Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse Film Review; Another Solid Entry in the Horror/Comedy Genre
Directed by: Christopher Landon
Is it just me, or does it seem like Horror/Comedy's are big again? I mean, it's always been around, but to me, it just seems like they're front and center again, and I can't remember the last time they were a thing. The 80's perhaps?
Riding the success of other recent "funny" horror films like Deathgasm, Cooties and even Final Girls, in the low-budget area, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse slid way below my radar compared to the others. I actually hadn't heard of it until it was officially released on DVD and Blu ray, which is odd since these types of films usually need some strong word of mouth and positive buzz "before" it becomes available to us to rent, stream or buy. In any case, it hit the home market, and when it did, only then did I find a ton of posts about it online, and it was all positive. So I was pretty much sold right from the beginning.
When a zombie outbreak takes over a small town, three life-long scouts use they're experience, with some help from a cocktail waitress, in fighting them off and saving their friends and family.
SGttZA is a lot of fun, there's no denying that. If you're in the mood for a good, well-made, and well cast horror/comedy, this will certainly fit the bill and deliver the goods. It clearly knows it's target audience and delivers the funny, horror, gore, and titillation copiously. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do; no more, no less. With that being said, while it was another solid entry in the horror/comedy genre, I didn't quite find it as funny or entertaining as either Deathgasm or Cooties. But you know, it is what it is and what it is is a damn good and funny film. I just find it hard to top Cooties in the laugh department. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard, and well, Deathgasm is just awesome. It's the fucking heavy metal horror film we wanted in the 80's. It also helps that it's hilarious too. The dildo sequence; pure gold. SGttZA doesn't have any of those memorable sequences, but it is consistently entertaining, and sometimes, that's enough.
Paranormal Activity 2-5 screenwriter Christopher Landon does a great job in the genre shift, infusing the film with a nice aesthetic (it never once looks cheap), and some genuinely clever ideas to give this film a bigger feel than it has, which is a good thing. That's a testament to great filmmaking right there.
SGttZA doesn't break any new ground, but when it comes to low-budget DTV entertainment, it's about as good as they come. It's funny, gory, and has some genuine zombie thrills. Really, what more could you ask for?
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is currently available at Redbox, Amazon and your local rental store.
He Never Died Film Review; Henry Rollins Shines
Directed by: Jason Krawczyk
Up until a week ago, I had completely forgotten about this film. I remember seeing some buzz when it was hitting the festival circuits, all of it positive, but not much was said about it in terms of release date or anything for a long while after, and it just got lost in my endless stream of films. I don't know how or where it popped up on my radar again, but it did, and I was ecstatic to learn it was available for streaming. I hit up my movie group, and we threw this on on a Friday night.
I can honestly say that we were all pleasantly surprised. We didn't know anything about the film in general, other than it was supposed to be dark, and starred Henry Rollins. But going in without any expectations may have worked to our advantage. He Never Died worked well on a number of different levels. So much so that it's hard trying to classify or pinpoint what type of film it's supposed to be. But you know what? That's fine, because in the end, the film is entertaining, and that's what really matters.
Going in without much of an idea of what the story is about is probably the best way to do it. I will say it's about a guy (Rollins), who's generally an all around asshole and just wants to be left alone. One day his adult daughter, who he didn't know he had, shows up randomly at his door. What results is a number of unconventional plot and storytelling shifts, techniques and genre's that kind of seem to blend together seamlessly in a way that actually works. Whether you like horror, comedy, or something dark; it's all in here and you'll ultimately enjoy it for what it is, and that's pure original entertainment.
Henry Rollins is just excellent in this. I've honestly only seen him in just a few random things in regards to his acting, most notably his turn as a drill sergeant in the excellent Wrong Turn 2, but this role seems tailor made for him. And who knows? Maybe it was? It's pitch perfect, spot-on casting and Rollins excels in the role.
If I had any complaints, the only real one I can come up with is that the ending didn't seem to satisfy me in the way I expected it to, especially considering the build up. It wasn't enough to ruin the experience, not by a long shot. But it didn't seem very fitting, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little let down.
