Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jay's Review: Last Of The Living

a review, this time it's an end-of-the-world frolic from New Zealand! Check it out!



A deadly virus has turned humankind into flesh-eating zombies, slackers Morgan, Ash, and Johnny spend their days lounging in their skivvies, drifting from one vacant house to another. When the three stumble upon a hot girl who may have a cure for the outbreak, the three decide it's finally time to step up to the plate and save the world - and the girl. Zomedy fans will unite for this campy, "breakneck zombie film that injects a high dose of hilarity!" (Revenant Magazine)

Zombie movies have been done to death (pardon the pun) by this point. Serious horror, mockumentary, and the "zomedy," they maintain to make some statement on society while simultaneously being an excellent excuse to exercise our desire to kick the crap out of one another. Last of the Living has shades of 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead as a trio of slackers play "band of survivors," bantering cute while making their way through the zombie hordes.

We've seen it all before. The red-eyes crazies, shuffling hordes, the abandoned cityscapes and shopping malls. Thankfully, Last of the Living starts out keeping it pretty light (even if, in the end, an apocalypse is never a bubbly affair). The low-budget and sense of "friends getting together to make a movie" actually works in the film's favor here (Watch for the child zombie who can't contain his grinning). There's a sense of humor in almost every New Zealand horror film I've seen, from Dead Alive to Body Melt, and it's present here, greasing the wheels for the character scenes, if not always informing the gore bits. As you can expect the boys argue amongst themselves more than they fight to survive, and adding a smart, no-nonsense-type girl to the mix only increases our heroes bumbling over one another. One thing you can note is that he transient, slacker lifestyle would seem to mesh nicely with that of the Zombie-fighters. I started out cynical and wound up engaged, which is alright by me.

The disc offers the trailer for the film and a seven-minute-plus "Cast Interview" featurette where they discuss the making of the film. There's no audio or subtitle options.


An amiable buddy-flick, Last of the Living is low-budget horror suitable for a night with friends. Not rated, but possibly too gory for the teens, though. Charming, but it's time for a zombie moratorium.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Jay's Review: Night Watcher sent me this lovely little number... better'n I expected...


Following the unexpected suicide of her mother, Angela finds comfort in her new friendship with Brian. One day she receives a terrifying package containing a voyeuristic tape. The tape chronicles her mother's final days and reveals that someone had been following... watching... stalking her. As the death toll around town rises, it becomes clear that this is no mere coincidence. The deaths were thought to be suicides, but the truth is far worse.

Night Watcher
has a terrific aesthetic, full of blown-out lighting and stylized editing, and I‘d love to see what the production team could do with a bigger budget. It also has what looks to be an unusually soft and muddy transfer to DVD. However, when the reviewer opens with how the movie looks, you know what's coming next.

This one is something of a throwback to Scream and the rest of the 90's "Attractive Teens in Peril" movies. A pair of High School students meet in a support group for people losing family members to suicide. When they compare a set of mysterious videotapes of her mother and his father before their deaths, they quickly make some perilous leaps of logic and unwisely ignore involving the cops as they try and piece together the mystery of who's staging suicides.

Night Watcher would be a more engaging film if it wasn't the type of low-budget, small cast production where the instant characters appear you can label them "Killer," "Red Herring," or "Victim." Call it "I Know What You Did Last Summer Because There Only Seems To Be 7 or 8 People In This Whole Flick." The pace is a little leisurely, but the style of the film makes that quite tolerable. With limited blood, only one fairly graphic murder scene, and a little topless action, this one is a fairly light R.

Trailers for Reborn, Summer's Moon, The Last Resort, and a cracking good one for Night Watcher itself. The disc has a set of 8 deleted/extended scenes collection with optional commentary by director Will Gordh. Presented in Widescreen in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, the film also has optional English and Spanish subtitles.


Nothing you haven't seen before, Night Watcher at least gets points for style. A fairly reserved slasher flick with a hint of flasher in it, it's a stylish throwback to the 90s spawns of Scream. A popcorn flick perfect for people who don't watch many murder mysteries, but not that memorable.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jay's Review: The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter

I I got a foursome of reviews up at Check 'em out, why don't you?


The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
is a hauntingly unique retelling of the notorious Manson Family Murders. With original Mason Family music recordings, rare vintage photos of the story's major players, and never-before-seen autopsy reports, viewers are taken on an insightful exploration of over 40 key locations associated with the spree that rocked Los Angeles - and shocked the world - in August 1969.


The story of seven murdered people, one a glamorous movie star, and the cult who killed them is well known to most people whether you were to seek it out or not. For those who were alive in 1969 and everyone who came after, the Manson family “Helter Skelter” murders are a sad, fascinating cultural touchstone.

