Sunday, February 25, 2007

First Impressions

No weekly movie night this week. Amber and I had free movie tickets from the rewards card we have, and yesterday was the last day we could use them. We figured our waiting for a big movie was over, better get to a theatre or throw them out. The choices were pretty slim, this being Alaska none of the smaller release films I'm interested in were playing. We ended up going to see Bridge to Terabithia, a film that I wanted nothing to do with. Amber is just lucky that I'm much more lax in my movie viewing restrictions. As I've said before, I won't turn it down if I haven't seen it before. Special Exceptions to this rule will be made for gay porn. The punchline to all this is; our tickets were no good because it was a starred attraction. But, we'd made the trek to the theatre, so we couldn't say no now.

As I said, I wanted nothing to do with the movie. The previews I'd seen made it look like a crappy Narnia rip-off(which, you could argue, was itself a crappy Narnia rip-off), and the case for quality was not helped any by the fact that I had heard nothing about it until very shortly before the release date. When you read as many movie mags and websites as I do, it's hard to find a movie you haven't at least HEARD about. So small was my anticipation for this movie that I left after the movie had begun to get snacks, and I *NEVER* leave the theatre between the time the lights go down to the time they come back up, I even watch all the end credits.

In the end, the movie was really not all that bad. I should preface all of this by saying I hate kids in movies. I hate the way they look, dressed up by adults who are usually trying too hard to make them look hip, and I especially hate the way they talk, reciting lines written by someone in their 30s or 40s whose trying to sound young. The dialog in these films is always grating to my ear, and this was no exception. Although, I'll be fair, I've seen MUCH worse. This was fairly inoffensive as these movies go.

Normally I wouldn't even be mentioning this film, except for the fact that I think a lot of people who would enjoy it are going to pass it on by, because of a HORRIBLE marketing campaign by Disney. The trailers lead you to believe, as I had earlier, that this film is nothing but a quick cash-in by Disney and Walden Media to capitalize on the fantasy boom heralded by Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I realize the books been around awhile(since the 70s, anyway), but I'm accusing them of grabbing the first family-values, vaguely pro-christian book they could find with fantasy elements. Well, I guess on the surface that's a correct assumption, but it also missing the point.

The film concerns a blue-collar boy who's constantly teased at school for no concrete reason. He's called, disparagingly, 'farmer's son', but only once, and the teasing doesn't seemed centered on his monetary status. But kids are mean, so lets move on. No one at school likes him, and he feels disconnected from his family. Enter Leslie(AnnaSophia Robb), doing an adolescent version of the popular 'pixie girl' from countless romantic comedies. The bubbly, kinda spacey, generically 'weird' artistic girl who takes a liking(for no good reason) to our boring hero, and through all of her charming irreverence pulls him out of his shell and makes him into a better person. You can easily identify her by her perfectly spiky, mussed hair of a fashion that Meg Ryan popularized a few years back, and the fact that while all of the other kids wear clothes, she wears outfits and accesories!

The Terabithia of the title is an imaginary land the children invent while playing in the woods. Yes, you read that correctly, an imaginary land. There isn't really a Terabithia, or a real fantasy story here. There are fantasy elements, and while the fantasy sequences are quite real to the kids, it's very clear that they are only imagining all of this. I Guess meth really is a problem in the heartland. That may actually be my largest complaint with this movie; that the fantasy sequences are too obviously not real, and pretty straight-forward in their execution. If the director had only put a little more wonder and whimsy into those parts of the film it would have heightened the emotion of this whole movie. Outside of the fantasy segments, the film deals with the various problems you'd expect from a Disney film; bullies, family problems(money woes, no child abuse here), love problems, etc. And that is actually the focus of the movie, the awakening of this kid into how wonderful the world around him is.

