Horror Film Review: Ghost Ship (dir by Steve Beck)


Way back when we first started this year’s horrorthon, Arleigh shared a horror scene that he loved.  That scene was the opening few minutes of the 2002 horror-at-sea film, Ghost Ship.

That scene featured a few dozen wealthy cruise ship passengers all getting bisected by a thin wire cord.  While a young girl named Kate (Emily Browning) watches, everyone on the ship’s dance floor literally falls to pieces.  Torsos slip off of legs.  Bodies split in half.  The captain’s head literally splits in two.  While gallons of blood gush everywhere, people vainly try to reattach their limbs.  Actually, some of them can’t even figure out which limb belongs to them.  By the time everyone’s collapsed, there’s a lot of arms and legs to sort through.

In short, it’s an absolute mess.  I wouldn’t want to be the person assigned to clean up after all that.

It’s also a rather brilliant opening, one that only takes a minute to go from romance and sophistication to bloody dismemberment.  It’s definitely the one moment that everyone remembers about Ghost Ship, which is a bit of a problem because, once that scene is done, there’s still 85 minutes of film to sit through.  Ghost Ship‘s opening is so shocking and visceral that there’s no way that the rest of the film can live up to it.

As for the rest of the film, it deals with a boat salvage crew.  Gabriel Byrne is Murphy, the captain.  Julianne Margulies is Maureen Epps, whose name might as well be Ellen Ripley.  Ron Eldard is Dodge, who is in love with Epps.  And then there’s Karl Urban, Isiah Washington, and Alex Dimitriades, who are all playing characters who you know are going to be doomed as soon as you see them.  When they’re told by a pilot named Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) that he’s spotted a ghost ship in international waters, they set out to claim it for themselves.

Of course, what Jack has spotted is the same cruise ship where, forty years before, everyone was chopped in half.  After Murphy, Epps, and the crew board the ship, they discover a large amount of gold.  They also end up seeing a lot of ghosts, including the young girl from the start of the movie.  To their credit, the crew decides to leave the ship as quickly as they can.  Unfortunately, after their tugboat explodes, escape appears to be impossible and it becomes obvious that they have been lured to the cruise ship for a very specific purpose.

The film encourages us to wonder what the ship wants from the salvage crew but the answer to that question is never really in doubt.  For that matter, it’s not really a shock when it turns out that one member of the boarding party isn’t what he claims to be.  Despite being a bit predictable, Ghost Ship isn’t a bad film.  It has a reputation for being disappointing but actually it’s an atmospheric and competently directed horror film.  Though the characters are all thinly drawn, the talented cast does their best to try to bring them to life.  If the film ultimately doesn’t seem to work as well as it should, it’s largely because nothing that follows can match the power of that opening.  You watching the film waiting for a scene that’ll match that opening scene and when it never comes, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

 

 

Here’s the 2nd Trailer for Star Trek Beyond!


I honestly don’t know much about Star Trek but I have seen both Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 and, if I didn’t already know that Justin Lin was the director of the latest Star Trek film, I could have guessed from watching the 2nd trailer for Stark Trek Beyond.

(I’m also guessing that Star Trek Beyond is in no way related to Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, which is a shame really.)

Seriously, judging from this trailer, Star Trek Beyond looks exciting and that should make for a nice change from the last Star Trek film.  It also appears that the Enterprise gets destroyed during Star Trek Beyond so I guess this must be the last movie….

(I’m totally kidding, calm down.)

One final note: somebody needs to make a movie starring Simon Pegg and Karl Urban as two cops who may break all the rules but who … GET RESULTS!

Anyway, until that happens, we can watch Simon and Karl in the trailer for Star Trek Beyond!

Scenes I Love: Dredd


Dredd

It’s been a year since Through the Shattered Lens lost one of it’s own: Semtexskittle.

In honor of his passing I’d like to share one of the films he and I share a love for. I think he may have been one of the few who truly wanted this film to be nominated as one of the ten films picked for Best Picture for the year it came out. While the Academy voters were sorely shortsighted for not nominating the film, it still remains one thing Chris shared with everyone at the site. Whether it was his love of sports, anime, video games and everything in-between.

