Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Next Great Leap Forward In Zombies — Rec 2

The Nateflix Review of Rec 2
By Nate Hensley

If I told you that Rec 2 puts a radically different spin on the zombie movie, even compared to the firstRec, would you take me at my word, or would you want details?

Rec 2 is the sequel to the phenomenal Spanish horror flick from two years ago. (Sidebar — Recspawned the American remake Quarantine. It was a very faithful remake. Quarantine 2 is coming out in a few weeks, but should not be confused with Rec 2, which takes the story in a very different direction)  It entailed a news crew being quarantined inside an apartment building while a virus raged around them turning Spaniards into shrieking monstrous zombies.

Rec 2 picks up immediately after the original, with not a second to spare. A high tech SWAT team is being sent into the building, along with a health official, to try and discover the root of the virus and potentially find a cure. Having not seen the first movie, these tough guys have absolutely no idea what they are in for.

Like the first film, Rec 2 is done in the “found footage” style. But with a welcome and original upgrade – since all the SWAT guys have cameras on them, the movie can now toggle back and forth between characters, and even use picture-in-picture. This gives the movie a much more intense, dynamic style than, say, Blair Witch or even Cloverfield, where all the action is tied to one singular point of view. This style of found footage movie has become overused and boring in horror films, but Rec 2 pushes it to a new level, and makes it fresh and fun.

Sequences of the movie are almost unbearably tense, as the cops search the building, try and piece together what happened, and fend off attacks from hideous zombies. But Rec 2 is not content to just make you jump – it goes a step further and creates an original and fascinating spin on everything we know about the walking dead. In 2002, 28 Days Later put a unique twist on the genre, and was immediately copied by every subsequent zombie movie. Rec 2 pushes the concept into an entire new philosophical realm.

I decided I won’t tell you what that concept is. You’re going to have to go see it yourself… which is something you should do anyway, because its one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in the last few years.

Simon Says: SPOILERS!!!

Simon Says – SPOILERS
By Simon St James

You know what I love to do more than anything? Ruin the endings of stupid movies that I hate for other people, so they no longer have a reason to watch them. I’m sure it doesn’t keep Michael Bay or Jon Favreau up at night, but it gives me a small sense of satisfaction nonetheless.
Here is a list of some hot new DVDs that I hate and hope to ruin for you. You’re welcome.

Unknown – Before he bumped his head and became a nice guy, Liam Neeson was a professional assassin. Just like Jason Bourne, only older. And lamer.

Battle: Los Angeles – Humans win, aliens lose. Shocking, I know.

Season of the Witch – The witch isn’t really a witch at all, it’s a CGI demon that stands on the ceiling and looks shitty. Nicholas Cage dies, giving me at least one part of the movie to like.

Red Riding Hood – Billy Burke is the werewolf. Alas, he doesn’t bite off Amanda Seyfried’s creepy face.

The Mechanic – Gayson Statham kills a father and son and somehow feels justified about himself.

Just Go with It – I assume Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston get married and live happily ever after, but I started bleeding from the eyes halfway through.

Hobo with a Shotgun – The Hobo kills a bunch of bad guys with his shotgun, then dies.

Drive Angry – Nicholas Cage kills Billy Burke, in an epic confrontation of bad actors from other bad movies on this list, and then drives back to crappy CGI hell.

No Strings Attached – Natalie Portman stabs Ashton Kutcher to death with a piece of mirror, helps Thor get back to Asgard, and then dies giving birth to Luke Skywalker. Trippy movie.

Hall Pass – Remember how I said Just Go with It made my eyes bleed? Good times. Because compared to Hall Pass, that movie was freakin’ Chicago. Yes, its that bad.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Voldemort gets a new wand.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Voldemort doesn’t like his new wand and tries to return it, but the clerk only offers him store credit. At the end, he breaks down recalling the tragic events of his youth when his Uncle Andre got too tough playing “got your nose.”

A Kid-Friendly Western… With Lizards

The Nateflix Review of Rango
By NateHensley

Rango is a chameleon who wears Hawaiian shirts, and does one-man shows in his aquarium. His a quirky, weird little dude… basically the lizard version of Johnny Depp (who, by no small coincidence, provides Rango’s voice). As the film opens, Rango’s tank falls out of a moving vehicle, and he is stranded in the middle of the desert. He wanders, bounces off Hunter S Thompson and Dr. Gonzo (not kidding), and ends up in the squalid town of Dirt.

