Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Uncle Jasper reviews: Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall (1986)

Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Suzee Slater, Dick Miller

Directed by Jim Wynorski


As much as I’d like to tell you that Chopping Mall contains some great subtext about rabid consumerism, it really doesn’t. Search deep and you may drag out a few sketchy hints at social commentary, but apart from a short opening credit montage featuring fast food trays, bikini clad models, and other rudimentary symbols of American tawdriness and convenience-worship, it’s really just a fantastic little movie about a bunch of (mostly) unlikable young store workers being hunted down by killer robots. And by golly, that’s all you really need. A lot of potentially great films have been ruined by ambition. Chopping Mall takes ambition and shoots it in the back of the fucking neck with a mini harpoon claw.

Whereas some films come off as slaves to convention, Chopping Mall seems to revel in it. This is a veritable masterpiece of contrived cinema right here folks, and because of this it soars. Who gives a fuck if the plot is more or less directly ripped off from Dawn of the Dead? Who cares if the mall’s sporting goods store seems to only be stocked with high-powered assault rifles and tactical-edge 12 gauge shotguns? The lesson here is a simple one, people trapped in shopping malls fighting shit that wants to kill them is awesome. No need to shy away from that fact. There really is no end to the zany fun to be had here. Testosterone-addled characters spit out goofy one-liners like “Let’s go send those fuckers a Rambogram” while posturing all macho and shit. A pursued heroine has nowhere to hide except for an ill-lighted pet shop… Trying hard to remain silent, escaped snakes and hairy tarantulas climb all over her. About two-thirds of the way through, with the odds stacked against our survivors and no escape in sight, one of them conveniently gets an idea about shutting down “the main computer”. Oh man, THE MAIN COMPUTER! …of course!! Why didn’t we think about that sooner?!

Why the hell not? Allow yourself to be whisked away by convention here. This is the world of Chopping Mall. A world where a few gallons of spilled paint and a road flare can level an entire hardware store. A world where antiquated security drones vaporize a screaming woman’s head into red watermelon spray, raw hamburger, and bone splinters within the blink of an eye. I don’t even think they mention why the robots go apeshit and begin indiscriminately killing people in the first place. I don’t care. I love this movie.

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December 6, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Science Fiction, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini-Review: Splice (2010)

Splice (2010)

Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Expectations: Low.


Splice starts off rather well, peaks about forty minutes in, and then slowly declines until the last fifteen minutes or so. At this point it reaches the cliff of the Grand Canyon and jumps off into oblivion. Despite this bullshit final reel, Splice is actually pretty enjoyable for the most part and is surprisingly shocking at times, even to my depraved mind. Throughout the film the story hinted and teased that it might go down a certain path, but being a studio picture I thought it wouldn’t dare actually do it. They do go there and it’s shocking both visually and morally when they do. When you really think about what you’re witnessing, it’s some twisted shit and I wouldn’t have expected a major Hollywood picture to be this fucked up. It’s a shame that the script wasn’t as good as it could have been, because Splice isn’t too far away from being great, at least in the idea department. The elements are clearly here but the weak, plodding script lacks tension and genuine narrative flow. Even still, Splice is a lot better than I expected it to be.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are both adequate as the genetic research couple, but the star of the show is really Delphine Chanéac as their creation. Without revealing too much, she manages to encompass the questioning nature of her character and the mannerisms associated with her unique situation. The FX are great as well, as director Vincenzo Natali wisely has the masters at KNB providing killer practical FX that get as much screen time as their CG counterparts. The integration between the two is very well done and helps to sell the over-the-top plot to even the most jaded viewer. KNB’s work dominates the majority of close-up FX shots, allowing the intense details of the physical models to inform your mind when the less detailed CG versions take the reigns for the medium-range shots. Natali’s shot selection and framing is also excellent and adds quite a bit of intrigue and interest to the film through clever camerawork and beautiful cinematography.

The final reel is pretty piss-poor though, as it’s pretty clear that they had run out of ideas half an hour earlier. Any goodwill built up over the course of the film is quickly dissipated and the film ends with a telegraphed, bullshit moment that was only inserted so a sequel could be churned out if the film proved successful. Oh well, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: ThanksKilling (2009)

ThanksKilling (2009)

Starring Lindsey Anderson, General Bastard, Natasha Cordova, Ryan Francis, Chuck Lamb, Lance Predmore, Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson

Directed By Jordan Downey


WOO HOO!! LOOK AT ME, I’M A KILLER TURKEY WITH A ‘TUDE!!!!! AW FUCK BITCH!! NICE TITS BITCH!! YOU JUST GOT STUFFED BITCH!!! GOBBLE GOBBLE MOTHERFUCKER!!!

