Directed by Uwe Boll
I realize at this point I should not be surprised by how bad an Uwe Boll movie is, but I can still be taken aback by his abilities to plumb the depths of laziness. I get the sense he is as absolutely bored to tears making genre films as the audience will be watching them. Unless the film has some sort of anti-capitalism message, he can’t even be bothered to sleepwalk his way through it anymore.
Rarely have the laws of diminishing returns been as glaring as with this Uwe Boll franchise. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale was a Lord of the Rings wannabe starring Jason Statham I kind of enjoyed, warts and all. In the Name of the King: 2 Worlds (review) with Dolph Lundgren as a suicidal soldier of fortune zapped into an Army of Darkness scenario was a chore to sit through, yet still less so than this third lifeless installment. In the Name of the King III is more or less a straight-up remake of Part 2 except slower, cheaper, lazier, and with a nearly comatose Dominic Purcell (“Prison Break”) as one of the worst of all motion picture clichés: the world-weary hitman pulling off one last job before retiring from the assassination game.
Unlike in previous installments, there are virtually no fantasy elements to the plot outside of time-traveling portals, a fire-breathing dragon, and a tattoo on the hero’s arm matching the mark of some prophesized savior said to free medieval Bulgarians from a tyrannical overlord possessing this era’s version of the time-traveling medallion he needs to get home. I’m going to assume the lack of magical elements this time around is because there also appeared to be a serious lack of budget. The production values make your local Renaissance Faire look Peter Jackson-ian by comparison.
Instead of having any fun with the idea of a stone cold killer for hire running around a medieval kingdom ruled by an evil king and his dragon, all Boll and company can muster is a slow-paced, humorless, so-generic-there-needs-to-be-a-new-word-invented-to-describe-something-even-more-generic-than-generic Army of Darkness knock-off that fails miserably to even do the little things right. Supporting actors for whom English is clearly not their first language and a lead actor who sounds like he’s taken one too many Ambien spew forth repetitive, leaden exposition masquerading as plot. If that doesn’t lull you to sleep, the rudimentary sword & sandal action should do the trick. Whether it involves guns, swords, horses, cars, or dragons, excitement is nil and no fun is to be had. You won’t even find any unintentional camp value in this outing.
How does this 21st century killer end up in ancient Bulgaria? You see, that last job he’s pulling involves the kidnapping of the two young daughters of a prominent Bulgarian. He swipes a family heirloom necklace from one of the girls that just happens to randomly trigger a time portal to medieval Bulgaria. How’s that for plot convenience?
Purcell is immediately greeted by a pair of attractive Bulgarian warrior women, one of whom is the daughter of the slain king and his love interest; the latter must have also been foretold by the prophecy because it’s not like there’s any actual chemistry to explain why they’ll soon get all kissy face.
“You may have made some bad choices in your life, but you’re not a bad man,” she’ll tell him.
HE’S A PROFESSIONAL HITMAN!!!
The movie opens with him shooting a bunch of people to death, kidnapping children and locking them in a storage crate in the middle of nowhere. Yet, we’re supposed to feel for him because he’s very depressed over his wife having been murdered by even worse guys. Not a hint of this hitman for hire being the badass he should be; “Ash” in Army of Darkness was more of a brash anti-hero than this guy and “Ash” was a clerk at a department store, not a seasoned contract killer.
Nothing spotlights the laziness of this production more so than the non-dimensional villain our one-dimensional hero has been prophesized to defeat in order to free these Bulgarian lands to one day become the mecca of modern motion picture tax breaks. So undefined as a character that everyone talking about how he’s an evil tyrant is the only thing truly establishing him as such. The film fails to have him say or do much of anything to make him appear threatening or make us want to root for his ultimate defeat. Just how insignificant is this antagonist? The actor playing the evil king is credited 7th and this is not an all-star cast.
But what of this dragon of which you spoke; surely he must slay the fire-breathing dragon, right? Wrong. I already told you In the Name of the King III can’t even get the simple things right. The hero never even slays the dragon. Can you believe that? The dragon is so incidental to the events of the story that even at the end when it slips back through the portal to modern Bulgaria, it’s still not the focal point of the action. Not when there are kids he kidnapped and locked up in need of rescue and generic gangsters that need shooting.
In the name of all that is holy, please let this be the last job.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
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 is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility
Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.
The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.
The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.
From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.
The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.
Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.”
The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.
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