The direction by Jason Krawczyk is really solid, and quite honestly, when compared to a lot of the big budget garbage being directed by newcomers these days, is really quite refreshing and ultimately, impressive. I would imagine that some would call his script for this a bit uneven, as it seems to go in so many different directions, but I actually found that to be quite refreshing for a change. The film kind of keeps you on your toes, because you never know what to expect or where it's going to go, or how far it's going to go for that matter. For this, He Never Died stands out among the crowd as one of the better low-budget offerings out there.
If you find this available to stream or rent, I highly recommend it.
Rage (1995) Film Review
Directed by: Joseph Merhi
It might be shocking to most to learn that I've only now been immersing myself in PM Entertainment flicks. I know, I know. I'm entirely late to the game on this, and I have no excuse really. But you know, better late than never right? It all started for me about a year ago when someone mentioned Hologram Man to me. I think for me it was just the insanely cheesy name that struck a chord. I tracked it down, and for the entirety of it's running time, my eyeballs melted at the awesome display of no-holds-barred low-budget action at it's finest. Hologram Man really is the best of the best.
So I soon did some digging and discovered a few things. One, PM Entertainment released this. Two, Richard Pepin is a fantastic action director, and quite the prolific producer. And three, it's going to take a helluva long time digging through PM's vast catalog of low-budget actioners.
Rage is a PM Entertainment film starring Gary Daniels and directed by the ever reliable Joseph Merhi (Last Man Standing), who along with Richard Pepin, together turn out an insane number of action films both as producers and directors, most prominently in the 90's. One of the things that got me onto Rage faster than other PM title was that I had actually seen the insane trailer play on a VHS of one of Richard Pepin's films. It was so nuts I had to show that trailer to some of my friends. So this film had always been on the back of my mind, and when it came time to hunt down some old PM action, this was at the top of the list.
I'll be honest. Rage is entertaining, but didn't find it quite as enjoyable as I had hoped. A large part of that problem, for me anyway, is that I found director Joseph Merhi's handling of the material to be rushed. I mean, I know these films are all about "big, loud and fast", but it seems that so much of his camera work here is handheld-freestyle-point the camera wherever-style and there's really no pizzazz, especially when I compare it to another one of his films I just recently discovered and fell hard in love with, Last Man Standing. That film seemed better put together, and not nearly as rushed as this offering. But Rage isn't a total loss. There's plenty of action to be found, and some really insane set pieces and stuntwork, 2 things you come to expect from both Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin. There's one sequence in particular, involving a big rig, that needs to be seen to be believed. It's nuts!
Gary Daniels does a fine job in the lead. I don't know, I like the guy. He certainly looks imposing. But there's just something about him that I just never find believable. I know it sounds weird, but I think it's his voice. Not so much the accent than it is the somewhat high pitch it carries for someone so big and badass. I think I always expect there to be maybe some kind of gruffness to it, but whenever he speaks, and his high pitched accent comes out, I'm always thrown off. Always. But you know, as a physical presence, Daniels can certainly kick a lot of ass legitimately, even if I found some of the fight scenes in here to be......amateurish, surprisingly.
If you like action, PM Entertainment, or Gary Daniels, you'll surely enjoy this. It's not bad at all. Personally I didn't quite find it on the same level of awesome as say Last Man Standing, Hologram Man or even Cyber Tracker 2, but hey, they can't all be that badass.
I Saw BLADE RUNNER on the Big Screen
When Blade Runner was released in 1982 theatrically, I was only 6 years old, too young to appreciate that film in general. I always thought it looked cool, and always remembered thinking how weird it was too see Han Solo with short hair, being much more of an asshole than Solo ever was. But that was always it, and the fact that it was a science fiction film that looked cool. It wasn't until decades later as an adult that I actually sat down from beginning to end and "got" it. I finally understood what the film was about. It wasn't a science fiction action film set in the year 2019. It was a slow-burn detective noir that just happened to be set far in the future. It didn't have a lot of action. It didn't have crazy stuntwork. It didn't have explosions. It didn't have flying car chases through the city-scape. It was a dark and brooding detective story interweaving several different points of view of the same story, culminating in a bleak character study about what it means to be human.
