Movie Review: The Tower (2008)

Fantasy Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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Above the city of Detroit, a long abandoned tower rots in the skyline.  The structure appears lifeless, but in the dead of night a bright light shines from the top window.  Doug (Rick Kunzi) becomes obsessed with entering the tower after learning about its mysterious history: According to legend it’s said to be a gateway to another world.  When Doug goes missing, his sister Lucy (Roxy Strickland) is convinced that he’s trapped inside the tower, leading her on a quest to save her brother while coming face-to-face with the mysteries of the tower and the dangers that lurk within it.

”The Tower”, despite its flaws, is a highly ambitious, deeply imaginative low budget gem, where the sheer scope of the storytelling, abundance of atmosphere and creature designs draw you into a world that’s nightmarish and surreal.  This is not your standard horror film with zombies and beasts; the story is complex and full of mystery, where science fiction and fantasy intersect with horror to create something bizarre, engrossing and original.  It’s a journey into hell, where reality is a blur and danger awaits in every corridor.

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The horrors within the tower include an assortment of zombies, demons and spirits, with more other worldly beings introduced as the story evolves at a brisk pace, which never feels like its dragging.  The Clive Barker influence shines throughout; this isn’t your conventional type of horror film and it’s hard to categorize it alongside anything else.  The demons are reminiscent of Barker’s work, whereas the dimensional aspects and sci-fi crossover evoke memories of Don Coscarelli; especially the latter ”Phantasm” sequels.  However, this is its own beast entirely; boasting a nightmarish vision that drags us with its protagonist through a limbo between worlds as she tries to find her brother and a way out before she becomes just another victim of the void.

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The acting is the only gripe I have with ”The Tower”; nobody experts Marlon Brando levels of character portrayal from an independent horror film, but this cast was amateurish and bland.  However, it’s not the worst either and it doesn’t take us out of the story – which is as engrossing as it is haunting. All of the money they had has went into special effects, which are rather impressive – especially the creature designs which you’ll see in the trailer at the end of my review.  What really carries ”The Tower” though is heart and passion: These filmmakers have put their all into this project and it shows.  For fans of this type of cinema, especially myself, that goes a very long way and makes the flaws irrelevant.

One of the main strengths of this movie is how it transports us to another world.  It’s surreal and leaves a lot to be dissected and interpreted, but very few movies have captured the feeling of actually being stuck in a hellish limbo quite like this.  It possesses a strange, dreamlike quality similar very few movies have managed to capture; watching it is like being thrust into the haze of a nightmare.

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The only available DVD copies are Japanese bootlegs and they don’t come cheap, but you can buy it here.  Even trying to find it through more nefarious means will prove to be a challenge unless you’re a member of some exclusive sites which specialize in rare, underground films.  It’s quite heartbreaking to know this will fade further into obscurity as the years go by; there were even points where I doubted it was even a real movie.  There are no reviews to be found online, nor is there any trace of the filmmakers or any word of mouth about the film.  Movies with this much imagination, made by filmmakers striving to be different deserve to be seen.  But alas, the world isn’t fair sometimes.

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I could include spoilers as it’s highly likely you’ll never see it.  But I’m not going to.  If the following trailer sparks your interest enough to buy it or delve into the far reaches of the web to find it, you deserve the joy of experiencing it firsthand.  This is a movie which throws surprises at you and defies expectations.  Highly recommended.  8/10

Directors: Dan Falzone & Dan McGowan

Writers: Dan Falzone, Dan McGowan, Lon Strickland, Roxy Strickland

Starring: Roxy Strickland, Rick Kunzi, Norm Roth

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 90 min

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Movie Review: The Brood (1979)

Body Horror, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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”The Brood” is a science fiction body horror film from David Cronenberg, and is now widely regarded as a horror classic.  However, upon initial release critics were not too kind to it.  Described as Cronenberg’s ”family” movie, ”The Brood” is the artistic manifestation of a filmmaker exorcising his demons; the product of a man going through a divorce and trying to gain custody of his child.  Like most of his films, there was a message to the madness – and the madness ”The Brood” entails is very unpleasant. Roger Ebert labelled it ”a bore” and ”nasty” in his opposing, but much better written review to mine.  For many, it would be boring; not much excitement happens until the final minutes.  However, with time this film has garnered much more appreciation.  Why is that?

