Mini-Review: The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)

Starring Robin Atkin Downes, Ashley Tesoro, Len Lesser, Bogdan Cambera, Lucia Maier

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Werewolf Reborn! is the second of two Moonbeam films under the Filmonsters! banner, and while Frankenstein Reborn! was bad but kinda fun, this one is just atrocious. Very little of note happens in the movie, but at least it has the decency to be quick about it. The Werewolf Reborn! runs 43 1/2 minutes without credits and my sanity is eternally grateful. To imagine this movie twice as long, at “normal” movie length, is to imagine a horrific cinematic nightmare. Not exactly the usual way to strike fear in the hearts of the audience! 😛 There are definitely worse movies out there, although at the moment The Werewolf Reborn is the torchbearer in my brain, and it’ll probably remain the benchmark for some months to come.

As with Frankenstein Reborn, this film attempts to re-invent a horror classic for a younger audience. I don’t know what was wrong with kids just watching the original Universal films, but I guess some kids (and parents) might not want watch stuff in black and white. So enter Full Moon to create low-budget ’90s versions! In 2017, I’d be curious to see which one kids would rather watch; my money’s on the Universal versions, but it’s probably a toss-up depending on the person. Anyway… what this translates to is the coupling of the basic Wolf Man story with the well-used Moonbeam story of a kid sent off to live with a relative in another country. Frankenstein Reborn got a little more than this — it also had 60 whole minutes to work with! — but in The Werewolf Reborn that’s about it. The way the film handles the gypsies is a little different than the 1940s Wolf Man, but it’s nothing significant enough to set it apart. If the rest of the proposed Filmonster films were just going to be these relatively lazy productions of classic stories with teens shoehorned in, I guess I’m glad they stopped when they did.

I don’t really have anything else to say about The Werewolf Reborn. It’s one of the worst Moonbeam films I’ve seen, about as interesting as a bucket full of dust thrown in your face. It has a few moments of fun with the werewolf, but literally everything else had me clamoring for the film to end… and when it’s only 43 1/2 minutes long that really isn’t a good sign! Full Moon also combined the films in 2005 into Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn!, and I can only imagine the amount of fortitude and caffeine it would take to make it through both of them back to back.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching The Vault! I hope whatever is locked up in that vault is better than the Werewolf’s rebirth! 😛 See ya then!

Mini-Review: A Fuller Life (2013)

fullerlife_1Starring James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, James Toback, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, Tim Roth, Wim Wenders, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Constance Towers, William Friedkin

Directed by Samantha Fuller

Expectations: High. I love Sam Fuller!

threehalfstar


A Fuller Life is a wonderful tribute from a daughter to her father. Samantha Fuller hasn’t put together a documentary, but more a concise, visual version of Sam Fuller’s memoir, A Third Face. This approach seems like an odd choice at first, but much like the films of Sam Fuller himself, A Fuller Life carves its own path and succeeds in creating something unique and worthwhile.

The script is composed of selections from A Third Face, read by his friends, colleagues and admirers. Each person puts their own energy and interpretation into the reading, and coupled with the undeniable truth and spirit of Fuller’s words, it plays almost like a final collaboration with the iconoclast. Through their performances, Fuller’s words come alive and transcend the printed page, even for someone like me that has already read the book.

fullerlife_2Not only does this non-traditional style work for this film, it’s perhaps the only way to properly paint a picture of Sam Fuller as vibrant and affecting as the man himself. A traditional documentary might catch glimpses of the fire and the passion of his words, but in A Fuller Life it’s almost like having Fuller himself telling you a quick version of his story and struggles. The material is riveting, and each reader is exceptional well-suited to the passages they read. The film reminded me of everything I love about Sam Fuller, both the man and the director, and this overview of his life allowed me to appreciate even more just how incredible his story was.

If you’re a Fuller fan, it’s definitely worth your time, and if you’re Fuller-curious I’d say that outside of Fuller’s own films, it’s probably the best introduction you could ask for.

