Archive for Movie Journal

Year-End Movie Journal Dump

Star Trek Beyond
I liked the latest Star Trek movie.  I think.  I’m pretty sure anyway.  Is that the one with the…no, no, that’s the first one.  Oh, I know!  It’s the one where…no, that’s the second one.  Huh.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure I liked the third one.  If only I could remember anything about it.

2.5 / 5 bananas

Ghost in the Shell
It had been years since I’d watched this classic of the anime genre, and seeing the trailer for the new live-action remake starring ScarJo made me want to check it out again.  It truly is a beautiful film to look at, with set design that has become so influential it’s not even funny.  The story still feels a little scattershot for me, but the themes and ideas about personality and consciousness are still deep even though they’ve been tread by dozens of properties since the film’s initial release.  I’ve started watching the spin-off TV series, Stand-Alone Complex, which all the internet nerds say is 1000 times better, so I’m excited to see where that takes me.

4 /5 bananas

The Room
Listen, I loves me some so-bad-it’s-good cult classic movies, but I really couldn’t stand this film.  I get why it’s a cult classic, I just don’t think it’s necessarily earned that status.  There was not a single redeemable thing in this movie for me.  I was so annoyed by the ineptitude of the whole thing that I couldn’t even laugh at it.  I hated it and won’t be watching it again anytime soon.

.5 / 5 bananas

Sausage Party
Like a lot of R-rated comedies, I watched this one, I thought it was funny in the moment, but it quickly left my brain afterwards.  The underlying message about the dangers of religion is a thing I can get behind, and it was surprising to hear it from a bunch of talking food, but a week out from watching it, I don’t feel a great need to revisit it.  It’s fun, it’s definitely not safe for kids, but it’s also just a flash in the pan for me.

3 / 5 bananas

Swiss Army Man
I can absolutely understand why this film is going to make a lot of Top 10 lists this month.  Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano are amazing, helping the the writers/directors are able to pull off the strangest, most heart-warming buddy flicks ever made.  I really enjoyed this one and would have to agree that it’s one of my favorite flicks of the year.

4 /5 bananas

Amanda Knox
I have a vague memory of the hullabaloo surrounding the Amanda Knox trial when it occurred, but as someone who isn’t really into following salacious headlines, I never had an opinion one way or the other about whether or not she had killed her roommate in Italy.  However, watching this documentary was still very captivating and, in my opinion, pretty much exonerated her for the crimes she was accused.  It’s a horrifying look at how a person can get railroaded by a corrupt system with an agenda.

3 / 5 bananas

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
I’d been reading the rave reviews about this film for a while before I finally got the chance to check out this stark black-and-white horror film about a Muslim woman who, well, walks alone at night.  The twist is – she’s a vampire who kills the men who inevitably hassle (or worse) her.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see the same film the reviews saw.  I saw the seed of a great film, one that would be empowering for women of all nationalities and religions, if it had only been willing to see it’s horror roots through.

2.5 / 5 bananas

Return of the Living Dead
I hadn’t seen this campy zombie film in years, so it was fun to revisit it lately on a whim.  It’s still a ton of fun, still utterly ridiculous, still over-the-top and cheesy.

3.5 / 5 bananas

Cartel Land
I don’t even know where to start with this fascinating documentary about the violent, very political world of the Mexican war on drugs.  There are so many moral questions raised – Is it ok to take up arms to defend yourself and your community?  Or should you leave that responsibility to the powers that be, even if those powers are corrupt?  If it is ok, there clearly needs to be some type of system in place to ensure that those that become the target of such vigilantism are given a fair trial, or else the people are no better than the criminals.  But any system is made up of people, who can be corrupted through either money, fame, power, or fear, which inevitably leads back to a flawed system of checks-and-balances.  So how do you keep your mission true?  Or is that even possible?  My only complaint is that the filmmakers spent most of their time with Mexican militias, but not a lot with the American militias.  They include these groups briefly as a warning of “it could happen here”, but their mention is so sporadic and shallow that not everyone is going to see the parallels with the Mexican militias and their ultimate undoing.  Still, an amazingly engaging film.

4 / 5 bananas

Late Phases
This is a perfectly fine, low-budget werewolf movie that has quite a few similarities to the 1985 classic of the genre, Silver Bullet.  Essentially, man moves into small community, people start getting killed, he finds the werewolf in an unlikely place, he’s the only one who knows the truth so it’s up to him to defeat the beast.  Like I said, perfectly fine, but I probably won’t watch it again anytime soon.