”The Brood” is the story of a marriage in ruins: Frank (Art Hindle) and Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) are a couple in ruins, with Nola undergoing psychological treatment at the Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmics, where Dr Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) uses his experimental radical therapy to manifest psychosis through physical symptoms.

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One day, when Frank picks up their young daughter Candice (Cindy Hinds) from a hospital visit with Nola, he’s shocked to find bite marks and bruises on her body.  He suspects his sick wife has been abusing her and revokes visiting privileges – much to the disapproval of Dr. Raglan, who claims it’s a bad idea.  It is.

Through the effects of the mysterious Psychoplasmics and Nola’s ever increasing rage, she starts to give birth to drone children, who then do her murderous bidding without her even knowing.  Once Frank states he’s filing for sole custody of Candice, it sparks a homicidal rage in Nola; she would rather her daughter die than be with him.  So she tries to kill them both, naturally.

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Some criticized the film for being anti-feminist at the time: I see it as more of a statement on the animosity that can occur when a marriage falls apart. Frank’s disgust when he witnesses Nola giving birth to homicidal embryos has been interpreted as a patriarchy seeing child birth as ugly.  When he finally killed Nola, many viewed it as male dominance feeling threatened. To me, I saw Frank’s disgust as a representation of children being used as pawns in a divorce and how it can be damaging to every person involved. The anti-feminism argument may have some merit, but can’t it just be symbolic of resentment towards the one particular woman who was the cause of a stressful time in his life?  This is not a scathing attack of women as a whole; it’s the work of an artist coming to terms with his situation and pouring his soul out on screen.

Cronenberg’s previous work made use of urban landscapes to symbolize society’s growth for the worse; ”The Brood” makes use of rural settings to represent the isolation of its main characters.  The performances from Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle are confrontational and tragic – and the start of Cronenberg’s excellence in working with actors to exude dramatic human prowess in his world’s of science fiction and horror.

The 70’s was also a time of controversial psychological studies.  Cronenberg explores the ethical concerns and potential dangers of them with exaggeration, but he gets his point across in the unsubtle kind of way we know and love him for.

So, to answer my original question.  Why is ”The Brood” now considered a genre classic?  It’s because it’s the beginning of a legendary director finding his voice; an artist at his most open and brave; a filmmaker exploring his own humanity.  It’s also a neat little body horror that’s very entertaining in its own right.  By no means my favourite of Cronenberg’s, but it’s a feature I greatly admire.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

David Cronenberg

Starring:

Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

Genre:

Horror, Sci-Fi, Body Horror

Running Time:

92 min

Short Film Review: Kung Fury (2015)

Comedy, Sci-Fi, Short Film Review

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Struck by lightning, bitten by a cobra; Kung Fury might just be the new 80’s icon of the 21st century.  Born from a fake trailer created by Swedish animation whizkid David Sandberg that went viral, a Kickstarter campaign would raise triple the required funds, and thus, the epic short film I am reviewing became a reality that would go on to take the Cannes Film Festival by storm.

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Kung Fury is a love letter to the 80’s, first and foremost.  Much in the same way Astron-6’s masterpiece Manborg is; a movie Kung Fury will inevitably draw comparisons to.  Inspired by everything from Saturday morning cartoons, Cannon Films, arcade video games and B movies, Kung Fury is a live action scrap book of 80’s pop culture nostalgia, brought to life in a basement of a little house in Sweden.

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Kung Fury is the story of a kung fu cop of the same name, who must travel back in time to put a stop to the ”Kung Fuhrer” Adolf Hitler before he comes to the present to usher in a Third Reich.  Along the way we meet Norse gods, viking babes with guns, T-Rex’s, killer arcade machines and Fury’s partner, Triceracop – a half man/dinosaur police officer.  In true 80’s style, we’re naturally treated to a rocking 80’s electronic soundtrack composed in retro Heaven by mystical synth Gods.

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Kung Fury is played by David Sandberg, whose deadpan delivery of cheesy one liners makes him a caricature of video store action heroes of yesteryear.  As a filmmaker he’s brimming with so much imagination and so many ideas it’s surprising he doesn’t have leftovers pouring from his nostrils and ears.  This is a Jack of All Trades to say the least and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life as one of his obsessed fanboys.

Don’t take my word for it though.  Check it out for yourself.  It’s FREE!