Watching a film like Thankskilling is about as subtle as being mercilessly kicked in the balls by a screaming dwarf amped up on amphetamines with laserbeam eyes and rusty carpenter nails for teeth. We get it, we get it!! It’s a fucking killer turkey… and he curses!! I’m no dunce, and I know what this film is trying to be, but it fails… over and over and over again. This is the cinematic equivalent to watching a screaming lobster boiled alive, what should be a quick and painless process seems to drag on for an eternity until the sheer agony of it all becomes unbearable.

After opening on an almost Troma-worthy high note, this movie goes to pieces faster than a thanksgiving turkey stuffed with napalm. When you hear the same joke uttered three times within 30 minutes you can’t help but feel like these guys are just desperately grabbing for straws here. It’s embarrassing. From top to bottom this unfunny pile of shit literally had me cringing at moments. You can’t help but feel physical discomfort at the sheer awkwardness of it all. At one point a college student is fooled by the killer turkey wearing her dad’s skin as a mask, ala Leatherface. Not only is it stupid but the scene drags on about three minutes longer than is necessary. That awkward and uncouth spirit runs itself through the course of the entire film. What you essentially have is a silly joke run into the ground until it’s almost begging you to put it out of its misery. It’s almost as if the “Jeez you got a big pussy, Jeez you got a big pussy” guy from Predator made his own feature-length film.

Anybody can come up with an amusing concept, but not just anybody should take said concept and turn it into a 70 minute long motion picture. I can say that a kung fu priest would be funny (and it is, in the right hands), but that doesn’t mean that I’m gonna go out and make a feature-length film about it. Save that shtick for those who are capable, the Lloyd Kaufmans or Peter Jacksons of the world.

Maybe this shit would be funny if I was sparking a massive doobie or suffering from catatonic schizophrenia or something. I just don’t know. Whatever you do this Thanksgiving, enjoy yourself and be thankful that you didn’t have the heinous task of sitting through Thankskilling for review.

November 25, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Comedy, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Trash, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mini-Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau

Directed by Jon Favreau

Expectations: Low.


 

I’ve tried to write something about Iron Man 2 for the past week or so and every time I get a couple of paragraphs in I lose interest. This is an adequate analogy for the film as it’s fun while you’re watching it, but there’s absolutely no substance backing it up. It’s a blockbuster, so I don’t necessarily need substance but Iron Man 2 fails to make it up with the killer action sequences and mind-numbing explosions that you expect. It has its share to be sure, but none of them are all that great. Probably my favorite moment of the film was watching Robert Downey Jr. work with his holographic hand-controlled computer interface, which was a fun advancement on the tech seen in Minority Report.

Overall, I liked the cotton candy of Iron Man 2 though. Mickey Rourke, despite a poor accent, is a great addition to the cast. It’s unfortunate that his part in the film is rather minor, as he has to share the villain limelight with Stark’s failing heart. As much as I love Don Cheadle, he is a step down from Terence Howard for this role. Cheadle seems much too soft, but does come into his own by the end of the film, when both Downey and him are suited up and ready to go. Scarlet Johansson is another wasted person, completely superfluous to the film and the story. It’s nice to lay the seeds of The Avengers movie within this film, but for me the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff was pretty forced. Fuck it though, Sam Jackson as Nick Fury was fairly fulfilling and promises good things to come.

If you liked Iron Man, give this one a go with your brain set to mild indifference. If you go in riding high, you will only be disappointed with this sequel. It fulfills the childhood dreams of watching dudes in robot suits shoot lasers and shit, but not much else. The character relationships are incredibly shallow here and seem to marginally move past what was laid out in the first film. It’s fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it definitely leaves you wanting.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Mini-Review: Flowers in the Attic (1987)

Flowers in the Attic (1987)

Starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, Jeb Stuart Adams, Ben Ryan Ganger, Lindsay Parker, Marshall Colt, Nathan Davis, Brooke Fries, Alex Koba

Directed by Jeffrey Bloom

Expectations: Low. It’s some girly kid book, right?