This documentary is a pile of scraps, skirting the periphery of the events that made up "Helter Skelter." The narrator and host, Scott Michaels, is the owner of and Dearly Departed Tours, and is a celebrity death aficionado. This should give you an idea of the caliber of this documentary. He calls living in LA being in the "Set" of where it all took place. That's not a healthy point of view. This documentary is practically a Dearly Departed Tour - be it the Ranch or stops by the homes of Patty Duke and Mama Cass. Morbid and bland. There's meanderings into Dennis Wilson's encounters with The Family, a visit to Jay Sebring’s house that’s apropos of nothing, and a trip to the Spahn ranch so we can be shown hubcaps laying on the ground. There's something sad about visiting a rock because it was the location of a Mason follower photograph. It’s the groupie behavior of morbid Fanboys.

The ghoulish pouring over of autopsy files and death scene photos make this is especially lurid and exploitive. Big, full-color blow-up photos of the naked, bloody Sharon Tate and Leno LaBianca's carved torso shown repeatedly aren't educational in this context. An aside about a gas station also being where James Dean last gassed up only makes you think "you're really reaching now." It’s also somewhat dull as it covers the events up to the arrests of The Family through field-trips and free-association.

This ground has been covered a million times before, and half of those were on television and narrated by Bill Kurtis. If you’ve seen those, you’ve pretty much seen this.

None, beyond chapter selection. Presented in widescreen and Not Rated but obviously not for kids.

Tacky, reprehensible in places, and not that engaging, Six Degrees of Helter Skelter is a collection of dross around the sidelines of the tragedies of 1969 and only informative to those who new to these events. But you have to wonder, must every little ephemeral connection be examined and belabored? I think not. If you want to learn about some trivia surrounding the crimes, feel free. But if you don't wind up alienated or bored, you'll want to wash the sleaze off afterwards.


El Stinkero!

Jay's Review: Summer's Moon

Part of my recent four-pack of reviews over at, this one features a Twilight star and a lot of ick...



Eager to find her estranged father, Summer sets out on a cross-country journey and is soon rescued from a slight run-in with the law by a local handyman. It's an unusual connection, but she is quickly charmed and accepts his invitation to spend the night. Knocked unconscious, she awakes the next morning to find herself trapped in the basement. Now taken prisoner, Summer's dream has come to a bitter end and her real-life nightmare has only just begun.

Summer's Moon
is probably most notable for how many "Summer's Eve" jokes it'll drive you towards. A jumbled mess of parts of The Collector, Motel Hell, Silence of the Lambs, and every back-woods crazy killer-family flick out over the last 10 years, I don't think I've ever been more bored by a jumbled story of incest, serial killing, and familial secrets.

When our unlikable heroine winds up falling afoul of a creepy mother-son murderin' duo, this glacial slab of a story slowly starts to move. Meandering from basement-captive "Garden Angels" to a "Stockholm Syndrome" go-along-to-get-along kidnap victim, Summer's Moon culminates in a final grand "family that slays together" third act. After the meandering A-story, there's a B-story of a father trying to find his kidnapped daughter (their previous captive) but it's more of an F as it barely registers.

Things also stay pretty predictable with this film. You know where they're heading about 20 minutes before they get there. You're a little nauseated by the idea, but no worries. By the time you get to the big reveal, you'll be too bored to barf. The lead actress is wooden and the actors playing the killers overact the "Calmly Crazy" shtick. The only thing really striking about this film is the cinematography and score. It looks and sounds much better than it has any right to.

There is a nearly 9 minute long Behind the Scenes Featurette (where they describe themselves as "not a horror movie.") Trailers for Summer's Moon, Night Watcher, Reborn, The Last Resort, the Ghost House Underground series (Thaw, The Children, Offspring, and Seventh Moon) . The film is presented in Widescreen format with English Dolby 5.1 Digital Audio. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.


Slow-paced and overlong at 91 minutes, Summer's Moon is a bit of an over-baked Southern Gothic. You'll be two steps ahead of the plot, then nauseated. There's really little here to recommend beyond the cinematography.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jay's Review: Mirageman

A super-hero yarn of questionable heroism is the subject of my latest review on Check it out, why don't you?


Maco, a young man orphaned after his parents and surviving younger brother were brutally attacked, lives a solitary life as a nightclub security guard. One day, he intervenes in a violent robbery, rescuing a television reporter who later reports on her masked hero. Hearing of this new superhero, Maco's institutionalized brother's mental health improves. Encouraged by this improvement, Maco takes on the secret life of the superhero known as Mirageman.


reminds one of nothing so much as an old 1970s TV show, particularly the live action Spider-man complete with montages of standing and striking poses in between beating bad-guys to "bow chicka wow" music. Cheesy and off-kilter, this is a Chilean superhero origin story filled with stagy martial arts and telegraphed plot points, it features the story of a crime victim who's withdrawn into learning martial arts in order to, one would assume, compensate for that event in his life.

