REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 2

"People that say they liked this have to be lying."

After an alleged break-in, a semi-spooked family decide to install a bunch of cameras so they can keep a better eye on things. When more bizarre occurrences start taking place they slowly come around the idea that something isn’t right and that there’s a good chance they’re not alone in the house.

I guess I’ll begin by saying that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY didn’t “wow” me like it did so many others but there’s a reason for this and that reason is that this “video camera” take on things has been done nearly to death these days. Add to that the overabundance of ghost/possession films that have been haunting theatres and video stores for the past decade and you may begin to understand my ire, but before we feed that fire let me just say this film was slow as all hell. Watching the days go by as the camera scans the pool and all the same rooms over and over went beyond tedious. By midpoint I just wanted them all to die so I could be done with this flick but sadly the only person dying at that point was me...of boredom.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT kick started this genre apocalypse back in the nineties but at least then it was a fresh perspective; creepy sounds, stuff moving around, things going bump in the night, all being recorded by supposed real victims, it was pure gold and we all ate it up. Then what happened? Well, what always does in Hollywood when someone has a good idea: they bled it dry. I don’t have to tell you how piss poor a sequel BOOK OF SHADOWS panned out to be, and why, because they’d already used up all the WTF-juice on the first film and like so many other sequels, the bar was already so high it had nowhere else to go but down. Okay, so yes, they do splice a semi-interesting arc into this new story but all in all, this film takes us down the same worn path into all too familiar territory.

The characters involved were also a bit of letdown for me. Now let’s look beyond the fact that the family nanny just happened to be all into spiritual cleansing, going around the house burning incense and reciting incantations like a voodoo priestess (which got her fired too, nice work Dad), to the fact that the father is completely oblivious, the daughter’s a yahoo who believes everything she reads on the internet and the wife is lost somewhere in the middle. The only redeeming characters were the baby and the dog, so what does that tell you? There were a couple jolts to be sure but when bored to the point of slumber, only to have the silence broken by a loud “bang” or “thud”, yes you might jump but I wouldn’t particularly call that fear, just very poor scare tactics that died in the eighties.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 can only be described as a loathsome letdown drummed up by the same people that brought you the last one in hopes of turning another profit. Stirring aimlessly through an hour and twenty-five minutes for five final minutes of “action” was a taxing endeavour, one I sincerely don’t recommend. Without spoiling anything, let me say that this film ends exactly the way I expected it to (to be fair though, there was one cool twist that led up to it) which isn’t a far cry from the first one or many other similar incarnations. There was no need for this sequel and I would personally sell my soul to demons to ensure no more sequels (or similar films) get made in the future.

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REVIEW: Lost Boys The Thirst

"Somewhere Corey Haim is shaking his head."


DJ X, a vampire masquerading as a DJ, is building an army by infecting young ravers with what they believe to be a designer drug but in reality is blood, his blood. It’s up to the Frog Brothers to end this charade and rescue the brother of a Horror author before he’s sacrificed under the Blood Moon.

Well, it’s only fair to start this review by saying that LOST BOYS is one of my top five favourite films of all time, a classic so dear to my heart that I was utterly mortified by the idea of a sequel. The Coreys had many interviews during the gap between first and second film and in the end tried to justify that gap of time with quotes like, “we needed this time to get the story perfect,” and many other empty promises and boasting about THE TRIBE. My thoughts there? THE TRIBE was a complete rehashing of the first film in a different city with a lot of the same dialogue superimposed in for kicks. The ending was remotely interesting but the entire film just shouldn’t have happened. THE THIRST, though just as unnecessary as its predecessor, at least tries to go in a different direction, problem is, that direction is still down.

On the good side, the film looks sleek enough and sports a cool scene or two like when the vampires jump out of the plane, cascading down toward the ground the sound of Cry Little Sister. I dug how both sequels kept the song alive and one of the rewarding things about THE THIRST is how much they treasure the memory of Corey Haim and the first film. There are countless flashbacks which came off as genuine to me simply because I’m sure Feldman misses his lost friend. The Batman 14 comic was an especially nice touch and felt appropriate when visiting the grave.

