Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Watched - February 14-20 2016


Slow Learners (2015) Netflix
 - On Valentine's night my girlfriend wanted to watch a rom-com, and since most big budget examples of the genre end up being formulaic crap, we settled on this indy movie. It follows two unlucky-in-love loser teachers, one male and one female, who decide to let loose over the summer and indulge in all sorts of one-night stands, drugs and alcohol. The end result - the losers ending up together - is predictable but the journey is less so, which I appreciated. Online reviews I've seen aren't very flattering towards this movie, but I found it enjoyable enough, more awkward humour (ala Napoleon Dynamite or Eagle vs Shark) than laugh-out-loud funny.

Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984) AVI
- As a side-note, this blog was once known as "The Barbaric Bs of Schlocky Creek", a play on the original title of this movie, The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part 2. But it was too confusing, long and obscure of a reference, so I changed it.
This movie is the second sequel to the original Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), but the first involving original director/producer Charles B Pierce. Pierce plays a university professor out to prove the existence of the Boggy Creek bigfoot. He takes along three young students (one played by real life son Chuck Pierce Jr) and naturally they run afoul of the creature.
Sadly this doesn't have the docudrama elements of the original (which felt like a 70s version of the opening portion of Blair Witch Project) and instead opts for straight drama/horror. The bad effects, acting and cinematography mean this movie is only worth watching for its unintentional comedy, and even that's in fairly short supply.

Bloodline Season 1 (2015) Netflix
- This is another TV series that has been on my Netflix list for a while. I liked the synopsis and the involvement of Kyle Chandler was enough to interest me. Chandler is one of my favourite actors since seeing him in the Friday Night Lights series (I did watch a few episodes of Early Edition back in the day, but it wasn't until FNL that he really made an impression on me). This series is all about how a successful family's facade can often hide dark secrets. It has a stellar cast including Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Sam Shepard, Chloe Sevigny and under-rated Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn. And a great setting - the Florida Keys.
Most of the season is dedicated to establishing the family dynamics and slowly revealing a tragic incident in the family's past. It ends with a bang, and Netflix has announced Season 2 will be online sometime early this year. I'll be interested to see how they proceed from the developments of Season 1.

Polonia Brothers Splatterfest Double Feature:

Two movies made by the Polonia brothers 20 years apart, both containing the word "Splatter" in the title.

Splatter Farm (1987) AVI
- John and Mark Polonia were 19 years old when they made this low-budget gorefest, in which they cast themselves in the lead roles of young twins going to stay with an Aunt on her farm. Her live-in handyman is a psycho who kills and cuts up people.
The acting of the paltry five cast members is awful and  the plot is virtually non-existant, but what makes this amateurish flick stand out is the gore. The brothers go overboard with the blood and guts and show they aren't afraid to offend, throwing in necrophilia, animal abuse, incest and child murder. There were a couple of moments where I even felt a bit ill, which doesn't happen too often these days.
Good music and some inventive camera angles also help make this movie rise above what the budget should have allowed - this is truly an example of no-budget horror done right.

Splatter Beach (2007) AVI
- Two decades after Splatter Farm, the Polonia brothers directed this, their 22nd straight-to-video feature. It doesn't have anything to do with Splatter Farm, instead telling the story of a sea creature that attacks beachgoers, paying tribute to the 60s Frankie Avalon/Anne Funicello beach movies as well as every sea creature flick you can think of - Humanoids from the Deep, Creature From the Black Lagoon and so on.
This movie gets points for using practical effects for the monster - good ol' man in a suit - but unfortunately it over-indulges in green screen and CGI effects elsewhere and there just isn't the gore or shocks of Splatter Farm. The acting is on par with that earlier film (ie terrible) - the former-Misty Mundae, Erin Brown, is in it and she couldn't act her way out of a wet paperbag.
I can appreciate what the Polonia brothers were trying to achieve here, but it just felt flat and boring for the most part. Sadly this is the penultimate directing credit for John Polonia, who died in 2008, although Mark has continued to make low-budget horror flicks.