There's a dramatic twist near the end that heightens this film out of the ABC Family level of emotional mush, but it really doesn't do enough. In the end I liked it, as I suppose is obvious, but it may be more to do with my shattered expectations than anything else, because as I thought about it more, I realized it wasn't really a great film. But it was an OK film, one that's worth the time if not the money, and it should have been given more credit by Disney.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Year in Preview

I always feel moderately uncomfortable when I find myself looking forward to upcoming movie releases or events, because it puts me in the awkward position of wishing several months of my life would disappear. And yet every year there's another 12 months of exciting pop culture excess to look forward to, and as soon as one of my anticipated events passes, another dozen are waiting to take it's place. I think you can see where this is going, so to save time and get straight to the time wasting, here's a short list of things I'm truly excited about this year. This is by no means complete, because I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things.

Planetary #27: Planetary was, and until this issue comes out, IS, the greatest comic book currently being published. Technically the series ended with #26, and this is only an epilogue, but with at least one major storyline still unresolved, this issue stands to have plenty new to tell. Planetary explores a common theme among Warren Ellis' writing; an elite team with highly advanced technology saving the world from even more highly advance technology. Ellis is obviously in love with sci-fi, and does like to explore the nuts and bolts of it more than most sci-fi comics, but it's always in service of the story rather than a bland technical readout. Some have claimed(and probably rightfully so) that Warren Ellis is a misanthropic anarchist, but if you look closely at books like Planetary, Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan, you'll see an intense love of the world and the people in it. The vice and level of human atrocities may increase with technology, but in Ellis' world the capacity for epic heroism also rises. All that, and they're just really good, exciting and fun sci-fi action stories.

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Black Dossier: It's a constant struggle to explain to people how cool this comic series is when all they know of it is the crappy movie. Imagine basing your opinion of Batman on the Adam West television series, only without the fun(for the record I love the Adam West series). The League comics are so cool, so amazingly fun, and so densely packed with visual references that you may have to read it several times over to get it all. In fact, they released two books to explain all the Victorian-era literary references. That may sound daunting, but really, you need only the barest experience with the main characters-Mina Murray; Dracula, Allan Quatermain; King Solomon's Mines, Griffin Hawley; The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, and Dr. Jekyll- in order to enjoy this series. Everything else is just gravy. Alan Moore is actually my favorite comic book author, and news of his retirement about 4 years ago left me depressed that there would never be any new books to look forward to(he had left his creations in the hands of others, with varying results). But, after a falling out with DC, Moore came back and did a round of one-shots that effectively wrapped up and closed down the comic imprint he had started for them; America's Best Comics(that sound egotistical, but it fits with the bombastic old-school comic feel the imprint frequently strived for). Further news that Moore was working on a third League book, this one an over sized graphic novel spanning several different incarnations of the team, with lots of nifty extras, restored my faith in comics. Originally this was supposed to be released in October of 2006, but it was put on hold indefinitely while Kevin O'Neill finishes up the highly detailed and excellent artwork. Normally I'd be annoyed, but I'm willing to wait as long as it takes to get this book out at the standards set by the first two volumes(both easily available in trade editions. Go buy them now!) And, to give me a head start on NEXT year's list of anticipated releases, he's already announced two more League books.

Buffy Season 8: My buffy fandom used to be a guilty pleasure, and indeed I still tend to watch who I talk about this show with(my girlfriend wont stop making fun of me for liking it), but nowadays I'm proudly a Buffy fan. I think it was the minor vindication, in the form of Firefly and Serenity, that maybe there WAS something to this show about really attractive women kicking vampire ass. Not that Serenity or Firefly lit the world on fire, but they did appeal to people who WOULD like Buffy if they looked past it's surface. I firmly believe that in a few years, when the whole 'girl power' opinion most people have of the show fades away, Buffy will stand out as truly excellent television, a prime example of what the medium can do. From a storytelling standpoint, Buffy utilized the freedom(timewise, anyway) of television in a way that VERY few series have done. Season 7 had an almost perfect ending for the show, but it was obvious that Joss Whedon had a lot more he could do with it, and now he gets that chance. The new Dark Horse series will run like a Season 8 of Buffy, picking up a little while after the series ended, with Joss writing several key story lines and overseeing all of the individual scripts written by others. It comes out next month, and I am itching in anticipation. And just look at the covers by Jo Chen! Georges Jeanty will be handling interiors.

