Black Sheep: Movie Review

This is not the Black Sheep from 1996 starring Chris Farley and David Spade. No, this is the Black Sheep from 2006, made in New Zealand, with special effects by Peter Jackson's WETA powerhouse, and starring no one you've ever heard of. Rather than explain to you what kind of movie you're in for, I think I'd be just as well off letting the poster do the talking.

And what a poster it is. I'm especially fond of the tagline, which reads "There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand... And they're PISSED OFF!" If this poster doesn't clue you in to the fact that this film is going to be walking the fine line between comedy and horror, nothing short of a blow to the head will.

The plot of the film is extraneous really, but here it is: Henry, our boring hero who grew up on a cattle farm before moving to the big city, is returning home. It seems Henry has developed a bit of a phobia against our fluffy white mammal friends, ever since a tragic farming accident left his father with a serious case of being dead. Henry has returned home to sell his half of the farm to his evil prick brother, Angus. With a name like Angus was their any chance he'd be anything but the movie's main villian? At any rate, it seems old Angus wants the full ownership rights to the farm because he's running a diabolical genetic engineering laboratory out of one of the barns. Oh yeah, and a couple of hippy tree huggers show up and spend a lot of time complaining about the meat industry and other such things that hippies like to complain about.

So, being as this is a tale of science run amok, it's time for the science to run amok. Those aformentioned hippies steal some highly biohazardous material which turns out to be a mutant, killer sheep fetus. One of the hippies gets bit by the thing before it escapes into the pastures where all the other sheep are doing their lazy, grazing thing. A few bites later and we have acres and acres of woolly, crazed, flesh eating, mutant beasties.

This is the part where the movie picks up. Our unlucky heroes, consisting of Henry, Experience (the waifish hippy chick), and a farm hand named Tucker, have to travel across the open pastures, make it back to town, and raise the alarm. Angus, of course, will do anything he can to stop them. You may recall that I said there were a pair of hippies, not just one. Turns out that the bite of these creatures results in some serious cellular regeneration, creating MUTANT SHEEP MEN!

Yeah, that's right. Weresheep.

I'll let you bask in stunned silence now.

The final part of the film plays out a little like the Dead Alive with a mix of Night of the Living Dead thrown in. I wouldn't want to spoil anything, but the movie ends in a whirl wind of excitement. Black Sheep is one of those rare films that delivers exactly what the poster promises; Lots of fun and lots of sheep.

The movie has its share of scares but is played largely for laughs. The film would no doubt be at home in a late night film festival rotation, surrounded by your slightly inebriated friends. There's a lot to love here and little to dislike. The special effects are cheesy but great, and all the acting is worthy of a Hollywood theatrical release. Fans of early Peter Jackson will be delighted to see a lot of similarities.

That said, the movie still isn't perfect. Americans may be put off by slang-filled New Zealand dialogue. The pacing is a bit off as well, although I never found myself waiting impatiently for the next development to occur. The climax, while indeed climatic, didn't have the build up that lets you know that this is the big final moment in the film. It just sort of happens.

The Bottomline: Black Sheep is a fun-filled film. It's not perfect, but horror-comedy fans will feel right at home. The film would play well at parties or social gatherings as the comedy/cheese quotient is high enough to keep horror casuals entertained. Recommended. 3 Bruces.

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NO! Not a Nightmare on Elm Street Remake!

UNACCEPTABLE

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Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form have been set by New Line to re-launch Freddy Krueger, the iconic psycho who haunts the subconscious dreams of teenagers and kills them in their sleep.

The trio will create a new franchise based on "A Nightmare on Elm Street," the 1984 Wes Craven film.

Originally played by Robert Englund, Krueger haunted nine films and two TV series, and was New Line's most lucrative franchise until "The Lord of the Rings."

The deal comes as Bay, Fuller and Form ready for an April start for "Friday the 13th," a New Line re-launch of another iconic baddie, Jason Voorhees. Marcus Nispel will direct a script by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift ("Freddy Vs. Jason").

Both franchises will be given a complete overhaul, something that Platinum Dunes provided in the Nispel-directed "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
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If Englund ain't in this bad boy, count me OUT.
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Rambo: A Retrospective on a Cultural Icon

Caution, some **SPOILERS** lie ahead, although none about the new movie.