Sadly, that’s where the fun ends for me as the rest of the film is simply a mess. The vampires were a touch over the top...that is, when you see them. DJ X was a fleeting thought as a villain and the so called twist is nothing at all to write home about. Feldman’s Rorschach grunts were ridiculous and though his one liners were nowhere near as bad as they were in THE TRIBE they were still awe-inspiringly bad. The whole rave thing was cool and all, I mean it’s the perfect cover for a vampire but it all felt way too BLADE-ish to be taken seriously. And on that note, Feldman is no Blade, the dude got his ass handed to him all movie. Not to mention the fact you could tell beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had no idea how to use a sword which really hurt his battle scene.

LOST BOYS THE THIRST was a partially entertaining trip down memory lane on a purely nostalgic level but by no means should be glorified or taken seriously as a sequel. I knew exactly what kind of ride I was in for when the film opened up with the Frog Brothers saving a senator from being turned (think X-MEN 2’s opening scene only dummied down to an infant’s mental capacity) and the hits just kept on coming. The ending made my stomach churn simply because it implies they may make another film with some changes to appease the TWILIGHT mob. My only hope is that Corey Haim is sitting across from God as we speak negotiating the terms for ending this series now.

LOST BOYS will always shine in my eyes and for me, there are no sequels, just two stand alone pieces of nonsense trying to hitch a ride on the original’s coattails. I’ll admit this one was better than the last but that’s still not saying much, nor is it any reason to waste your time or money here. Nostalgia is a funny thing but I can honestly say I’m not sure I’d have watched this movie had I not needed to review it.

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BLU RAY: High Tension

"Words can't describe the horror."

Two best friends, Marie and Alexia, decide to drive down to Alexia’s parent’s farmhouse in the country for a little downtime as they get ready to write their college exams. All seems well until Marie realizes they’re not alone and that a brutal killer has decided to make them this night’s game.

Well, I’m going to be honest with you all in saying that I was overjoyed to get this Blu-ray to review but not for the reasons you might think. This is not a good movie. As a matter of fact, I don’t even consider this abomination a film at all. HIGH TENSION is a prime example of why there’s no room for the naive in Hollywood and obviously no depths to which some people will sink to make a buck. Allow me to explain.

The French gore fest entitled "High Tension" was released back in 2003. I'll never forget my seething anger the night I rented it. I'd recently gotten into Dean Koontz's work and had just finished reading "Intensity" and was hot on the trail of the made for TV movie adaption when I came across this steaming nugget of plagiarism. I didn't know it at the time of course, I was fishing for something to watch at Blockbuster and as the pull of desperate times was upon me yet again, I ended up going home with this flick. I started it up, instantly feeling something wrong in the first ten minutes, something familiar. About fifteen minutes in, "High Tension" ceased to exist and I was now watching "Intensity", or rather someone’s twisted version of it.

Now I know what you might be thinking, “come on man, there are tons of films with the same M.O. so how can you say this was a carbon copy?” Well, to be honest, because that’s exactly what the first half of the film is. The two girls driving out to the farmhouse in the middle of wine country, the dinner with the family, a killer coming in and killing the parents then abducting one of the girls, the other girl sneaking into the truck, stopping at the gas station and then to completely top it off, Marie brought a knife (just like in the book) which she mistakenly drops at the pumps just as she does in the book. Okay, so yes, the film does change from there (going beyond ridiculous I might add, with an ending that’s just plain absurd) but there’s no denying the obvious here.

HIGH TENSION is a disgrace, a mockery that demeans everything movies are supposed to stand for. As I writer, this goes beyond insult and I just couldn't get my mind around it. I later wrote to Mr. Koontz for answers (and instructions on how to find the TV version of Intensity) and he was kind enough to write me back assuring me this "situation" was being dealt with. Now, I was glad to hear it but it really depresses me to know this kind of out right plagiarism happens...and apparently more often than we know. Bottom line folks (and especially to all you writers out there) copyright your work and be damn careful what you do with it and who you show it to. And whatever you do, DON’T spend a dime on this film or encourage it in any way shape or form.

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BLU RAY: The Order

"My second favourite Heath Ledger movie."

