Sunday, April 29, 2007


5.1 So my daemon’s name happens to be “Onthia.” Say “Hello” to her whenever you drop by; she’ll be keeping my iguana company. They’ve got a lot to chat about. Girl talk, I expect.
If you have no idea what I’m blathering on about, go on down to the website for The Golden Compass (due out this December), or better yet, read Philip Pullman’s so-dark-are-you-sure-these-are-young-adult-novels His Dark Materials trilogy, then go to the website.
You too can find out about your own daemon!

5.2 If you’ve read my review of Shusuke Kaneko’s Death Note (Archive: March 2007), you’ll know that I was horrified by Kenichi Matsuyama’s performance as “L.” Well, it turns out that there’s a spin-off in the works, a prequel to Death Note, focusing on “L,” and Hideo Nakata’s come on-board to direct.
I’m truly horrified at the prospect, as I’m a big Nakata fan, and now, I’ve suddenly done a 180 from not caring a whit about the spin-off and not even planning to give it a go, to getting anxious about it and wondering what Nakata saw in Matsuyama’s performance that he actually wants to work with him.
But then again, who knows? Maybe Nakata can pull off a coup and elicit a decent performance from Matsuyama.
Here’s hoping.

5.3 It turns out that Sebastian Cordero’s Cronicas won one Ariel out of the six nominations it garnered this year. The win was for Best Actor (Damian Alcazar).
Still, co-producer Guillermo Del Toro isn’t too sad, I suppose, given his wins for El Laberinto Del Fauno; see Afterthoughts (2) (Archive: March 2007.)

(The Golden Compass image-- Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter-- courtesy of

Friday, April 27, 2007

Season 1
Episode 19

The wait’s over, and boy, the shocks just keep on coming!

So, not only is Linderman also gifted (could’a made a fortune growing a squllion tons of wheat, instead of doing the whole Vegas mobster thing…), but he’s fully aware of the impending NY explosion, and intends to capitalize on it to unite the world in fear (ala Watchmen), with Peter as the anointed saviour who will shepherd the masses in the dark hours following the catastrophe.
He also indicated he had other gifted contemporaries, and that they tried to make a difference in the world before the others lost their way. Of course, he’s claiming to be the good guy here, but he does have a lot of unsavoury connections… (Someone’s got a small case of the forked tongue.)
And now he’s set his sights on Micah, so, presumably, he needs work on computers (or technology, in general). Is this some contingency for the big NY ka-boom? (Which could be a possibility, if Linderman thinks Peter’s dead.)

And having mentioned Linderman’s contemporaries… Mrs. P!!!
Cannily though, they don’t yet reveal her gifts. (Or did I blink and did something happen while she just stood there for Claire’s scrutiny?)
So, given that when two gifted individuals hook up, their offspring seems to be gifted too (D.L. + Niki = Micah; Peter + Meredith = Claire), it stands to reason that Mr. P was probably gifted too, since their two sons are.
It’s also been niggling at the back of my head, the possibility that Sulu could be gifted, given that he was in cahoots with the mystery organization meeting on Daddy Deveaux’s rooftop. (There’s also been a theory floating on the net of Daddy Deveaux having been gifted as well, possibly with some dream ability, and since Peter was hanging around when he was caregiver, it rubbed off on him; thus, Peter’s dreams in the first few episodes.)
It’s funny, all these people who we met quite a while back, and for all intents and purposes, we thought they were “normal.” Heh.
Could Heroes be headed towards presenting us with a sort of secret history of the world, where we discover that the movers and shakers of all the things we know are actually people like Linderman and the Petrellis?

So Mrs. Super P is planning to spirit Claire away to Paris. That would be something to see, Mrs. P sharing her wisdom with Claire. (I’d also love to see what went down way back when too, when Mrs. P participated in all the “madness.” I wonder if that would fly as Season 2, Young Linderman and Petrelli? Or maybe a mini-season within Season 2, so we get to seriously build up on the Heroes mythology in a focused, concerted effort. Aaaah, the fever dreams of a fan…)
Could there even have been (gasp!) a love triangle? Mr. P, Mrs. P-to-be, and Linderman? And (double-gasp!), could one of the Petrelli boys actually be a Linderman Jr.? (Does Mrs. P seem to be the type to sleep around? Ooohhh, naughty, naughty thoughts!)

Meanwhile, Suresh and Peter get away from Sylar. Of course, we knew they would, but Mo! You had the best chance to finally ice the sodding lunatic and you don’t. Urrrr. Golden opportunity fizzles out.
So, any grief that comes after this, let’s all blame Mo.
And to start the ball rolling…
Isaac shuffles off to Buffalo-in-the-hereafter. Can’t say I’m gonna miss him, given how Simone’s dead because of him. Still, at least he had the good sense to stash some paintings away to tell the others how to get rid of Sylar. (That was what he was alluding to, right?)
And just what was Peter thinking? Okay, I’ll turn invisible, but maybe I’ll just stand here and not move. Maybe the big bad crazy will just go away. Oh, look, he’s making all that pretty glass float… Hmmm, maybe if I turn around nothing will happen.
Petey, just ‘cause your legs were invisible, doesn’t mean they weren’t there.
Lucky for us all Claire was at the Petrellis when Peter’s corpse came in the front door.

And now, all the Amazing Petrellis are under one roof. Is that a super-team, or what? Let’s recruit Meredith (who always seems to need more money anyway), and we can take Linderman down without even trying.
Now I can’t wait for Nathan’s wife to get wind of this (and the tiny matter of the illegitimate offspring).
Also, here I thought Peter’s scar (which Future Hiro mentioned) was gonna come from Sylar’s forehead incision, but no. His forehead seemed fine when he was talking with Nathan after his return from the dead.
So where does he get the scar? And just how do you scar someone who heals so rapidly?

