Species III

species_3rating-2.5Species III, a movie in search of yet another cliche to sqeeze in... Foremost on our litany of shame is Ben Ripley, whose fuckheaded writing should be an example to us all. Someone's been dredging all the bad dialgoue from movies like The Skulls and old "mad scientist" movies and tossing it out on the screen (or TV, since this monstrosity is direct-to-video).

Lines like a classmate calling our hero a "speciesist" and chestnuts like "You can't cut the funding!" followed by a college muckity-muck's "I can do whatever I want" just serve to provide us with reasons to hunt down Mr. Ripley and drive a fire extinguisher through his face.

Robert Knepper of "Prison Break" and "Carnivale" is given very little to work with, but adds a dignity to the film that it could never possess otherwise. The actors are actually rather decent, but given nothing but shit to work with doesn't inspire any great performances.

Robin Dunne also has his charm, as he's an enjoyable enough actor. I'll always remember him as Gump in The Big Hit and, fortunately, that sense of humor seems to live on in his acting style.

There's the consolation, I suppose, that Knepper will never have to lower himself to this level any time in the near future.

But I should note the movie, which comes off more as Re-Animator than an alien film. I suppose if you're going to make an alien movie on a low-budget, you have to lower yourself to cliches about mad scientists trying to study the alien and perfect humanity instead of just shooting the thing with a flame thrower.

Now I do have to credit them for continuing the trend of keeping the alien in question blisteringly hot, replacing the sexy Natasha Henstridge with the equally amazing Sunny Mabrey, who, for the sake of Western society, should remain nude as much as possible. I'm not usually one to be particularly interested in women that are only as real to me as my TV, especially if there's no chance of them licking me all over like a Now & Later, but there's something shocking about this particular girl, who was one of the few things about xXx: State Of The Union that didn't cause me to break out into open sores.

But every dream must end and all the hotness is forgotten as the movie shifts back to the two men in their Herbert West-ian mad scientist plot, searching down the uber-hot girl, who is in turn searching for the cock. She wanders back and forth while the menfolk play "alien autopsy" in their basement. Eventually you have girl vs. girl hotness and rubber suits.

The direction isn't awful for its part, maintaining a TV movie-grade level of professionalism, not necessarily even required by the source material. But what do you expect when a theatrical movie series with decent creature effects and a substantial amount of props boils down into straight-to-DVD fodder, done at a minimalist budget?

Though when it comes down to rubber-suit monster fights, I guess it's got a little something to be desired... Especially the cool Geiger monster designs, which are lost on the shitty latex suits that they seem to have quickly drummed up for the film, leaving out much of the really awesome alien biomechanoid design detail.

But at least the movie has some peaks and the acting does make up for many of the severe plot issues. All in all, one could do worse than this series. There's many DTV lines that continue to crank out sequels that aren't even in this realm.

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The Butcher

butcherrating-0.5The Butcher should come with a shot of penicilin, because I'm pretty sure it can give you "the Clap" just from watching it.

This movie proves that people like Uwe Boll, for all their lack of talent, still have some sort of vision that sets them apart from other, worse directors and writers.

Our flimsy premise is that some college douchebags are on their way from Non-Descript, U.S.A.,  to Las Vegas to party. We have all the trappings of every bad, stupid teenager slasher movie all rolled into one... What movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, House Of Wax, 2001 Maniacs, High Tension, Wolf Creek, surely a couple of Friday The 13th installments, and probably a few dozen other movies all did (at least marginally) better is regurgitated here for you to watch again but with the lowest quality imaginable. It's a shit-fest of bad effects, worse acting, and the most abysmal and retarded scripting you can possibly find. And what it has to do with a butcher of any kind, I have no idea.

The actors are all of the lowest grade, including the recent Aquaman of "Smallville", Alan Ritchson, incompetently portraying the jock imbecile leading the pack of women and the brave loner we're surely supposed to accept as our hero by default. The only real acting is done by the breasts in the movie, sad and pathetic though they are.

Amidst all this nonsense passing for plot, likely written by a syphilitc fourth-grader (actually written by the asshole who brought you Mansquito), is much murder and mayhem, all managed with the stylistic touch of a homemade Super 8 film and a bottle of red food coloring. Though one cannot say the direction is as bad or as inept as it could be, it's still subpar and amateurish for what it is and it stands as a shameful event in the life of everyone touched by its making.

Anyone foolish enough to list this on their resume should be blacklisted and the fiilmmakers should be tried for crimes against humanity. Other than that, it was a perfectly mediocre waste of 90 minutes.

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Smokin' Aces

smokinrating-4.0While some might chastise this movie for its minor flaws, its stylization, its scattered and less-than-believable plot, I enjoyed it very much.

First off, if you're at all familiar with the trailers and TV spots for this movie, you may believe it to be a Richie-esque crime romp, full of humorous and violent amoral behavior and wacky antics. But it's not that movie, as much as they'd like it to be. That movie would surely sell better. This movie is a much darker and more bleak film than most viewers went into the movie imagining. Much more in line with elements of Narc, this movie has a dark and unhappy line down its center.