Since it's theatrical release, there have been several different editions released on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu ray; The Theatrical Cut, The Directors Cut, The European Cut, and Ridley Scott's Final Cut. I've owned all of them in various forms throughout the decades, but I have to say that when The Final Cut was released on DVD and Blu ray in 2007, which came with Dangerous Days, the insanely meticulous documentary on the making of Blade Runner, it was arguably the best version of the film released to date, in the best possible quality. I still play that DVD randomly on occasion. But I never saw Blade Runner on the big screen, something I never imagined I would be able to experience in my lifetime.
2 weeks later I'm sitting in a theater on a Wednesday night for the 7 PM showing of Blade Runner. My wife and I count a total of 6 people in the theater. Frankly, I'm shocked. I assumed there would have been at least a dozen or more for sure. I mean, it's fucking Blade Runner! A certified sci-fi classic! When will we ever get this chance again? As it stood, I had to wait 34 years for the opportunity to present itself to me again, and I surely wasn't going to miss this opportunity. I guess I assumed others felt the same. I was wrong. But hey, I was there, and that's all that mattered to me at that moment.
Blade Runner on the big screen was one of the best movie-going experiences of my life. I had to wait 34 years for it to happen, but it was worth the wait, and I'll never forget it.
Laser Mission Film Review. Oh What a Mess.
|Laser Mission VHS Cover Scan courtesy of hindivichar.com|
Before I threw this on I did some internet digging and saw that a lot of people consider this a "So Bad, It's Good" type of Bad Movie. I wish I could agree, but the truth is that it's just a bad movie.....period. Definitely not a film that you can watch with your friends and laugh at. You'll more than likely be annoyed more than anything, and oftentimes confused as to what type of film this was supposed to be, because I have not been able to figure it out. And it's while watching this disaster unfold that I kept going back to all the praise I found on it online, and wondering "what movie were they watching?!".
Seriously, this film is terrible. I can't tell if it's supposed to be a serious film, or if it's supposed to be silly. It plays out straight, like a low-budget martial arts action film, yet there are so many bizarre moments in this film that make you believe otherwise. Like, for example, the actors who are clearly European, but wearing brown makeup to look like they're from Cuba, complete with ridiculous accent. There's even a moment where Brandon Lee puts on brownface makeup to infiltrate this army of Cuban militants, and shockingly nobody notices how fake it looks. It's that kind of disbelief that permeates through this entire film and it's downright annoying trying to figure out whether this was supposed to be silly on purpose or if they did this all with a straight face. I don't know, and it really doesn't matter because.....the film is terrible. The largely inept action sequences only make the experience harder to endure. Again, with nonsensical silliness added in that just leave you scratching your head.
One thing that kind of blew my mind was the fact that Ernest Borgnine is in this pile of garbage. And he seems and sounds so out of place too. The accent he's attempting to do just doesn't work, and that, interestingly enough brings up another issue. I have no idea where any of this is supposed to take place. They never make it clear. The film is mixed with American, fake Cubans, Cubans, and Russians. But, you never know where exactly they're supposed to be. Why is a white American woman working in a zoo in a foreign country? Or, is it supposed to be the US? Why is there random Cuban and Russian military all over the place then? It's so hard to figure out.
The girl is kind of hot, and can act. Unfortunately she doesn't get naked, yet her boobs are falling out of her dress for the entire film, so it's a constant tease. There's even a scene where she meets Brandon Lee's character and is super suspicious, yet decides to have dinner with him anyway. However, she couldn't have worn a more revealing and sexy outfit if she tried. So, why would she wear something like that if she's already suspicious of Lee's intentions to begin with? It appears that this was the only film she ever appeared in, which is a shame that "this" was her claim to fame because she's not bad at all, and quite easy on the eyes.