What I Watched - February 7-13 2016


Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 (2015) AVI
 - I finally got around to watching this awesome series (filmed here in my native New Zealand), digesting it in just a few days. It's only 10 40-minute episodes, perfect for binge-watching. And what a show it is! Of course, I'm a huge fan of both Bruce Campbell and the Evil Dead movies, so I'm slightly biased, but my girlfriend isn't too familiar with either and she really enjoyed this too. Bruce is in great form in his return to the boom-stick and chainsaw-arm of Ash, and has a pretty good supporting cast (Ray Santiago is hilarious as Pablo). Best of all, it doesn't spare the blood and guts, which is vital. This really does feel like an extension of the original movies - I can't wait for season 2!

Burying the Ex (2014) Netflix
- I've heard a lot of good things about this horror comedy from Joe Dante (you know, the guy who did the Gremlins movies, Small Soldiers, The Burbs, Piranha, The Howling - the list goes on). It spent a while sitting on my Netflix list before I finally gave it a watch, and... it's pretty okay. As a zombie romcom it doesn't come anywhere near close to Shaun of the Dead, or Zombieland, but it's not bad. I like Anton Yelchin (having recently seen him in Odd Thomas), who is charming enough to do the donkey work here. More cute than outright funny but worth seeing.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (2014) Netflix
- Sometimes I just browse a synopsis, think something sounds interesting and add it to my Netflix list, but when I finally watch it, it turns out to be very different than what I was expecting. This is a case in point - I thought it was a documentary but it's actually a dramatised retelling of real life events. That being said, it's an intriguing watch, telling the story of a man who is accused of a rape/murder basically because of his odd behaviour and appearance. He is found innocent but the damage is done by the media. Originally aired as a mini series, it plays a bit long in the "movie" form on Netflix, but is never boring and often awkwardly funny due to Jason Watkin's stellar portrayal of the title character.

Better Call Saul Season 1 (2015) Netflix
- Another series I've been looking forward to seeing for a while now. As a big fan of Breaking Bad I was so happy to hear that Saul Goodman was getting a spinoff show. This played on TV here in New Zealand last year but I don't have cable, so I waited until it showed up on Netflix. This first season was great, showing the history of Saul as struggling young lawyer Jimmy McGill, his nutty shut-in brother, his love interest fellow lawyer and best of all, Mike Ehrentrout, who is just as surly as he was in Breaking Bad. While Saul on Breaking Bad came across as an inscrutable lowlife, we get to see the man before he "went bad", the man with morales and dreams. Of course, seeing all of that get crushed and a life of crime come beckoning is all part of the fun!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What I Watched - January 31-February 6 2016


Sinister 2 (2015) AVI
 - I quite enjoyed the first Sinister. It wasn't anything great, but the storyline was interesting enough and the villain Bughuul has a cool look (albeit very much a ripoff of Slipknot guitarist Mick Thompson). This sequel covers similar ground, except for obvious reasons Ethan Hawke isn't in it. Instead, Deputy So-and-So (the returning James Ransone) takes over the task of trying to defeat Bughuul, who has his sights set on a new family. The best part is the home movies showing Bughuul's past handywork. There are a few too many jump scares (mainstream horror to a T), but if you enjoyed the first Sinister you should enjoy this.

The Bridge (2006) Netflix
- I find myself following a similar pattern a lot these days. I take my iPad to bed with me and watch something on Netflix before going to sleep. I usually choose a documentary over a movie because they're usually shorter. This was one such choice - a doco about people who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Morbid subject matter for sure. There are interviews with those close to the jumpers, which is interesting, but what makes this stand out is the footage of the actual people jumping. I guess so many people jump off that bridge that it was worth the gamble for these film-makers to have a cameraman film the scene for a few months, knowing they would capture what they needed with enough patience. It's extremely unsettling and the images stuck in my mind for a long while after watching this.

