Devils of War (2013): Get Ze Cliche

Unknown

Written and directed by Eli Dorsey, Devils of War is his first feature film. One can only hope that he has learned his lesson with this film and either changes his career choice or makes a better feature film next time.

Starring Sunt Coordinator/stuntman Jerry L Buxbaum as the “legendary” leader of a four man team that is, unsurprisingly, full of three more “legendary” men. Buxbaum can be said to be the biggest name in the film. His elite team has been tasked by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) himself to extract a mole from the occult headquarters of Hitlers paranormal Nazi division.

In a race against time and demons, the small squad must rescue the mole and stop evil from winning the war.

I am sure that this must have seemed like a good idea on paper. Hell, just re-reading my short synopsis of the film makes it sound better than it actually is.

There is no doubt in my mind that this film was most likely intended to be a parody or a satire of old war films like The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone but with a supernatural twist. Unfortunately the film is so bad, it isn’t funny. It is just horrendously awful.

The lines are leaden and so full of stereotypical clichés that it hurts the ears to listen to them. The acting is so wooden that a tinker-toy could have acted rings around any chosen member of the cast. The story, which as I said above, wouldn’t be bad except for the dodgy effects, plot holes, poor cinematography, ridiculous script and bad acting, could be a good one

I will say that there are a couple of instances where the special FX is fairly impressive, but only in a couple of places does it rise above mediocre. The explosions are obviously CGI as well as some of the sets. Again, I had the feeling that this “obvious” CG schtick was on purpose as part of the “gag.” It just doesn’t work.

From obvious clinkers like the lead character referring to an aluminium warehouse as a castle and the actors playing the Nazi occult specialist Thorn and the two scientists looking like the geeks that hang around the Radio Shack store or PC World in the 21st century, this film was so bad I felt cheated at the purchase price of three pounds sterling (or about 5 bucks).

I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!
I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!

There were some laughably bad lines (generally from the Nazi members of the cast) that did bring the odd snort of laughter from me while watching. Lines like: “Get ze Girl!” and “Bring me ze virgin.” Not to mention, “She got avay.”

Sure, we know that “movie German’s say Zis und zat, und ze, but not quite zo cartoonish-ly.

I could write on for another 500 words about how bad this film actually is, but, I will stop fairly quickly. I don’t want to run this into the ground here. I do want to point out that with the availability of digital equipment that is being used widely in the Independent market right now, there was no reason for the film to look bad as well.

Amazingly, IMDb gave this film a score of 2.8! I can only assume that Dorsey or someone on the production side of things handed a few bucks under the table to give the movie some kind of score.

My final verdict is not 2, not 1, not any stars out of 5. I can only feel that this film might find an audience amongst the more “drug induced” viewers. Because the only way that this film could be entertaining would be if the target demographic was the “high-as-a-kite” clubs of the world.

Avoid at all cost and if it is offered to you for free?

Pay to watch another film!

The "tip-off" should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a "Cult Classic" on the cover!
The “tip-off” should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a “Cult Classic” on the cover!

The Corridor (2010): Canadian Chill at its Finest

Unknown

The Corridor is Evan Kelly‘s first feature film, although he has a good list of films that he has been assistant director on and he directed a short filmQuality Viewing in 2002. Despite the fact that it appears he’s not done anything recently I expect great things from this director.

Amazingly this film was so low-key that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. *Surely this more than anything else shows how the world has moved into the internet verse of informative websites.*   There is not a whole lot of information on IMDb either. The only information that one can glean from this site is that is was shot in 2010 and not released until 2012.

Due to the lack of budget and box office information, I am guessing that the film was released straight to DVD. After watching it I could only ask why? Was the film so outside the box that the production company or the producers could not figure out how to market the film? What ever the reason, it is ridiculous that this film is so unknown.

The guys still don't quite trust Tyler.
The guys still don’t quite trust Tyler.

The Cast:

Stephen Chambers
Tyler Crawley
James Gilbert
Everett Manette
David Patrick Flemming
Chris Comeau
Matthew Amyotte
Robert ‘Bobcat’ Comeau
Glen Matthews
Jim ‘Huggs’ Huggan
Mary-Colin Chisholm
Pauline Crawley

*Courtesy of IMDb.*

The Plot:

The film starts with a “freaked out” Tyler hiding in a hallway closet. He is looking at an apparently dead woman on the floor in front of him outside the closet. His roommates come into the hallway and when they find the body, Tyler comes out of hiding waving a knife and  slashes one friend on the face and stabs another through the hand. An unspecified time later, all of the men get together to scatter the woman’s ashes (her name was Pauline and she was Tyler’s mother) at a cabin deep in the woods.

