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E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA)

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Skin Game: 15 (Dresden Files)
Skin Game: 15 (Dresden Files)
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.19

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parkour!, 30 May 2014
If the Dresden Files series has taught Harry Dresden anything, it's that no matter how bad things get, they can always get a LOT worse. Embroider that on a pillow.

And after a few books of solid suck (not in book quality, just Harry's quality of life), "Skin Game" returns everyone's favorite noir wizard to action in Chicago... except he's working with the bad guys this time. Jim Butcher is in fine form here, mixing complex moral questions with ice-and-fire-slinging magic -- and bringing in some truly startling changes to Harry's life.

Harry is not happy when he finds out his next job as the Winter Knight. He's being loaned out to Nicodemus, leader of the Denarians, who is planning the ultimate heist: stealing a mysterious object from the vault of Hades. And sadly, Harry doesn't have the option of refusing, since he has a strange brain parasite that Mab will only remove if he does her bidding.

So he and Murphy join a ragtag team that Nicodemus is assembling: a warlock and her mercenary partner, an expert thief, a vast Bigfoot-like thug and... well, Goodman Grey. No, you don't find out what or who he is until the end. But the heist is instantly threatened by the Fomor and their Octokongs, Nicodemus' angry estranged wife, and... well, each other.

Yes, nobody in this merry band of misfits trusts or likes each other, and Harry knows that Nicodemus will find a way to betray him soon -- or even better, snare him into disgracing Mab. And even if he can survive long enough to actually participate in the heist, he'll have to outwit the most devious of the Denarians -- which might be a tall order even for a Warden/Winter Knight.

"Skin Game" is the end of a story arc that began in "Changes," bringing Harry back to some semblance of his old life and resolving the issues he's had ever since -- particularly the massive changes he's undergone by becoming the Winter Knight. A lot of urban fantasy characters have those tedious "am I a monster?" moments, which don't last long and are usually concluded with the protagonist being assured that they are just fine. See Anita Blake for a prime example.

But when it happens to Harry, it makes perfect sense -- not only did he kill his ex-girlfriend, but he's the lackey of a cruel ice queen and being loaned out to a literal demon of hell. Not only does he doubt himself, but some of his friends are worried about what he may become. And Butcher doesn't assure us that Harry is innately good, and that whatever he does will be okay. Instead, he twists Harry's angst into a powerful message about personal choices and human limitations. Harry might be corrupted, but he also might triumph.

Well, back to the fun stuff. "Skin Game" is the closest to a "normal" Dresden Files adventure since "Turn Coat" -- lots of explosions, grotesque monsters (octokongs!), and Harry being self-destructively snarky to all the wrong supernatural creatures ("Walk away and I won't call the Orkin man"). Butcher also manages to throw in some truly shocking twists that leave you baffled as to how things will work out -- and then follows those twists with even MORE shocking twists that will leave you grinning like an idiot.

And after three books of non-stop misery and craziness, Harry seems to be settling back into his old self -- his new battle cry is "Parkour!" and he's back to making pop-culture cracks all the time. However, he's also grown a lot, especially in his love for the daughter he's never even spoken to -- and he has a new relationship that promises to be, um, interesting.

A number of Dresden Files favorites are here as well -- Murphy, the heroically saintly Michael, Butters, Uriel, Mab -- as well as a few new faces that will hopefully reappear in the future (Hades, who seems like a guy Harry could have beer with). One character who is sadly scarce here is Bob -- I can only hope that Butcher brings him back in full in the books that follow.

What's the problem? Well, the semi-final climactic battle involves Butcher revealing that he pulled a switcheroo on the audience... which would be fine if the story weren't from Harry's limited first-person perspective. We're basically in his head, so earlier withholding information that he knows just doesn't work. Not fair!

"Skin Game" effectively wraps up a dark story arc for Harry, while sowing the seeds of adventures in future books -- and with a book this excellent, we can only hope that Mr. Butcher brings us more Dresden Files soon.

Big Ass Spider [DVD]
Big Ass Spider [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lin Shaye
Price: £2.44

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's like a spider, but BIGGER., 28 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Big Ass Spider [DVD] (DVD)
It's a movie called "Big Ass Spider!" Guess what it's about. You get three guesses, and the first two guesses don't count.