Twin Peaks Season 2: I was a bit too young to appreciate Twin Peaks when it originally aired(I was 11 when it started), but I still have fond memories of this show, which I bought on VHS with Christmas money while in high school and spent one great weekend not leaving my room except for food and bathroom breaks. In fact, if there was one thing I could be said to be fanatical about, it would be Twin Peaks. I own all of the official book releases for this show(The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, the Diane Tapes), the entire set of trading cards, I even have a large framed print of black and white photos taken on the set by Richard Beymer(Benjamin Horne). I've even been not once, but twice to the Twin Peaks Festival in Washington state and hold fond memories of hanging out with Michael J. Anderson(Little Man From Another Place) and listening to all of his stoner philosophizing. With all that in mind, it would be hard to overestimate how much I've been looking forward to the release of Twin Peaks' second season on DVD. I was worried for awhile that the release of the DVDs would mirror that of the VHS, where season 1 came out, then several years later you could only buy season 2 in a box with season 1.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about Twin Peaks that appeals to me so. I've always loved a mystery, and David Lynch's love of showing the mysteries that reside behind every door is just something that really connected with me. I've always responded more emotionally than intellectually to Lynch's films. I may not be able to explain what a specific scene means, but that doesn't stop me from becoming emotionally involved in it. Twin Peaks, for all it's darkness and silliness, is a place I always want to return to. True, season 2 was not as cohesive and, well, good, as season 1. Forced by the network to solve the mystery of 'Who Killed Laura Palmer?', the show had no motivating story, and meandered from quirky to silly and stupid. But, without season 2, we wouldn't have had 'Bob', The Black Lodge, the stunning reveal of Laura's killer, or Annie, the best role Heather Graham has ever had. Things I'm still waiting for? A DVD copy of the pilot episode, which is owned by Warner Brothers who have only released the crappy UK version, which has a horrible tacked on ending to the series. Also the deleted scenes for the Twin Peaks Movie, Fire Walk With Me, which David Lynch keeps teasing will be out sometime soon. 45 minutes were cut from that movie, and I would kill to see a full version of that film.

Grindhouse: Grindhouse theatres are places that I was never around to see, since Anchorage wasn't(and still isn't) a large enough place to have grungy inner-city theatres. The closest we had was The Capri, which was dirty and run-down, but also a haven for hippies and pretentious art fags(I say that with absolutely no regard to sexuality, by the way). Grindhouses specialized in exploitation fare, whether it be kung-fu, horror, blaxploitation, or sexploitation, all genres that I have a fondness for. Of course, there was always the fear of bodily harm at these places, but I like the idea of seeing those movies in a theatre full of people not talking DURING the film, but WITH the film.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, both people I'll follow into any movie, team up for a two-in-one horror movie. Rodriguez's film is the one that initially appeals to me, because it's got zombies and Rose McGowan with a stupid/crazy/awesome machine gun leg, but I must say I'm REALLY excited to see what Tarantino has Kurt Russel do. I've seen the trailer(s) more times than I can count, and it looks cooler and cooler each time. Find them here if you don't know what I'm talking about. The icing on the cake is going to be the in-between fake film trailers, directed by Eli Roth(Cabin Fever, Hostel), Edgar Wright(Shaun of the Dead), and Rob Zombie(Devil's Rejects).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

There's More To The Legend Than Meets... The Throat!

So I've finally done it. I've broken my friends. I've finally found a movie so retched, so godawful that my friends may not come back for a bad movie night. So, what was this film? This steaming pile of celluloid crap? It was Zoltan! Hound Of Dracula. And it really wasn't all THAT bad. Paradoxically, that may have been the worst thing about it.

Zoltan(named, I assume, after a Hungarian ruler in the 10th Century) isn't so much Dracula's hound as he is the hound of one of Dracula's servants, Veidt Schmidt. When the Russian army(I think their Russian, based on their uniforms, but no one has any kind of accent) unearths Dracula's tomb, they decide to burn all of the corpses, but not before some foolish soldier decides to pull the stake out of Zoltan's body, allowing him to regenerate and drain the blood of said soldier. He then helps his master, who decides to track down the last surviving heir of Dracula. At least, they call him the last heir in the movie, but he has two children, so wouldn't THEY be the last surviving heirs? There's a bit of a mythological problem here, as well. Veidt Schmidt is the vampire's servant, and not a full vampire. Yet he has immortality and can regenerate after death, all while walking in daylight and not needing blood. I don't know what Renfield's problem was, sitting in that asylum and eating flies.

