Friday, May 3, 2013

The Dead Undead (2010)

Number Rolled: 100
Movie Name/Year: The Dead Undead (2010)
Genre: Horror
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Matthew R. Anderson, Edward Conna
Writer: Edward Conna
Actors: Luke Goss, Matthew Anderson, Spice Williams-Crosby, Luke LaFontaine, Edward Conna, Laura Chinn, Joshua Alba, America Young, Cameron Goodman, Johnny Pacar, Luke Gregory Crosby, Lance Frank, Forrest J. Ackerman, Vernon Wells, Billie Proffitt, Laura Cordova, Hillary Enclade, Brandon Molale, Thomas Wiseman

A group of friends break down near a shop. Upon inspection of their surroundings, they learn that the building is completely abandoned, as well as the motel nearby. Under the belief that they will pay someone for the rooms if the owner shows up, they hijack a key and settle in for the night. Their night, however, is far from peaceful as zombies begin to make themselves known in a very unusual way.

As you would be able to tell from the movie’s cover, this is a film that focuses on the question of who would win: vampires or zombies. I could think of no better way to prepare myself to watch this than to first watch “Deadliest Warrior: Vampires vs. Zombies.” It is the last episode of Season 3 and I highly recommend it – whether or not you want to go into this movie with some facts backing up the story. Personally, I found the transition from the informative television show into this fantasy-based movie beneficial.

It’s almost obvious before I say anything but, this is a B movie. With that in mind, this is a B movie that somehow drudged up real explosion footage and one hell of a storyline (no pun intended). As per usual, if I were to judge this movie based on Blockbuster stats, it would have scored much lower. That’s a little like grading a fish on how well it climbs stairs – ridiculous and unnecessary.

I absolutely adored this film. It had its issues. There were some continuity errors as well as a beginning that had me seriously contemplating taking a nap. I hate to admit just how much the beginning sucked. It made the movie look like it was going to be completely stereotypical and based around every cliché in the horror genre. I’m glad I sat through it because it very quickly became something I’d never seen before.

“The Dead Undead” realizes it’s a B movie and instead of trying to change that, it digs up all the stuff we expect from that label and makes fun of it. The characters, themselves, point out things that we, as normal viewers, normally point out and ask, “Why?”

I understand why it’s labeled a horror movie. Zombies and vampires are both generally solely for the horror genre (especially when they don’t sparkle), but I found myself laughing more than I was jumping. When you take stunt people out of their normal environment and put them in starring roles, however, you get a hell of a lot of action to make up for the lack of gore zombies usually bring.

In my research, I noted that people beat this movie down. On it’s score is a measly 11%. Of course, when you consider this fact, please also consider that the blurb on the site that is supposed to describe this movie barely has anything to do with it. Judge for yourself.

Overall Opinion – 4/5

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Anaconda (1997)

Number Rolled: 77
Movie Name/Year: Anaconda (1997)
Genre: Action & Adventure
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Luis Llosa
Writer: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Actors: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos, Danny Trejo, Frank Welker

Terri is a documentary director hired by an anthropologist named Dr. Cale to travel the rainforest in search of a lost tribe. Along the way, they happen upon a shipwrecked man and take him aboard. It isn’t long before the crew of filmmakers realizes that their guest is a bit shady. It isn’t until one of them goes missing that they are introduced to the theory of a man-eating snake.

Anaconda is one of those movies I can watch pretty often without getting sick of it. Don’t take that to mean it’s good; it’s actually closer to a really bad movie that has a lot of good cheese to offer.

Let’s be fair, the actors were mostly good. Jon Voight plays insane psychotic better than most in the game and Ice Cube fit his part like a glove. I hate Owen Wilson in general, so I’ll refrain from offering my bias opinion on his job, but Jennifer Lopez was pretty believable despite my general dislike for her. The script itself also wasn’t too bad. The story, however, pretty much belonged to Jaws or any other water-based creature feature that came after it.