The corridor...
The corridor…

The Device:

A corridor that “magically” appears in the forest when Tyler scatters Pauline’s ashes. As he is alone when this happens and he suffers from schizophrenia and is on “heavy” medication he doesn’t think it is real. He talks his friends into investigating this phenomenon and they  all get affected by this corridor.

The Twist:

The one who survives to the end of the movie isn’t who you think it will be.

The Verdict:

This film was complex and very intertwined. If you didn’t pay attention, you would miss something. However, it is clever and well constructed. There is not a lot of blood and gore so if you’re expecting a tribute to Takashi Miike you’ll be disappointed. But if you like films that are thoughtful, slow-burning, and different; this film is for you. I was genuinely surprised at the ending and after watching it I put in on my list of favourites

The Score:

This is a chilly 4 stars out of 5. It would have gotten a full 5 but there are bits in the film that are confusing. But the entire premise and the way that Evans presents it drives the score up. I really don’t know why they waited 2 years to release this film, but I’m glad that they finally did.

*I’m still playing around with the format here. Thanks.*

Tyler "freaking out."
Tyler “freaking out.”

Predators 2010: Get to the Spaceship…

Okay, so I decided to ring in the changes of the New Year by having a mini-movie-marathon. It all started with catching the still amazing Jurassic Park on television. That put me in the mood for movies I had not seen in a while. So I popped in Predators and the Blu-ray special edition of Battle Royale (Game ober). On a side note, I was on Battle Royale when the clock struck twelve so I paused it (a pretty painful thing to do, because I love that film) and watched my neighbour’s fireworks for about an hour.

Waking up today I wanted to talk about Predators and why, as a sequel, it disappointed me a little. I also wanted to say how I felt  about the film and the fact that nobody says, “Get to the spaceship!”

*just kidding about the spaceship part, although that would have been cool*

According to Wikipedia, Robert Rodriguez wrote the screenplay for Predators way back when he was doing Desperado. The article goes on to say that the studio was not impressed with the possible big budget that the film would require and passed. Fast forward to a time when Rodriguez is now damn near a “brand name” in Tinsel Town and he gets the green light.

Unfortunately, Rob decides not to direct the film (which in my opinion kills the movie right off the bat) and instead opts to produce it and hires Nimród Antal to direct the film.

Nimrod Antal, director.

Now it’s probably just me, but, I cannot for one minute take anyone seriously who has the name, “Nimrod.” Just cannot do it. When I was a teen, a nimrod was slang for an idiot. Phrases like: “Way to go, ya nimrod!” or “Jeeze, what a nimrod!” springs to mind every time I hear this guy’s name. Not an overly auspicious start there Robert.

I mean don’t get me wrong, Antal has proven himself to be a more than capable director. He helmed the very respectable (and damned good) Vacancy but one great little film does not a great director make. Now take into consideration that he’s only directed one other film since Predators and you’ll see that I am not alone in my feelings about Nimrod (and oh boy the urge to pun right there is killing me).

Still, let us take a look at the film over all. Starting with the cast, courtesy of IMDb:

Adrien Brody

Royce
Topher Grace

Edwin
Alice Braga

Isabelle
Walton Goggins

Stans
Oleg Taktarov

Nikolai
Laurence Fishburne

Noland
Danny Trejo

Cuchillo
Louis Ozawa Changchien

Hanzo
Mahershala Ali

Mombasa (as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali)

The first three names in the cast list are good solid actors who usually bring a lot to a role. Then further down the list you have the one, the only, Laurence Fishburne (in arguably the best role in the film) and good old Danny Trejo (a Rodriguez favourite). Everyone else on the cast list might not be in the same calibre as the first three actors and Mr Fishburne but they are pretty well-known and more than capable at their chosen craft.

On a side note, hasn’t Mahershala Ali bulked up a lot since his The 4400 days. The man has been putting in some serious overtime at his gym.

The shooting locations were in Hawaii, brilliant choice if I might be allowed to give my humble opinion, with the interiors shot in Rodriguez’s Texas studios (for tax reasons) so the film looked great in terms of location. *I do have to mention that some exterior scenes were shot in Texas as well, so apart from generating the rather alien Bush family, the state can produce some great “alien” looking scenery.*

The story is…functional. In a nutshell the plot is, people are air dropped into a jungle. The people, except for one unfortunate whose chute doesn’t open, are all killers who band together to find out where they are, why they are there, and how to get out. One of them (like the old Sesame Street Shtick, “One of these things is not like the other…”) does not apparently fit into to the little group of murderous professionals, Topher Grace is a doctor and, amazingly, no one questions why he is there. Just goes to show, you do not have to be deep to be a professional killer.