Alex Bernier is a radical young priest unlike any you might find in the order. When a renowned member of his order, a priest who was like a father to him, dies mysteriously Alex is sent to Rome to investigate. What he finds are a series of ritualistic murders perpetrated by an ancient evil known only as a Sin Eater.

I vaguely remembered Heath Ledger from 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU but he instantly became one of my favourite up and coming actors after A KNIGHT’S TALE. I’d never heard of THE ORDER and as a matter of fact received it as a gift from my fiancĂ©e after it hit DVD. Aside from A KNIGHT’S TALE (and of course THE DARK KNIGHT), this flick was and still is my second favourite Heath Ledger film. Most people have never heard of THE ORDER but thankfully I’m here to tell you why you should change that.

For me this movie spelt “win” across the board for two reasons; the first being that this film practically reunites the full cast of A KNIGHT’S TALE. Heath is once again joined by Shannyn Sossamon and Mark Addy and as with A KNIGHT’S TALE their chemistry and camaraderie is flawless. Clearly these actors became great friends and decided to go the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon and Vince Vaughn/Jon Favs route which was fine by me as like I said, they worked magic together. On a side note, I’d love to know what happened to Sossamon as she seems to have vanished. Addy co-starred in the funny TV series STILL STANDING, popped up in ROBIN HOOD and will be in the upcoming A GAME OF THRONES HBO series, so clearly he’s doing well but it’s a real shame about Sossamon as I think she’s got real talent.

The second and most notable reason I loved this film was due to the unparalleled original path it takes with religion. I’m a big fan of religious overtones that delve into the dark uncharted regions of mankind and this film goes where none have gone before with the Sin Eater. I won’t give too much away for those who have yet to see this but I was very much impressed by this phenomenon. Peter Weller’s character was just as fascinating as are his (ahem) extracurricular activities in the film. Some of these darker elements remind me of CONSTANTINE (another film I loved) only darker and more sadistic if you can imagine that. Like I said, “win” across the board for me.

THE ORDER is a rare gem, a film that goes where most people don’t dare tread and it’s these types of unbeaten paths that entertain me the most. I remember being at the gym the night Heath Ledger was pronounced dead, a buddy of mine who knows how into movies I am told me and I was very upset by the news. Ledger was a fine actor and just starting to get the recognition he deserved. I was looking forward to seeing him reprise his Joker role in the next Batman film but above all else I was anxiously awaiting a sequel to this film as the ending is quite a cliff hanger. Clearly, we’ll never see these performances and that makes me sad. May Heath rest in peace knowing that although he may be gone, he’s most certainly not forgotten.

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TRAILER: Drive Angry

The way this trailer started off, I thought I was looking at GHOST RIDER 2, what with all the devil and hell mentions and of course Nicholas Cage but this is something completely different. To be honest I have no clue where this one came from but the premise is cool, William Fichtner is the man and Amber Heard is looking hotter than ever (though I will say her accent here does seem like it'll get on my nerves pretty quick).

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REVIEW: Red

"A great action flick from the boys over at DC."

Retired Black-Ops agent Frank Moses is trying to integrate back into society by playing phone tag with a receptionist he’s developing a thing for when a wet team suddenly drops in on him in the dead of night to take him out. Looking to settle the score (and protect the woman he’s now put in danger) Frank decides to reassemble the old gang for one last job.

I didn’t go into RED with high expectations for a couple of reasons, the first being that the trailer didn’t exactly blow me away; there were a couple bad one liners and the premise seemed a bit of a stretch. Now the main reason I wasn’t impressed was due to the PG-13 rating. This is a film based upon a graphic novel from our crew over at DC and though not all graphic novel to film transitions end up like 300 or THE WATCHMEN, I really do feel this one could have benefitted from bump up in the hierarchy. That said, RED was a blast in more ways than one and a definite pick-me-up in this dull theatrical time.

The story was solid and conveyed retired assassins in what I would envision to be an accurate (and quite humorous, the Christmas decorations bit was a hoot) fashion. I mean honestly, what does one do to avoid boredom after a life killing? Hearing one of the characters gripe about not having killed someone in years and then another admitting to taking the odd contract on the side was priceless and again, probably not too far from the mark. Of course on that note, the film’s tone was rather light hearted when weighed against the often bleak subject matter which to me clearly goes back to the rating. There’s room for a splash of humour without watering a film down (take KICK ASS for example) from grittier glory and as good a time as RED was I firmly believe it could have been better.