A Fuller Life has been recently released to DVD, currently available exclusively on the Chrisam Films website. The DVD has a few bonus interviews, as well.

 

Mini-Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

TerminatorGenisys_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Absolutely zero.

onehalfstar


Terminator: Genisys goes to great lengths to craft a story that can serve as both a reboot and a sequel to Cameron’s original movies, and while this is initially promising, it quickly becomes ridiculously convoluted and lost in a sea of nearly unending exposition and nostalgia hooks. In the end, I felt rather indifferent about the whole thing. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it, but it was entertaining in a generic science fiction manner (and I always enjoy watching Arnold do pretty much anything). It’s really missing the feeling of dread and inevitable apocalypse that permeates Cameron’s films, though, so it only feels like an approximation of a Terminator film and not an honest continuation.

The story begins in the Future War era in the hours before John Connor’s final assault on Skynet. Spoiler Alert: They destroy Skynet a few minutes into the movie! Woo hoo, that was easy! Roll the credits! But right before that happened, Skynet sent a T-800 to 1984 to take out Sarah Connor. Yes, this is the same Arnold Terminator that we all know from the original film. He said he’d be back, and he wasn’t lying! Anyway, mid-way through the 1984 Terminator’s encounter with the punks at the Griffith Observatory, an older Arnold Terminator comes over and starts blasting him with a shotgun! Whoa, what’s going on?

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

This is just one of many direct connections with the Cameron originals, but before too long Terminator: Genisys moves in an entirely new direction. Unfortunately, this brings about a barrage of exposition that continues for most of the movie. It’s never a good sign when a movie explains tons of stuff to the viewer — film is a visual medium and all that — but Terminator: Genisys is mostly explanation! Which is weird because it’s also mostly action. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There’s a scene where the heroes get their mug shots taken to the Cops theme Bad Boys, for God’s sake. What am I supposed to say to that?

Terminator: Genisys is just a strange film, and one that’s hard to understand no matter how you look at it. On one hand it’s an entertaining, inoffensive sci-fi action movie, but it’s also horrendously convoluted and without an ounce of character chemistry or heart. I give them kudos for going in an interesting direction with the franchise (as opposed to just following the basic Terminator framework like T3), but all it does is expose how they shouldn’t really be making any more Terminator movies.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is… some cameos! If I knew better I’d just skip these and move on to other things, but I don’t know better! I am going to speed it up by just doing Quick Take reviews of them, so Arnold will continue to hit these digital pages for a little while longer. Up next is Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, a 1974 TV Movie starring Lucille Ball and Art Carney, the Ivan Reitman film Dave, and a starring turn for Arnold’s lifelong friend Franco Columbu called Beretta’s Island! See ya then!

Mini-Review: Think Like a Man (2012)

Think-Like-A-Man-poster-1Starring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Jenkins, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, La La Anthony

Directed by Tim Story

Expectations: High. I have it on good authority that this is funny.

threestar


I don’t have much to say about Think Like a Man. It’s well-made, funny and engaging. It’s easily one of the best and most interesting modern romantic comedies I’ve seen in a while (not that I make it a habit to see that many). This could be that the male focus of the film led me to care more about the relationships at hand, but I think it’s more to do with the structure of the film. Instead of one relationship getting all the screen-time, Think Like a Man charts the course of several relationships at once, so at all times there is something new happening with our fun, interesting characters.

Due to this wide focus, the film’s relationships aren’t that complex and they’re somewhat unbelievable, but it’s a romantic comedy so whatever. It’s not about depth and believability, it’s about making you laugh and making you feel a swell of romance in the key moments. And Think Like a Man does that really, really well. The writing is especially snappy, and the entire cast performs admirably. It’s a shame that I don’t really know who many of the actors and actresses in this movie are, and hopefully that will change going forward. It was a treat to see so many positive black characters in one movie, complete with a token white guy! I loved that. It’s a total reversal of traditional Hollywood film casting, and I wish more mainstream films would echo that. The US is rather multiracial, doncha know.

