Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Also known as: The Purge 2
Release Date: July 17th, 2014 (Israel)
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Written by: James DeMonaco
Music by: Nathan Whitehead
Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Michael K. Williams

Platinum Dunes, Blumhouse Productions, Why Not Productions, Universal Pictures, 103 Minutes


“Get ready to bleed, rich bitches! This is our time now!” – Carmelo Johns

*written in 2014.

While I didn’t like the first movie overall, I did find this one to be better. The main reason for this is that we weren’t trapped in a house with an annoying family with bad guys outside, who didn’t get in to bring the ruckus until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. This film took us outside and into downtown Los Angeles during the annual “Purge” night. We also followed a character played by Frank Grillo, a guy I’ve always liked, who was almost a Punisher type of character. He had an armored muscle car and an awesome arsenal of big guns. He was also former military or a cop but I couldn’t tell which and it really doesn’t matter.

Grillo, as I’ll call him because I don’t remember his name in the film and I don’t care, comes across a few women in trouble during the Purge and takes it upon himself to rescue them. They end up with him throughout the film, as does this annoying married couple that no one who sees this film will care about. Grillo traverses through downtown L.A. while babysitting these people on a personal mission to find the drunk driver that killed his son.

The downside of this movie is that while there was more action than the first, it still felt like there wasn’t enough, as this movie existed in the outside world and not in a closed-in confined space. I expected a lot more balls to the wall chaos.

This film featured two sets of villains: the young punks on dirt bikes with painted faces, as well as multiple semi trucks full of armored troops and a commander with an insane machine gun. The group led by Grillo is trying to avoid both groups of villains and the true intentions of one of the villainous groups is a plot twist that falls flat and thus, reminded me of the uninspiring and lame plot twist in the previous Purge film.

This is a better film than the first one but it still isn’t a good film. It felt like less of a waste of time than the first but I walked away with pretty much no desire to ever experience this movie again. In fact, other than watching a future sequel for potential review purposes, I have no interest in this series.

To rehash what I stated in my review of the original film, the premise isn’t believable and it feels like a adolescent boy’s wet dream – stolen from the diary of a middle school kid. Hell, maybe Hollywood is paying kids to write their movies now because you can pay them in Blow Pops and nudie magazines.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Any Frank Grillo movie where he is a total badass. So any Frank Grillo movie, really.

Film Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Release Date: July 29th, 2014 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Written by: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Whoopi Goldberg

Nickelodeon Movies, Platinum Dunes, Gama Entertainment, Mednick Productions, Heavy Metal, Paramount Pictures, 101 Minutes


“So, they’re heroes in a half shell?” – Vernon Fenwick

*Written in 2014.

Okay, what the hell was that?

I just got out of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I left confused and annoyed. I anticipated it not being on the level I had hoped, as Michael Bay produced it and he’s been making a ton of money bastardizing and destroying the Transformers franchise, but I thought that this having a different director than Bay himself, may have turned out to be a secret blessing. Well, it wasn’t.

First of all, I don’t like the Turtle designs. Yes, everyone has bitched that they are too big and bulky. Well, people are right on that one. Also, their faces are odd. This doesn’t even compare though to how awful Master Splinter looked. His design was just wrong. His gi was Pittsburgh Steelers colors and not the traditional red that it has always been. But then again, even that wasn’t the tip of the iceberg.

The absolute worst character design in this film was Shredder. He looked like a Michael Bay Decepticon covered in way too many big knives and pretty much just resembled a really bad Rob Liefeld character from the early ’90s. Oh yeah, he was also just some scarred up Japanese guy in a robotic power suit. Shredder is a fucking ninja in a samurai outfit with awesome yet simple blades on his fist and shoulders. He’s not a hard character to do right. Hell, just look at the 1990 live action film, Shredder was perfect in that. Perfect!

Actually, the 1990 film is still the live action TMNT bible because this film just blew massive chunks all over everything.

Now don’t even get me started on how awful the Turtles new origin story was. It was garbage and a slap in the face of how awesome their beginnings were in the comics and the original live action film.