You may enjoy this if you like absurdity and silliness with your action. I do not. Especially when it's hard to tell whether it's intentional or by accident. Let me put it this way. I couldn't finish the damn thing. Even with only roughly 30 minutes left, I just could bare the torture any longer. Brandon Lee deserves so much better than this.
Murphy's Law Film Review
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
You know, as big an 80's action fan as I am, I never got into Charles Bronson. There's no reason really, I guess I just never took the time to. I always seemed to gravitate more towards Chuck Norris rather than Bronson when it came down to the Cannon Films regulars. I think because Norris' films were more "action" oriented and Bronson films seemed to lean more towards the "thriller" genre. And I have to admit, I think I've ever only seen 1 Charles Bronson film all the way. Damn!
While sick in bed all weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to force myself to watch a handful of films I'd always been meaning to, but never got around to, with "any" Bronson film falling into that list. On a Sunday I watched about 4 completely forgettable films that left a sour taste in my mouth, and thought how great it would be if I ended the night on a high note. When the Cannon Films logo flashed on the screen before the film started, my enthusiasm skyrocketed, and with that, I hoped for the best.
This is exactly the kind of film I needed after a slew of forgettable trash. Murphy's Law is the reason Cannon Films were so great in the 80's, and if this is any indication of what most of Bronson's films are like while he was under contract with them, then I'm in for a helluva good time as I dig into their collected works.
Murphy's Law is a solid 80's action thriller. Everything about this film works so effectively well that I can see why Bronson, director J. Lee Thompson and Cannon Films made so many films together in the 80's.
Jack Murphy (Bronson) is a down on his luck cop who just can't get over his wife leaving him. You know this because he still stalks her on a daily basis. A serial killer is on the loose. But this serial killer seems to target those closest to him, including his ex-wife. With the help of a petty thief, Murphy must try and stay alive and figure out who this killer is. Murphy has no intention of taking this killer in. He's out for revenge.
J. Lee Thompson is a strikingly competent director. Every shot is done with a cool 80's aesthetic, and with an air of confidence. In a time when so much of what we see now is freestyle hand-held, it's a breath of fresh air, and like I keep saying, "they just don't make them like this anymore". Structure-wise, one of this films greatest assets is that it never sticks to a single vibe for very long. It's a little funny when it needs to be, serious when it needs to be, and surprisingly violent (which really threw me off at how brutal it was at times) when you least expect it. It has the ability to keep you on your toes and most importantly, keeps you entertained.
I think one of the greatest things about Bronson as the star is that he's kind of like an every-man. He's not jumping off of cars, doing flips off of a moving vehicle, or possesses superhuman strength. He's a guy in his 60's. He gets tired when he runs. He gets hangovers like everyone else. He has a bad attitude, and gets repeatedly called out on it. All of those things apply to his character in here, and as a human, he's totally relatable, which makes his character and the way he goes about "everything" so convincing for the most part.
Murphy's Law is a solid and thoroughly entertaining piece of 80's cinema. Directed with gusto by Thompson, produced by the great Cannon Group, and starring an aging Charles Bronson who nails the part of a tired, grumpy, and resourceful cop in this action thriller. Here's hoping to their earlier effort 10 to Midnight is just as good.
Bad Movie Night Review: Killer Workout
Directed by: David A. Prior
If you're a Bad Movie lover, horror fanatic, or VHS collector, then you know Killer Workout is legendary. Mainly because it's bad in an entertaining way (a rarity with these types of films) , and also that it's insanely rare to come by. The VHS goes for a good chunk of change if you can find one in decent shape, and it's never gotten an official DVD release until now, almost a full 30 years after it's release.
Legendary cult filmmaker David A. Prior (Deadly Prey) writes and directs this low-budget masterpiece and uses nearly the entire cast of his other '87 film Deadly Prey. The result is arguably one of the best, funniest, most 80's slasher films ever made. I shit you not. Every single minute of this film is gold, and if there was ever a good horror candidate for Bad Movie Night, it's Killer Workout.