Safelight (2015) Netflix
- Indy drama about a disabled young man (Evan Peters from American Horror Story) and a truck stop hooker (Juno Temple) who strike up an unlikely friendship as they photograph a series of lighthouses on the California coast. I watches this mainly because I liked Peters' work on AHS and wanted to see how he would handle a feature film. He did fine, in fact his acting is probably the highpoint of the movie. If you like indy movies about quirky characters, this is pretty good.

Jack Be Nimble (1993) DVD
- The last of a handful of New Zealand films I purchased on DVD recently, Jack Be Nimble is the best of the bunch. It tells the story of young siblings torn apart at a young age, who come back together as adults. But while Dora (NZ actress Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) was brought up in a good family and is well-adjusted aside from some psychic abilities, Jack (Alexis Arquette) was raised in a violent, hate-filled foster home and is severely unhinged. This movie has a dark, almost dream-like quality to it, aided by a great job from Arquette (born Robert, now a woman, sibling of Patricia, Rosanna and David). The late Bruno Lawrence also shines in a support role as Dora's manipulative older boyfriend.

Capital C (2014) Netflix
- Another late-night doco in bed, this one is about crowdfunding and follows a few entrepeneurs in their experiences using Kickstarter and the like. Interesting time-filler.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) AVI
- When I saw the trailer to this I thought it looked funny (especially the zombie cats) but I'm burned out on zombie movies so it's taken me a while to get around to watching it. If you've seen the trailer you know what to expect - essentially a teen sex comedy mixed with a zombie flick. If that sounds like your cup of tea, it's actually quite funny. One scene involving a character falling out a window and grabbing hold of... well, I won't spoil it, but it had me rolling on the floor. Good stuff.

Batman: Bad Blood (2016) AVI
- My son and I, being huge Batman fans, sat down to watch this, the latest animated Batman DC offering. In hindsight it's probably not ideal for a six-year-old, as it has some mild swearing and violence, but the movie itself is awesome. I enjoyed the fact it takes the emphasis off of Bruce Wayne for a bit and lets the B Team (Dick Grayson aka Nightwing, Robin aka Damien Wayne, Batwoman aka Katherine Kane and Batwing aka Luke Fox) take the lead. As always the animation is incredible and the plot was simple but fun.

Sucker (2013) DVD
- I didn't know what to expect from this, a low-budget scifi/action flick about a guy who gets infused with a toxin and becomes a half-man, half-mosquito superhero. If that synopsis sounds dumb to you, you're probably better off skipping this one. Director Michael Manaserri (who doubles as lead actor) does an admirable job with a $1.5 million budget of creating a live action comic book. Sure, some of it's pretty goofy, but it's a lot of fun. The settings and overall look remind me of a more-polished Troma movie. Also known as Mosquito Man.

30th anniversary low-budget slasher Double Feature:

As the name suggests, a pair of slasher flicks that were released 30 years ago, in 1986.

Blood Hook (1986) AVI
- How could you not love an 80s slasher about a killer who literally hooks his victims using a fishing pole and an oversized hook/lure? Director Jim Mallon clearly had an eye for the campy - this was his only directing gig for 10 years, then he became a director/producer/executive producer for Mystery Science Theater 3000. On its own merits, this is one of the many, many slashers that came out following the success of the Friday the 13th movies, and this one is more derivative than most, being set at a lake and having some very Jason-esque music cues. Some of it is actually quite well shot, with some fun camera angles, and while a portion of proceedings fall into the unintentionally-hilarious territory, this is a good time for anyone who has a hankering for good ol' 80s slashers.