The evil plot in the movie was also laughable as hell. So, the evil corporate scientist douche is going to poison New York City with a special concoction he made only to make billions of dollars by offering up the cure for it a month later. How does he plan to secretly poison the city? By spraying it out of the radio tower on top of the giant skyscraper that has his own name on it. Yeah, smart plan science douche.

The Foot Clan also sucked. Their design had nothing to do with the Foot Clan that anyone would remember from any previous incarnation of this franchise. There was some kung fu Asian chick that led them but she was useless and uninteresting.

I should mention the few positives. I liked the Turtle characters. They got their personalities right and their relationship felt genuine. Their voices were a bit off but there were much bigger issues throughout the movie. Also, Will Arnett was good, Megan Fox was pretty tolerable and Whoopi Goldberg owned the small part she had. William Fichtner was good as the villain who wasn’t Shredder, even though his plan was complete ass.

Well, the film came and I finally saw it and being that I didn’t expect much, I’m not all that heartbroken. There is disappointment but Guardians of the Galaxy is still in the theater, so I can go see that a few more times.

Documentary Review: That Guy Dick Miller (2014)

Release Date: March 7th, 2014 (SXSW)
Directed by: Elijah Drenner
Music by: Jason Brandt
Cast: Dick Miller, Lainie Miller, Gilbert Adler, Allan Arkush, Julie Corman, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker, William Sadler, Robert Picardo, Ernest R. Dickerson, Corey Feldman, Robert Forster, Zach Galligan, Jonathan Haze, Jack Hill, Leonard Maltin, John Sayles, Mary Woronov

Autumn Rose Productions, End Films, 91 Minutes


If you don’t know who Dick Miller is or at least recognize his face, you were probably born after the year 2000. Even then, if you’ve ever watched a film before that time, you have most likely seen him at one point or a dozen.

Dick Miller was in everything from the 1950s through the 1990s. No, seriously, he was. Well, at least it seemed like he was in everything. The man has 180 credits to his name according to IMDb. Growing up in the ’80s, I saw him pop up a few times a year in the coolest movies of the time. The one that will always stand out the most for me was his part in Gremlins, which was the first time I remember seeing him. Every time I saw Mr. Miller after that was always a nice treat.

As I got older and went back and watched older films, especially when I found a love for Roger Corman’s pictures, I started to experience a younger and hip Dick Miller. He started his career in a lot of those early Roger Corman pictures and that association would serve him well, as all the young directors who rose to prominence, who were influenced by Corman, started hiring Miller for their films.

This documentary goes back and shows Miller’s early life, how he made the connection with Corman and how his career blossomed in unseen ways because of it. I love that it goes through his long history in films and interviews a lot of the people who were there alongside him. It also talks to the directors who hired him and have a love for his work.

Dick Miller is a guy that deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the films he was a part of. He was a mainstay in Hollywood for decades and if he was in a movie it sort of legitimized it as cool. It didn’t matter when he got older either, as he took over the screen in his cameos in a lot of Joe Dante’s pictures.

That Guy Dick Miller is a pretty awesome documentary for fans who grew up watching this guy work. Even if you aren’t familiar with him, this is probably still enjoyable and will give you a solid appreciation for the man and the films he was a part of.

Documentary Review: The Image Revolution (2014)

Release Date: January 25th, 2014 (Amazing Arizona Comic Con)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Respect Films, Sequart, 81 Minutes


The cool thing about The Image Revolution is that it covers the coolest time in comic book publishing history and, as a fan, I lived through this when it was happening and it was honestly, the coolest thing that my young middle school brain got to experience. I used the word “cool” a lot in that run-on sentence but that’s what the early ’90s were all about: cool.

Image Comics was, by far, the coolest comic book company to ever exist. When seven of Marvel Comics’ top dogs left the company to breakout on their own and go independent, it was like the comic industry’s version of the punk rock revolution.

