Category Archives: Reviews

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) review

Director: Tod Williams

Starring: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

“We just can’t let this affect us that much. If we do that, the terrorists win.” (Daniel, Paranormal Activity 2)

After the success of The Blair Witch Project, the inevitable sequel followed. Rather than sticking with what worked and going with another low-budget handheld camera effort, the filmmakers went with a big $15 million production that felt nothing like the original. It was a moderate success but most fans of the first film hated it (personally, I liked it but that’s for another review). No doubt with this in mind, the makers of Paranormal Activity instead decided if it wasn’t broke they shouldn’t try to fix it, and so Paranormal Activity 2 is more or less the same as the first movie.

"Oh hello son. I appear to have fallen arse over tit. Be a dear, help me up"

Once again we’ve got a couple moving into a new home, and once again we’ve got the whole thing captured on home video cameras (with security cameras chucked into the mix too this time). Once again weird shit starts going down, and once again it seems clear that there’s some sort of demon terrorising them.

Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 2 seems to lose something that the original had – the sense of intimacy that made it so powerful. Whereas the original film simply consisted of a couple moving in together for the first time, using a single store-bought camera to record the weird goings-on that have started to happen, this time so many new elements are introduced to try and add some variety. Instead though, they just make the situation more complicated.  Continue reading Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) review

Dollman (1991) review

Director: Albert Pyun

Starring: Tim Thomerson, Jackie Earle Haley, Kamala Lopez

OVERWEIGHT KID – “That’s a Kruger blaster! The most powerful handgun in the universe!”

DOLLMAN – “That’s right, fat boy.”

While Full Moon Features is still going these days, it’s probably fair to say that most of the stuff it puts money into is utter shite. The likes of Dangerous Worry Dolls, Gingerdead Man and Killjoy, while entertaining to those who get a kick out of watching bad movies, just can’t cut it overall. This wasn’t always the case though – back in the late 80s and early 90s Full Moon Productions (as it was known then) was a powerhouse in the world of low-budget, straight-to-video sci-fi and horror. Film series like Puppet Master, Subspecies and Trancers were much-loved by genre fans at the time, and the Videozone making-of features at the end of each tape (long before DVD, mind) helped gain Full Moon a cult following of fans. Dollman was one of the films Full Moon released during that time period, and it’s easily one of the silliest.

The cast of Cheaper By The Dozen were somewhat taken aback by Steve Martin's diva attitude

Dollman opens on a planet many light years away with its hero Brick Bardo coming face-to-face with his nemesis, the criminal Sprug. On this planet if you commit a misdemeanour and are caught you have a body part removed as punishment, so when you consider Sprug is just a head on a floating platform, it’s obvious he’s a nasty bugger. Still, that doesn’t stop him jumping (well, rolling) into his spaceship and trying to leave the planet, with Brick following in hot pursuit. The two ships crash-land on Earth (the Bronx, to be precise), so Brick has to find a way to repair his ship and get back to his own planet before Sprug finds him. There’s just one thing – on Earth, Brick is only thirteen inches tall.  Continue reading Dollman (1991) review

Super 8 (2011) review

Director: JJ Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso

“Stop talking about production value, the Air Force is going to kill us.” (Cary, Super 8)

I’ve complained a few times on That Was A Bit Mental that they don’t make films like The Goonies or The Monster Squad any more – films where children act realistically, talk over each other, swear from time to time and are in genuine danger throughout their adventure. Super 8 is proof that, though rare, these films can still exist in modern cinema.

Set in 1979, Super 8 tells the story of a group of 13-year-olds who meet up on occasion to shoot a low-budget zombie film using their Super 8 movie camera. While filming a scene near a railway line they manage to catch film of a train speeding past them, colliding with a truck on the line and causing the mother of all train crashes. Running over to the truck they find their biology teacher behind the wheel, who cryptically tells them that they and their families are all going to die if they tell anyone what happened. Little do they know that the train contained a huge alien life form – one who’s now free, not too chuffed at the way it’s been treated, and well up for a shitstorm.

Hull city centre had seen better days

Put bluntly, this film is superb. The first half-hour is charming as you instantly fall in love with all the kids in the group (not in that way you maniac). Their dialogue is completely believable and you completely buy into the idea that they’re a bunch of close friends, in particular the main character Joe and his chunky chum Charles (the director of the kids’ film). The introduction of Alice (the wonderful Elle Fanning) makes things even more entertaining as you see this group of young teenage boys swooning over her but still trying to act cool. It’s all just so genuine.  Continue reading Super 8 (2011) review

The Muppets (2011) review

Director: James Bobin

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal

STATLER: “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were reciting some sort of important plot point.”

WALDORF: “I  hope so. Otherwise I would’ve bored half the audience half to death.”

STATLER: “You mean half the audience is still alive?”

I’ve been a huge fan of the Muppets ever since I was really young. As I grew and managed to get hold of more and more Muppets stuff I managed to grit my teeth and ignore the worst parts of Muppet history Muppets In Space, the early laugh-free Saturday Night Live stuff) and focus on the classics – The Muppets Christmas Carol, The Muppets Take Manhattan and, of course, The Muppet Show itself.

Walter is the newest Muppet. And he's pretty awesome.

The Muppets have been out of the public eye for so long however that when I heard another movie was on the way I felt excitement and trepidation in equal measure. Would this be the long-awaited return of the Muppets I’ve been hoping for for years, or would it be an anachronistic, out-of-date embarrassment that would sound the death knell for my beloved puppets? Thankfully, the answer is the former, and by some distance.

