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Posts tagged “Jeri Ryan

Devil’s Revenge

Right off the bat, I feel like the devil is trying to convince us it’s going to be good stuff. The credits roll over scenes from the movie, much the way a syndicated adventure show credits would… Like they’re trying to assure us that there’s something good in store, despite the cheap cover art.

We have a group of men exploring a cave, but it’s not going well. Things get even more sinister when they find a chamber but obviously man-made… And filled with bones. He’s located the relic he’s looking for, but at what cost? The whole thing actually gives me very Stephen M Smith vibes… And that’s interesting. There’s a definite for boating here, and things start to go very wrong very quickly as figures appear in the cave, and people begin to die. You don’t need to tell Dude twice. He is out of there!

At least, he’s getting out long enough to resupply and mount another expression… This doesn’t go over well with the wife, but he’s desperate to get back there, so he can break a curse on the family. Even as he argues with the wife on the phone, the demons send a heart attack his way and he crashes the car in the ER, the demons watch.

They look good too… Someone spent some serious money on these outfits, and having a bunch of them around, with their dead, black eye sockets almost gives me a blind dead feeling. They may be just a little bit too proud of them though, as they’re constantly showing them in full light, and Wall and make up holds up, too much time just standing around on screen does sort of push your suspension of disbelief.

Back from a heart attack, the vision continue there’s almost no attempt to make this into a bit of a head trip keeping your balance and throwing strange imagery at you. I’m not complaining, considering I came into this thing mostly for monsters… And William Shatner. However, the trippiness comes off almost as intrusive and repetitive rather than leaving you off-balance. Still, strange looks from the people around our hero and the general sense of unease in the air manages to set up an effectively paranoid mood. All the people around him shift in an out of being avatars for the demonic.

Time to go talk to dad. Shatner, at his horse farm. He explains that for long time, the Rockies trying to make him find his only way to break the curse… And the fact that he didn’t destroy it… But he just disturbed the relic… It kind of just pissed everything off.

So now it’s time to go back to the cave… This time he’s bringing his entire family

This is kind of where it falls apart me. I realize we’re heading into the third act, and this is kind of their way of raising the stakes, but it really doesn’t make sense. And as we see him wandering through the cave with his family, it’s almost like a spelunking vacation. “Look at this!”… “Let me tell you stories about how this happens”… It belies the seriousness of the mission and undermines the gravitas of question through hostile territory to break the curse. Moreover, even as our Aztec  ghosts make their way to confront our family I am unconvinced that any carnage is gonna happen here… Maybe the dad could die, but I can’t believe anyone is in any real jeopardy. I can’t see that working thematically. It also feels like we’re in a pattern of running away from this cave and coming back and running away and coming back. It feels redundant and repetitive, but then again so there’s a lot of this film.

Another big problem is the lighting. The entire thing is just looks so flat… And as I mentioned, these suits are frequently shown and fully lit. That does nothing for their effectiveness. Director Jared Cohen really needs to move past his TV movie roots for something like this and light everything just for the sheer beauty of it. Creating more room in the caves and playing with the shadows and ridges on these excellent suits would go a long way towards creeping up these monsters. I give them props for understanding how to enhance the suits with CGI, adding some motion to the mandibles, and creating just enough glow and smoke to make them fantastic. On the other hand,that he’s using the same old cgi blood packs  is painfully obvious, and he’s all about bad CG explosions. That works once, maybe twice, and in the distance… but they look really bad here, up close, front and center.

The real shame of all of this is there’s a good idea here. A good story somewhere, but it needs a lot of work. The pacing all over the place, fast where it needs to be slow, and slower it needs to be fast. The movie itself is about 20 minutes too long, and focused on the wrong things I think. All of the family drama really should’ve been background, with the movie itself focus more on the cave expedition and heightening the whore there. Some flashbacks to the plot exposition and curse may have worked better… And perhaps a longer, slower descent as the hauntings grow and drive our characters to find the relic would’ve been more effective.

It might be fun if you just turn your brain off to watch a rubber suit monster movie with William Shatner, but I’m disappointed because it really could’ve been so much more.


Mortal Kombat : Legacy


indexI’m a fan of Moral Kombat, indeed I was always more of a MK guy than a Street Fighter person and absolutely love the film with Robin Shoe and Christopher Lambert . With the new movie in theaters this weekend,  I wanted to also revisit some of the old stuff! We’re going to start with this Dollar Tree find.

