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Dinocroc (2004)

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Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Matt Borlenghi, Jane Longenecker, Costas Mandylor, Charles Napier, Bruce Weitz, and Joanna Pacula

Directed By Kevin O’Neill


2004 marked Roger Corman’s 50th year in the movie making business. In those 50 years and 300+ movies he has either directed or produced, Mr. Corman has given us some true b-movie classics. He’s also given us more than his fair amount of cinematic crappola. While Dinocroc certainly isn’t the former, it isn’t the latter either, although it sure did try to be at times.

Scientists at the Gereco (pronounced “Jericho”) corporation have discovered some sort of accelerated growth hormone in the fossils of the prehistoric Supercroc. In order to harvest this hormone they give the long extinct Supercroc the Jurassic Park treatment, although it’s never really explained what they plan to do with this hormone or why the Dinocroc has been turned into a biped. A pint sized Dinocroc kills a Gereco employee, escapes the facility, and takes up refuge in nearby Grants Lake. The beast quickly grows to full size by snacking on the local wildlife before moving on to unlucky bastards in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gereco reacts by bringing in an Australian crocodile hunter to kill the beast even while they seek to cover up the creature’s existence and their involvement in its creation. The pretty town dogcatcher, her hunky single parent and metal art sculpting boyfriend, her gruff town sheriff father, and a Gereco scientist join up with the croc hunter to kill the rampaging creature.

If Costas Mandylor’s Aussie croc hunter character had been left out of the script it really wouldn’t have made much of a difference. He spends more time hanging out in the local bar and flirting with the pretty dogcatcher than he does actually trying to kill the Dinocroc, which is the sole purpose of his existence. He’s haunted by nightmares of his young son being killed by a croc years earlier but that subplot never amounts to anything other than providing a flashback scene. Even the plan that is devised in the end to kill the Dinocroc is someone else’s idea.

Joanna Pacula is also wasted as the resident corporate weasel. She has maybe 10 minutes of screen time and issuing denials about the company’s knowledge of the monster is pretty much the extent of her villainy. It’s like making a movie about Enron and focusing on their public relations spokesperson as the symbol of corporate corruption. At least her presence in the movie helped give me an unintended laugh during the closing credits when “Ms. Pacula’s Blue Jeans Provided By Blue Cult Jeans” scrolled by. I have no idea why I found that funny but I think it might have been because I never noticed that she was even wearing blue jeans, especially since she’s filmed in close-up or from the waist up for much of her screen time. They say that the best acting is when you don’t notice the person is acting so I guess you could say the best blue jeans are the ones you don’t notice someone is wearing. Those must have been some damn fine jeans!

What can I say about the Dinocroc itself other than to say I think it’s a pretty spiffy looking monster? At times it is reminiscent of the abomination that was the Tristar Godzilla, but the Dinocroc is actually a much more fearsome looking beast what with teeth outside of and on top of its mouth and this constant mad dog gleam in its eyes. Sadly, the quality of the CGI is all over the map. Some is actually on par with or better than that found in some movies with astronomically higher budgets like say The Mummy Returns and I suspect Dinocroc’s budget was probably only slightly more than the amount spent on Brendan Fraser’s hair plugs for that film. But when the CGI is bad, it’s about as phony looking as CGI can get, even a bit blurry at times, which is simply unacceptable. Would it really have cost more to construct a prop Dinocroc for certain scenes? Is that really more expensive than bad CGI or do producers nowadays just insist on digitizing everything?

I strongly suspect the low budget impacted not only the uneven quality of the computer effects but also prevented a couple of crucial scenes from being filmed the way they should have. For example, the monster slaughters a posse of cops hunting it. We only get to see the aftermath. Remember when the monster in The Relic slaughtered the SWAT guys? We watch rampaging monster movies for scenes like that. When we don’t get it you can’t help but feel a bit cheated.

Another scene that drove me nuts was, in a moment of monumental stupidity, the two lead characters intentionally sabotage a plan to capture the Dinocroc because god forbid a few dogs from the local animal shelter get used a bait. Watching this sequence reminded me of a story Sam Raimi told about the making of Darkman. There was a cat shown in Darkman’s warehouse lab a few times, which he blows up later in the movie to kill several of the bad guys. One of the producers kept hounding Raimi to include a shot of the cat running out of the building because he was convinced the audience would hate it if they thought he killed off the cat. Raimi refused to break up the flow of the film by adding this pointless shot because as he argued, why would the audience give a crap about a stray cat dying after the hero has already killed half a dozen people? That’s what I kept thinking about while they were rescuing these dogs. Who cares if a half dozen stray animals are sacrificed as bait in a trap designed to kill a monster that has already murdered about a dozen innocent people? Somebody involved with the production of this movie had to be a card-carrying member of PETA.

The finale itself also bugged the hell out of me. The way the Dinocroc is done in requires one of those perfectly timed amazing coincidences I’ve grown to hate in movies. And the final shot of the film feels tacked on in order to tease a sequel even though what happens in this film moment makes absolutely no sense.

Dinocroc definitely scores points in my book for making me do something I haven’t done in a long time – make me utter “Holy @$%#!” aloud in my living room. The movie has one of the best kills I’ve seen in a monster movie in quite awhile and it happens to a character that you don’t think is going to get killed, especially in such a brutal fashion. If you’ve seen the movie on the Sci-Fi Channel then you have not seen this kill. The wonderful censors over at Sci-Fi decided that seeing a kid getting his head bit off by a monster crocodile was just too much so they completely did away with the scene, leaving the audience unaware that the kid has even been killed until later in the movie.

With any luck, one day we will get an actual DVD release of the uncut Dinocroc and not be forced to rely on that network’s edited version that’s overloaded with intrusive commercial breaks that stifle the breezy pacing of the flick.

With one more rewrite and a little more budget, I really do think Dinocroc could have been a great old-fashioned monster movie. It will just have to settle for being a fun guilty pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that. Despite the many frustrations the film provides, Dinocroc has a likeability factor. There are far worse ways to spend 85 minutes than watching Dinocroc. I should know. I usually end up reviewing them for you.

And kudos to whomever came up with the idea to use a score that sounds more appropriate to an Omen movie than a rampaging reptile creature feature. It certainly enhances the cheese quotient considerably.


2 out of 5

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish
4.0

Summary

Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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