And meanwhile again, Mr. Bennet does know how to stage a jailbreak, doesn’t he? And Ted can do EMP! Awesome!
I like this guy, tragic schmo that he is. Sure, he went happily along with the whole “let’s hold the Bennets hostage” fiasco, but come on! He’s not all that bad.
Then, of course, they’re headed for New York…

And who should be in New York (five years from now), but Hiro and Ando!
Hiro decides they need to discover what they did wrong in that devastated NY cityscape so when they go back to their own time, they can fix it. (Isn’t it as simple as not letting Peter cross paths with Ted? Isn’t that the key?)
And inside the building is the creepy-ass timeline apparently put together by… Future Hiro!
I mean, in the Get-the-Geekboys-to-Cream-Their-Pants sweepstakes, this cliffhanger is way up there with episode 4’s (“Collision”; when Peter meets Future Hiro).
Of course, they are risking some temporal disaster, right? Some sort of anomaly that occurs when you and your future self meet?

A lot happened in this episode, didn’t it?
Can you smell that season finale, people? It’s on its way…

(Image courtesy of


Before I wrote this review, Danny Boyle had only ever really disappointed me one time, with his disastrous adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach. He bounced back though, with a bloody-minded vengeance, with 28 Days Later (from a script by Garland), and followed that up with the charming curve ball, Millions.
Boyle then re-teamed with Garland for Sunshine.

Now, Boyle’s disappointed me one and a half times.

The Icarus II is on a mission.
Our sun is dying, and so is our planet. Following the failure of a previous mission (thus, the Roman numeral), Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada, recognizable from the Ringu films) and his crew are presently in transit, with the payload that will signal a literal dawning of a new age on Earth, should they succeed.
The mission: to detonate a stellar bomb the size of Manhattan Island, in the sun, and thus, re-ignite it, giving humanity a second chance.

We’ve all seen this one before: the very survival of the human race in the hands of a crew on board a spaceship. (Sadly, we all still remember Armageddon and Deep Impact, don’t we?)
Now, not only is Sunshine a film from the Save the Planet from Destruction school, it’s also that particular sort of sci-fi film that seems to be an exercise in giving the Ten Little Indians a remedial course in Murphy’s Law.

We all know that in the course of completing their mission, the crew will make a singular, catastrophic decision that will then become the crux for the entire film’s narrative.
This will occur because, A) the decision was inherently the wrong one to make in the first place (see Alien), or B) human error will bollocks the whole thing up.
In Sunshine’s case, it’s B.
Fit will then continue to hit the shan as the story unfolds, repeatedly proving Murphy’s Law to the audience’s satisfaction, as the Indians drop like flies.
All the while, completion of the mission parameters will look increasingly bleak, till the last minute, when the day will be saved by the remaining crew members. (Survival of said crew members by end credits roll, uncertain.)

The reason Sunshine doesn’t do it for me is precisely because Boyle and Garland never seem to successfully transcend the confines of this type of sci-fi film. The structure of the film’s narrative is pretty much as outlined above, so the proceedings get pretty by-the-numbers in very short fashion.
Additionally, in a set-up like this, the characters aren’t usually very deep. The performances can elevate the material though, and supply us with subtext, with the impression that these people have lives beyond this ship, and have real relationships between each other. (Again, see Alien.)
Now, there aren’t necessarily any outright terrible performances in Sunshine. Most though, are serviceable, and not much else. Perhaps the only actors who manage to deliver something noteworthy are Cillian Murphy (as Capa; Murphy’s worked with Boyle and Garland before, on 28 Days Later), and Rose Byrne (as Cassie; Byrne was in Sofia Coppola’s brilliant Marie Antoinette, and incidentally enough, in the upcoming sequel, 28 Weeks Later).
Murphy is the only one whose character we really see in some significant personal private moments (sending off a message to his parents Earthside, for one), while Byrne’s Cassie brings a much-needed level of humanity to the crew (she’s the only one who seems to really give a damn about her other crew members, as opposed to blindly chanting the “complete the mission” mantra).

Beyond the fact that Sunshine isn’t as horrible as The Beach (and it’s certainly better than either of the asteroid movies), there isn’t much else I can say in its favor.
It’s serviceable sci-fi, but certainly not great. It does benefit, however, from Boyle’s sharp visual stylings, which go a long way to making the film an agreeable viewing experience.
Admittedly, Sunshine does have its moments.

Thus, it’s only a half-disappointment for me.
I mean, this is the writer-director team that gave the zombie film a welcome do-over with 28 Days Later, so when I first heard they were tackling science fiction, I got excited. So that’s months and months of anticipation, and now that I’ve seen it, well, Sunshine just doesn’t cut it.
Which is sad. I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to sit there as the end credits rolled and have that same rush I had after I’d seen 28 Days Later, that rush of having just experienced excellent cinema.
All I thought after Sunshine ended was, “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as The Beach.”

(Sunshine OS courtesy of

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Season 2
Episode 6

Teleplay by Matt Venne; based on the short story by F. Paul Wilson; directed by Dario Argento

Since it was based on an F. Paul Wilson short story, I was pretty stoked to see this one. The fact that it was helmed by giallo master Dario Argento was also some strong motivation, as I wasn’t overly fond of his contribution to Season 1, “Jenifer,” and was hoping for some of that old black Argento magic this time around.

Rocker Meat Loaf Aday plays Jake Feldman, a fur trader who comes into possession of pelts taken from raccoons who are apparently sentinels to the ruins of some ancient city (if the drunken ramblings of Mother Mayter—Brenda McDonald—are to be taken seriously). Whatever the case may be, what becomes readily apparent is that these pelts cause the people who come into close contact with them to go seriously postal.

Now the trouble with “Pelts,” I feel, is two-fold.
One, the performances aren’t exactly strong. Unlike his turns in David Fincher’s Fight Club and Peter Chelsom‘s The Mighty, Meat Loaf doesn’t quite deliver here, and veteran actor John Saxon doesn’t really contribute much either.
Two, the gore dangerously borders on overkill, as no opportunity to showcase some fake bloodletting courtesy of Nicotero and Berger (two-thirds of KNB) is allowed to pass; if we don’t actually see the carnage as it’s taking place, we’re given convenient flashbacks so we can enjoy the gruesome proceedings. It’s almost as if Argento is desperately trying to say, “Remember me? This is some of what I’m good at.”
But Argento’s also skilled at suspense and surrealism. All we get in “Pelts” though, is the gore, and that can wear pretty thin if that’s all there is to see.