When I pulled out the MK legacy DVD, I was shocked to see it cut into episodes. I suddenly assumed I was looking at a TV series instead of the movie I expected. Turns out these are actually about 10 minute webisodes that all collect into a sort of feature anthology. Not a terrible idea, so we’ll still treat this as a film.

Part one actually starts off very industrialized, and believe it or not it’s actually a good look for Mortal Kombat. The factory building robots, this heavy foreshadowing for things like Sektor’s head and Kano’s mask. Sonya’s there though, and I’ve got admit, I think I actually like Jeri Ryan in this role even better and I did Bridgette Wilson (the actress in the original film). She’s got a harder edge t her than Wilson, though I think I would’ve preferred her a bit younger, nevertheless Jeri Ryan still pulls off the part.  Michael Jae White as her partner Jax on the other hand, images2kind of strikes me as a bulkier Shemar Moore.

Sonya reports back in that she’s found Kano in the factory, and hearing this, Jax knows she’s gonna go off half cocked and sets off to rescue her. He’s not wrong, in the next scene we see her in a lonely hallway, chained to the ceiling with Kano coming in menacingly. Elsewhere in the factory, Jax and his team arrive in the rescue mission. It’s a good fire fight, not necessarily what you expect from Mortal Kombat but definately well choreographed action.

As the melee  continues between Jax and Kano, Sonja frees herself and we get to explore the complex. Jaxdelivers one mean roundhouse punch to Kano and we pretty much see why he wears a mask now! It ends up when A bomb explodes and we see everybody image4srecuperating how they can.

Our next is Johnny Cage, being hyped up in a sort of reality TV feature documentary. Unlike the original film, where Cage is at the height of his power, this shows him all washed up, unable to make the transition to big budget action films. It’s not his talent that’s in question, it’s his bad behavior off screen, picking fights with random people and getting into trouble with the law. I cringe a little bit when he tells is it agent “I haven’t worked since Power Rangers went off the air”. I hope this isn’t really a swipe at the green ranger Jason David Frank (a great martial artist, nice guy and regular on the con circuit). It might not be, actor Matt Mullins did in fact star in one of the Power Ranger spinoffs, Kamen rider. Either way, they’re honest in thier evaluation of film culture in 2010…The action film is dead, and you can see why he’s having a hard time…except he’s getting stabbed in the back by his agents and they’re pitching his show other people now.

Cage gets into a tussle with security and he takes them reasonably easily because, course hes Johnny Cage!  Suddenly, time stops. A mysteries man walked out of the darkness imagesoffer him a place in the tournament.

I’m reminded again that these are a bunch of separate little vignettes when we transition to the next set which is a combination of animation and live action. It’s the story of Outworld and Sho Kahn’s rise to power, with his General Baraka. But it’s really the story of Princess Kitana , Princess Mylena and Queen Sindel.

The combination of animation and live action is bizarre, jarring in places. I was wondering if they went this route because they didn’t have enough footage shot. Either _50161575_006680143-1way though the character development is marvelous, far greater than anything we’ve seen before and generally more than the subject matter deserves. They really lean into the Game of Thrones fantasy aspects and it works.

Raiden’s story fast forwards us back to the present, here on earth and see him in a mental facility. It’s a strange take on the character and continuity.

Using a taser on Raiden is probably the worst idea ever.

bfc37acfd4740383b514d6fe8612d10cUltimately, he has to transcend his human form and release the god within. Of all these segments, it’s probably the most out of place, and were I watching just a film, I would have assumed it was added to fill time rather than as a passion project for the director, Kevin Tancharoen.

It doesn’t matter that much though, because the next section is what I’ve been waiting for. Subzero and Scorpion! We get an interesting origin for our two archetypal ninjas. It feels like a snowy ninja movie, and the first time those familiar robes are unveiled, sent a shiver down my spine. It’s a well done piece of homage to the kung fu films that Mortal Kombat draws it’s inspiration from. We have ninja clans and  a dead shogun and a index2generational grudge and it’s beautiful.

Traditionally, we’ve spent more time following Sub Zero, but this time Scorpion is the star, and it’s really fascinating to explore how he became this kind of ghost, why he’s filled with vengence and why he’s back. It sets up the grudge match in the tournament perfectly.