And yes, I had to watch it. With a title like "Big Ass Spider!," who could possibly resist? It's pretty much exactly the movie that that amazing title promises -- a modern B-movie creature feature, centering on a monstrous spider that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. And while you might initially suspect that it's a SyFy-style disaster, it's also a very well-made film.

It opens in the middle of a scene you'd expect of such a movie -- a blimp-sized spider destroying a skyscraper, while helicopters buzz around helplessly. Exterminator Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg) watches helplessly, while Storm Large's hauntingly pretty cover of "Where Is My Mind?" plays.

Skip back to a day before. In the middle of an autopsy, a rat-sized spider crawls out of a corpse and attacks the mortician. Alex happens to be there getting a spider-bite treated, so he's willing to handle the giant spider if they drop his bill. Along with security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar), he ventures into the depths of the hospital... only to find that the spider has gotten much, much bigger. Also, it can melt off your face.

Then a Special Forces unit shows up to take over the hospital, trying to find and lock down the spider before it can get any bigger. Big shock: they fail, and the spider becomes larger and larger, killing countless people as it goes. It falls to Alex, with his encyclopedic knowledge of spiders and their ways, to find a way to take it down before it has a bunch of spider babies!

"Big Ass Spider!" basically wants to be a modern version of those 1950s creature movies with giant bugs and spiders. In that way, it succeeds -- it avoids being campy or overly silly, but still sticks earnestly to the "giant spider destroys everything" plotline that is so hard to pull off. Admittedly it could have been a bit more self-aware of its goofy storyline, but it's pretty fun.

But there is plenty of quick clever dialogue ("Your Spanglish is pressuring me!") and some tongue-in-cheek humor (Alex decides to ram the spider with his pickup truck), keeping the pace going between action scenes. And yes, there are plenty of scenes of people being squished, melted and swarmed by the acid-spewing, hyper-webbing Big Ass Spider.

It should also be noted that this is a pretty low-budget movie; director Mike Mendez couldn't afford a casting director, so he actually cast people from his Facebook friends list. Considering that budget, the special effects are pretty decent -- the spider is no Shelob, but it's good for what it is, and it has a certain Harryhausen charm. Plus, it's fun to see it repeatedly stabbing people with its spearlike legs.

The actors all do a pretty decent job -- Grunberg is a fairly nice everyman hero, as the only one who knows enough about spiders to track the Big Ass Spider! down. Lin Shaye is a bit wooden at times ("I'm stuck") but is a serviceable hard-nosed love interest, while Boyar manages to be comic relief without being ridiculous. Perennial cult star Ray Wise (you know, the devil from "Reaper") also gives us a nice performance as the harried Special Forces general.

In other words, if the SyFy Channel's slapdash careless approach to creature features annoys you, this may be a welcome break. A fun, unpretentious B-movie that gives you what you want: a big ass spider!

Grand Piano [Blu-ray] [2013] [US Import]
Grand Piano [Blu-ray] [2013] [US Import]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £14.65

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Play or die, 28 Feb. 2014
The late, great Alfred Hitchcock had a rather laissez-faire attitude towards plausibility. He argued that no fictional story could hold up to logical plausibility, and even lamented, “Must a picture be logical, when life is not?”

That might as well be the motto of "Grand Piano," which Hitchcock might have enjoyed watching. Imagine if Brian de Palma made a classical-music version of "Phone Booth" -- while it has a ridiculously implausible conceit at its heart, director Eugenio Mira keeps it harrowing with an ever-expanding cloud of bloodless suspense and a magnificent pair of lead performances.

Five years ago, pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) choked while playing a very difficult piece. Now he's making his grand comeback with the Philharmonic, on the piano of his late mentor... and he's almost paralyzed with stage fright. It doesn't help that everybody he meets just HAS to remind him of his past screw-up. But as he begins playing, he finds a message scrawled on his notes: "Play one wrong note and you DIE."

And no, it's not a method for overcoming his nerves -- a mysterious man (John Cusack) is truly threatening to kill him and/or his movie-star wife Emma (Kerry Bishé) if he gets ANYTHING wrong, or tries to alert anyone of the threat.