At the beginning of the film Dracula is seen(in Zoltan's flashback!) about to feast on a lovely young women in the 1800s. Zoltan interrupts his feeding, so Dracula transforms into a bat and instead feeds on Zoltan(why don't vampires do this more often, instead of courting danger by feeding on young, socially popular women?), who skips the whole 'dying' part of the process and goes straight to vampire doggie. On their way out they drain and turn Veidt Schmidt(played by Reggie Nalder, whose wrinkles are more frightening than anything in this movie), who also skips the 'dying' part. I mention this because it's odd for them to have done that, as it's clearly established later that the victims DIE after being drained of blood.

The film quickly moves to southern California, where Michael Drake(the aforementioned Last Dracula) is taking his family on a two week camping trip in their RV. For plot motivation they also bring along their two dogs and a litter of puppies. Almost immediately weird things happen; Puppies disappear and the dogs are always howling at night. Of course, neither of those is odd, really, it seems to me a logical occurrence when you leave newborn puppies out in the wilderness all night, and howling is just something dogs do. But this bothers the family, who are worried and confused. Luckily for them, a Van Helsing-type character shows up in the form of Jose Ferrer to tell Michael all about his vampiric family tree and help him defeat the undead canines.
Really, as I said before, the film isn't anything spectacularly atrocious, which is it's downfall. It's just middle of the road, never taking itself seriously enough to be campy, but also not self-aware enough to be tongue in cheek. There's no suspense to the film, since aside from the Russian soldier in the beginning there are NO human deaths, just a lot of animal cruelty. It's competently directed(by Albert Band, who would pass on the legacy of mediocre, competently bad horror movies to his son, Charles Band), with a clean print for the DVD. The dialogue is notable for this type of film, due to it's believability. The characters may be boring and idiotic, but they speak in a natural manner(Michael's first thought after learning he's a Dracula is that he's going to get rich on royalties for all those movies). There is, however, a growing army of vampire doggies, and the oh-so-cute and cuddly widdle undead puppies.

Had it been a bit more over-the-top, just a little bit more awful, the movie would have been classic. As it was, I had fun and a few laughs, but just enough to feel justified in having seen it. I often think my reviewing of bad movies is suspect, because it really takes a lot for me to hate it. Even if the movie is awful and irredeemable, I usually feel the better for having seen it. If I hate it, at least there's a good rant in there somewhere. So, in the end, I can never accurately say whether you, the reader, should go track it down. I say you should, but then, unlike most of my friends, I've had a fondness for horror movies involving animals since I saw Food of the Gods as a child.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Creepy Dead Folk Revisited: The Foreign Dead

[This post is actually one leftover from my failed Halloween project. I actually teased it once before saying I'd be back with more Zombie movies, and then my overall enthusiasm died out. There's a few more like this, and I plan to eventual clean out my backlog over the next, I dunno, few weeks.]

You'd think that with the success of Night of the Living Dead zombie movies would be all the rage. I mean, current Hollywood trends have seen any moneymaker imitated and repackaged until the well runs dry, and that is by no means a new thing. However, it wasn't really until Dawn of the Dead that the zombie movie really exploded into it's own. Dario Argento helped George Romero with financing on Dawn of the Dead in return for distribution rights overseas, and the right to film a few of his own scenes, and the success of that version led to a string of sequels, both official and unofficial.

The first sequel was Zombi(or Zombi 2, technically) by Italian gore-master Lucio Fulci. Fulci is regarded as a god to thousands of horror fans who ran across his films while hunting for new and more extreme horror films on video. To be sure his films are full of gallons of blood and tons of inventively gruesome death scenes(and quite a few eyeball gougings), but they're also full of glaring inconsistencies and slap-dash story lines. It's clear where Fulci's real interest lies, and everything else gets short shrift. Imagine him as a forerunner to Japanese auteur Miike Takashi, with a 'see what stick's' attitude to film making. Zombi, believe it or not, is one of Fulci's more coherent and restrained movies, but don't let me fool you into thinking it's gore-free.

