Sunday, January 29, 2017

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) Review:

It's one thing when a franchise becomes successful because of a formula. It's another to repeat that formula into submission and bring nothing new into the equation. The original Friday the 13th (1980) was not spectacular storytelling but it did captivate its audience with a character's mysterious past. Sure it was ripping off John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) but it was a flattering gesture towards it. Friday the 13th Part II (1981) although not exactly keeping its continuity together, managed to continue the story of Jason Voorhees to some degree. Friday the 13th Part III (1982) lazily rehashed the concept again. The only thing making it pop out was literally all of its 3D gags it had to offer. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) attempted to bring fresh blood to the table but ultimately did nothing new at all. What exactly was this series trying to accomplish? There has been no story development on Jason Voorhees since the second sequel. Apparently nobody saw the downhill slope this franchise traveled because it happened again.

"Ohh no....not again..."
Picking up several years after the last entry, Tommy who killed Jason Voorhees is now grown up (John Shepherd) but still scarred from his encounter with the masked assailant. After being relocated to a more liberal asylum that allows its patients outdoors owned by Pam (Melanie Kinnaman), people begin dying off again and Shepherd thinks Jason has returned. While this occurs the local sheriff (Marco St. John) thinks Jason is around as well although there are several other suspects that could be doing the killing, including a crazy neighbor named Ethel (Carol Locatell). As much as this could be interesting because almost all the characters are mental patients, nothing is ever done with them. The screenplay was written by Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen and Danny Steinmann, who also directed. One would think someone would know what to do with these characters, especially Martin Kitrosser who wrote for Friday the 13th Part III (1982) and Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984). Not one character gets the attention they deserve.

Corey Feldman who played Tommy from the first film is credit as appearing. He's only in one scene and that's it. This doesn't develop the current state Tommy is in. All audiences will get is that Voorhees haunts him. Why? No reason is given. John Shepherd as the older Tommy barely says anything and at one point vanishes for a good portion too. Assisting Pam attend to the patients is another boy named Reggie "the Reckless" played by Shavar Ross who doesn't add much either. He's probably the most likable of the cast but he's not given much to work with. Melanie Kinnaman as Pam is another waste of time. All she does is show up for the finale pretty much. There are a bunch of other cast members to the list but none of them stand out because they are by the numbers fodder for the killer. None of the dialog is witty, clever or memorable at any level. If Danny Steinmann wrote for Savage Streets (1984) and Martin Kitrosser was the script supervisor for big budget productions that belong to Quentin Tarantino like Pulp Fiction (1994), why isn't that quality here?

Even for gore hounds this film is a disappointment. Understandably the first submission to the MPAA was bound have cuts but this entry barely shows a thing. All other films before it had some level of explicitness to it. Here, much of the kills are off screen hardly showing a thing. It's not that entertaining when characters are so poorly written and all a viewer is betting on is how good the violence will be and it's not even shown. There's a nice scene where Jason Voorhees gets attacked briefly but in the end it doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. Playing Jason was stunt man Tom Morga. This was Morga's only time playing Jason and for how he portrayed the character it was okay but nothing distinguishable. Many times its just Morga holding his machete up in the air for dramatic effect. Morga is better known for doing stunts in numerous films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (1986), and Spider-Man (2002).

Shavar Ross
The cinematography by Stephen L. Posey is possibly the only real credible aspect to this picture. Not a whole lot works here but Posey manages to at least keep the picture looking somewhat decent. When the shots are during the daytime, the picture is clear. Even the shots during the night hours have decent lighting so the viewer can see what is going on. Posey has done work on other horror films like Bloody Birthday (1981) and Slumber Party Massacre (1982). Shockingly not even returning composer Harry Manfredini's film score could save this entry. Although the full scores did not receive different treatments in themes, fans could always rely on Manfredini bringing back the iconic sound of the original film. Oddly enough Manfredini did not do that. The main theme sounds in the same vein as the original but sounds very sloppy this time around and it's a bit off putting. The assumption could be that because the title had "a new beginning" in it, Manfredini needed to make a slightly new theme? Why bother though, if a sequel is this bad, keep the good stuff.

Camerawork is adequate for the entry but nothing else is here. The actors and their performances are as forgettable as they come. The music is bizarrely different from past film scores despite it being the same composer. The story doesn't make sense and the gore almost is non existent.