Like Season 2’s “The Damned Thing” and “Pro-Life” before it, “Pelts” is one of those MoH episodes that leave a bad aftertaste, the kind of episode that only manages to remind you of how good this particular director once was, a really long time ago, and that just maybe, he’s now way past his prime.

(“Pelts” DVD cover art courtesy of

Monday, April 23, 2007

Season 3
Episode 17

Like Hurley said, this is future crap.
So it’s Des and his flashes, and being placed in a situation where he must choose if he’s willing to sacrifice Charlie for the sake of the possibility that Penny’s about to arrive on the Island. (Catch-22, indeed.)
We also see Des’ brief life in a monastery, making wine, before he’s whisked off by Penny. (Huh. First Eko’s stint as a priest, and now Desmond. What is it about Lost and men of the cloth? Maybe Kate was a nun for awhile…)
Speaking of Kate, she can be such a doofus. After making her solid choice back in the cages, now she’s hurt ‘cause Jack is making time with that two-faced lying slag Juliet, and she jumps Sawyer’s bones. At least Sawyer was canny enough to figure out he was being used. (And isn’t that cute? He gave her a mix tape…)
Getting back to Des, it’s an interesting perspective he voices, that maybe his flashes are a test. Maybe the test is knowing all this is inevitable and resisting the urge to change what he sees.
I was also about 94.6% sure that it wasn’t gonna be Penny there, hanging dead from the tree. I certainly didn’t wait for almost a year just to have her wind up on the Island, dead.
But really, who was that?!

(Image courtesy of

Season 3
Episode 13
“Less Than 30”

After, what, a four month break, the boys are back, and look who their new hottie agent is: Amanda, played by Carla Gugino!
And speaking of breaks, that’s sort of the way Vince and Ari are acting, as if they were once an item and now they’re on the outs. (E makes an interesting point: outside of Mrs. Chase and the guys, Ari’s is the longest relationship/friendship Vince has had.)
All this tension (and yes, jealousy) comes to a head when, ostensibly as a birthday gift, Ari gives Vince the script for Medellin (which was once a bone of contention in light of the Aquaman franchise; of course, Benicio Del Toro ended up with Medellin, and Vince was passed over for Aquaman 2). Amanda’s understandably annoyed by that, and Ari makes his pitch at Vince’s party.
It’s a great scene, where it’s pretty clear that beneath all the agent schmooze, this is really just a friend reaching out to another, hoping to salvage the relationship. And the thing is, with Ari, his friendship with Vince is all wrapped up and intertwined with their being agent and client. (Perhaps not the best set-up, but there you have it.)
And though Vince says all they really can be at this point is friends, he holds back on signing a deal to make an Edith Wharton adaptation with Sam Mendes, just to see if the whole Medellin thing pans out the way Ari claims it will.

Parting shot: It’s too bad the Carla Gugino-headlined Threshold was cancelled. One of the Lost clones to storm the network schedules in 2005, Threshold was a great X-Files throwback I enjoyed.
Maybe that was its downfall, though. Classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If it had come out during the whole X-Files boom, it would have been a rip-off. In 2005, when it premiered, it was probably a little too late, given that the boom had already gone bust. (Invasion—another show I enjoyed—was a fresher and more involving approach to the X-Files idea of aliens among us, but even that couldn’t get past its freshman year.)

(Image courtesy of

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Season 2
Episode 5

Written by Drew McWeeny & Scott Swan; directed by John Carpenter

This could very well have ended up the worst episode of MoH Season 2, if not for two things: Ron Perlman, one of those genre faces who always delivers the goods, and some great creature effects by KNB (regular fx wizards for MoH, and purveyors of some of the most memorable effects in the history of cinematic horror).

Dwayne Burcell (Perlman) is a religious fanatic whose daughter (Caitlin Wachs, little Chloe Waters from TV’s Profiler, all grown up now) ends up in an isolated abortion clinic, pregnant with something that doesn’t seem entirely human.
Now although that premise sounds promising at first, in getting this to the small screen, Carpenter seems to just end up rifling his own Assault on Precinct 13, as well as filching a visual gag from his remake of The Thing.
This one doesn’t seem inspired at all, and the third act is so clumsily cut together, it’s little more than a mish-mash of senseless gore, gruesome violence, apparently central characters who go MIA, and an anti-abortion rant coupled with some torture porn lite.
Much of the fault though lies in the script, which populates the screen with far too many characters, some of whom have little more to do than stare down birth canals and have their faces sprayed with goo.
Even Burcell is presented as the stereotypical unstable religious nutjob, gullible enough to be deluded by the baddie. I mean, would God’s voice really sound like some guttural growling sent through a voice distorter? And for a father concerned that sinful things are being perpetrated on his 15-year old daughter, he seems to have enough time to engage in a little bit of torture-disguised-as-poetic-justice. I’m sure he thought he was doing God’s will.
And since I’ve mentioned Him, I should point out that God’s name is so often taken in this episode, it’s alarming. If God had any sense He’d steer clear of this terrible mess, as Carpenter should have.

And perhaps the most disappointing thing about “Pro-Life” is that it’s Carpenter taking the piss again, after he seemed to be getting back on track with his much-better contribution to MoH Season 1, “Cigarette Burns” (incidentally, also written by McWeeny and Swan).*
It’s unfortunate that when Carpenter gets it wrong—as he also did in Vampires and Ghosts of Mars—it is so wrong, it’s criminal. If there’s any justice in the world, he should get a life sentence for this one, and put up for parole only when it becomes clear that he once again knows what the word “horror” means.

