Teeth (2007)

teeth_4Starring Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Lenny von Dohlen, Vivienne Benesch, Ashley Springer, Laila Liliana Garro, Nicole Swahn

Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein

Expectations: Not much.

threestar


When you sit down to watch a horror movie about a teenage girl with teeth in her vagina, I think it’s a fair assumption to expect something trashy. But Teeth is surprisingly not trashy, even with a couple of trashy characters and some truly gruesome gore moments. The key is that the focus of Teeth is never on the horror, in fact it’s wrong to even think of this as a horror movie. If anything it’s a reverse horror film, where the girl is equipped to deal with her attackers. What she isn’t quite equipped to deal with, just like the men in the story, is her sexuality.

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a leader for her school’s promise ring program, where kids promise they’ll remain abstinent until marriage. During one of her talks, she locks eyes with a boy her age and they have an instant spark. They begin a relationship, and, knowing the premise of the film, it’s not hard to put two and two together to figure out where it leads. But this relationship isn’t the core of the film, it is merely the jumping off point for Dawn’s growth as a woman.

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Stephen reviews: 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

kinopoisk.ru5 Centimeters Per Second: A Chain of Short Stories About Their Distance [秒速5センチメートル] (2007)

Starring Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondo, Satomi Hanamura, Ayaka Onoue

Directed by Makoto Shinkai


I have to admit to a bit of disappointment with this film. After Makoto Shinkai’s other films I wanted another thought-provoking science fiction tale, but this time around he sticks to a straight up love story. This isn’t really surprising since both Voices of a Distant Star, and The Place Promised in Our Early Days had a very heavy romantic element underscoring the sci-fi, but I was still hoping for the creative ideas that made his prior works so intriguing.

Not that this is a bad film at all. Its focus on a single aspect gives a degree of depth to his recurrent themes of love and longing that his earlier films don’t have, and I’ve come to a better understanding of his take on things. Shinkai’s world is a bittersweet one, filled with missed opportunities, lost nerves, and lovers kept apart by fate. But despite the sadness laced throughout its themes of separated lovers, this is not a dismal story. Its heroes are not the tragic figures of Shakespeare. Even failure is a bright and airy thing in this film, a precious and joyful memory to be cherished. It’s a set of themes that resonates quite well with me. I found myself identifying with the stories, and actually enjoying the film quite a bit.

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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.

Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic (2007)

Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic [降頭] (2007)
AKA Voodoo

Starring Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Maggie Siu Mei-Kei, Lam Suet, Kenny Wong Tak-Ban, Teng Tzu-Hsuan, Kris Gu Yu, Hui Siu-Hung, Jay Lau Gam-Ling, Kam Loi-Kwan, Fung Hak-On

Directed by Herman Yau

Expectations: Moderate. I love the black magic, and curious to see how a modern, CG-era film can bring the elements together.


Oh boy, did I have high hopes for this one. I may not have expected a whole lot, but I held onto the hope that a 2007 film could push the boundaries much further than an ’80s Shaw Brothers film could, and while that definitely could be the case overall, it is definitely not the case with Gong Tau. This is unfortunate because all the basic pieces of the black magic movie are in place, but instead of compiling them and assaulting the audience with wild, magical antics, Gong Tau instead chooses to try for a more realistic approach. While this might sound like it could take the black magic film into new and interesting territories, it just obscures the awesome of the magic and surrounds it with a whole lot of boring.

Gong Tau‘s story is remarkably similar to Bewitched, probably my favorite Asian horror film from what I’ve seen so far. A policeman travels to Thailand and has an affair, and when he has to return to Hong Kong, he promises that he will return. He doesn’t, and it sends his life into a spiral thanks to the girl’s connections in the black magic world. Kinda. This is one of the stories being told in Gong Tau, and it is ultimately the most important one, but before you get to it you have to wade through a bunch of meandering stuff that is of varying importance. Where the Shaw films presented the setup for why the magic is being laid on its victims up front and at the beginning of the tale, Gong Tau tries to layer it throughout and make it something of a mystery as to who is doing these things to the policeman’s family. While this may work for a first time viewer of a Chinese black magic film, I knew what was going on the whole time, so their obscure storytelling and pointless wondering led me to somewhere a black magic film should never venture: the land of boredom.

