BARE BONES: IRRATIONAL MAN, LAKE EERIE and LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS

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IRRATIONAL MAN (2015)

Odd flick from Woody Allen has philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to find meaning in his life. When an affair with a married member of the faculty, Rita (Parker Posey) and a relationship with one of his students, Jill (Emma Stone) doesn’t help, he decides to murder a judge who is about to rule on having a woman’s children taken from her. He thinks he has committed the perfect crime and done some good, when it all starts to unravel as both his lovers begin to figure out whodunit.

As per the plot synopsis, this is a weird flick from Allen who has kinda been on autopilot for quite a few years now. The film is intriguing and has some quirky and eccentric characters, but starts to unravel in it’s last act just as the professor’s plan does. The whole notion that mild mannered Abe would just commit a random murder to give his life some meaning is a bit out there, as it is. It also seems a little too far-fetched that it would be both his lovers that start to put the clues together and actually come to believe Abe committed the murder, as it seems equally ludicrous that he would so easily conclude that he had to do it again to keep his lady loves silent. It’s one of those movie’s were it seems to be taking itself very seriously, but would have worked far better as a comedy, which it’s not, though it feels like it should be. Would also love to see Allen, for once, make a film that didn’t involve upper class elitists, that might be refreshing, too.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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LAKE EERIE (2016)

Written by and starring Meredith Majors and directed by husband and co-star Chris Majors, this is a little horror that may be too ambitious for it’s own good. Film has artist and recent widow Kate (Meredith Majors) moving into an old lakeside house. No one has lived there since the previous owner disappeared in 1969 and soon Kate starts to witness weird phenomena. Her research into the house reveals that the previous owner was an archeologist (Chris Majors) who may have discovered an amulet that could open dimensional portals. His notes indicate he may have entered one of these portals in pursuit of a banished Egyptian princess…you read that right…and Kate teams with her neighbor’s niece (Anne Leigh Cooper) to find the doorway and finally free the missing explorer.

I appreciate trying to do something a little different than the routine haunting, but this flick gets a bit convoluted long before the credits roll. The story mixes a haunting flick with something out of Tomb Raider and it doesn’t quite mesh together. The acting is also questionable from our leads and one thinks the writing/directing/producing couple should maybe have left the performances to more experienced actors than multi-tasking here. The film also doesn’t have the budget to really portray it’s alternate dimension, so it goes the Insidious route with staging it in the house with different lighting. It worked in Wan’s film, but here it just looks cheap. There is some nice atmosphere early on, but once the story starts to go all Indiana Jones meets Amityville Horror, it looses it’s grip. Yes, the attempt to do something more original is certainly admirable, but here a simpler haunting story might have been easier to pull off on a small budget and easier to swallow by the audience. Also stars Betsy Baker, who was Linda in the original Evil Dead and the incomparable Lance Henriksen in a small part as Kate’s concerned dad.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS (2013)

Written by Micael Skvarla and directed by Matt Jackson, this is a fairly unremarkable and only mildly amusing horror comedy. The story has sisters Carla (Marissa Skell) and Marla (Gena Shaw) heading to a family getaway lodge to meet up with Carla’s fiancé Johnny (Jade Cater) who works there. Toxic chemicals dumped in a nearby lake start to turn the forest life and a few of the employees, including Johnny, into zombies. Now the girls and the survivors must band together and fight for their lives…oh, and there is a Sasquatch mixed in there, too.

Sure, the girls are hot and there is a lot of gore, but aside from having the zombified lodge employees dressed in Sasquatch costumes, this is another routine zombie outbreak comedy. Most of the humor falls flat and the acting and dialog are equally sub-par and that would be OK if the flick were witty and had more of a devious sense of fun, like the similar Zombeavers. There are a few amusing bits, but aside from an actual Sasquatch appearing in the last act to take on the zombified animals and people, there is little to set this flick apart from all the other by-the-numbers zombie comedies.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: BLADE II and BLADE: TRINITY

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 I am a big fan of the Blade film series and even enjoy the much maligned third entry and while each film is directed by a different director and has it’s own style, I do feel the second…my personal favorite…and the third, fit together far better as a double feature. Maybe it’s because the first is the most grounded of the three…if such can be said about a vampire movie which includes a ‘blood god’…and has the most down to earth directorial style. Either way, this is a fun double feature starring Wesley Snipes in one of his most famous roles and a role he fits quite well!

 

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BLADE II (2002)

In my opinion Blade II is the best of the Blade series and is certainly my personal favorite in the comic book-based trilogy. Second adventure of the half human, half vampire hero Blade (Wesley Snipes) finds him hunting down Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who has been taken and turned by the vampires. Upon finding him and using his serum to effect a cure, Blade is contacted by the vampire hierarchy…and asked for help. It seems a vampire mutation strain has evolved creating vicious creatures called Reapers, who hunt vampires much like they hunt humans. The vampires’ reasoning is that once the vampires are wiped out by the rapidly multiplying Reapers, they will turn on the humans that Blade protects. Why not work together to destroy a common foe? Now the vampire slayer must join forces with his mortal enemies in order to defeat a threat that makes even vampires afraid of the dark…but can he trust his new allies?

