Several years ago, I reviewed GI Joe: Rise of Cobra on this site and was one of the few people who actually said I enjoyed the movie. I went in with a willingness to let a lot of things slide and as such, I was able to enjoy it. Now, finally, the sequel is out and after watching it this past weekend I can officially say it’s a worse movie than the first one.
Rise of Cobra wasn’t going to win any Oscars, but it had some fun mindless action and a hi-tech, fast paced storyline that was focused but flawed. Retaliation is a movie that spent an extra 6 months getting retooled after executives saw the first cut and freaked out. Unfortunately despite their attempt to make something decent out of this, it still feels like a bunch of segments that were randomly shot with very little plot to string them all together. Director Jon Chu is most famous for making a Justin Bieber movie, so perhaps GI Joe: Retaliation would be better if it was a music video.
The first movie very much felt like a cartoon or comic book world and intentionally set that pace early on so you could believe some of the more fantastical elements. This movie tries to be gritty and “real” by having the characters all dress very boring and say stuff like “hoo-rah” so we think they’re real soldiers. Unfortunately, none of this works. You certainly COULD do a realistic GI Joe movie, but this isn’t it. The implausible elements in this film aren’t science fiction, they’re just mind numbingly stupid.
While the first movie had it’s own style, that wasn’t necessarily true to iconic GI Joe, it at least had a voice. Here we get a film that seems like director Jon Chu just flipped through a bunch of classic GI Joe comics and said “put this scene in, this one too, oh yeah and this one” without any real rhyme or reason. Cobra Commander wears a costume that’s “sort of” like his classic costume, yet the rest of Cobra all wear basic military fatigues. It’s very confusing to even know who’s a Cobra or a Joe in some of the large scale fight scenes because they’re all just regular guys in army outfits.
As stiff as Channing Tatum was in the first GI Joe movie, he’s fantastic in this film, showing more character and personality than any of the other Joes in this film or the entire first film. So naturally he dies 5 minutes in. Yeah, spoiler I guess, but let’s be honest, you all already knew that anyway. You’d think that scene would be sort of a big deal, but it’s not. The Joe team is reduced to 3 people in the first few minutes and aside from a passing line here or there, it’s no biggie dawg.
Everyone is dead, except for Snake Eyes, oh and Jinx, who just joined the team but isn’t on the team but everybody knows, oh and Joe Colton, who nobody knows except for everybody, plus a whole cavalry of other people who don’t get much screen time or names. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. People show up in one scene and then everyone acts like they know them the next. The movie also makes mention that this is only like 6 months since the last movie, which makes all of the plot holes even worse. If you accept that as fact, it turns everything on it’s ear even further. This movie should have been set several years later, not months.
The movie constantly rewrites the rules as if the previous segment didn’t connect to the one before it. Yet the whole film is spent trying to tie up loose ends from the first movie. I’ve heard a lot of people dump on Retaliation by saying the weak parts are the portions of the movie that deal with Rise of Cobra, but I completely disagree. The only parts of Retaliation that make ANY sense are the spots where they try finish the Rise of Cobra story.
Killjoy Goes To Hell
Directed by John Lechago
Starring Trent Haaga, Jessica Whitaker, Victoria De Mare
Available on DVD and RedBox
More 31 Days of Halloween horror movie reviews! Killjoy has been around since 2000, when Full Moon started to roll out some new franchises. It was a strange time for Full Moon, as the video market was slowly dying, they had lost their deal with Paramount and they had oddly decided to double down on making even lower budget films. They opened up several new labels so as to not ruin the Full Moon brand and one of those included an urban label where Killjoy was produced.
The first two Killjoy movies didn’t do very well and I avoided them because they looked like crappy urban horror movies. Full Moon seemed to realize this as well, as Killjoy sat on hiatus for 8 years before returning in Killjoy 3 back in 2010. Now a new Killjoy movie is out just in time for Halloween. I never saw Killjoy 3, as I assumed it would be more of the same. However, while waiting for the new Puppet Master movie to come out (review coming later this week) I decided to look up some info on Killjoy 3 & 4. Ultimately I decided to give Killjoy 4 (AKA: Killjoy Goes To Hell) a spin.
I rather incorrectly assumed that like most slasher flicks, I could pick this one up without having seen the other movies. While that is partially true here, the fact is that Killjoy Goes To Hell is a direct sequel to Killjoy 3. Full Moon recently re-released Killjoy 3 under the banner Killjoy’s Revenge, lest you get confused when trying to track down part 3 before watching part 4. Now yes, you can watch this movie without watching part 3 and understand it, but it’s definitely better if you watch part 3 first.