Brody’s character seems to be quite a few jumps ahead of his new colleagues and he figures out very quickly that they are on a “game preserve” and they are the “game.” And therein lies the problem with Predators, the applicable part of the prior statement is “very quickly.”

It’s all too “very quickly” in terms of everything. It is just too fast. Admittedly this makes a better sequel to the Schwarzenegger original than Predator 2, but only just. And only because the action takes place in the jungle with a lot of muscular men (and one woman) with loads of ammo and weapons. But the speed at which the film moves is almost dizzying and it definitely doesn’t allow any time at all for character development.

“Character development?” I hear you cry, it’s an action adventure science fiction film! What character development? I will almost accept that as a trade-off, of course the action and adventure and the science fiction should be first in a film like this, but not at the detriment to the characters portrayed. The original Predator had Schwarzenegger and a load of body building pals in it and they just managed to not be cardboard cut-outs in their roles, so why can’t Predators do the same.

It all revolves around the plot and the “feel” of the film. The original was a movie that started out as a straight forward action feature that suddenly and sharply took a left turn into science fiction land. It worked brilliantly and the pacing was spot on.

Predators never starts out as anything but a science fiction film. From the second that the parachute release mechanism on Brody’s chest starts to flash lights and make beeping noises, we know…it is the future; instant “sci fi” and no mistake about it. But hey, that’s not a problem. It’s still salvageable; they can still make that left turn up ahead, the one that will make this movie great instead of merely good.

Larry Fishburne, saviour as fruit-loop…

But they missed the turn off and instead of veering off into a fascinating new direction, we are given a crazy survivor scene with a plot twist of the predators actually being two species instead of one and they don’t get along. So now we have Larry Fishburne knocking it out of the park as the nutty-as-a-fruitcake survivor who talks to folks who aren’t there and is as deadly as the predators and a great plot device to help our “heroes” get out of Dodge alive.

This all leads into a “twist” to the story that was not a twist at all. It also leads into a “touching moment” and an almost Schwarzenegger ending.

There are a few nods and winks to the original, there is a Hispanic female character, a mini-gun and a “boar like” creature (or more) and it’s set in a jungle. Pretty cool, but it just doesn’t have the panache to make it fun.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do like this film. So much so that I own a DVD of it and still drag it out occasionally to watch. But I don’t love it. If I did, I would own a Blu-ray copy of the film and watch it a lot. Each time I put the film on and watch it, I think the same two things; what if Rodriguez had directed it and I really want someone to say, “Get to the spaceship!”

Some of the main cast plus director and producer.

Stranded aka Djinns (2010): Desert Deja Vu?

Djinns (film)

That this French film made little to no impact on the world of cinema is evident by the overwhelming lack of information on the internet. Both IMDb and Wikipedia have very short ‘blurbs’ on the film apart from a shorthand version of the story/plot and a cast list.

I can’t really understand why. It is a decent enough film in a small niche market of military horror. Yes, it has been done before and arguably better.

The South Koreans with the brilliant (and in my humble opinion the best of the lot) R-Point in 2004 followed closely by the 2008 film The Guard Post. Not only has Korea created this cross-genre but by making two military-horror films one after the other seems  to prove that they have mastered this niche genre.

The UK brought out Deathwatch in 2002 and Stranded reminded me of the film with the choice of colours and the muted desert tones that pervade the film. A not too dissimilar plotline and cast of characters  made the film  seem a bit  like a distant cousin to Deathwatch.

Written and directed by Hugues Martin, and Sandra Martin, Stranded is  the maiden voyage for the both of them and they acquit themselves well. The actors were mostly unknown to me as I am not a huge French film fan. I did recognise Cyril Raffaelli who is perhaps better known as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. He played the lead role in Luc Besson’s excellent District 13 and the sequel District 13: Ultimatum (Cyril was the stunt choreographer for both films) and he was a ‘baddy’ in Die Hard 4.0.

The film opens with a lone figure in a military uniform staggering down a highway surrounded by desert. The figure is carrying an aluminium briefcase with a handcuff on it. At one point he fires his weapon, an SMG, wildly and then collapses. He is rescued by more French military personnel and they begin to question him about the briefcase and where the rest of his squad is.

One week before the survivor along with the rest of his squad were sent out into the desert to find an airplane that had crashed and to look for any passengers who might still be alive. The squad have all been together for a while except for the newest member who was recently drafted into the military. This newcomer is Michel (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) and he has brought along a spring operated cine camera to film their desert search for the missing plane.

Once the squad have found the plane, they find all the bodies bar two and an aluminium briefcase that has been handcuffed to one of the passengers. Vacard (Thierry Frémont) hacks the dead man’s hand off to take possession of the case. Thierry plays Vacard with a mix of cold professionalism with just a hint (at first) of homicidal madness that really makes him stand out in the film.