What really drives this film into the bleachers is the flawless cast. Bruce Willis has still got it; that much needs to be immediately put out there. I was sceptical about the last DIE HARD flick but Willis handled himself like a true action star would as he also does here. Now mind you I would consider this film a lot closer to THE WHOLE NINE YARDS than any full tilt action vehicle but bottom line Bruce still packs a punch. Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox and John Malkovich are always a pleasure and they even squeezed in a couple nice cameos from James Remar and Richard Dreyfuss but it was Karl Urban who steals the show next to Willis. Urban’s been an up and coming favourite of mine for awhile but fell off the grid for a time up until STAR TREK and I for one am happy to see him back in the game.

RED was a lot of fun and to be honest, I shouldn’t have had any doubts because DC has upped their game considerably of late (on all fronts) and continues to amaze me. The action was well shot, the shootouts were some of the best I’ve seen in awhile and the stunts were as sharp as the explosions. I also enjoyed the dialogue (even if it was corny at times) but the team, good as they are, seemed to get things done with minimal trouble or notice (Bruce’s house getting shot up as it did didn’t even seem to stir a neighbourhood dog let alone the neighbours themselves). This film is worth your money don’t get me wrong, I just tend to see things for what they could have been when it comes to action, especially when I enjoy what I saw.

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TRAILER: Scream 4

I'll never forget walking out of SCREAM with my crew back in the day, it was a blast from start to finish and just what Wes Craven needed to redefine his genius. Years later, we stand on the brink of SCREAM 4 and though I'm unsure just how I feel about this, one thing is for certain, I am curious.

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REVIEW: My Soul To Take

"Not Craven's best but still a decent Horror flick."

It’s Ripper Day, the anniversary of a serial killer’s death that brought the town of Riverton to its knees sixteen years ago. Seven children were born that night and some believe the killer’s soul passed into one of those kids while others believe the killer never truly died, either way people are dying and it’s up to the Riverton seven to put an end to the Ripper once and for all.

Reinventing one’s self in the Horror industry isn’t an easy task for anyone, even a guy as renown as Wes Craven. There’s a reason so many Horror films are being remade and simply put, it just ain’t easy to invent new icons for this genre. Jigsaw (according to Tobin Bell) was a fluke but be that as it may he’s become a household name. Other than that, I enjoyed THE COLLECTOR, THE STRANGERS and FUNNY GAMES but the only true breakthrough Horror icon to come about in the past few years other than that would be Adam Green’s Victor Crowley from HATCHET (I’m purposely leaving one out but I’ll come back to him later). I can’t see the Ripper joining the ranks (unless it’s through straight to DVD sequels) but I did enjoy this film nonetheless.

First, the good: I dig stories about multiple personalities when there’s clearly been some effort put into them (dropping it on us in the last five minutes has gotten rather old), but even better is the idea of soul jumping. This film reminds me of John Saul’s BLACK LIGHTNING (if only vaguely) where a killer learned to leave his body and possess someone else for a short time. CHILD’S PLAY used this theory a bit more directly but in all cases I’ve enjoyed it. Uniquely added details like the condor are always welcome as is Wes Craven’s obvious ability to write sharp, witty dialogue laced with just the right amount of humour. Pacing, score, tension, those were all bang on as well.

Now for the bad: First, releasing this in 3D is a joke (on us) because it’s obviously all about the Benjamins as there was absolutely no need for it or proper use of it whatsoever. The biggest flaw is with Wes Craven himself as he’s his own worst enemy here. Have you guessed the left out icon yet? Wes Craven’s SCREAM films introduced Ghostface into the mix (and in all honestly I’m looking forward to SCREAM 4) and though he’s a fantastic baddy, I couldn’t help but feel cheated here as the Ripper was pretty much living in his shadow. He even called one of them on the phone and I was waiting with a grin to see if he’d drop a scary movie line. He didn’t, but I’m sure you get the picture.

