Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Hobo With a Shotgun

Director: Jason Eisener
Release: March 25 2011 (Canada)
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth

The idea for Hobo with a shotgun was first seen in one of the fake trailers during Tarantino and Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse” double feature after winning a contest to be included during screenings in Canada.

I don’t know if anyone ever expected it to be more than that, but here we are, about a year after given the go ahead to produce a full length version, Jason Eisener finally gets to deliver, and holy fuck, does he ever.

The film opens almost peacefully (almost hilariously so) with shots of the hobo (Hauer) riding the rails into town, but it soon becomes obvious that this is a desolate, grimy place filled with crime and corruption and “ruled” by the Drake and his two sons, Ivan and Slick.

Along the way he saves a prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) by the name of Abby, who is later able to reciprocate the favour and the two are sort of intertwined from there on in.

Eventually the hobo is forced to take action when, complete at his whits end in a pawn shop, he has to stop three armed robbers by grabbing a shotgun and plastering them to the walls. It all falls into place from there as he pretty much vows to clean up the filth on the streets.

What follows is pretty much complete carnage, all completely over the top and gory like you might expect, but a lot of it remains hilarious because it is so over the top, or the delivery of a certain line before the red stuff explodes all over the camera. If you aren’t laughing at some of these people dying, this movie probably isn’t for you.

Take, for instance, the part where the hobo spots a child molester dressed as santa and jams the shotgun into his face, he refers to the pervert as a “shit licking peodphile” in his gruff voice before pulling the trigger (and letting us see an awesome shot of the car window covered in blood from the opposite side).

It’s all very over the top and is pretty aware of itself as being a movie that takes pride in that. You can just tell.

Some might argue there are bits that push the limits on what some people might consider funny gore/death (think children on a school bus), and to me that’s not a negative. That’s ballsy and it’s great. The movie is about sick people doing sick things and someone trying to stop that. Why there are degrees of what is thought of as “tasteful death” and what isn’t has always been silly to me.

What’s also great about all this, is that all of this death and bloodshed doesn’t shy away from being shown full tilt, and it’s all done using conventional effects. You know, the stuff that used to be standard on horror films of the past. Makeup and prosthetic limbs and tons and tons of fake blood. There’s no awful CGI here and major props have to be given to these filmmakers for that, both for the fact that it feels very much in line with the “grindhouse” feel and also because, at least to me, it is far more convincing and hard to make it so. That takes a lot of work and skill.

The story escalates to the Drake calling in a group known as “The Plague”, these two huge, badass heavily armored and masked dudes who are basically bounty hunters to stop the Hobo, and I have to say, the scene where they first appear and start kicking ass is some of the best bits of film I’ve seen in a long while. It’s frantic and gory and wild. These guys wrap nooses around the necks of people in the hospital they are storming through and shoot grappling hooks into the ceiling to hang them alive while hacking at others with huge machetes and it’s pretty nuts to watch.

Honestly, I want to sit here and write up a description of every cool scene in the film, but that would take too long and would ruin it for anyone who still needs to see it (so, anyone who hasn’t). This film is quite simply a masterpiece of gory, shocking and over the top action and death. It’s funny and sad and brutal and pretty much out grindhouses every one of the grindhouse films released so far, all without using that overplayed effect of fake film grain/bad jump cuts/editing, and thank god for that, because after “machete” that stuff is so played out.

Rutger Hauer delivers an awesome performance. Many were surprised to see him cast in such a roll and “small” film, but it’s pretty clear that he’s totally into it and just having a great time, because man, he really nails every scene he’s in. The slurred hobo talk, the angry rants and all of it in between.

Watch this movie if you love random humor, over the top gore and hobos.

Jason Eisener is a director I will forever be keeping an eye on, because this guy “gets” it.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 10/10

Review: Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder
Release: March 25 2011 (theatrical)
Starring: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish

Say what you will about Zack Snyder. The guy has a serious flair for incredible visual presentation and outright “fuck yeah” moments, and that can often be enough to keep a viewer watching.

Sucker Punch certainly IS more of that, but I feel it has legs of its own, and being the first wholly original work from Snyder, I for one, see it as a step up from his past efforts.

The film stars Emily Browning as Baby Doll, a girl who gets sent to an institution after an accident involving her scumbag step father and younger sister. These moments play out in the very opening of the film, all played out in slow motion and set to a slow and hypnotic cover of “Sweet Dreams” which I later discovered is performed by none other than the lead actress herself (so big props for that and the other songs she contributed). The effect is great at creating suspense and sort of drilling home the feeling of terror in these opening minutes.

It’s also a pretty good indication of what you’re about to watch for 110 minutes. Great camera work and A. LOT. of slow motion action while a metric assload of cool shit is happening, a Zack Snyder trademark if there ever was one.