I'd hate to divulge too much information about the plot because we found that as ridiculous as the plot points were, it sure was a helluva lot of fun watching them unfold. Essentially, Rhonda runs a local gym where her customers begin falling victim to a killer. Really, that's all you need to know because that's the meat of the story. However, there are enough peculiar plot points and twists that keep the story moving along nicely. It also helps that Prior shoots this very gratuitously. You'll know what I mean when you watch it.
There is so much nonsense to laugh at in here that it's hard to tell you where to begin. I've always considered David A. Prior to be an inept filmmaker, yet somehow he was able to keep making film after film on a minuscule budget. But there's a "So Bad it's Good" quality to a lot of his films, and it's these rare little gems that make us coming back for more. Truthfully, I never got around to watching neither of his 2 most famous films, Deadly Prey and Killer Workout, until Olive Films obtained the rights and released them on both DVD and Blu Ray this past year. While the transfer's aren't very good, I understand they did their best with the best elements they could find for these SOV classics. Being as these were never shot on actual film, it's totally forgivable, and you know, there's a bit of nostalgia to the fact that it looks like you're watching a VHS.
Every actor in here, led by the great Ted Prior, is amazingly awful and cheesy. I'm sure the dribble they were forced to spill out didn't help. Yet, as bad as they were, they were also fucking brilliant. It takes a certain kind of actor to deliver these lines with a straight face, and holy fucking shit do they ever deliver in this.
I really can't praise this film enough in terms of entertainment value. Killer Workout easily ranks as the best of the best in the Bad Movie Night sub-genre. Grab your buddies, grab some beer, and throw this baby on. You're guaranteed to have a badass time.
Bad Movie Night Review: The Intruder AKA Rambu
Directed by: Jopi Burnama
Always on the hunt for Bad Movie Night material, I would randomly stumble upon this title whenever the topic of Indonesian action films of the 80's or star Peter O'Brian was ever mentioned. Shockingly, O'Brian only ever starred in a handful of films in the 80's going into the 90's, with only a few of those being memorable, despite his magnificent onscreen presence.
Literally plucked randomly from an airport by Indonesian film producers, O'Brian made both The Stabilizer (his most famous film), and this the same year, giving us a one-two punch of awesome. While The Stabilizer is his most popular film and easily able to purchase on DVD from Troma Films (Yes, that Troma), his other films are near impossible to find here in the states, with The Intruder AKA Rambu being the most difficult to get your hands on being as none of O'Brian's films have ever been officially released in the U.S., except for The Stabilizer, which, by the way, is also great.
But I decided to take my chances on The Intruder when I found an online dealer selling a decent bootleg DVD, and well, for one reason or another, the DVD sat on my shelf for the better part of a year. I don't know why. But one night the wife and I were looking for a Bad Movie to preview for our Bad Movie Night's, and while she didn't know what to expect, just the fact that it was an action film, made in the 80's, starring a guy from New Zealand who looked like a skinny version of Rambo, and was made in Indonesia had her attention. She was sold. We threw it on, and hoped for the best.
The result? Easily one of the best, most entertaining Bad Movies we've ever seen. I mean, what can you say about a film that right off the bat begins with a car barreling down the road and then hitting an old lady from behind as she's walking and minding her own business. Only to then be harassed by 2 thugs who yell at her for being in their way and begin physically assaulting her, only to be interrupted by a stranger with a stick, who warns them to leave her alone or suffer his wrath. Of course they ignore him, and he immediately pummels them to the ground effortlessly. But when they jump in their car and begin to drive away, they threaten him verbally, where he in turn uses a tennis ball he randomly had in his pocket, to kick the living shit out of both of them. Yes, you read that right. He uses a tennis ball to beat the shit out of two guys. When the guys run away, the ass-kicker says something along the lines of "Tell your boss if he has anything to say to me, you know where to find me. The name's RAMBU!", which is followed by an 80's synth music cue, and the title blasted on the screen. I'm not making this up. It's just one of the most hilarious and fucked up things you'll see on a minute by minute basis in this gloriously inept, yet brilliantly entertaining film.
