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Shark Night 3D

Humdrum Shark Party
"Shark Night" is one of the two late David R. Ellis's movies I hadn't seen yet, his best includes "Final Destination 2", "Cellular" and he also gave us the you-know-why iconic "Snakes on a Plane". However, he also made a movie called "Asylum" which is one of the very rare movies I rated 1/10. But, as I aim to purposefully watch another bad movie (last one was "Howling 2"), I'm prepped and ready for just about anything.

After a quite cheap, metal music banging intro, and one lackluster shark kill where there's already a continuity error, we get right down to brass tacks with clichés of a teenage horror. Everyone gets introduced as they're getting together for a "lit" weekend, get on a road, stop at a gas station with a creepy clerk - the usual. Lots of time is spent on empty horror-less adventures, or young people doing what young people do when partying at a lake. When everything has started to feel too aimless, the shark/s turns up lurking, but it never quite delivers the expected fun, for some time we ever barely see the shark, always via shaky cam and fast cutting, never in satisfying detail, never atmospheric. And when they do appear more and often near the end, it is still far from atmospheric. When dealing with the evils of this beast, characters sometimes make mighty odd decisions, making it harder to feel along them much. After shark has joined the fun, arrive the previously met slightly weird locals, threading the plot by the book. Predictable fates and resolutions are expected, as is gory fun and tense atmosphere, but almost none of the latter makes its way to us. There are, however, couple interesting, though silly plot turns, like the twist of shark(s) having cameras strapped around them. As it turns out, some of the locals have a real fascination with sharks. If anything, this took away the magic of a solid shark horror, where the monster is the villain, and even has discernable characteristics. The various beasts of "Shark Night" are void of any kind of soul.

"Shark Night 3D" is far from the worst entry in the entire shark horror niche, but it is also a very lacking, not good enough to grip you, not bad enough to be described pleasantly whacky. My rating: 4/10.

The Masque of the Red Death

Impressive Adaptition // Arthouse of the 60's
For a long time already I've been meaning to venture about into the Corman's world, and see more works of Vincent Price, and as a bonus I'm a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, so I'd say "The Masque of Read Death" is a great place to start. I have read the tale many years ago, and it still stands as one of my favorite pieces of Poe, right besides "The Pit and the Pendulum". I truly wasn't sure what to expect from an adaptation, but for what is in fact a real low-budget feature, it is impressively visually rich, atmospheric, oddly compelling, and has Vincent Price just dripping in evils and charm.

"The Masque of Read Death" sees the lands in the grip of the red plague, and follows tyrannical Prince Prospero (Vincent Price), who terrorizes locals, and pretty much everyone below him, while hiding from the Read Death in his castle. Along with many wealthy nobles and the bourgeoisie, Prospero hosts a masquerade ball, entertaining himself and being oblivious of the imminent danger.

Roger Corman's ambitious adaptation is a real arthouse horror cinema of the 60's, quite 'trippy' in all regards. The story, up to the end, is quite mean and bizarre, with immoral shenanigans being orchestrated by the diabolical Prince Prospero. Before arriving at his castle, Prospero takes with him (kidnaps) peasant girl Francesca (Jane Asher), and imprisons her father and brother, before burning down their village. In the castle, Prospero is law, his entertainments are cruel and dirty, and any efforts to escape or change the odds will fail. It is not those under him, who will deal with Prospero. Vincent Price has magnificent charisma, and all the wit to convey most mischievous deeds. Evil suave. He marches through the guests, and rooms, all richly dressed in bright colors, filling up the atmosphere with gothic and peculiar feels. Corman has really went nuts with the production design, and it's almost amazing how well it actually worked. Most of the filler may very well be melodrama, lots of it, but the house filled of devil-worshippers doesn't fail to entertain, and even though, against Price, the 'good' pole of "The Masque of Red Death" is imbalanced, the atmosphere is consistent right up to the fevery finale.

This blend of malevolent terror, surreal-like imagery and gothic vibes holds up surprisingly well, and it's easy enough to marvel at its peculiarities, while gently passing the flaws. I can attest to the fact that this is a good first entry into the Corman's world. Or Price's. Or Poe's. My rating: 7/10.


A Modern Slasher Crumbles Under its Own Weight
I like going into movies not knowing much, and I met up with "Shook" under my false assumption it's a found-footage type movie... I think it was the poster, and the reminiscing of Shudder's "Host". No worries, a modern slasher will do. However, it is one full of flaws and implausibilities, despite all its social commentary and effort in innovation.

Mia is a social media influencer, leading "Makeup by Mia" with enough followers so that all of her friends would be impressed. She skips an evening with her friends, stays home (where most of the movie takes place) and soon becomes the target of an online terror campaign, where she'll have to solve a series of games to prevent people she cares about from getting murdered. Is it real? Who is the killer? What kind of game is this?

An effortfully twisted one, it is. Director and writer Jennifer Harrington has served us a slasher where all of the characters are low-level social media influencers, hungry for attention, willing to sell out morally, confused in their constant chase for fame. Exhibitionism, sensationalism. These technology-dependent guys are an easy prey for the killer that has made their gadgets into his surveillance. Social commentary, often heavy handed, is present throughout "Shook" and seems to be one of the main tasks for director Jennifer Harrington. A horror satire of Instagram lives. For much of the movie, Mia is in the webs of the mysterious killer, the phone calls, the messages, her tools and her life turned against her. Suspense games resulting in very little suspense. "Shook" is an all-around lackluster when it comes to scares, and atmosphere, which is often damaged by simple realisticity issues. One of the most commendable parts of "Shook" is Dayse Tutor's performance as Mia, well emotional and believable, despite the character never truly resoluting in anything, but suffering for her millennial ways. The second half of "Shook" is twist-heavy, and it feels like the movie crumbles after each next one, for they can be underwhelming and/or improbable. The highly typical ending made me sigh without thinking. "Shook" also shows hit&miss stylistical effort, photography can be creative, Mia's thoughts are sometimes shown in cool ways, text messages and videos appearing on surfaces etc., eventually making it aesthetically feel slightly like "all over the place".

"Shook" is a passable flick, in both senses, it passes as a decent low-budget modern-problem slasher that kind of crumbles under its own weight, and also, You can just pass it, skip it, for it is flawed horror which often feels very lackluster, and improbable, especially because of its wanting-to-be-real setting. The chance that you'll be shook, is little. My rating: 4/10.

Guarding Tess

Their Chemistry Truly Makes the Movie
As I'm choosing which is going to be the 53rd Nicolas Cage romp for me to see, I'm thinking old-school throwback comedies just can't go wrong... And, surely enough, they don't. "Guarding Tess" is a dramedy with a good, solid heart that lies in the unprecedented chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Shirley MacLaine. A well familiar tale with some peculiar oddities, and an uneven nature.

Shirley MacLaine plays Tess Carlisle, a former U.S. First Lady, and as such, she has bodyguards, the leader of whom has been Secret Service agent Doug Chesnic (Nicolas Cage). Doug's assignment is finally over, and he can't wait to get back to more action, but Tess knows exactly who she wants beside her, even though she can't stand him...