As a side note. I know it’s easy to rag on the guy for loving this style, but this is about a million times better than the other Hollywood trend of directing action scenes which are so shakily filmed that you can’t even tell what’s going on most of the time (I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan). That’s annoying to me. This isn’t. Slow motion is always fun to watch. It’s gorgeous, too.

After Baby Doll gets sent away by her step father, it’s revealed that something a little more sinister is set to take place, and without giving away anything, it is pretty much what the entire film is about. Escape. From reality, from imprisonment…all of it.

So the film shifts suddenly to this seemingly entirely different world, where the other patients still exist, but are all instead girls in set to work in an establishment where they dance and “entertain” clients while a seemingly evil club owner, Blue, keeps them hostage.

This shift is pretty early on in the film, and so one is lead to believe that Baby Doll is indeed dreaming, or fighting a different sort of battle in her head, but nothing is quite clear.

So while the story is indeed quite simple, Snyder tells it in a way that is more complex and action packed. Each little step of the escape is played out with the girls in different locations featuring different enemies as if it jumps back into the main characters head, and this seemingly simple task is instead a gargantuan undertaking requiring immense skill and teamwork. Guided by the “Wise man” Baby Doll and the rest of the girls are told they have all the weapons they need to fight.

We jump to these scenes anytime Baby Doll is told to dance for a client, so it’s like the real fight is her letting go and doing this, but the action is all in her head.

So, is it an excuse to just show beautiful girls doing kick ass things? I guess so, but I’m honestly not sure when that became such a bad thing. I don’t even mean that as a man who likes beautiful girls kicking ass. I say it as a film fan who enjoys watching over the top action scenes and imaginary settings and moments.

And this film has those things in spades. Nearly every “Dream” (for lack of a better word) is created with awesome CG and action scenes that are about as nuts as you can get.

Girl in schoolgirl uniform with sword kicks some ass. Girls get guns and shoot up robot/zombie hybrid Nazis, and then there’s a giant dragon thrown into the mix somewhere and an air battle ensues. Shit like that.

Snyder creates some of the most awesome scenes and this film doesn’t disappoint, visually. Everyone involved in the art/costumes/cgi did a bang up job. Visually, it’s an absolute stunner, is the real point.

It’s easy to call Sucker Punch a shallow, light film because of this. It would be hard to argue. So I won’t

It’s almost like paying your money and strapping in for a sweet ass flight in a fighter jet or something. It doesn’t really fuck around, and I’d say anyone who ever said “Wow, that looks wild. I want to see it” will be satisfied. Really, I think that’s the type of person Zack Snyder is looking for. He’s not trying to convince anyone this is high art or the next masterpiece.

It’s absurd to think this would have been anything else other than a movie Zack Snyder wanted to make. You can call it “blatant pandering” if you wish (and many have) but…what is so wrong with that if the end result is a good time?

One final thought on the overall story is that it’s actually quite depressing and bleak if read one way and empowering and hopeful in another. A few scenes really drive this home near the end, and for what it’s worth, that’s quite a bit more than I was expecting, and is indeed why this film is a step in the right direction for Mr. Snyder.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 7.86/10

Review: I Spit on Your Grave

Director: Steven R. Monroe
Release: January 20 2010 (theatrical)
Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard

Day of the Woman (better known as its re-release title “I Spit on Your Grave”) was a film released in 1978 that quickly became one of the most controversial films of all time. It pushed the envelope with graphic depictions of gang rape, assault and murder.

Because of that, it was banned in several countries, which of course makes it an instant cult classic.

Straight up: The original film is either shocking and powerful, or just another exploration film, depending on who you are. I lean more to the original line of thinking, but at the same time, while not a bad movie, it’s also not exactly great because it hasn’t aged well, and the acting which was poor then, stands out even more these days. I think that further helps it to hold the “cult status” label, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was with that in mind that I was actually looking forward to a remake.

Fast forward thirty two years or so and this movie also garnered its fair share of controversy: the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17 rating but rather than make the cuts to obtain a more sell-able “R” rating, the crew left everything intact and it was released “unrated” which pretty much means it was sent to die in terms of box office success, but I for one, applaud such a move.

This version of the film stars relatively unheard of Sarah Butler as Jennifer Hills, a writer who is on her way to a secluded cabin in order to write her next novel. Upon arriving she meets some of the locals at a gas station and they decide that being a “rich city bitch” that she obviously thinks she’s better than them.

She spends the first few nights getting used to the place but can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched or stalked, and well, it all amps up from there on the night that the local boys decide to invade the cabin and assault her.