I went to go see Rambo this weekend and I was throughly impressed. The 96-or so minute run time was entirely too short and left me wanting more, more, more! I may be overstating my case, but I really enjoyed this movie. I would recommend that you go out and see it as well, except you probably have already made up your mind about this film. You're well aware of the Rambo character from its place in pop culture and therefore already know whether or not you'll enjoy this kind of mindless, action violence.

Or do you?

The Rambo series, on whole, is largely remembered for the middle two films. First Blood II: Rambo and Rambo III were fun, cheese-filled, pro-America action fests. The scenarios were over the top and the explosions were numerous. This invincible, one-liner spitting, muscle-ripped Rambo is the Rambo that everyone remembers.

But it wasn't always that way.

The first Rambo movie, which didn't even have Rambo in the title, First Blood, was an effective albeit action-oriented look at the post-war life of a Vietnam vet. This isn't your soldier boy Rambo from the sequels, this is a broken husk of a man who simply has no place in a world where he can't hold a job and is despised as a baby-killer. The first film opens of John Rambo drifting from town to town before getting arrested for vagrancy in a hick, backwoods town. He's an emotionally distraught man, suffering from post-war stress, and is pushed too far by abusive law enforcement officers.

It's interesting that a character that would go on to become symbolic of America would spend his first cinematic endeavor killing and maiming police officers. While John Rambo is pushed into the actions he takes, he's clearly on the wrong side of the law. Luckily for theater-goers, this point is largely ignored. Also, the movie leaves out an interesting thematic element from the book it is based on.

Side note: Yes, Rambo is based on a book. It's titled First Blood and was written by David Morrell. It's a good read if you haven't picked it up.

In the book, Rambo is less a character and more a force of nature. The small town sheriff, who is the antagonist in the film, is more the protagonist in the book. The sheriff is a Korean War vet, while Rambo is a Vietnam vet. The two men are similar, with similar experiences and training. The difference is that the sheriff came back to an America that hailed him as a hero, whereas Rambo came home and was shunned and then forgotten. The author also fully acknowledges that the actions Rambo takes are extremely illegal and not justifiable. Rambo, as a character, is beyond the point of redemption.

And that's why he has to die.

There's the aforementioned spoiler. Yes, boys and girls, Rambo dies in the book. He doesn't go to jail only to get released early for taking on a mission rescuing POWS. He doesn't go on to become a symbol of the Reagan-era or a rallying point against communism. Rambo isn't a good man, and he isn't cheered for by the audience. He kills a lot of good people with little incentive and no justification. The movie glosses over this point, but makes it no less true. Yet, somehow, in the movie, we did end up cheering for him. Stallone really pulled one off (or hoodwinked the audience, you decide).

The first movie, despite glossing over Rambo's true nature, is still an effective movie. You feel for Rambo and go through the emotional ups and downs right along side him. The original sequels lost this quality, prefering to make Rambo an invincible, commie-killing machine. The newest sequel, title simply Rambo, is a return to form. We meet up with Rambo again, twenty years later. He's been trying to live in peace, but somehow war finds him again. If the new Rambo does nothing else, it brings us back into the emotional folds of the character. We understand his feelings and motivations. We appreciate him not just as this larger-than-life icon, but as a man.

And I'm happy to say, by the end of this film, Rambo finds himself. He becomes the man that the war machine wouldn't allow him to be. He finally does come back from the point of no return.

At long last, Rambo goes home.

If we never meet this character again, farewell and adieu. Rambo, you will be missed.


I'll be funnier next time, I swear.
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Meet the Spartans: A Horrible Travesty of Nature

First there was Scary Movie, then there was a series of lackluster sequels. This was then followed by Date Movie and Epic Movie, bringing us to the reality of today: Meet the Spartans. Gaze upon the fantastical poster in all of it's low-definition glory.


I feel I must pose a question. Why are Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer allowed to continue making these movies? Sadly, I know the answer. These movies are made because they continue to make money. Epic Movie debuted number 1 at the box office its opening weekend with close to $20 million. This brings me to my next question. Who out there is actually watching these movies? Why would you subject yourself to this torture? Is it you, faceless person reading this entry right now? Are you to blame for making me watch these endless, repeating crap movie trailers? Why do you think Britney Spears shaving her head and singing "Goo-goo, gaa-gaa" to a doll is funny?! WHY?!?!

