Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Welcome To Blood City" - - Awesome Name, Weird Movie

"Welcome To Blood City" came out of a 50 pack of sci-fi movie I recently bought at Wal-Mart so that means 2 things: 1) I'm going to be reviewing a lot of sci fi movies and 2) A lot of them are going to be bad.

"Welcome To Blood City" or "WTBC" is an odd bird of a movie. It's a western/sci-fi/mystery film and it succeeds and fails on different levels depending on what genre is currently on screen.

The movie starts off in seemingly modern times, then it cuts to a group of five people stranded in the middle of nowhere with no idea of how they got there, just a note in their pocket.

That tells them how many people they've already killed.

From the get go, the mystery element is handled extremely well. That's a classic set up and a great way to introduce the protagonist, Lewis, because while the others share the info on their card he takes one look at it and tears it up.

One thing I should say before going on: the aspect ratio for this movie is terrible at least on this DVD so if you can't stand watching a few scenes framed like this:

then this movie may not be for you. It's not a big deal for me and I was engaged enough in the story to ignore it, but it did make me laugh every once in awhile.

The strangers then gets attacked by hillbillies who proceed to rape the female member of the group in what has to be (thankfully) the shortest rape in cinematic history. They are soon rescued by the sheriff of Blood City but it turns out they would have been better off with the hillbillies.

Ain't no love in Blood City.
Blood City is a Western town, complete with horses, saloons, and gunmen-o-plenty. All of them arrived here at some point in their lives and have created a society full of death and slavery. The slaves wear drab grey uniforms. The Citizens wear all black with a red cross emblazoned on their front and back, like a badge . . .or a bull's-eye.  New arrivals, like Lewis and company are slaves of the gun toting Citizens until they earn their freedom.

And they earn their freedom by killing a Citizen.

The town is tense. Everyone kills everyone but even killers have rules. You can kill your slave but not someone else's. You can only kill a Citizen if they have deliberately dishonored you. Survive 20 gunfights and you gain the status of "Immortal." You no longer fear death and you can challenge the Sheriff himself, played amazingly by the legendary Jack Palance as a disturbingly calm man who ignores the misfortune as those beneath him.

As a Western, this movie is great. It's tense, there's lots of backstabbing, shoot-outs, bar maids, and other Western moments to keep this movie going till the end.

But the sci-fi stuff . . .that's where the film slips. It doesn't get bad, it just seems to falter.

Without giving too much away, the story keeps cutting away to two scientist in a lab somewhere who are watching the events unfold in Blood City and they are keeping tabs on the latest group of strangers. One of them starts to fall in love with Lewis to the point where she is watching him have sex while her co-worker berates her.

(It's a crap shoot trying to get captions to work for me in Blogger, as you might have notice with past posts, so let's just pretend that picture had a witty caption and move on.)

Halfway through the movie I came to the conclusion that some producer probably had access to a Western town set but wanted to make a sci-fi film so someone whipped this script up. It's not a bad combo and there are some interesting elements to it, especially when people and weapons begin teleporting around Blood City, but the payoff is weak. I won't ruin it but it would be similar to trying to find the best surfer in the world by asking them to fly a plane. It doesn't really make sense.

"Welcome to Blood City" is definitely one to watch though, warts and all. It's a good start to search through my 50 sci-fi movie pack.

BONUS: Oh dude, I totally almost forgot this. I'm always looking on Youtube for clips and every so often I find something even better.

Friday, May 17, 2013

"State Of Emergency" - - This Is Not The Zombie Film You Were Waiting For, But It's Close.

"State of Emergency" is one of the newest "3rd Wave" zombie films that has been released and as such, it has to carry a lot of water for the new movement. Unfortunately, for it's successes, it stumbles just enough to leave us wanting.

The old style of zombies, generally known as "Romero Zombies" for their initial creator, were the stumbling, slow moving horde that most zombie fans consider more realistic than their faster, modern counterparts. The idea is that if zombies were real, they would move slow because dead people can't run due to  . . .being dead I guess. But the zombie purist demands their zombies to be slow. Authors tend to use the slow moving zombie trope while movies have moved on the fast zombies. No better example can be used than that of World War Z. The book features the shambling mass; the movie portrays them as so fast they trip over each other until they can scale walls.

The second wave of zombie films started with the "28 Days Later" in 2002. The zombies were no longer the risen dead, but were infected with some disease that turned them into savages. They kept a few of the ideas of the earlier zombies (move in packs, immune to pain, contagious bites, etc.) but gave them increased speed and the ability to scream or spew blood or whatever creepy thing the director wanted them to do. The "Dawn of the Dead" remake had zombies running so fast they could catch up to cars. In "Zombieland" they could climb.

So from the shambling undead tidal wave of the 60's to the sprinting predators of the turn of the millennium, where do we go from here? The zombie must evolve, right?


So now, in the "3rd Wave," we have the Smart Zombie.

"Braaaiiiiinnnnns . . .are not used at their full capacity. If you only use 10%, can I eat the other 90?"

"State Of Emergency" has zombies that can talk, climb ladders, open doors, and set up ambushes. They can also remember their lives as humans. All of these things are game changers as far as zombies go and that's good and bad for the genre.

The movie starts off with the standard story telling cheat of showing people in jeopardy and then a title card flashes "X amount of time earlier." I hate this trick because usually it means "If you liked that exciting part, watch all this boring stuff to find out what happens!" and we get an hour of nothing and then we're back to the part we already know is going to happen.