One misunderstanding later, and Rango is the new sheriff. Dirt is besieged by drought, and the residents (all manner of lizards, amphibians, birds, and furry little rodents) need hope. Rango is completely incapable of delivering on this hope, but no matter – they don’t know that, and the weird sheriff seems content to play along for as long as he can.

But there are other, more nefarious forces at play. Like Rattlesnake Jake who terrorizes the town, a clan of hillbilly moles who ride killer bats, a hungry hawk, and a turtle Mayor who just oozes evil (although maybe he just seems evil because he’s voiced by Ned Beatty on the heels of being that evil Lotso the Bear in Toy Story 3). So Rango will either be exposed as a fraud,or have to step up and become a genuine hero.

Rango is a fun family movie. It has humor, wit, and animation that is both exquisitely detailed and rough around the edges. But at its core, it’s really an old-fashioned western, which is what makes it memorable. Director Gore Verbinski has shown himself a steady hand with horror (The Ring) and with swashbuckling (The first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), and now shows he has the chops for a western. It may be a little startling and violent in places for smaller children, but overall it’s a very polished piece of work, coming from a first-time kid’s movie director.

As tremendous as the animation is, I personally thought it was upstaged by the quality of the voice work. In addition to Depp and Beatty, the cast includes Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Root, and Timothy Olyphant (who only has one scene, but it steals the whole dang movie). So as good as the movie looks, it’s the people behind it that give it personality and true grit.

Rango is a solid piece of entertainment, with enough going on to satisfy viewers both young and old.

The Best Of PG-13 Horror, A Short But Powerful List

The Best of PG-13 Horror
By Nate Hensley

Hardcore horror fans – people like me, for example – always have the same reaction to a horror film being rated PG-13. We shrug our shoulders and say “never mind.” Whereas in some genres, the rating isn’t as important, with horror in particular it is: this is a genre that pushes the envelop, that seeks to terrify and unnerve the viewers. Having the restrictions of a PG-13 means that the very nature of the horror film is reigned in. This isn’t to say that its impossible to make a good PG-13 horror film, simply that it is very difficult, and extremely rare.
Pulse, Prom Night, Darkness Falls – these are the kind of rancid, awful movies that represent PG-13 horror… usually. But in tribute of Insidious, easily the scariest PG-13 movie I have ever seen, here’s a list of the best that rating has to offer.

Honorable mentions: Good, solid fright flicks that deliver the good without coming across as too wimpy or watered down. Monster Squad, The Unborn, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Tremors, andArachnaphobia.

Insidious – The creators of the Saw franchise prove that they can bring the scary without relying on the excessive blood and guts that made them such horror legends. It takes its time, it builds slowly, but it delivers every step of the way, and is easily the best example of PG-13 horror I’ve ever seen. (for the full review check here

1408 – John Cusack is perfect as a sympathetic skeptic who checks into a haunted hotel room just to prove it isn’t haunted. You know its legit haunted, because Samuel L Jackson is standing downstairs saying “don’t do it, man” and if you’re in movies it’s always best to follow the advice of Mr. Jackson. The movie does an amazing job of keeping the action focused in one room, and yet staying intense and unpredictable throughout.

Poltergeist – OK, this one is a bit of a cheat. It’s actually rated PG, but it feels like a PG-13 movie. Regardless, it packs great horror atmosphere and scares into a relatively bloodless story. A true horror classic, as creepy and effective now as it was back then

The Ring – This was the movie that started the trend; it kicked off a flurry of both PG-13 horror flicks, and remakes of Japanese horror flicks. And although it has a lot of flaws (its stupid, it doesn’t make any real sense, etc) it does its job in delivering creepy moments, jumps, and a few visuals that will haunt you at bedtime.

Drag Me to Hell – After slaving away in the Spider Man salt mines for a decades, director Sam Raimi got back to his horror roots. His love for the genre is apparent, bringing such energy, enthusiasm, and humor to the material that it sends this movie into an orbit all its own. Half slapstick comedy, half scary, this movie is a true horror gem, and never once seems like it is taking it easy for the sake of a rating.

Insidious Wants To Scare The (Expletive Deleted) Out Of You

The Nateflix Review of Insidious
By Nate Hensley

Every once in a while a low budget horror movie comes along that blows the roof off. For little money, it delivers big time scares. It satisfies audiences, gets good word of mouth, makes a ton of money, and ends up spawning tons of sequels and/or rip offs. If a filmmaker makes one of these movies in a lifetime, it’s a rare feat.