Ahem.

Jason. Aaron. Please, stop.

Please.
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Cloverfield

Cloverfield. Go see it.

This movie was simply fantastic. Make sure the theater you see it in has a good sound system. I know that I'll probably be in the minority here, but I wanted nothing more from this film. It lived up to the hype.

When the credits started to roll and the lights came up, the biggest surprise for me was the amount of people in the theater saying "That sucked" or "I want my money back." I'll admit, monster movies aren't for everyone and the shaky camera shit gets old real quick. But, for my dollar, Cloverfield's the best movie I've seen in the theater in several years.

I think the real problem people had with the flick was the complete lack of explanation about numerous things. For months people have been saying "What is Cloverfeild? Where did it come from?" The movie doesn't answer a lot of these questions, but the amount of explanation given was true to the story that was being told. I appreciated that.

I'll have a full review up of Cloverfield in about six month, after the DVD comes out. I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone. If you have any interest in this movie, I urge you to avoid all spoilers and go see it quick.

Just bring the Dramamine if you're prone to that sort of thing.
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SPOILER - Cloverfield Monster Identity/Face Revealed in Theatrical Poster!!

SPOILERS AHEAD.


IF YOU KEEP READING YOU WILL SEE AN IMAGE WITH A STRONG RESEMBLANCE TO THE FACE OF THE CLOVERFIELD MONSTER.


You've officially been warned.


So, I know I said I wasn't going to spoil anything about this movie, especially considering how much I liked it. When you have a certain respect for a film, you hate to give away any of the big reveals for those who haven't seen it. However, I saw something on another site that led me to do my own investigation.

The other site wasn't in english, but I found the image through google search. It was pretty clear from the image what the site was trying to convey, but I wasn't convinced that the image wasn't a simple Photoshop. To that end, I got a copy of the original film poster and replicated the image myself.

'Lo and behold, the image does not lie.

The face of the monster, or rather, half the face of the monster is included in the periphery of the original theatrical poster. If you take the poster, duplicate and flip the image, and place it next to the original you get the face of the Cloverfield monster hovering over the New York skyline.


Is this a coincidence? Is this just a random shape in the clouds? Maybe. I'm not going to say this is intentional, but having seen the movie I will say that the face that results is quite similar. Again, it could be I'm reading into the image having already seen the movie, but either way I figure this is cool enough to share. If this was intentional, congrats to the movie poster designer. This is one of the coolest easter eggs I've seen in awhile. If not, well, it's still pretty cool looking anyway. Enjoy!
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Evil Aliens - Movie Review

Let's be up front about this. Some of you aren't going to like this movie. More to the point, there's a good number of you that won't understand this movie. At all. Not one iota. Evil Aliens was shot on video, has questionable acting, and, at times, is just plain over the top ridiculous. To enjoy this movie you will need to be one of three things:
  1. A connoisseur of low-budget cinema (or, as I call it, a B-movie geek)
  2. At a party, prepared to go MST3K on this movie's ass
  3. Hammered. Really, really hammered.
    That said, let's get to the flick.

    The film opens with a couple having sex near some old English ruins. The opening scene ends with the couple getting captured by the titular evil aliens and the guy buys it via way of a large, cumbersome anal probe/drill. Ouch. And it only gets better (worse?) from there.

    I don't think I can appropriately convey the awesomeness of this movie with words, so I won't even try. I'll let the film speak for itself.



    Yeah, that's right. A female alien strips down and engages in rough, freaky, intergalactic, interspecies sex with one of the male leads. Folks, I've seen a lot of movies, but this one was new to me. Oh yeah, you know how in bad horror movies blood just seems to spray everywhere? This scene caps off like that, but the fluid in question definitely isn't blood.


    If you're a fan of Peter Jackson's early work, you're well aware of a little movie called Dead Alive (or Brain Dead, if you're from the UK). At the climax of that film, the main character fights off a horde of zombies with an upturned, gas-engine lawnmower. Do you remember the giddy excitement you felt the first time you saw that scene? That one moment where he was about to hit that first zombie with that lawnmower and you thought to yourself, "There's no way they're actually going to- OH GOD! They're actually showing it!" Yeah. The wheat thresher scene is kind of like that.