It's hard to say exactly what the story is about, as it throws a few at you and so many things are happening at such a furious pace, you just kind of take it all in and go with it. But from what I gather, Peter O' Brian plays Rambu, a caucasion living in Indonesia who unwittingly begins messing with the local drug kingpin's shipments. He then inadvertently joins forces with another bad guy, only to be double-crossed, and............well, to put it simply, he gets upset, and sets out on a mission of revenge, only this time, he's dressed as Rambo, and it's amazing. He goes by the name Rambu, yet half the time they call him Rambo, by mistake? No idea, but it's hilarious. And just wait till the full-on Rambo: First Blood Part II stealing comes into play. It's incredible.
This film is hilarious. You won't find the same kind of over-the-top and insanely dangerous stunts that make other Indonesian classics like The Stabilizer and Final Score so memorable and worthy of their cult status, but for sheer entertainment value and laughs, The Intruder is really one of the best we've come across. Hilarious and entertaining bad 80's action films do not get any better than this gem. Being from New Zealand, O'Brian is dubbed......hilariously, and truthfully, that's what makes this experience even better. The dubbing all around will leave you laughing uncontrollably.
I believe you can find the full film on YouTube, but it's dubbed in German with no subtitles. So unless you know German, skip it because the terrible and hilarious dialogue is half the fun. You can purchase a physical DVD complete with cover art and case over at CultAction.com, which is where I got mine. It's probably the best version you'll find, but it's not great, looking like it was ripped from an old and worn VHS. But still, it's the best you'll find unless it ever gets a legitimate release some day.
O'Brian never made it big, and it's a bloody shame. He's just amazing with an even more amazing presence, and he should have been much bigger than just a few low-budget Indonesian flicks. The Stabilizer is a good start as it's the easiest to get, and it's also directed by the great Azizal (Final Score), but The Intruder is hands down the best flick from his criminally short career.
You can check out my past reviews of Peter O'Brian's films below:
The Stabilizer - http://robotgeekscultcinema.blogspot.com/2015/05/bad-movie-night-stabilizer.html
Double Crosser - http://robotgeekscultcinema.blogspot.com/2015/08/review-double-crosser.html
American Hunter - http://robotgeekscultcinema.blogspot.com/2015/08/bad-movie-night-american-hunter.html
Quick Shot Film Review: Knock, Knock
Directed by: Eli Roth
Eli Roth's Knock, Knock has got to be one of the stupidest, most infuriating films I've ever seen. Seriously, what a piece of s**t! Nearly every single aspect of this film is terrible; casting, acting, directing, WRITING!!, I will admit that I had fun watching this only because I watched it with my friends and we screamed and yelled at the stupidity the entire time. That was fun. But this film sucks. If you want to be annoyed in an entertaining way, rent it at Redbox for $1.25. But don't you dare spend any more money than that on this turd.
I can't even bother to write a full length and proper review because of how awful this was. And I rarely ever lose it on a film like this, but holy fuck what a completely missed opportunity. It's just fucking terrible, and It's official, I've completely given up on Eli Roth.
My Top 10 Best Films in 2015
#10: Cop Car
Directed by: Jon Watts
This little known film from Clown director Jon Watts kind of slid under the radar for most people. Watts this time takes on the thriller genre and delivers a stunning piece of American Cinema.
Kevin Bacon is just fantastic as an evil sheriff who will do anything to cover his tracks, even if it means killing 2 kids after the kids find his cop car and decide to take it on a joy ride. The kids, both newcomers, are also exceptional.
Cop Car stands out from the crowd for a number of reason. For starters, the visuals are striking. Every shot is just gorgeous. The performances all around are all top notch, and while it takes a slow-burn approach, it's a helluva intense ride once things being to start taking shape.
This film caught us off guard in the best possible way and if you haven't seen it yet, we strongly suggest you do.