Like all romantic comedies, it does fall into the formulaic trap of being obvious and ending just as you guessed it would at its outset. But where that might usually bother me, I was so taken with the characters and the quality of the comedy that I didn’t mind one bit. I think I finally understand how all the similar romantic comedies continue to do so well: if you connect with the film’s journey then its formula doesn’t matter. I guess that’s the same for all genre films, but for some reason I never considered it an option with romantic comedies. You learn something new every day.

Don’t worry, though, I’m not going to change the focus of Silver Emulsion to a chronological examination of the romantic comedy (although I have to admit, that does sound rather enticing to me), but I will definitely go into future romantic comedy films with a different mindset. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a big fan of them yet.

Mini-Review: Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)

Starring Woody Allen, Letty Aronson, Marshall Brickman, Josh Brolin, Dick Cavett, Mariel Hemingway, Diane Keaton, Louise Lasser

Directed by Robert B. Weide

Expectations: High. I’m a big Woody Allen fan.


Woody Allen has been one of my favorite filmmakers since the early days of my film obsession. My first Allen film was Annie Hall, and the first time I saw it I hated it. I was a punk teenager that went into the movie with a chip on his shoulder. I found it wholly unfunny, but in the following months I also found that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This eventually led me to re-watch the film a couple of months later, and an admiration of Allen’s style and wit has been growing ever since. He’s definitely not a filmmaker for everyone, but for anyone who’s a little neurotic and has contemplated the nature of life and death a few times, it really doesn’t get any better than the thought-provoking comedy of Woody Allen.

Allen is the perfect amalgamation of his two greatest influences: the Marx Brothers and Ingmar Bergman. I was never able to get into Bergman when I was younger, but I have a feeling my adult penchant for deep thought and analysis will reveal many intricacies in his work that were completely lost on me in my youth. Anyway, this documentary is a superb piece of work detailing the path Allen took to becoming a director, as well as examining the perennial themes in his work. I never noticed how many of his films are about choosing between fantasy and reality, but the film does a great job of making that fact readily apparent. Yes, I’d rather have come to it myself via a long, drawn-out review series, but once in a while it’s nice to get something quick and easy.

My main question with the film is whether those not harboring a love of Allen’s work will find anything of worth here. Surely anyone interested in filmmaking will enjoy seeing and hearing Allen talk about his process, and having his 40-year career laid out in front of you in three hours is a quick and easy way to become familiar with his catalog. But then there’s all the masturbatory “Woody is a genius” interviews that get tiresome, even for someone like me that holds Allen in very high regard. My girlfriend — who’s not a fan — watched most of it with me and said, “I still don’t get it” when it was all over. So I guess that’s my answer.

It’s too loving and biased to be a critical examination of Allen’s filmography, and it never concerns itself with delving too deep into Allen’s psyche. I don’t feel like I know him any better (which is fine), and the film didn’t make me love him any more. What it did do was remind me of all those precious Woody Allen movies I haven’t seen in years, and just how much fun I’m going to have when I eventually review my way through his filmography.

Mini-Review: AVPR: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem (2007)

AVPR: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem (2007)
AKA Aliens vs. Predator 2, AVP2: Requiem

Starring Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Kristen Hager, Sam Trammell, Robert Joy, David Paetkau, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte, Chelah Horsdal

Directed by Colin & Greg Strause (AKA The Brothers Strause)

Expectations: Moderate. I should know better, but that first one was fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


So y’know those ancient ruins and hieroglyphs and Predator mythology that made AVP so highly entertaining to me? Imagine a movie where they took all that stuff out, and replaced it with a bunch of small-town, human drama. Shit like “the pizza guy that’s too shy to ask the pretty girl out,” or “the distraught mother looking for her lost son and husband.” Oh, and imagine all of those sub-plots not really mattering to anything. And how about if we have the Predator play CSI by lurking around the forest for most of the movie, pouring blue goo on things to destroy evidence of the Alien (and Predalien) presence on Earth? This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

No bullshit, this is an actual screenshot from a scene in the film.