The assault and rape scenes are disgusting and grueling in that they are presented with such a savage and real presentation, where you feel completely and utterly helpless and enraged. I don’t know specific times, but the whole ordeal takes up at least half an hour of the movie, if not more, and it is not pleasant at all.

What’s shown here is probably about on par with the original, but thanks to modern day cameras/effects, it’s all so much more real and effective. I won’t give specifics, but Jennifer is beaten, taunted and gang raped by five men and left for dead.

Now, I know plenty of people who don’t understand the appeal of something like this. It’s not that I love watching rape scenes or women getting assaulted. Nor does the director, nor does anybody in the film.

That’s not the point.

It’s written and performed in such a way to make YOU, the viewer feel disgusted and repulsed, and truly, it works. That, to me, is good film making. It’s entirely true that achieving that effect isn’t necessarily indicative of skill or brilliance, but at the same time, it’s brave, and it works.

Jennifer narrowly escapes, but is assumed dead after she’s not seen for over a month.

Eventually she begins mounting her revenge by at first taunting the men and then full on getting her hands dirty. The revenge part of the movie moves at a brisk pace and is pretty unrelenting once the first scum bag is dealt with.

Comparing this part to the original may be worth noting, as what’s here is far more brutal, where in the original Jennifer used her sexuality to lure the rapists in again (ridiculous) to strike, in this film, she simply sneaks up on people and bashes them in the head so that she can torture them somewhere else.

These scenes are pretty creative, and while I don’t enjoy rape scenes, you know what I do enjoy? revenge. Revenge is probably my favourite movie theme of all time, and these pieces of shit get what they deserve. And then some, all pulled off by a stoned faced Sarah Butler who does a pretty admirable job of looking like she’s enjoying it, but also in remarkable pain emotionally.

Just some of the carnage:
[major scene spoilers below]
a penis is severed and shoved into a gaping mouth, eyelids are pierced and held open by fishhooks, someone gets an acid bath, a shotgun is used to sodomize a man, and so on.
[End spoilers]

Overall, it’s easy to sit back and call this a hollow film simply made to shock people, and I don’t know if I’d even bother arguing, because not only is that partly true (I don’t think the write/director would completely object), but those I think these people also don’t get it.

There are also people who see this (and the original) as a very feminist film and actually pretty powerful because of that. I won’t argue with that either.

To me it’s simply “what goes around, comes around” and a completely shattered and broken woman getting her revenge because it is all she cares about at that point, and yes, that is entertaining to me. One hundred percent.

This is not a perfect film. yes some of the revenge bits probably go a bit into the “sort of implausible” realm, but again, I don’t see that as bad, and anyway, who’s to say what a person is or isn’t capable of after going through that hell.

Some of the acting, especially that of the fat dude in a few scenes, isn’t up to par, but as far as remakes go, I enjoyed it a lot and it improves on the original very much, though both can still easily stand on their own.

Day of the woman, indeed.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 7/10

Review: TRON: Legacy

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Release: December 17 2010
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde

I wasn’t even born when TRON was released, in fact, I never even watched it until a few years ago. I’d heard much about it, though. Plenty of jokes and lighthearted teasing about how it was cheesy and ridiculous, but also really ahead of its time. When I finally did watch it I was pretty blown away and instantly realized why it is and always will be seen as a cult classic. It’s just FUN and futuristic.

That said, I’m not a fanboy and won’t waste too much time comparing new to old and so on. That’s boring.

TRON: Legacy picks up the story of Kevin Flynn’s disappearance and how his son Sam is dealing with it. During the years much has changed and his fathers company has grown and changed into something neither of them would have imagined. This storyline is dumped on us early, but really doesn’t have too much bearing on where the next hour and fourty five minutes are going to take us.

It’s there to establish the fact that Sam hasn’t quite gotten over his dad being gone and also hasn’t followed in his footsteps and is a real wildcard and so on.

That’s all well and good, but the real shit happens when Sam gets info about a page being sent from his dad’s rundown arcade and through MYSTERIOUS circumstances gets sucked into the GRID, aka the digital world where TRON took place.

The world, however has changed and Clu, a program created by Flynn (and played by a very creepy looking CG Bridges) has taken over and purged the world, trying to make it “perfect”.

What goes on from there is what you might expect. Sam tries to find his father and defeat Clu/Tron with the aid of Quorra (another Flynn program played by a RIDICULOUSLY hot Oliva Wilde) and escape the grid and essentially save the world.

Thanks to 28 years of technological advancements, plenty about the old movie is updated and expanded upon here, like the disc and light cycle battles, which are pulled off using incredible effects and work extremely well. It’s all very flashy and intense and just incredibly cool to look at. There’s no denying it. It’s like special effects porn and you’d be crazy to not love it.