Zombi is really a sequel in name only(Dawn of the Dead was released as Zombi in some areas), with the zombie invasion beginning in this film, and of very definite voodoo origins, as opposed to the already-present, and unexplained, zombie threat in Dawn. It's often considered a rip-off of Dawn, although it was written and partially filmed BEFORE Dawn came out, with only the New York intro and epilogue added once they decided to capitalize on the popularity of that other movie. The film concerns a reporter investigating a boat that drifts into New York Harbor carrying nothing but dead people. The trail leads him back to a tropical island where a scientist is experimenting with reanimation of dead flesh through a mixture or science and voodoo. The results are about what you'd expect in a horror movie, and soon zombies are overrunning the island.

Zombi was a real eye opener when I first saw it, since at the time I was still fairly new to Italian horror, and I must admit that I wasn't quite ready for it. I think, based on it's reputation, that I was expecting a more conventionally good horror film. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of outstanding stuff in this one, but like most Fulci(and, to a slightly lesser degree, most Italian horror that I've seen) there's plenty of silliness, the tone is very uneven, and it sometimes feels like a movie that woudl've appeared on MST3K if they had done R-rated stuff. There's some hilariously out-of-nowhere nudity, a torturously slow close-up of an eye being punctured by a sliver of wood, and a scene with a zombie versus a shark. Yes, a zombie versus a shark.

That scene is probably what Zombi is most famous for, and to be sure, it's quite impressive. In a silly, dumbass way. I understand the shark was probably sedated, or recently fed or whatever they do to keep sharks calm, and I understand there was a trainer(although I was unaware that you could actually train sharks), and yes, I know the zombie's arm that gets bitten off is a fake one. But still, your underwater, taunting a shark until it tries to bite a piece of you off. Italian stuntmen are crazy!

Fulci has done a few other zombie movies, all of them of about the same overall quality. For the most part I would recommend them for the horror aficionado looking for something new, and not really concerned with logic. Sometimes, however, his films are just a mess, and oftentimes way too slow for their own good. I could only sit through Don't Torture a Duckling(gotta love them clunky translations) once, and I couldn't even make it through House by the Cemetery. That's actually quite a statement, because I can count on one hand the movies I've not watched in their entirety once I started them. Same with books. Even if I hate something I have to see it through to the end, just to give it that shot to win me back.

Of special note, however, is Fulci's quasi-zombie masterpiece The Beyond. I say quasi-zombie because this movie DOES have reanimated dead people, but their more haunting spirits than flesh-hungry ghouls. I first saw The Beyond at the Capri, a one(tiny) screen theatre that was dirty, small and rundown. And I miss it immensely. Some of my favorite movie-going experiences happened there, and I was saddened to see it close. I saw The Beyond with a small group of friends, and aside from one other person we had the place to ourselves. To give you an idea of what to expect, the one other patron complained to management that we were laughing too loudly. To be honest, I feel bad about that now. I understand all too well how it feels to pay for a movie only to have people who don't appreciate the film as you do ruin it. But to be fair the movie is pretty silly. At first.

You see, when I first saw this movie I was awestruck by how BAD it all was, how over the top the gore was when obviously the technical skills of the filmmakers were not quite up to the challenge. There is a rather nice visual sensibility to the film, with some beautiful cinematography at moments, and a nicely catastrophic ending. I bought the movie on DVD to relive that experience, and a funny thing happened. The movie grew on me. Quite a bit, actually. I bought the soundtrack(the music is crazy awesome), and started watching the movie as I went to bed, because I found it somehow hypnotic. Around the sixth or seventh viewing, everything changed. One scene in particular stood out to me, and I became very, very scared, despite knowing this film backwards and forwards. It's a small, nothing scene where a blind woman is talking to the main character, becomes nervous about something, and flees from the house. As she's running out the door there is an insert shot of her feet moving along the floor, and as the main character thinks about why she ran away, they play this shot over and over again, about 3 or 4 times. Each time slower, closer, and with weirder and weirder noises on the soundtrack. It made no sense at all, no matter how hard I tried to figure it out. And suddenly, at 4am all alone at home, this fact scared the bejesus out of me.
Also worth a peek is City Of The Living Dead, which REALLY tested my(admittedly weak) gag reflex with some truly disturbing gore.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Weekly Movie Night #5

