Fantasia Blog 8: The Green Inferno (2013)

THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

Director: Eli Roth
Writers: Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López, Eli Roth
Stars: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara
Trailer: [Link]

 

the-green-inferno

Synopsis:

A university girl tries to prove to an activist group that she cares about the world. Fortunately for her, they’re planning a trip to the Amazon to save a tribe from a company. Unfortunately, the tribe is a group of cannibals.

Review:

Eli Roth is a strange fellow. I liked Cabin Fever but hated Hostel and they were both his babies. He understand horror as much as he understands humour and I feel that with his past work, he’s never truly been able to properly balance the two. There’s a dark humour in him that tends to colour his scenes in a way that can best be described as quasi Raimi-esque. But a Raimi that grew up a decade later, in the saturated horror market.

In this, The Green Inferno is probably his most balanced act yet. There’s humour a-plenty in the film; the first fifteen minutes are pretty much only that and even when the violence starts and in some of the most painful scenes. Some of it is slapstick that is reminiscent of Army of Darkness. A volley of arrows and darts in uncomfortable places isn’t supposed to cause so much laughter and glee but here, it does. It’s a fine contrast with the horror part of the tale and it works well as a sort of palate cleanser. After all, this is a cannibal movie and a sort of homage to Cannibal Holocaust.

One thing I’ll add is how much I like this new way of dealing with survival horror. I say “new” only because I’ve only seen You’re Next pull it off correctly before The Green Inferno. What I am talking about is how, instead of showing you the five or six “heroes/victims” in the first five minutes, the movie will show you a dozen or more people, have you take interest in seeing their character develop and keep you guessing who the “main” characters really are. Then, when the horror starts, half or more are dispatched in a short minute, thus revealing the heroes of the film. I love this and this movie does it well.

Is it perfect? No. There are some moments that had me scratching my head. Why didn’t they lift the gate after the distraction? How can the middle-credit scene make any sense? How can one know that a satellite is pointed at you and where it’s located (so that you appear to be looking directly at it)?  Why take the time and effort to film in the Amazon with real locals and then have obvious non-locals as main antagonists? That butcher was hella white. But still, it’s a fine piece and as Eli Roth said it himself, there aren’t many mainstream cannibal movies as of late. This is one of the good ones.

Score:

♥♥♥ 3/4

Fantasia Blog 7 : Wolfcop (2014)

WOLFCOP (2014)

Director: Lowell Dean
Writer: Lowell Dean, Bannister Bergen
Stars: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry
Trailer: [Link]

wolfcop

Synopsis:

Alcoholic officer Lou Garou (a pun on loup-garou, the french word for werewolf) gets attacked during a sweep on a “satanist party” in the woods. He slowly but surely transforms into Wolfcop, a werewolf-at-law that gets stronger as he gets drunker.

Review:

Decent effort from Lowell Dean to make a Canadian horror movie that doesn’t fall in the trappings of the claustrophobia of the great white north. Some of these Canadian horror movies were great (e.g. Pontypool), some okay (e.g. Ginger Snaps) but most were… well, they were often found lacking in the traditional sense. Often, Canadian cinema replaces the crazy urban/camp settings for the isolation of winter. And often, you end up feeling something akin to cabin fever by proxy. Wolfcop almost does this but strays enough to feel, well, American.

Now, on to the movie itself; Wolfcop is more of a dark humor piece than it is horror (though the gore factor is present for most of the movie) and where it excels is in referencing other movies but in ways subtle enough to not feel like that, precisely. There are definite hints of Hot Fuzz in there (and yes, I’m aware of the pun here). There are scenes that could very be taken from Robocop, except that our protagonist is much, much more hairy.

Does it work? Sure. It’s a fine movie. I’d say it’s a bit too short on the “wolfcop” part of Wolfcop; you only see a couple scenes where he’s actually doing something as a werewolf. Still, it’s worth a watch.