Points Earned --> 2:10

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986) Review:

Normally the second sequel to a franchise is the worst of the trilogy. Occasionally there are exceptions to the rule but this is less likely to happen. The adult R-rated Police Academy (1984) comedy may have not contained the classiest of jokes but it had its moments. The characters all had their own personalities and trademarks. The slapstick was doable and many a time it was all over the place. The area that really suffered was the lack of development for every character because of it being overly packed with roles. This is what happens with ensemble casts though. The same goes for its sequel Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985). The difference between that and the original was the addition of new and the omission of older characters. Without rhyme or reason, the missing characters are never mentioned. Comedic value was also recycled at times although some of it worked as well. No doubt with both being fairly popular among its fans, the third film in the series would revolve around the same kind of antics.

"Don't be alarmed,....for I am in control...."
In Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986), the plot deals with returning characters from the last two films becoming the trainers to the next incoming class of cadets. Unfortunately of the two academies, only one will remain - Comdt. Lassard's (George Gaynes) or Comdt. Mauser's (Art Metrano). The governor (Ed Nelson) felt only one academy was needed so Lassard's alumni want their police academy to win. The alumni to return are Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), Hightower (Bubba Smith), Tackleberry (David Graf), Jones (Michael Winslow), Hooks (Marion Ramsey), Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook) and Fackler (Bruce Mahler). For this sequel, the script was written by Gene Quintano and surprisingly it's slightly better. As of today Quintano is best known for writing Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and Sudden Death (1995). What's different about this entry as to the prior one is that the original cast is in a teaching position now. Seeing Mahoney, Hooks, Hightower, Fackler, Jones and Tackleberry at the same level as Callahan shows they have grown.

Even some of the individuals from the first sequel have some growth. Characters like ex-criminal Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait) and Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky) learn to get a long as cadets. The comedic gags are also somewhat improved since last time. Anything dealing with Comdt. Lassard, Zed, Hightower, Jones or Hooks should get plenty of laughs. Comdt. Lassard is goofier than ever and reminisces to Leslie Nielsen. Zed, although hard on the ears makes use of his fluctuating vocal chords to his advantage. Hightower continuously gets props for being a lovable bear that's tough as nails. Hooks even gets to train some as well instead of sitting at a desk all day. And Jones, well he's always the master of sounds. Although Mahoney is the lead character, his colleagues get a fair share too. The focus is distributed rather evenly this time, which is nice. However that doesn't leave the writing without its problems. Some of the returning characters do not get a lot of focus. Copeland (Scott Thomson) and Blanks (Brant Van Hoffman) get shorted on this.

Lance Kinsey as Proctor continues to report to Mauser but also doesn't get a lot of attention. Two new cadets Kirkland (Andrew Paris) and Nogata (Brian Tochi) have their moments but don't contribute much. Tochi would end up voicing Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and its sequels. Lastly there's a new love interest for Mahoney named Cadet Adams (Shawn Weatherly). She's by the far leaves the least impact. This is the least of the story's problems though. Again previous characters have vanished without a trace. What happened to Tackleberry's girlfriend who loved guns? What happened to Mahoney's partner who ate garbage all day? No explanations are given whatsoever. And although the slapstick is slightly funnier than before, there are still homophobic and racial jokes thrown in from time to time. The last issue clearly visible to viewers will be that there is no real antagonist. Yes Comdt. Mauser wants to off Comdt. Lassard's academy but aside from that, random villains show up with no motive. What's the point then?

Image result for police academy 3 mauser
Comdt. Mauser
Jerry Paris directed again for this entry in the series. With his direction, the overall look and feel has not changed. The same could be said for Robert Saad as the director of photography. Though the cinematography has changed hands over the last couple of films, Saad's work looks very similar. There's plenty of lighting to see what needs to be seen. For once the final showdown also doesn't take place in a city either. So that's different from a view perspective. Saad would later provide camerawork for The Rainbow Boys (1973), Cannonball Fever (1989) and Sleeping Dogs Lie (1998). Robert Folk again composed music. It is weird though that he isn’t credited when he was the one who made the theme for the franchise so recognizable. It's hard to say if the tracks are just being recycled even if a lot of it sounds the same. At this point though, hearing the flutes and drums at the beginning is all a fan would need. When the trumpets come in, everything is heroic and proud. No synths in this orchestra and that's okay.