For someone to do it twice, it’s almost unheard of.

Director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell did it in 2004 with the original Saw, which jump-started a wave of ultra-violent horror movies. And now they have done it again, with a very different kind of horror movie, with Insidious.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as Your Average Horror Movie Couple, where they are happy and relatively carefree until about 5 minutes after the opening credits. He teaches school, she writes music and tends the three generic yet likeable young ‘uns. One day, their son falls into an inexplicable coma. Medical science is at a loss, and tell the couple to just tend to the vegetative boy until they run out of money.

It’s at this point creepy, inexplicable, supernatural things start to happen. And that’s all you’re getting from me, folks – to tell you any more would only risk spoiling the scares. And in a movie like this, that would take away all the fun.

This is a scary movie. It doesn’t carefully craft a deep and touching backstory. It doesn’t fully develop the characters and 3-dimensional human beings. It doesn’t try to deliver funny one-liners or memorable dialogue. All it does is, to quote a person more clever than I, “delivers more jumps than 101st Airborne Divison, and more creeps than a Steve Buscemi filmography.”

For a horror fanatic like me, it was a breath of fresh air. And so I’ll put it bluntly – for anyone out there who likes scary movies, get your hands on Insidious. Some people don’t like horror (I call these people “wimps”) and that’s fine. But for the rest of us? This is a movie to put on your list.

Saw pushed the envelope. Insidious goes the opposite direction – it goes back to horror fundamentals and shows you can do scary without having to be extreme. It presents a slightly different twist on the haunted house premise, and doesn’t care about anything else other than scaring the *expletive deleted* out of you. Which is all a good horror movie really needs to do.

We, The Jury, Find The Lincoln Lawyer…

We, the Jury, find The Lincoln Lawyer guilty of Being Great
The Nateflix Review for The Lincoln Lawyer
By Nate Hensley

“The new McConaughey movie is really good.”
“Haha. Yeah, right.”
“Seriously. It’s good.”
n  An exchange I’ve had seven times this week already.

Mick Haller is a slick defense attorney, who operates out of the back of his Lincoln Towncar.
He’s a charming, likeable type of guy, who happens to embody many of the qualities we ascribe to lawyers – he’s a hustler, a legal con man who knows who to bribe, who to name-drop, and how to manipulate the system to the get the results, and the pay day, he wants. He lives in fear of the day he will actually represent an innocent client.

He’s not a bad man, just a… well… just a lawyer.

And then he gets a Big Case, a socialite accused to rape and assault. The down side is the guy (Ryan Phillipe) is probably innocent, but the up side is that he is stupendously wealthy, and Haller knows he could get wealthy off this one. So he starts pulling strings. His lawyer wife (Marisa Tomei) gets him some inside scoop about the new prosecutor (Josh Lucas), his investigator (William H Macy, with shagged out hippie hair) starts digging up dirt on the accuser.

And then… well, I won’t say. What really impressed me about Lincoln Lawyer is that it surprised me. Whenyou watch as many movies as I do, it gets really easy to figure movies out. Sometimes I can figure out a movies ending in the first few minutes. And I thought I did with this movie – I thought I called the ending. Surprise surprise, the movie outsmarted me. My guess was right, but it happened halfway through the picture, and I had no idea what was coming next.

Based on a novel (one of a series of novels, no less) this movie is a lot smarter and more smartly constructed than I anticipated. Also, the cast is uniformly good from top to bottom. In addition to the solid actors already named, Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, and Michael Pena all put in good character work. And for his part, McConaughey is perfect in this movie. He will never be an Acadmy Award winning actor, but when he gets just the right role he can be dynamite. And this is the role for him.

The Lincoln Lawyer is as slick as Mick Haller, and almost as smart. It’s nothing short of good, solid entertainment, a legal thriller that delivers exactly what it promises. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Mick Haller movie before too long. And honestly, I’d like to see it.

How To Hate Matthew McConaughey In 10 Ways

Simon Says – How to Hate Matthew McConaughey in 10 Ways
by Simon St. James
Have you ever seen anything more douchey –

…in your entire life?  –

Originally, I was going to have a Top 10 list. I was going to count down the top 10 most terrible Matthew McConaughey movies. But then I realized I couldn’t really do that, could I? It was like picking between strains of the ebola virus. Like picking the mixture in your lethal injection cocktail. Like picking which building to jump off of.
So as it came down to a 10-way tie for first place, I decided to just list them. Believe me, if I had more room I would have included Surfer Dude (a movie so bad I actually feel sorry for it) and We Are Marshall (in which he spends most of the movie looking morose and despondent, which I actually kind of liked.)