The House of the Devil
Directed by Ti West
Starring Jocelin Donahue
Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming
The 31 Days of Halloween rolls on with a horror movie review. This is likely one you haven’t heard of, as it pretty much went under the radar in it’s 2009 release and subsequent 2010 DVD release. It’s now available on Netflix instant streaming and more people are beginning to take notice. The film is a modern one, but if nobody told you that, you’d think it was straight out the early 1980′s.
That’s the intent of course, as Ti West has set out to make an homage to the suspenseful horror films of days gone by. Suspense in the true sense of the word too, not the shaky cameras or spooky ghosts that pass for suspense in garbage like Paranormal Activity. The slow, brooding quality of this film makes it stand out from other modern efforts. Everything from the sets and the tone, harken back to the classic horror films of a few decades ago. They even shot the movie in 16mm film to give it that texture.
What’s great about this film is not that it’s a throwback, but that it’s done right. There have been plenty of movies doing “vintage” style but they usually aren’t done effectively or it’s painfully obvious that they’re trying to seem like an old movie, while using modern digital process. Of course sometimes the acting is terrible too, as in the case of the similarly named House of the Wolfman. Thankfully The House of the Devil doesn’t have any of those glaring flaws.
Aside from the setting, tone and production, this movie manages to strike the right chords with just about everything else as well. It’s a rather simple story of a girl named Samantha who is desperate to get out of her college dorm which she shares with a roommate from hell. She finds the perfect apartment, but she’s short on cash. Luckily she stumbles across an ad for a babysitter and soon finds herself in a house out in the middle of nowhere about to make some serious money for one night’s job. It sounds almost too good to be true… Because it is.
Are you ready for more League of Extraordinary Bloggers action?! The topic this week is really a lot of fun, but I found it surprisingly challenging as well.
Remake one of your favorite movies with a cast of current Hollywood stars.
I am not fond of a lot of today’s Hollywood stars and while I thought of turning this into a parody of sorts, I finally decided to take this task to heart and put some thought into it. So here’s my attempt to remake the 1991 mystery drama, Shattered.
Shattered is a movie produced, written and directed by Wolfgang Peterson, based on a novel (The Plastic Nightmare) by Richard Neely. It’s about an architect named Dan Merrick, who along with his wife, is in a horrific car accident. Although they both survive, Merrick awakens from the life shattering car accident with amnesia. To make matters worse, he has to go through a lot of plastic surgery just to look like a regular guy again.
As his wife Judith tries to help him remember his past life, Dan can’t help but feel something isn’t right. When he stumbles across pet shop owner and part time private detective Gus Klein, whom he apparently hired before the accident, several threads unravel giving Merrick more questions than answers. Eventually Dan Merrick must find out the mystery behind his life before the accident, in this twisted journey of double cross and self-discovery.
Dan Merrick was originally played by Tom Berenger, who is perfect for a movie about a guy who’s had plastic surgery. Berenger always looked pretty rugged, but had some mildly handsome traits. Cooper is obviously much more dashing, but he’s shown that he’s capable of performing someone who may have a bit of a haunted past, as seen in his performance in Midnight Meat Train. I suspect Hollywood would want a sexier leading man these days, so Cooper is a nice fit.
In the original, Greta Scacchi plays Dan’s wife Judith. Is she hiding something more than she’s willing to let on? For this role you need someone who is definitely gorgeous, but perhaps could have a devious side as well. Since we’re aging down the roles a bit, Jessica Biel will work nicely as our leading lady in this remake.
Corbin Bernsen played Jeb Scott, Merrick’s former business partner and friend. Scott reveals some disturbing information about Merrick’s life before the accident and tells him that he wasn’t such a nice guy. For this role, you need someone who looks like they might be lying or even hiding something. Jude Law makes an apropos choice.
Joanne Whalley was Jenny Scott, Jeb’s wife, who is a seductress and bearer of conflicting information. Mila Kunis seems like a reasonable person for this part. I could even see this role being beefed up a bit and to throw a few more twists into the plot with her in the role.
