Posts Tagged ‘Robert

06
Mar
09

The Punisher: War Zone Review

He is all out of bubblegum.

He is all out of bubblegum.

2008 was, without a doubt, the year of the comic book movie.  Along side the earth shattering success of The Dark Knight, there was the surprisingly impressive Hulk movie, and the Robert Downey Jr. resurrection machine known as Iron Man.  Both turned out to be great movies in their own right, with the Hulk finally getting the balance between the rage fueled violence and the plight of the scientist with a curse right, and with Iron Man, where Downey Jr. literally transformed himself into a living, breathing Tony Stark.

So then why didn’t anyone pay any attention to Punisher War Zone?  Maybe it was because the 2004 entry was almost universally panned for being quite atrocious.  Maybe because it didn’t have anywhere near the hype and media coverage that the big three got.  Maybe because it’s R rated (and let me tell you, its earns ALL of that R rating and then some).  Maybe it’s because the plot concerning an ex-military mans family being slaughtered because they witnessed a mob killing is just to grim for most audiences.  Whatever the reason, it’s truly a damn shame, because against what seemed like all odds, the old adage of “third times a charm” came shining through, and Frank Castle finally get his long overdue opus on the silver screen.

The Punisher to me, always seemed like the safest and easiest bet of all the Marvel heroes to turn into a feature film.  There’s no expensive CGI and complicated suits to create.  There’s no interplanetary or ridiculously complex scientific origin to the hero.  His appearance is just that of a middle-aged tired and emotionally distraught Italian male.  And he actually doesn’t even has superpowers, his is just an incredibly driven, superlatively trained warrior who occupies the gray area in between the good and evil of society.  Aside from some more intimate and provoking undertones that go on within The Punishers own conscious, his main method of entertaining comic books fans was plowing his way as violently as possible through droves of street thugs, gangsters, and criminals.  It’s at about this time your probably recognizing how male orientated this comic series was.  It seems like every male action junkies fantasy, to be this near suicidal, empty shell of a man who can just kill with absolute impunity.  Yet, in a strange twist, it took a woman to get this story right.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair.  That's hardcore.

The Punisher can kill a man with a chair. That's hardcore.

Director Lexi Alexanders’ command of the visual style and pacing of this movie is probably the most immediate and impressive of the taunting hurdles she had to overcome to create such an exceptionally accurate representation of The Punisher as it is presented in the comics.  The Punisher is a man of action, a man of finality, in his world there are three colors, Black (evil), White (good), and Red (Blood and Justice).  Lexi encapsulates that beautifully, knowing exactly when to allow the story play out a bit, and maybe let the characters get a little introspective, and when to crank it up to 11 by unleashing the Punisher without any hesitation or restriction.  Combining those strengths, with a keen eye for lighting, to give everything  that grimy, almost mafia look, and some dynamite performances and well thought out actions set pieces and you have a recipe for success.

But while Lexi may have created quite the landscape for a vigilante superhero with an uncanny talent for dealing death, it would be nothing if there weren’t solid actors to bring the persona’s off the pages of the comics.  Everyone, let me introduce to Ray Stevenson.  This guy is a presence on screen, I liken him to Gerald Butler, who completely stole the show in every scene he was in in 300.  His somber and weathered face and flat voice was a perfect fit for bringing to life the near emotionless Frank Castle.  He wasn’t just a revelation because he accurately portrayed a comic book character, he was a revelation because he acted his fucking ass off, and bridged the gap between inflated, comically quirky superheroes, and three-dimensional characters who seem to live and breath in an incredibly believable manner.

Jigsaw.

Jigsaw.

Surrounding him is a ensemble cast that includes Julie Benz (RAMBO, Dexter TV show), Dominic West (The Wire TV show), and Wayne Knight (Seinfeld and Jurassic Park).  They all fit the bill perfectly, and bring the kind of subtle, validating emotions to the screen, while still being incredibly fun to marvel (pun intended) at due to their fan service nature and faithful reproduction on screen.

