Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dead Rising: Watchtower

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! This shouldn't be confused with the zombie washing tutorial video Dead Rinsing.



Dead Rising: Watchtower – 3 out of 5


I absolutely love the second game in the Dead Rising franchise. The first one works as a concept for me but clunky controls and piss-poor hit detection made me loath the game.  I pretty much invented new swear words after I would get hit by things that were nowhere near me.  However, the second game really hit all the right notes for me and I ended up playing through the story about 4 or 5 times. I just couldn’t get enough of it. So, when I saw Crackle was going to have an adaptation that takes place after the second game but before the third that came out for the latest next gen systems, I was cautiously optimistic. It looked like it had the spirit of the games but I also had to remember that video game adaptations are, almost by definition right now thanks to guys like Uwe Boll, just absolutely horrendous and barely resemble the source material. That being said, Dead Rising: Watchtower isn’t as bad as it probably had the real danger of ending up as.

Dude, don't be so dramatic, you're just being chased by the undead.


Of course there is a clown zombie...or is it zombie
clown?
In Oregon, the Federal Emergency Zombie Authority (FEZA) is attempting to quarantine an outbreak of zombies. Online reporter Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) and his camerawoman Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) are reporting on the events—that appear to be going normally—but when Chase enters a medical tent and sees that the anti-viral drug Zombrex isn’t keeping the virus at bay in those who are infected but haven’t turned suddenly fail and the once controlled outbreak goes completely off the rails, he now must fight and use everything at his disposal as a weapon to survive. Behind the walls of the outbreak, Chase meets up with a mysterious woman with a nasty secret named Crystal (Meghan Ory), a grieving mother named Maggie (Virginia Madsen) and some dastardly bikers who will stop at nothing to kill anyone—living or dead—that get in their way. Meanwhile, outside the wall, Jordan starts to learn that there is much more to this outbreak than what is being let on and the Army might have some involvement…

The Army's motive?  To see everyone get Allstate.

For the most part, Dead Rising: Watchtower isn’t too bad of a film. It starts promising enough and has a little bit of fun with itself. Heck, the strongest thing this film has going for it is the fact that the film really feels like a lot of it was lifted from the games directly as it is constantly throwing in nods and winks and references. One of my favorite aspects was how the film would cut to a news report that was following the events and they had a guest in the form of Frank West, star of the first game and played by the always funny Rob Riggle (even though I always thought West looked more he would be played by Michael Madsen because the character looked so much like him—but since they already got one Madsen it would have been silly to go for another. The Madsens aren’t Pok√©mon!). Riggle really was having some fun with the character and these sequences were a nice break from any potential zombie overload and it kept the film from getting too serious…for the most part, I should say.

I'd watch a whole movie that's all about Rob Riggle as Frank West.

One of the aspects that hurts the overall film, beyond its very low budget and a run time that felt a little too low (maybe Crackle's constant commercial breaks too, but they gots to pay the bills somehow, so I won't complain), was the fact that the longer the film went and the deeper it went into its story the more serious the film took itself. Now, granted, Dead Rising: Watchtower couldn’t be a straight dark comedy and it couldn’t be a straight action-horror feature either because it just wouldn't work as one or the other, it had to be a mix. The film needed a little bit of drama and the story needed some conflict and a bit of insidious behavior from some of the antagonists for the film to work. The games, in my opinion, did a great job of having both the silliness and the serious but movies don’t always work the same. A game can suddenly stop the fun and throw in drama and can make it work because you are invested at a deeper level due to the amount of time spent on playing—movies don’t have that luxury and have to go other routes. 

Hey Meghan Ory, why did you suddenly disappear from Once Upon a Time?
And speaking about Once Upon a Time, the Blue Fairy is also in this movie.
Yes, I watch OUaT.
In case you are wondering, yes, the characters are
vividly and dynamically written...and yes, I'm
being sarcastic.
This feature couldn’t quite get the balance right and the film started to get away from its self-referencing and more lighthearted feel for something a little too dramatic. There was a chance it could have worked but when you’re still cutting back to Frank West cracking wise, a production value that is hard to take seriously at any point (the CG blood was particularly bad and the make-up effects weren’t that memorable) and some of the performances being a little too hammy, the film just couldn’t find that balance and the tone shift comes in very harsh and very noticeably. This also has a secondary adverse effect as it made the film start to feel like it was dragging.