Arguably the most important part of the whole movie, is the colorful Gus Klein who was portrayed by Bob Hoskins in the original. I’m inclined to just plug Hoskins back into the role, as he virtually looks the same as he did back then… But this is supposed to be a remake, so I’m going with Bruce Campbell. This has to be a strong, but quirky character actor as he’s a part time pet shop owner and part time private detective. Campbell’s turn as Sam Axe in Burn Notice give him just the right characteristics for this role, assuming he doesn’t ham it up too much. Plus I’m a nerd and I’m being given the charge of remaking a movie, why wouldn’t I try to force Bruce Campbell in somewhere?
So there you go, my remake cast of 1991′s Shattered. Never heard of Shattered? Go check it out on Netflix or rent it. Just be careful not to get the Pierce Brosnan movie of the same name. That movie came out in 2007 and was originally titled “Butterfly on a Wheel” and has nothing to do with this low budget mystery classic.
I’m not in the League of remakes alone! Elsewhere fellow LOEB member Cool and Collected is also remaking a Tom Berenger movie, proving that we can’t leave Berenger’s classics alone. Monster Cafe is going out of this world with this remake of The Earthling. Last but not least, Dork Horde is rebooting Beastmaster and doesn’t go with the obvious choice of casting Neil Patrick Harris in the lead.
Up until now the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers have never had a complete DVD release. There were some compilation VHS tapes sold throughout the 90′s, but nothing ever complete. Fans who wanted to see every episode of the show would have to watch bootlegs taped off of TV, where the show has been shown on a few different channels in different forms.
But Time Life has stepped in and hopes to fill that void with it’s complete 40-DVD, 338 episode set of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This has the whole seven seasons up through Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and includes all the seasons with the “original” cast. Take a trip back in time when we all wanted to have Kimberly as our girlfriend.
Although I liked Power Rangers well enough, that’s not why I’m writing about this DVD release. Time Life has teamed up with Bandai to produce a special exclusive action figure for the release. Time Life knows how to do DVD releases, as they always go above and beyond for their big box sets, but this is the first time I recall them using an action figure promotion.
Unfortunately, the figure is an odd one. It’s the Red Ranger in the Green Ranger’s armor. I don’t recognize that from a particular episode, but maybe it was one I missed. Still the idea of an exclusive figure is cool. However the figure looks to be the same semi-crappy Bandai releases we’ve seen in the states for some time. It would have been much cooler to have a FiguArts exclusive. Hopefully this means more action figure promotions in the future from Time Life, though!
Still if you’re a big Power Rangers fan and want to see them in the best quality available, with tons of bonus stuff including the figure, you can order it from Time Life for Zordon’s price of $220!
And of course if you like Power Rangers, you’ll want to check out our Ranger reviews of Red Samurai Ranger, Retrofire Jungle Fury Jungle Pride Megazord, RPM Wolf Ranger and my personal favorite Super Legends Lord Zedd.
House of the Wolf Man
Directed by Eben McGarr
Starring Ron Chaney
Available on DVD
The 31 Days of Halloween wraps up today with not one, not two, but three different reviews. We start with a modern “vintage” film, in the 2009 direct-to-DVD film, House of the Wolf Man. The concept is simple, take the old Universal Studios Monsters, make a new movie with them (or as close as you can legally get without paying for the rights) in classic style of black and white, mix in one Chaney family relative and instant success?
Oh if only that worked out. Normally I try not to do spoilers in reviews, but this movie isn’t good and if you’re interested in seeing it, the review will only help to guide you to the film (and possibly lower your expectations to a realistic level) and if you’re not going to see it, what do you care if I spoil it?
The plot is simple enough and the concept is actually novel, fill in the gap of the “House of” series from Universal. You see, once Universal realized they had a money making franchise on their hands with the monsters, they started putting them together to do battle. First in Wolf Man meets Frankenstein and then a series of films with “House Of” in the title. The Wolf Man never got a House film, until now.
We start out with two kids arriving at a spooky old castle. The kids are Reed and Mary Chapel, brother and sister. Reed is dressed like a 50′s high school football player and could have been an extra on Dobie Gillis. Mary has really weird and unnatural shaped hair. They’ve been summoned to the house because they might be heir to it. Once inside they meet a creepy butler and the owner, mad scientist Bela Reinhardt. We know he’s mad, because he has the outfit. Also his face never changes expression. Then again, maybe that’s just Ron Chaney’s bad acting.
The Chapels ask stupid questions while Reinhardt spouts pointless exposition in the form of character bios from the stairs. This saves time introducing us to the players and helps prevent stuff like, you know, character development. Speaking of characters..I have a real problem with Reed Chapel’s character, because he’s supposed to be a high school jock type, but he appears to come from the 50′s.