* To Drew and Scott: I love your work on aicn, guys. For a film fanatic like myself, the site's indispensable.
So I was really hoping I’d like “Pro-Life” enough that I wouldn’t have to say anything too negative, since this was your baby (so to speak), as well as Carpenter’s.
But I honestly think “Cigarette Burns” was far better. (In fact, I thought it was one of Carpenter’s best after a really long, long time, thanx in no small part to your script.)
“Pro-Life” was just a little bit too messy…

("Pro-Life" DVD cover art courtesy of

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SMALLVILLE Season 6 Episodes 10 & 11

Despite the fact that (or maybe precisely because) I’m such a big fan of Big Blue, I’ve never really followed Smallville with any solid regularity. Once again, live TV superheroics are marred by weak writing.
I mean, how many times must Lana get stalked by the Freak of the Week? How many times must Clark/Lana/Lex/Chloe/Lois get controlled by some external force, act all gonzo or evil or horny (or all three simultaneously), then have convenient amnesia once the dust settles? And just when does the madness end? The tortured relationships of Smallville put Dawson’s Creek’s to shame.
Still, I keep an eye out for specific episodes, just to see if, maybe, things have begun to look up on Smallville. Two of those episodes just aired.

Season 6 Episode 10 “Hydro”

I made it a point to watch this ‘cause I’m such a huge Tori Spelling fan.
Actually, it’s because “Hydro” is Tom Welling’s second directorial effort for Smallville, and since his directorial debut (season 5’s “Fragile”) managed to sneak past my radar, I told myself I needed to see “Hydro,” so I could ascertain whether Clark could direct, as well as fly.
What I got though, was your average run-of-the-mill Smallville with Tori S. as the Freak of the Week, some more tortured relationship hooey (Lex has proposed to Lana, Lana hasn’t given him an answer ‘cause she’s still in love with Clark, but she’s pregnant, blah blah blah, boo hoo hoo, ad nauseum), and yet another anticlimactic showdown with the aforementioned Freak of the Week.
I dunno. Why has this show stayed on the air for 6 seasons?

Season 6 Episode 11 “Justice”

This just didn’t do it for me. Considering this was the Justice League episode, it was vastly underwhelming, with a negligible plot and mostly toilet paper-thin characterizations.
And the costumes…
Oh, the humanity…
This could conceivably have worked better as a multi-parter, but Smallville just doesn’t work that way. So we’re treated to 40+ minutes of good guys running around in bad suits, with the fanboy highlight apparently a shot of the “League” walking towards the camera in Hollywood action film slowmo as Lex’s evil lab explodes behind them (as depicted above). Yeesh.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d actually looked the heroic part, but those suits would just die on Project Runway. Nina Garcia would absolutely slay those outfits.

And the performances. Urrrr. Former American Idol contestant Alan Ritchson (Aquaman) does little except flash his smirky grin, walk around bare-chested, and be the butt of fish jokes.
Justin Hartley (Green Arrow; he also played Aquaman on the failed TV pilot Mercy Reef) and Lee Thompson Young (Cyborg) don’t really elevate the acting either.
Kyle Gallner (Impulse; perhaps more widely seen on Veronica Mars) is the only one who actually registers, in that impish, precocious Bart Allen way. (This episode might even have been better off as an Impulse spotlight.)
And Lois is such a superhero groupie slut, it’s embarrassing. First she does the kissy-face with Aquaman in season 5, then is all hot and heavy and talking coitus without the interruptus with Green Arrow—though “Justice” does seem to put a punctuation mark on that relationship. Still. Slut. (Yes, she doesn’t know Ollie is Green Arrow, but can you imagine all the locker room talk on the JL Watchtower in years to come?)
And though I will admit that it was neat-o to see Chloe be this League’s Oracle, if you want to see the League done right, there’s 5 seasons of the animated series out there. Hop to it.

Again, why has Smallville been around for 6 seasons?

* Actually, I enjoyed Tori Spelling’s cameo in Scream 2’s metamovie. I’ll give her credit for that.

(Images courtesy of Review originally posted 012307.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


It’s some two years after the events of Alexandre Aja’s remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and it seems that the military have been conducting sweeps of Sector 16 apparently without finding any of the cannibalistic mutants that roam the area. They’ve just recently wired the place with surveillance and monitoring equipment, and a detachment of National Guard trainees are sent in on a delivery run, routine grunt work that turns deadly when the blood starts to flow.

Directed by Martin Weisz (Rohtenburg) and written by original Hills writer/director Wes Craven, and his son Jonathan, this sequel feels like nothing so much as a quickie cash cow, slapped together to rake in the dough. Populated by a bunch of dull ciphers, the film strides nonchalantly towards the climactic gorefest with nary a spike of excitement or tension to break the tedium.
I may not by the biggest fan of Aja’s Hills, but at the very least, that had this palpable sense of bleak desperation, where you could almost feel the heat and the grit and the sand. Wiesz’s Hills 2 is a pedestrian entry in the annals of modern horror cinema, the sort of shocker that really has no proper context in which to view the onscreen bloodletting. All we have here is a gruesome exercise in the torture and maiming of characters as we watch dully while they’re picked off one by one.
There’s a half-hearted attempt to humanize one Guard, Missy Martinez (One Tree Hill’s Daniella Alonso), but that doesn’t really hold water, so ultimately, all we have here is meat, pure and simple, waiting to be stalked and gutted. (And in the case of Flex Alexander’s Sarge, you’re almost praying for it.)
We’re not even treated to the demise of recognizable TV stars like the usual horror movie of today (the House of Wax remake alone had alumni from 24, Gilmore Girls, and One Tree Hill, with Paris Hilton thrown in for good measure). The ultimate anonymity of these soon-to-be-dead-and-defiled Guards (and by extension, this film) is assured.

Writer Ed Gorman once described Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes as “… an existentialist’s notion of a Saturday matinee,” while film critic Steven H. Scheuer considered it “… a serious attempt at social criticism within the horror genre.”
I haven’t seen the movie in ages (viewed in an after-school screening at a friend’s house during the glorious age of the Betamax), but I do recall my reaction: it was a riveting experience, and ultimately unpleasant, a bleak, nihilistic film that got under one’s skin, or like desert sand into the creases and crevices of one’s body. (Of course, at the time, I had no idea what the word “nihilistic” meant; I just knew it wasn’t a “fun” horror movie.)
And though it was the sort of movie that I wasn’t particularly eager to view repeatedly, it left a mark. It was potent low-budget cinema, that, like Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre before it, looked and felt awfully real, like some hellish documentary directed by an Inquisition torturer.
Thus, though Aja’s remake was certainly a passable example of today’s brand of extreme horror, it still felt fake compared to the original.
Weisz’s sequel feels even less genuine, mostly because it doesn’t really sink its claws into the audience. It just kind of presents the situation without placing us in the middle of the action. The experience is like watching Top Chef, or Hell’s Kitchen; you can see the food, but you can’t taste it. You just have to take the judges’ word for its edibility.