Ain't the first, or the last, time when two marginally different souls get put together, fight through the differences, learn to respect and love each other. "Guarding Tess" is a story like that, and not the worst example. Hugh Wilson directs and uneven script, that's saved again and again by the top notch main performances. Nicolas Cage has found ground, stable ground, and offers up a cool, content, serious, yet amusing performance, and on the other side is veteran actress Shirley MacLaine, ranging Tess from a witching meanie to a sweet old lady, and being in absolute sync with Cage. The pretty straight-forward script doesn't provide a lot laughs, amusement might be a better word for it, and the film eventually takes an odd direction. Rather than to continue being what it is, a clever and sweet, soft comedy that relies on its characters, "Guarding Tess" almost becomes a thriller nearing the end, showing that the idea sort of had no way to go. Nonetheless, it all ends with a warm smile, and ultimately "Guarding Tess" is a very likeable film, where the performances do more than enough to carry the spirit successfully, although the two titans didn't leave a lot of room for the rather commendable supporting cast, including Austin Pendleton and Richard Griffiths.

Perhaps a little watery, inconsistent and mighty straight-forward, but a rightful tale, and hearty amusement, for any age, any soul, plus Cage simply doesn't fail. My rating: 6/10.

Wrong Turn

A Welcome New Adventure, Flaws Included
It's hard being a fan of "Wrong Turn" franchise, because for the most part it has not been very great, downhill since day one, a franchise that turned into an ever-growing cacophony of hillbillies slashing and laughing, and teens screaming their guts out. This time around, however, a new page has been turned, as the original writer of "Wrong Turn", Alan B. McElroy, returns with his own reboot, directed by Mike P. Nelson, whose first feature "The Domestics" made me content with this choice of leadership. Result? Most definitely a different "Wrong Turn", new kicks, new flaws.

6 friends travel to a small town deep in West Virginia, to endeavor on a hiking adventure on the Appalachian trail, where they will be confronted by the Foundation, or a community of people who have been living in the mountains since the civil war. Meanwhile, Jen's (Charlotte Vega) father (Matthew Modine) is on a mission to find his now missing daughter.

Whatever the flaws are, and we'll get there, "Wrong Turn" reboot looks, sounds and feels like a pleasant step into a very welcome different direction, and that's without losing tasty trademark violence. A much more self-serious and atmospheric wrong turn than the last five. However, frankly, it could also very nearly be a movie with a different name. The freaky looking hillbillies have been traded in for a tribe of people unaware of world's updates since the 1800's, living as one, under the strict rule of themselves, and their appointed leader Venable (Bill Sage). They clash with main heroes, the millennials, who previously clashed with the other odd gun-toting locals, and here's perhaps the biggest flaw of "Wrong Turn" - how it is pumped with a heavy-handed formulaic tale of morality, prejudice, misconceptions, and social commentary of how divided we are. In service of this plot, "Wrong Turn" has plenty of typical story coincidences and conveniences happening to steer the ship exactly where needed. The amounts of story threads laid out is apparently a little too much, for some of them go nowhere, and consequently the actually longest "Wrong Turn" film to date indeed feels the longest too, as the pacing is uneven, and the third act is a little scattered. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the very ending, however implausible - Don't run when the credits roll. Other than that, 17 years of technological development since the first movie have given us an aesthetically handsome flick, with no loss in style and gore, so visuals ain't the problem at all. Very nicely mossy atmosphere. Acting's neither, although some characters prove to be very thin, and a mere service for a moot point.

The latest "Wrong Turn" is fresh (for the franchise), adventurous, and atmospheric trip of horrors, very nicely using various nature locations, and giving off slightly medieval vibes leaning into the second half of the movie. Where and how the stories go, might not be awesome or impressive, but if you are knowledgeable of this franchise, I truly believe you won't be majorly disappointed. And, honestly, props to them for not setting up a sequel. My rating: 6/10.


Beautifully Dressed Twisted Family Drama
I saw "Stoker" shortly after seeing "Oldboy" for the first time, and that was whole 7 years ago, it is a movie I've been meaning to revisit for some time now. For his first (and last, for now) english-speaking feature, acclaimed director Chan-wook Park directs the first script written by Wentworth Miller, the face of "Prison Break" series, and that's an interesting combo, if You ask me. Boasting a great core cast, artful direction, and sinister atmosphere, "Stoker" is a dark poetic and reasonably psycho coming of age story.

After India's (Mia Wasikowska) father dies, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed, comes to visit her and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Wentworth Miller has come up with quite the cold and grim family drama, every character carries many demons, and they clash, exploring themes of obsession, jealousy, twisted family secrets. Revolving largely around emotionally confused and closed India, the story goes places that more demanding viewers will wind rather empty. It is one of those movies that might make You ask what's the point. A script like this found just the right director, for Park's cinematic skills and attention to detail elevates "Stoker" greatly. Aesthetical nature of this film is mesmerizing, photography is beautiful, and all kinds of camera and editing trickery is used to make to movie always visually alive and breathing. Under this dark poetry for the eyes, atmosphere is further strengthened by the weird and even psychosexual electricity between the characters, and the journey to their fates. The inevitable conclusion can be predicted. It is not a movie that builds until it explodes, but rather propels you to philosophize a little, and to ponder the muddled morale. Disappointingly enough, there are a couple smaller plot details that never get anticipated continuum.

I absolutely loved the performances by Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, both of them nailed it, conveying their emotional turmoil, and twisted fascination with each other. There is a scene where India and Charlie play piano together, probably my favorite sequence from "Stoker", emotionally charged, with a strong feeling of bizarre intimacy. Nicole Kidman had more of a supporting role, and a smaller character, which lacked some history, but there is one standout scene with Nicole's power too.

"Stoker" is a beautiful and bizarre beast, which might disappoint those expecting "Oldboy", lots of violence, or a game-changing twist. First and foremost a drama, it is a darkly brooding family tale and has the slight aura of an adult fairy-tale, largely thanks to the colorful, doll-house like approach to production design.

Willy's Wonderland

Self-Aware and Gleeful B-Movie Awesomeness with just the right Man at the front
"Willy's Wonderland" is the antidote we currently need and deserve, and I'm endlessly happy just seeing Cage in this very self-aware offering from director Kevin Lewis and writer G. O. Parsons. Nobody could conclude that "Willy's Wonderland" is a great, compelling, substantial, or original film, but ain't no mistaking what kind beast this is. An 80's-throwback-trash-splatter-B horror in the best traditions, with Cage sailing this ship with unbeatable charisma and content. It's the kind of cheese fest that just begs to be loved.