Complete with a Lois Lane-like girl reporter he repeatedly saves from crime and a withdrawn little brother who needs inspiring, this is a pretty basic superhero “origin” arc. He saves her from criminals and sees that her report helps his brother start to emerge from his shell. There begins the birth of a hero. Fighting purse-snatchers and child-grabbers, Mirageman becomes a folk hero.

There’s an awkward tone that comes from this which really keeps the whole film off-kilter and stilted. There's some tongue-in-cheek moments involving costumes then reality to some of the physical repercussions of combat. The other problem is it's just not that engaging. The fights are either painfully choreographed or these are some polite and patient "wait yer turn"-type criminals. The lead is an amazingly fit fighter but humorless; nearly a cypher. His brooding blankness conflicts with humorous “Magazine cover” montages and the comic-relief “Pseudo-Robin” character. The visuals want to be inspired one moment but wind up dull the next. Also for a martial arts film, the pacing is glacial in places. Towards the end, this for the most part "light" film gets a little heavy on the gunplay and one VERY non-heroic bit of knife-play, which are always a point of contention for superheroes.

It’s a fun enough B-movie, but there’s not much “there” there. However, if made 20 years ago, it would have totally starred Dolph Lundgren...

The disc includes trailers for Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, Not Quite Hollywood, The Canyon, and the HDNET television network. There is also a three minute "Behind the Scenes of Mirageman" featurette, focusing on fight-scene choreography. Audio is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 Original Spanish or English Dubbed Dolby and Subtitles in both English and "English Narrative," which seems to only translate Spanish text shown in the film but not the dialogue . The film itself is 86 minutes and presented in a Widescreen format.


is a predictable comic book movie that seems less dynamic than an actual comic book would. It’s fairly harmless for teens on up and does have humor ready-made for a night with the guys. You’ll just be wishing this superhero was more inspired by his “origin story” and more inspiring in his first film.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jay's Review: Angel and the Badman (2009) VERY overdue review that finally got turned into Have you been there lately? The fact that they publish me is only one of the reasons they're such a great site. Check 'em out!



This John Wayne remake tells the story of a notorious gunfighter, Quirt Evans (Lou Diamond Phillips), who is wounded and seeks shelter with a Quaker family. Attracted to the family's beautiful, loving, and widowed daughter Temperance (Deborah Kara Unger), the hard-bitten gunfighter is transformed from a man with a history of violence into a man of peace. Unfortunately, the leader of the outlaws, Laredo (Luke Perry), won't let his past die.


I've never seen the original version of Angel and the Badman, so I was able to come to this film with fresh eyes. In fact, my experience with John Wayne films and Westerns in general is pretty minimal, so when I do watch them they're always pretty fresh to me.

Our wounded "Bad Man," Quirt, suffering from a gunshot wound, winds up at the house of a Quaker family and nursed by Temperance, begins to find inner peace. (The fact that they seem to have pretty good sexual chemistry doesn't hurt any, either.) While he fights it and his life of crime slowly catches up to him, it's pretty obvious how things will turn out in the end.

The casting here is decent. Lou Diamond Phillips and Deborah Kara Unger are two very talented actors who never seem to get the high profile work that often. They star in the roles of a gunslinger and the daughter of a Quaker played by Wayne and Jane Russell in the original movie. Unger is especially good here. She conveys tension and fear as a woman sure from the beginning this "Bad Man" is the right one for her. Known for her dangerous sex-bombs and damaged characters in films like Crash and Whispers in the Dark, her simple Quaker was something of a surprise. Phillips is mostly hard when he needs to be and convincing as he opens up, but some of his lines sure die on the vine though.

The bad guy (as opposed to the "Bad Man") is played by Luke Perry. While serviceable enough, he still seems less hard and grizzled than Dylan McKay playing dress-up. He fits in with the ridiculously tidy Western settings and well-pressed "Working girls." There's moments of humor in with the occasional shoot-out and slow-burn romantic plot. I've read it hews pretty closely to the original version of the film and I wouldn't be a bit surprised. On the whole, Angel and the Badman is as old-fashioned and patient as courting. That's not a bad thing.


This was a screener copy. The disc should have English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo with Spanish subtitles. It's presented in Widescreen format.

Kind, clean, and classy - though not a classic - this remake of Angel and the Badman is just as family-friendly as one would expect from a Hallmark Channel production. It's not spicy, but it sticks to good-old fashioned western tropes. A throwback or one for the parents and grandparents, it's a very pleasant watch for a gray Fall afternoon.