Conan the Barbarian (2011)

ConanTheBarbarian_1Starring Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Rachel Nichols, Ron Perlman, Rose McGowan, Bob Sapp, Leo Howard, Steven O’Donnell, Nonso Anozie, Raad Rawi

Directed by Marcus Nispel

Expectations: Super low.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Against all odds, Conan the Barbarian is not a gigantic failure. They sure try in a lot of ways to drive the film into the ground, but thankfully they aren’t completely successful as this re-imagining of Conan’s origin story is pretty damn entertaining. But a good film it is not, although I was pretty fooled for the first 30 minutes or so. This section is by far the best in the film, and as soon as it’s over and Conan is actually Conan, things start to turn south.

This isn’t really a remake, as the story is completely different from John Milius’s Conan the Barbarian. In broad strokes they are somewhat similar, though, as both films open with Conan’s family being brutally murdered by an evil villain and Conan wishing for revenge. The villains are nothing alike, but they share a foreboding, formidable screen presence, inspiring a young Conan on his quest for revenge. So I suppose in this way it is a remake, but a remake in basic premise alone.

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Pacific Rim (2013)

pacificrim_1Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman, Diego Klattenhoff, Mana Ashida

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Expectations: Very high.

threehalfstar


Pacific Rim is the epitome of what the summer blockbuster film stands for, concerned only with being as awesome as it can possibly be. It may have the look and feel of an emotional story at times, but these moments are mere flourishes on the canvas of awesome. Consequently, the film can be quickly discredited by those that would prefer to cross their arms instead of raising them in a cheer — and they’re not wrong. Pacific Rim speaks directly to the 10-year-old inside you, warping you back to a time when the most pressing matter in your life was whether an awesome robot dude could beat up an awesome lizard dude. Director Guillermo del Toro is obviously a huge fan of that type of thinking, and he has delivered a grand, modern kaiju film for the ages.

Pacific Rim doesn’t waste a moment of your time, as roughly 30 seconds after it begins the first kaiju hits the screen. Concurrently, we learn of the genesis of the Jaeger program, or how nations put aside their differences to build massive, awesome robots to combat the kaiju scourge. But a few years into the Kaiju War, things aren’t so hot, and that’s where our tale begins. To tell any more would be to give away too much (not that there’s a lot to give away). Pacific Rim‘s strength is definitely not its storytelling, but its ability to consistently and thoroughly entertain.

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Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Alien: Resurrection (1997)
AKA Alien 4

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Kim Flowers, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Raymond Cruz, Leland Orser, Carolyn Campbell

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Expectations: Ugh.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


OK, hear me out. I know that Alien: Resurrection is a total piece of shit, and you know it too. What I didn’t know was that watching this 15 years and a shitload of B-Movies later, I would actually get a kick out of Alien: Resurrection. It’s still shitty, but there’s a lot to like about the film if you’re able to completely divorce yourself from the idea that this is a part of a franchise that you love. That’s simply the only way to enjoy this one, and really, they’ve already done the heavy lifting for you. Ripley died at the end of Alien³, and the somber, horrific tone of the series died along with her. Alien: Resurrection is a cash-in movie grasping at straws to create another moneymaker in a successful series, but damn if it isn’t a fun B-movie too.

Alien: Resurrection opens with some evil scientists cloning Ripley, and while they were at it, they whipped up a big batch of cheese balls… and the alien queen growing inside her. Due to some flawed logic cloning practices, Ripley is now something of a hybrid, gaining some of the alien’s curious traits such as acidic blood and superhuman strength. The real goal was to get the queen and start doing the bio-research the entire series has hinted at, but the scientist’s master plan hinges on some cargo being delivered by a bunch of space pirates led by Ron Perlman, and when they arrive shit starts to go down.

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Drive (2011)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Kaden Leos, Jeff Wolfe

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Expectations: High, everyone’s hype has gotten to me.


If only Drive was able to keep up the level of awesome displayed in its opening scene. The first ten minutes of the film are pure, intense filmmaking filled with tension, suspense and fantastic editing. There’s virtually no dialogue: only wonderful sound FX, the chatter of a police radio and intensely brilliant visuals. This getaway scene is everything I could ever want out of a movie called Drive, and honestly, I would have been better served by the film if I had just gotten up upon its conclusion and taken my satisfied grin with me.

With an opening like this, and a title like Drive, one wouldn’t be wrong to expect a movie that contains lots of car action. Drive only gets more and more frustrating as it goes on if you have these expectations though, as very little actual driving takes place. Literally, the next substantial driving scene after that extended prologue is about an hour later. C’mon, WTF! If this is the case, what takes up so much of Drive‘s time then, you ask? Poor character development and clichéd romance & mafia sub-plots, that’s what!

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Pro-Life (2006)

Starring Caitlin Wachs, Ron Perlman, Mark Feuerstein, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Bill Dow, Chad Krowchuk, Graeme McComb, Benjamin Rogers

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. Carpenter’s other Masters of Horror episode was pretty fun.


If Cigarette Burns was a good Carpenter attempt at episodic TV, then Pro-Life is an excellent one. It’s quite possible you won’t agree with me, but I found this to be easily one of the most enjoyable and exciting episodes of Masters of Horror yet. If you feel very strongly one way or the other on abortion this episode might bother you, but in the name of good horror fun, I say divorce yourself from the issue and allow the episode to run its course. The entire film revolves around a pregnant teen and an abortion clinic though, so it’s fairly hard not to think about it during the movie!

As the film opens it seems like it might be a simple horror take on the abortion issue, and in a way it is, but as the movie progresses it continues to grow darker and more other-worldly. For me personally, this was exactly the right move to take with this one and my enjoyment just grew and grew as the film went on. The ending is something of a WTF moment, but it works, and I can’t complain too much after being as entertained as I was throughout the film.

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In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008)

Starring Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, John Rhys-Davies, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, Matthew Lillard, Burt Reynolds, Brian White, Mike Dopud, Will Sanderson

Directed by Uwe Boll

Expectations: Super low. My first Uwe movie.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


I finally sat down and watched my first Uwe Boll film. I expected the worst. I expected utter shit that even I would have a hard time sitting through. I would love to have a picture of myself watching the opening of this film though, as my expression was anything but pure horror. Instead I had a bid ole grin as I was genuinely enjoying myself. So why am I enjoying this film that so many have shit upon before me?

1980s horror films, that’s why. I’ve always had a soft spot for B-movies, but in the last few years (and especially since opening this website) I’ve saturated my viewing with them. There was a time when I was a teenage film snob, but those days have faded into a distinct appreciation of films that most will never give the time of day due to their low-budget or trashy nature. I’ve found that I often have a much better time overall if I’m watching something I truly enjoy, compared with the newest critical darling. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some quality filmmaking. Kubrick and Kurosawa are my most treasured filmmakers, but I also equally love Lloyd Kaufmann and the varied works of Charles Band. So after this saturation of the best and worst that 80s B-horror has to offer, my nerves are steeled and my vision is solid and I can pretty much sit through any movie put in front of me.

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