Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship-Troopers

Original Theatrical Release Date: November 7, 1997
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In the distant future, the world is a fascist and militaristic society where a person can only become a citizen by joining the military and its never ending fight against an insectoid alien race looking to destroy humanity. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is the son of two wealthy non-citizens who is looking to join his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) in the armed forces in order to be with her and to gain his citizenship. Soon, though, the realities of military life and the hardships of the war separate Johnny, Carmen, and their friends from one another and they must overcome the chitinous tide of the Bugs if they are ever to reunite.

This film is based on the (much better) science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein – adapted to the screen by Edward Neumeier.

It’s been a while since the last time I watched this movie, but my brother gave me the DVD for my birthday this year. I was kind of interested to see how all the special effects and everything held up over the last 17 years. I was not disappointed to find out that most of it still looked pretty decent after all that time. The only thing that seemed dated at times was the retro-futuristic 1950’s-as-interpreted-by-the-late-1990’s hairdos and clothing styles for the characters. Other than that, though, I was transported through the film’s fun tongue-in-cheek narrative style.

I still have no idea where Casper Van Dien went to after the late 1990’s – but as Johnny Rico he was decent (if somewhat unbelievable) as the screaming, gun-firing, tough-guy lead. Denise Richards co-stars with her full and pouty lips as the always-effervescent (but still wooden) pilot Carmen Ibanez. Also, I was shocked to see Neil Patrick Harris in his role as Carl Jenkins – a role I forgot he’d done. (The last thing I remember him in was Harold And Kumar)

The bugs were creepy and not cheesy. The “internet” – style videos interspersed throughout the film add a nice touch, though the internet of the “future” looks pretty dated compared to our own, now. There is a creepy and unbelievable love triangle in the movie, but the real draw is the action sequences – which are peppered liberally throughout the movie. Still, the movie is a bit too long for an action flick.

All in all, not a perfect movie – but a nice flick to come back to every now and then if you want some sci-fi action.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starship Troopers

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The Tall Man (2012)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: August 1, 2012
Director: Pascal Laugier

In the town of Cold Rock, the children are going missing and locals are blaming it on an entity from an urban legend, known as The Tall Man. A local nurse named Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) has a child of her own, which is taken in the night. As Julia searches for her child, the truth about the disappearances begins to surface and the townsfolk have a lot to say about it.

I’d never even heard of this film but my girlfriend and I picked it up at a local video store called Bull Moose here in Maine. Jessica Biel has never been on my short list of favorite actresses, but it seemed like it could be good so we bought it.

During the opening of the movie and probably through about half of it, it had me hooked. It had great atmosphere, an intriguing villain in the form of The Tall Man – and a cool-sounding, creepy town. I mean, Cold Rock – how much cooler can you get than that? However, the director and/or story aims to trick the viewer and basically lie to them in order to achieve its hidden message/twist ending. This could have been a decent horror flick but instead it turns out to be a benign sort of social commentary about bad parents.

Jessica Biel was just okay as Julia Denning, and unfortunately she was basically the only character we should’ve cared much about but she even failed to make me do that. If I were you, I’d avoid this confusing and misleading film but maybe it’s worth a single watch on a night when you have nothing else on your plate.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Tall Man

Big Trouble In Little China (1985)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: July 2, 1986
Director: John Carpenter

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is an all-American truck driver with a penchant for gambling. When his friend in Chinatown, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), loses a bet to Jack – he has to pay up. But first, he needs to pick up his girlfriend from the airport. However, all does not go as planned and instead ol’ Jack finds himself in the middle of a mystical battle between an evil Chinese sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong) and the forces of good, led by the cantankerous old Egg Shen (Victor Wong).

This film is a classic now, though it flopped when it was first released. If you haven’t seen it yet, I envy you because that means you can see it for the first time. Granted, some of the special effects in the movie are a bit dated (it was 1986, after all) but overall – the film has held up over time. Kurt Russell gives a great performance as Jack Burton – a sort of bumbling badass who manages to “accidentally” achieve his goals, though most of the time he just talks tough and likes to spout one-liners that don’t quite hit the mark. Kim Cattrall is great as the sexy-yet-annoying love interest, Gracie Law, and Dennis Dun is decent as the ass-kicking “sidekick” to Burton.

John Carpenter, for me, either is right on the money or far off base with his films. (John Carpenter’s Vampires was terrible, for instance) With Big Trouble In Little China – he did right by everyone. It’s got the right mix of adventure, style, horror and camp to make it an enduring franchise. Also – there is currently a comic book adaptation being published that relays events which take place after the film ends. You can check that out HERE. If you loved Army Of Darkness, then you’ll love this movie too.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Big Trouble In Little China

Red State (2011)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: September 01, 2011
Director: Kevin Smith

In middle-America, all is not as sleepy and peaceful as it would seem. A fundamentalist church called The Five Points Church, led by pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), preaches anti-gay and almost anti-everything hate gospel. Unfortunately, their bite is worse than their bark and when three teenage boys; Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun), and Jarod (Kyle Gallner) – find an older woman soliciting sex on an internet site similar to Craigslist – they agree to meeting up with her for a foursome, which lands them squarely in the hungry religious jaws of the Cooper clan.