Technically speaking, the audio is superb, with the score being allowed to creep into the forefront at just the right moments to give more emotional resonance and weight to a particular scene.  Also, every gunshot, shell casing, bullet wound, lost limb, and blown up body is accounted for, with satisfyingly loud, deep, and visceral sound effects.  As previously mentioned, the lighting is a perfect blend of realistic city environments, and heavily stylized colorful comic book cities.  The camera also always seems to be in the right place, never wearing out its welcome by using too many gimmicks or by sitting around like a seemingly uninterested bystander.  It moves with the pace of the action, and always gives a great glimpse of what is happening.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

Heavy Handed for those uninitiated in Punisher lore, but this is as fitting a message to go out on as any.

The Punisher, is my humble opinion, is better than the Hulk movie, and right up there with Iron Man as far as 2008 comic book movies are concerned, with the The Dark Knight being the obvious number 1.   This is an incredibly faithful, stunningly grisly, and frighteningly accurate depiction of everything that is great about the character Marvel fans seem to forget about the most in The Punisher.  The acting is simply spot on, only once or twice spilling into hammy territory.  The look and feel is wonderful without being overbearing.  It sounds like a dream John Woo had, and it moves quickly, avoiding all those slippery little chasms where character exposition and plot development can lead to mind-numbing boredom and frustration.

The birth of the alternative comic book movie is upon us, and I for one am eagerly awaiting whats next.

Get out of my way, punk.

Get out of my way, punk

12
Oct
08

Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Strippers vs. Zombies

How?  How do you fuck this up?

How? How do you fuck this up?

Look at that poster.  How?  How is this not a home run?  You have zombies.  Zombies are fucking great.  You have strippers.  Here at Midnight Showing, we’re all about women, especially those who seem to think clothing is optional.  Plus, it’s a low budget film.  Really low budget.  So you figure they would  have to bring the violence, the gore, the hilarious and copious amounts of nudity, and the humor right?

Wrong.

Strippers vs. Zombies, or is that Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, fails to even deliver us what is shamelessly promised on the cover.  To put it mildly, the overall quality of this film is only slightly above something a high school A/V club member would produce as a side project with his stoner buddies.  There almost no nudity, and none of it is in the least bit sexual or even funny.  The gore is a mish mash of horrible cgi, and so-so make up and practical effects.  The acting, from everyone besides the Samuel L. Jackson “funny black pimp” guy was pretty much forgettable, if not downright terrible.  The music is just generic sounding rip offs of pieces featured in movies like the Exorcist and Terminator.  And the director could barely keep the actors and actress’s in the shot, let alone do anything with the camera other than follow the action, and he even did that shitty.

Oh, and the really embarrassing thing?

At times throughout the movie, people would talk, on camera, and there would be no sound.  Like an old Godzilla movie that’s poorly dubbed.  Also, if any lines needed to be done over with dubbing later on, it was obvious the voices were recorded at different volumes, in like 128 kbps quality, in a completely different environment.  Obviously the makers of this film are not only shameless (a trait i would never fault anyone with), but also completely without a sense of professional pride.

It feels like they let this movie be released without watching the finished product.  Just like when I write for this site, you gotta proofread that bitch, and at least knockout the obvious errors, you know, like releasing a movie with LINES OF DIALOGUE COMPLETELY MISSING EVEN THOUGH THE ACTORS MOVE IS MOVING ON CAMERA!

If you follow zombies flicks, you’ll know that 2008 has been the year of the stripper vs. zombie movie.  Earlier in the year a movie starring Jenna Jameson and Robert Englund came out called Zombie Strippers.  I thought it was friggin’ terrible, but at the very least, it had some parts that showed you the filmmakers aren’t completely brain dead.

Strippers vs. Zombies goes that extra mile to make you just give up hope.  It shows you why movies like Snakes on a Plane are made, and even how movies like Snakes on a Plane MAKE MONEY!  By the way, the “funny black pimp” i mentioned earlier, he actually said in the movie “I’m tired of these motherfucking zombies in this motherfucking club!”  Really.  He did.  And it was probably the best part of the movie.