 

Wow! I did not expect to like this so much. For years I had disregarded anything even remotely connected to V.C. Andrews. In my mind, they have always been “some girl book” that I knew nothing about. I didn’t want to read about flowers! The story is deceptively simple, but it builds really well to a big finish. I can’t comment on how good of an adaptation it is, I can only say that if the movie was this fun and twisted, I can imagine the book is that much better. By the end of this one, I was hurling insults at the characters, yelling “Oh shit!” at all the correct moments and even doing a bit of the old Arsenio Hall Show fist circle as retribution finally came around. This story is seriously fucked up and wickedly fun to watch.

A loving set of parents live with their four children in the suburbs. One day, the father gets into an auto accident and dies, leaving the family without money or a suitable place to live. The mother does the only thing she can think to do, she takes them to her wealthy parents home. The only catch is that her father disowned her twenty years ago, after an unnamed transgression. The film might start a little slow and the child acting is bad, but as each piece of family history is revealed, the excitement ratchets up and you can only respond by inching even closer to your TV screen. Don’t miss Louise Fletcher of Nurse Ratched fame doing her best stern grandmother act. Recommended.

October 9, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 & 1/2 Stars, Thriller | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mini-Review: Dark Nature (2009)

Dark Nature (2009)

Starring Imogen Toner, Niall Greig Fulton, James Bryce, Vanya Eadie, Joanna Miller, Jane Stabler, Tom Carter

Directed by Marc de Launay

Expectations: Low.


I should have listened. Before watching Dark Nature, I read numerous impressions of the film, trying to see if I should bother with it. Every single one I found was negative. I decided to watch it anyway simply on the basis that it was distributed in America by site-favorite Troma Entertainment. If they’re endorsing it, it has to have some redeeming value for their fans, right? Not the case actually, as the film is almost completely devoid of anything that would set it apart as a film that Troma should release.

The film opens with a lot of promise. A quick prologue shows a man murder his wife, then after showering, he is murdered himself by an unseen assailant. This leads to a very well-shot credits sequence featuring time-lapse and beautifully composed shots of windmills and countryside. It’s a bit slow, but it’s done so well that it gives the impression that the rest of the film will pay off for a patient viewer. Unfortunately, it never does. None of the characters demand attention, as they are all boring and too standard to be worth caring about. As you would expect they are slowly killed off, but even these scenes are boring as there’s very little gore or suspense to get excited about. Overall, the film is just so boring, even at only seventy-two minutes. I can’t imagine too many people extracting much enjoyment from this film. Definitely one to avoid. It is an unfortunate blemish on Troma’s otherwise pleasing track record.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 Star, Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mini-Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas

Directed by Tim Burton

Expectations: Extremely low.


I normally would have avoided this but for some unexplained reason I decided to give it a go. I’m a fan of the original Alice story and I was curious to see how Tim Burton would film it, but the ridiculous amount of CG told me to steer clear. Burton’s later work for me has been fairly hit or miss, so I didn’t go into this with any expectations that I would enjoy this at any meaningful level. Like many things that your intuition tells you to avoid, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is definitely one to go into treading lightly.

I was intrigued quite a bit by the opening forty minutes or so. It was paced well and it was interesting to see how the older Alice reacted to the various things in Wonderland. The CG work is actually pretty good and lends the film an animated quality. That’s not to say that it isn’t excessive though. Virtually everything in the film is CG, including the horses that characters ride upon. Surprisingly the computer imagery is not my main beef with the film though. It’s Burton’s complete lack of emotion or energy with this film. If there’s ever been a guy that needs to take a few years off and reconnect with his passion, it’s Burton and this should be exhibit A. It’s lifeless and the plethora of CG doesn’t help. No thanks.

Oh, and it has what is probably Danny Elfman’s most tired, boring, passionless score as well. Maybe they were going for passionless as a motif?

August 13, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Fantasy, Kids, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Mini-Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Män som hatar kvinnor] (2009)

Starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Henrik Vanger, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Björn Granath

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Expectations: High. I’d heard nothing but heaps of gushing praise.