A Quiet (absolutely literally) and mysterious drifter wounds up crashed by a small town, where the locals trick him into a janitorial gig at the condemned "Willy's Wonderland". In the empty family dinner parlor with huge animatronic dolls as the entertainers, the drifter starts his mundane mission that soon becomes a battle of survival against satanic fluffy beings. How can you not be interested in Nicolas Cage fighting animatronic animals with mops, toilet plungers, and more... Doing it all in visceral, all-out fashion. Meanwhile, the thin backstory reveals, as the rest of the characters, the typical ones, also are on a mission to destroy the evils of Willy. The core idea is essentially "Five Nights at Freddy's" and the backstory is much the same as Chucky's from "Child's Play". These elements are mashed in "dead by dawn" scenario, and we got ourselves an adventure. It is the drifter, who's the most interesting and gimmicky character, although many teases about him, and more, are left unfinished. It's rather impressive though, Cage gave an awesome performance without ever saying a single word.

It's a film hinging on a singular idea & the abilities of Nicolas Cage, but being aware that helps a great deal, because there is a sense of glee and fun throughout, it is all weird and wacky, violent and colorful. The space is limited, Cage is wordless, and yet filmmakers manage to fill the runtime consistently, though originality, in the end, is not one of the underlined qualities of "Willy's Wonderland". Fight sequences can be repetitive, and quite obscured, but for a slasher-type, it's no different than most, in regards of flow. Even though it is unmistakably a real B, perhaps at times even C movie, the visual panache pleasantly surprised me, I was never bored. There are plenty of fun songs in the package as well, and I have very conflicting feelings about the inclusion of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" near the end. Must have cost them most of the budget... Conflicting feelings, because it is the ending song of one of my favorite horror movies of all time, "The Devil's Rejects". Felt like a steal.

The very fact that we now have a no-frills B horror comedy where Nicolas Cage goes through bloody battles with huge fluffy animatronic creatures, is amazing. A slasher that delivers the expected, with a side of mmm cheese sauce. Cage is on the right path, and I'm always legitimately happy to see him work, he's the Man and can make my day. Thank You. I'd also suggest not wasting your time and hating, if B horror is not your jam, "Willy's Wonderland" is balls-to-the-wall exactly that. My rating: 6/10.


The Silly Heist
"211" is one of the most lackluster examples of Cage's straight-to-video stuff. An implausible and inadvertently silly crime thriller, where director and writer York Shackleton tries to do a whole lot, but achieves only cliché thrills, and leaves a lot of flaws brimming bright. Could be the most stretched-out, underdeveloped, unrealistic heist plot I've seen.

Nicolas Cage, although credited as the lead, is nearly reduced to a supporting role, and cannot fill the overcrowded movie enough with his charms. The narrative threads there are as many as the underdeveloped flock of characters, making it messy, and no more interesting. "Two Eleven" starts out as an international/terrorist crime flick, continues as two different family dramas, a cop flick, a heist story in the middle, and in the end its hard to care for all these paint-by-the-numbers surface level adventures. Couple plotlines truly turn out useless. The characters are sometimes too close to be mere caricatures, and the weak dialogue, paired with many shabby acting performances, makes boredom happen. Professional hitmen act stupid, policemen are a little slow, schools swiftly expel bullied kids, or send on a police ride-along... Multiple action sequences are quite goofy too, namely the intro battle, where poor Ahmed had to drive in exactly the one of 10 directions where death awaits. But not everything's so bad, Cage still delivers, this time a more grounded performance, and, as far as a cop flick goes, it offer the general vague thrills, propelled by a well known and quite bare formula. Yet it drags frequently, and eventually becomes a test of one's patience. "211" also don't have much to offer visually, cinematography is bland, everything happens in the company of an even blander soundtrack. The original score of a 1000 cheap thrillers, is what it feels like. The most fun we see are exploding cars, crashes, and loud, near tension-less gunfight. And Cage.

All in all it is a very standard thriller stuff, low budget and by the book (except for some pages that apparently have been ripped out of the proverbial book), yet "211" manages to feel less than average, for the script truly provides a chockful of clichés, tedium and even frustration. My rating: 3/10.

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines

Clumsy and Tasteless
In the fifth hooray in teens vs. hillbilly maniacs, we follow a bunch of horny young people out camping for Mountain Men festival, where the difference between a masked drunk camper and an actual maniac can't be told. The kills are mean and endlessly gory, a sex scene takes place already during the first minutes, but same old offerings alone can't pull together the repetition to feel any kind of new, exciting or surprising. Run-down-the-mill slasher that is heavily exploitative with no balance.

"Bloodlines" is a direct sequel to "Bloody Beginnings", in it the town of Fairfield, West Virginia, celebrates annual Mountain Men Music Festival (which we hardly ever see or feel taking place). Teens have come to relax, and do what teens usually do, but little did they know it's the maniac season, and they have now been adopted by another killer, with a little more class, Maynard, portrayed by horror icon Doug Bradley, to most known as Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" franchise.

The plot is well predictable, and, additionally, occasionally silly and very unrealistic, for the sake of the familiar scenario to play out with as many cheap shocks along the way as possible. Visually it's quite boring too, locations are empty and drab, town setting is probably the worst one so far. One gnarly kill after another, evil prevails, and the story ends in a lazy manner, feeling unfinished, and further pointless, knowing that next, the 6th installment, don't pick up where director Declan O'Brien and Maynard left it.

It is the weakest, most void, mean for no sake, part in the franchise. There is plenty of decent B grade gore, but it doesn't redeem none, instead it helps the ultimate feeling of bitter dryness. My rating: 3/10.

Resident Evil: Retribution

A Reflection on the franchise itself - All Action, of course
In what is not the last, but is likely the least of installments, we see more of the same and no real movement forward. An epic intro, followed, as always, by Alice's story, or the "previously on Resident Evil", going into another weakly outlined, shallow story, this time tying in more with the very first movie, bringing back multiple characters, albeit some of them are a little different. In a way, "Retribution" is an ode to the franchise itself at that point, and, well, wasn't necessary.

We learn that the situation at the end of "Afterlife" has led to Alice being captured, and tampered with by none other than Umbrella Corporation, which is now solely controlled by the Red Queen, the AI from the beginnings of the franchise. Similarly to the first part, decent portion of events take place inside one of their huge facilities, though it's not claustrophobic no more - the spacious facility is meant for simulations, so various settings are explored. Anderson has tried to make it all fun with use of various terrains, locations, different infected etc., but, again, all in the name of variety in action and eye candy, not story and, frankly, neither atmosphere. I'm not sure if I have seen zombies riding cars and jumping motorcycles before...

The nature of the system of characters don't change, old and new pals, acting cool, come to rescue. Ada Wong existed for exposition and fights, Leon got entirely disrespected as a character, and so were a few other one-function, one-off guys. Characters of "Retribution"don't evolve, except to die or partake in paper thin melodrama. Milla continuously shows devotion to the franchise and Alice, having more range this time around, as one plot line deals with her living the "normal" life as a suburban mom right when the apocalypse starts. I complimented the miniboss in "Afterlife", and they literally pulled the same guy again, this two of them for an action scene. Big scary boys from "Apocalypse" also made second appearances. C'mon guys, to have more of exactly the same wasn't my point. The franchise's standard entertainment value and where it's rooted, in flashy, occasionally even reasonably tense, action sequences, is still alive and well, as is the lack of depth. By the third act, the formula has become a little tiresome, and you find yourself slightly relieved when the climax has passed.