The Worst Of Matthew McConaughey

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — How do you make a shitty McConaughey rom-com ever worse?PUT KATE HUDSON IN IT.

Contact – If you need an intellectual man of the cloth, who else could you possibly pick but McConaughey?

EdTV – I had a nightmare once that I went to Hell, and Hell consisted of demons forcing the soulso f the damned to watched Matthew McConaughey’s life all day and all night for all of eternity. I woke up bathed in cold sweat, and clutching a rosary. The next day EdTV was released, and I thought it was a sign of my impending death. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

Failure to Launch – How do you make a shitty McConaughey rom-com ever worse? PUT SARAH JESSICA PARKER IN IT.

Fools Gold – It’s the movie equivalent of waterboarding. Ten minutes in I would have confessed to anything the torturers asked me.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – Rumor has it that the producers were courting a wooden post for the lead in this movie. Negotiations with the post’s agent fell through, and the role went to McConaughey. Although fate has a way of working out, and that wooden post went on to secure the lead in the little movie called Avatar.

Reign of Fire – McConaughey fights dragons, in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with dragons. No acerbic barbs could ridicule the movie any more deeply than its own plot synopsis.

Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre – He made this movie very early in his career, and its interesting in that in his over the top, rabid performance, he demonstrates how very untalented he is. Historical sidenote , this film also exposed Rene Zelwegger as having the charisma of a glass of milk. No one saw the film, so no one recognized the signs until it was too late, and they were superstars.

Sahara – He’s shirtless, in the desert, listening to classic 70s rock with Steve Zahn’s beard. If they threw in some bong loads and a set of bongo drums it would be like a typical McCongaughey Christmas party.

Wedding Planner — How do you make a shitty McConaughey rom-com ever worse? PUT JENNIFER LOPEZ IN IT.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Best Worst Movie Titles

My Favorite Movie Titles
By Nate Hensley
Hobo with a Shotgun got me to thinking… I love a movie title that GRABS your attention, that makes you take notice of the movie it represents. Now, I fully acknowledge that usually this ploy is used to draw attention to a bad movie… but this isn’t always the case. And even when it is the case, who cares? These are my favorite movie titles ever… or at least, of the ones I didn’t forget.

Hobo with a Shotgun
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Surf Nazis Must Die
Snakes on a Plane

Fat Guy goes Nutzoid
Stop or My Mom will Shoot
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Rabid Grannies

Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Hot Tub Time Machine
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus
I Spit on Your Grave
Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!
Bubba Ho-Tep
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
Lets Scare Jessica to Death

What are your picks for best or best/worst movie titles?

Hobo with a Shotgun… RULES!!!

The Nateflix Review of Hobo with a Shotgun
By Nate Hensley
The best thing about Hobo with a Shotgun is that the title tells you everything you need to know. Big budget movies usually have bland-as-hell titles, but struggling indie films use every weapon they have to get your attention – and that includes having a snappy, attention-grabbing title.
And quite simply, either the title Hobo with a Shotgun makes you grin like an idiot and say “dude, I have to see this movie,” or it makes you crinkle your nose and say “sounds stupid.” I fell into the former category. The thought of Rutger Hauer as a half-insane street person pushed too far and driven to start killing scumbags made me positively giddy with anticipation.
And the movie met, and exceeded all of my wildest B-movie expectations. One does not approach this kind of movie with the same set of criteria one applies to, say, a movie by Scorsese, Spielberg, or the Coen Brothers. This is a movie to be compared to exploitation classics like Toxic Avenger, Death Race 2000, and Surf Nazis Must Die. And when viewed through this lens, its hard to imagine Hobo with a Shotgunbeing any more perfect.
Hauer rides the rails into an urban sprawl with a friendly moniker of Scum Town. He sees rapes, beatings, murders, and worse. Local crime overlord The Drake and his two sons operate nightclub where rich kids can beat homeless people to death. Bums are videotaped mutilating each other. A pedophile Santa drives around unchecked. Bad cops rape prostitutes. Hauer saves and befriends a hooker with a heart of gold. He is nuts enough to think she’s a school teacher. And when he finally loses it and picks up a shotgun, she may be the only person who has his back.
And honestly, this is just scratching the surface. I could spend a whole column just chronicling the stomach-churning evil committed in Scum Town. This is movie bathed in garishly bright red blood, and swimming in bad taste. Not many movies could makeDrive Angry look tame, but this one does it in about five minutes.
The movie was conceived, shot, and edited like a low-budget 70s exploitation flick (indeed, its origins are in winning the Grindhouse make-your-own-trailer contest), but it shoots the moon, goes for broke, and tries to make itself as memorably disgusting and unforgettably over the top as possible. Oh, did I not mention the two professional killers who wear suits of armor and speak through voice modulators? Yeah, its that kind of movie.
And yet, there are the smaller moments – like when a beaten and bloodied Rutger is being dragged to his death and shouts “Yer crushin’ my smokes!” – that remind you behind all the gore is a nerdy guy laughing his ass off at the whole mess.
My only legitimate criticism of the film is that no one carries a bindle. SERIOUSLY? A hobo-based motion picture with no bindles? Sigh. At least there is a shopping cart full of guts, that takes the edge off a little bit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eye Liner Shortage Inevitable due to Jack Sparrow's Never Ending Story