Score:

♥♥♥

Fantasia Blog Fest 6: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista
Trailer: [Link]

Synopsis:

Peter Quill finds himself emprisoned with a group of outlaws, all with a common goal: an orb of immense value, wanted by both The Collector and Ronan the Accuser, Kree judge.

Review:

This movie will change Marvel movies. I see Rocket Raccoon and Groot plushies everywhere in the near future. Hell, it’s already happening. THIS is the Marvel movie we needed. Sure, The Avengers was awesome. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc. Sure. Loved them. But they’re the originals; the archetypes. They’re all good guys fighting the good fight. Not the Guardians. The Guardians of the Galaxy are loud, obnoxious, rough. They’re bad guys doing the right thing. Outlaws and criminals with an edge to their humour and actions and this is a breath of fresh air.

The movie was better than anything I expected, to be honest. I’d say it’s the best movie Marvel has done. Joss Whedon must be feeling mighty jealous right now. It’s flawless. There, I said it. Flawless. It’s tear-inducing funny, the action is ridiculous, the plot makes sense and it’s not taking itself seriously (though to be fair, none of the Marvel movies really do, save for Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier). Chris Pratt shows that he can lead a movie and be an action star. Zoe Saldana continues being so damn badass in everything she does. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel KILLED as Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Rocket definitely stole every scene he was in. How Cooper was able to portray such a complex character … that is also a space raccoon bounty hunter… is amazing. Same with Vin Diesel who always gets a bad rep but has once again (as he did in The Iron Giant) shown how well he can play with so little and still make you feel something. It’s amazing the ways someone can say “I am Groot” and make you understand different things each time. And let’s not forget Bautista, who was downright funny in his scenes and a much better actor than I gave him credit for.

The supporting cast is perfect. The visuals are impecable. Some could say that the movie takes too long to introduce the character, a flaw shared with the first installment of each Marvel movie. Sure but it’s fun. Nothing dragged on for too long. No scenes felt unnecessary.

I can’t wait to see what Marvel does with this story and how they’ll tie it in to the rest of their universe (because you know they will). So excited.

I am Groot!

Score:

♥♥♥♥♥

Fantasia Fest Blog 5: Dead Snow : Red vs Dead (2014)

DEAD SNOW: RED VS DEAD (2014)

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel, Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, Martin Starr
Trailer: [Link]

Synopsis:

Directly following the amazing Dead Snow, Martin quickly finds himself in the hospital after a last fight with the evil nazi General Herzog. With the nazi army now hellbent on finishing the second part of their mission and with the police force believing that Martin is responsible for the acts committed in the first movie, Martin has to find a way to escape everyone while also stopping Herzog from taking over and destroying a small town.

Review:

A-MA-ZING! As quirky as the first one, with as many subtle (and not so subtle) references to other movies, Dead Snow: Red vs Dead easily continues the story without necessarilly feeling like more of the same. Yes, it’s the same badguy. Yes, Martin is back. Here ends all throwbacks from Dead Snow, however.The first movie happened entirely on a snowy mountain top; this one is mostly in marshes. The good guys are also different this time: the timid caretaker of a nazi memorabilia museum and a “zombie squad” of Sci-Fi loving Americans (one is dressed like Neo and another quotes Star Wars) all help Martin find a way to stop Herzog. Can you say Red Menace?

The gore is ridiculous, the story doesn’t take itself seriously and the laughs are comparible to the level of fun I’ve had watching Braindead or Bad Taste, two wonderful movies.

Score:

♥♥♥♥

Fantasia Fest Blog 4: Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie (2014)

ANGRY VIDEO GAME NERD: THE MOVIE (2014)

Directors: Kevin Finn, James D. Rolfe
Writers: Kevin Finn, James D. Rolfe
Stars: James D. Rolfe, Robbie Rist, Logan Grove, Whitney Moore
Trailer: [Link]

Synopsis:

AVGN guy takes a regular episode of his show, pads it with a ton of useless scenes to justify the money he received and removes anything that could get him sued, which destroys the very idea that he criticizes real games.