If you're looking for a for an action packed adventure (with a sense of emptiness), this here is a good contender, dramatic, loud, flashy, pointless. My rating: 5/10.

Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch

Cheese Yourself Silly
Lately, I have been craving the goofiness of a well selected 80's horror, and, thanks to multiple mentions of "Howling 2" on Reddit when asked for best bad horror movies, I scored a jackpot. "...Your Sister is a Werewolf" or "Stirba - Werewolf Bi**h" is, by all means, a very bad movie and a needless sequel, but it's also hilarious and beyond cheesy.

The plot is, frankly, null, and it sort of destroys the ending of the first part - the actual solid, serious cult werewolf flick. Ben discovers his sister is a werewolf, and together with a friend and journalist Jenny, helps an occult investigator Stefan, none other than Christopher Lee, to track down a gang of werewolves in Transylvania. Nothing else besides the expected resolution will happen.

I don't even know where to start, "Howling 2" is quite the inept, bad genius movie. With the company of 80's-in-a-nutshell soundtrack, we tag along Ben (Reb Brown) and Jenny (Annie McEnroe), on an adventure with, for example, super cheesy, extra cheap, goofy and unrealistic action scenes. The head of a fake werewolf in close-up, then a guy in a shabby costume quickly doing the rest. Rinse and repeat. And costume design was whacky not only for werewolves. Also, Ben enters the room with a gun and a loud "BOO!", and runs around like a crazy man. Nearly all the performances are funny as well, for the dialogue can be real silly, and characters are required to be quite inept in order for movie to move forward. Most amusing was Christopher Lee, who may have lost a bet or something, because this movie is so, so, way below him. He fights like hell to add seriousness, but unintentionally adds even more pleasant camp. It was the moment Stefan put on punk rocker's glasses that I knew this is going to be a hoot. Besides being ridiculously silly and pretty senseless, "Howling 2" is also super sleazy and offers a great selection of breasts, as well as some extremely hairy love making scenes (although kind of awkward too). Werewolf make-up, or behavior, is a serious down-grade from the first "Howling", and most of the werewolf movies I've seen. The cheese truly has melted all over this film. The main villain, Stirba, portrayed by Sybil Danning, is pretty much reduced to just her looks, but I can agree to what she has said about "Howling 2" - "People start out hating it and by the end they come around to its charms".

Production values are low no matter where and how do You look, dialogue is always silly, direction and writing is highly flawed and, possibly, reasonably careless, but at the same time "Howling 2" is all a B flick needs to be, and also a little window into the madness of the 80's. Near the weak, huh?-kind ending, Christopher Lee dramatically stabs a werewolf while saying "IN THE NAME OF GOD", and that was awesome, I'm telling You. Oh, and part of the credits are a shot of Sybil Danning ripping of her bra over and over. Says it all. My rating: 4/10

The Reckoning

Feels A Lot Like Wasted Potential
Neil Marshall is responsible for scaring and entertaining me plenty as a kid, his first four features are all neatly packed adventures, each quite brutal & those are "Dog Soldiers", "The Descent", "Doomsday" and "Centurtion". Then, after years of directing various TV episodes, including "Game of Thrones", Marshall returned with quite the unsuccessful reboot of "Hellboy", and now out comes "The Reckoning". A historic folk horror of a dark time, the black plague and witch hunting horrors, that had an excellent festival season run, didn't turn out to be as effective as expected... Between the eye candy and half-realized period potential, it is a movie a little too uninspired to bring any new emotion to the table.

I enjoy horror period pieces, particularly ones that go under the folk horror genre, and most often the stories take place on historically similar times, 16th, 17th century. Couple of my favorites include 2015's "The VVitch" and 1971's "The Devils". "The Reckoning" sees the black plague in full force, and witch-hunting being done mercilessly, continously propelled by the good people needing to find blame and the root of evil around them. With rumors that can easily kill, witch hunters with the power of judge, jury & executioner, women are in danger of being burned for a mere accusation of witchcraft. Grace Haverstock's husband fell ill with the plague, and Grace is now left to carry herself and her newborn daughter amidst the death and paranoia in their village. Soon, she's accused of making an unholy union with the devil, and is imprisoned, tortured, to determine whether she is a dark force threatening the life of the villagers. Men, with the entitlement and shield of Christianity behind them, abused everything they could, it is a story of the powerless innocent fighting the holy rollers. "The Reckoning" is always crystal clear about where the real evil lies, leaving little to ambiguity, pointing out obvious resolutions. Enough of the story is grounded in archaic melodrama, leaving most of the historical flavor mostly for our eyes, leaving intriguing elements barely touched. Horror, too, is in the visual panache, but atmosphere rarely ascends to chills. Grace's delusions of the devil feel particularly void, when seemingly aimed to be much more. Even visually some elements, like the devil, miss the mark. "The Reckoning" is always aesthetically sophisticated film, but without noticeable added values. Everything ends in more action, than emotion, which this story needed more of.

Acting performances are reasonably enjoyable throughout, I particularly liked seeing the still overlooked Sean Pertwee as witch hunter Moorcroft, the main villain - the man has charms. On the other hand, Charlotte Kirk's Grace didn't always convince me, and felt like bit of a lackluster, standardized character. Charlotte also served as co-writer and producer of "The Reckoning", perhaps also being responsible for how underwhelmingy straight-forward the script is...

"The Reckoning" feels a lot like wasted potential, giving us a straight-forward story where emotion and morale gets muddled, and everything culminates in the expected, no more, no less. For everyone interested in the setting and period of time, go for it, the rest, prepare for a reasonably typical horror drama set against a slice of history cut too thin. My rating: 5/10.

Saint Maud

Rich, Brave and Compelling in Unappreciated Ways
And here I, at last and once again, meet the kind of horror movie that butters my bread just the right way. It is astonishing the variety of new horror filmmakers and their debuts, and their continuum, that we have been gifted during the last years, from Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz ("Goodnight Mommy", "The Lodge"), Robert Eggers ("The VVitch", ""The Lighthouse"), Ari Aster ("Hereditary", "Midsommar"), etc., and now Rose Glass, with an equal force in probing for horror in the psyche of a human mind.

"Saint Maud" follows Maud, a devout, young nurse who works as a private carer, and becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient, Amanda Kohl. While the plot is admittedly short and, as many complain, plenty predictable, it is not that much the structure of the story or the amount of plot turns where the substance is at. "Saint Maud" is an exploration of a traumatized mind grasping for a safe ground, about absolute fanaticism and the dissimilarity between the beliefs of a religious mind and all others, about the relationship between faith and oneself, a young woman fighting and succumbing to deteriorating mental state, and a tale of loneliness. And a story of possession.