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

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If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past week, you’ve heard the critics raving about Fury Road – as well as fans proclaiming their excitement in their drones.  This sequel/reboot/requel is the latest installment of the franchise that put Aussie filmmaking on the map – and to this day remains the Godfather of post-Apocalyptic mayhem, having stood the test of time since the previous film, Beyond Thunderdome (1985), 30 years ago.  George Miller returns to the helm where he belongs – and this time they’ve given him $150.000000 to spend along with full creative control.  Sounds like it could potentially be one of the best action movies of all time, doesn’t it?

Well it is.  Fury Road is a geeks wet dream brought to the screen.  It’s the R rated blockbuster we’ve been craving since the dawn of time.  Not only has George Miller brought us the most balls-to-the-wall carnage we’ve seen – well ever – but he’s delivered a blockbuster that’s, quite frankly, groundbreaking.  While others are content to entertain us within the parameters of the status quo, Fury Road accelerates through the super highways of tomorrow; it has its own little world in the desert wasteland, where no other movie can touch it.  Not only are the action sequences the equivalent of taking an assortment of hallucinogenic hyperactive drugs and throwing caution into a tornado only to return in the form of mass carnage; this is cinematic punk rock in every sense.  The characters are stranger than ever, with the villains spouting the most epic sounding nonsensical drivel you’ve ever heard, yet it’s befitting to their much welcomed derangement.  It’s a massive middle finger to the establishment. making other amazing summer action extravaganzas in recent years seem generic and inferior in comparison.  Sorry Furious 7, I really love you, but Fury Road just surpassed you by tenfold.

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Much to the dismay of men’s rights activists (I know, what the fuck are men’s rights activists?) who have boycotted the movie due to supposed feminist ideals, Fury Road is very empowering to its female characters, with Charlize Theron stealing the show in a spectacle that’s enriched with interesting characters; even the smallest bit part players are larger than life creations.  There was a moment where her character, Imperator Furiosa, and Max grasp hands in a show of unity: a statement declaring, that, in this world, equality of the sexes is going to be the thing that saves it.  That’s not to say the women are unstoppable killing machines, however.  Miller has no problem killing off expendables of both sexes in brutal ways.  It’s a no holds barred thrill ride that takes no prisoners.  When was the last time you saw a baby cut from a woman’s stomach in a the multiplex?

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Road Warrior, to this day, remains one of the greatest movies of all time. No hyperbole – it’s a classic that both stands the test of time and still remains fresh because there’s nothing else like it.  Fury Road might be even better.  It’s certainly on a par.  Regardless of what’s the best, Fury Road is one of the best movies I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing in my 25 years on this Earth.  11/10

Directed By:

George Miller

Written By:

George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nick Lathouris

Starring:

Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne

Genre:

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Running Time:

120 mins

TV Article: Looking Back At… Special Unit 2 (2001-02)

Article

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Ah.  The turn of the century – or a year afterwards anyway.  The good ol’ days of my early teen years where I’d sit in my pajamas watching all kinds of random television shows that would inevitably be scrapped after 2 seasons; that’s if they even made it past the first season.  One of those shows was the short-lived supernatural detective series Special Unit 2, which followed Detective O’Malley (Michael Landes) and Detective Kate (Alexondra Lee) of a secret police unit as they battled monsters and creatures of folklore on the streets of Chicago.  Cancelled due to a combination of poor ratings, critical panning’s and a lawsuit for plagiarism of an old roleplaying board game, Special Unit 2 never had the chance to reach it’s full potential, but it was always a fun way to spend 60 minutes.

As a detective comedy, it contained all the necessary stereotypes: an unlikely leading buddy duo, who, despite their differences, make a very pragmatic team; an African American Captain with a temper, and, more importantly – a leprechaun who provides an encyclopedia of supernatural knowledge.  As a supernatural action drama, it’s charming with the way it explored random folklore portrayed in a lighthearted, humorous manner.

Special Unit 2 wasn’t original – characters were cliched, the leads were reminiscent (but not as iconic) of Mulder and Scully and it followed police procedure by the book as much as CSI, it was still a lot of fun and watching reruns still makes for some Sunday omnibus viewing.  It won’t blow your mind, but it might just steal a part of your heart.