Everything that had a good side in this movie also had a bad side. The snake looked really good, but it screamed. I had friends, growing up, that were snake breeders. I have to admit, I’ve never heard a snake scream. Deep down I know they added it for extra horrific value, but I think it took away believability. In a cheese movie that’s normally fine, but this movie was trying to be serious. Aside from that they did great with the sounds from the jungle, but the few times they had animals other than the snake involved, they looked like bad puppets.

When you take into account the good and the bad pushing against each other in “Anaconda,” you’re left with nothing more than a mediocre film. I know this, and yet, it’s still a guilty pleasure of mine. I rarely change the channel when it’s on. For the life me, I couldn’t tell you why. If you figure it out, let me know.

Overall Opinion – 2.5/5

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Hunger Games (2012)

Number Rolled: 69
Movie Name/Year: The Hunger Games (2012)
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Length: 142 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray
Actors: Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Paula Malcomson, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Amandla Stenberg, Dayo Okeniyi, Leven Rambin, Jack Quaid, Donald Sutherland, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jacqueline Emerson


Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the coal mining district of Panem. Choked by oppression, her district goes hungry around her. In order to cope, she hunts with her friend Gale Hawthorne, takes up the role of protector for her little sister and does anything else in her power to aid her family. Then comes the day where the tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games are to be chosen. Two children from each of the 12 districts (one boy and one girl) are chosen to a pool of 24 that fight to the death. When her sisters’ name comes up in the lottery, she volunteers to take her place alongside the other tribute from District 12, Peeta Mellark.

Let me first say, before we even get into the review, I’m going to request that if you don’t know this movie was based off a book that you return to your home under a rock and read the books before coming out again. This review will still be here when you’re done.

I will admit that this is not the first time I’ve see the movie. Or the second. Or the fifth. In fact, I’ve read the books twice now and have seen this movie roughly nine times. I will also admit that I saw the movie before I read the book. To some that may seem unforgivable but, regardless, this movie started an intense love affair between me and the story. I’ve been connected to stories in books and movies before, but my love for the Hunger Games just seems to be on a different scale. All the tumblr pages I follow, the forums I participate in and all the shipping… this movie was what started that for me.

I love the movie. I love the books more, sure, but I love this movie. It’s no surprise to me that it did well with the critics and audience alike. It remained as true to the books as possible – which made the fan-base happy – and added in all the blockbuster effects – which made the critics happy. Casting was amazing. The settings were spectacular. There’s nothing I find abhorrent about this movie.

This leads us to another argument, though. Movies based off books have rotten reputations. I understand the aggravation that comes from fan-bases. I do. I was a huge Harry Potter fan before the movies came out and the third movie made me so furious that I still get huffy when people mention it.

However, we can’t expect the movie to make NO cuts. It’s impossible. We’d be sitting through five hour movies. Granted, where the Hunger Games is concerned, I might actually sit through a five hour movie. That being said, most people wouldn’t and the movie business is just that, a business. Movie makers need to consider what’s going to get the most people into the seats. GOOD movie makers consider how they can do this without sacrificing the soul of the story.

For example, in Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief you have a great story about Greek mythology bleeding into our modern world through Demi-gods and a kind of religious evolution. The movie keeps the base storyline (the starting and stopping points) the same, but completely changes the rest of the story. To readers, this is unacceptable. Hell, to fan-base reader of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, the fact that Annabeth didn’t have blonde hair in the first movie is unacceptable. Fan-bases are an unforgiving lot.

In the Hunger Games, though, there’s very little that had to actually be changed. The most that really had to be cut was aesthetic. This fan-base got very lucky because the books have a lot to do with the inner turmoil of Katniss, which can easily be expressed through facial expressions or body language in mere seconds. Of the things that must be changed, I have seen only six heavily argued in other reviews, so those will be the ones I address.

After this point, there are spoilers for the books and movie ahead. Read at your own risk.