2.5 / 5 bananas

Audrie & Daisy
As the father of a tween girl, I dread what’s going to happen once Instagram, Facebook, and (shiver) SnapChat become everyday parts of her vocabulary.  Once this happens, my wife and I need to sit our daughter down and have her watch this stirring documentary about rape in the era of social media.  And then when our son comes of age, we’ll have him watch it, too.  This true story of two girls who were victimized and then had it broadcast on social media, only to have their aggressors let off with a slap on the wrist, is a must-see for anyone raising kids today.  It will not only boil your blood, but simultaneously make it run cold.  A must-watch.

4 / 5 bananas

Martyrs
I listen to a really amazing podcast called The Faculty of Horror, hosted by two movie critics who analyze horror films from a feminist perspective.  Recently they reviewed two films from the New French Extremism sub-genre, one of which was Martyrs (the other was Calvaire).  I’d actually seen Martyrs before, but it had been a number of years and hearing the podcast’s utmost praise for it made me want to watch it again.  It’s a really brutal and effective film with a disturbing storyline that really digs into your psyche.  This is one of those films that an entire entry could be written about – and maybe one day I’ll get to it – but in the meantime, just know that it’s not for the faint of heart.  But if you like a little philosophical pondering with your bucket of blood, it’s worth checking out.

4 / 5 bananas

Black Christmas (1974)
I’ve been hearing about this film for years, but just now finally got around to watching it as we near Christmas 2016.  Now I understand all the hype.  This is a very effective, truly terrifying thiller.  There are moments of intentional levity and some of the performances are a little over-the-top, but the tension is high throughout, and the ending is so dark that it leaves you feeling anything but holly and/or jolly.

4 / 5 bananas

Keanu
I don’t really go in for sketch comedy shows, but what I have seen from comedy duo Key and Peele has been consistently funny.  And for me, Keanu was no exception.  The story of two men diving into the urban underground they are so clearly not a part of, just to get back a stolen kitten, had me laughing the whole time.  Mostly Key and his “Richard Pryor’s impersonation of a white man” persona kept me rolling, but everyone involved gets some great moments to shine.  I loved the absurdity, the heart, and the deep (albeit flawed) interpretation of the musical stylings of George Michael enough that I’d probably watch this one again, something I rarely say about comedies.

3.5 / 5 bananas

Suicide Squad
Oooh, boy.  Where do I begin?  Actually, I’m not even going to.  Everything negative that you could say about this film has already been said on countless websites, podcasts, and YouTube reviews.  I can say that sometimes it looked really cool, there were a few set pieces that, while dumb from a plot perspective, were fun to watch, and some of the performances were quite well done.  But for the most part, all the bad things everyone else has said are not baseless criticisms – they are all very, very based in reality.

2 / 5 bananas

Magic
Another classic that I am just now catching up on, Magic tells the tale of Corky, played by Anthony Hopkins, a magician/ventriloquist who has a very special relationship with his little wooden sidekick, Fats.  The film is pretty disturbing, mostly thanks to Hopkins’ performance.  With a lesser actor in the role, this film would have been a joke, but Hopkins’ ability to go from wild-eyed loon to dead-eyed milquetoast in an instant keeps the viewer on edge throughout. Also, how hot was Ann-Margaret?

3.5 / 5 bananas

House
I’d seen House years ago, back when it was in regular rotation on cable TV, but I didn’t remember anything about it, so it was fun to watch it again today.  The film tells the story of a young man who inherits his Great Aunt’s mansion, only to find that her death by suicide might not have been so cut-and-dry.  The “horror” here isn’t so scary – intentionally so – but has more of a Sam Raimi, Army of Darkness vibe to it, with plenty of laughs to go along with the slimy Lovecraftian creatures living in an alternate dimension inside the closet.  Is it a good film?  No.  But it was a fun ride to revisit and one worth admiring for it’s low-budget gumption and willingness to not take itself too seriously.

2 / 5 bananas

House II
Now the sequel is one I’d never seen, but I’m glad I took the chance.  The filmmakers really just embraced their B-movie roots with scenes played purely for comedy, ridiculous scenarios, garish performances, and crazy, creative ideas that could only work when you let go of logic.  By the time the end credits roll, a baby pterodactyl, an Aztec woman, a mummified cowboy, and a bizarre worm-dog puppy are all part of the main cast of characters.  The film is pure bonkers fun and is truly an underseen gem.

4 / 5 bananas

Don’t Breathe
Touted as one of the best horror films of the year, Don’t Breathe tells the story of three Detroit kids who rob houses in an effort to make enough money to get out of the dying city.  As with so many heist films, they come across a big score that would push them over the edge.  But they aren’t expecting the home’s blind occupant to be such a hard one to handle.  Mining as much tension as it can from being trapped inside a house of horrors, the film is a B-movie scenario that is beautifully shot, expertly directed, and incredibly raw.  There are some really great moments throughout that will keep any horror fan happy.  And if you like this one, I suggest you check out the similar, but even better Green Room.

4 / 5 bananas

 

 

 

The Film Journal Strikes Back!

Way back in the day, I used to keep a movie journal.  Ever since I went back to school, then got my freelance writing career going, then had kids, my life got too busy to watch a lot of movies, so it was pretty pointless to keep a journal when I was only seeing a handful a year.

But now that things have slowed down a little, I’m seeing quite a few more movies.  So with October being a time of year where I intentionally watch a lot of movies in the lead up to Halloween, I think I’m going to revive my film journal.  At least it will give me something to write about so this blog doesn’t sit stagnant for a year anymore.  Enjoy!



dark_night_of_the_scarecrow

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Way back in 2011, I was a guest on my friend Tommy’s podcast, Bubble Pipe Theater, for a special Halloween edition of the show.  On that episode, we talked about some of our favorite scary movies, and another guest, Tim Briscoe, brought up this film, Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  He said that for a TV movie, it was pretty scary, and since then I’ve wanted to check it out.  It came up in an article online somewhere recently, so I decided to finally add it to my Netflix queue for October.

The film is set in a small farming community where everyone knows everyone else, no one locks their doors at night, and everybody is scared of anything that’s not white, Christian, Conservative, and otherwise perfect in every way.  So when Bubba, a grown man with the mind of a child, is accused of hurting a young girl, a small group of local vigilantes arm up and chase after him.  They find Bubba hiding inside a scarecrow costume and decide that it’s time someone did something about this potential menace.  It’s only after they’ve pumped twenty-one rounds into him that someone calls on the CB radio to let them know it was all a big mistake – that Bubba had actually saved the girl from a dog attack.  The hillbillies cover it up by putting a pitchfork in Bubba’s deceased hand, so they can claim the killing was in self-defense.

But as the vigilantes start dying off in suspicious accidents, the remaining members of the party start to question their sanity and their safety.

Right off the bat, the title and the marketing of the film on DVD is a bit misleading – this isn’t a slasher flick with a Jason Voorhees-like madman running around with a pitchfork as his weapon of choice.  In fact, we really don’t see who is killing the men at all until the very end, and even that death would still be interpreted by any sane person as an accident.  While it is a fun movie, it’s pretty obvious there are scenes that are simply there to pad out the runtime, so it does feel a little sluggish.  The performances are all pretty great, but that’s to be expected from the handful of “that guy” character actors that make up the lynch mob, every one of whom has done their fair share of films and dozens of TV appearances.  Best known of these actors is Charles Durning as a portly postman and leader of the mob, Otis Hazelrigg, who gives a fine, scenery-chewing performance.

My only complaint, other than the padded scenes, is that I almost wish we’d seen the killer more.  Typically real horror comes from the unseen, but I think it would have been much more effective to see the scarecrow/Bubba at the scene of the murder.  I’m not saying I wanted all the bad guys to be run-through with the pitchfork as the DVD cover implies – they could have died in the same manner as they did in the final film – but the scarecrow costume was so well done and creepy as hell, it would have been nice to have seen him featured more.  A few shots of him standing just outside in the shadows, a truly menacing figure, would have upped the tension quite a bit.  Let the men panic and put themselves into dangerous situations to get away from the scarecrow.  But as it is the monster isn’t really much of a presence, and I think it would have been more fun to have him be more of a known catalyst for the deaths.  I understand the writer was trying to make us wonder who the “real” killer was, but none of us ever really suspected Bubba’s mom or the little girl.

Overall, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a fun little movie that’s perfect for Halloween.  It won’t frighten die-hard horror fans, but the story of revenge is timeless, and there’s adequate tension to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next.  This is actually one film I’d love to see a remake of, because with a few tweaks it could be something really great.

Score: 3/5 bananas

The National Film Registry Project

Every year since 1989, the United States National Film Preservation Board has chosen up to 25 movies to be included for preservation in the Library of Congress. This list of films, known as the National Film Registry, is meant to highlight movies that are deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Unlike other film awards like the Oscars, Golden Globes, or the American Film Institute Awards, the films chosen for the National Film Registry are not those that have made a big impact in a given year, only to be forgotten soon after. In fact, a film can’t even be nominated until 10 years after it was made in order to give the film some context and to verify its impact on the film industry or American society at-large. In other words, this is truly a list of films that have stood the test of time and really are important to our culture or to film as a medium. These are the great ones.

Aside from the classic status these films have earned, the types of films represented here is also significant. Ranging from feature-length Hollywood films to animated shorts to newsreel footage to home movies from everyday people like you and me, the Film Registry is a wonderful snapshot of America at a certain time, place, and mindset, doing what film does best – capturing moments.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

As someone who is interested in films, and more specifically, film’s place in our culture, my goal with this project is to see as many of the National Film Registry selections as possible. Along with actually watching the film (even if I’ve seen it before, I’m going to watch it again for this project), I’m going to do a little research on each one to gain as much background information on the production, or, if none is available, at least the context in which the film was made, and write about it here on SpaceMonkeyX. Of course I’ll also include any thoughts of my own, as there are sure to be some that I’ll like more or less than others. While the list on the project’s homepage is every film (as of 2011) in alphabetical order, I won’t necessarily be watching them in any specific order.

One reason is that not all of the films will be available all the time. Things go out of print, new DVDs are released,  or something that was previously unavailable will suddenly show up on YouTube one day, ripped from a VHS copy that someone had sitting in the back of their closet.  I’ll watch as many of these as I can, but there are bound to be some that are simply too difficult to get my hands on unless I actually visit the Library of Congress where these are all stored.  Considering I live in St. Louis, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

I considered trying chronological order, based upon the release date, but as new films are inducted, this timeline would inevitably be thrown off.

Besides, isn’t the beauty of creating your own course of exploration being able to discover things at your own pace and in your own direction? Creating any kind of rigid guideline to follow can lead to burnout and therefore sabotage the whole project.

So I’ll be watching and commenting on these films in whatever order my heart desires. However, I would expect there will be times I’ll become especially interested in a genre or a time period and there will be quite a few similar titles lumped together. For example, I’ll probably start with a bunch of animated films since I just finished writing a mental_floss article on many of those on the list. But I’m going to jump around quite a bit so I can keep things fresh – for readers and for myself.

To follow my progress, check out the National Film Registry Project link at the top of the page.

Latest Movies – The Short Version

Lately I’ve watched so many movies and TV shows in between working on mental_floss articles that I simply haven’t had time to review them all in-depth. So these will simply be 5-banana ratings with a few comments thrown in for good measure. Sorry, but I gots to get paid!!

Big Man Japan: 3 / 5 bananas
I was really expecting something entirely different from this film, but I was also pleasantly surprised by what I got. Think “The Wrestler” meets “Godzilla” and you’ll have some idea of where this one’s going. Interesting, but not something I feel I’ll need to revisit anytime soon.

Mad Men Season 2: 5 / 5 bananas
This season was absolutely amazing, as expected. The writing on this show, especially the zingers tossed back and forth between the characters, absolutely blows me away. Great stuff. Andrea and I can’t wait to start watching season 3 on Amazon video-on-demand.

District 9: 5 / 5 bananas
I went into this film knowing very little about it other than the basic premise – 20 years ago, aliens came to earth and have been living with us as third-class citizens ever since. I had no idea where the film was going, how things were going to turn out, or what type of film it was going to turn out to be. I’m so happy I went in blind, because I think had I known all of this, I would have been very disappointed. Actually, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Some are criticizing the film for certain aspects of the filmmaking and, oddly enough, I can completely see where they’re coming from, I just don’t care. I went along for the ride and had a blast. I can’t wait for this DVD.

Inglorious Basterds: 5 / 5 bananas
Possibly one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen that I absolutely loved. Tarantino has a knack for building tension in a scene by having his characters talk, saying so much without saying anything at all, then punctuating the scene with explosive violence. It’s a bit like sex, really, and with Basterds, Tarantino has created one of the most rewarding cinematic orgasms of his career. I worry a little about replay value for me, because often, once I know what’s coming in a QT film, the impact becomes lessened and the slow burn begins to nag on me. But I’ll rent it when available and see how it holds up.

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus: 1 / 5 bananas
I rented this one because I thought it might make a good special review like The Asylum’s “The Terminators” film I did recently. After watching it I decided it really wasn’t worth the time. It’s bad, folks. Big surprise, huh? Seriously, even morbid curiosity doesn’t make this one worth watching.

Network: 5 / 5 bananas
A classic that I hadn’t seen in a while. It still holds up today, possibly even better than it did when it came out.

Good Night, and Good Luck: 3 / 5 bananas
While I found the subject matter – and the performance by XXX – fascinating, the film never really came together for me. I was honestly expecting there to be more to the story, but it felt like big chapters were being skipped so they could get to the end for the big payoff.

Stuck: 3.5 / 5 bananas
Based on the real-life story of a homeless man hit by a young woman who drives home with him stuck in the windshield of her car, this is a strange little film with some very interesting, “What would you do?” situations. I don’t know that the womans’ reasons for not helping the man were valid enough for her heartless actions, but I’m not entirely sure there are any reasons good enough to treat another human being this way. An interesting, little-seen film that’s worth a look.

Slacker: 3 / 5 bananas
This cult classic from wandering/wondering auteur, Richard Linklater, is one of the defining indie films of the early 90s heyday. Personally, I found it to be pretty boring, pretentious, and empty. Maybe that’s the point, but it felt like there was far too much love for its subjects to really want to be satirical. Not one I’m going to revisit anytime soon, but I can at least admire what it’s trying to do.

Step Brothers: 3 / 5 bananas
This is a great film by any means – it especially has problems in the latter half of the 2nd reel – but it definitely has its moments of sheer ridiculousness to make it worth watching from time to time. I noticed this time, though, that it’s the supporting characters that really have the best lines, rather than stars Ferrell and Reilly. I kind of appreciate that fact, actually.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: 2 / 5 bananas
I hadn’t seen this one in at least 15 years, so decided to check it out on Netflix Instant Watch. It was not good, unfortunately. It seems anytime you start injecting too much comedy and/or kids into your film, you’re doomed. See Indiana Jones 2 & 4 (though I still like Temple of Doom). See Star Wars: Episode I. See Star Wars: Episode 6. What was really disappointing was the fact that there are so many great ideas in this film that simply are not carried through. The whole thing is one wasted opportunity after another.

Fallen: 3.5 / 5 bananas
I sold this one on Amazon, so I thought I’d watch it one last time before I shipped it to its new owner. While I still really enjoy it for the story, the direction really doesn’t hold up well. The blurry, almost nightvision shots as taken from the demon’s point-of-view look very dated and, frankly, silly at this point. Unfortunately, those shots are pretty common throughout the running time, so it really hurts the overall effectiveness of the film.

The Backyard: 3 / 5 bananas
A Netflix Instant Streaming morbid curiosity entry about jackasses who beat the shit out of each other in their backyards because they want to be professional wrestlers. For the most part it’s worth watching so you can psychologically evaluate all these numbskulls. Most just do it for fun, to entertain their friends, or for a quick buck, but none of them are really doing much of anything to expand their skillset beyond figuring out the next thing they can use to hurt themselves withh. But there’s one story in particular – a guy who is actually taking steps to get into the WWE – that makes the whole thing more than mere exploitation.

Walk Hard: 3 / 5 bananas
A very good spoof of the musical biography genre. Like Anchorman, it’s the individual moments in the film that are really funny, rather than the overall plotline. In fact, there’s a pretty big section of the film that’s utterly forgettable. But there are plenty of laughs in between that make it a fun one to catch every once in a while.

The Ten: 4 / 5 bananas
I can’t help it – I like The State alumni films. This film has a few weak spots – namely the annoying rhino (or is it a hippo) cartoon in the middle that I fast-forward through now. But there are so many great spots – the two middle-aged guys groovin’ out to Bonnie Raitt, the Diane Wiest conversation, Winona Ryder getting it on with a puppet – that it’s not a complete failure by any means.

Dead Man’s Shoes: 4 / 5 bananas
This little-seen Irish film gives us an interesting take on vengeance. Ex-military brother comes home to seek revenge on some thugs who messed with his younger, mentally-deficient brother. As we see flashback scenes of what they did to the young man, you can see how they were cruel, but were their actions worth getting killed for? Throughout the film you’re meant to question if the older brother has gone too far, until you realize there’s more to the story than meets the eye. And then you’re left wondering if he was justified or if he was just deranged.

30 Rock Seasons 1 and 2: 5 / 5 bananas
I watched a few episodes of this when it first came out a few years ago and I just couldn’t get into it. I think it was just something I wasn’t expecting, so it threw me off. Thankfully I’ve caught up on this incredible show and am now chomping at the bit to keep watching as the seasons are released on DVD. Needless to say I’m very glad I gave this one another shot to win me over.

The Wrestler: 5 / 5 bananas
Wow. What an amazing, emotionally-draining film. I was with The Bull every step of the way, feeling his pain, feeling his frustration, feeling his hopelessness. I cannot recommend this one enough, but know going in that you will not be happy afterward. Such a great film with an incredible performance by Mickey Rourke.

Mysterious Skin: 3.5 / 5 bananas
What a disturbing film. I’d describe the plot, but I don’t want those keywords to start pointing people to my site from Google. Let’s just say it was a breakthrough performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and leave it at that.

Special Movie Review: The Terminators

When I first started doing the comparison reviews I like to call “The Big House vs. The Nut House”, where I review big Hollywood movies side-by-side with the low budget knock-off from Asylum productions, I fully intended for every Asylum film to lose hands down. I figured their films would rank somewhere around the drive-in films from the 1960s of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Two Thousand Maniacs, Blood Feast, A Taste of Blood), with really cheap special effects, excessive gore, nonsensical plots, and some fake double-D’s thrown in for good measure. So far what I’ve found have been fairly boring films with special effects that are so mediocre they’re barely worth mentioning. Even the women aren’t too trashy; some are downright pretty. Needless to say, I’ve been a little disappointed with the crop of Asylum films I’ve watched so far, in that they’ve neither exceeded my expectations too much, nor delved into the realm of badness that I thought would make this whole exercise worth exploring.

That is until now…

After my last entry, when I pit Tranformers vs. Transmorphers: Fall of Man, I decided to check out Asylum’s The Terminators with the full intention of comparing it to the classic 80s blockbuster, The Terminator. I wondered if the stop-motion animation of the Cameron original would be able to stand up to the crappy CGI of Asylum’s knock-off. So I got The Terminators from Netflix and decided to pop it into my DVD player last night.

When my DVD player at first refused to accept the DVD, that should have been my first clue as to what lie ahead. It’s like the player was trying to tell me something – “Dude, no. I refuse to take this. No, seriously, man, you don’t want to do this.” It spat the DVD out about four times, before finally relenting and accepting the disc into its gaping maw. Hindsight being 20/20, I now consider my actions akin to rape.

The Terminators begins on a spaceship not unlike the famous space wheel from the Kubrick classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, except Kubrick’s wheel looked real even though it was created in 1967. The wheel is an orbiting station where cyborg slaves are created for use on Earth. These machines all look the same, apparently all wear the same clothes, and are all controlled by the same space station via a signal sent through the atmosphere. The cyborgs are either called “TR” models or “T5s” depending upon where you are in the movie, so that’s a little confusing right off the bat. For reasons that will become clear later on, I’m going to call them T5s.

Anyhoo, one day all the T5s on the space station go berserk because their signal has been hacked…by someone, we never find out who. So they load up into transports that look like they came right off the Battlestar Galactica set from the 1970s, and fly down to Earth, where they begin bombing major cities. They also, apparently, drop off T5s (I say “apparently”, because we don’t actually see this, we just see a bunch of the same guy running all over the place), whose only mission is to kill anyone they come across.


Click for a better view of these bad ass dudes

The invasion is a mess of modern filmmaking. The scenes of the T5s going on their kill crazy rampage are so disjointed, it’s almost like someone cut out the first 30 seconds of every scene. We just see the T5 guy do his best Arnold impression, walk up to someone, and snap their neck or shoot them with his RoboCop-looking pistol. There’s no build-up, there’s no tension, it’s just random, poorly-made scenes that have no relation to one another, nor contain characters we’ve ever met until we see their demise. And if we’re not seeing random violence, we’re watching scenes begin to develop, go nowhere, cut to a neck snap scene, go to another disconnected scene, come back to the original scene, then someone from the original scene is in a completely different location watching cyborgs pile up dead bodies. I swear, it’s the most confusing series of events I’ve watched in a while.

For example, below is an absolutely baffling screenshot. The strange placement of the two dead bodies amongst the computers and the smiley faces painted on the laptop screens are never explained. Hell, Sheriff walks right past them and doesn’t even glance down. I mean, what the hell is going on here?


Click for a better view of the WTF?

Once the low-rent carnage settles down, we find the Sheriff (there’s always a sheriff in Asylum films, just like there’s always a scientist in 1950s sci-fi films) come upon a group of people at a factory of some kind. Again, we aren’t really told where he is, what he’s doing there, or how he knows these people, but he calls them all by their first names, so there must be some familiarity. The guy just shows up outside a warehouse and then he’s inside leading heavily-armed employees (I guess that’s what they are) away from a T5. Why these people have guns at work, I couldn’t tell you, but one chick actually has a submachine gun. I’d love to know what kind of hoops she had to jump through in order to get a permit to carry a submachine gun in California.

So the random group of people escape with the help of Chloe, arguably the main character of the film, whom we saw walk up to the Sheriff earlier and call him by name. How they know each other is a mystery. But I guess that doesn’t matter, because Chloe is also, apparently, at the same factory that the Sheriff went to, so it works out really well for all involved when she picks them up in a stolen panel van. Oh, and all the employee militia also know Chloe by name. This must be a really small town.

They head to the country where they’re attacked by one of the T5 transport ships, forcing the van to crash. Mysteriously, once the transport has disabled the vehicle, it disappears, never to be heard from or mentioned again. But that doesn’t mean our band of survivors is in the clear yet.


“The hills are alllliiiiiiive…with the sound of muuuuuusiiiiiiiiic…”

Apparently (I’ll be using that word a lot during this review) there are three T5s patrolling the forest because, ya know, if you’re here to wipe out the human race, the first place you want to start is a forest with its dense population of lumberjacks, moonshiners, and unabombers. So the group is cornered by the T5s and is almost gunned down when…out of nowhere…comes the main character from Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, with a raygun, and saves them all. It looks like T.S. Quint has been shacked up in the woods for the last 15 years, though, only coming out of the mountains and into town to pick up boxes of Hostess products, because the boy’s put on about 30 or 40 pounds easy. And he still can’t grow any facial hair.


“Need…Twinkies…”

TS (I’ll be calling him “TS” because I don’t think his characters’ name is ever actually said. Besides, it’s kind of fun to think it’s the same character from Mallrats, isn’t it?) takes the group back to his own Unabomber shack to show them his collection of T5 transports that he keeps hidden…in…a clearing. Huh? He has about four of them, because he used to work for the company that built the T5s (which is where he got the swell raygun, too), but they’re all grounded because he doesn’t have an oxygenate for his the fuel…or something.

While inside the shack, TS and the Sheriff have a brief conversation wherein the Sheriff says he knows TS from somewhere, but TS does his best to deflect this line of questioning. Ooooh…he has a mysterious past. I wonder if that will come into play later?

So the group treks to a refinery (I think) where they find a single oxygen tank, the skank who was screwing Chloe’s now-dead husband, and then a guy gets punched through the head. It’s an eventful trip.



Click for a better view of these groundbreaking special effects!

(The head-punch, by the way, is classic fake-out of low-budget filmmaking. I’ve included a screenshot to see if you can figure out how it’s done. If you ever pretended you were Luke Skywalker and your best friend was Darth Vader and you were having an epic lightsaber battle with a couple of wrapping paper tubes, you should have a good idea of the trickery involved.)

With Skank and tank (sounds like a superhero team, doesn’t it?) in hand, they go to some other generic industrial-type complex where one of TS’ T5 transports is waiting for them. How it got there, I have no effing clue.


The explosion you see here has no reason to exist. No one is fighting the T5 during the scene, shit just starts blowing up because apparently they hadn’t reached their fireball quota yet.

As they head towards the space station controlling the T5s, Sheriff begins speaking in broken tones, imitating the robot voice you used to make when you were a kid (“I. Am. A. Robot.”) because, well, he’s a robot. Turns out Sheriff is the next gen cyborg the mega-corporation that builds T5s is developing and TS has been hired to keep an eye on him…or something. In a scene borrowing heavily from Blade Runner, TS tells the Sheriff how all of his memories are implanted from TS’ own life, so now we understand the foreshadowing of the earlier scene in TS’ shack.

Once they’re inside the space station, TS tries to access the main computer to shut down the T5s, but his password won’t work (probably because he left CAPSLOCK on, even though Windows reminds him not to). So the only way to stop the T5s is to shut them down with, what else? – dun, dun, dunnnnnn – the manual override.


Looks like someone needs to go to microsoft.com and download the latest service pack! (Click it, it really is a Windows error box)

However, as they’re making their way towards the failsafe device, the T5s scattered throughout the ship mysteriously begin to shut down, freezing in place like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz. It turns out that all of their power is being rerouted to another cyborg – an 8-foot tall, metal monstrosity who in no way resembles a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, no siree.

(By the way, the DVD cover [see below] is a total bait-and-switch. As you can see, it shows an army of Cylon-esque Terminators, but there’s only one in the movie. What a rip-off.)


Lies! Lies, I tell you!

Anyway, the Frankenstein comes alive, kills TS, and then, the Sheriff, in his still-loony state, convinces Chloe to help him lure the beast into the airlock and they dispose of it a la the finale of Alien. Wow, BraveStarr sacrificed himself for the good of mankind. Who’s inhuman now, I ask you? Who’s inhuman now…?

Of course once the big cyborg is floating in space (Is that our sequel setup? I think soooo…), the regular T5s come back to life and go after The Skank who is currently wandering the ship without any kind of adult supervision. As she’s running away, she happens upon the manual override for the T5s and is able to shut it down, thus ending the machines’ reign of terror.

Do you see that screenshot? Yep, THAT is the T5 Main Control switch, in case you’re illiterate (which I’d really like to know, then, how you’re reading this review). What? You were expecting the master control device for an advanced cybernetic race of machines on a friggin space station to be something more high-tech?…complex?…computer-controlled?…maybe voice-recognition, fingerprint scanner, retina scanner…or a padlock? Nope. It’s just an electrical box they bought at Home Depot for $9.99. That’s all the security they need. Who would ever want to shut down the T5s anyway? No one’ll mess with it!

When I saw the “Master Control” switch, I almost fell off the couch due to the convulsions I experienced while laughing my ass off (thankfully a doctor was able to reattach it). I mean, they didn’t even TRY here.

This is the epitome of the film for me. That screenshot tells you everything you need to know about The Terminators. It truly does speak 1,000 words (actually it’s closer to 2,000 words at this point, but who, other than Microsoft Office, is counting?). It’s amazing in its singularity. I just can’t describe to you how the entire 90 minutes preceding is so completely summarized by this single frame of film. If you want to know what The Terminators is all about, this is the frame you look at. This is the film in a nutshell. Some directors go their entire careers without a shot that is so perfect. My God…it’s full of stars.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a terrible, terrible film. I was so worried that all of these Asylum movies would wind up having a few redeeming qualities and I’d never be able to tear them apart. But, thankfully, they’ve proven to me that they do make some really shitty knock-offs. The Terminators renewed my faith in my Big House vs. The Nut House project to a degree I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, because this film is nothing like any of the Terminator films on almost any level, I’m not even going to bother putting it head-to-head with anything else. This one stands on its own, for whatever that’s worth, and is probably one of the worst films I’ve seen in all of my 34 years.

It’s cheap, it’s poorly directed, the special effects are laughable, there’s barely an original thought in the entire thing, the editing is atrocious – I seriously cannot think of any good reason to watch it. There’s nothing even remotely interesting; not even a single shot or sequence like there was in Transmorphers: Fall of Man. It was a total waste of time and I’ll be happy to send it back to Netflix.

I just hope it hasn’t psychologically damaged my DVD player. Maybe I should go watch a few episodes of Arrested Development or The Wire just to help it work through the pain. I wonder if Sarah Palin would make my DVD player pay for the kit if we wanted to make sure it was ok. I’ll have to check into that…