So how do I know The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a good horror movie? Because Martin Weisz and Wes Craven told me so.

Parting shot: Incidentally enough, I was also disappointed by Craven’s own sequel, 1985‘s The Hills Have Eyes Part II. Weisz’s version, though co-written by Craven, tells a different story, as this one spins off from Aja’s Hills, which made the idea that the cannibals were mutated by atomic testing—only implied in Craven’s original—explicit, by setting the action in Sector 16.

(Original The Hills Have Eyes 2 OS rejected by the MPAA, courtesy of

Monday, April 16, 2007


For anyone who’s ever thought that team building seminars are a load of bollocks, well, Severance is the film for you.
Directed by Christopher Smith (who helmed the Franka Potente-starrer, Creep), Severance follows a group of Palisade Defence employees, taking a break from a tour of Eastern Europe for a team building weekend in a luxury lodge up in the mountains. Things don’t go quite as planned, of course, and much horror and hilarity ensue.

Horror/comedy mash-ups are always a tricky thing; sometimes the horror is tepid, or the comedy lame. The worst cases are when neither part of the equation works.
There are however, the exceptions, when the production captures just the right mix and leaves us with a classic: John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London; Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever; Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead; James Gunn’s Slither; John Gulager's Feast.
Now you can add Severance to that list.

Lotta funnies here, as the film mines whatever is handy for its potential comedic value: sight gags, points of view, grindhouse conventions, even breaking the fourth wall.
Smith and company then display a canny understanding of comedy, by knowing the value of experiencing the anticipation of a funny, then having the pay-off be the consequence of the funny, without actually showing the audience the funny. (Down that verboten road lies physical comedy and slapstick.)
The funnies are then balanced against the more horrific aspects of the narrative as the machetes and bear traps are pulled out with a splatter flourish.
So effective is the melding that in one memorable sequence, we go from mild amusement to wince-inducing horror on the turn of a dime.

Additionally, what makes Severance even more enjoyable are the performances.
While the characters are borderline stereotype, the actors bring a welcome level of honesty and heart to the table that brings these characters to life (at least until the time comes for them to die).
So, while you may have seen the likes of Richard, the ineffectual boss (Blackadder’s Tim McInnerny, also recognizable to the kiddie congregation as Alonzo, Cruella’s butler from the Dalmatians movies), Gordon, the enthusiastic over-achiever (Andy Nyman), or Steve, the off-his-tits-on-`shrooms under-achiever (Danny Dyer, from Justin Kerrigan’s Human Traffic) before, the actors nevertheless leave an impression, and make the proceedings all the more entertaining.
And yes, I use the words “enjoyable” and “entertaining” to describe a film which has people fleeing through the woods screaming for their lives.

Certainly a sight better than Smith’s previous effort, Creep (which was little more than ho-hum horror we’d all seen before), Severance is an effective exercise in getting us to scream our fool bloody heads off while we stifle the mad giggles. There is even a subtextual swipe against the military and weapons manufacturers that may give one pause in between the shrieks and guffaws. (And in today’s post-9/11 world, you can’t go wrong with that.)

Parting shot: Severance opened last year in Ireland and the United Kingdom on August 25, just two weeks after Wilderness, a film with which it shares a couple of similarities in regards to situation and methods of dispatch. Ultimately though, the films are different entities, and though I may have enjoyed Severance more, Wilderness is still an effective shocker that could be your thing, if straight-up horror is more to your tastes. (Wilderness reviewed here: Archive March 2007.)

(Severance OS courtesy of

Sunday, April 15, 2007

LOST Season 3
Episode 16
“One Of Us”

There `ya go. As I suspected, Juliet’s a stone cold lying b!tch.
She’s made another deal with Ben. She handcuffed herself to Kate and lied about it, and the thing is, Jack knows she lied. So what did she tell Jack? Or is Jack part of some insanely Byzantine plot?
We also finally get to see the circumstances of Juliet’s arrival on the island, and the fact that her three-year stay hasn’t exactly been voluntary (thus shedding light on her “history” with Ben; somehow, I perversely thought it would be some sexual thing).
But the most interesting aspect of the episode is the revelation that Claire’s being pregnant at the time of the crash, which I honestly thought as I watched the pilot, was a ploy to invest the show with some potential emotional blackmail material (aww, look, she’s pregnant; let’s feel really bad about all the crap she’s in), is actually a vital plot point.
So all the women on the island can’t come to term, and they recruited Juliet for her expertise, in the hopes of reversing this alarming trend.* And she does, finally, after three long hard years… with Claire!
But now it seems Sun’s in some deep doo-doo, ‘cause she’s got a bun in the oven, a bun apparently made on the island, which could prove fatal, as per Juliet’s theories. (Claire, after all, conceived off-island. Unless… Sun has lied before, and she did sleep with what’s-his-face, the bald hotel owner who did some pavement diving. Or is that too far back in time for any possibility that he's the father? Whatever the case though, someone better tell Sun this latest turn of events, and fast.)

With seven episodes to go, it looks like the momentum to get us all to the season ender is starting now, and Juliet and Ben have a date a week from when they “left” her with Jack and company.
What happens in a week, exactly?

* Why is it so important though to get women to come to full term on the island? Is this some imagined modern-day Eden, the only flaw in that idea being that we can’t populate from here? So why don’t we just bring people here once they’re born? Let people conceive, carry, and give birth to children off the island, and shuttle the happy families here when the rugrats are born?
Or are they planning a contingency for a time that may come when there will no longer be an “off the island”?