Review:

Apparently I have a quite unpopular opinion, as this movie has been rated rather well by people who seem to think this movie is better than Sharknado. I’ve also been accused of “just not liking ba-good movies” which of course is just not true (as you’re well aware if you’ve read my reviews). Let’s put it bluntly: I like the AVGN series but hated the movie. Because it’s not really a movie. Oh sure, the synopsis tells you it goes on a “Blues Brothers styled chase to reach a classic and infamous game” but it’s bullshit. Comparing this to The Blues Brothers is downright insulting.

So let’s recap what went wrong.

First of all, they’re reviewing a fake game. Or rather, fake games. Sure, all of the stuff the AVGN guy reviews is licensed, copyrighted, etc. But it still feels cheap. You know how cringy was that Wayne’s World scene where they do Top 10s and other stuff that normally appeared on SNL? Same feeling with the magic trick on TV in Penn & Teller Get Killed. It feels phony. And if that’s a shame: AVGN has always been quacky but sincere. Something lost here.

Then there’s the sidekicks. They are absolutely useless. You could have made the entire movie without the sidekicks and still arrived at the same conclusion. Mandi is a someone from Marketting in an “evil” gaming company who wishes to have AVGN review a sequel to “EEE TEE” (ugh) and dressed up “nerdy” to fit in. Cooper is there… because… why is he there? Oh right; he tells AVGN about his religion, which has some robot Kaiju god that can obliterate the universe by moving the antenna on his head. Okay. After this setup from both characters, every single thing they do becomes obsolete. The movie tries to tell you there’s character growth but it’s not true: Cooper hasn’t done anything he wasn’t already doing before and his only “problem” was having an overbearing mother, who is still overbearing at the end (he picks up her call for the Xth time). Mandi… decides to not publish EEE TEE. That’s it. Nowhere is it implied that she understands that she’s doing something wrong; she just flips a switch.

And that’s part of the bigger problem: the movie could have been thirty minutes long. AVGN doesn’t want to review EEE TEE, decides to prove copies aren’t buried in Nevada, finds out they are and the secret behinds it, has his fun quoting/referencing his series and reviews EEE TEE. But no, people gave him so much money, it had to be spent somewhere. So you get ridiculous scenes with the army (two guys, a man in a tank and a sadistic woman). You get a pointless fight between Mandi and the army woman because we’re all thirteen and want to see catfights (ugh x2). You get pointless scenes with Cooper doing… I guess driving the truck. You get more than an hour of filler scenes that absolutely do not contribute to the story. The number one rule in movie-making is that every scene must move the plot forward. These scenes felt like AVGN was stalling for time.

The only redeeming value to this piece of trash is the absurd amount of cameos from people conned into being part of this crap. To quote the AVGN himself, “I’d rather have a fucking buffalo take a diarrhea dump in my ear.”

Score:

1/2♥

Fantasia Fest Blog 3: Small Gauge Trauma

Small Gauge Trauma

Director: Various
Writer: Various
Stars: Various
[See website for details]

Synopsis:
Eleven short movies dealing with the dark, the gritty, the weird.

Review:
I saw Small Gauge Trauma 13 five years ago and it blew my mind. I had always skipped those so I could focus on big movies but some of these shorts were so good that I still have the DVD of the compilation today. Unfortunately, things have gone bland since. This year’s SGT18 is… well, it’s a sure sign of the troubles with indie horror as of late. Let’s face it: the genre is saturated and anyone with a camera tries to be shocking or quirky. It rarely works.

I’ll quickly go through the list, if you don’t mind.

