Commentaries

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

ZOMBIES



TODD SAVES THE DAY

Film Review by Fiore 


In full disclosure, I must say I like Tony Todd.  I believe he has constantly understated screen talent, but opts to highlight his verbose thespian antics in schlock B horror films.  When he starred in the wildly successful CANDY MAN, it seemed fame and fortune, and larger film roles, may be just a step away.  Rather than advancing, Todd opted to retreat to the genre where he rules.  It’s the big fish in the little pond syndrome.  Todd is the black version of Jeffrey Combs, who did the same thing.

All that set up is to tell you Todd stars, albeit a small role, in ZOMBIES, another in a seemingly endless stream of zombie flicks.  Starring with him are Raina Hein and Steven Luke.  As zombie movies go, this one is standard.  A virus is causing the dead to return to life, searching for brains.  The only novel element is Writer/Director Hamid Torabpour combines an element of Stephen King’s THE MIST to give ZOMBIES a relative twist.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really strung out on zombie-themed productions.  The only one I still watch avidly is Z NATION.  The appeal of that series is, it never takes itself seriously.  It’s played for camp, as all these things should be, and it is exceptionally innovative.  Things you see on Z NATION will show up on THE WALKING DEAD weeks later.

Look, zombies aren’t virus infected or military produced dead things.  Zombies are the living dead, brought back to life through the practice of voodoo.  They are slaves to the shaman and do his bidding.  Somewhere, thanks in large part to George Romero, the definition of zombie was altered.  Check Boris Karloff in WHITE ZOMBIE for a better feel of what constitutes this genre of walking dead.

But, if we must be subjected to virus produced zombies, it may as well be with Tony Todd.  ZOMBIES is not written well (the dialogue is static), and with the exception of Todd, not acted well.  Even the zombies look confused.  Perfect for fans of schlock-B horror, which admittedly, I am a sucker for, regardless of topic.

So, grab a cold one, with lots of pretzels and be prepared to scream at your TV set when you watch ZOMBIES.  It’s so bad, it’s fun


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Friday, November 18, 2016

INDIE CAPSULE CRITIQUES



STALKHER AND FEAR INC.

Film Reviews by Fiore

 

It’s difficult oft times to discern whether independent film makers are truly filmmakers or wannabe actors.  When budget considerations are paramount, it is common for indie filmmakers to accept many roles in completion of the film; but sometimes, a filmmaker takes such a large role that it becomes natural to question the motive.

John Jarratt directs and stars in STALKHER.  Since the film is essentially a two-person play on celluloid, Jarratt’s principle concern is divided.  He performs well as Jack, but leaves much wanting sitting in the cloth chair.

STALKHER is billed as a comedy; but it is the type of comedy that elicits groans rather than guffaws.  Jack is a homicidal stalker.  He targets Emily, played by Kaarin Fairfax as his next victim.  After breaking into her home, with a bag of operating tools to perform a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, he is overpowered by Emily, armed with a stun gun.  Rather than awaking to police, Jack finds himself tied securely to a chair in Emily’s kitchen.  This begins a night long dialogue between the two main characters, exploring the relationship between men and women in a Marquis DeSade mien.  Eventually, Jack and Emily realize they have a unique relationship, albeit one patterned after Gomez and Morticia Addams.

Kris Maric wrote the script for STALKHER.  Since it is primarily dialogue, the interchange between Emily and Jack is crucially timed.  In several moments, the transition between topics is uneven and forced.  Sporadically, Maric’s script shifts from reality to Emily’s fantasies without segment separation.  The technique is used often enough to be infuriating.

Jody Muston incorporates clever camera angles to keep the tempo of STALKHER upbeat.  There is a nifty shot of a flying frying pan that is done quite well.
STALKHER is a decent indie film, with all its foibles; however, it would make a much better play.

 

THE GRADE FOR STALKHER = D




FEAR, INC., on the other hand, commits one of the mortal independent film sins – being too clever with one too many plot reveals.

As horror tales go, FEAR, INC. follows a template seen before.  A company, for a hefty price, will recreate horror film scenes as a prank for your friend or loved one.  A group of friends opt to inspire a stay-at-home slacker to give up his liberal Clintonesque ways and become more Trump-like by acquiring a job and taking a bit of responsibility.  So, they hire FEAR, INC. to give him the fright of his life, but there is much more in the program than anyone bargained for.