It is truly an impressive and daring film debut, with Rose Glass orchestrating Maud's rise and downfall with much ambiguity, leaving all possibilities open. Is such a tunneled fanaticism a mental illness? Is God really speaking to her? Maud believes only the father in heaven can help her and the whole wicked humanity & she' sure God acts through her, touches her soul. The story is told almost entirely from Maud's perspective, so we see, through her, all the manifestations and sensations that find her in her lonely, routine life. Delusions, and not willingly perceived. Reality that has started to bend to adjust to these delusions. With only 80-minute runtime, Rose Glass is not in a hurry to confirm that Maud is a deeply troubled, mentally ill mind in need of help other than Gods. Much of the ground of "Saint Maud" is built from the relationship between Maud and Amanda. Maud admires Amanda for her strength, but believes her mind is shrouded in darkness and need of a holy touch, and the mission becomes clear when Amanda calls Maud her 'little savior'. Maud disapproves of certain Amanda's actions, like her sexual relationship with another woman, and eventually it boils up to conflict and Maud's crisis of faith. "Revelation. Just in time." "Saint Maud" is a powerful and psychologically exposed downwards spiral into uncontrollable depths of a person's mind. We are fragile.

No less impressive are the aesthetical values and acting. Morfydd Clark stars in her first leading role, and does so as devoutly as her character is to God, it is a physical, demanding and impressive performance that should be recognized. Jennifer Ehle adds strength, compassion, humanism, a different pole from Maud's, as Amanda, an ex-choreographer suffering a stage four spinal lymphoma. "Saint Maud" is certainly a female-led movie, all the men characters are, frankly, idiots. It's a movie beuatiffuly shot and edited, every frame seems thought-through, and there are no hiccups in the visual language. Much respect goes out to Adam Janota Bzowski, responsible for the eerie, pulsating original score & its only his first full feature, great future is ahead.

I see people arguing whether "Saint Maud" is a horror film, and I'd say for sure it is, but the horror can be more felt than seen. It is what the characters go through. And the finale was very effective in all regards of horror, in my opinion.

It's admirable how much Rose Glass has put in 80 minutes, and I stand by that it is anything but an empty film, emotion can substitute for a lot. Movies like this one, that make your brain work for days after, are the reason I'm into cinema. My rating: 8/10.


Wasikowska and Abbott are on the same page in a Sleazy and Hypnotic Cinematic Creature
I was very impressed by Nicolas Pesce's debut "The Eyes of My Mother", to me it was an inspirational movie, for it felt just like the kind of horror I love and respect the most, and wish to make one day. I missed "Piercing" when it came out, but not too long ago saw Pesce's "The Grudge" reboot, which sadly, wasn't too good, but it was real mean and tried to beat some clichés. As I'm on the task to see more movies starring the excellent Mia Wasikowska, I got to finally feel the rest of Pesce's current trinity, and I am reasonably satisfied.

Creed (Christopher Abbott), a family man, a troubled man, kisses his wife and daughter goodbye and seemingly heads away on business, but his true plan is known by nobody else, and that is to check into a hotel, call an escort service, order a prostitute, and killer her. With an ice pick. She arrives, the name is Jackie (Mia Wasikowska), and she turns out no less demented than Creed. Their inner demons will make the whole affair sleazy, violent, off-putting and contradictory.

I knew I'll like "Piercing" during the first minute, where only the titles dance, but they did so with an old-school aesthetic, both visually and audibly. Full disclosure, I have not read Ryu Murakami's novel, so I don't know the reality of the original story, but I absolutely love the sleazy 70's vibe that "Piercing" is clothed in. Nicolas Pesce has created a beautiful, shadowy, sort of pseudo-modern looking little world, in which Creed and Jackie love, hate, and don't know each other. I hear the viewers who call out the pointlessness of it all, and I agree it is, though it doesn't have much weight on my rating. Besides the awesome production design, great and minimalistic-effectively used FX, and absolutely cool-as-hell soundtrack (with borrowings from "Deep Red" and "Tenebrae"), the force that drives "Piercing" are the interactions between two reasonably demented personalities. Personalities who are given just the right ambiguous treatment by Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska. Couple years ago I didn't really know Christopher Abbott, but by now I've seen the man has many good, offbeat indies under his belt. He's good.

Pesce has crafted "Piercing" meticulously, setting out to hypnotize the viewer, so he doesn't know where exactly is he led to. Pacing's not always consistent or up-going, and the movie tends to lose itself someplace in the constant brushes between Jackie and Reed, more so around the middle parts of "Piercing". I both love and dislike how the film ends, pointlessly and unexpectedly, but at the same time it nicely loops it all together, sort of. Ultimately, does "Piercing" lack substance? It does, the psychological terror is always masterfully manifested, but not always we know or understand what were the things that put these characters into the state they are in.

A sleazy throwback erotic thriller mixed with a dark comedy about an unsure man catching a fish too big, thrown in the blender of modern arthouse horror. And a pinch of Cronenberg-esque body horror. Feel like signing up? My rating: 7/10.

Kiss of Death

Starpower & Self-Seriousness Saves
"Kiss of Death" is your classic, decent, self-serious 90's crime flick, and one that boasts quite the cast, really, From David Caruso and Nicolas Cage, to Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Helen Hunt and Stanley Tucci.

It's kind of funny how the events that IMDb's synopsis describes only start off like half way through the movie. Honest man Jimmy Kilmartin (David Caruso) is pulled in on a job against his better judgement, and gets caught. If he wants to be the dad to his daughter, he must cooperate and help Calvin Hart (Samuel L. Jackson) bring down the bad guys, including the proverbial boss of "Kiss of Death", the psychotic criminal Little Junior Brown, or Nic Cage.

The plot involves less fights and gunfire, and more cop politics than I anticipated, but for once a movie taking itself seriously really helped the flow flaws. At one point Little Junior Brown teaches a lesson to Jimmy about his personal motto, which is "B. A. D. - Balls, Attitude, Direction". Kind of applies to the movie itself, it know what it is, where it goes, and goes there with a strong, unswayable attitude. Overall atmosphere is a little tepid, rarely spinning out in thrills and suspense, and losing momentum towards the end. Nonetheless, good stuff tends to break out when Cage's Junior shows his crazier side and clashes with other characters, being the suspicious angry mob man. Also, is it just me, or every other 80's-90's thriller features at least one scene in a strip club?

Nicolas Cage, the actual show stealer, is once again gifted a character suited for his skills, he portrays the gang's scary guy, ladies man, muscle man, anger issues kind of man. I knew this was supposed to be Caruso's kick start at a film career, that later failed (but he got back in game with CSI: Miami), and, in my opinion, he gave a very decent, weighted main hero's performance. Once again I learn afterwards that someone had been nominated for a Razzie, and this time it was Caruso for the worst new star. Why? I truly don't know, but I've seen way worse. As for Samuel L. Jackson, he has relatively little screen time, Hunt, Rhames and Tucci - even less.

Like with many thrillers back in the day, "Kiss of Death", although appearing dangerous and possibly more atmospheric than half of the crime flicks of the 90's, never truly feels like much is at stake, a soft resolution is reluctantly expected, and a soft resolution is received. Eventually, "Kiss of Death" is just another thriller, just with a top-notch Cage, many exciting names filling the rest of the roles, and a respectable seriousness in the air all the way through. My rating: 6/10.