The mockingjay pin is the first aspect often argued. In the books, the mockingjay pin is given to Katniss by her friend Madge, the mayor’s daughter. In the movie the pin is given to her for free by a merchant at the hob where she drops off some berries. I go back and forth with myself on the severity of this cut. For the most part, Madge is a relatively unnecessary character. Most of what she does in the books can be done by other characters without losing the meaning. There is really only one part of the story that makes me question her being cut. In the second book, after Gale is nearly whipped to death, Madge drops off a box of painkillers to Katniss. In doing so, she risks her own life and the health of her mother. The important aspect is that this is the first part of the story where Katniss truly feels jealous, where Gale is concerned, when it is suggested that Madge took the chance because of something she might have had with Gale. It accurately notes the confusion Katniss feels where Gale and Peeta are concerned. I know this is going to be a very different scene in the second movie because that character was written out. However, I’m not willing to say that it won’t be for the best. There are plenty of other scenes that depict Katniss being torn between the two and I’m not sold on this one character making a difference in that.

Moving on, I’ve seen people argue, more than once, that the hearing loss Katniss suffered in the book, after blowing up the food that belonged to the careers, wasn’t acknowledged. In fact, it was absolutely alluded to. After the explosion, there’s nearly thirty seconds of actual ringing where we can hear only what Katniss hears. What exactly did you want to happen? To hear that ringing for the rest of the movie? Besides, the capital fixes her ear and it becomes a non-issue in the rest of the story.

The Avox girl is the next big issue people have. In the books, the avox girl and her lover are caught in the woods and apprehended while Gale and Katniss hide (in a kind of flashback). When Katniss gets to her room in the Capital, she recognizes the red haired girl as the one from that past scene. Avox’s have their tongues cut out for breaking the law and the imagery is in the book to push forth the depravity of the Capital and those in rule. For the book, it’s necessary. Everything that happens in books, happens in our minds. The Capital is depicted as a Hollywood on Acid kind of place and Suzanne Collins needed that horrible reminder to her readers that this world is severe and dark. In the movie, we have pictures that show us how exaggerated and ridiculous the Capital is next to the starving Districts. We don’t need the Avox as reminders and so they are a forgivable cut.

Peeta’s leg. Oh god. I can’t properly express how nervous this cut makes me for the last three movies. Yes, three more. The last book is being split into two. Go ahead, roll your eyes, I did, too. Anyway, at the end of the book, Peeta is bleeding to death and it forces the decision to each eat the berries to be quick. Otherwise, he would have died anyway and Katniss would have gone home alone. When they are taken out of the arena, Peeta’s leg is then amputated and replaced with an artificial one. In the movie, Peeta ends the Hunger Games standing on his own. I have seriously considered the implications of this cut. In the next two books it, of course, comes into play that Peeta has an artificial leg. However, if I really think about it, a lot of what happens because of his leg can be explained by clumsiness. I haven’t yet fully decided if this cut if forgivable or not. The next movie will help me make that decision.

The betrayal of Peeta’s love. Anyone who didn’t see in the movie that Katniss’ heart was not fully there for Peeta, wasn’t watching close enough. In the books, most of that betrayal happens internally. The movie showed it in the same way it showed everything else that happened internally with Katniss, through body language and facial expressions. None more obvious than the very end where Katniss looks at Gale in the crowd and Peeta’s heartbroken face searches hers before he takes her hand to remind her that they are on camera. Re-watch the movie. The betrayal wasn’t even remotely cut.

Finally, the actual hunger. Whenever I see this argued on a review, it legitimately hurts my head. The scenes depicted in the beginning of the movie, in the district, showed intense hunger. Yes, you may argue that Katniss and Gale and Peeta look healthy, and they do. However, even in the books, these people are healthier than most of the rest of the district. Peeta has access to bread because of his work at the bakery. Katniss and Gale hunt regularly, an activity that’s beyond the capability of the majority of the rest of the district. An activity that is severely against the law, at that. Of course these people look healthier than the rest of them. They have access to food. I’m not wasting any more time on this part of the argument.

So there you have it. There are more differences between the book and the movie, but most of them aren’t argued nearly as heavily. I find them not worth the time it would take to argue, anyway. At that point, it’s just nitpicking.

In the meantime, very few series ever get the point across so significantly as the first movie/book of The Hunger Games trilogy: this is only the beginning. I’m looking forward to the next one, coming out 11-22-13.

Overall Opinion – 5/5