By no means is it a vast improvement from the last entry but it does feel more enjoyable. It still contains continuity problems, unnecessary supporting characters and a major antagonist is barely around for this. Yet the music is still lively, the slapstick is slightly funnier and the main actors use their roles to their advantage.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Priceless Beauty (1988) Review:

For foreign actors, hitting it big in a Hollywood film is a big deal. If one can be popular in movies among their own country and universally, that boosts a career a long way. Having more than one country backing an actor makes it much more likely to be successful. A good example of this would be Jean-Claude Van Damme. After Bloodsport (1988) was released, Van Damme's credibility began to skyrocket. However when it comes to foreign made films, the appearance or starring of popular Hollywood actors are not as frequent. This is mainly because the filmmakers involved are foreign and cannot communicate with other actors from another country. Occasionally a foreign made film will be made with English speaking actors, but the filming crew will remain foreign. With that said, it is hard to say how much power the crew has to release their production on a wider scale. This film was all in English yet the release was all in Europe. It's obvious that English is spoken in foreign countries but wouldn't the native language be more appropriate? Strange.

"Oh look Menrou, a boring fantasy film...."
Written and directed by Charles Finch, the story follows depressed rock star Menrou (Christopher Lambert) being a bum on a local beach. One day he discovers a jar at the bottom of the ocean, which turns out to have a beautiful Genie named China (Diane Lane). Hoping to make his life better, China tries to turn Menrou's life around. Meanwhile, Menrou's ex-manager Willy (J.C. Quinn) wants Menrou to get back into the business. Seems simple enough to comprehend, yet there are several things wrong with it. Charles Finch's debut as a writer and director was for this feature and it shows. The few characters that appear throughout the movie are largely undefined with any clarity. Menrou is only depressed because his brother Jimmy (Joaquim de Almeida) got jealous of his fame. After a night of arguing, Jimmy rides off and gets into a fatal accident. Aside from this event, Menrou isn't clear as to why he doesn't do anything with his life. China is revealed to be an amateur genie and isn't quite sure of her powers. How is that she isn't sure yet knows she's a genie?

The subplot dealing with Menrou's manager is also wasted. At first Willy claims Menrou will return. Then he starts talking to Peter (Francesco Quinn) and Lisa (Claudia Ohana) a neighbor of Menrou's to try and get him back. This goes nowhere though and it doesn't get resolved either. Even with that said, the actors seem to be trying to a point. Christopher Lambert has his occasional moment of camp where he has that short laugh. Half the time though Lambert looks as though he's living it up. Diane Lane as China is nice even though she comes across as bit naive. She tends to take things too literal. This makes her look clueless at points. All other actors are okay but nothing to really talk about. As a fantasy drama, the tone sticks close to the genre. The drama drummed up by Menrou and China are noteworthy for that. There are also times that come across more comical than it should have because of how silly the characters are written. Charles Finch is known for writing Bad Girls (1994) and The Dentist (1996). As of now though he has been more a producer than anything else.

Francesco Quinn as Peter and Claudia Ohana as Lisa would have been interesting if they were developed more. It almost seems like at one point Lisa was jealous of Menrou but it's never taken anywhere. The same could be said for Peter who looks like he had feelings for China, but again not advancement in that department. When it comes to the visual effects within the film, there's not too many. When China first appears, she comes out of the jar, rays of light emit from the it. Unfortunately they are not that great looking. Of course in 1988 CGI was still in development so that's understood, but the optical effects used look dated. There's also a scene where China and Menrou visit a small pond where tiny lights appear. China ends up calling them dreams; really they look like fluorescent lightning bugs. Other than that, not much else is digitally rendered. The set design to each scene doesn't look high end either, but they do have tangible properties to them. They are physical props and sets so that's a plus.

Francesco Quinn & Claudia Ohana
The camerawork was another bonus. Luciano Tovoli as director of photography had some pretty shots, as much as the budget seemed limited. A lot the scenes filmed throughout the movie are around the beach terrain. Shots of the ocean, sandy beaches or the stony terrain of the city are all welcome because they are different from the normal mainstream settings. Tovoli was also the cinematographer for Suspiria (1977) and Titus (1999). Music wise, a man named Danny B. Besquet composed the film score. This would only be his second and final score in his career. For the scenes with instrumental music, the instruments heard are guitar and synths. Most of the time it fits but this happens far less than the insertion of 1980s pop music. This is okay at times but sometimes when it appears, it gets cut awkwardly when transitioning. Since this movie was so limited in its release and the composer to the score has barely made a name for himself, expecting a legitimate release of the music should not be expected. It's just ehhh,...not worth it.

Aside from nice scenery, okay music and actors that seem to be trying, there isn't a whole lot to be impressed with. The characters aren't truly defined in their motivations and the effects are dated. It's not that engaging.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Devolved (2010) Review:

High school movie comedies have been around for quite a while now. Some have gone on to become classics in the history of film. And with all good things come the rejects and usually they outnumber them. With the start of the 21rst century, more and more TV networks produced movies like these. Disney channel's best known film in this vein was High School Musical (2006). It was so popular, it spawned two more sequels after that. Rival network Nickelodeon also had a popular show called Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. Although that did not produce a movie after its series end, the actors that took part in the shows have gone on to perform in projects somewhat like it. Actor Devon Werkheiser did that in the film Shredderman Rules (2007). That feature did not break new ground either. This movie on the other hand is the jump off point for actress Lindsey Shaw from the same show. Unfortunately moving away from what made one popular can be difficult to leave. This movie may not be far from the genre Shaw came from but the tone is much different.

"Funny, you look like Ned a little bit.....nahhhh"
The story is about a group of high school teenagers that get stranded on an island near the cost of Mexico. Fearing they might be stuck there longer than expected, one group of teens decide to prepare for the worst, while another group decides to live it up. John Cregan worked as the writer and director to this project. Cregan's experience lends more to editing in documentary shorts but has directed other projects. However this was the only feature film he directed and wrote. He also wrote for one other film, that being Plague Town (2008). When producing a movie, it is important to understand that writing and directing is not easy unless one is exceptionally competent. For newcomer filmmakers, doing these tasks could affect the outcome of the overall film. This seems to be the case here. As a comedy, there are moments of creativeness and some characters are likeable. Yet the script has parts that are too overused and unclear explanations associated with certain events. This is where the story truly suffers. The actors try but the screenplay is really derivative.

Of the group of teens, there were two leaders. Flynn (Gary Entin), a shy writer is the guy who points the way for all other reject introverts. Roger AKA "The Rog" (Robert Adamson) is the top dude for all the popular teen extroverts. Playing the bridge between these two groups is Peggy (Lindsey Shaw), who is also the girlfriend of Roger. Aside from these actors there are only a few other distinct characters. Chet (Kevin M. Horton), a socially awkward guy who hopes to win over Becky (Shannon Freyer), a ditsy popular girl. Chris Kattan plays Coach Papillion but all he does is mumble gibberish.  Other than these supporting roles, the rest of the actors and their characters are rather forgettable. This is due to how exaggerated they are depicted. All the introverts stay quiet and act logical to some degree. Meanwhile the extraverts love nothing more than to engage in partying, drinking and fornication. That's already too familiar, but even worse is that these characters follow their leader blindly. Nobody thinks for themselves until the script calls for it.

There are also moments that don't add anything to plot. In one scene, a teen broadcasts to a group about the current weather forecast. Who cares and how are you going to know without the right equipment? Why bother? Regrettably these outweigh the good parts to this film. Yet there are moments that show some kind of creativeness was there. Although much of the characters are either forgettable or too stupid to like, there are a couple that have some appeal. Gary Entin as Flynn isn't initially a strong protagonist but over time he does gain some confidence. Lindsey Shaw as Peggy is another semi-relatable character. At first, she's a part of the socially accepted teens but has doubts to begin with. Even the Chet and Becky characters have some charisma. That's as far as it goes for the cast though. For comedy, it's hit and miss. Much of humor relies on the antics that surface between the teen factions. This is where it fails most of the time because of how over done it is. Nonetheless there are occasionally a scene or two that feel like thought was put into it.

Some of the dumb teens
The technical aspects to this feature are also split on quality. The cinematography by Eric Zimmerman is more disengaging than it is the opposite. There's two problems with his work. The first is that in a number of scenes, the lens will zoom in and out frequently. The point of that is? If the lens needs adjusting, that should be done before director Cregan says "action". The second issue is the color pallet, which has a drained look. There are plenty of bright scenes but several of them lack a defining color. Majority of the time the overall background color is yellow and brown. It's not a pretty mix. Musically, the film score is something a little more enjoyable. However credit can't even be given to the person for the music because nobody was listed. What makes up the music to some scenes vary at times. Sometimes it's of guitar and rock. Other times it's the quick comic cues that help make a scene funnier. This isn't always apparent but it is noticeable at times. Since this wasn't released in large numbers, there's no chance a score was released.

Unless one doesn't mind really silly teen comedies, this film will please little and few between. It has a couple interesting characters but much of them are written too lazily. Only a few have development arcs. The comedy works infrequently and the cinematography isn't that pleasing.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Warcraft (2016) Review:

Video game movies to this day are still struggling to get their transition correct from interactive to submissive entertainment. Unfortunately there's a disconnect between the fans of the movies and the fans of video games. This is due to multiple factors; lack of knowledge of the game, lack of people who have played the game and the lack of appreciation for the game. Things seemed to be on the up and up though for 2016 when some very different people got involved with the production of various video game movies. For Blizzard's popular Warcraft game, the adaptation of it to the big screen was under development for several years. So many times was it delayed for numerous reasons. But after long periods of waiting devoted fans were finally able to see their favorite gaming platform on the big screen. Sadly the response was about as predictable as expected. Critics were unimpressed and it barely made back its budget. On the other hand, majority fans were vastly grateful for the presentation. For non-video game fans though it's somewhat a mixed bag.

"Brace for impact...."
The positive to the film is its director and writer pair. Writing the script was Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones. Leavitt was known for penning  Blood Diamond (2006) and The Express (2008). Duncan Jones on the other hand directed Moon (2009), Source Code (2011) and is also an avid World  of Warcraft gamer. With that said, it only suits that Jones directs this film. The story follows the clash of two worlds, the humans and the Orcs. The Orcs' world is dying and the only way they can survive is by taking over a new one, that being the humans. In the human world, King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) leads the way with Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel). Overseeing them is sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster) and his apprentice Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) as protectors of the human world. Leading the Orcs is Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), who has powers that only work by draining the life force of other living things. Following him are Durotan (Toby Kebbell), Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and half-breed Garona (Paula Patton).

As a start-off point to a beginning franchise, the story isn't too hard to follow. The problem in the script are because of a couple things. Since this is based on a video game, it is understood that the filmmakers will want to give fan service to its passionate gamers. Yet there are times where special nods to the in-game achievements outnumber the explanations to what is going on within certain scenes. There's no problem with giving the fans what they enjoy. However for people not familiar with the game, this can be confusing because they will not be familiar as to why particular events happen. This is one of the issues with videogame movies. Gamers would rather play the game than watch and non-gamers may not understand why things happen for a distinct reason. Also there are occasional motivation flip-flops attributed to a couple of characters. This may add to the bewilderment of the viewer because of their non-gamer unfamiliarity. Even with this though, the characters are likable and are sympathetic due to their situations.

Out of all actors, the best of them is Toby Kebbell as Durotan. Kebbell plays his role with strength and feeling. Durotan's arc is a challenge to watch because of how conflicted he is. Durotan knowns Gul'dan isn't a great Orc but he's the only one powerful enough to lead them to survive. It's easy to see as to why this could cause internal friction. For the humans, Lothar is the more interesting of the bunch. He's had a career in the army for a while and his skills are valuable. For action, the sequences are entertaining to watch. For a PG-13 rating, some of the violence is actually pretty brutal. The humans use weapons that belong in the dark ages such as swords and shields. The Orcs use giant over sized workman tools like axes and sledge hammers. Not even the horses and other animals are safe in the battle scenes. Individuals are stabbed, thrown and even delimbed. Effects wise, the transformation of the characters and world are done expertly well. Using motion-capture effects, the half of the cast look nothing like themselves under the Orc makeup.

That video game cut scene,...jk
With technology on the rise, motion-capture has come a long way in making creatures more and more realistic. Only a couple actors can be seen under the effects. Everyone else practically disappears and that's great. The camerawork by Simon Duggan is another credible component. Unfortunately it's not clear as to what scenes actually contained real life terrain. Nevertheless the backgrounds to each scene are well constructed. Duggan is known for filming other big CGI budget films like I, Robot (2004), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), Killer Elite (2011) and The Great Gatsby (2013).  All of which had acceptable camerawork. Music wise Ramin Djawadi composed the film score. From an audible perspective the score is engaging and has an organic sound. The makeup of it sounds like that of heavy strings and horns. This falls somewhat in line with Djawadi's past works although some have varied. Unfortunately the tracks do not have a reoccurring main theme but the tunes do match their respective scene. It has its moments even to enjoy.