We end the series with the robots, and interesting concepts where a particular clan has trained and brainwashed assassins for generations now turning towards cybernetics. Assasins are transitioned from humans and rebuilt into robots. It’s definitely a the index3section with the most body horror, but I do come I feel like I know a lot more about Sektor and Cyrax, and it brings the story full circle as we can see that this is what Kano’s factory was working on at the beginning.

Mortal Kombat and example of a dollar store find that isn’t at all what I expected it to be but still a nice hidden gem. Wish I’d had this movie 20 years ago at the height of my fandom, but I’d still be content to pop this in and watch it as a prequel anytime before I dig into the classic film. I recommend. Good action and good sci fi.

Dracula 2000

lussierindex2I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why this film is so hated. I’ll admit, the font used on the titles is a little over the top and the use of classic Dracula protagonists names for modern characters is a little irritating, but honestly – look at that opening shot of the Demetre… The blue cast that contrasts with the red blood on the people and on the sails. It’s amazing. The footprints in the sand where we slowly see animal turn the human, it’s marvelously understated and yet perfectly effective.

We get a good bit of establishing banter with our characters. It’s perfectly clear who Van Helsing is, but Johnny Lee Miller himself still charms as well. I feel a little heartbroken when Selena turns down his date.

Downstairs, the thieves are quick and efficient. Omar Epps actually does a marvelous job images4.jpgbeing sinister. He has a cultured style to him that underlies his efficiency. I could actually really dig a pure heist movie featuring this crew… it’s almost a shame that they won’t live long enough for a sequel.

In a gothic cave chamber below Van Helsing’s office (Setting off a few traps to give us some fun, spiky kills) The chamber itself, adorned with vampire skulls, almost feels like a hammer film set. It’s more of an homage than anything else, because the rest of this film will do its best to be slick and modern.

Across the pond in New Orleans, our heroine Mary, he is having bad dreams. Flashes of Dracula, armor, and strobe lighting mix with her face until she awakens terrified. It’s a reasonable bit of foreshadowing considering Dracula is on his way to her in the thieves airplane. The first attacks from Dracula are fast and brutal, and more than once it’s succeeded in making me jump. Gary Tunicliff wields fake blood effectively, though I’ll index.jpgdmit I wish Dracula’s de-ageing were a little less sudden. Then again, when you got Gerard Butler  in your cast, you want to get his shirt off and have him looking pretty as quick as possible.

We effectively sidestep skepticism by having Johnny Lee Miller follow Van Helsing and almost immediately witness the vampires firsthand. They’re well done too, Gary Tunnicliffe chose to make them gruesome more by virtue of blood spatter rather then the physical deformity we see in Carpenter’s Vampires or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, there is no mistaking the red eyes and fangs for anything less than monsters. Lussier delivers us a kinetic action scene before Van Helsing takes Miller aside to explain the plot. There is a new twist to the vampire legend here, the idea that Dracula is patient zero – the first vampire, and that the methods that destroy other vampires simply don’t work on him. It’s a logical, organic addition to the mythology. We get additional foreshadowing as silver Mardi Gras coins are dropped from a balcony while Dracula wanders the streets of New Orleans. Foreshadowing is actually something Lussier is good at and the general confusion and massive activity that we get from this admittedly small-scale Mardi Gras celebration provides a colorful and acceptable challenge to our vampire hunters. It’s no challenge for Dracula though, as he finds Mary‘s roommate Lucy to images3.jpgcontinue the game of cat and mouse that he is playing with her and her father.

Lussier creates an almost Suspiria like atmosphere to introduce the brides and finally give us our first real confrontation with Dracula. We get great wolf and bat imagery as Miller savers Mary and they race after the Church for sanctuary.

We get bloody scripture, exploding bibles and massive cemeteries, not to mention one of the best crucifixion scenes I’ve ever seen and as we finally discover the origins of the first vampire.

images55.jpgThere is some cringe here, brilliant dialogue like “we are also much more complicated than our names aren’t we? “Are undercut by goofy dialogue like “I don’t drink… Coffee”. The ever present Virgin Records marketing can get on your face a bit as well and the name itself is admittedly a bit hokey. Still, the imagery, the twist and the action all serve to make this one of my all-time favorite vampire films, second only to the Lost Boys. It’s an incredibly fun vampire romp, not overly grotesque like Fright Night or John Carpenters Vampires but still free of the over-the-top romanticism that Anne Rice and the later Twilight stories would infuse into the genre.