As directed by Guillermo del Toro, Blade II has a great visual style, some fierce, gory action, a cool cast of supporting characters, along with a nasty and very effective foe in the Reapers. Where the first Blade was an action film with horror elements, Blade II is a horror film with lots of action…win, win!  Under Del Toro’s guidance, the cast all bring vivid life to their comic book-style characters. Wesley Snipes really takes control of the Blade character at this point, no more evident than in the scene where he first meets ‘The Bloodpack’, a team of vampire commandos who’s sole purpose is to kill him, but now must work with him against the Reapers. “Can you blush?” Luke Goss is fierce and yet noble as the Reaper leader Jared Nomak, a monster with some interesting secrets. Kris Kristofferson is cantankerous, as always, as Blade’s partner, mentor and weapon’s maker, Whistler. Leonor Valera is the beautiful Nyssa, a vampire aristocrat and warrior who steals Blade’s heart, despite being of a species he’s sworn to destroy. And Ron Perlman is effective and entertaining, as usual, as Bloodpack member Reinhard who is not happy with Blade as an ally and would love to take him down first chance he gets.

Blade II is a really fun flick and gives us some great and gory action set pieces, as when Blade and The Bloodpack take on the Reapers in a vampire night club, again in the catacombs underneath the city and finally, the climactic three-way showdown between Blade, Nomak and some double crossing vampires in the vampire stronghold. A really fast paced, delightfully gory and very entertaining action/horror with Blade at his best. Also stars Norman “Daryl Dixon” Reedus as Blade’s new sidekick, Scud and Hong Kong legend, Donnie Yen…who also choreographed the fight action…as Bloodpack member, Snowman. A really good movie and the best of this fun and far too short-lived series.

3 and 1/2 fangs!

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BLADE:TRINITY (2004)

I always felt the third in the Blade series gets a bit of a bum rap. It is the lesser of the three and has it’s shares of problems, but I think, despite it’s flaws, it still has enough of what makes this comic book-based series fun and entertaining. Trinity finds the vampires, led by Danica Talos (Parker Posey), initiating their ‘end game’ which includes outing Blade (Wesley Snipes) and framing him in the public eye as a serial killer and locating and reviving Dracula (Dominic Purcell) himself, the very first and most powerful vampire, to kill Blade. Now not only must Blade battle the usual vampires, but Dracula…who goes by the name of Drake now…and the pursuing FBI agents who want to end his ‘killing spree’.  Blade has killed enough human familiars (vampire slaves) to qualify for their most wanted list. Hope is not lost as a vampire hunting team know as the Nightstalkers come to Blade’s aid and with them, their own ‘end game’, a virus known as Daystar that has the potential to wipe out the vampires for good. Are Blade and The Nightstalkers enough to take down the legendary Dracula and his vampire legions?

One of the problems with Blade:Trinity is that series writer David Goyer took the director’s reigns this time and his inexperience as a director gives the film, an uneven tone, an uneven pace and the editing is a bit choppy…though the longer running director’s cut is ironically a bit smother and a much better movie, in my opinion. The film is also a bit too obvious a set-up for a Nightstalkers spin-off and Blade shares the spotlight or takes a back seat a bit too often for the liking of series fans. There are a lot of good things about this flick too. There is still plenty of action, cool SPFX and gore and their are some very colorful villains like Posey, who is having an over the top good time as Danica Talos, WWE wrestler Triple H’s obnoxious vampire henchman Jarko Grimwood and Dominic Purcell’s soft-spoken warrior take on Dracula. As for the good guys, Snipes is cooler than cool as always and is once again solid as the Daywalker. His final confrontation with Drake/Dracula is a lot of fun and comes off as a superhero version of a final duel from an old Samurai flick. Jessica Biel is red hot as Abigail, Whistler’s daughter and one of the Nightstalkers. She is simply a badass and sexy vampire killer and she and Snipes work very well together and she gives her character some nice depth. Ryan Reynolds is fun as vampire hunter Hannibal King. He gets the best lines, though I will admit his joke cracking gets to be a bit much at times and you can actually believe Blade’s impatience with him. We also get Natasha Lyonne as a blind scientist aiding the Nightstalkers and the creator of the ‘Daystar’ virus. James Remar as an FBI agent determined to get Blade and John Michael Higgins as a vampire familiar…and let’s not forget the feisty and ornery Kris Kristofferson as Whistler.

Overall, I do enjoy this flick despite it’s flaws and I think there is a lot of fun to be had and it is still cool to watch Snipes in action as Blade. Biel and Reynolds do make a good pair and do work well with Snipes even if Reynolds’ King is a bit too much of an obnoxious smart-ass for his own good. There is plenty of action and some interesting ideas here, as well as, an original take on Dracula which is refreshing. Lesser of the series, yes…but not quite deserving of it’s overly negative reputation. If you haven’t seen it, give it a chance, cut it some slack and enjoy what may be Blade’s last cinematic adventure with Snipes as the character.

3 fangs!

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