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The Haunted Casino (2007)

The Haunted Casino (2007)
AKA Dead Man’s Hand, Dead Man’s Hand: Casino of the Damned, Ghost Poker

Starring Scott Whyte, Robin Sydney, Wes Armstrong, Michael Berryman, Kristyn Green, Sid Haig, Jack Maturin, Jessica Morris, Lily Rains, Kavan Reece, Bob Rumnock, Rico Simonini

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: Moderate. I have a feeling it won’t be pretty though.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


Modern day Full Moon movies can be lumped pretty easily into two categories. The first is the overtly exploitative: movies filled with nudity, inept writing and a general lack of horror. The second category is the overly talkative “Full Moon Soap Opera,” where a group of people find themselves stuck together and instead of anything meaningful happening, they just bicker and whittle away the film’s runtime. The Haunted Casino belongs to the second group, but unlike a lot of other films in the category, it actually delivers a lot of fun at its climax, and the talky parts are far more enjoyable than usual.

Matthew has inherited his uncle’s derelict casino, so he takes his girlfriend and four of their friends to check out the building. Unknown to them (but who wouldn’t see this coming), Matthew wants to stay the night in the casino and have all his friends help him clean it up. Matthew has dreams of renovation, but instead they all get a night they’ll never forget!

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Flash Point (2007)

Flash Point [導火線] (2007)
AKA City With No Mercy, City Without Mercy, The Signal

Starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Ngai Sing, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Fan Bing-Bing, Kent Cheng, Xu Qing, Teresa Ha Ping, Helena Law Lan, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Irene Wong Yun-Yun

Directed by Wilson Yip

Expectations: High. I’ve been pumped to see some more of the Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen films since I saw Ip Man, which was quite a while ago at this point.


Donnie Yen is a badass motherfucker. This should be a given, but some may not yet be familiar with his work. Flash Point isn’t a good starting point, but it will show you (eventually) just how badass Donnie Yen is. See the problem with this one, despite featuring the current reigning badass of Hong Kong cinema, is that it’s actually not much of a martial arts film until the final scene. There are flashes (and points), where bits of martial arts are sprinkled in but it never really lets loose until the final fight. This is a supreme disappointment to me, but regardless of this Flash Point remains entertaining and fast-paced throughout.

Yen plays a ruthless cop that has a nasty habit of beating the shit out of every criminal he takes down. He’s got a high rate of success at cracking cases, but the suits at the police force don’t like his brutal methods. In other movies this might be a vital plot point, or perhaps a wake-up call to Yen’s character, but in Flash Point it’s basically meaningless until the very end of the film when it all gets brought back around. Not that you need a point or a moral to the story. Anyway, he’s on the prowl for some asshole Triad dudes that are trying to make off with some money they fucked a bunch of Vietnamese gangsters out of. I recently wrote about the underdeveloped plot in Merantau, and how it wasn’t necessary to the film to have it be much more developed. In Flash Point we have the opposite, where the plot is too developed and becomes so convoluted at times that it’s hard to keep track of what exactly is going on. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, you’ll catch back up and figure out what’s going on. This isn’t a Bergman film, so the real reason you’re here is for a fun thrill ride, and Flash Point delivers on that promise.

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Paranoid Park (2007)

Paranoid Park (2007)

Starring Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney, Scott Patrick Green, John Burrowes

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Expectations: Moderate. I’m not a Van Sant fan, but my buddy Mike loves this one.


My good friend and frequent commenter Mike D (not of Beastie Boys fame) has been trying to get me to watch this movie since it was released. I always planned to watch it, but it was one of those movies I consistently put off for whatever reason. I have a strong aversion to Gus Van Sant movies, but my friend assured me that this one was different. I finally decided to just sit down and watch the damn thing and man, Mike spoke true. Paranoid Park managed to impress me, engage me and win me over. Maybe this Van Sant guy isn’t always so bad.

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