The Universal Monsters exist in a kind of strange, indistinct time period between the 1800′s and the 1930′s. In some films we see cars and in others, horse and buggy seems to be the most modern form of transportation. However, I never got any indication that the classic films took place as late as the 50′s. I suppose it could just be set later and overall it’s a moot point, but it annoyed me none the less.
Soon more people show up and they also might be heirs. There is the curvy Elmira Cray, the nerdy Conrad Sullivan and finally, Archibald Whitlock, who is a poor man’s Doc Savage. Also he brought some
Ron Chaney Jr. is the great grandson of of Lon Chaney and the grandson of Lon Chaney Jr. (The original Wolf Man, among others) and you’d think that maybe he’d have some acting in his blood. Unfortunately Ron Chaney Jr is the son of Ron Chaney, who wasn’t an actor. Given Ron’s performance, I’ll assume his Dad was a tree.
That is to say, his performance is wooden. Actually everyone has the acting ability of a 2×4. Honestly, perhaps that’s not fair. I’m sure Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s 2×4 has shown more real emotion. The dialogue isn’t terrible for the most part, but the actors spewing it have no realism whatsoever.
After an awkward dinner, everyone goes to their room for some more bad acting. I suspect a lot of these people have only ever done theatre, as some of their performances seem more suited for the stage. Like, this might not be as bad if it wasn’t on DVD and was instead in a high school gym somewhere. Anywho, Elmira is busy asking questions about everyone’s father… As it turns out, they’re all orphans!
Meanwhile, Archibald’s main man finds some odd tracks. He wants Whitlock to investigate and they also discover that someone is peeking into their rooms through the old picture in the wall gag.
There’s one in every room! SHOCK! HORROR! Also, the best actor in the entire film? Those eyeballs. So captivating. What is your motivation Mr. Peeper?!
Reed is quite chafed at this peeping Tom act and calls Reinhardt out on it, but he proclaims his innocence. The Scooby gang decide to cover up the pictures in everyone’s room and Reinhardt puts them on lockdown.
The next day, Whitlock and his men investigate the tracks. I assume Whitlock’s footmen are from California and not Africa as during one of their “African” exchanges between footmen they utter the word, COWABUNGA! Yes, their language is apparently, “Unga bunga, cowabunga”… Ugh. 45 minutes in, no monsters and the dialogue is now taking a nosedive. Oh and the Africans figure out that those tracks are from a werewolf. Which Whitlock promptly dismisses because he’s a dumb whitey… Not that I blame him, how trustworthy are footmen that say cowabunga?
Elsewhere, helmet-hair and the rest of the Scooby gang are growing impatient. They want answers and soon. Seriously, what’s with the Play-Doh hair?!
Elmira Cray gets 3/4s naked for no reason, but hey at this point I’m not complaining. It’s easily the best scene in the film. While she does that…
Along comes a spider and sits down beside her (okay not really) and she decides to follow the spider. The spider leads her to a secret room where a creepy old lady with no arms and legs lives.
I’m totally not kidding! She tells Elmira the dirty little family secret. They aren’t really named Reinhardt, but rather, FRANKENSTEIN! It’s a twist! Also, apparently she’s related to the original Wolf Man (Bela Lugosi’s character, not Chaney’s) and the Frankenstein and Wolf Man families are now one and the same. Wretched old limbless tells Elmira that she is in the bloodline.
Dinner time rolls around and we’re 100 minutes into a 117 minute movie! Bela reveals his true origins and Ron Chaney does his best acting yet by oddly tapping his fingers on the table. Then he turns into the Wolf Man!
Everybody runs and even though they’re in a giant castle, they somehow get pinned into a corner. It’s almost like the giant castle is actually a small set! The Wolf Man looks sort of cool from some angles and other times he looks like a stuffed animal. It’s also not being played by Ron Chaney anymore. You know, because the Wolf Man has emotion!
The footmen try to kill the Wolf Man with a net(?!?!) and then promptly get eaten while doing some racist Buckwheat faces. Maybe they should have used some Ninja Turtles weapons. Whitlock is saddened by the loss of his men and does his best to kill the Wolf Man.
Turns out he was pretty fond of those colored fellas. But not as fond as the Wolf Man is of eating him… Which he does rather quickly.
Oh and then the Wolf Man kills both of the Chapel siblings. I appreciate the effort here, but wouldn’t this have been more dramatic if the characters had died off one by one? Perhaps mysteriously? You know, instead of killing practically everyone in like 2 minutes?