As the evening winds on, the prospective killer speaks to Tom through a bluetooth headpiece, slowly revealing why he wants every note to be perfect. And Tom learns that anyone who crosses this mysterious person will end up dead, even if they have no idea what is going on. Now he must overcome a fear more intense than any stage fright, and find some way of stopping the madman without getting killed...

The weakest part of "Grand Piano" is probably the central conceit. It's exciting, but I kept wondering why the criminals didn't just kidnap Tom and force him to do all this in a less public arena, where there was a lesser chance of getting caught. Hell, one of the characters even brings up that idea, and dismisses it... which is a little distracting, since suspension of disbelief is pretty much necessary to enjoy the movie.

It's a credit to director Eugenio Mira that he is able to make an exciting, taut thriller despite this handicap -- especially since our protagonist spends about 90% of the movie sitting at a piano or scuttling to and from his dressing room. It gets a bit melodramatic at the climax, but the intensity of it is just riveting, especially when Tom starts to turns the tables on his oppressor.

So Mira fills the movie slowly with a dark, twisting sense of tension, mostly reliant on Tom's exchanges with his tormentor -- think all of "Phone Booth," but with better direction and music. He makes full use of color and light (the blood-red velvet hall, full of shadows and spotlights), and spatters it with rare spurts of flame or blood. And the whole movie is underscored by the music -- waves of beautiful, intense classical music that swell and ebb with Tom's desperation.

Elijah Wood is one of the best actors alive at looking terrified and/or pressured. He's unassuming enough that you can buy him as the less famous, more talented spouse of a movie star, but he has a wild-eyed, panicked intensity that gradually morphs into numb determination. Cusack only appears briefly in the flesh, but his cold, husky voice brings a real sense of menace to the story -- I actually forgot who was playing the role until the climax.

"Grand Piano" has a truly absurd idea at its heart, but the execution is surprisingly rich and suspenseful -- and the two lead actors are magnificent. Give it a watch, if you can suspend your disbelief.

Amazing Bulk [DVD] [2010] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Amazing Bulk [DVD] [2010] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jordan Lawson

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Get purple, 28 Feb. 2014
This is the worst movie ever made.

Now don't get me wrong -- there are terrible movies that are more of a chore to watch ("Manos, The Hands Of Fate"), or which are more notoriously bad ("The Room," "Birdemic"). But I have never seen one which showed such a glorious lack of understanding of the moviemaking process -- "The Amazing Bulk," where every single thing that can be done in a movie... is gloriously, hilariously WRONG.

It follows Henry "Hank" Howard (Jordan Lawson), a mild-mannered scientist coming up with some kind of Captain America serum for the military. He's also in love with Hannah (Shevaun Kastl), the daughter of his insane boss General Darwin (Terence Lording). When Darwin shoots down his hopes for marrying Hannah, Hank decides to test the latest serum sample on himself... because he's an idiot.

Then he transforms into the Amazing Bulk... which is like the Incredible Hulk, but purple. And not scary. And he sort of awkwardly mince-jogs everywhere.

That night, Hank-Bulk attacks and kills... somehow... a mugger who had stolen the engagement ring he was going to give Hannah. This attracts the attention of a pair of incompetent police detectives, and ultimately puts him in the hands of grinning madman General Darwin. Also a sexually impotent supervillain called Dr. Kantlove is somehow involved.

"The Amazing Bulk" gets everything wrong. EVERYTHING. If I examined every single thing this movie does wrong, I would be reviewing it for the rest of my natural life. In fact, I often had to stop watching and wonder if this was one of the rare, rare movies that TRIES to be so-bad-it's-good. It seems unlikely that any human being who has ever actually seen a movie -- any movie -- would think this was acceptable.

How bad is it? Well, consider this: "Plan 9 From Outer Space" has competent camerawork. "The Room" has a few moments of passable acting. "Troll 2" at least has special effects that don't make you want to laugh until you pee. You can normally find ONE thing competently done in even the worst movies... but not this one. The acting. The special effects. The continuity. The jokes. The writing. The climax. Even the credits are awful -- someone decided to make them Comic Sans. Who has credits in Comic Sans?!