Death to Smoochy

Fun and Likeable, but not Fully Realized Satire
For the fifth and last Sunday of January, or my month of Robin Williams, it was a choice between "Good Will Hunting" and "Death to Smoochy", and I was much too intrigued by a black comedy with such a stellar cast, and a... Razzie-nominated Robin Williams. I didn't even know. While it is a certainly flawed movie and a vision that ultimately goes underwhelming places, it is also a likeable one.

A TV kids show host, Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams), is fired in disgrace after taking bribes for putting people on the show, and the network now has to find someone squeaky clean, with a heart of gold, and they score with Sheldon Mopes a.k.a. Smoochy the Rhino. Unfortunately for Sheldon, kids television business turns out to be no child's play.

As far as black comedies go, I found "Death to Smoochy" to be a fine example of the genre. A kids TV satire with a foul mouth and plenty of darkness for Danny DeVito to play around in the director's chair. The premise is promising and interesting, till, around the middle parts, it gets more and more apparent that we will end up someplace quite familiar, and it was very easy to predict the fates of most characters early on. Nonetheless, the colorful and shady business of children's television endures a carnivalic feast of sorts, as the combination of awesome acting performances, energetic direction and technical flair helps to roll it along.

Edward Norton is a perfect fit for the sweet, moralistic, naïve new world hero Smoochy, while Robin Williams is more demented than ever as the off-the-rails Rainbow Randolph, set to regain his sunshine at any cost. Did he deserve a Razzie nomination? Hell no. Is it fun to see him in such an atypical, villainous role? Hell yes. Additionally, Catherine Keener is good as the love interest of all kids show hosts, and Michael Rispoli heartily plays Spinner Dunn, the man with the saddest story of them all. And DeVito himself portrays an show business agent, fits him like a glove, and somehow appears nostalgic to me.

"Death to Smoochy" is often vulgar and mean, but not without wit and sarcasm, often loses momentum, but doesn't cease to be fun. Couple chuckles are guaranteed too, at least. All depends how will you be vibing with this. My rating: 6/10

Brotherhood of Blood

Starpower Couldn't Save It & There's no Indie Charm Either
The one thing I came for was the duo of Side Haig and Ken Foree, but even they couldn't boost it up much. As I learned after the fact, "Brotherhood of Blood" comes from the writers of a masterpiece called "Far Cry" which I recently saw as part of 'that bad?' review series. Not a good coincidence. They also have "Bloodrayne" and "Alone in the Dark" under their belts. This is a movie with very low production values, shabby cinematography, bad lighting, an entire set of flaws. Story's mehh, acting's for the TV, gore's cheap, and so on... Did I just review the whole movie?

We are thrown in a world where vampires are real, and the hunters are also doing their thing. Both parties are going about their business, which is often hard to care about, the plot barely engages, moving from scene to scene with cheese and goofs attracting more attention, and more tedium setting in by the minute. The filmmakers have tried to make it more interesting by splitting time lines in the storytelling, all leading up to the foreseeable connecting finale, but it ultimately adds nothing much, as the plot is still predictable and hard to care about. "Brotherhood of Blood" relishes in its own vampire lore, but barely ever makes it interesting. Acting's really inconsistent, though mostly amusing enough, for a variety of reasons. However, some dialogue is delivered so dry You couldn't believe, and prepare for lines like "we're vampire hunters, not fu**ing accountants". Sid Haig and Ken Foree do their deeds, but it matters little, when we're inside such a C movie.

The lighting and camera work at some points resemble a home video, while at some points it's acceptable enough. Inconsistent, not counting feeling cheap, that endures. Too many zooms, editing can be a bit odd too. Budget constraints can further be seen in the variety and charm of locations, and what the costume department managed to come up with. The musical score's in with the vibe of the whole thing, and is all kinds of overdramatic, typical and/or misplaced.

As to what exactly Sam Raimi liked enough to pick this movie as one of the first releases of his new label back in the day, I'm not sure. Maybe because enough is indeed happening throughout, but perhaps I missed the fun of it all somehow. It's a drab, rather emotionless, inadvertedy funny piece of horror that couldn't be saved be starpower. My rating: 2/10.

The Little Things

Subtlety Overkill / An Interesting Case
The morbid fascination of serial killers, fictional or not, is always alive, though I'm not here to look for any why's, but to tell you a story of what could've been, and what is... My favorite examples of similar movies are Fincher's "Se7en" & "Zodiac" and Bong Joon Ho's "Memories of Murder", and all three of these are from the perspective of those investigating. Other serial killer films, also excellent pieces, like "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" or "10 Rillington Place", are more horror-like, and rather from the perspective of the killer, and/or his victims. "The Little Things" features an absolute a-list, enjoyable cast, a highly intriguing plot, and... a dry execution. I love psychological thrillers, but there are various qualities. It feels like John Lee Hancock wished to thrive on subtlety, and overdid it. Spoilers ahead.

"The Little Things" sees Joe 'Deke' Deacon (Denzel Washington) hunting a free-roaming killer, together with his own personal demons and reasons which get revealed later, quite unsurprisingly. Deke joins forces with the young, talented, hardworking but naïve Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), who, throughout the plot, kind of lacks the third character dimension. Together they set on the slow path to finding Albert Sparma, a creepy looking and equally creepy sounding Jared Leto.

The story moves at a slow pace, mulling over figuring out things that the viewer has already done so 20 minutes back, emphasizing subtlety and 'little things', which are the things that lead to finding a killer, or maybe the things that make You You... Details matter, that much we understand. Even with concluding and accepting that it is a character and performance driven film, even with understand the movie's point and message (talk about that later), "The Little Things", to me, still is a lackluster crime drama. Perhaps it could be the fact that this script has been around for 30 years before John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side", "The Highwaymen") decided to direct it himself. Dated idea that has a tough time to pass now. Some elements of the story ain't exactly screaming 'realistic' either, and for such a silently strong movie that truly wishes to ground itself in the bleakness of the world, feeling authentic is important. "The Little Things" simply lacks energy, urge. Instead it is uneven and frequently loses momentum.

What "The Little Things" got going for it big time, is the acting. The three main characters consist of Oscar winners. I had been missing Denzel for some time, since "The Equalizer 2", I believe, and he is the jewel of this movie, but sadly such a great performance seems a little wasted when the rest of the movie doesn't quite hold up... I was also excited for Leto and Malek, one of whom once again proved to me he should finally have some slack cut for the Joker troubles, and the other received a not-rich-enough character. In my opinion, a good serial killer movie, among other things, warrants heavy atmosphere, and some sharper jolts, and I don't necessarily mean graphic violence. While the slow pace and ultimate slight emptiness of "The Little Things" doesn't help the atmosphere keep its grimness and seriousness up, there are two killer jolts to be found, one of them intro-es the movie, just a simple, small cat-and-mouse game, and the other is the Sparma's final confrontation. However, grime and ponder can be found in the character of Deacon, whose guilt, frustration and sadness manifests itself frequently, and is also the eminent danger that stands in the way of Jim Baxter's character. And in the way of the viewer. I believe that John Lee Hancock not clarifying for us whether Sparma was the killer, puts us, the viewers, in a role 'similar' to those of our two cops, and leaves us dealing with not knowing, and frustration. Like it was for Deacon and, eventually, Jim. But Deacon gave Jim one thing, the red barrete, that can change the course of Jim's life, as it was Deke's wish for Jim not to become the mess he is himself. They sure left us messy. Yet, I am not sure what exactly this film says about guilt - should it be lived through, or should it be gotten rid of, and at what expense?