    Finally, we have the obligatory, hand-held, motorized power tool. Ash has his chainsaw. Lionel has his lawnmower. Candy has her hand-held soil tiller. Copious homage to other genre films is paid during the setup and execution of this scene. A simple shot of an over head light bulb getting splashed with blood will have Deadite fans grinning from ear to ear.

    Evil Aliens is what the recent blockbuster Grindhouse aspired, and failed, to be- a return to old school, no-nonsense, trash cinema. Whereas Grindhouse felt forced and manufactured, Evil Aliens is genuine and satisfying. Evil Aliens is sick and twisted but possesses a wicked sense of humor. The filmmakers clearly didn't have a lot of money, but the money they did have was used well. The special effects and makeup in the film are well done, although some of the CGI could look better. The script is smart, with many nods to other genre films, including The Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Night of the Living Dead, Bad Taste, and Freak Out. The movie is FULL of fun moments like the three detailed above. The director/writer, Jake West, clearly loves the genre and his film plays out like a wish list any horror fanboy might have written. Evil Aliens is a labor of love, and I loved it right back.

    Bottomline: Evil Aliens is definitely not for the uninitiated or those without a sense of humor. For those true B-Movie fans out there, do not miss this one. It's an exercise of excess and one hell of a ride. It's out on DVD already, so check out your regular haunts and get a copy ASAP. 4 Bruces.

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    Untraceable 2: Revenge of the Intertubes

    I've been watching a bit of TV this week and have seen about a thousand commercials for the upcoming thriller, Untraceable, which opens January 25th. The basic premise that can be gathered from the trailer is that there is a serial killer who sets up elaborate traps, Saw style, with the twist that these traps are activated by generating traffic on the killer's website.

    The one gem that really gets me is the part where Diane Lane, the FBI agent tracking the killer, says, "It's something we've never seen before. It's untraceable." At another part of the commercials, once her character has clearly become the next target of the killer, she frantically says, "He's hacked into my wireless network!"

    The thought occurs to me at this point that the range on wireless networks, particularly personal wireless networks, is about... what? 300 feet? Max? Maybe a little bigger, depending on the particular technology and antenna. The real point is, we're talking less than a half mile radius... Does anyone think to maybe throw up some freaking road blocks and just systematically search for the ass clown? I mean, they have the manpower, they're the freaking FBI.

    The answer to this, of course, is no, thanks to crap 'Hollywood Logic'. Does anyone making movies understand anything about even rudimentary technology? Has a good movie centered around the internet ever been made? Anyone remember The Net? How about Enemy of the State? Fear Dot Com? I think I rest my case.


    At any rate, since I'm sure this movie will be a smash hit, what with its exquisitely researched position on modern technology and its ability to appeal to that hip, young intranet generation. I'm sure a sequel will quickly follow. Pictured above is my poster for that sequel, in all of its endless glory.
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    Kindergarten Cop

    I don't think I've thought about Kindergarten Cop, or any Schwarzenegger vehicle, in quite some time. However, the commercials for that new Terminator show on FOX have put Arnold back in my mind. As a result, I have been left with the following image. I hope by sharing it with you I can get it out of my head.


    Thank you and good night.
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    Movie Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

    This is a movie that came out on DVD last year (weird), sometime towards the end of June. I had heard a bit of buzz about it coming out of the major indy film fests, but I never really got bit by the bug to check it out. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon basically fell off my radar as quickly as it showed up.

    Quick jump to early December and I'm sitting at home in a darkened living room, begging my lady to make some popcorn, as the previews come up on the Hatchet DVD. If you'll indulge me for a moment I'll explain that my sheer excitement over Hatchet and my deep desire to see it in a theater setting led me to sit through all the previews stuck in front the the feature film. This is something I never ever do. But I'm glad I did as it reintroduced me to the messed up world of Leslie Vernon.

    The movie's basic premise is that Leslie Vernon has been training his entire life to become the next big horror/slasher icon and a film crew is documenting his rise to infamy. The first half of the movie takes place as a mockumentary, think Spinal Tap but with more murder. The film crew covers everything from Leslie's extensive physical training, to discussing house exit strategies, and even the inevitable mass homicide in the film's final act. There's a lot of sly audience winking, but never in that heavy handed Scream sort of way. The movie simply oozes charm.