(Image courtesy of


Jimmy Sparks (Guy Pearce) is a salesman who’s always had a “gift for the bullsh*t,” a man whose worldview filters each and every interaction he has into a transaction. Relationships become matters of commerce, and his gift for the gab allows him to move through life unperturbed by the past and the mistakes he may have committed there. A chance encounter with fortune teller Vacaro (J.K. Simmons) however, forces Jimmy to confront his life and the apparently inevitable fate that awaits him with the coming of the first snow.

Understandably, Sparks is skeptical at first, viewing Vacaro’s gift as an act, but particular details convince him that the prediction is a real one. Hearing the rest of it from the “trailer park Kreskin” doesn’t really soothe the anxiety though, and perhaps, even exacerbates the situation.
The journey Sparks takes, from glib smooth talker to assenting believer (passing through paranoid obsessive along the way) is fascinating to watch, helped along tremendously by Pearce’s acting skills.
And Simmons in the small but pivotal role of Vacaro is a strong, yet haunted man, light years away from the gruff and comedic J. Jonah Jameson (from the Spider-Man franchise), arguably the character audiences know him best for.

Co-written and directed by Mark Fergus (who also co-wrote Alfonso Cuaron’s excellent Children of Men*), First Snow is an involving thriller that places the notion of predestination at its very center. Set against the desolate vistas of New Mexico (evocatively photographed by Eric Alan Edwards, cinematographer on Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and To Die For), it artfully examines the idea of surrendering to fate in a way that Mennan Yapo’s Premonition could only dream of. (Premonition reviewed here: Archive March 2007.)
It’s an interesting variation of the scenario Hollywood seems enamored with, in films like Last Holiday and Life Or Something Like It, where the main character is informed of his or her impending demise and must deal with the unwanted knowledge. (Also, see Stranger Than Fiction, reviewed here: Archive March 2007.)
Here, it is given the psychological suspense treatment, and used as a galvanizing force in a quiet thriller that eschews car chases and bombastic set pieces for involved character moments as we view a man who must come face to face with his past, and ready himself for the end which awaits us all.
For a psychological thriller starring Guy Pearce, First Snow certainly isn’t Memento. It is however, an interesting little gem worthy of your attention.

* Fergus’s co-writer on both Children of Men and First Snow is Hawk Ostby. Their next scripting collaborations: Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and John Carter of Mars.

(First Snow OS courtesy of

Thursday, April 12, 2007


In an effort to bring public awareness to eight independent horror productions by christening them with a brand name, After Dark Films spearheaded the After Dark Horrorfest (“8 Films To Die For”) in November of last year, a mini-festival which included in its slate, Takashi Shimizu’s Rinne (Reincarnation).
Now, I got to see Rinne last year, before it had been chosen for the Horrorfest, and I wasn’t too crazy about it. If Rinne was indicative of the rest of the Horrorfest titles, then in all probability, I wouldn’t be too happy with them either.
Still, I figured, what the frack. I should give the other films a fair shake. So I checked out J.S. Cardone’s Wicked Little Things.

Recently widowed Karen Tunny (Lori Heuring, a frequent Cardone collaborator, having appeared in his past films, True Blue and the straight-to-DVD sequel 8MM 2) and her two daughters, Sarah (Scout Taylor-Compton, who plays Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s upcoming Halloween redux*) and Emma (Chloe Moretz, who was in The Amityville Horror remake and is in the upcoming English-language re-do of The Eye), move into a dilapidated house up in the mountains, left to Karen by her late husband.
No time is wasted before Emma finds a new, apparently imaginary friend named Mary, and Sarah is informed by the local teens that there are zombie children who roam the woods at night. Yesiree, Bob, it seems a mining accident trapped a number of children, burying them alive, and now they wander restlessly, seeking justice for their untimely deaths.

If the people-moving-into-an-old-rundown-house-where-weird-sh!t-happens scenario sounds familiar, it should. It’s an ancient genre formula, and the least Cardone and writers (Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch, and Ben Nedivi) could have done was a) make things lively, and b) give us interesting characters we could care for.
They do neither.
There is absolutely nothing here to recommend. It boggles the mind that Ben Cross (who starred in Oscar winner Chariots of Fire and Bernard Rose’s brilliant Paperhouse) is slumming here as Hanks, the requisite mysterious hermit figure who knows a secret or two about the sinister goings-on.

This is about as flat, dull, and uninteresting as they come, with stock characters who devolve into noisy hysterics when the chips are down.
Considering I wasn’t impressed by Cardone’s previous horror film, The Forsaken, and The Covenant—which he wrote—was just plain godawful, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised Wicked Little Things turned out the way it did.
What can I say? Hope springs eternal for the die hard horror fan, and I thought maybe this would be the film that would turn my opinion of Cardone around.
Maybe next time, J.S.

Parting shot: I’ll try not to hold my less than enthusiastic responses to Shimizu’s Rinne and Cardone’s Wicked Little Things against the other After Dark Horrorfest films…
In fact, I’ll even try to overlook the fact that After Dark Films is headed by Courtney Solomon, who inflicted us with the astoundingly horrible Dungeons & Dragons feature, and the forgettable An American Haunting. (Not only is Solomon apparently a lousy director, he also got into hot water recently for the Captivity marketing campaign.)

* It would be wise to keep in mind that Laurie Strode was the role which made Jamie Lee Curtis’ career.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

THE TUDORS Episode 2 (Review)

I think it’s the pacing of The Tudors that doesn’t quite work for me.
It’s fast-paced, yes. Not like an action-thriller though, but rather, in a “let’s get this subplot out of the way quick so we can get to the next one” sort of way.

The first act of the second episode is basically a pissing contest between Henry and the King of France, Francis I (Emmanuel Leconte) at a summit where they’re supposed to be signing a Universal Peace Treaty, the brainchild of Wolsey to keep both countries out of a costly war, and to get him the Papacy.
All the French boasting though gets on Henry’s tits and the two monarchs wind up in a wrestling match, which Henry loses. He’s enraged, but his advisers talk sense to him, and he ends up signing the treaty, but the whole deal rankles.