On one hand, it is an atmospheric, subtle, slow-burn, philosophical, psychological crime drama - all of that sounds terrific, but I can't sell it to You like that, because underneath there (also) are spots of boredom, spots of unfocused dialogue, some unrealistic resolutions, some expectations that you wish weren't true were met, and some expectations that get shattered. My rating: 6/10.

The Trust

Some Heisty Fun with a Dynamic Duo in a Flawed Story
I very much expected it to be a rather typical action drivel, but Brewer brothers actually have taken a more restrained approach, avoiding being over-the-top, trying to make a grounded crime drama, heist flick / cop flick, but not without some pulp. Even some little comedy. And, best of all, this adventure is led by the unprecedented dynamic duo of Cage and Wood.

Stone (Nicolas Cage) and Waters (Elijah Wood) are two cops with a hunch about a shady drug operation, they decide to go rogue and investigate, and find a bank vault with unknown intriguing contents... Thus a cop/heist flick was born. Who knew that Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood have such a terrific dynamic between them - both are very well cast. The character of Stone might as well been written with Cage in mind, man's always good with eccentric or oddball characters. It is the most satisfying part of "The Trust" - performances and their quirky characters interactions. Having said that, the character development is lacking, fault of the script. The story's not without flaws, blanks are left in what motivation propelled specific characters, who and what they were stealing from, etc., the ending's kind of nicely grim for my taste, but a general lackluster at the same time.

Even though part paint-by-the-numbers, part lets-just-have-fun, "The Trust" together makes an easily enjoyable heist flick, though largely reaching for drama rather than white-knuckle-thriller. Pacing's reasonably consistent from the very start, dialogue is always decent, plot's a little slow but not boring, and acting endures, there's enough to be engaged with. When we've gotten to the heist itself, it gets the most interesting, steadily going step by step, problems on the way, heavier drama and emotion setting in. Also, with the 9 mil budget, "The Trust" didn't have a lot of trouble to appear technically confident throughout.

Among some music videos, "The Trust" is the only feature film Alex and Benjamin Brewer have directed, and it is a cool one, one that features two great performances and some tried and proven heisty fun. Check it out for these ingredients. My rating: 6/10.

Black Box

Solid 'Who Am I?' Piece with some Tweaks
Those into sci-fi dramas and mysteries, gather 'round, we have a good one here! "Black Box" is nor the first, nor the best 'Who am I?' piece, but it takes the concept, virtual reality, our reprogrammable subconscious, and makes an intriguing, engaging and very well acted mystery thriller. Barely a horror, I must agree to that.

After losing his wife and his memory in a car accident, a single father, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) looks for all the possible options to restore his memories, and finds hope in the hands of Lillian (Phylicia Rashad) and her new, experimental virtual reality treatment.

It's really much more of a sci-fi drama than horror, where the only true element of horror is the entity that haunts Nolan in his dreams. I felt like the premise promises and builds up some visceral horror, but it never reached that peak, the third act is not the most climatic. Besides sci-fi themes, the story and flow is that of a melodrama, where there is warmth in the dynamic between father and daughter, or Mamoudou and Amanda Christine, care and worry between brothers, love and hurt between mother and son, husband and wife. Not going to talk about the twists, other than the fact that they come late, and can be figured out. Overall, "Black Box" feels fresher despite using many familiar tropes.

The all-black ensemble of actors provide terrific performances, my personal favorite being Phylicia Rashad, with Mamoudou Athie and Amanda Christie right beside. While the movie looks and sounds good, in my opinion it lacks additional visual panache, some aesthetical sauce and creativity, to compliment the fantastic concept at play. Instead, "Black Box" appears rather grey and almost drab.

Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, to whom "Black Box" is directional feature debut, is definitely a promising filmmaker, as he has gifted us a flawed, but content and serious story, including plenty of social commentary, some of it on the virtual reality too. My rating: 6/10

The Outpost

Immersive, Close-Up Experience
There are two genres I always feel like seeing more movies come out from, and those are War and Western. Rod Lurie has made sure we receive a technical, tactical, tight true story of one outpost, its soldiers and their battles, internal and external, during the war in Afghanistan.

In 2006, a group of United States Army soldiers, together with allied forces, are holding an outpost Kamdesh in Afghanistan, with a mission to keep peace and help the locals. This is a story of 53 U.S. soldiers and two Latvian military advisors who battled around 400 enemy insurgents in the battle of Kamdesh. By the way, I am a Latvian, and had completely forgot about this story until seeing the character already well into "The Outpost".

I cannot attest to the historical accuracy or its accuracy regarding the book it is based on, but I see a lot of positive comments and opinions, and I read that, when screened to the depicted soldiers and their families, commander Stoney Portis called the movie "part of the healing".

All war films are on the task to be respectful, authentic and morally right and true, but not all succeed at that. "The Outpost", however, excels. It is a carefully, meticulously crafted film, with the filmmakers constant effort to place the viewer alongside the soldiers, inside the chaos. The pacing is quick, the danger is sudden, the cinematic action swift and close-up. The soldiers in "The Outpost" rise above cussing baddies, and explores not only the roughness around them, but the darkness, conflict and hurt inside. And not always the party are like brothers that unconditionally get on, ugliness happens everywhere. Lots of props go out to the rich cast, with great performances by Caleb Landry Jones and Scott Eastwood in the front, and Orland Bloom as their first commander, who goes too fast.

First half of the movie is a little uneven, as the actual plot/story is short, and the characters, and their interactions fulfill the space, but the third act comes around faster than expected, providing a half an hour full an exhilarating Battle, the Battle of Combat Outpost Keating. From a technical standpoint, "The Outpost" is on point, it's always alive and the cinematography/choreography of the many action sequences is impressive.

As far as war movies and action flicks go, it is a solid, devout one, telling a slice of history and valor with respect and content. My rating: 7/10.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

Hillbillies, Sex & Gory Glory
After this re-watch, "Bloody Beginnings" remains the best of sequels after the first two parts, and by the 'best' I mean most fun. Hillbillies, sex & gory glory is what "Wrong Turn 4" is, that, and also silly teenagers doing silly things and getting picked off one by one in the most brutal of manners. Couple lucky ones finally prove some competition near the end, but then... Classic stuff.