But the most notable problem is HOW it's filmed -- everything is filmed in front of a greenscreen ... which is apparently the size of a bedsheet, since the actors are not allowed to actually move. When their characters have to walk, run or frolic, they just awkwardly jog in place and pose, or float through a CGI hallway that moves slightly too fast.

And don't forget the writing (Darwin's rant about dust armies taking over his house) and spectacularly awful climax, which is basically a parade of every single unrelated stock image that director Lewis Schoenbrun could get his hands on. Leprechauns. Koalas. Robin Hood. Zeus. It's almost hypnotic how little sense this makes.

Here's another example: the scale issues. The Bulk literally changes size from scene to scene -- sometimes he's slightly larger than a human, and sometimes he's the size of Godzilla. No explanation. And he's not the only problem -- one hilarious scene has a woman being crushed to death under a very, very tiny car. A car too small for hobbits. Let that sink in.

In fact, you almost forget that this is a naked ripoff of "The Incredible Hulk." It doesn't matter. Nothing matters except the hypnotic parade of hilarious ineptitude that just keeps scrolling by.

The bad acting is just the cherry on the sundae. Lawson has his face locked in perpetual pre-crying whiny-face, apparently because he doesn't know what depression, sorrow or angst look like. Lording plays everything with grinning scenery-chewing insanity, Randal Malone plays a bargain-price Dr. Evil in a bad wig, and Jed Rowen acts like he's trying to spawn a meme with every line. EVERY. LINE.

"The Amazing Bulk" is one of those rare, special movies that exists solely for people to riff on -- and in terms of technical ability, it is THE WORST. I have literally seen no-budget Internet shows with better production values... and that steady stream of jaw-dropping wretchedness is why everyone should see it. It literally must be seen to believed.

I am Pusheen the Cat
I am Pusheen the Cat
by Claire Belton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pusheen you into it, 26 Feb. 2014
This review is from: I am Pusheen the Cat (Paperback)
If you're not familiar with Pusheen the cat, let me enlighten you: Pusheen is an adorably blobby little cartoon cat, featured in Claire Belton's animated webcomics. And while there's no animation in "I Am Pusheen The Cat," this little book is a great display of the blob-cat's smiley, adorable charm -- and it serves as a nice non-medicinal cure for depression.

In case you're not familiar with Pusheen, the book opens with a little intro -- her birthday, gender, best feature ("toe beans"), hobbits, favorite foods ("All of them"), and so on. There's also a cute little intro for her fluffy baby sister Stormy.

Pusheen is like a lot of cats -- she loves food, sleeping in inconvenient places, being petted, and yodeling at two in the morning. The book contains such things as the "petting chart," her games, a guide to "acquiring" treats, sleeping positions, fantasies about being either tiny or huge, career options, things that look like cats, scary stories for a cat, cat etiquette, dinocats, reasons you should be a cat, practical uses for marshmallows, being fancy, where to sleep, how to cook Pusheen-style, and so on.

We also glimpse Pusheen's vacation in Japan, which seems like the place to worship her blobby tiny-footed cuteness. Stormy does some magic and acquires superpowers, and she turns out to be even more whimsical than Pusheen. And finally, we have a year in the life of Pusheen, starting with a New Year's cracker and continuing with valentines, St. Paddy's day, springtime, the Fourth of July ("Think about eagles and stuff"), the joys of autumn (think "pie"), lazy costume ideas for Halloween, Thanksgiving, building the ideal snowman, and things cats want for Christmas.

The really charming part of Pusheen is that her little adventures are pretty true to kitty-life, and there's a lot of stuff that will charm cat-owners (such as her ways of trying to fix technology, which involve staring, shoving and chewing on it). But there's also a whimsical side (Pusheen's fantasies of being a rainbow-maned kittycorn) that gets in Pusheen's head, and her little adventures are just adorable.

For instance, we are told the various steps of how to make a pizza by a chef-hatted Pusheen. Step four of pizza-making: "Make a huge mess because you are a cat"... and it just sort of goes downhill from there.

It's about as complicated as a children's picture book, with quick captions of everything Pusheen gets up to, which suits the cartoon style nicely. Everything is very simple, and Pusheen herself is a little blob with tiny bump-feet ("With tiny paws come tiny responsibilities") and an adorably expressive little face.