The basic plotline of a snitch magician being hunted by hit men and skip tracers for a million dollar bounty is unscored by an older tale of an undercover FBI agent, but to tell you more would ruin the plot. Everyone should be familiar with the basic premise from the TV ads, though they'll undoubtedly be somewhat surprised to find that Jeremy Piven's magician is so much more dark and sympathetic than imagined and his performance shows more emotional range than he's ever been allowed in his career. Ryan Reynolds shares in the emotional burden of the movie, being the lynchpin that holds the film together. The rest of the cast is an array of vastly different archetypes, all playing their part in the main premise of the film, though all that is window dressing on a seemingly more simple tale, but all of the sturm and drang of the film is required to give its climax an emotional context, despite its lack of visceral finality.

That sound and fury of the movie is highly entertaining, though it lacks an obvious and fulfilling conclusion, instead leaving you desiring another hour of carnage and mayhem and the vindication of a violent demise for everyone requiring comeuppance. But what there is a blast, interspersed with compelling and saddening performances, as well as shockingly clipped cameos by big names, as well as the mandatory action and blood.

The movie turns out to be no Narc, but possesses more promise than most movies to churn through the grist mill of Hollywood in some time. Its twists and turns may not all be genius, but the movie does possess a perverse beauty and charm unmatched by most of its contemporaries. More movies should be this imperfect.

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Breaking Dawn

breaking_dawnrating-3.0A psychological thriller in the most literal sense, Breaking Dawn involves a medical student working with a young delusional man who seems to drag her into his madness... Seems.

Dawn is fairly obvious in its course, when it's not lost in a sea of nonsensical plot points, and, by the time it reaches its conclusion, everyone should already know what's going on.

That aside, this movie is built around its acting and casting. The movie's lead, Kelly Overton, is like a demi-Julia Stiles, though that may be selling her acting prowess short, as Stiles is more beauty than substance, despite her work with David Mamet. Though being dragged through the muck of the overwrought and often pointless plot does nothing for the lovely Overton, as much of the emotion and nuance is lost in the audience's annoyance that the actions don't make a whole lot of sense, though in the framework of the story (which you'll obviously understand by the end... I think) it really doesn't matter. Bolstering her is James Haven, best known for being Angelina Jolie's brother, in a very solid performance, giving the movie a real feeling of momentum when the flimsy script would drag the whole affair down.

Joe Morton (from Sci-Fi's "Eureka") is also onboard as Overton's professor, providing a real foil for several excellent scenes where the actors manage to surpass the nonsensical script and show their chops, despite the stupidity of some of the dialogue trickling out. Morton shows us where the bar is set and heads up the rest of the supporting cast, all fairly good actors.

Really, this is an actor's movie. The performances are good and I can see why this would garner mention from film festivals, though those accolades aren't necessarily transferable to the script, though the young writer/director does show a certain promise in the low budget techniques used to give the movie atmosphere and make the descent into madness somewhat more compelling and thrilling.

So, far from an excellent film, this movie does deliver enough to warrant watching for those interested in a good performance, but those looking for an interesting plot or, god forbid, a horror movie should likely stay far away.

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Casino Royale

casino_royalerating-5.0Easily one of the best films of the year, Casino Royale was the stunning reinvention of the flagging Bond franchise. Personally, I think it came at just the right time. Bond was a dead concept, bereft of any purpose or enjoyability in its previous incarnation as an implausible and braindead action series. Schwarzenegger movies had nothing on the rank stupidity of the continuingly more unreasonable Bond scripts.

Casino Royale easily outdoes every other Bond movie before, making the series what it was meant to be: intense, dark, and brooding espionage with a hero who rides the fine line of even being likable.

This the Bond for me: a brutish thug with even less conscience than suaveness (which is non-existant, Bond being more interested in completing his missions through brute force than playing kissyface with whores and lounging around in tuxes).

The movie is a beautiful piece of work and shows a visual style not seen in years. Daniel Craig and Eva Green could not be better as Bond and his love interest Vesper Lynd in the story of Bond's first case. Craig himself is the ultimate Bond, acting entirely with a glower and a shimmer of angry ice-blue eyes, movements full of purposes and words so sparse as to make him seem robotic... Many might see that as a negative aspect, but it is the perfect iteration of Bond, as Flemming intended when he referred to him as a "blunt instrument". Never has Bond been more blunt.

One must particularly point out the few action moments from the film, most prominent in the more typically Bond-like opening scenes of a foot-chase in Africa, traversing across a construction site, that is the best chase ever featured in a movie, easily overshadowing the airport chase later in the movie by being so fucking impressive that it still stands out in your mind days after seeing the movie. And, strangely enough, the action sequences actually tie into Bond's character and exhibit important aspects of his personality and thought processes instead of just being an excuse to blow shit up and use gadgets (of which there are none in this more realistic movie).

The plot itself is enjoyable, though varied in quality throughout and slight in parts, but never has a Bond film felt so right while being so scattered. Many plebes will wonder at what exactly is going on in the tale of gambling in the stock market with blood money and the subsequent move to extort the banker for the world's terrorists and dictators into revealing his employers, a plot point revolving around a high-stakes card game. Many more will complain about the movie slowing down toward the end, lost in its romantic plot and ending on a dark note, though I can't imagine anything more satisfying than seeing Bond being broken and learning all the lessons that make him, as you can see in the final seconds of the movie as his theme music finally rears its head, into the hard, cold Bond that we'll be seeing from now on.

Not a film to be missed, under any circumstances.

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