Maybe you should watch it, just because that guy is hilarious.  No, no you shouldn’t.  If there is any lesson to be taken from this film, it’s that if you come up with a good poster, a good title, and have no talent, you too can help make a mockery of the horror genre.

24
Sep
08

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer directed by Jon Knautz

I really hope this is the first of many Jack Brooks adventures.

I really hope this is the first of many Jack Brooks adventures.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is, to date, the toughest review I’ve written.  Of course, I’ve only done a few on this blog so far, but I’ve made my opinion heard on the Internet for years now, just in different places and with little to no regularity.  Monster Slayer has me perplexed beyond belief though.  So I’m going to be winging this one a little bit, formulating my ultimate decision as I go along.  Here we go.

We start off with a cyclops monster encounter in a jungle in a undisclosed foreign country.  The natives are getting there asses handed to them, but they seem to have a hero in a small hut, that they are waiting to emerge and save them.  We now jump all over the time line, to Jack Brooks teenage years, to his childhood in a somewhat disturbing but effective scene showing how he lost his family to a monster in the woods one night, and how that changed him forever.

Jack Brooks confusing (because of the illogical and random jumps in time showing him at different ages) background story was important to tell though, because that night his family bit the dust, was the night he got his power, which is his uncontrollable temper and raging anger.

Now we are at *almost* present day, (the first sequence in the jungle, with the natives, turns out to be present day, as Jack is the hero in the hut) and Jack Brooks is attending a night class with his girlfriend.  Science to be exact.  His teacher?  Robert Englund.  Freddy himself.  And then the movie slows down the pace to an almost unbelievably slow crawl.

Long (and confusing) story short, Professor Crowley (yeah, the movie went there) finds a heart buried in his yard after Jack, a plumber, does some work for him and disrupts a pipe and some dirt.  It takes him over,and for a few nights of the class, he begins to look sicker and sicker and act very strange.

There’s comedy spots in the movie, although the tone of the movie, which is a lot more serious than I was prepared for, muffles the funny bits down.  If the jokes were played more upbeat, more like Evil Dead 2, they might of been funnier, but director Jon Knautz just doesn’t seem to want to give up to making the story of his hero laugh out loud funny.  The exception being Howard in the hardware store, who is downright hysterical, mainly because of his superb role as the “wise-ass,old story-teller guy” that you have to have in these kind monster mash movies.

On that note, the cast should be commended on their work, especially since we go almost an entire hour where we the audience rely heavily on their acting to get us through to what we are assured will be a delightful beat down once we get to into the third and last stanza.  Trevor Matthews is convincing as our tormented hero, Rachel Skarsten is perfect as the bitchy, annoying, “has to go” girlfriend, and Englund plays the quirky science teacher to a T, who falls victim to this demonic heart and becomes an unwilling carrier of its evil.

The make-up and special effects are all stellar, and you will find no CGI in this film.  Unfortunately, besides the heavy amount of full body suits and make up in the very beginning of the movie and in the last 20 minutes, we don’t get to see those special effects enough.  The gore level also begged to upped substantially.  More monsters popping up throughout the film would’ve have made that brutal middle piece where thing seems to be moving in slow motion much more bearable.

The finale is satisfying though.  Actually, it ties things up so nicely that it almost makes up for every other grievance I have with the flick.  Lets just say that Jack does indeed find the perfect use for his anger, and that the door is not only left wide open for this to turn into the next big horror series, the door is propped open with a brick.  The character transforms in the final act, and I for one wanted to see more of this version of Jack.  In him, I saw a lot of “Ash” from the evil dead series, if Ash were to ever take his penchant for killing monsters and make a life calling out of it.

So where do I stand?  Should you or shouldn’t you?  Yes, you should, if only for the fact that you want to be there at ground zero for what could be the next big thing in horror.  The acting is above-par for direct to dvd horror releases like this.  The special effects and great climax make up for a slow build and a confusing beginning, but just barely.  Knautz has to work on his pacing, but his directing of action and monster scenes is already pretty spot on.

Hunt this one down for a retro creature feature fix, and keeps your eyes peeled to be hearing from Jack Brooks again sometime in the near future.