You combined a sword with a shovel?!?  You ruined two perfectly good zombie
killing weapons and made one worthless and unwieldy weapon.

Dead Rising: Watchtower is serviceable and decently entertaining but it does come off like a generic low-budget zombie film in a gigantic sea overflowing with generic low-budget zombie films. It gets to stand out slightly due to the fact it is based on a popular video game (and is actually one of the better adaptations of a game in the last 15 years) and for Rob Riggle’s performance but the rest of it kinda flounders in its cheesy passibleness (which it totes a word). The film is never outright awful and I admittedly found it pretty fun at times but the film spent too much of its time making its nods and winks to the game and taking itself too seriously at the end and not enough time to make itself stand out. Weak acting and low production value can be overlooked if there’s something to look at. I know that sounds harsh and it makes it sound like I hated the film but, in the end, I found it average and decently entertaining.

There's always one zombie dressed like this.  Her mother warned her about possibly
being bit while going out dressed like that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Theory of Everything

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I don't know the theory to it but I know the answer to everything...42.




The Theory of Everything – 4 out of 5


Is it fair to call Stephen Hawking a badass?  The dude is a genius and has posed theories about the creation of our universe that is beyond my ability to fully comprehend.  Not to mention that Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or motor neuron disease (also commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease), a degenerative disease that leaves the body paralyzed.  He was diagnosed back when he was 21 in 1963 and was told he would only have two years to live.  50 plus years later he’s still here and he’s still proving to be smarter than all of us.  I respect the guy and try as best as I can to understand the science and theoretical work he’s throwing down.  I guess that’s why I was very interested in The Theory of Everything.

To answer my original question:  Yes, he is a badass!


The film focuses on the relationship between Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones).  While attending Cambridge University in 1963, Hawking began to theorize that the creation of the universe stemmed from black holes.  During this time, he courted Jane and suddenly found his body rebelling against him and was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Even though he closed himself off to the world to work on his theory, Jane persisted and eventually the two married and started a family.  Predictably, the disease took its toll on him and he began to lose more and more of his body’s function and the struggle of being both his wife and his caretaker begins to take as much of a toll on Jane’s strength as it does on Stephen’s morale.

And there's some laughs along the way.


Just watching the trailer and I knew this was going to be a giant tear-jerker…and boy was it!  However, my weak and teary eyes aside, the film is really an incredible bio-pic.  A lot of bio-pics will focus on the relationships that define the subject’s life but they also focus heavily on what made them memorable to begin with.  The Theory of Everything flips the script slightly and makes the film less about Hawking’s intelligence and his work as a theoretical physicist and it focuses more on the relationship between him and Jane and the toll his disease takes on them.  It made for a much deeper bio-pic that was filled with heartache and drama but beauty and smiles, as well.  Seeing what those two went through and the bond they shared even after they agreed to divorce (that’s not a spoiler because it’s just a part of their history) was incredibly inspirational.  Hell, just seeing how the disease never destroyed Stephen’s outlook on life and how it never ended his work makes me want to never give up on anything no matter how hard things get.

And there we go...the tears are starting to well up.


The visuals this film delivers are also quite breathtaking and really made for a gorgeous film.  Director James Marsh created some amazing sequences in this film that really provided some enormous emotional impact.  Frequently during the film, casual events in the Hawking family are shown through montages and the shots collected in them are practically works of art that can be framed and hung in museums.  

Pretty much every shot in this film is incredible.


With its amazing story and wonderful work from the director, the film is made even more memorable thanks to the performances of its entire cast.  Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne are absolutely fantastic as Jane and Stephen Hawking.  The inner turmoil that Jane is going through and the evolution of her relationship with her husband can be seen in not just how Jones delivers her lines but through every single motion her body does.   