The film stars Lucas Neff, Caitlin Stasey, Chris Marquette and Stephanie Drake.  The young actors all perform well.  If there is a soft spot, it’s Neff who never seems certain if he is playing the disbelieving victim or the knowledgeable game player.
FEAR, INC. is directed by Vincent Masciale, and written by Luke Barnett.  Together, they commit the worst possible film foible – attempting to be cleverer than the story deserves.  They could have had a decent horror flick, but instead, add one more plot twist, and several more plot reveals than the film needs or can maintain.  The final twelve minutes ruin all the preceding action throwing the film into a state of implausibility.

The production rule is always KISS (keep it simple, stupid).  Masciale and Barnett do not, and thus, relegate their endeavor to late night SyFy Network scheduling.





THE GRADE FOR FEAR, INC. = D

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

THE TAKE



DECENT FRENCH THRILLER

Film Review by Fiore 


One could easily have the impression the only decent French action films involve long sequences of par quor and Luc Besson.  THE TAKE provides a more eclectic response.  Director James Watkins sits atop a very fast-paced and intriguing action flick, easily keeping par with any of Besson’s work.  The film has fight sequences, car chases, plot twists, innocent victims forced to act heroically and a rogue agent who proves to be a one-man army.  Good stuff for an action film.

Richard Madden plays Mike Mason.  Mike is a kingpin pick-pocket.  His style and precision in sleight of hand thievery is unheralded. He does not have a comfortable home life, however, so he moves to Paris to practice his trade.  He is doing quite well for himself, until he makes the fatal mistake of lifting a handbag from Zoe.

Zoe is played by French actress Charlotte Le Bon.  Zoe is a left-wing activist who wants revolution, but doesn’t want anyone to be hurt while revolting.  This is typical of liberal ideology; idealistic change with no one suffering. 
 
Zoe has fallen for an age-old ploy.  A nefarious no-good convinces her they share true love and, of by the way, to cement the relationship, will you please plant this bomb.  This would be laughable if there weren’t so many women falling for this scam today.  It is the basis for numerous sleeper cells.

When Zoe realizes the bomb she is carrying might actually kill people, she backs out of the deal.  Before she can toss the bomb, hidden in a teddy bear, into the river, Mike comes along and steals the handbag.  He takes the money, cell phone and discards the bag outside of an apartment building, when the bomb explodes, killing four people.  Unfortunately for Mike, surveillance cameras capture his visage and he is soon labelled a terrorist and becomes the subject of a massive manhunt.

Laren Dacre, played by Kelly Reilly is head of American Intelligence in France.  When it is discovered Mike, an American, may be a bomb terrorist, she initiates her own investigation.  It’s not good for Americans to be part of a foreign investigation, even in France.  Too many croissants to wade through.  Her point man is field agent Sean Briar, played by Idris Elba.  He is a rebel, does not respect authority nor the rules of engagement, however, he does produce results.

It’s not long before Briar discovers Mike is not a terrorist, and Zoe is not a criminal jihadist.  Now he must prove their innocence and capture the real bad guys before Paris is thrown into flames from riotous mobs.  Apparently, predominantly black American cities and towns are not the only places where folk use a criminal incident to loot, destroy and revert to animalistic behavior to gain their Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame.  To do this, he must avoid Victor Gamieux, played by Jose Garcia, the head of France’s Homeland Security and antagonist Rafi Bertrand, played by Thierry Godard.  Acting for THE TAKE is superb for an action film, even for audiences who may not be familiar with the French stars.


KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      SPECIAL DELIVERY
2.      THE CHASE THROUGH THE BIZARRE
3.      THE STORMING OF THE BANK


THE TAKE is scripted by Andrew Baldwin, with a little help from Watkins.  The script reveals the plague of political correctness pervades European films as well as those made here.  Looking for a scapegoat for their criminal activities, the antagonists pin the blame for the bombing on Muslims.  This is an interesting subplot since France is battling a take-over by Muslim immigrants and refugees who are attempting to supplant the French culture with their own. 

Director of Photography Tim Maurice-Jones (see, the dreaded three-name people even exist in Europe), who is best known for his work on Guy Ritchie’s LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, provides complimentary shots of Paris.  His camera angles on the fight sequences are suspect, as they highlight not the fight itself, but rather large swinging limb movements.

Editor Matthew Vaughn won the British Independent Film Award with his work on THE DESCENT, and cut LAYER CAKE, which was Daniel Craig’s screen test for the role of James Bond.  He pieces THE TAKE together in most excellent fashion, keeping the romp to the perfect length of 90 minutes.

All told, THE TAKE is a respectable action yarn with predictable, yet enjoyable plot twists.  Fans of the genre will be happy.  THE TAKE should also put to rest any further consideration of Elba for the James Bond role.  While he is sufficient in this rogue agent part, he is far from Bondish.





THE GRADE FOR THE TAKE = B