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Harpies (2007)

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Harpies reviewStarring Stephen Baldwin, Kristin Richardson, Peter Jason, Velizar Binev, Jonas Talkington, Atanas Srebev, Dessi Morales

Directed by Josh Becker


Jason Avery is an ex-cop now working as a museum security guard. Armed thieves break in intent on stealing a priceless obelisk that looks like a glowing crystal dinosaur egg that’s stored within this vault-like stone structure that looks like someone merged a Tardis with the Stargate. The scientist/anthropologist/whatever behind the theft talks of the obelisk giving him the power to control harpies, demonic winged female monsters of classic mythology. Through a series of contrived events, the obelisk opens a time portal that Jason promptly falls into, crash landing over a thousand years in the past in a land threatened by evil harpies. Initially only concerned with getting home, Jason gets roped into having to save the villagers, all of whom proclaim him to be this great “harpy slayer” that prophecy says would one day come to save the kingdom. A lot of hullabaloo involves this gold amulet and a mortal villain seeking to gain control of the obelisk in order to hatch a harpy army for him to command and conquer with. If you’ve ever seen Army of Darkness then you can pretty much fill in the rest of the blanks.

In fact, if you’ve ever seen Army of Darkness then you have absolutely no reason whatsoever to ever watch Stan Lee’s Harpies. Even if you haven’t seen Army of Darkness there’s really no reason whatsoever to ever watch Stan Lee’s Harpies.

Any similarities between Stan Lee’s Harpies and Army of Darkness are not a coincidence – especially since the director is a long-time cohort of Sam Raimi’s. Any similarities between Stan Lee’s Harpies and a good movie are non-existent. Sometimes a movie is so bad it’s good and sometimes a movie is so bad it’s just plain bad. Harpies is just plain bad – not even laughably bad. This is a movie that you can tell exactly what they were trying to do and still watch them fail pitifully every step of the way.

How pitiful does it get? So pitiful that I began feeling bad for pretty much everyone involved with this film’s creation. Poor quality CGI, impoverished production values, uniformly bad acting, and a clichéd script: all the stuff you expect from a Sci-Fi Channel original but this time with an extra added layer of embarrassment. There were scenes so poorly staged that it was cringe-inducing to watch.

Harpies reviewAnd for a movie called Harpies there sure weren’t that many harpies filling the screen. Every so often a woman in a cheap nightgown with frizzy hair, fangs, too much eye shadow, fake-looking wings, and a propensity to make squeaky snarls that sound like a mogwai in heat takes the screen (or their animated computer effects double does) to look appallingly stupid, flap their phony wings, and slash someone up with their claws. As pathetic looking and utterly devoid of personality as the harpies are, they’re still what the movie is titled after and deserved more screen time that they’re given. Heck, I’d take the harpies over the boring villain named Bor-something and his quest to unleash a harpy horde of which the bulk of the plot is devoted to.

Even if every other aspect of Stan Lee’s Harpies wasn’t an unmitigated failure, the film would still be doomed by the Stephen Baldwin factor. The man is no Bruce Campbell, that’s damn sure. Few people are. But this is a film that’s trying to make Stephen Baldwin into Ash-lite and Baldwin just does not have the sardonic charisma to pull it off. Campbell’s Ash was a self-absorbed nincompoop who still managed to do develop some courage and defeat the Deadites in battle while dishing out sarcastic one-liners. Baldwin’s Jason Avery is just a guy taking things way too seriously much of the time given the film’s tone and there’s no zip, no punch, nothing to Baldwin’s line delivery, not that the quips he spouts off are all that witty to begin with. What counts as clever here is having Jason say “nifty” in the same manner which Ash said “groovy” only without anything resembling personality in his voice. Stephen Baldwin gives a thoroughly disinterested performance that reeks of the producers’ having paid him enough to show up and act but not enough to act like he could give a shit.

I didn’t crack a smile once outside of a slightly amusing gag involving the difficulties of firing a catapult. Aside from that one brief moment there’s not a damn thing that works in the slightest. Shows like “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena, Warrior Princess” (which the maker of this film even directed episodes of) did a vastly superior job mixing mythology, campy humor, and action like this one a weekly basis. It’s painfully obvious the movie they were trying to make was more ambitious than the Sci-Fi Channel budget would allow, evidenced by the sparse cast clad in Renaissance Fair attire; though that’s something of an amazing statement to make given this really didn’t appear to be all that ambitious a film, evidenced by how little action there is with more dull skulking about the forest and time wasted on the romance between Baldwin and a local blonde babe than on the actual harpy-fighting which last time I checked was supposed to be the whole point of the film. Even the Army of Darkness finale with Baldwin battling the final harpy inside the museum in present time is a dead zone of imagination.

Exactly what Stan Lee had to do with the creation of this movie is anyone’s guess. His name is clearly being used to market it even though the “STAN LEE’S” part of the title is notably missing from the opening title sequence. All I know for certain is that this is the second Sci-Fi Channel original movie with Stan Lee’s name before the title (the first being Stan Lee’s Lightspeed from last year), both of which now share the distinction of being amongst the worst original movies the Sci-Fi Channel has ever produced. I’m thinking Mr. Excelsior should just stick to comic books.


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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.29 (7 votes)
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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 2.92 (12 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.27 (11 votes)
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