Is this the most overrated movie of 2009? No, it’s not quite at Avatar level here, but it is pretty thick. I didn’t hate this movie, it’s just that I honestly didn’t see a lot to get particularly excited about. Despite its interesting story, the film is a painful two and a half hour slog through rape, revenge and murder. It’s definitely well shot and well acted, but it just takes so damn long to get anywhere that any suspense or tension is gone long before it has any real chance at an impact. There’s a fairly graphic rape scene that serves next to no purpose other than to set up a vice versa revenge rape a few minutes later. So there’s about thirty minutes of runtime devoted solely to setting up the fact that our main character is a girl that doesn’t take any shit. I LOVE revenge movies, they are my total bread and butter, but these scenes were just glorified torture porn. Director Oplev could have learned a lot from Taken. Liam Neeson is set up as a complete and absolute badass in one scene, and if memory serves, its done and over in less than five minutes.

I realize this makes me sound like a dude with attention deficit disorder that’s just itching for something to explode, but that’s simply not the case. Great, slow-burn movies are some of the best the cinema has to offer. In order for them to work though, you have to be connected to the characters you are traveling with, and herein lies another flaw of the film. I don’t care about anyone in this movie. The title character is essentially just supporting Michael Nyqvist in her own film, and Nyqvist’s character has got to be a front-runner in the “Most Boring Lead Character of the 2000s” race. This is all quite frustrating, as there are some killer moments peppered throughout the film that just don’t get the chance to shine they deserve. I wouldn’t recommend watching this, but as almost every other review I’ve seen is overwhelmingly positive, I’d say that if you are greatly interested or a fan of the book, you might be better off judging for yourself or trusting someone else’s opinion on this one.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | 2000s, Drama, Foreign, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Mystery, Rating: 2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mini-Review: To Die For (1995)

To Die For (1995)

Starring Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, Alison Folland, Matt Dillon, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas, Dan Hedaya

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Expectations: None.


This is a mildly entertaining movie about a pretty girl who has high aspirations to be on television. She’ll do anything. Simple enough. Usually with this type of film, there’s some level of intrigue, but this is not the case with To Die For. The film is told through a pseudo-documentary style and you know pretty much what happens in the first couple of minutes. I’m okay with that, as long as the characters are interesting, but I’m sorry to say that they aren’t. Nicole Kidman’s character is the only one even remotely absorbing and she does well in her role, with some exceptional moments. Most of the other players are overacted caricatures of American stereotypes with Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix battling for the main offender trophy. Illeana Douglas is the best of the supporting cast, but then I always enjoy her in anything, so I could be biased.

This is all coupled with Gus Van Sant’s ugly, boring camera work and editing, making it readily apparent that this one just wasn’t made for me. I can say one thing about Van Sant’s work, he’s consistent. His shot selection never ceases to frustrate and annoy me. I had seen this before when it came out and I didn’t like it then. I like it less now. Avoid it, unless you generally like Van Sant’s work or you want to see Joaquin Phoenix or Casey Affleck in early roles.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Comedy, Drama, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 Star, Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mini-Review: I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)

Starring Peter Sellers, Jo Van Fleet, Leigh Taylor-Young, Joyce Van Patten, David Arkin

Directed by Hy Averback

Expectations: None at all.


The film opens with some hippie guru saying stuff like, “Do you know who you are? You must know a flower before you can know yourself.” Cut to: Peter Sellers driving a car through the downtown city. Sellers plays a Woody Allen type of character, a slightly neurotic normal man who has all kinds of extraordinary circumstances surrounding him. Generally in a Woody Allen film this is funny, but this film isn’t so much. Sellers does the best he can with the material, but this kind of counter-culture film just isn’t going to play well forty-two years later.

There’s some jokes about how this Mexican family is trying to pull some insurance fraud when someone rear-ended their car carrying eleven people and some chickens. The family walks into Sellers’ office all wearing neck braces. Maybe I’m twisted, but I laughed when I saw the kids wearing neck braces. The whole scene was surprising though, as you don’t see many of these blatant stereotypes in films nowadays. There weren’t that many jokes that still worked, but I did enjoy the part with the hearse drivers being on strike.

The opening of the film isn’t bad and has promise, but it slowly slides into pointless hippie drivel when a girl makes pot brownies for Sellers, after which he decides to leave his current self behind and live the free and uninhibited hippie way. If you’re a big Peter Sellers fan, you might give this one a look, but don’t expect too much. It hasn’t aged well.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | 1960s, Comedy, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment