The Delta Force Film Review

Directed by: Menahem Golan
Category: Action

Like any teenager who grew up in the 80's loving action, of course I'd seen this. Hell, I had a video store poster hanging on my wall that I snagged from my local video store back in the day when they used to "give" them away. Now it's different of course. Now employees snag them themselves and sell them on eBay. But it was a different time back then. Anyway, I can't really recall why, but while I love 80's Chuck Norris, I never went back to revisit this particular film after that initial viewing as a kid. When I saw this on Netflix recently, and I was putting some new furniture together, I figured some good ol' 80's action would be nice to play in the background.

Delta Force surprised me from a number of different angles. First, it's really long, clocking in at 2 and a half hours. Second, shockingly, there's really not that much action in this thing. I'll get to that later. Third, the insanely large ensemble cast is really impressive. Fourth, this film is really dramatic, and for the first half of the film, kind of uncomfortable to watch. Lastly, Menahem Golan did a much better job directing this thing than he gets credit for. So let's dig in.

This is an unnecessarily long movie. The first entire hour is a drama, with zero action. Terrorists hijack a plane full of passengers and it's here where Delta Force surprised me the most. Mainly because I was expecting an action film, and instead was treated to a harrowing tale of survival aboard a plane held hostage by sadistic terrorists who have no qualms about torturing or killing on the spot. Though we're nearly 15 years after the events of 9/11, this film was still hard to watch, because it depicts events like what happened so long ago rather shockingly realistic and brutal. Of course this film was made over a decade before those events, but it's not any less uncomfortable to watch.

When the entire first hour consists of a hostage drama, I started to wonder if this was even an action film, because up to that point, I hadn't seen any. The action eventually comes around, at the 1 hour mark. It's sporadic, but it's there, eventually going full force in the last 30 minutes or so. Being an action fan, I was a little let down and more surprised than anything that for a film that pushes the action in it's advertising, there was very little in here. Though I will admit that the action that was here was done well.

The cast is damn near impressive. Sure you got Chuck, a severely underused Steve James (ain't that always the case?), legends Lee Marvin as Chuck's commander and Robert Forster as the main Lebanese bad guy, which he pulls off rather effectively. But the film is littered with numerous legends like George Kennedy, Martin Balsam, Lainie Kazan, Bo Svenson, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters and the list goes on and on. But the most fascinating thing I found about this, other than Robert Forster playing a Lebanese bad guy, is that Chuck doesn't make much of a presence until the second half of the film, The first half of the film focuses on the drama aboard the plane, the hijacking. The second half is Chuck coming in and kicking ass.

This film really does wear it's heart on it's sleeve. It's so overly dramatic in some areas, and overly cheesy in others. The film ultimately suffers because it forgets that its supposed to be an action film for well over an hour, and when the action finally does come around, you almost forgot it's supposed to be an action film. Yet it's oddly charming. It retains enough of what you expect when it's all said and done to keep you satisfied for the most part. One thing's for sure, you'll be humming the impossibly cheesy theme music for days afterwards.


After Hours Film Review

Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Category: Dark Comedy

I don't know why, but for one reason or another, I never took the time to see this Scorsese cult classic. I guess I had known for a while he directed this, even though it's completely outside the realm of anything he typically does or is known for, but nothing about this film ever struck me as something I'd be interested in. It didn't help that this film is never mentioned.....ever. Not even when people are discussing Scorsese films. It's just kind of like the bastard child nobody ever mentions. Yet very sporadically, I'd come across the poster image. And still, nothing about that ever got me to get on IMDB or anything and look up what it was actually about, or to head on over to YouTube and check out the trailer. So I didn't, and man do I feel stupid now about that. 

When I recently came across this title on a list of underrated gems from a respected website I follow, it was just the push I needed to finally get on the ball. Luckily for me, a friend of mine happily lent me his copy. On a recent Saturday night, the Mrs.'s and I poured ourselves a glass of wine, and proceeded to have our minds blown for the next hour and a half by a film that is unlike anything you'd expect, either for a black comedy or a film directed by Martin Scorsese. 

Paul (Griffin Dunne) is a bored office worker. One night he meets a Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), a cute girl in a cafe. They quickly strike up a conversation centered around the Henry Miller book he's reading. When he decides to call her late that night, in the pretense of buying a piece of art from her roommate, but more hoping to see her again, little did he know that one single moment would lead him to a strange, dark, and unforgiving odyssey through downtown New York, and a journey that will change his life forever.

I can't stress enough how great Martin Scorsese's After Hours is. Not knowing what to expect going in, we were treated to a dark, surreal, nightmarish odyssey through the streets of New York circa the 1980's, all through Scorsese's brilliant eye. It's an odd and complicated movie to figure out. How much of it is reality and how much isn't is up to the viewer I gather, but all in all, After Hours is a surreal, oftentimes intense, sporadically darkly comical, daring and quirky piece of filmmaking that still surprises me that it was made in the 80's.
Before After Hours fell on his lap, Scorsese had recently seen his dream project Last Temptation of Christ fall apart, and he was left in a depression and wondering what he could do. This bizarre script by a first-time writer made it's way to him via his producing partner and he just knew he had to make it, cheaply, and going back to his indie roots. The success of this film was so great that he was finally able to in fact make Temptation a few years later.
Not everyone's cup of tea, and maybe too weird for the casual viewer, but a definite unique experience for film lovers. Also of important note, Scorsese won Best Director at Cannes that year for this, a fact I was completely unaware of. Had I known that, I know I would have gone to seek this out much sooner. After Hours is a weird journey, and we loved every second of it.


Laid to Rest Review

Directed by: Robert Hall
Category: Horror

Lately, with planning my secret wedding and effectively pulling it off, I've take a few steps back from posting reviews because there's simply just no time. Now that the dust has settled and we can start breathing again, we've taken the opportunity to catch up on shows and films that have been piling up, but still, I haven't found myself running to the computer to write down my thoughts on them. I'm just enjoying the calm since I've missed it so much.

Last night was Friday the 13th, and because of that, we decided to screen a slasher for our movie crowd in honor of this rare date. When my wife and I sat down and tried to pick which Friday the 13th film we wanted to show, we realized that we had already shown the 2 best film in the series; Part 4: The Final Chapter & Part 6: Jason Lives, during past Friday the 13th honoring screenings. So we then decided to settle on a horror film, but not just any horror film. It had to be an old school style slasher in keeping with the Friday the 13th vibe. Doing some digging and research online we narrowed the choices down to Intruder and Laid to Rest. I've already seen Intruder and love it, but when I did some research on Laid to Rest, the consensus was pretty unanimous that this was a solid "new" slasher with some outstanding gore. Of all the sites I visited, I'd say the positive overall percentage would probably be about 80% positive, which in the horror genre is pretty damn good. So I was sold, and it was settled; Laid to Rest would be our slasher screening for Friday the 13th for our movie group.

I wish I could take that decision back. I wish we had just gone with an old favorite, or just gone the complete opposite direction and tried a new horror/comedy that I've had my eye on on Amazon called Gravy. But no, we chose this and we paid dearly for it. What's funny is that 2 members of the group had already seen this, and said they loved it. So with that, we were pumped and started the show. What resulted was one of the worst slasher films we've all ever seen. A dumb uninspired mess that shockingly misses a great opportunity to bring a new character and franchise to the slasher genre with bad direction, terrible dialogue, and a muddled, dull and unevenness that make it hard to stay focused while continuously looking at the clock. Not surprisingly, the 2 members of our group who had seen this already both agreed that it was bad, and were surprised that they liked it in the first place.

What's a shame is that while the film lacks a lot of what makes a solid horror film good, like decent character development for one, where the film does shine is in the gore and effects, which, quite honestly, are pretty outstanding for such a low-budget film. That isn't all that surprising since this films writer/director, Robert Hall, is a special makeup effects wiz, who's effects company Almost Human is responsible for a LOT of outstanding effects work in film and television. What's frustrating is that while the effects work is commendable for being traditional and for the most part, non-CGI, there just isn't enough of those kills and sequences to keep this oddly incoherent and disastrously amateur-looking effort from being a bore.

A few things surprised me about the casting in this. For one, the short cameo's, while not really all that spectacular, were solid enough to elicit audible comments like "She's in this?" and "Him too?!". You know who they are. You recognize them from more commendable work, and all in all, it was the little spice this film sorely needed to keep you invested. The primary actors were not bad, though the dribble they unfortunately had to droll out was embarrassing, made all the more cringe-worthy in their forced overly dramatic southern accents that felt so unnecessary and out of place. It's almost as if it's done on purpose, like caricatures you find in slashers, commonly known as "hicks". Maybe that was Robert Hall's intention after all? Kind of like how Rob Zombie infuses it endlessly in virtually all of his films, including his Halloween franchise. In either case, whether intentional or not, they all come off as silly in Laid to Rest, and it's really hard to take anyone or anything seriously.

While it's not always standard practice to give away "everything" about a killer in a horror film, at least "some" kind of history or motive, even in the smallest detail, would help you understand why anything is even happening. Unfortunately we are not afforded that luxury here. I can only assume writer/director Hall did this on purpose, saving the reveal or even the motive for the inevitable sequel. Which brings on another thought. He really must have been confident enough to know that he would eventually get the chance to make that sequel, because he reveals nothing about the killer in this, and it's incredibly annoying. As I never intend to actually watch the sequel now that I've seen the first one and do not like it, I'll just have to live with the fact that I'll never know why a killer - who never utters a word, or even winces or groans when he gets shot or mutilated in some form, and wears a rather rad looking chrome skull mask that he glues to his face - kills random people, and who seems to zero in on this one particular girl he just won't let go. None of it makes any sense and there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. That, coupled with the uneven tone, bad direction, bad writing, out of place southern accents, and long moments of boredom, make for a near excruciating experience.


Quick Shot Review: Bone Tomahawk

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Category: Western/Horror

Up until a month ago, I hadn't even heard of this film. It seemed to literally come out of nowhere when a fellow filmgeek on Facebook posted a review of it from a random site. The title alone piqued my interest, so I did some digging and discovered it was some new horror/western film I'd never heard of before, starring Kurt Russell and written and directed by the guy who wrote the novel from which the film is based on. So yea, I'm sold. Fuck yea I am.

Released primarily on VOD a few weeks ago, Bone Tomahawk is a brave film, a film that if you had to categorize, you would be hard pressed to. If anything, it would most closely resemble the weird genre mix of Ravenous, but it's not like Ravenous in tone; Bone Tomahawk is it's own thing entirely. You could say it's mostly a western, but it's also clever and funny in a lot of the dialogue, yet then the film takes a huge detour and turns into something else entirely in the final act, something that would be considered a horror film set in the west.

Bone Tomahawk is unique to say the least, blending different genre's, ideas and themes into one mish-mash of a film that works so well you're pretty sure that had it had a theatrical run, it more than likely wouldn't do very well. How could it? How do you market a film like this? For those thinking it's a horror film, it might turn them off when they see that it's more of a western than anything. For those going in expecting a western, the abundance of gore and insane violence in the last act might shock them. Hell, it shocked even us seasoned gore hounds who didn't know what to expect.

I won't be including a synopsis on this one, because I went in cold, knowing nothing, and my experience was all the better for it. You should do the same. Just know that it's a western with some horror elements, that's oftentimes clever and funny, resulting in a wholly unique experience with some standout performances by Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson, with a healthy dose of cameo's cult film fanatics will appreciate. Writer/Director/Author S. Craig Zahler does an outstanding job building tension, composing impressive shots, and getting the most out of his cast. I for one am looking forward to what he comes up with next.


Quick Shot Review: John Carpenter's Village of the Damned

Directed by: John Carpenter
Category: Horror

As big a fan as I am of Carpenter, I guess I avoided this one all these years because of bad word of mouth. When we finally sat down to watch this on Halloween night, I regret feeding into that false mentality as this is indeed a very good film. Aesthetically impressive and on par with a lot of his best visual work, it's moody, atmospheric, and slow-burn approach drives the films moody overtone, culminating in a surprisingly satisfying conclusion. I'm surprised this doesn't get the same love that some of his lesser successful films like Vampires get. I can't explain it. 

It was great and simultaneously sad seeing Christopher Reeve on screen again, though I found him oddly miscast, as was Kirstie Alley. Regardless, he brings his A-Game and does a helluva job, especially in the third act. Great film experience overall and a highly underrated Carpenter gem. 


Quick Shot Review: Halloween: Resurrection

Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
Category: Horror

This was so bland, so dull, so cookie-cutter, and so generic that I couldn't even finish it. I made it about halfway through, and that's further than I thought I would get. I know the big deal was that they got Jamie Lee Curtis to return yet again for this entry, though thankfully she had the good sense to only stick around for the beginning. The other big deal was that original Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal was returning to the horror genre, and the Halloween franchise with this one. I have to give Rosenthal props for giving Halloween II some decent style, but that could simply be because it was the early 1980's. That was a long time ago; things looked different, equipment worked differently, and Cinema had an entirely different aesthetic in general. Looking back on his filmography, it seems that Halloween II was really just a fluke as most of his work seems to be in television. So was it more of a gimmick from the studio by bring in the director of one of the better liked Halloween films? A way to get older fans like myself interested in the idea of a new one, despite the fact that it starred Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes of all people, and took the webcam idea and killed the Halloween franchise with it? Way to go.

Quick Shot Review: Deathgasm

Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
Category: Horror/Comedy

When the trailer for this starting hitting the net, followed by it's constant festival screenings, my enthusiasm had been growing and growing to a fever pitch. Just based on the insane trailer, I knew this would never get a theatrical run, meaning VOD would be the only way to see it. Then I had kind of forgotten about it since the VOD release date was so far in the future. Shockingly, this finally hit with little to no buzz just a few weeks ago. I had no idea, until someone randomly posted something about it. On a Saturday night I gathered as many of my movie buddies as I could, grabbed a whole lotta beer and hoped for the best.

Deathgasm was awesome. Plain and simple. It was everything we'd hoped for and then some. Combining heavy metal, horror, comedy, over-the-top gore, and likable characters, Deathgasm hits all the right notes resulting in one helluva good time, even if you're not a metal head. Though the story revolves around 2 metal heads who unwittingly summon a demon through a heavy metal song, you enjoying that particular genre of music is of little importance at determining your enjoyment with this. The entertainment factor is so high on this regardless of your specific taste in music. You do have to enjoy horror comedy though. So if films like Evil Dead 2, Brain Dead, Cooties and Shaun of the Dead are your thing, then Deathgasm will be right up your alley.

First time writer/director Jason Lei Howden, who primarily works in visual effects on the biggest of the big Hollywood films, turns out an epic film of metal, gore, laughs and death. The particular way he edits this film together keeps it from being monotonous, resulting in a fast pace that gets to the meat of the story rather quickly, while simultaneously giving us enough characterization from all involved to give them all strong standout personalities. It's clever writing, clever dialogue, and downright hilarious situations that gives Deathgasm the charm that easily makes it stand out from the pack.

Easily one of the most enjoyable horror comedies I've seen in a while, and one of the most original, Deathgasm exudes a fun vibe that comes off as effortless. They simply do not make enough horror films with a Heavy Metal theme. Sure there are films like the awful Rock n Roll Nightmare and the uber excellent Trick or Treat, but they're so few and far between. Though this one's hilarious, it's a good feeling to have a new member of this exclusive club. Grab a few friends, crank up the speakers and give this excellent bit of Heavy Metal horror.


Review: Cop Car

Directed by: Jon Watts
Category: Thriller

Jon Watts is a name you will be hearing more often. I'm sure of it. Having only done short films and a lot of television work, he blew me away with last years Clown, based off of one of his short films from 2010. Clown worked so well because it was genuinely creepy, effective horror. He didn't rely on cheap tricks or jump scares to scare us. It was great compelling storytelling, great direction, great practical makeup effects, and solid scares. In fact, I'd say it was one of the better horror films I'd seen in years. It left a lasting impression, and most of all, it impressed the hell out of me.

Going into Cop Car, I had no idea it was from the same writer/director. Why would I? They're two completely different genre's, and nothing about Cop Car, not the cast, not the style, not the subject matter, would suggest to me that that was the case. Even more interesting was that I didn't find that out until "after" the film, since he put the credits after the film and not before. So that was an even bigger surprise. When "Directed by Jon Watts" scrolled down the screen, I yelled "Holy shit! That's the guy who did Clown!". I said that because my movie partner and I both loved Clown, so this was just a total surprise to both of us.

Cop Car is a thriller about 2 young boys who see a cop car seemingly abandoned in a field. When they take the car joy riding, little do they know that the cars owner, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), has a ton of secrets hidden in that car. Secrets he'd be willing to do anything to cover up. 

Not since Denis Villanueve's excellent Prisoners have I seen a thriller shot as gorgeously as this. Every single frame of film has been meticulously planned out, shot and executed on such an impressive level that even if some people walk away from Cop Car not liking the film in general, they can't say that it wasn't a gorgeous film to look at. Though I doubt anyone would walk away from this film not loving the shit out of it, because honestly, it's just insanely good.

Though the 2 main characters of the film are the two 12 year old kids who steal the car and decide to go joy riding, it's Kevin Bacon's Sheriff Kretzer (sporting a killer 'stache) who steals the show. Bacon is always great in anything he's in, whether it be an 80's dance movie, the villain in an X-Men film, or playing himself in Will & Grace. The guy never half-asses anything and that's all the more evident in his turn as a sadistic and evil Sheriff with secrets he'll do anything to keep hidden, including trying to kill 2 little boys. He's just pure evil here and it's one helluva performance. Wait till you see him hopped up on coke. It's too damn convincing.

What's almost fascinating about this film is how simple the story is, yet it's highly engaging 100% of the time. There's never a single dull moment, even when nothing particularly interesting is happening. It all flows rather well, culminating in a slow-burn style film that get's darker as the film progresses. Even though a lot is left to our imagination in terms backstory for everyone involved, each character is written so well and fleshed out enough that you care about them, or what happens to them, most importantly the 2 kids. You so believe that real kids this age would do the exact same thing, such as haphazardly handling a loaded gun, that you find yourself cringing often at what "might" happen.

Cop Car is a gem in the thriller genre; a gorgeous film with a stunning visual aesthetic and outstanding performances from everyone involved, including the severely underused Camryn Manheim. Jon Watts is a painfully talented filmmaker, and if Clown and Cop Car are any indication, he will be a big name to keep an eye on.


Quick Shot Review: Cooties

Directed by: Carey Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Category: Horror

Having come across my radar through a mutual friend, I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing at all. I avoided the trailer, which everyone seemed to love, and I avoided any synopsis online. But the word on the street was that it was good, damn good, and funny. So when it became available On Demand a few weeks ago, I invited a few friends over and threw it on hoping for the best.

Cooties is without a doubt, one of the funniest horror comedies I've seen in a really, really long time. And I'm not talking stupid slapstick funny. No sir. This was legitimately funny from beginning to end, and downright clever. The laughs fly by so often that you sometimes forget you're watching a horror film, and when it comes right down to it folks, that's just smart writing. Though when the horror elements do come into play, they work well too.

Elijah Woods leads an eclectic and entertaining cast of teachers and elementary school workers who must band together and survive when a virus, born from a school cafeteria chicken nugget, infects everyone with a disease turning them into zombies, resulting in a full-blown outbreak. 

What's great about Cooties is that they've taken a rather tired premise, and made it exciting again. There's really not much else to get into without giving anything away. It's a movie about a virus that turns kids into flesh-eating zombies in a school. It's one of the funniest and well-written films I've seen in years, and the fact that this is a horror film makes it even better. The cast is excellent, the direction is solid, and the vibe is 100% fun. What more could you ask for? Going in knowing very little helped my experience personally speaking. I'd definitely invite a few friends over, because it's a riot, and works so much better with others you can laugh with. Currently on VOD and On Demand.