After the men have collected the corpses from the plane Michel  arranges his comrades around the area and he starts directing and  filming them. Just as he gets started one of the men is shot and the remaining squad members take cover and begin returning fire.

Vacard kills one of the attackers and the men take advantage of this to escape the plane and head off into the desert. A sandstorm blows in and slows down their escape and hinders the attackers from following them easily. While they have camped for the night during the storm Ballant (Emmanuel Bonami) appears to be approached by some almost invisible creature.

Michel witnesses this and he watches as Ballant tries to steal the briefcase and after failing he wanders off into the storm.  While the squad are looking for Ballant the stumble across a village. The men enter the village and round-up all the occupants accidentally killing a girl in the process.

Michel is approached by the village’s ‘holy woman’ and she tell him that he can see the Djinn (creatures of the desert) and that he has been marked as a ‘holy man.’

Since the film was originally titled Djinns it is no real surprise when these desert creatures start taking over and influencing the dwindling number of French soldiers.

The film was atmospheric, moody and slightly eerie. The actors all did a good job and there was a plot twist at the end. So really I don’t get why it was so poorly received. I felt it was entertaining, if not too original, but to be fair there were only a few military-horror films that  came out prior to this film’s release.

I would recommend seeing it just because it does entertain well. It got a little confusing at one point, but that’s because I stopped reading the subtitles while I answered an email or two. It did not spoil the film, however, and I soon picked the loose plot thread back up.

It is currently on show via LOVEFILM in the UK and I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find in a film rental shop.

My final verdict is that despite the initial poor reception, it’s definitely worth a watch. Even if you don’t get to see Cyril Raffaelli do any smooth parkour moves.

District 13: Ultimatum
District 13: Ultimatum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

X-Cross (2007): Good Time Horror Film

While I was on the comedy horror train with my last review of Lobos de Arga (can you tell that I love that film) I thought of another rib tickling comedy J-horror. X-Cross.

Now X-Cross or XX or (ekusu kurosu): makyô densetsu [original title] were all made in 2007, because they are the same film! Get it? We picked up the X-Cross DVD for a song at CEX after I’d been steadfastly ignoring it on the net.

It looked like a sort of mish-mash of soft-porn and horror that just did not interest me at all. But for the ridiculously low price of 3 pounds sterling, it was worth a look. Only after buying it did I realize the the guy who directed Battle Royale 2, Kenta Fukasaku had also directed this.

Now considering that I think the ending of Battle Royale 2 is not only pants, but pants squared and is so bad that I stop the film before it gets to the ‘Kenta’ end preferring that part of the movie to be the real end. Sad I know and on par with Marge Simpson eating the Bambi video tape rather than letting the kids see Bambi’s mom get shot…Oops! I hope I didn’t spoil that for you! I still decided to give the movie a go and I was glad I did.

Tetsuya Oishi wrote the screenplay taken from the novel written by Nobuyuki Jôkô. The film is classed in the ‘action horror’ genre and it does indeed fall into that realm of film, but what the DVD case won’t tell you (unlike IMDb which does tack comedy on the end of their description) is that the film is incredibly funny.

The film opens with a mobile phone (cell phone) vibrating and ringing in a closet. A girl looks in the closet and seeing the phone answers it. A man’s voice is heard and due to the poor signal his voice is broken and unclear. What is clear is that he is excited or upset. The girl takes the phone out of the closet and holds it near a window where the signal improves. The phone rings again and when she answers a mans voice tells her to, “get out of there! They’re going to cut off your leg!”

At that point someone starts banging on her cabin door. The film then ‘rewinds’ and shows us how this particular girl got here in the story and where the mobile phone came from. We also find out what happened to the mobile phone’s owner and it’s not good.

This ‘out-of-sequence’ and rewinding the action to show a previous event or even another one, is used throughout the entire film.

Shiyori (Nao Matsushita) and Aiko (Ami Suzuki) are driving along a remote and seemingly deserted mountain road in search of a hot springs resort that they have booked cabins at. Coming out of a tunnel they almost run down a woman standing in the middle of the road.

The scope of the film seems ever-expanding as more and more peripheral characters are introduced and then seemingly forgotten only to turn up later on in the film. We see things from Shiyori and then Aiko’s perspective  and like the rewinding time aspect at the beginning of the film, the timelines go all over the place. It is easy to get confused about just what is going on. The film is separated into chapters that (like a Tarantino film) have short descriptions of the chapter.

But if you hang in there and don’t let the screwy timelines or the rewinding time feature frustrate you, the movie will entertain you and make you laugh and jump.