fairly predictable but well-executed finale.