Meanwhile, Henry takes Mary Boleyn (Perdita Weeks) as a mistress, a by-product of his alpha male posturing with the French king (who calls Mary his “English mare,” as he rides her so very, very often), but soon tires of her, consumed as he still is by his losing face to Francis.
So he has Wolsey make some maneuvers so they can break that treaty, maneuvers which cost Wolsey the Papacy.

Oh, by the way, the would-be usurper to the throne, Buckingham, gets beheaded.
And that’s the subplot that felt like it was suddenly just cut off, much like Buckingham’s head.
It was bad enough that Brandon’s affair with Buckingham’s daughter apparently went nowhere, as there is no sign nor even mention of it in this episode, but her father is suddenly arrested and executed, just like that.
I honestly don’t know if, historically, this is how quickly that played out, but in the context of the show, it just felt really truncated.

And even as Buckingham loses his head, Lady Blount (Ruta Gedmintas), ex-handmaiden of Catherine, impregnated last episode by Henry, gives birth to Henry’s first son, the infant who will ultimately be recognized by the King (the only illegitimate offspring that will ever enjoy this kind of acknowledgement), and dubbed Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset.*

All this and papa Boleyn (Nick Dunning), wanting at least one of his daughters to have the king’s favour, dispatches Anne to replace her sister Mary in the king’s bed. (That’s good parenting, that is!)
So, all that trouble, all because of a father’s hunger for power and influence.

At this point, I should report that it looks like this is it for me and The Tudors.
It just isn’t riveting enough for me to make the time to watch the remaining eight episodes. As I said, I think it’s the pacing, and maybe Tudors writer Michael Hirst and I just don’t mix.
Who knows? Maybe Hirst’s upcoming The Golden Age will serve to change my mind about him. In the meantime though, Henry and his TV escapades shall have to go unwitnessed by this humble servant.

* The very same Henry Fitzroy who’s a vampire graphic novel artist in Blood Ties! It’s too bad Blood Ties isn’t even watchable, as that would have been an interesting double bill for this summer season. (Blood Ties reviewed here; Archive: March 2007.)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

LOST Season 3 Episode 15 (WARNING: SPOILERS)
“Left Behind”

Getting back to the Others plot thread, the episode opens with Locke saying goodbye to Kate, before things go totally off the wall, and Kate gets gassed, and wakes up in the jungle, handcuffed to Juliet!
That’s an interesting notion, which, among other things, lets Kate in on the fact that Jack knows she and Sawyer got it on, and that she “broke his heart,” as Juliet puts it.
The gals even get into a scuffle that ends with Kate dislocating Juliet’s shoulder (which she then admits has already been dislocated a number of times in the past).
By the time they get back to the Barracks, Ben and company are gone, having left Jack and Sayid behind. The episode ends with Jack deciding that Juliet comes back with them to the camp.
You know what? I don’t trust Juliet. I’ve said it before: Anything she does and says is suspect in my eyes.
For all I know this is all a ploy so the Others have someone on the inside. As Juliet says to Kate, Ben loves mind games.
Centerpiece of the episode: definitely the Monster chasing Kate and Juliet through the jungle. As per the usual though, all we see is the black smoke, which apparently doesn’t like the sonic barrier that surrounds the Barracks. Hmmmm.
I’m still of the mind that “the Monster” is mechanical in nature, and that it’s moving largely underground, and the smoke we see is its exhaust. (Though why the smoke often seems sentient is beyond me.)

Meanwhile, Hurley pulls a fast one to groom Sawyer for taking the leadership reins (since all the alpha dogs are gone from the camp), also another interesting idea.
Of course, the one Sawyer’s gonna have a difficult time to get on his side is Sun, and no one can blame her, really. She was used as a pawn in Sawyer’s power games, roughed up and terrorized. She should make Sawyer squirm a good long time.

As for the flashbacks, they’re centered on Kate, as she crosses paths with Cassidy (who, of course, doesn’t mention the name of the con man who broke her heart and knocked her up).
The episode’s flashbacks are okay, as far as they go, but I’m not certain they add anything particularly significant to our knowledge of Kate. Even her meeting Cassidy seems a bit gimmicky, since it wasn’t exactly pivotal. (It’s not like Cassidy was thinking of an abortion and Kate convinces her to keep the baby.)

At any rate, the episode was fine, and certainly better than “Stranger in a Strange Land” (arguably still the lowest point of the season), so it’s all good, so far.
We’re approximately two months away from season’s end, and I’m honestly not sure where we’re going and what the cliffhanger’s gonna be this time out, but hey, I’m all eyes and ears.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is one of those comic titles that seems tailor-made for the animation treatment, and true enough, Sword of Storms is quite possibly the best of the recent crop of animated adaptations of comic book heroes.

Taking Japanese myth and folklore, Mignola, Phil Weinstein (director), Tad Stones (on story), and Matt Wayne (on the script) craft a rollicking yarn that is populated by a whole slew of beasties from fox spirits to kappas. (My personal favorites though, were the floating vampire heads, reminiscent of the penanggalan—the Malaysian cousin to our own manananggal. Of course, the traditional penanggalan have their intestines dangling from their bloody neck stumps, but this is a cartoon after all…)
Considering I have a serious yen for weird sh*t (including weird Asian sh*t), I think it’s fantastic the way the writers and artists approached the material. This isn’t one of those cases where the legends are just chewed up, swallowed, and excreted in a form that degrades and diminishes the myth. Despite the over-all fun mood of a Hellboy adventure, you still get the feeling of proper respect for these ancient tales.
Everything gets thrown into Sword of Storms, including the samurai journey where the young warrior encounters all sorts of mystical ne’er-do-wells, and the ghostly love affair which must find a final resolution. All that, and dragons too!

I must guiltily admit this: I actually enjoyed Sword of Storms a lot more than the live action Hellboy movie. (Sorry, Senor Del Toro.)
All I missed from the live action version were the vocals of David Hyde Pierce for Abe*, and Selma Blair in the flesh. Ah, well, can’t win ‘em all.
Here’s hoping Blood and Iron (the next Hellboy Animated adventure), and the live action Hellboy sequel, will be just as fun as Sword of Storms was.