Zombies make everything better. I think I've said this before. Several times. But they do, usually. As crappy as a movie is, zombies would instantly make it better. That's not to say there aren't shitty zombie movies. There are. But with very few exceptions(Tombs of the Blind Dead 1&2, Zombie Lake) I've enjoyed them immensely on one level or another. Even Hell of the Living Dead, which is widely regarded one of the worst zombie movies ever, still fills me with glee when I recall some of it's absurdly silly scenes of zombie gore. Yes, zombies make even the worst movie tolerable. So it is with Dead Heat, which may not qualify as one of the worst movies ever, but it's certainly not one of the pinnacles of quality cinema. Not that a movie needs to be in order to be a success.

Dead Heat came out in 1988, and is a prime example of that decade's genre film making. It's a decade that usually gets written off for it's cheesy fashions and synth-laden pop music, it's neon-colors and valley girl lingo, but the 80's is a goldmine of forgotten cinematic treasure. I'm not saying that horror cinema has died, or that the quality has gone down since the 80s, but certainly the level of inventiveness isn't there in the mainstream film making anymore. They Live? Big Trouble In Little China? Buckaroo Bonzai? Can you imagine these films getting a green light today? Dead Heat lives up to this tradition in spirit, at least, with a Frankenstein's script cobbled together out of a variety of genres; The buddy-cop-action-comedy-zombie movie.

Treat Williams And Joe Piscopo play two mismatched cops/best friends. The generic odd-couple of action movies. Treat Williams plays the by-the-book suit wearing cop with a car no honest policemen could afford, and Joe Piscopo basically plays Joe Piscopo. Slovenly, prone to violence, and not really as funny as he thinks he is. I've never seen the appeal of Joe Piscopo as a comedic talent, other than his ridiculously muscular arms. He always comes across as that loud uncle who probably drinks too much and has appointed himself the family fool. These two are investigating a series of high profile 'smash and grab' robberies that seem to be committed by one gang of individuals. After pumping an insane amount of lead into two of these gang members, and finally having to off them with a grenade and a moving car, they are told by the coroner that the two men had been dead much longer than they know to be true.

Following the trail of these two men leads them to a pharmaceutical company that seems a bit shady. And rightfully so; during this visit Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo are attacked by a hideously deformed giant of a man, and Treat Williams is killed. That's not as much of a spoiler as you might think; Treat Williams' character is named 'Roger Mortis'. What does the distraught Joe Piscopo do? Well, he finds a machine that can reanimate dead tissue, and sticks his friend into it, who comes out good as new. Almost. The process is still imperfect, and he has only 12 hours to solve his own murder before Roger's tissue degenerates into a puddle of steaming bile. Speaking of which, some note should be paid to the effects in this movie, which are better than you would expect from a movie of this perceived quality. The effects were done by, among others, Nick Benson, who had a whole string of great work in movies of varying quality in the late 80s, including the Blob remake, Tremors, Bride of Re-Animator, and one of the most disgusting movies you've never seen; Society. The highlight set piece is set in a Chinese butcher shop where all of the dead animals on display are reanimated. It's delightfully queasy, and you'll be laughing at the silliness of it while holding back disgust at how gross it all looks.

So, the big question; Does the movie work? As a buddy-cop movie? No, not really, even if the chemistry between the two leads seems more genuine than other, more standard buddy-cop films. As a zombie movie? Well, as has been evidenced I'm very lenient in how I judge a good zombie film. Certainly this isn't your typical zombie film, since the reanimated dead keep much, if not all, of their intelligence and personality, and there's no flesh eating at all. The biggest mistake this movie makes is criminally underusing Vincent Price in a role he could have slept through, and, at times, that's just what he appears to be doing.
So, maybe this doesn't work as a zombie film per se, but I'd still say it works overall. The film is goofy, and I wouldn't rank it nearly as high as An American Werewolf in London or the Evil Dead movies when it comes to horror comedies, but it's overall pretty damn fun.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Weekly Movie Night 4

[Spoiler warning! I normally try to avoid giving away too much information about a movie, but this weeks "film", Mindhunters, requires I spend a bit of time going into detail about the ending. If your at all interested in this movie, and want to be surprised by the climax, I advise you to skip this entire post. Actually, I'd advise you to skip this movie altogether.]