This movie blew me away. If you’re a Kevin Smith/View Askew fan like myself, you’ve come to expect a certain quality and tone of movie from the man and the studio behind him which produced films such as Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy. Red State is NOTHING like those other films. This is intense, this is gritty. As Smith himself points out – the Jay and Silent Bob films are like a smooth milkshake while Red State is like drinking straight whiskey. This is a film that none other than Quentin Tarantino strongly endorses, if that gives you any sort of idea as to what the tone is.

First of all, the film is especially poignant and is almost like a satire of the Westboro Baptist Church. We see it in the news every day, but in reality – the crazy religious zeal of some of these people is one incident away from an actual, real-life horror film. Red State is part horror film, part thriller and absolutely riveting.

With Michael Parks as Abin Cooper – the charismatic and terrifying patriarch of the Five Points Church – Smith hit gold. Everyone cast in this film not only does their jobs, but does them well. This movie is often overlooked because it goes beyond the fandoms of the Jay And Silent Bob/View Askew universe, which is understandable in some ways because Red State is so different from those others that it’s almost like another director is at the helm – though Smith can definitely be felt within the context of the film by the acerbic dialogue.

This film is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Do yourself a favor and go watch it. You’ll be uneasy for a long while and it’s perfect for a Halloween horror movie night.

JOE Rating:  ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Red State

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

When three parapsychology professors – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) – lose their government grant, they go into business on their own as paranormal exterminators, eventually hiring on Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) as the fourth Ghostbuster once their business takes off and they can’t handle the volume. However, an ancient Babylonian demon appears in Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) refrigerator and summons an army of ghosts which invade New York City, leaving it up to the Ghostbusters to save the day.

I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed this movie yet – it’s pretty much the perfect film.

In any case, those who weren’t born in the 80’s may not appreciate this film franchise. I’ve found that to be the case no matter how good a film is. However, I still think Ghostbusters holds its own against most of today’s comedies, and I think I can say that without being a snob.

The comedic genius of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis is just unbeatable. Sigourney Weaver was the Megan Fox of her time (but with much better acting talent) and Harold Ramis plays the perfect counterpoint to Murray. Some of the effects are dated, but not too badly. I’ve seen worse production quality on films nowadays, to be honest.

This movie has it all: Action, comedy, horror, sex appeal and proton packs. What more could you ask for? Go see it, if you haven’t. It’s on Netflix!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

PS – I met Ernie Hudson recently while I was at Super Megafest in Massachusetts. In case you didn’t catch me posing with him, here are a couple pictures of Zeddmore and I together. I was dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: Episode One, and I got him to use my lightsaber. Initially, he didn’t seem to want to, but once I turned it on he started waving it around for the camera and making karate noises. It was the best day of my life. How can you beat a Ghostbuster swinging around a lightsaber? Here are some pics:

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

Me, teaching Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters) some new tricks!

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Winston Zeddmore

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Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

When Elvira’s (Cassandra Peterson) great aunt dies, she heads to the sleepy and conservative New England town of Falwell where an inheritance is waiting for her. Quitting her job and believing she’ll get millions, she instead finds that she’s inherited a creepy old house, a weird cookbook and a punk-rock poodle. Elvira’s ample “charms” and strange ways unsettle some of the residents of Falwell and in the meantime, not everyone of her relatives is happy with Elvira getting what she got…because the cookbook may hold more secrets than just the recipe for an awesome chicken Kiev.

Elvira is a force of nature. Many people might not remember her, but she was super-popular back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Her acting is sort of hammy, but then again, Elvira films are meant to be campy and ribald and showcase her many talents (and by talents, I mean boobs).

The plot is similar to one you’d find in an old B film from the early movie years and that works well because Mistress of the Dark IS a B film. There are enough laughs and titillation to make this a Halloween classic. Though it’s obviously not set during Halloween, Elvira is everything people love about Halloween.

(And the boobs don’t hurt, either)

JOE Rating: ★★★

The Last of Us (PS3 – 2013)

The Last of Us (PS3 - 2013)

It’s twenty years after a zombie-like pandemic broke out across the globe. As Joel, a survivor living in a Boston-area quarantine camp, you have experienced the loss of everything you know and loved in your past life. As a survivor, you’re in a constant struggle for resources and when your dealings land you with an opportunity to smuggle a young girl, who may have the key within her to saving humanity to a band of freedom fighters calling themselves the Fireflies,  you find yourself in a dangerous and intense quest across the continent as you evade roving bands of human scavengers intent on murdering you and taking your possessions and also evading the clickers….humans who’ve been infected with the spores that have turned them into zombie-like creatures which use sonar to hunt their prey.

The opening of this game packs a punch like no other I’ve seen in recent memory. The writing is superb, the graphics are great, the gameplay is seamless most of the time and moves back and forth between gameplay and cutscenes effortlessly.

The enemies are cunning and terrifying. Not since I originally played Fatal Frame or Silent Hill have I been this unsettled within the atmosphere of a video game.

Play this, play this, play this. It’s like The Road mixed with Resident Evil.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★