 

All You Can Eat – Tommy Groth – 2013 - A reverse shot of a halloween celebration. A clown is giving candy. Perhaps the Dead Island trailer spoiled me but I expected the way it ended. Still, it was well done. ♥♥♥

Baskin – Can Evrenol – 2014 - Cops enter a house filled with horrors. So disappointing! The setup was perfect and the promised horror seemed so juicy but then… nothing. No ending. It felt like a commercial for a movie in which they show you all the good scenes. ♥♥

Black and White – Richard Williamson – 2014 - A guy is invited to a classy orgy. He’s told he can’t leave. Yawn. Saw this coming a mile away. The reveal fell flat. ♥

Canis – Marc Riba & Anna Solanas – 2013 - Stop-motion animation of a dystopian Spain that has been taken over by rabid, sick dogs. Ending is a bit “meh” but other than that, it was incredibly well done. ♥♥♥

The Carriage of: Dracula & My Mother – Ben Gordon – 2014 - Solid indie. Really stupid but that’s part of the charm. The Dracula is weird as hell. ♥♥♥

The Cyclist – Christopher Bryan – 2014 – Hipster all the way. Tried to be poetic. Cyclist rides away from his memories in a zombie-infested world. 1/2♥

Ghost Train – Lee Cronin – 2014 - Kids dare one another to start the ghost train in an abandoned amusement park. Lots of unnecessary emotion between the guys going back as adults. ♥

Here be Monsters – Nic Gorman, Paul Gibb – 2014 - Soldier goes back to his family after being bitten by a zombie. The synopsis said I’d be devastated. I wasn’t. ♥♥

Nature – Meredith Hama-Brown – 2014 - A woman tries to convince her boyfriend to rape her. I’ll give it points for being terribly disturbing. Probably the darkest of all the movies presented and hey, not one death. ♥♥♥♥

Sequence – Carles Torrens – 2014 - A man wakes up to find out that everyone he meets has dreamt of him during the night. It wasn’t a nice dream… That short was brilliant. That made my night. Funny, weird, disturbing. ♥♥♥♥♥

Sunshing for Breakfast – Parker Winans – 2013 - Stop-motion and live action combination. The tale of a kid who absolutely hates his brother. Tries way too hard. ♥

So there you have it. Props to Nature and Sequence, bleh for the rest.

Fantasia Fest Blog 2: The Zero Theorem

THE ZERO THEOREM (2013)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Pat Rushin
Stars: Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis

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Synopsis:

Qohen is waiting for a phone call which will explain the meaning of his existence. In the meantime, he works for Mancom, crunching numbers, avoiding interactions. This worries Management, who sends in a couple of life-defining characters to distract him a little and perhaps force him to venture outside and live.

Review:

Ahh, Gilliam, back to Brazil. The comparisons are there and not really difficult to spot: two men (Qohen and Sam), trying to disconnect from the daily grind, constantly bothered by colourful people. But it wouldn’t do The Zero Theorem any justice to say that the two movies are alike. Sure, they’re both goofy and strangely anachronic but this is where comparisons end. Sam was trying to evade the oppressive, drastic (and indirectly amusing) government, while Qohen is only a victim of his own faith in the universe’s meaning and his place in it. Corporations rule but everyone is happy, saturated with pleasure. It’s Qohen who is the oppressive force of his own universe, refusing to partake, to enjoy living life. Instead, he focuses on being provided the answers to what he should be. That’s a very different path and it’s enjoyable to see him go through it.

What can I say about the actors that you don’t already know? Christoph Waltz is someone we should have known way before Inglourious Basterds. He’s phenomenal! And for someone born in 1956, he’s in damn good shape. Melanie Thierry and Lucas Hedges are also great at playing around Qohen and the support cast is amusing, in a clown sort of way. Tilda Swinton and Matt Damon both play very… peculiar characters.

The Zero Theorem was certainly an enjoyable experience but I need to stress out a point. Something was bothering me as I was watching and I think I’ve found the issue. I seem to be getting “Burtonitis” from Gilliam’s work as of late. Like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam’s work is certainly quirky and has a very distinct feel to it but in some of the scenes, I felt the same kind of cringe I now get from all of Tim Burton’s work, post Sweeney Todd. That is to say, some of the stuff is starting to feel like a caricature of Gilliam’s style. It’s still damn good entertainment but it might just be that, like Burton (and Wes Anderson’s work since The Royal Tenenbaums), it is no longer for me.

Score:

♥♥♥ 3/4