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog(I'm sure those people exist) may remember during my post on Nightmare on Elm Street that I expressed distaste for Finnish filmmaker Renny Harlin. His films usually start out promisingly enough, but devolve continuously until they resemble made-for-basic-cable cheapies and sub-Bruckheimer action drivel. I'm maybe being too harsh on the man, and somewhere in his oeuvre he may have a few good films, but everything I've seen leads me to believe that isn't the case. The one film of his I do actively enjoy, Nightmare 4, is still only the 4th or 5th best in the series. All of his films have a generally sound idea. Not genius or inspired, but certainly the groundwork for a fun, pulpy good time. Long Kiss Goodnight? Perfect opportunity for some hard-boiled nasty fun, is instead a fairly by-the-book action movie with most, if not all, entertainment coming from Samuel L. Jackson.

It's pretty much the same story for Mindhunters, but minus the Samuel Jackson. So logically, minus the entertainment. Like The Matrix without the special effects, or a root canal without the Novocaine. Mindhunters is one of the most offensively brainless movies I've seen in the past few years. To be fair, though, my movie watching has decreased markedly since having a child 3 years ago, so there are probably a few more brainless movies out there. Case in point; I haven't seen a single Uwe Boll movement. I mean movie.

Mindhunters started out promisingly, with another great, pulpy concept involving a group of FBI profilers on an island for a training mission running into a serial killer who is profiling them. And, for the first part of the film I let my inhibitions go and just went with the film, even once the incredibly ludicrous killings started. There was some poor, post-silence of the lambs back story for the heroine, and a bit of angsty character development for everyone, but I ignored it for the most part. The thing is, the film didn't really capitalize on any of it's potential, and never improved after the opening, rather it coasted slowly down to earth, sinking a little lower with each minute.

Realism isn't necessarily something you expect from a movie of this nature, but in the age of crime procedurals and CSI franchises, audiences are a little more sophisticated and require some more convincing explanation when it comes to the science of murder. This may not technically be the fault of the filmmakers, since this one was filmed back in 2002, back in the days of only one CSI, and they maybe thought they could get away with flubbing some of it.

One thing that isn't forgivable, however, is the twist ending to the film, which soured my entire tolerance of the preceding hour and a half. It's actually something that bothers me a lot these days; the twist ending. Why does every film feel it needs a dramatic reversal of expectations in the last 5 minutes to leave an impact? I blame the 90s boom of Seven, Fight Club and the 6th Sense. It's not enough to tell a good story, now the filmmaker has to try and fool the audience. When this works, it's usually because the clues are laid out through the film, so that once you've seen the ending, it seems obvious in retrospect. When it fails, it's because the ending comes out of nowhere and feels like the filmmakers have been basically playing an extended practical joke on you. Can you guess which one Mindhunters falls into?

I expected a surprise reveal of the villain, and I'm happy to say that it originally wasn't who I thought it would be. I say originally, because 5 minutes after revealing the villain, and having him kill a character and speechify about how and why he did it, they pull a switcheroo and reveal that he WASN'T the killer, and the guy you kinda expected all along was actually the one who did it. Now, keep in mind that this false killer killed someone, and stalked and brutally beat our heroine before the reveal that he wasn't the serial killer. And then he saves her from the real killer, and all is forgiven. In fact, it isn't mentioned again as they ride off into the sunrise together in that vaguely romantic way that all male/female action movies end. BUT HE ACTUALLY ADMITS TO THE CRIMES!!!

If anyone watches this film, or has seen it already, can you please explain this to me? Did I black out for a few minutes that were incredibly crucial to this development? Did Renny Harlin forget to take one of the alternate endings out of the film? Because any way I look at it just pisses me off.