We all still miss you, Chris.

Star Trek Beyond Looks Much Faster and More Furious


Star Trek Beyond

J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the Star Trek film franchise when he did a sort of sort-reboot in 2009. It brought the franchise into the consciousness of a younger demographic who didn’t grow up as fans of the franchise both in film and the many tv series. The film was a success and Paramount made sure to strike while it was still hot and greenlit a sequel that looked to build on the strong foundation set-up by J.J. Abrams.

2013 saw that sequel come out and to say that it underwhelmed and burned much of the goodwill created with the 2009 film would be an understatement. Star Trek Into Darkness (a title derided the moment it was announced) literally took the “darkness” part of the title and ramped it up to 11. There wasn’t any of the fun and adventurous nature of the first film. It didn’t help that screenwriter’s Robert Orci’s 9/11 Truther ideology seeped into the film’s plot.

When it was announced that Robert Orci would end up directing the third film after J.J. Abrams went to go direct the latest Star Wars film, the outcry was loud and clear. Orci was a bad choice and just keeping him on would just sink a film franchise already teetering on the brink of becoming irrelevant in a blockbuster environment where superhero universes and the original blockbuster universe reigned supreme.

So, it was with some relief and cautious optimism when Paramount dumped Orci and went with Justin Lin (hot off the massive success of Fast & Furious 6) and rewrites by Simon Pegg. The franchise was going to get the fun back into the series and everyone was invited. Even the chosen title, Star Trek Beyond, spoke to a creative team who saw a chance to bring back the franchise from just being part of a fandom but for those who wouldn’t know a dilithium crystal from a Sith Lord.

The first teaser shows the fun part of what Justin Lin and Simon Pegg have been talking about. Now, will the next trailer show a much more dramatic side to the events fans are hoping will balance all the fun.

Star Trek Beyond looks to land on July 22, 2016.

The Things You Find On Netflix: The Loft (dir by Erik Van Looy)


The_Loft_film_poster

The Loft‘s journey to Neftlix was a long one.

A remake of a Belgian film, The Loft was originally filmed in 2011 and was meant to come out in that year.  It was due to be released by Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment and Warner Bros.  However, when Silver had a falling out with Warner Bros and moved his operations over to Universal, he took The Loft with him.  And it turned out that Universal was in no hurry to distribute The Loft.  After sitting on the film for three years, Universal announced that they would release it in August of 2014 but, at the last minute, they changed their mind and instead released the horror film As Above, So Below in the spot that was originally set aside for The Loft.  Dark Castle then dropped the film, leaving The Loft in limbo until Open Road Pictures picked up the distribution rights and gave it a limited release in January of 2015.  The critics hated it, audiences were indifferent, and The Loft quickly vanished from theaters.  It’s now available on Netflix.

And, having watched the film, I can understand why the studios weren’t exactly enthused about it.  It’s not the type of film that works on the big screen.  The characters are too unlikable.  The plot is an unstable combination of silliness and melodrama.  The big twists are more likely to inspire groans than cheers.  It’s just not the type of film that you want to spend too much money on.

And yet, it’s the perfect film for Netflix.  What may seem over-the-top and annoying when viewed in a public theater becomes a lot more entertaining when viewed in the privacy on your own home.  The Loft is a film that works best if you don’t spend too much time thinking about how little sense it all makes.  It’s the perfect film to watch while you’re doing something else.

And if that sounds like faint praise, it’s not.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Loft without once mistaking it for being a “good” film.  Instead, it’s an over-the-top melodrama, with all that entails.  It’s ludicrous, it’s silly, and — when taken on its own terms — it’s also a lot of fun.