The intro sequence, introducing the three antagonists from the first part as children, imprisoned in a mental sanitorium with many other similar individuals, is probably the best part of the whole movie. Brutal, exploitative, exquisitely gory & featuring Strauss's Blue Danube in the background. It is quite the quick and simple back story, soon to be cancelled out by "Wrong Turn" the reboot, where I'll bet we'll learn a substantially better back story. Hopefully.

Many years later, a group of half horny college students get lost in a storm during a snowmobiling trip, and find shelter in the now abandoned sanitarium. To be honest, I'd totally go there inside too, but I'd hope there aren't three cheery, deformed cannibals lurking around.

The bunch of characters are typical, of course, some are almost like played up clichéd even. Acting stumbles a bit at times, and melodrama/dialogue ain't the polished kind, so their biggest guns indeed are the gore, action and the villains. Villains with their own cooking show. Slices of meat are being cut off a screaming man's chest, and arms, and legs, with the cacophony of satisfied giggling and snickering in the background, while the meat is sizzling in the oil, and being crushed pleasurably with big, sharp teeth. Yeah, something like that. Despite the action, the pacing of "Wrong Turn 4" ain't the fastest, and feels stretched out a bit too much around the middle parts.

In the end, we end cool, with a song and all. You can't un-take the wrong turn. My rating: 5/10.

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Action, Milla and Camp
It's the Fourth Wednesday with Resident Evil and at this point I have once again accepted my fate and am almost excited for some mindless blockbuster action. Also because I remember this one as one of my favorites,

and not because of the story, as there barely is one, but because of some considerably cool action sequences, and, well, basically same old qualities and reasons. It's Milla helping another group of survivors. Full disclosure, almost the entirety of action is completely unrealistic and for maximum show, but that's okay, one must accept the terms. We come here to munch on popcorn. And see slow-mos. Proper miniboss fight too, the big ol' guy with an axe. Probably one of the most memorable sequences of "Afterlife", although that's not saying much. Cgi's Iffy at times, some scenes lesser perhaps in favor of other scenes having more budget, who knows, a lot of this looks awesome enough. Some of the sets are proper entertaining. Take everything with a grain of s..cheese.

Milla Jovovich still goes at it with the same content energy, something that endures the whole franchise, Wentworth Miller portrays a prisoner, obviously, and Shawn Roberts's Albert Wesker (pretty much the biggest of characters from the games in the movie franchise) is borderline comical, but that does vibe with the general atmosphere. Paul W. S. Anderson seems (mostly) aware of what the franchise has turned out to be, though having said that, it doesn't get any better moving forward. If it was even more devoted to action and replaced the shallow plot melodrama with much more leaning on horror, or comedy and wit. Make it more fun and less typical.

Personally, I'd say "Afterlife" is the third best movie in the series, after the first installment and "Extinction", for I, sadly, know what's coming in the next two weeks. Bottom point is, generally nothing changes in this franchise, same elements on varying quality. A campy line of blockbusters. My rating: 6/10.

4/20 Massacre

Reasonably Fun Amateur Effort
This one has been waiting in the watchlist since before it came out, for obvious reasons, and is to be watched under obvious circumstances. And, you know, it really wasn't all that bad this time around. Grantedly, it's cheap, deeply flawed, silly and not exactly very memorable, but as far as fun goes.. You can have some with "4/20 Massacre".

The plot: A group of five women go camping in the woods to celebrate a friend's birthday over 4/20 weekend. But when they cross the turf of an illegal marijuana grow operation they must struggle to survive the living nightmare.

All female characters for the group of main protagonists was an unexpected choice, but a welcome one - how many stoner flicks do You know where the main character aren't guys? The choice proved successful through decent acting and quite unexpected, by a lot of people possibly despised, melodrama. The 'boring' parts. The overall plot is extremely short and thin, and doesn't go beyond synopsis. Sure, there are couple minor twists, all of which will strongly remind of many slashers made before over decades. Where there isn't killing, there is a lot of filler, melodrama, including romance, between the characters, lots of 420 jokes and endorsement, and the thing is, it works, the filler makes the pacing consistent enough, and the acting helps to enjoy it. The five friends are all different enough, from a devoted-to-rastaman stoner to the restrained birthday girl, or the scream queen of "4/20 Massacre". The killer, the weed man, is hilarious, skipping around real sneaky like in backgrounds, hitting and brain bongs and such, fun guy, not a lot of character though.

"4/20" can be visually confusing, style-wise. It takes place entirely during bright daylight, and that's understandable, but the post-production saw that the blues are well jacked up. All black tones were way too blue, and contrast was overused at times. It's shot well enough for a micro budget feature, but the editing is flawed.

It is an amateur hour movie.. But an effortful one, filled with enough stuff to keep the stoned one engaged. You'll know whether to watch it. My rating: 4/10.


A Disaster Movie With all the necessary Emotion
In the disastrous phenomenon that 2020 was, the award for the best actual disaster flick goes to... For real, even though I'm super late for "Greenland", it turned to be quite the pleasant surprise. What I expected to be another "2012", "Geostorm" or a straight-up blockbuster with B movie jolts, actually is a decent thriller/survival/family drama set against the backdrop of apocalyptic events. Explosions and collapsing buildings are there, but they ain't the main focus.

The Garrity family is just having a little sit down with some friends, most of whom are excited to watch the live broadcast of the allegedly harmless interstellar comet Clarke passing earth, and then the amber alert comes... Garrity family has been chosen for emergency shelter, for John Garrity (Gerard Butler) is a structural engineer, a skilled worker. Clarke turns out to be a potential 'planet killer', and Garrity family's harsh, unprecedented journey to safety starts here. "Greenland" has a no-nonsense attitude and energy, the stakes are high, the family must get together, through many awful trials. Even though a definite dramatization, with all, I mean, all the dangers on characters way, through those means "Greenland" shows the bad and the good of the humanity in such apocalyptic circumstances, and is a film that exhibits a good amount of sentimentalism, emotion. Human factor is mostly consistently at play in "Greenland", as director Ric Roman Vaughn ("Felon", "Shot Caller") and writer Chris Sparling ("Buried", "The Atticus Institute") have chosen to focus on the family, rather than explosive action sets and loads of cgi.

Emotion of "Greenland" is superbly conveyed by the cast, with the highlight, in my opinion, belonging to Morena Baccarin ("Gotham", "Deadpool") as the mother and a part of the heart of Garrity family. Gerard seems to be just where he needs to be, and another two good additions are little Roger Dale Floyd as the youngest Garrity, and his grandpa Dale, or the grizzled veteran Scott Glenn.

What actually makes the movie even more impressive, is the fact that "Greenland" ain't exactly a big bucks picture, with a 35 million budget. For example, "San Andreas" (2015) was budgeted at 110 million. Cgi's slightly iffy here and there, but overall "Greenland" is a job well done also regarding technical aspects, and it doesn't feel like a 'small' film.

Some may find it duller than others because of bad character decisions and dramatized plot turns, some may see plenty of excitement and shed a tear, but the fact of the matter is, "Greenland" is no laughing flick, but a tight, enjoyable popcorn adventure for the entire family. My rating: 7/10.

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