#9: Bone Tomahawk
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Here's another "under-the-radar" treat. Novelist S. Craig Zahler adapted his own book into a feature length film and the results are incredible, daring, and totally unique. What at first comes off as a western, slowly unravels into an entirely different type of film, climaxing in an out-of-left-field finale that will surely leave your jaw dropped to the floor.
This would mark Zahler's debut behind the directors chair, and if this film is any indication, he has the goods to deliver rock solid entertainment, utilizing an outstanding ensemble cast, a clever script, and a sure-handed stance behind the camera. His simplistic approach to directing serves the film extremely well, and the authentic atmosphere, and some intense sequences, will leave you surprised at just how good this film is overall. But seriously, what a fucking ending.
#8: The Hateful Eight
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
It's safe to say, nobody makes films like Tarantino. The guy could be described as cocky and arrogant, but thankfully, he can back that up with genuine talent. He continues to be one of the best, most original and talented filmmakers out there, and each new film he announces is met with such enthusiasm that I'm always waiting to hear about his "next" project.
Hateful Eight is the kind of film that you just don't see in theaters anymore. Epic in it's scope, with all the ingredients that make QT's films so great. His most visually impressive and most confidant film to date, and certainly his most "talky", Hateful Eight benefits from an insanely awesome ensemble cast, and clever and witty dialogue that keeps you entertained 100% of the time. Be warned, it's 3 hours long and 90% of it takes place inside a cabin, which in an amusing and intriguing way, gives it an almost theater play-like quality.
#7: Ex Machina
Directed by: Alex Garland
Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd, Sunshine) makes his directorial debut with this subtle, yet incredible sci-fi masterpiece. To say Ex Machina is unique is an understatement. There are literally only 3 actors in the entire film, and what could easily be a theater play, minus the top-notch special effects, works amazingly well as a slow-burn sci-fi tale about artificial intelligence, and the repercussions of control.
Alex Garland proves himself a gifted director his first time out, apparently paying close attention to his Oscar winning director and frequent collaborator Danny Boyle. His visuals are nothing short of astonishing, offering a streamlined aesthetic that are some of the best you'll see in any film this year. This was the first time I'd ever seen a film with Oscar Isaac, and the guy delivers the goods here.
It's best to go in knowing as little as possible with this one. What I thought would be a standard sci-fi tale became more of a psychological thriller with enough twists and turns that constantly keep you guessing. That's brilliant storytelling right there.
# 6: We Are Still Here
Directed by: Ted Geoghegan
In keeping with the "under the radar" theme, I give you We Are Still Here. Writer, producer, director Ted Geoghegan intricately recreates a Euro Horror vibe with this ghost story set in a small New England town circa the 1980's. It's hard to explain really why this film is so great. For us, we knew nothing about it going in, only that it had some strong positive buzz. It certainly lived up to the hype and then some. It's a solid ghost story, but there's more to it than that. Again, I find myself finding it hard to pinpoint what exactly, but it's good.....damn good.
I think what works in it's favor is it's acute attention to detail, starting with the gloomy undertones of Euro Horror. The cast, led by the great Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), is also a plus. And when it comes to the gore and effects, this film went places we were not expecting at all. Easily one of the few surprises we came across this past year in indie horror, and one that is smart enough to fall under the "adult horror" sub-genre of films. Meaning, there's no cheap tricks or tacky jump scares in here to do the job. No sir, it's genuinely creepy in a mature way that makes it a great horror film for adults.
#5: Jurassic World
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Before Jurassic World, nobody even knew who Colin Trevorrow was, as he seemed to have been plucked at random from obscurity to direct one of the most anticipated films of the last 10 years. And yet, he pulled off the unbelievable. He co-wrote and directed easily the best sequel in the franchise. No other film after the first Jurassic Park has been able to capture the magic, terror, fun and excitement that Spielberg's first film delivered....until now.
Trevorrow handles this monstrous film like a pro. If you didn't already know, you'd swear he'd been making films this big for years, only he hasn't. Yet everything that made that first film so great - the fun, intensity, terror, and epicness - are found in here, and it's a helluva ton of fun.