The film is about five friends and the loft to which they all have a key.  All five of the friends are married and all five of them have secrets.  Vincent (Karl Urban) is the unofficial leader of this group of friends, an architect who is also a compulsive cheater.  Luke (Wentworth Miller) is a nervous guy who appears to worship Vincent.  Marty (Eric Stonestreet) is an alcoholic who always manages to say the wrong thing.  Chris (James Marsden) is a psychiatrist who often seems to feel that he’s morally superior to his other friends.  And Phillip (Mattias Schoenarts) is Chris’s half-brother, a mentally unstable and violent guy who snorts cocaine and may have incestuous feelings towards his younger sister.

The five men use the loft to cheat on their wives.  The men are all confident that only they know about the existence of the loft and that they are the only ones who have a key.  So, naturally enough, they are all a little shocked when a woman turns up dead in the loft.  As the men gather in the loft, they debate who killed her and we get numerous flashbacks to how this all came to be.

Of course, it all leads to many secrets being revealed.  This is one of those films that simply cannot stop with one plot twist.  Instead, every twist leads to another twist until eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with who knows what.  In fact, the film features so many twists that it all quickly gets a bit silly.  But, at the same time, it’s also undeniably entertaining.  Strangely enough, the fact that it doesn’t make much sense only add to the film’s melodramatic charm.

As for the five men — well, none of them are particularly likable but at least they’re all interesting to watch.  Wentworth Miller is properly strange, Matthias Schoenarts is properly sleazy, and Eric Stonestreet is properly pathetic.  James Marsden often seems wasted in mainstream films (like Straw Dogs and The Butler) but he’s actually very charming when he appears in B-movies like this one and Walk of Shame.  And finally, you’ve got Karl Urban, doing great work and turning Vincent into the epitome of every middle-aged guy who has ever tried to flirt with me while I was waiting at a red light.

The Loft may not have got much respect when it was released into theaters but it’s entertaining enough for Netflix.

Trailer: Riddick (Red Band)


Riddick

In 2000, a small little scifi-horror film came out starring that guy from Saving Private Ryan. We didn’t really recognize him as the household name of Vin Diesel we know now. It was still that guy who was in that Spielberg WWII film. Pitch Black was a modest success, but modestly enough that a sequel was greenlit right after with a much bigger budget. This sequel was less scifi-horror and more of an epic scifi film that was trying to be the Dune of it’s time. The Chronicles of Riddick wasn’t a modest success this time around and plans for a third film to finish off the trilogy never got off the development stage.

Vin Diesel has since become a big star of some caliber with his Fast and Furious franchise. With the success of the latest film in that franchise it looks like Universal had given the Diesel the go-ahead to make a third film in his scifi franchise simply titled, Riddick.

With a more modest budget than the second film, Riddick looks to return Vin Diesel’s character back to something more similar and thus safe. Riddick is back on a death world of a planet inhabited by dangerous critters who mayor may not hunt once an prolonged darkness sets in. Riddkc must also deal with a pesky band of mercenary bounty hunters after his hide. Where the second film tried to build on the character’s background and further his story in a space opera-like way this red band trailer shows that Riddick is best when playing the anti-hero who may or may not be the villain as well as the hero of the story.

Riddick is set for a September 6, 2013 release date.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Star Trek Into Darkness”


StarTrekIntoDarknessEnterprisePoster

There are those who have argued online — and in print, as well, I’d imagine — that once you cross the invisible threshold from merely “liking” a recurring or serialized entertainment property/artistic venture (I’ll leave you, dear reader, to decide which of those categories the Star Trek franchise falls into) into becoming a full-fledged “fan” of it that you’re basically fucked, because while “liking” something means you appreciate it for what it does, being a “fan” of it means you like it for what it’s already done, and are quite happy to just have the folks behind it serve you up more of the same. Hell, you might even get pretty upset if they don’t!