While that might sound almost negative to some, it’s true and is easily the most compelling reason to see the film and that’s where it’s so similar to the first film. They are doing awesome shit you want to see because it’s so awesome.

It’s all pulled off extraordinarily well, and aside from the previously mentioned CG Jeff Bridges (who will haunt my dreams), you don’t even think about how what you’re watching is mostly “fake” and that’s when you know the eggheads and their special effects teams are earning their money.

I’d also be doing the film and review a great disservice if I didn’t mention the phenomenal soundtrack, scored by Daft Punk. Never before has a pairing been so absolutely perfect as TRON and these guys. It’s hard and moody and electronic and epic all at the same time and is as good or better as the movie itself. Absolutely amazing and I hope they get to score more movies in the future.

Preferably more TRON movies, because this film offers an extremely good time.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 8/10

Review: The American

Director: Anton Corbijn
Release: September 1 2010
George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido

I just watched this film and am quite astonished, once again, at critics and regular movie viewers alike.

I was told by several people, or people who heard from other people, that this film was garbage. The words “boring” and “long” were thrown around a lot. I’m old enough to know not to really trust such random thoughts, but regardless, I missed this film when it was in theaters.

Lucky for me, then, that I took a chance and bought it before the year end so I can officially call it one of the best films I’ve seen in 2010. No, really.

The premise is simple. George Clooney plays an assassin or spy or some combination of the two. It’s never made quite clear (and I love that) but it is obvious that he’s a veteran of such a career and has paid for it in terms of loneliness and loss of loved ones. Shit goes wrong and George is on the run and is told to hide out in a small Italian town and complete one last job, which is assembling a weapon for a mysterious buyer, but his past is also following him.

It’s not an entirely new concept, but the scenes range from showing the character as a man willing to do anything to complete a task to a lonely fragile man looking for some normalcy and human contact. It’s the two things he struggles with and once again seem to be getting him into trouble.

He meets Clara, a prostitute (played by the absolutely stunning Violante Placido) while seeking said contact and fights with himself over hiding secrets and not being able to trust anybody.

Really, I’m not going to sum up the entire film scene for scene, so I’ll stop there.

I’ll just say that I was absolutely enthralled for the two hours it lasted and cannot understand how under any circumstances a person could find it “boring”.

I’ll not argue against the fact that it’s a “slow burn” and even the action scenes are played out with this really strange sense of…relaxed urgency. I really don’t know how else to describe them, but upon thinking about it, that’s really quite remarkable and just does even more to grip me.

I guess if you expect a spy movie along the lines of the Bourne films or James Bond you’re really going to be letdown, so perhaps the was the problem for some people, but man oh man, it hurts to think about what some people are missing by passing this one up.

If you enjoy beautiful, well put together films there really is no reason to not give this a shot, even if you’re not a fan of “slow” character/story progression. Pretty much every scene here truly does seem so well edited and flows so nicely that it felt so much shorter than it actually was, which is again, in my experience, a very good sign of a well crafted film.

It just hit every right note for me.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 9/10

Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Release: September 10 2010
Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller

Paul W.S. Anderson is not an incredible director.

The Resident Evil films are not incredible movies.

But what they do, they do so right. I can’t not watch them, and it actually has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a fan of the games.

The film series has gotten more and more ridiculous as the sequels have grown and “Project Alice” has evolved and thus is has become a lot of fun to see what the hell is going to happen next or how many times Wesker can die but still be alive.

The first time we see Alice in this movie she takes out a large number of armed guards with some some swords and ridiculous acrobatic moves all filmed in glorious, gratuitous slow motion before she fires off some psychic mind blast shit and clears the entire room.

Then her clones show up and you get like ten Milla’s for the price of one and who can complain? Absurd? Yes, but that’s what I’m taking about. Nod your head and roll with it as two of them jump down an elevator shaft, sub machine guns in hand and kill some more nameless Umbrella goons as they free fall to glory.

I’m not going to review a movie scene by scene, but you get the point. There really aren’t any limits, it seems.

Eventually the story focuses on Alice finding a group of survivors while they try and get to a supposed safe area and then shit gets real.

A cool highlight for me was the introduction of the 10 foot tall Axe man dude and the fight that follows. Wet girls in slow motion fighting big scary dudes is like poetry, and Mr. Paul W.S. Anderson, you spin one ripping good yarn!

Seriously though, the formula is quite simple: the always gorgeous Milla kicking ass + zombies = one ticket sold. I’m sorry. It’s true. I am not some artsy film critic, I can enjoy relatively shallow action movies based on video games quite easily. It’s all about what you expect from them

These movies are not modern masterpieces nor are they great representations of the games. They are simply silly, entertaining fun.

Sometimes that’s all you need. Let the critics hate.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 7/10