They really couldn't have found a better contender than Chris Pratt to be the new hero, and coupled with an eclectic ensemble cast, impressive visual effects, and a huge "fun" factor that the sequels had sorely been missing, Jurassic World easily ranks as one of the best family films in years.
#4: Star Wars:
The Force Awakens
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
What can I say? I know this isn't the most original in the franchise, but when we were given 3 gawd-awful prequels, and had to wait 32 years for a true sequel, well, nostalgia got the better of me and SW:TFA was arguably the best theater experience I can remember having in a long, long time.
J.J. Abrams reunites the original cast, and offers us a whole new set of hero's, in an all too familiar story that most say steals heavily from the very first film. But you know what? That's fine with me. It was a big, fun, popcorn flick that carried much of the same heart and soul that made the Lucas original so special. If I didn't have such a soft spot for Return of the Jedi (it's the only original Star Wars film I saw in the theater during it's original theatrical run), I'd probably put this before Jedi.
Abrams has taken great pains to replicate the look and feel of the classic original trilogy, so much so that some found it off-putting. But not me. I found it refreshing, and a fantastic start to a new series of films that we've been dying to see for 3 decades. And for that, I love the shit out of this film.
Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
You know what Deathgasm is? Deathgasm is "the" heavy metal horror film we wished we had growing up as metal heads back in the 80's. We never really had one, except for Trick or Treat, which is also great, but Deathgasm is made with such a love for metal and horror, that if you were or are a true metal head, you'll appreciate this a helluva lot more than the average horror fan.
When this came out internationally first, buzz was big as it hit the festivals. It seemed to take forever for it to hit the states here, but when it did, we were not disappointed. Gore galore, authentically hilarious, and made with a passion for this little niche of horror, it was easily one of the most entertaining and hilarious horror films we've seen in some time.
Visual effects wiz Jason Lei Howden, who's worked on films like The Avengers to The Hobbit, tries his hand at writing and directing with this tale of teenage metal heads who unwittingly summon a demon by playing an evil song, and the results are spectacular. If you love horror, gore, heavy metal, and a good horror/comedy, look no further than Deathgasm!!
#2: Turbo Kid
Directed by: Francois Simard, Anouk Wissell
80's nostalgia is at the heart of this low-budget throwback to 80's post apocalyptic action movies. One of the best things about this film though is that it's shockingly better and far more entertaining than 99.9% of the films it's trying to copy.
Munro Chambers (of Degrassi fame), stars as a teenager in a post apocalyptic wasteland who summons the persona of his favorite comic book superhero to take down a tyrannical overlord played by the one and only Michael Ironside.
Filled with insanely over-the-top violence, some truly stunning camera work, and one of the best synth scores to come out in decades, Turbo Kid ranks as one of the best throwback films in years, and one of the best films for those of use who grew up watching these films in the 80's. Drenched in nostalgia from beginning to end, and brimming with endless pop culture gadgets, Turbo Kid is made for that specific market of 80's action fan nerd, and it's fucking awesome.
#1: Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by: George Miller
We waited 30 years for a true Mad Max film, and with original Mad Max writer/director George Miller returning, it was absolutely worth the wait. If you haven't yet seen Fury Road, I feel sorry for you. It's arguably one of the best, most insane, most epic action films to come out in decades.
George Miller has tried his hand at everything from comedy to children's films, but action seems to be his calling. Though he hadn't directed an action flick since 1985's Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, he hasn't skipped a beat. In fact, he's only gotten better and stronger as both a visual and action director. Some of the shit he comes up with in here is downright insane, yet haunting and gorgeous at the same time. The film never slows down long enough for you to ever gaze over at your watch, but when it does, we're treated to some truly stunning eye candy that will blow your mind before the action kicks back in.
Tom Hardy is a solid choice for Max, but the film really belongs to Charlize Theron, who kicks all kinds of ass even though she's missing an arm, taking front and center in this outing.
Fury Road packs a visual punch unlike any other film you see this year, and George Miller produces some of the most intense, most astonishing, and most breathtaking action sequences ever put to film.
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