MY SOUL TO TAKE was a decent trip down Horror lane with an explosive opening sequence and a cool ending for what it is. Like I said, it’s rough trying to keep your edge sharp in Horror these days, especially with slasher flicks like these. Wes Craven is clearly still in SCREAM mode, which is fine, but it wouldn’t have hurt him to distance himself from it and take this film down a different road. Similarities aside this is still good times and the best new choice at the theatre right now unless you live in one of the selected cities showing Ryan Reynold’s film BURIED (I clearly don’t) but that said, the cost of 3D can be steep so waiting for this one to hit the home market might not be a bad idea either.

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TRAILER: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The first Narnia flick had it's moments, especially when it came to the battle sequence at the end. The second film blew me away and got me hooked on this series but this trailer doesn't have the power of the first two films or the energy. Some fans of the novels say this was the best one but as it stands right now I'm not seeing it. Time will tell.

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REVIEW: Let Me In

"Better than the original but still unnecessary."

Owen is a shy, lonely little boy who's mostly ignored by everyone except the bullies who pick on him at school. When a strange girl (who turns out to be a vampire) moves into his building, the two become close and Owen's lonely world slowly begins to change.

I remember coming out of Blockbuster back in early 2009 and picking up the "coming soon" movie news magazine they have at the door. Glancing through it, I came upon a flick called LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and a caption going on about how it’s "the best vampire movie ever." I'd already heard some buzz about it at that point and though I didn't dislike the film, I can easy say as a vampire fan it was a far cry from the best vampire movie out there. LET ME IN isn’t exactly a carbon copy of its original Swedish counterpart but it looks pretty damn close. I’m not particularly crazy about remakes (especially when done like this and so soon, something they’re also doing with THE GIRLWITH THE DRAGON TATTOO films) but this version was indeed neater and easier to watch.

Personally, one of the very few things that cause my suspension of disbelief to stumble is watching kids who are written as adults. I dug the storyline for what it is (something that no doubt looked better on paper) but most people (myself included) aren't terribly into stories that revolve around twelve year old kids, vampire or no vampire. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE killed the idea of kid vamps for me with Kristen Dunst's whinny little character running around like a spoiled brat (I was so happy when she got burnt to a crisp). That said, Chloe Moretz was phenomenal as Abby which isn’t surprising after her work as Hit Girl and Kodi Smit-McPhee also worked well as Owen. They’re chemistry was genuine and that in itself was the key to holding this film together.

Thankfully this version didn’t suffer from the mess of subtitles or horrendous dubbing, something that really hurt the original’s fun factor for me. They really toned down the intimacy between the two kids here as well, something I was also relieved to see (I held my breath during the scene when she comes in the window and strips down praying they wouldn’t show anything and they didn’t). The only real drag here is the pace, something a little more time in the editing room could have easily fixed. The CGI is my only real complaint as it looked silly as hell and just plain lazy. Also, I don’t remember there being so much “Jesus” talk in the original, it stuck out here like a sore thumb.

LET ME IN is not a bad film but there are things to consider before forking out your hard earned cash to see in theatres; the most important of these being that only true (hardcore) vampire fans will have any use for it. I enjoyed what this film tries to do. I liked the story, the tense mood and there were more than a couple cool effects and dark scenes (looooved the pool scene as well as Abby showing Own what happens if she’s not invited in) and the ending was pretty cool too despite knowing that it’s all going to come full circle again down the road. A great way to look at this film is by comparing it to the first couple Harry Potter films, yes they were cool stories but they were a little hard to take seriously due to the age of the actors. LET ME IN is by no means campy, nor does it feel like Disney territory but there are more than a couple moments that may cause you to squirm uncomfortably in your seat and it won’t be due to the violence.

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TRAILER: Death Race 2

Now on the one hand, I enjoyed Paul W.S. Anderson's DEATH RACE remake but on the other hand I can't help but call a direct to DVD sequel a bit of a red flag. I dig the idea of a prequel to explain the origins of Statham's secret character (and of course more Danny Trejo) but I can't see this being anything but rental territory and even then, it probably won't be re-watchable.

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TRAILER: Skyline

I love alien flicks, always have but even I can't deny the fact that the originality in this field has been waning for quite some time now. SKYLINE looks phenomenal and exploding with enough small curves into new territory to indeed become something worthy of praise. Let's hope I'm not wrong.

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