And the simplicity is part of what makes it feel so charming. When I first picked this book up, I was feeling rather depressed over love-life troubles... and by the end, I had cheered up considerably. It's like someone managed to put endorphins on paper.

"I Am Pusheen the Cat" is a cute little feel-good cartoon collection -- a must have for cat-lovers, and for anyone who just likes little cartoon cats doing cute things.

In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Cold blooded murder, 24 Feb. 2014
In 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered, changing the face of a small Kansas town forever. Two men were caught and hanged for the crime.

It seems like a simple story, perhaps worthy of a paragraph or two in the newspapers. But in the hands of Truman Capote, it became the strange beast known as "In Cold Blood" -- a true-crime book written with the conceits and style of fiction. While the facts are sometimes smudged, this is a beautifully-written, haunting American Gothic that lingers in the mind long after it ends.

The Clutters were a fairly normal, well-off farming family, living in the seemingly idyllic town of Holcomb. They were scandal-free, respected by their neighbors, and lived a pleasant life despite Mrs. Cutter's mental health issues. In other words, they were the complete opposites of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, two young men with troubled pasts filled with injury, alcoholism and violence.

Having heard that the Clutters had a large cache of money in their house, Smith and Hickock carefully planned a robbery. After the robbery, the Clutters were found bound and brutally murdered. The horror of their deaths fragments the small community, as citizens wonder who among them could have committed such a crime -- and at first, the cops don't seem to have any leads. But after a tip points them at Smith and Hickock, the two men are arrested and imprisoned.

Truman Capote did a staggering amount of research for this book -- not the usual poring-through-books-and-journals type, but research into people. Over the course of several years, he interviewed the murderers and learned intimate details about their lives, their minds, and what turned them into cold-blooded murderers. In the 1950s and early 1960s, it was shocking and revolutionary to show any compassion or understanding for people who had committed this kind of crime -- or even to acknowledge that they were human beings.

But Capote himself is not in this book. At all. He's the omniscient narrator who floats from place to place, seeing into people's heads and hearts, and recounting the story as it unfolds. And that is how "In Cold Blood" is both a nonfiction story and a "novel."

Capote uses his skills as a fiction writer to transform gritty reality into an almost cinematic story, avoiding the dryness of most true crime. He follows a small group of people through the days and years that follow, using his insights to craft thoughts and scenes reflecting what he was told. And his writing is not the sort you usually see assigned to real-life events -- it's lyrical and intimate, drifting through a loose narrative. Scenes that are not strictly necessary are woven in, like people attending the auction of the Clutters' belongings -- it's very poignant.

In fact, the fictionalization is both a blessing and a curse. It's pretty obvious that -- despite his protestations -- Capote had to make some stuff up for dramatic effect. And he definitely has a slant on the story of Perry Smith, whom he regards almost with a crush -- lots of stuff about his artistic aspirations, his sensitivity, the way he was abused, etc. Never mind that lots of people suffer as he did, and manage to not shoot children in the face.

And through him, the killers as well as the townspeople become full-blown characters whom the reader learns about intimately. You probably won't LIKE them -- they're both murderers and one is a pedophile -- but you get some idea of what makes them tick. The Clutters are more ambiguous, except for Nancy (whose diary Capote obtained), who is perhaps the most tragic figure -- a bright, outgoing young girl with love, talent and a bright future.

"In Cold Blood" is a strange work that blurs the border between fact and fiction -- and that is both a blessing and a curse. But whatever its flaws, it is a brilliant, almost hypnotic book.

Capote [DVD] [2005]
Capote [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £5.77

5.0 out of 5 stars ... and I went out the front, 24 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Capote [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
"In Cold Blood" is one of the most fascinating works of American literature -- a book that blurs the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction.

But the writing of the book is almost as fascinating as the events that inspired it, especially since the two became intertwined. This forms the core of "Capote," a fascinating look at the writing project that overwhelmed Truman Capote's life -- and while the movie is quite solid, it's the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who truly shines.

Writer Truman Capote (Hoffman) sees a small article in the newspaper, about a family who has been murdered in Kansas, and is immediately inspired to write about it for the New Yorker. Along with his friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), he sets out for Kansas and begins interviewing people who knew the Clutter family. They even get to know Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper), the detective on the case.