Here you have Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio: all heavy hitter creators at Marvel, bucking the system and forever changing the game. These guys were superstars within the industry and after their revolution, became rock stars in pop culture.

This documentary covers why these guys felt the need to kiss away their steady careers and stick it to the man. It also follows the formation of Image Comics, the struggles they faced and how even after things seemed to fall apart, these guys all sort of found each other again, despite their young rebellious attitudes, their fallouts and their intense competition with one another. It also shows how each artist formed their own studios, what that meant and how all of this built a solid foundation for new and emerging talents to ply their trade independently. And truthfully, without Image Comics and what these guys did, there probably wouldn’t be The Walking Dead or McFarlane Toys.

This is an exciting documentary for fans of the comic book industry, especially Generation Xers that were savvy to this story, back in the day. It’s really cool seeing these guys, all these years later, reflecting on the details of how this all went down. While comic industry reporting was great back in the early ’90s and my friends and I knew the story, some details were unknown until now.

Film Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

Release Date: September 5th, 2014 (TIFF)
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Bold Films, Open Road Films, 117 Minutes


“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you’d have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that’s what I’m telling you, as clearly as I can.” – Lou Bloom

Nightcrawler was a film that the critics loved. It was on several top ten lists at the end of 2014 and it even won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. I went into it with a lot of enthusiasm because it was a modern noir-esque picture that had high praise and accolades and starred Jake Gyllwnhall, an actor, who when he is on his A-game, is one of the best working today.

Sadly, I was severely underwhelmed by the movie. It wasn’t due to bad performances, bad direction or lackluster cinematography; all that stuff was good. I just couldn’t connect with the film in the one aspect that was the most highly regarded: the story.

There is no one in Nightcrawler that I care about. Even the Riz Ahmed character sells his soul despite his moral compass and his reservations about his job and how truly evil his boss is. Rene Russo started out strong and was somewhat admirable but ultimately, she sells her soul too. Everyone sells there soul. And the puppet master pulling all the strings is Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom.

The thing that makes the narrative hard to digest or connect with is that you just see Bloom on the surface. He’s a selfish, despicable, greedy madman that doesn’t care what horrible actions he has to take, as long as he is the best at what he does and he makes a lot of money. I can deal with a character like this but there needs to be some sort of context, something beneath what’s immediately apparent by his actions. He’s a reptilian human being and this film exists as a sort of satirical commentary on the media and nightcrawlers in general but it is missing a soul and some meaning.

Maybe this works for the Hollywood types living in L.A., as they witness these nightcrawler vultures taking over the streets at night, in an effort to be nightly news paparazzi, capturing violent crimes and carnage in an effort to generate ratings and revenue. To someone that doesn’t live in a big city, a little more narrative meat is needed. Maybe people in L.A. are just okay assuming that the people who do this job are blood thirsty jackals and that’s all the context they need for this story to work. Still, it’s rather one-dimensional.

To me, this is a film that fails to capture any sort of real emotional connection. Sure, you feel the tension in the heat of the moment when some big action sequence is going down or when you’re sitting in the bushes with Bloom, waiting for something bad to pop off. It’s just that everything between these moments doesn’t establish anything worthwhile.

Gyllenhaal played the part as best as he could but I feel like the script, despite winning the biggest of all film awards, wasn’t worthy of the performance. Gyllenhaal deserved more and he should have had the narrative to tell us more. He conveys what is on paper well but its like he doesn’t have all the material he needs to make the character truly live.

The film is still incredibly well acted, especially the scenes between Gyllenhaal and Russo, as well as Gyllenhaal and Ahmed. It also has some incredibly cinematography thanks to the eye and style of Robert Elswit, who also worked on There Will Be BloodMagnolia and dozens of other pictures.

I can’t completely trash the film due to its great technical execution and the talent of its cast. I just don’t feel like it is something I would ever want to watch again.

Documentary Review: ESPN 30 For 30 – Soccer Stories – Short Films (2014)

Release Date: April 22nd, 2014 – May 6th, 2014 (run of six short episodes)
Directed by: various
Music by: various
Narrated by: Ryan Van Ness III (4 episodes)

ESPN Films, 6 Episodes, 30 Minutes (per episode)


*written in 2014.

