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Rise: Blood Hunter (DVD)

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Rise - Blood Hunter DVD(click for larger image)Starring Lucy Liu, Robert Forster, Cameron Richardson, Allan Rich and Samantha Shelton

Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez

Distributed by Sony Pictures


Imagine for a moment that you’ve managed to convince hot item Lucy Liu to play the lead in your brand new vampire movie. She’s also told you that she’s quite willing to strip down to next to nothing (and occasionally actually nothing) and allow her body to be drenched in blood. Given this and only this, it’s hard to imagine anything but quality goodness. You just need to come up with a reasonable plot, decent atmosphere, some tension and suspense, and you’ll have yourself an entertaining film. Maybe even a damned good one.

And yet, somehow they ended up with Rise: Blood Hunter. Those monsters!

Sadie Blake (Liu) is a popular writer for the LA Weekly who gets in over her head as she investigates rumors of a violent gothic cult dwelling in the city’s sordid underbelly. Her investigation rather quickly goes awry as she is overtaken by the cult’s leadership and turned into one of the blood sucking undead. Now cursed to be a creature of the night, she vows revenge on those who turned her.

Rise review (click to see it bigger)The problems within Rise are compounded and multiple, but there’s no real better place to start than with the pacing and tempo. Director Sebastian Gutierrez is seemingly in love with really long slow zooms that go no where and do nothing. For example, there is one shot of Sadie driving, rather intently, as we focus on her determined mug through the windshield of the car. Twenty seconds later, the camera is still slowly zooming in on said mug, which is still looking determined. Fifteen seconds later, we’re finally focused on her eyes, and, man, she’s still really looking determined. Let’s stay on her eyes there for five more seconds, and, cut scene!

These energy draining long shots aren’t always the silent sort. Multiple times the camera stays when it should have long ago turned away. At one point, Liu roughs up a wayward good old boy in order to get some needed information (in which he admits to helping the cult in hopes he could score with some goth chicks (I am not making this up). After getting what she wants, she leaves him with a broken leg lying in the middle of the street. The camera stays on the lad for awhile as he begins to talk to Jesus to ask for comfort and salvation. Sadly, I don’t think this scene was meant to be funny. Egads! He’d do better asking for Jesus to take him out of this movie.

The vampires themselves are just as damning to the film as the pacing. Gutierrez said early on that he is “…not trying to reinvent the vampire movie,” and he was entirely successful in this not trying. These are a bunch of elitist and pompous self-absorbed fops with no special powers except being able to take a bullet and get back up. They do not have super strength, they are not especially more intelligent, and hell, they don’t even have fangs. It seems the power of the undead is just a thirst for blood and a big fat head. Given their lack of special powers, you would have thought that their pompous annoying egos would have gotten them killed long, long ago.

The film is rather inconsistent and seemingly blasé with its own integrity, relying on cliché and silliness to carry it forward. Sadie Blake becomes armed with a small handheld crossbow at some point in the film likely because someone in the props department had one available that their 12-year-old wasn’t using anymore. This bit of crossbow cheese is also of the magically reloading variety; Sadie shoots; cut to bolt hitting its mark; cut back to Sadie running with the crossbow still loaded to fire. Imagine what this woman could do with a wrist rocket?

Rise review (click to see it bigger)Further confusing the entire mix is the fact the film isn’t even told in a linear fashion. This is a tricky practice, and should only be used when it adds something vital and necessary to the film. Memento and the disturbing Irreversible are to extreme examples of time line shenanigans (being linearly backwards). Pulp Fiction is another example where it really works and adds to the film. In Rise, the nonlinear story telling does nothing, except maybe to help to hide various plot holes. There is no good excuse not to keep this story straight.

The DVD release of the film comes along with a very modest selection of extras. Included are few rather brief behind the scenes featurettes that extol the film’s blend of sex and violence, the special effects and make up, the locations chosen, and the stunt work of the movie. There are also a few storyboard to scene comparisons as well as the obvious trailers and previews for other films.

If Rise is a bad film, which it is, it at least doesn’t sink to the level of being offensive to most people (except for maybe goths, wayward good old boys, vampires, the LAPD, Mexicans, prostitutes, nipple ring wearing Dungeon and Dragon players, and crossbow enthusiasts). Lucy Liu looks great in the movie, though it certainly leaves you worrying for her career. This film is really only good for those vampire film completionists who have to see everything; everyone else, stay away.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes
  • Storyboard to screen featurettes
  • Trailers and previews

    MOVIE

    2 out of 5

    Extras

    2 1/2 out of 5

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    The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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    Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

    Directed by Guillermo del Toro


    “True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to the lusty demise where met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

    The new period film from cowriter/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

    The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand and melodramatic gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

    Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water-torture). Using sign language, she first tells her out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

    The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

    While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

    Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is OK I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

    The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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    Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?