Then the murderers are caught -- a pair of troubled thugs, Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and Richard "Dick" Hickock (Mark Pellegrino).

Suddenly Capote is inspired to take his story far beyond its roots, and his New Yorker story begins to blossom into a full-length book. As he interviews the two men, a warped bond begins to form between Capote and Smith, whom he sees as a kindred spirit.... even though he hasn't revealed how his book will be written. But as the years and legal battles go on, he becomes more determined to finish it at last.

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Academy Award for his performance as Truman Capote, and it isn't hard to see why. He seems to slip into Capote's skin -- his looks, his high nasal voice, his fey mannerisms -- but he also fills the cracks with lots of genuine emotion. His Capote is both vulnerable and manipulative -- and thankfully, director Bennett Miller is intelligent enough to realize that neither eclipses the other.

On one hand, Capote seems to feel a true connection to Perry, as if they are two sides of the same coin -- in one scene, he plaintively tells Harper Lee that he and Perry came from the same house, and that he went "out the front door" while Perry was forced to leave via "the back." But the movie doesn't shy away from the suggestion that Capote manipulated the convicted men to get the book he wanted, although the extent is left ambiguous.

And as the movie winds on, Hoffman's Capote seems to be slowly crumbling under the weight of his magnificent book that he's producing, as if it's vampirically sucking out his vital juices. At the end, he's emotionally and creatively spent, adrift, left only with the reflections of his darker self.

As a recounting of "what happened," the film is actually pretty close to the reality of what happened -- it follows Capote closely as he winds his way through the Kansas town, with Harper paving the way before his feet. Miller mostly depends on Hoffman for atmosphere, letting him fill the scenes with emotion or intensity -- but he brings a tautness to phone calls, a darkness in the executions, and a sense of barely-restrained violence when the convicts are onscreen.

The other actors are all pretty good, although they are effectively window dressing for Hoffman -- Catherine Keener is the only one who truly rises above the herd, depicting Lee as a sharp, smart, incisive woman whom Capote leans on.

"Capote" is one of those movies that is elevated to brilliance by the presence of a truly great actor -- and the director's delicate, nuanced touch with Capote's psyche doesn't hurt either.

Warlock 3 - The End Of Innocence [DVD]
Warlock 3 - The End Of Innocence [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ashley Laurence
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £14.44

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warlock: The Slasher (some spoilers), 24 Feb. 2014
Here is a quick sequential sum-up of my emotions during the first part of "Warlock III: The End of Innocence":

1. Boredom.
2. Boredom.
3. Still bored.
4. Bored bored bored.
5. I don't care about these people.
6. Finally, the Warlock.
7. Wait... that's not Julian Sands.
8. Why is Julian Sands not here?
9. That's... that's the guy with the blue lipstick from "Dungeons and Dragons."

... while the movie laughed and mocked me, saying "Where is your God now?!"

While "Warlock: The Armageddon" was awful, it at least had Julian Sands bringing his effortless, menacing coolness to it. Without him, "Warlock III: The End of Innocence" ends up basically being a generic, tedious slasher movie, with a host of intensely obnoxious characters, dangling plot threads, and lots of graphic gore and boobs rather than subtle haunting scares.

Art student Kris Miller (Ashley Laurence) is informed of an old house belonging to her long-lost family, in which she hopes to discover clues to her mysterious past. Her friends come charging in because... well, we need bodies to get killed off -- jerk boyfriend (Paul Francis), fried-blonde Wiccan Robin (Boti Bliss), stoner Jerry (Jan Schweiterman) and the S&M couple (Angel Boris and Rick Hearst).

They accidentally free the Warlock (Bruce Payne NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!), who poses as an architect interested in the house. Robin instantly suspects that this guy is up to no good, but sadly nobody listens to her because.... well, the movie would be over. And as the weekend goes on, the Warlock sets out to capture Kris, but first he must force all her friends to forsake her because... well, no reason is really given.