Book Review: American Gods (2001)

Book Reviews

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To me, a good book is akin to a good holiday or time spent away from home: a place where your new surroundings become your temporary reality; it’s a time where you meet new people, friends or otherwise, and embark on a journey so escapist from your mundane routines that any semblance of your normal life is a foggy memory in those moments.  Neil Gaiman’s Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker and Locus Awards winning American Gods is such a tale: a fantasy grounded in a reality we all know in some way or another; it takes us on a dangerous journey through the heartland of modern America, a place where both ancient and modern Gods live and breathe, and danger, excitement, revelation and imagination lurk at every turn.  One doesn’t have to be American to understand American Gods; Gaiman’s looking glass is so expertly manifested on the pages that it immerses you in the world he takes us too.  However, despite being a commentary on middle America, many of the themes in his tale are universal; not to mention it’s also good old fashioned storytelling at it’s most grandiose and genius.

The story follows a man named Shadow; having just been released from prison to find out his wife is dead, he accepts a job from a mysterious man he meets on a flight called Mr. Wednesday, who knows all about Shadow.  He claims to be the ”king of America” and a survivor from an Old War. It turns out he’s Odin, a God from Norwegian folklore.  He informs Shadow that a war is imminent between the gods of old and new. With nothing to go home to, Shadow takes up Wednesday’s offer and they embark on a journey across America, meeting odd characters and avoiding the dangers that pursue them.

For a novel so huge in scope, ideas, concept and ambition, American Gods manages to come across as natural and has us believing every single word.  Furthermore, it’s as smooth as silk to read despite clocking in at over 600 pages.  Gaiman’s inventive pros are absolutely mesmerizing, and his story is more addictive than heroin or True Detective season one.  I haven’t tried heroin, nor do I intend to: but from what I understand it’s addictive.

The old Gods are representative of many different cultures and symbolic of modern immigration.  They live in squalor and poverty, waiting for America to notice them to regain past prominence.  Here, Gaiman is making a statement that immigrants are forgotten and left behind by the American Dream.  American Gods also has messages about the advancement of technology, the rise of the internet and the role of media.  Moreover, it deals with themes such as love, loss, heartbreak and self-discovery and small town life.  It’s symbolic, haunting, funny and steeped in imagination; hyperbole it is not when I call it the most enriched reading experience I have ever had the joy of experiencing.  It made me laugh, it left me cold, it gave me closure then left me aching for more.  When it was all over, I felt lost and sad that my journey had ended.

Is American Gods the best book ever?  Probably.  But even if it’s not, it’s still an essential book that will nourish your soul.  10/10

Movie Review: Iron Sky (2012)

Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi

iron If horror movies were history lessons, the Nazi’s would be a laughing stock: Throughout the years they’ve went from the most despicable people in history, responsible for the Holocaust and countless other atrocities, to space invaders who live in a swastika shaped space station on the moon.  But that’s no bad thing; if history has been good for anything it’s providing source material for ludicrous entertainment.  When I think of Adolf Hitler now, I picture him wearing a cape in Inglorious Basterds (2009); and when I think of Nazi’s I imagine zombies from the countless number of movies they’ve risen from the dead to munch on the living, regardless of their views on a potential Third Reich.  But now, thanks to Iron Sky, when I look at the sky at night and see the moon, I imagine a Nazi’s looking back at me as they plan another coup for world domination.  Nazi’s, eh?  Gotta love ’em.  Of course that all changes when I watch Schindler’s List (1993) and hit a 2 week depression…

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Now don’t get this twisted as me being a fascist prick who likes Nazi’s, but I’ve always found attractive women wearing skimpy versions of their uniforms to be incredibly sexy, so forgive me for falling madly in love with Julia Dietze at first sight in Iron Sky.  Even though she turns out to be a misinformed Nazi who’s actually a sweetheart who harbours no hatred towards a race of people or the desire to destroy Planet Earth, I’d still love her even if she did.  The same goes for Sheri Moon Zombie in Rob Zombie’s faux trailer Werewolf Women of the SS (2007), which he really needs to make someday.  Anyway, now that you know about my sick fetish, we can move on and get on with the review clouded in judgement.

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 The plot centres around an African American astronaut who lands on the moon in 2018, only to be captured by Nazi’s, who we find out have been living there since 1945.  The astronaut being sent to the moon is a publicity stunt by the right-wing president of the US in a bid to appear as equality driven in the eye of the public.  However, the Nazi’s assume that Earth is planning an invasion, so they send representatives to Earth who end up getting involved in the US Presidents warmongering plans; meanwhile, elsewhere, our African American astronaut hero now roams the streets as an ”Aryanized” hobo, after being dyed white through a science experiment.