The toll it took was so excellently performed that it made the movie feel very real.
Hawking has completed more in his life with a single theory
than most of us have done our entire lives.  That reality
is more motivational than a "Hang In There" cat poster.
Redmayne was so unbelievable as Stephen that you could almost believe that he was a younger Stephen Hawking and the progression the disease takes on him is played our frighteningly realistic by him.  These two are backed up by an absolutely terrific cast where there isn’t a single player not giving their all.  Everyone from Harry Lloyd as a friend of Stephen to David Thewlis as his professor to Charlie Cox as the man who Jane would eventually marry after her divorce to Stephen to Maxine Peake as the woman that would later marry Stephen.  The entire cast is all exceptional and they all really brought the entire story to life extraordinarily.

Jane would go on to marry Daredevil it seems.



The only downside that exists in The Theory of Everything is that there isn’t much of a replay value going for it.  There’s no doubt I will watch the film again because it is so emotional, dramatic and beautiful but it’s probably not going to be in the near future.  However, this isn’t really a downfall of the film because it really is an amazing feature that made me smile and cry quite a bit—it’s really hard not to, honestly.

Dammit, here come the waterworks again.

Seventh Son

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! What type of facial hair will Jeff Bridges rock in his next film?



Seventh Son – 3 out of 5

I’ve never read or even heard of the book (The Spook’s Apprentice or The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch as it is called in the United States) that this film is based on by Joseph Delaney.  However, when I was at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 I remembered that they had some posters promoting the film and on them I saw The Dude and I remember saying, “Sure, whatever it is doesn’t matter.  It has Jeff Bridges so I’m in," but I kinda forgot about the film after it was delayed.  However, I recently noticed it was still at my local budget theater so I decided to give it a shot.  Thankfully, budget theaters are cheap so I wasn’t too upset over what Seventh Son cost me.  Actually, that sounds means because the film wasn’t that bad.

The Dude abides.

Successful witch hunter Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) finds his past creeping up on him after the evil witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escape the prison cell he crafted for her.  After she kills his apprentice (Kit Harington), Gregory sets out to find the seventh son of a seventh son; Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), and takes him as his new apprentice.  Together, Gregory hopes to teach Tom everything he knows as soon as possible and stop Malkin from rising to power and bringing darkness to the land.

"Look there, apprentice...two dogs doing it."

The locales look pretty darn good in this one.
For the most part, Seventh Son is an alright fantasy film.  It has a great cast, decent special effects and some exciting action sequences but it definitely wasn’t the best work of fantasy I’ve ever seen.  The film also has some fun characters going for it that make it something that never got boring and some decent visuals.  Julianne Moore looks like a badass as Mother Malkin, Jeff Bridges has the right level of wise and goofy as Master Gregory, there’s an interesting creature named Tusk that has some fun moments here and there and Tom Ward kinda enters the film flat and boring but gets better as the film goes on.  Ultimately, though, there was one thing that hurt the film…

"Come, Tusk.  Let us travel to the farm upstate where you can run free
and be with others of your kind...also called the vet."

The story is pretty straightforward fantasy stuff:  An evil something or other escapes from its ancient prison and now a wise mentor and the mentor’s untrained partner must save the day.  A lot of fantasy films follow this path and the plot to the inevitable victory they get may have a few twist and turns in order to establish the universe it exists in without having to have a prologue with voice over explaining how things work in this new world or strange exposition pieces from the movie equivalent of NPCs.  Seventh Son does this too but too often these sidetracks felt less like they were showing you the world the story exists in and more about just padding the hell out of the running length.   

"Blarg!  I'm the monster who stretches this film out a little bit!"

It’s strange that the film could end up feeling like it is just wandering around aimlessly because the film comes out of the gate at full speed and sets up the conflict and the hero’s journey very fast but then it suddenly felt like it had to put the brakes on and slow things down a bit with something that felt like sightseeing.  Sure, there are times when this results in a cool scene or two but this also ended up making the film feel like it forgot the main goal of the heroes and it ended up giving a lot less screen time to Julianne Moore.  Forgetting to include more of her resulted in never really getting a feel for how powerful and ruthless she could be and, even though she looked all kinds of badass in her black outfits, it made her a weak antagonist.