"Warlock III: The End of Innocence" is basically your average slasher movie, but with a Warlock torturing and picking off obnoxious college students instead of a masked serial killer. And yes, like "Warlock: The Armageddon," this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the other two -- it's just another random blonde, black-clad, omnipotent Warlock who wants to do evil stuff, because he's evil.

In true slasher fashion, there is a lot of sex, boobs and graphic gore (Scott and Lisa have no other function), with some tepid jump scares even before the Warlock's release. To be fair, director Eric Freiser does give us a few memorable scenes (the time-loop escape), but it's mired in a sea of clammy, sludgy ineptitude.

The plot is a mess, and it often feels like it was made up as they went along. Robin seems like she will be an important character, and perhaps give Kris a chance against the Warlock... but she ends up being killed almost instantly. A major character's fate is left unknown. And the Warlock violates his own rules -- for some reason it's okay to kill Robin and the historian, but every other character must betray Kris. Why? How is this decided?

And the Warlock's motivation... seems to come out of left field. It's not even hinted at until near the end, when he randomly decides to blurt out his Evil Plans of Evil. It feels like they belatedly realized that he HAD no motivation, and quickly cobbled one together.

And Bruce Payne... oh, Bruce Payne. To be fair, this is the most restrained performance I have seen by him, which is admittedly not saying much. For the first three-quarters of the movie, he gives a sort of flat imitation of Julian Sands. But after capturing Kris, he gives up and goes into full-on hamtastic mode ("YOOOOUUU DON'T HAVE THE POOWWWAAAAHHH!"). None of the other actors are really memorable enough to comment on, alas.

"Warlock III: The End of Innocence" is not only a terrible (Julian Sands-less) sequel, it's just a terrible movie overall -- a set-up straight out of a slasher, with silly acting and a script riddled with holes. An utter disaster.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2014 1:03 PM BST

Hollow Man [DVD] [2000]
Hollow Man [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Kevin Bacon
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £1.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars You don't make history by following the rules, 24 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Hollow Man [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
There are movies that make you feel dirty and miserable, because there is simply nothing there to like -- not characters, plot or even a good feeling.

One good example: "Hollow Man," the loosest possible adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic novel "The Invisible Man"... except that instead of one stupid scientist, we have a whole cast of them. Gratuitous animal-abuse, rape, some great special effects and a despicable cast of annoying characters... well, it's easy to see why Paul Verhoeven hasn't made an American movie since, even if it was very profitable.

A bunch of scientists are working on an invisibility formula for the military, led by the arrogant Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon). When they successfully return a gorilla to visibility (almost killing it in the process), Sebastian decides that it's time for human trials -- and secretly has the team inject HIM with the serum. All seems to be going well... until the reversion therapy fails. Sebastian is stuck until his team finds a cure.

And unfortunately, the serum seems to be making him cruel, violent and psychotic -- he uses his invisibility to spy on his increasingly paranoid team, including his ex-girlfriend Linda (Elisabeth Shue) and her new boyfriend. And to stop the team from warning the military about the danger he poses, he's willing to trap and kill them one by one...

"The Hollow Man" is the loosest possible interpretation of "The Invisible Man" -- the only thing that connects them is an invisibility serum that makes you crazy and evil. But while there was only ONE scientist doing stupid things in H.G. Wells' story, this movie has SEVERAL scientists doing stupid things. A lot of stupid things.

I will say this: the special effects are spectacular, particularly the process of both Sebastian and the gorilla turning invisible and visible again. Almost fifteen years later, they still hold up beautifully -- the dissolves of skin, muscles, veins and bones are almost grotesque in their realism.

Here's what's wrong: EVERYTHING ELSE. The plot is entirely dependent on people doing idiotic things -- the entire premise is that these scientists stupidly decided to secretly start human testing because... well, because Sebastian wants too. No better reason. It's riddled with a thousand tiny holes (a gorilla hits a guy and he doesn't even get bruised!), and the dialogue drips with sleaze. There are a few amusing moments (Sebastian freaking out some kids with his "hollow" face), but the rest of the movie taints them.

It's also painfully obvious from the beginning that Sebastian is going to immediately go evil and develop a god complex. But since Verhoeven is not known for his subtlety, this is expressed by him beating animals to death and making comments so obviously psychopathic that I'm surprised he didn't go "Mwahahahahaha!" at the end of every sentence.