A new 'Pirates' movie is already in the works, and it's title will probably sound something "Pirates of the Caribbean: Put Anything but a '5' Here". Producer Jerry Bruckheimer wants to assure us that there will be no 'Pirates 5' without Depp, and that there'll be no Depp unless the script is... well, a script.
"’s going to depend on the screenplay. It always does. (Depp's) maniacal about not wanting to disappoint his audience.”
It must be nice to be in Depp's audience. Imagine never having to feel the sting of disappointment, plus I hear they get a bus ride to the movies every other Wednesday morning if they don't feel like coloring on that particular day.

Any who, Depp must be pleased with the amount of times he gets slapped by exotic woman and with the amount of times he gets to correct his opposition when they forget to call him "Captain", because he's apparently already in negotiations for the 5th installment. Hopefully Robin Williams can play a part and tell Captain Jack that it's not his fault, because if Jack Sparrow can't learn to be content by the 5th film than maybe a Pirates life isn't for him.

The Nateflix Review of 13 Assassins

It is the feudal age in Japan, and the age of the samurai is in its twilight. The shogun has consolidated power among the lands and dominant houses, and the fledgling nation is establishing order. This means the need for swords-for-hire and retainers is on the decline. There are few true samurai left, and most of them just sit around thinking about the good old days.
This is not the plot of the 13 Assassins, but the setting. It is this – the time and place, the mindset of the people, and the attitude towards honor and death – that makes the movie interesting.
The story isn’t bad either. Lord Naritsugu is a man of unfathomable cruelty, who rapes, murders, and mutilates with impunity. He is the son of a former shogun, and the brother of the current shogun, so he can do what he wants and no one can stop him. A senior official has had enough, and cuts a shadowy deal with an old and honorable swordsman named Shinzaemon – take a secret mission to kill Naritsugu before he can do any more damage to the people of Japan.
This is without question my favorite scene in the film – when given this task, obviously a suicide mission doomed to fail, Shinzaemon starts to tremble and nervously giggle. He is happy almost to the point of tears to be able to die in battle. Due to it being peacetime, he thought he would end up dying a “dog’s death” (i.e. natural causes), and now he has a chance to die like a samurai.
The movie itself is simple – Shinzaemon assembles a team of warriors and sets out to kill the evil Lord. He has 12 men, and the Lord has over 200. Shinzaemon uses his cunning to transform a small town into a fortified maze of deathtraps, and then, as they say, IT’S ON.
13 Assassins is part historical epic, part bloodbath action movie. The beauty of it is how it marries these two aspects into one slick, entertaining movie. The costumes, set design, and overall style of the movie is top notch (with the exception of one scene involving bulls set on fire – the weak CGI effects make it ‘top botch’). Director Takashe Miike has really grown as a filmmaker, and this is his epic.
The action is excellent, with all the sword fighting any die-hard action fan could want. The entire last hour of the film is one prolonged battle, and its enthralling. But what really makes the movie captivating is how it presents the mind of the samurai. Men who are not eager to die, but who embrace it as a part of their code – they live by the sword, and they all really really hope to die by the sword, as well. This sets the movie apart and makes it memorable.
Overall, 13 Assassins is an almost-great film, that I would highly recommend to anyone who doesn’t have a phobia of subtitles or a weak stomach when it comes to dudes committing seppuku. (Savor it, people – that’s the best seppuku related pun you will see all week).