Storytelling wise, the script has motive flip-flops and non familiar fans may not understand certain events that happen. However the overall plot is fairly simplistic and the characters are sympathetic. The visual effects, cinematography and music are also well produced.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Monday, January 9, 2017

Seed of Chucky (2004) Review:

Very few horror franchises have been able to balance dark humor into their grizzly pictures. Of the most memorable, Freddy Krueger and Chucky were the main two to do it. Out of these two, Krueger was changed over time because producers realized how quotable Krueger had become with his one-liners. Chucky had somewhat of the same knack but creator Don Mancini had been apart of each production every step of the way. As much as a failure Child's Play 3 (1991) was critically and financially to most viewers, Bride of Chucky (1998) spun that table around with a divisive decision to make itself a self-aware horror comedy. Whether it was wanted or not, Don Mancini's choice to do that was rather ingenious. It was a ridiculous concept that fit a ridiculous horror icon in a good way. Chucky was still Chucky, except this time his wisecracks were funnier. This also didn't mean sacrificing story over comedy. So obviously with a better reception Mancini would continue in that direction for this entry. Problem is he took it a little too far.

"uhhh, what was our motivation again?"
Don Mancini takes full control of the production this time as writer and director. In some ways, this is a blessing and a curse. If you know how to do both really well then you're set. But if you don't, both tasks can be grueling. For Mancini, it seems like being writer/director was no problem. The issue was that he took the concept from the last film and cranked it up too much. Picking up somewhere after Bride of Chucky (1998), viewers are introduced to the offspring (Billy Boyd) of Jenn and Chucky. Wanting to find his parents, he travels to Hollywood to find his them on a studio set getting ready for a movie. The movie stars actress Jennifer Tilly. After bringing Chucky (Brad Dourif) and Jenn (Jennifer Tilly) to life, they decide that all three of them need to acquire new bodies. The people in mind were Jennifer Tilly, and a director named Redman (Redman). But to help their child, Chucky and Jenn need to inseminate Jennifer Tilly. All the while, their son is having trouble figuring out whether he's meant to hurt people or not.

Unfortunately that said, much of the writing here is incomplete. Right from the start there's a big question as to how Jenn and Chucky became movie celebrities. For the past four films all their murders were unconfirmed. Plus from Bride of Chucky (1998), who recovered Chucky and Jenn's bodies? If not, who made new ones? The continuity and explanations toward these questions remain unanswered. The story is meta now and no longer self-aware. Meta can be funny but here it gets too silly. For Bride of Chucky (1998), it was comedic to give a wink and nod but to fully make it obvious to the viewer that Redman and Britney Spears were in the same universe. Also having Jennifer Tilly play along side herself is odd too. Viewers really need to suspend their disbelief that the Jennifer Tilly from Bride of Chucky (1998) is a different person from that of here. Making that clear, the comedy is a hit and miss. There are a number of scenes that are funny and others not so much. Also Chucky and Jenn's son has an underdeveloped arc.

Also character motivations randomly flip throughout the story. This doesn't mix well because it feels out of character in some cases. But even with all these problems, the film proves that it isn't terrible. All the visual and audible aspects to the film work tremendously too its advantage. All actors from Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Boyd, Redman and Hannah Spearritt all act passably. Of the bunch Dourif and Tilly are the best. Brad Dourif still knows how to get the best laugh. Jennifer Tilly still knows how to sound sultry, even through a doll. Billy Boyd is best known for playing Pippin from The Lord of the Rings franchise and Hannah Spearritt is from the S Club series. Boyd as the child of Chucky and Jenn plays it up on both sides. Sometimes Boyd plays it soft spoken while other times he can be deranged and unstable. The practical/special effects look great, especially the doll animatronics. The facial movements look legitimate and lifelike; it's impressive.

Redman & Jennifer Tilly
The gore is also handled well. Very little of the violence is CGI and that's good because it's more believable. Since the concept has spiked in it's ludacrosity, the violence has done so too, which is fine. The cinematography by Vernon Layton is acceptable as well. Best known for working on Under Suspicion (1991), High School High (1996) and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), Layton shows he can shoot a scene with a good-looking perspective. The music by Italian composer Pino Donaggio is another interesting pick. Donaggio's composition to this entry switches between synths and regular orchestra. The synth cues are more drawn out, while the orchestra sections involve the usual horror strings. There's also a main theme for this entry, which is nice. However the franchise should stick with one and call it a day. Donaggio's also known for his music to Piranha (1978), Carrie (1976), Tourist Trap (1979), The Howling (1981) and Body Double (1984). It's the weakest of the series but still not awful.