While I found it interesting to have the Predator play the role of the cleaner (and I got some amusement out of imagining Pulp Fiction‘s Harvey Keitel character, The Wolf, inside the suit), if he’s really trying to cover his tracks then why does he indiscriminately kill any human that comes upon him, stringing them up without their skin for other humans to find. He’s not on a hunt; he’s a cleaner, so why is he leaving messes? The logical side of my brain was blaring alarms constantly throughout AVPR, and while I know that this isn’t the type of movie to stand up to logical criticism, they should at least have the decency to make the stupid shit fun. But not a single moment of AVPR gave me any fun. And I say that without hyperbole — not a single moment.

There were definitely opportunities for fun, but every one of these was swallowed into the belly of the whale known as “Horrible Editing and Abysmal Lighting.” I expect a mainstream trash movie like this to be edited to hell, but AVPR is beyond awful. Coupled with what is probably the darkest and most indecipherable cinematography I’ve ever seen, we’ve got a real “winner” on our hands. If I was able to make out what was going on around the editing, the lighting — or really, the lack of lighting — made it so that I was literally unable to see anything on-screen during large sections of the film.

And honestly, I don’t even know what else to say about this piece of shit. It’s a horrible movie, with literally no redeeming qualities. The setup of the Predalien hybrid at the end of AVP was a super fun tease, but the direction this film took it in was absolutely the worst option. Watch the first one over again and spare yourself the pain of AVPR.

Mini-Review: Another Earth (2011)

Starring Brit Marling, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, DJ Flava, William Mapother, Meggan Lennon, AJ Diana, Bruce Colbert, Paul Mezey, Ana Valle, Jeffrey Goldenberg, Joseph A. Bove

Directed by Mike Cahill

Expectations: Moderate. The sci-fi angle might be cool… I’m cautious though.


I love science fiction, and sometimes it leads me down paths that I’d rather have avoided. Another Earth is one of those experiences, and I am hard pressed to find any worthwhile point of the film to validate its existence, let alone its place on some lists as one of the year’s best. Everyone has their own viewpoint so I can’t begin to theorize as to why this film resonates with some people, but it definitely left me cold and bored.

Another Earth tells the story of Rhoda, a promising high school student recently accepted to MIT. Around the same time, a heretofore unknown planet has appeared in the sky and while driving at night, a radio DJ informs his audience that they can make it out as a small blue dot, near the North star. Rhoda, preoccupied with her thoughts of the planet, cranes her head out of the car’s window to see it… and promptly smashes into a car holding a family waiting at a stop sign. Four years pass and Rhoda is a mere shell of the girl she could have been. Earth 2 (as it’s now known, and no, it’s not this Earth 2) has gotten a bit closer and Rhoda still wonders if there’s life on this habitable planet.

It’s important not to get excited for any of those sci-fi elements to pay off in any meaningful way, because they don’t. Another Earth is only a science fiction movie because without that added element, it’d be just another in a long string of tortured love stories where the perp and the victim become entangled in each other’s lives without the victim knowing it. It’s remarkably similar to Melancholia in using a science fiction backdrop for a character study, and both films feature a new planet springing up out of nowhere, but where Melancholia is about the end of the world and handling depression, Another Earth is about consequences. It’s not compelling though, and it’s painfully slow.

It’s not all that well-shot either. It takes on something of a Lars Von Trier vibe in the camerawork, as it’s all shot on video and lots of it is handheld with zoom adjustments mid-shot. This is director Mike Cahill’s first feature though, so many of the visual choices feel like he’s trying hard to be artful and meaningful, but for me they nearly all fell flat. I will say that I see a lot of potential here, and Cahill could easily deliver a quality film later on down the road. I don’t know that I’d jump at the chance to see it based on this disappointment, but I’ll try to keep my mind open.

The quick version: It’s slow, it’s boring, it’s not worth your time.

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