After the jump though little time is wasted in letting us get to know the protagonist, Jim, and the type of zombie he is up against. They watch him and look for weaknesses in his base (An abandoned horse stable.)

As the movie progresses Jim meets other survivors who seem so non-plussed by the whole zombie apocalypse that for awhile I thought they were some sort of doomsday religious cult. Another survivor has diabetes, which brings up an interesting side note: I've been playing the game "Dead Island" lately, and out of the 20+ missions you have to do, 2 of them involve fetching insulin for a character who has diabetes. Is there some link between zombification and too much sugar?

"Ok, the Insulin Warehouse is right between the graveyard and the Umbrella Mansion, right? I'll be right back."

Eventually we get to the exposition of the origin of these creatures: chemical plant explosion. It becomes airborne and you either turn or you don't. Most people did, it's limited to a county, etc. "State of Emergency" doesn't go global. This is about individuals fighting for their lives. And on that level, this movie works. It is suspenseful, the acting is good, the dialogue is tight. These are things we hope for in a zombie movie and we don't always get. I thought the beginning when Jim was alone was the strongest part but I understand why they had to introduce the group and the movie continues to, if not necessarily get better as it goes on, at least doesn't get worse.

The two things that I did have a problem with were the two things I always have a problem with in these "3rd Wave" zombie films:

Digital gunfire/digital blood. I get it. Blanks are expensive. There are a ton of requirements needed to fire blanks for safety and legal reasons. But this?

That. Looks. Bad. It's terrible. CGI blood splatter is always terrible. It's so bad why even show it? This trend has been going on in low budget movies for awhile now but it's getting worse. Zombie films are particularly bad. STOP USING CGI BLOOD SPLATTER!

My other complaint with this movie is it is so suspenseful, so intense in parts . . .but when the zombies are inconsistent it just loses some of that "oomph." We have zombies so smart one of them walks up to the door where the survivors are, asks for one of them by name, asks to be let in, and it's not until they shine a light on it's face that we see it's a zombie.

On the other hand, sometimes they just stand in a field, or walk right by a guy without even knowing he's there. That actually happens twice. So are they smart or not? If you're going to do something ballsy like make them smart, go all out. Have them picking locks or building ladders. Why not?

That's the problem with the "3rd Wave." Directors are trying to have it both ways. They want the terror of the "zombie" but they don't want to make a "zombie" movie. They call them infected, or give them some other non-zombie trait, but to the viewer they are a zombie. They are marketed as zombie movies. We'll see more of this type of "smart zombie" popping up for the next few years, I believe, as directors and writers try to put their own fingerprint on the zombie genre and create something new. There's nothing wrong with that.

Except for the fact that it was already done in 1982.

"State Of Emergency" is worth watching. What it does well really works. It just tries too hard to re-invent something. Smart talking zombies aren't the way to go unless you're willing to commit to it all the way, even at the sake of losing the seriousness of a end of the world scenario.

It's like trying to have your brains and eat them too.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trailer Time: "Assault on Wall Street"

Here's a quick look at Uwe Boll's new shoot-em-up "Assault on Wall Street." I'm actually a fan of Uwe's newer films, basically all of them from Postal to now. I'll be getting a copy of this soon to watch and review for you guys.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Monster Brawl" - - Undeadliest Warrior

If a werewolf bit Frankenstein's monster, would it turn him into a Frankenwolf?

Questions like that will fill your head while watching "Monster Brawl," the cinematic equivalent of a kid in the backyard banging action figures against each other. The premise (I don't think I can use the word "plot") is a group of famous monsters fight each other.

Sounds awesome!

So why doesn't it work? Well, for one, every fight starts off in a wrestling ring. Sometimes the fight spills out into the surrounding graveyard but for the most part it's just standard wrestling moves by people in monster make up. Sure they have their special attacks like the Swamp Gut's gas attack and Witch Bitch's magic . . .

Oh, I didn't tell you about Witch Bitch?

She's the underdog. The Rocky of "Monster Brawl." She takes the ridiculous name of Witch Bitch because that's what her tormentors called her anyways. Good thing she wasn't a warlock or I'd have to enter "Warcock" into my Word Dictionary to avoid spellchecks.

So let's see how our scrappy little fighter fares during her first fight:

She gets her face melted off by a Cyclop's laser eye. On to the next match!

That's another problem with "Monster Brawl": Every character gets a back story. Do I really need to know the origin of the Mummy or Lady Vampire? If you're over the age of 12 and you don't know how werewolves become werewolves then there is something lacking in your life. Almost half of the movie is backstory for characters who minutes later get their guts ripped out. And even the winners disappear once they win their division. No Monster Royal Rumble at the end.

And that is the biggest disappointment of this movie: The ending. As in, there isn't one. The final scene is Kevin Nash as a zombie and Frankenstein's Monster punching each other at the same time while our ever put-upon announcer watches in horror. The end. It's like they ran out of room on their HD cards and decided to call it a day and then forgot about it until they were already editing the movie. If I rent a movie called "Monster Brawl," that's what I want. The elaborate backstories could have been done as voice over's during the match by the announcers. Why do I need to know Swamp Gut's origin, it's in his name! He's from the swamp and he's fat. Done.

This movie could have been awesome, campy fun. Instead it suffocates on it's own vomit by trying to shoehorn in an over-arching "plot" and "character development" instead of just giving the viewer what they want: monsters brawling.