And there's an ugly streak of misogyny that runs through the movie like a stream of fetid excrement -- and the brutal rape scene is only the most obvious example, especially since we never see that poor woman again. She is literally there just to be leered at and raped. If it were just Sebastian, that would be okay, but the hostile yet voyeuristic attitude seems to permeate the entire film.

I think it's the movie's intention to make us hate Sebastian, which is a massive mistake -- Kevin Bacon is easily a good enough actor to bring dimension to the arrogant, callous Sebastian, and evoke some kind of sympathy for him. We should feel somewhat sorry for a man going mad. Except Verhoeven makes you hate him from the beginning, and makes it clear that there is no good in this man, so he ends up basically being a less witty, less visible Freddy Krueger.

The sad thing is that the primary concept of "Hollow Man" is a good one, but the ugly, sleazy way it's presented just squanders it. Even Kevin Bacon can't save this turkey.

Flight Of The Conchords - Complete HBO Second Season [DVD] [2009]
Flight Of The Conchords - Complete HBO Second Season [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Bret McKenzie
Price: £5.90

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Okay well, I just need a second to calm down, 24 Feb. 2014
They're still from New Zealand, still in New York, still broke, and still outrageously funny.

Not a lot has changed in the second season of "Flight of the Conchords," which is just fine because the brilliant writing and hilarious songs are only getting better. Sadly this was also the last season of the show (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement wanted to move on), but it sure makes you wish that the Kiwi band's fun could go on forever.

Bret and Jemaine fire Murray (Rhys Darby) because he's spending all his time on the Crazy Dogggz, and instead land a gig on a commercial for women's toothpaste. But then a lawsuit is leveled at the Crazy Dogggz and Murray finds himself broker than ever, while the Conchords find that they may be in trouble with immigration.

When the status quo is restored, Bret and Jemaine have a whole new host of problems: romance with an Aussie, forming a street gang, attempting to top the "Friendship Graph," falling in love with the same girl and trying to win her over with epileptic dog benefits, Garfunkeling, an addiction to hair gel, attempting to get Bret a girlfriend, and resorting to prostitution to pay for a new cup.

And Murray's job becomes more complicated when the Prime Minister of New Zealand comes to New York, wanting to meet President Obama and open "New Zealandtown." And finally, Murray comes up with the ultimate plan for Bret and Jemaine's musical career...

Finishing "Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season" is a bittersweet experience, because it's one of those rare TV shows that ended when it was at its quality peak instead of dragging it out for dozens of seasons... and frankly, it leaves you longing for more like Bret longs for his own cup. Maybe if we're lucky, someday we'll get a "Flight of the Conchords" movie.

The hilarity of the first season is a little more finely-tuned here, but mostly it derives humor from the same sources -- mostly from the flaky, mellow approach of the New Zealanders and their attempts to find love and musical success. The dialogue is tight and funny ("Are you a prostitute?" "No, I'm the guy who wears the giant condom"), and it maintains that deliciously wacky surreality that the best musicals have (there's an entire sequence inside MEL'S DAYDREAMS).

And unsurprisingly, the music is FRIGGIN' HILARIOUS. It covers everything from opera to dance to hip-hop -- just consider "Sugalumps," a parody of the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" that succeeds in being a thousand times better. Jemaine and Bret sexily prance around a restaurant, singing about how irresistible their "sugalumps" are.

And the songs tackle subjects like cannibalism, epileptic dogs, being "freaky" (pillow wings!), sensitive rappers, angel sex and prostitution ("You don't have to be a prostitute/You can say no to being a man-ho/a male gigolo!"). Each one is tightly-written, with lots of in-jokes and clever phrases. And the music videos are unbelievable -- one has ninjas, fencing AND a two-man novelty band.

Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are absolutely perfect playing... well, more comedic versions of themselves. Jemaine is a slightly brasher, sensible sort, while Bret is a sensitive dreamer who can't talk to girls he likes. Darby and Kristen Schaal round out the cast nicely, as their naive manager and their one and only deranged fan.

"Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season" leaves you rather sad as you leave Jemaine and Bret, but the journey is definitely worth taking -- wickedly funny, cute and gloriously well-written.

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