Dreamaniac (1986) AVI
- Where Blood Hook was thoroughly entertaining, sadly Dreamaniac is a bore. Directed by the prolific David DeCoteau (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowlarama, three Puppetmaster movies among many others), this plays like a soft-porn movie with some attempts at horror thrown into the mix. Not surprisingly DeCoteau had made a few porn films before this, his feature film debut, and one of the lead actresses, Ashlyn Gere, became a pornstar after this. There are a couple of alright moments of gore involving a power drill, but otherwise this is a yawnfest - people arrive at a party, a succubus kills someone, rinse and repeat. Best avoided.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What I Watched - January 24-30 2016


 The House at the End of Time (2013) Netflix
 - This horror/thriller is from Venezuela of all places and apparently set all sorts of box office records in that country. It's easy to see why, as this continues the great run of success for Spanish-language supernatural movies (Devil's Backbone, The Orphanage, Julia's Eyes, Timecrimes etc). I know it's unfair to lump a Venezuelan movie in with films from Spain, but if I can generalise for a minute... the Latino directors/writers/actors are masters at creating haunted house movies thick with atmosphere and with an underlying feeling of loss.
The House at the End of Time is one of those movies that keeps you guessing right until the end, and wraps things up nicely with an explanation that makes you smile. But as well as being a good mystery, it uses some great suspense and is genuinely creepy throughout. Definitely recommended.

The Martian (2015) AVI
- I'm sure every man and his dog has seen this movie by now. This Matt Damon-starrer got a lot of buzz when it came out last year. And it deserves a lot of the praise, because it's a genuinely-intriguing tale of one man trapped alone on Mars and his battle for survival. While some of the supporting roles are miscast, Damon is really quite good in the lead role and director Ridley Scott once again shows that he is a master of scifi.

Craigslist Joe (2012) Netflix
- Nifty little doco about one man's quest to survive solely on the generosity of others on Craigslist. There's nothing profound about any of it, but it's interesting to see the film maker's journey across the US while meeting some of the more bizarre characters from the website.

The Internet's Own Boy (2014) Netflix
- Before sitting down to watch this I had never heard of Aaron Swartz, the subject of this documentary. He was a gun young computer programmer who developed the RSS protocol and co-founded reddit, so quite a big deal in terms of the internet world. He also seemed to be something of a tortured genius and killed himself while waiting to be tried by the authorities for hacking. This doco has interviews with all of his family, friends and important people in the tech-world that he lived in. An interesting watch.

Case 39 (2009) Netflix
- Another late-night blind-watch on Netflix, this one turned out to be pretty good. One-time A-lister Renee Zellweger plays a social worker who saves an abused young girl from her crazy parents. But were her parents really crazy or was there more to it? Ian McShane shows up in a fairly-bland supporting role, but Zellweger carries the load (all wide-eyed and shocked throughout) along with young Jodelle Ferland (Cabin in the Woods, The Tall Man), who is outstanding as the foster girl who isn't all that she seems. Shades of The Good Son and Orphan, this thriller is by-the-numbers but has a few twists to keep things interesting.

Contracted: Phase II (2015) Netflix
- I quite liked the first movie, but sadly this sequel doesn't really add anything, just going over the same ground again. It picks up right where the first movie ends, with a supporting character from that taking over the lead role. There's some gore and some gross-out moments, but for the most part I was generally bored here.

A Lonely Place to Die (2011) Netflix
- A survival thriller where the good guys are mountain climbers and the bad guys are either people smugglers or kidnappers (I won't give it away), this plays as a cross between Cliffhanger and any number of modern thriller/horror movies.
What saves it is that the climbing scenes are handled very well, keeping the pulse racing throughout (particularly if you're terrified of heights like I am), and the performance of Melissa George. I've been watching her since she was a kid on Australian soap Home and Away, and she's turned into a solid Holywood actor. She plays a good survivor/victim, as shown in 30 Days of Night, and she's in good form here. The script is also clever in a few places, twisting our expectations and going against the predictable, which I appreciated. All in all a pretty good little thriller, but be warned - if you're scared of heights you're in for a rough ride.