* David Hyde Pierce did not take credit for voicing Abe since he felt Doug Jones deserved full credit for the character. Jones has frequently collaborated with Guillermo Del Toro since he first appeared in Mimic; Jones portrayed Pan and the Pale Man in El Laberinto Del Fauno. He is also appearing in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, as Norin Radd (a.k.a. the Silver Surfer).

Thanx to Reg.

(Originally posted 030107)

Monday, April 2, 2007

THE TUDORS Episode 1 (Review)

Opening with the brutal assassination of a British ambassador (Sean Pertwee, seen recently in Wilderness; review in Archive: April 2007), Showtime’s latest offering, the ten-episode The Tudors, is one of those modern re-tellings of history which can turn a subject usually perceived as dead boring into a matter of interest by making the players identifiable as real men and women. Not unlike you and me, except they don’t have cell phones, and we don’t have crowns.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers (the scheming twat in Woody Allen’s Match Point; and one of Tom Cruise’s lackies in Mission: Impossible III) plays King Henry VIII in his days before all the fat just snuck up on him. His Henry is a young monarch hungry for sex, a male heir, and immortality.
He addresses the first hunger by sleeping with everyone except his wife, Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and by doing so, ends up marrying five more times, sating the second (so history tells). The rest of this episode serves to appease the third craving, as Henry spoils for a fight with France, responsible for the death of the ambassador, who happens to have been Henry’s uncle.
But the scheming Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill, perhaps most widely seen in the first and third Jurassic Park films) has other things on his mind…

The first impression The Tudors makes is that it looks authentic: the costumes, the suits of armor, the foppish tennis clothes. The show looks the part.
That, then, is supported by an able cast that brings Henry VIII’s court to life, a court which includes young loyalist Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill, who was one of the chosen few on McG’s Superman shortlist before Bryan Singer came on board and handed the cape and tights to Brandon Routh; Cavill’s also in the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust)*, who’s just randy for Anna (Anna Brewster), and Lord Buckingham (Steven Waddington), who’s hungry himself, for the throne, which is actually his by blood, and who also happens to be Anna‘s father, none too happy with Brandon shtooping his daughter.

So the first episode is pretty much a set-up for all the conflicts and machinations that will, presumably, be the stuff of the nine subsequent episodes, and the dominoes are arranged with determined ease and skill.
For all its prettiness though, and the confidence with which the story is being told, there seems to be a certain something that’s lacking, some vital spark that is needed to achieve that alchemy that all great narratives possess.
Or perhaps it’s simply that this is the first episode, where some introductions are decidedly brief: among them, Thomas Tallis (a court composer and organist, played by Joe van Moyland) and Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer of Casanova). Tallis, I have no idea what role he played in Henry’s court, and Anne…
Anne, after all, is the woman who’s gonna get Henry into all sorts of trouble, and all we see of her in the first episode is the quickest glimpse (and a convenient intro from her da, should we happen to have missed his last name in a previous scene).

The Tudors is written by Michael Hirst, who also wrote Shekhar Kapur‘s Elizabeth, which got Cate Blanchett an Oscar nom that she really should have won (sorry, Gwynie, but Blanchett just truly kicked a$$ in that one). Apparently, Hirst has got a thing for the house of Tudor, as he’s also written the sequel to Elizabeth, this year’s The Golden Age, with Blanchett returning. (Oscar, take note.)
Perhaps I’m not entirely enchanted by The Tudors since I wasn’t entirely enchanted by Elizabeth either. Blanchett rocked, no doubt (she nearly always does, actually), but Elizabeth was the sort of film that you watched—and recommended—primarily for the performance.**
The Tudors though, does not have a central performance with the power of Blanchett’s Elizabeth. Rhys Meyers is good, but he’s no Blanchett, at least, not in the first episode. So it all falls down to the court intrigue and the politicking, and if the ensemble can keep things interesting.
I’m willing to take on the second episode and see how things develop. If I like what I see enough, maybe I’ll see this all the way through.

* Interestingly enough, Cavill was also in the running for Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, as well as being the other actor considered for Casino Royale’s James Bond. Director Martin Campbell ultimately passed on Cavill since the then-22-year-old was considered too young for the role, which of course, eventually went to Daniel Craig. That’s three pop culture icons Cavill came this close to portraying.

** I am still entirely convinced that the nomination Elizabeth got for Best Picture was delivered on the coat tails of John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love, which made Oscar ga-ga over all things Elizabethan that year.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Survival horror has a new contender in Wilderness, a nasty little number directed by Michael J. Bassett (who also helmed the World War I-set Deathwatch).

Racing along at a fast clip right out of the gate, Wilderness takes some ten minutes or so to set up Callum (Toby Kebbell), the New Kid on the (Cell)Block at Moorgates Young Offenders, where some prison bullying leads to a bunch of inmates being sent off to “The Wilderness,” an isolated, supposedly uninhabited island where the prison system’s worst offenders can be sent for “character building” and “rehabilitation.”
Shepherded by Warden Jed Wyler (Sean Pertwee, from Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers), the lads soon find that they aren’t alone on the island. Among the unexpected guests, are Louise Dow (Alex Reid, from Neil Marshall’s The Descent; a little Marshall lovefest going on, eh?), of Temple Park women’s facility, with some young charges of her own.
Of course, there are other, more unwelcome guests, some of whom have brought highly trained and vicious attack dogs for a spot of fun.

There’s a fair amount of blood and gore in this production, but all that grue is firmly supported by a script by Dario Poloni that doesn’t stop for a breather, and excellent performances from the young British thesps (among them Lenora Crichlow from TV’s brilliant Sugar Rush) who play this rag tag bunch of sociopaths and sex offenders, who are also, by the way, the protagonists we’re asked to sympathize and identify with.
It’s to the credit of these actors and the script, that we actually do (well, identify with some of them, at least).

Wilderness is the sort of brutal tale where the descent into savagery is all too quick and easy; the kind of film that shows you how flimsy the mask of civilized man really is.
Look alive, this one’s got some teeth on it. And a couple of cracking the-sodding-maniac-was-in-the-bloody-frame-the-whole-time! shots that are guaranteed whoppers.