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    Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva

    Directed by Goran Spoljaric


    Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.

    Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.

    It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?

    Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.

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    Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date

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    Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, and Cameron Britton.

    Directed by David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm.


    A few weeks back Netflix premiered all ten episodes of David Fincher’s new serial killer series “Mindhunter” on their streaming service. Being that Fincher is one of our favorite directors we added the series to our queues as soon as possible. And this past week – after recapping and reviewing all 9 episodes of “Stranger Things 2” – we were finally able to sit down and enjoy the (much) more adult thriller series.

    What did we think? Find out below…

    First off we should get a few things like plot and background out of the way. “Mindhunter” is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was optioned by none other than David Fincher and Charlize Theron and quickly thereafter snatched up by Netflix. The series is executive produced and (mostly) written by Joe Penhall.

    The plot follows a young FBI agent played by Jonathan Groff who, after an incident in the field, is set to be a teacher at Quantico. Kinda boring. Especially for a guy under thirty. Quickly, however, the young agent joins forces with a seasoned pro, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club) in a star-making performance, and together the two tour the country educating local police on the proper protocols established by the FBI.

    That is, until the day that our young agent gets it in his head that he wants to interview Ed Kemper. Yes, That Ed Kemper. From there the series becomes the story of the FBI and its very beginnings of psychological profiling. The series even goes so far as to lay out the tale of how the term “serial killer” was first coined.

    In the hands of any other filmmaker, this semi-procedural thriller would have, most likely, not been our cup of tea. But in the hands of master director David Fincher, “Mindhunter” is quite possibly the most riveting police procedural to ever hit the small screen. Hyperbole, we know. But come on, have you seen Fincher’s Zodiac?

    Yeah, now picture that motion picture spread out over the course of ten glorious hours and you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how much fun(?) it was to spend the better part of our free time last week in the grips of such as series.

    First off special mentioned needs to be thrown at the killer cast of “Mindhunter.” Each actor is phenomenal. From our hero agents played by Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv, the series only gets better with powerhouse after powerhouse performance hitting us from the likes of Jack Erdie as Richard Speck, Adam Zastrow as a lonely (possible) rapist, and Joseph Cross and Jesse C. Boyd as a pair of (possible) ladykillers.

    Oh, and Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper. Oh, boy. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.

    I could spend this entry review telling you guys about how chilling, disturbing and utterly riveting Cameron Britton’s performance as Ed Kemper (aka The Co-Ed Killer) is, but you really need to see it for yourself to get the full picture. The series has more than it’s fair share of spine-chilling moments, to be sure. But none are so chilling as any and ever given scene which features Britton as Kemper. Give this man all the awards. Today.

    Given the tight performances by the entire cast – including solid turns by the lowest day player – “Mindhunter” would be a crowning achievement for Netflix. But add in some of the top directors working today (including, in addition to Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm) and beautiful 2:35 cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst, and you have a series so jaw-droppingly cinematic, you’ll be amazed this never played in theaters. And was never meant to.

    Overall I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new Netflix original series.

    Well, maybe one thing: Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford is a dull character. This is not a jab at Gross as an actress. But her mostly one-note, under-developed character is forced to spend the majority of her screentime merely portraying “the girlfriend.” Which in a series like this means she merely functions, for a majority of her screentime, a receptacle of exposition once our hero returns home after a long day.

    But other than that one aspect, this Netflix original series is top quality from end to end. From the spooky pre-credits insights into the growing storm that is Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer to the season’s finale sequence set in Kemper’s ICU room, “Mindhunter” is a chilling – and frankly scary series that you won’t be able to shake for months.

    And most, if not all of the scares, come courtesy of long dialogue scenes – which are anything other than boring.

    In the end, Mindhunters is a series that we cannot wait to see continue forward come season two. Fincher has reportedly stated that Charles Manson will play a pivotal role in the second season, and we are actively counting down the days until we can visit that character… From the comfort of our Netflix account.

    “Mindhunter” is a must-see. Get ahead of the game. Watch the series tonight.

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