Weak antagonist, sure, but she still looks badass!

Who?
There’s a lot of awkwardness to the story and plot to Seventh Son but there’s some fun to it as well.  It’s not the best fantasy film I’ve seen but it never bored me either.  The film kinda wastes having talent like Kit Harington and Djimon Housou in it and Tom’s journey of becoming trained as a witch hunter feels a bit empty and without substance but the film had enough genuinely entertaining moments that it made the film somewhat decent and mildly entertaining.

#JonSnowLives

Pound of Flesh

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! You could make an awful parody of this called Pound of Flush.  Get the guys who made Disaster Film  and you'll get the quality you'd expect from that title.



Pound of Flesh – 2 out of 5

The last time I sought out a Jean-Claude Van Damme film was JCVD and it really changed my opinion of the guy.  His performance in it was pretty amazing.  However, before that, I really haven’t sought out his work for a long time.  Even in his glory days, I wasn’t never really a big fan.  Sure, I watched Bloodsport, Double Impact, Universal Soldier, Timecop and Street Fighter but I’ve never been a big fan.  However, the story of Pound of Flesh interested me…

JCVD is pulling off a Ian Malcolm look in this film.

Deacon (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a former special forces agent who travels to the Philippines in order to donate his kidney to his niece.  However, after stopping a woman in distress and spending the night with her, he wakes up to find his kidney gone.  Now he must team with his brother George (John Ralston), a former enemy who has since become a confidant (Aki Aleong) and the woman who got him into this whole mess in the first place (Charlotte Peters) in order to get his kidney back before it’s too late.

I have bad kidneys, so I welcome someone to steal mine.  The joke would be on you, buster!

Sure, the concept may sound a little silly but, if it was done right, it could have been a nice throwback to the action spectacles of the 80s.  Heck, that’s the whole reason I was sold on this film was because I thought it was going to be a mindless action film where JCVD is hell bent on getting his kidney back from some black market organ thieves and a whole lot of kicks to the face, explosions and bullets ripping bad guys apart was suppose to follow…I didn’t get that.

He's imagining all the things that should have happened in this film.

Yep, I pulled a muscle in my groin just looking at this.
Realistically, there’s not much wrong with Pound of Flesh.  Sure, some of the acting isn’t the most memorable but it’s passable and works.  Sure, there are some issues with the green screen car scenes.  It smacks of being green screened and looks fake as hell.  It even makes for some awkwardness as, when the camera goes in for a angled shot, makes the car looks like it is driving sideways because all the traffic and the direction the car is going is in a direction that is forward—forward as long as the camera is at the front of the interior and shooting the passengers dead on.

The angle makes it look like the car is driving partially sideways...
and that a car is coming to hit the brother character at any second.

These are all minor issues that I could have easily looked over if the film focused entirely on Van Damme smashing faces in order to reclaim his stolen body part but the whole film suffers from something else:  It creates too much boredom.  The movie takes itself too seriously and when you combine that with fight sequences that feel lethargic and are only obligatorily thrown in, it makes for a film that drags a lot and something that was very difficult to get engaged by.

"This is a fight scene, why are you showing me your penis?"

There are parts where the film works and works well.  It starts intriguing enough, there’s a great ending to it, some of the action is definitely satisfying and Jean-Claude Van Damme is doing a very good job as Deacon but those elements can’t save Pound of Flesh from how often the film is dragged down by its own sense of self-importance.  The movie didn’t need to be such a joyless, overtly serious film.  A lighter approach probably would have helped a lot because the premise is pretty hard to take as seriously as the film wants you to take it.  Overall, it’s not a bad film but it definitely wasn’t a very engaging piece of work.

It doesn't help either that this is one of the film's bad guys.  I get it the hair makes you hate him
but there has to be easier ways to dislike your antagonists.