ESPN returned with their 30 For 30 series this year. This season was strictly about soccer and saw two feature films and six half hour episodes dedicated to the sport. The first feature film Hillsborough is reviewed here. The second film White, Blue and White will be reviewed after I see it. This review here is for the series of six half hour-long episodes that were wedged between the two feature length bookends.

I thought that this series was really well done and covered a diverse set of stories even though they were all from within the soccer world.

There was an episode about Diego Maradona’s performance at the 1986 World Cup, which showed the superstar from every angle on and off the field. There was an episode about the Chilean military coup in the early 1970s and how it affected their national soccer team in the World Cup in 1974. Another episode dealt with a terrorist attack in Northern Ireland on fans of the Irish national team, which lead to a ceasefire by both opposing paramilitary groups involved in the long term conflict. Mané Garrincha, Brazil’s legend was featured in an episode that focused on his legendary status as well as his struggles. Brett Ratner directed an episode about the Jules Rimet Trophy and how it has an insane story that involves Nazis, crime and going missing. The last episode of the six short stories was about goalie Moacir Barbosa and how he went from being a Brazilian soccer hero to a pariah after he allowed a game-winning goal by Uruguay. That goal won Uruguay the World Cup in 1950.

Every chapter of this series was great. All were well shot, well edited and the subjects interviewed were compelling in every episode. Each director in this series made an interesting film. The varying degree of subjects kept it fresh and engaging. The only complaint I have of this series, is that each episode would have benefited more if they were each at least an hour in length or more. They did feel a bit rushed and too condensed.

Film Review: What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

Release Date: January 19th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Written by: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Music by: Plan 9
Cast: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford

Resnick Interactive Development, Unison Films, Defender Films, Funny or Die, New Zealand Film Commission, Madman Entertainment, 85 Minutes


“Yeah, some of our clothes are from victims. You might bite someone and then, you think, ‘Oooh, those are some nice pants!’.” – Viago

*written in 2014.

What We Do In the Shadows is a New Zealand horror comedy that I have wanted to see for quite some time. I saw the trailer over a year ago but the film had a hard time getting distribution in the United States, even though it stars Jemaine Clement from HBO’s Flight of the Conchords and is made by some of the same people. Since it is now on Amazon’s video on demand service, I purchased it.

The film is done as a mockumentary following four vampires who live together in a flat in urban New Zealand. It shows their lives, how they make it in the modern world, examines their long friendships with one another and how they view and interact with the rest of the world. What We Do In the Shadows not only gives us vampires but it showcases werewolves, zombies, witches and other paranormal entities and how they work through their issues in a world together.

The cast in this movie is phenomenal. Each character in any other film would be a spotlight stealer but in this movie, they all shine and they all grab onto the spotlight and don’t let go from the first frame until the last.

You have Vladislav, the vampire played by Jemaine Clement, who was once a master of supernatural seduction but lost his mojo after confronting “The Beast”. Viago is a vampire that was a Victorian dandy who still embraces that style and culture. Deacon is a vampire who believes himself to be the ultimate sex magnet while ignoring his share of the chores in the flat. The fourth vampire is Petyr who is a temperamental 8,000 year old vampire that looks like Count Orlock from Nosferatu. The cast is then rounded out by a few other great characters that challenge the vampires and their relationships with humans and other creatures.

To call this film “hilarious” is an understatement. There hasn’t been a horror comedy this good since Shaun of the Dead and to be honest, this movie may be a bit better. There isn’t a scene that goes by that doesn’t have you laughing out loud. The thing that makes it work so well, is the fact that you truly care about the characters and their struggles. No one is just fodder for comedy, they all serve a real purpose and feel like real characters despite the absurdity of their situations.

What We Do In the Shadows is a rare comedy masterpiece. I haven’t enjoyed any comedy this much in years. If you are a fan of horror that is funny, this should be right up your alley.