I’m not sure I’m willing to go so far as to agree with that sentiment in its entirety — many fans of various works of genre entertainment actually appreciate being offered something new and unique on occasion, in my experience — it certainly applies to a very large segment of most of the various fandoms out there. You know the kind of folks I’m talking about — those who get worked into a mouth-foaming frenzy at the slightest changes or tonal shifts in a given installment of the film, TV, novel, or comic book series and feel the need to shout about what a “blasphemy” has taken place at the top of either their lungs or, as is more often the case these days with computer keyboards and such, fingertips. It gets pretty old pretty fast and I’ve learned to tune most of it out, but anyone who denies the existence of fans such as these is flat-out delusional — the more level-headed among us might like to ignore them, sure, but we can’t admit that they don’t exist. At least not with a straight face.

My point here being, you rightly ask? Uber-conservative fans such as this are bound to be happy with Star Trek Into Darkness (there’s no colon in the title, I checked), J.J. Abrams’ second foray into Gene Rodenberry’s venerable sci-fi universe, because, despite all its superficial “differences” to what has come before, this is really just more of the same.

Which isn’t my half-hearted and/or half-assed way of saying it’s a bad flick — all in all it’s reasonably well-executed and keeps the average audience member more or less interested throughout — it’s just that we’ve seen more or less all of this done before, and unlike with his first go-round, this time Abrams doesn’t even really expend any effort into tricking you into believing (at least on first viewing) that you’re witnessing some bold new take on things here.

And that should suit the stick-in-the-mud types just fine, I would think, since these are folks who go beyond simply being able to see the creaks and joins in a given structure and actually and actively like seeing them, pointing them out, and analyzing them ad nauseum.  In short, I think these people are gonna absolutely love the fact that this film’s big, supposedly-emotionally-resonant “turning point” is just a mirror-image inversion of the same exact scene in Star Trek II : The Wrath Of Khan. They’ll probably also enjoy the fact that, for all their supposed “added depth,” characters like Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura are still essentially one-dimensional ciphers who just have a few more lines now, and that Karl Urban’s Dr. “Bones” McCoy still speaks in nothing but utterly predictable one-liners rather than , you know, actual, honest-to-goodness dialogue. And I think they’ll also dig the fact that Abrams has quickly established recurrent patterns of his own here — gotta have a Leonard Nimoy cameo, gotta have at least one hot-chick-in-underwear scene, etc.

No doubt about it — if you’re one of these “don’t rock the boat too much or I’m really gonna bitch about it” types of fans, Star Trek Into Darkness  is bound to be right up your alley. In fact, it’s probably likely to make you feel pretty clever, as well, since you’ll be utterly convinced that the poor schmuck in the seat next to you isn’t going to see this movie’s “big revelations” coming.

Guess what, though? He (or she) probably is, since it only takes the most minimal amount of working knowledge of Star Trek lore to have a pretty solid guess as to the real identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s pseudonymous “John Harrison” villain, the way things are bound to play out once Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk leads leads his crew — uhmmmm — “into darkness” is essentially a foregone conclusion, and shit, your “this guy’s bound to die” radar is guaranteed to be  ringing at top volume from the get-go in relation to one of the story’s semi-principal characters (the oldest Trek trick in the book).

Again, none of which is to say this is in any way an actively bad film — the main cast all acquit themselves pretty well, especially Zachary Quinto as Spock, the CGI effects are uniformly just fine (heck, they always are these days), and the principal narrative is by and large plenty entertaining enough.  It’s just a thoroughly predictable one. If you’re in the mood to kick back, shut your brain off, and just sit through a fairly standard Star Trek romp, this’ll do the job just fine. Just don’t go in expecting anything more — or at the very least anything other — than that.

I have no idea where the Trek franchise is headed from here. Abrams has, as everyone knows, recently been handed the reigns over on Star Wars, as well, so whether or not he intends to do both I couldn’t say. It sounds to me like it would be an awful lot of work  to juggle them both, and maybe now would be a good time to walk away from this one and pass the buck  to somebody else. He’s clearly out of ideas here, anyway, so it wouldn’t be too big a loss.

One last time now, in unison — which is not me saying that this sucked ! It’s just an acknowledgement that it only took two films for the “new” Star Trek to become as safe and stagnant as the “old” version and that a genuinely fresh take on things might be for the best going forward.