To call Iron Sky ridiculous would be an understatement, but the overall product is merely average; the first half hour of the movie is absolutely fantastic as we’re introduced to the Nazi’s on their moon base, which is a tremendous feat in special effects considering the low budget it cost to make it.  The early stages provide some of the movies best gags too; ranging from irreverent racist humour (they are Nazi’s after all) to the advancement of technology.  The mad scientist steals the show as a racist Einstein spliced with the professor from Back To The Future.  He’s one of an array of over-exaggerated characters chewing scenery, but he just so happens to be the best of a fun bunch.

Once they arrive on Earth, things go drab for awhile and the movie starts to drag at points.  The humour even begins to get somewhat tiresome as it repeats itself, but the sub-plot of the African American astronaut’s stint as an Aryan hobo manages to provide enough entertaining scenes to carry it towards a thrilling climax.

Overall, Iron Sky is a movie with a great concept that could have been so much better; a screenplay revision and a few trimmings here and there could have elevated it towards masterpiece status, but it bogs itself down with pacing issues and some humour that falls just flat of tickling the funny bone.  However, when it hits the mark it’s a hilarious, goofy political satire with some dazzling special effects and fun performances from a cast boasting the likes of Udo Kier, so there’s enough going on to ensure the lows don’t disappoint your overall experience.  7/10

Director:

Tito Vuorensola

Writer:

Jarmo Puskala, Johanna Sinisalo

Starring:

Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Udo Kier

Genre:

Comedy, Sci-Fi

Running Time:

93 mins

Movie Review: Spring (2014)

Movie Reviews

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I’m a sucker for a good love story, I admit it:  As a teenager I discovered Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and became an instant fan, discovering all of his old films and keeping track of his career ever since.  Followed by 2 sequels, the Before trilogy has been a regular viewing fixture in my life; the characters feel like old friends and I like to visit them from time to time.  I’m have an emotional attachment to these characters because they feel so real; and now with Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s mumblecore fantasy hybrid, Spring, I have found myself smitten once again; the same way I was as a teenage boy, sitting in my underwear, watching love blossom between Jesse and Celine.

Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) has just lost his mother and decides to take a trip to Italy to avoid problems at home; he’s in a dead end job and possibly facing assault charges, so on the advice of a one night stand, he boards the first random flight the next day.  When he arrives he meets the beautiful and mysterious, Louise (Nadia Hilker), and they spark up a romance.  However, Louise is harbouring a dark secret.

Spring is, first and foremost, a love story about two troubled characters meeting by chance and discovering an undeniable bond.  The chemistry between them is natural: the way they get to know each other is naturalistic, whether it’s taking their time to roam the streets deep in conversation, or just sharing a bottle of wine, it all feels very organic and natural.  The mumblecore aesthetic is never pretentious in the slightest.

The horror/fantasy element might be too divergent for some to accept, and it’s understandable why one might feel that way; with such a sweet blossoming love story between 2 people who are extremely likeable, you just want to see them live happily ever after without complications.  But, the addition of the darker elements only strengthens the idea of true love; if you can love someone unconditionally, regardless of what they’re like at their worst, then you’ve found the one, and that’s the message I believe the story is portraying.  A great man who goes by the name, Haddaway, once asked the question, what is love?  Love is embracing someone at their very best and worst.  That’s what love is, people.

Spring deserves all of the plaudits it’s receiving; it’s a wonderful love story that isn’t afraid to remind you that love can be as difficult as it can be beautiful.  Benson and Moorhead have created the ultimate date movie for those who aren’t interested in Hollywood’s unrealistic fables.  This isn’t a horror movie at all; but the idea of our protagonists perhaps not getting the happily ever after they deserve is more horrifying than a monster eating people.  If there’s a hopeless romantic inside you then Spring is going to tug on your heart strings.  From locations; to story; to performances; to the score, this is the most beautiful movie you’re likely to see this year, and it accomplishes this without hitting any corny high notes.  9/10

Directed By:

Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Written By:

Justin Benson

Starring:

Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Vanessa Bednar

Genre:

Romance, Sci-Fi, Horror

Running Time:

109 min