The writing unfortunately is quite messy in its storytelling even though writer/director Don Mancini knew what he had in mind. The music, cinematography, effects and actors all do their job respectively. It's just that they're restricted by a confusing entry.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chopping Mall (1986) Review:

By at least the mid 1980s, horror films were a dime a dozen. For every famous slasher icon, more than one knock off was featured quickly after just to cash in on the idea Friday the 13th (1980) style. The genre was beginning to get diluted and it caused many popular franchises to slowly fizzle out. However, if you create a film that is self aware in its ridiculous premise, there's a chance that it won't appear to be such a cash-in. Of course this all has to be done in a way that isn't overly dumb either. That's when Roger Corman comes in. The enthusiast of everything cheap and fun, Corman was the backer to this 80s film. With a budget barely hitting $1 million, this science fiction horror film is now mainly known for its cheesiness. What is it that makes it cheesy? It's practically every technical aspect of it when looked at closely enough. The title alone should be enough to signal how over-the-top things will be. Chopping Mall (1986)? It wouldn't seem that difficult to figure out what the story is about.

Kelli Maroney & Tony O'Dell
After a security systems group installs and assigns three of its new "killbots" to the biggest mall in the state, it is decided with no further testing that during night hours it will be safe to work among the machines. That is until the same night they are positioned, a freak lightning storm activates them making them go on a killing rampage. Caught in the crossfire of these robots are a group of teenagers looking to have a good time. Although Roger Corman isn't explicitly attached, his wife Julie Corman is and their signature cinematic fingerprints are all over it. Directing this feature is Jim Wynorski, an exploitation filmmaker who just started working for Corman at the time. Writing the script was also Wynorski and Steve Mitchell in his first credit. For what it's worth even at an early stage in their careers, the story is self-aware in how childish the premise is. It seems to take itself just as seriously as other campy monster films that came before it dealing with malfunctioning technology.

This also includes the typical script flaws one would see in a horror film. Is it predictable - surely. Is it apparent to who's is going to die in what order - it's fairly obvious. Characters also make very stupid decisions, ones of which require very little brainpower. If that kind of thing annoys you as a viewer then stop right there. They are problems and they do affect the overall experience but it doesn't make it unwatchable; just cliche. An element however that makes no sense is that this mall has a gun shop. My how times have changed. What mall would do that now? Aside from this though, the scripts positives are more on character focus. Does it develop its characters well enough - not entirely. However what does stand out are the two main leads Ferdy Meisel (Tony O'Dell) and Alison Parks (Kelli Maroney). Compared to the rest of the cast, they are the least popular and confident in their group of friends. This is different than normal because most horror films would have it the other way around.

It is because of their uneasiness at first that makes them more entertaining to watch. The rest of the characters played by Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky and Suzee Slater are fine for what they do, but they are pretty much all stock and very little substance. There's also an appearance from cult actor Dick Miller playing a custodian. What there really is to admire are all the technical feats this film was able to perform on such a meager budget. The killbots look like hefty props to move around and although they look very inefficient when it comes to articulation, they do stand out. They are physical objects, of which were majority the only way to get creatures on set prior the 1990s. The way at which these robots kill people aren't completely innovative but they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. Their most powerful weapon being their head lazers. From a visual perspective they look adequate on screen. It's just amazing how good they are when they look so clunky.

The Killbots
For cinematography, Tom Richmond managed this aspect of the film. Richmond who has several credits to his name doesn't portray elaborate set pieces here. Instead many shots have the actors in an actual mall. Unfortunately it's not a very engaging looking mall but it does fit the bill. Richmond's best known credit belongs to Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses (2003). Adding to the movie's cheesiness is composer Chuck Cirino's film score. Working numerous times with director Jim Wynorksi, Cirino has had his fair share of experience in the movie making industry as well. Since this is during the 1980s and the budget for this production was so small, one could only expect a synth powered composition. No other instruments exist in the music and that's okay. Considering the premise deals with killer patrol robots, the clinky electronic music suits it appropriately. The film score itself doesn't have a reoccurring main theme but the tracks are catchy enough to enjoy when they are heard.

While it may not be anything that hasn't been seen before, it's a quick cheeseball film that has a silly premise, fun practical effects and goofy music. However if B-list actors, cliche characters and violent robots aren't interesting then don't even bother. It should be relatively entertaining though.

Points Earned --> 6:10