    Nathan Baesal
    does a comendable job as the titular Leslie Vernon. During the mockumentary he delivers a great, fun performance. Leslie Vernon is your average twenty-something simply trying to make his mark on the world. You genuinely come to like Leslie and his behind the scenes, on-camera antics. Just when you feel like this guy could be your best friend, he breaks out a serious, nasty comment or action, reminding you just who this guy really is.


    And that is who Leslie Vernon really is, a human monster with some seriously creepy, clown-like vibes coming from that mask. In the second half of the film the mockumentary facade fades away and we get down to the slasher essentials. Although this is the weakest part of the movie, that's not really a complaint. The more traditional slasher portion of the film is well done, and as it happens, necessary for the film's success. The mockumentary is fun, but it needs to lead somewhere, and the last half of the film is that much required pay off.

    This is one of those films that didn't get a lot of mainstream coverage and I'd hate for it to slip through the cracks. Even if you're only a casual friend of the genre, I'd recommend checking this one out. Doubly so because this is one of the few slasher films in recent memory that the lady sat down to watch without any additional goading on my part. Nathan Baesal is charasmatic as hell and really draws you into the world of the movie. By the time the slasher movie really begins, you're so comfortable with the characters that you almost forget what you're in store for.

    Bottomline: The film is fun but still manages to scare, and the girlfriend loved it. What more can you ask for in a horror flick?


    P.S. I didn't mention this anywhere because it just didn't naturally fit, but the film also co-stars Robert Englund and even features a brief cameo by Kane Hodder. Rock!
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    2008: Where's my flying car?

    So 2007 has slipped to the wayside and here we are in 2008. Feels odd whenever I date something. So by virtue of the fact that it is 2008, and we are in the future promised to me by old 1950's sci-fi movies, I have to wonder, where the hell is all the cool stuff I was promised? Cities on clouds, lunar space stations, tin foil singlets, teleportation, instant food, and, most of all, flying cars. If you had to pick one thing that you miss the most about the future (not necessarily from that list), what would it be and why? Leave a comment and let me know.

    My money is on flying cars.
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    His Name is Bruce

    I spent New Year's Eve getting dinner with a small group of friends before heading off to a party with a different group of friends. Both groups were equally entertaining. The reason I bring this up is because, at dinner, the topic of movies came up, as it always inevitably does. Sooner or later the topic turned to my favorite subject, old horror movies. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing, that is, until the conversation steered towards the topic of the one, the only, the great Bruce Campbell.

    A friend whom will remain anonymous for the sake of his dignity did not know who Bruce Campbell was. I was aghast, but started rattling off the usual:

    "Oh, he was the star of the Evil Dead Trilogy"

    "The what?"

    Okay, so he'd never heard of the Evil Dead. No biggie. I pulled out the title he'd likely be more familiar with.

    "He was in Army of Darkness."

    The response: "Never heard of it."

    Surely this was jest, but indeed it was not. Still I was not deterred, Army of Darkness wasn't all that popular after all, and I still had the big guns tucked away.

    "Back in the early nineties he starred in a Fox series called Brisco County, Junior."

    I smirked knowing this reference would recover some long lost memory.

    "Sorry," came the reply.

    I couldn't believe it. He hadn't ever heard of Brisco County, Junior? Okay, what about the ring announcer in Spider-Man? Nope. The rude usher in Spider-Man 2? Nada. Jack of all Trades? Zip. Hercules? No.

    WTF.

    I couldn't for the life of me think of any movie of mainstream relevance that might ring the proper bells. And I was ashamed. Not so much for my friend, but more for myself. How could I not think of a role Bruce had played that would be recognized.

    At the table we finally just kind of settled upon the fact that the age difference (5 years) was to blame for the discrepancy. 19 year olds just weren't raised on any of the shows mentioned above. This made me feel old, pathetic, and more than a little bit sad for the youth of America.

    America, this is the face of greatness. This is Bruce Campbell. Love him.


    P.S. In the end, I was finally able to fill in my friend about the identity of this mysterious man. He recognized Bruce from his recent stint as the Old Spice Commercial Spokesman. What is the world coming to? Do me a favor and go see My Name is Bruce when it comes out. America needs to remember.
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