Elmira and Conrad run to the cellar, presumably so Conrad can spout some more terrible one liners. Seriously, this guy is making bad jokes left and right, and not in a redeeming “this movie is a tongue-in-cheek parody” kind of way. While they’re there, they run into a guy in a room who tells them to go into the lab. We never learn who or what this guy is. I’ll just assume he was the peeping Tom, but I’m totally inferring that.
Before they could even make it to the lab, Frankenstein (or rather his monster) busts out of the lab. He’s pissed. SSDD for this poor guy.
Frankenstein is awesome though. He’s the best part of this movie. He’s probably like my favorite Frankenstein design ever. If they ever make a DC Frankenstein movie, I hope he looks like this.
Frankenstein and the Wolf Man start fighting, I guess because there really aren’t many auxiliary characters left to kill.
Their fight is partially epic, partially badly choreographed and I mean that in the truest sense. One scene will be awesome and then it’ll be followed right back up by a scene that looks like two kids playing WWE in their backyard. A better director would have cut these scenes and just left the wicked cool ones.
The Wolf Man even tries to rip Frankenstein’s head open, in the coolest monster fight moment ever.
Frankenstein is much more powerful than the Wolf Man.
He keeps trying to hit his finishing move, a big stomp I’m calling the Monster Mash but the Wolf Man is too quick. Seriously, Frank tries to hit this like 50 times and misses every time. He’s like Ric Flair going to the top rope, he never hits it, but damn it, he’s gonna keep trying! You can’t stop a dreamer! Shine on you crazy flat headed diamond.
More fighting… I hope this isn’t coming across more epic than it really is.
Elmira and Dickweed finally run away and get to the front of the house. Dickweed is hurt, but they’re going to be okay.
And then Dracula shows up. Totally randomly. For NO reason. Hey, 5 minutes are left in the movie… I sure hope this develops in a truly interesting and unique way. I bet they can do it! Anyway it’s Dracula!
Or maybe it’s just a drunk Harry Dean Stanton doing a Bela Lugosi impersonation? That would make as much sense and at this point anything is plausible.
Anyway, they invite Dracula in, because that’s totally what you would do if a creepy guy with a bad accent asked to be invited in while monsters romp in the basement. That turns out to be a bad move though, as Dracula’s girlfriends totally eat Dickweed.
And man are they ugly! Dracula has no taste in women.
Drac apparently gets his jollies off watching all this. Also he tells Elmira that she’s the rightful heir to the castle and the legacy. Whatever that is. I mean, Wolf Man isn’t dead, so what exactly did she win? A weekend getaway where the other guests are brutally murdered?! Not even the Price is Right gives away prizes that crappy.
Wolf Man and Frankenstein are STILL fighting. This would have been more interesting if it wasn’t like one big long redundant scene. But at least now it’s going to get interesting because Dracula is about to make this a three way dance for the Translyvania Heavyweight Championship, right? RIGHT?!
Nope, instead he says “Gentlemen” and does a “tsk, tsk” sort of thing that looks like he’s blowing kisses. ROLL CREDITS!
And that’s it. This movie is such a good concept, horribly wasted. The dialogue isn’t so badly written (with a few notable exceptions), but spoken by these stiffs it comes across horribly. You can tell the footmen were just told to adlib, which is why we got “cowabunga”. I feel like me and the Planned Banter guys could re-dub this in a night with more emotion than these people.
The fight scene between Wolf Man and Frankenstein has it’s moments, but it’s tacked onto the very end of the film and thus feels less like an epic battle and more like a cut scene from another movie. In fact, the lack of any monsters during the first 100 minutes of this movie hurts it. There’s really no point to the first 3/4s of the film.
If they would have swapped around some of the kills, skipped one of the dinner scenes and added some monsters during the middle in place of it, things would have flowed a lot better. Even with the horrible wooden acting from Ron Chaney. Wouldn’t it have been a better movie if like, Elmira discovered the old hag, Reed discovered Frankenstein, Whitlock went missing after a battle with the Wolf Man, Dracula showed up as a dinner guest and killed Conrad “Dickweed” Sullivan and this all built up to a scene where Reinhardt revealed himself and the battle began?
Then in the climax, Reed is killed saving the girls. It looks like Elmira and Mary Chapel are going to get away. Then Elmira kills Mary and accepts her heritage as the monster she truly is! See… I just made a better movie.
Maybe next year for Halloween I’ll recut the movie myself, film a couple extra scenes to fill in the gaps and release my version. I know I could do better than this.