The Muppets tells the story of Walter, a young puppet who lives with his brother Gary (Jason Segel). Walter is the world’s biggest Muppet fan, so when Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) ask him to travel to Hollywood with him he jumps at the chance to visit the hallowed Muppet Studios.  Continue reading The Muppets (2011) review

Zombie Strippers (2008) review

Director: Jay Lee

Starring: Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund, Roxy Saint, Penny Drake

“Let’s see if I got this straight. Our best stripper is a reanimated corpse who is feeding off the living flesh of our customers, who in turn reanimate, even if they’re just a fucking head? You don’t see this as a problem?” (Ian, Zombie Strippers)

Usually when a film has such a blatant and exploitative title as this it’s using that title to draw people to a film that in reality can’t live up to the name (hang your head, Alien Terminator). Zombie Strippers however not only successfully does what it says on the tin, but crams so much of both aspects into said tin that you’d need some sort of special spatula device to be able to scoop out the tightly packed contents. What I’m basically saying in a needlessly elaborate way is there’s a lot of zombies in here, and a lot of stripping.

"Stand back, I know CPR"

It begins, as so many zombie films do, with a secret government research facility making an arse of things. They were trying to create a bunch of super soliders that could come back to life after being killed, but naturally what they made instead was a bunch of zombies. After a failed attempt to destroy them, one escapes and makes his way to a strip club where he attacks Kat – a stripper (Jenna Jameson) – and bites her neck out. And if you think I’m going to stoop to the obvious “deep throat” joke there, then I’m frankly stunned.  Continue reading Zombie Strippers (2008) review

The Care Bears Movie (1985) review

Director: Arna Selznick

Starring: Voices of Mickey Rooney, Jackie Burroughs, Cree Summer, Sunny Thrasher

“They must be taught a lesson! A lesson for the children! A lesson for the town! A lesson for everyone!” (The Spirit, The Care Bears Movie)

First, a disclaimer. I watched the shit out of The Care Bears Movie when I was a wee tot, and it terrified me every single time. When I saw it was available on the US Netflix library (which can be accessed using this trick), I decided it would be the perfect film for That Was A Bit Mental, for reasons that will become obvious. Well, even more obvious than anthropomorphic bears that can project magical symbols from their guts.

The film opens on an orphanage, where delightful-old-man-and-not-at-all-a-padeo Mr Cherrywood (Mickey Rooney) is tucking the children into bed. They ask him for a bedtime story to help them sleep peacefully and he obliges, ill-advisedly deciding to tell them the one about the evil as fuck book that tried to plunge the Earth into misery.

The Care-A-Lot version of Countdown had a fancy (if run-down) set

Before that, Mr Cherrywood’s tale opens with Kim and Jason, two snotty little kids whose parents have “gone away” and hate everyone as a result. They’re so jaded with life they seemingly can’t even give an ounce of a fuck when two brightly coloured teddy bears approach them and ask to be their friends. Despite their best efforts, Friend Bear and Secret Bear (for it is they) don’t manage to win over Kim and Jason, despite delightful not-at-all-sinister-or-voyeuristic lines like “we know a lot of things about you: Kim reads a lot of books and wants to be a nurse when she grows up, and Jason, you want to be a jet pilot”.  Continue reading The Care Bears Movie (1985) review

Any Given Sunday (1999) review

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, James Woods

“Life’s a game of inches, so is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half-second too slow, too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the fuckin’ difference between winning and losing.” (Tony D’Amato, Any Given Sunday)

Take one of the greatest actors in the world, team him up with one of the greatest directors in the world, throw in an amazing supporting cast and set it all on an American football field. The result is Any Given Sunday, one of the finest sports films ever made.

"I'm going to win this staring contest, you goddamned schmuck"

Pacino plays Tony D’Amato, an aging coach who’s trying to lead his team, the Miami Sharks, to glory one last time. Standing in his way are Christina Pagniacci (Diaz), the daughter of the team’s late owner (and Tony’s friend) who doesn’t believe in tradition and wants to move the team to another city, and the team’s doctor (Woods), who’s been giving players illegal injections to keep them playing, despite the risks to their health.

Tony’s players have their own issues, too. His quarterback (Quaid) is also feeling the pangs of old age and fears his career is coming to an end, his wide receiver (LL Cool J) is annoyed he’s not being thrown the ball enough and believes it could affect his sponsorship contracts, and the rock in his defence (played by real-life American footballer Lawrence Taylor) has injured his neck and is one bad tackle away from permanent paralysis at best, death at worst.  Continue reading Any Given Sunday (1999) review

Urban Explorers (2011) review

Director: Andy Fetscher

Starring: Nathalie Kelley, Nick Eversman, Klaus Stiglmeier, Max Riemelt

Also known as: Urbex: Urban Explorer

“Now, boy, let’s make you a genuine Mujahideen bride!” (Armin, Urban Explorers)

I know this is a film review site rather than a travel blog but take my advice anyway – if you ever go to Berlin, don’t pay a local €300 to take you on a tour of Germany’s forgotten complex of underground bunkers. This might be hard to believe but it turns out it’s actually not that safe.

Despite this, that’s exactly what four young tourists decide to do in Urban Explorers. Together with their tour guide Kris, they begin a tour of the abandoned labyrinthine passageways and tunnels lying in decay underneath modern Berlin. As you’d expect, this being a horror a film and all, things don’t go too well.

Hull city centre had seen better days

The odd thing about this film is it throws a lot of red herrings your way throughout. Be prepared to forget about a lot of things that occur in the first half of the film because, ultimately, they’re never seen or heard of again.

Take the scene early on where the group encounter a trio of nasty chaps with a vicious dog. After a tense encounter they leave, never to reappear. Same goes with the impressive story Kris tells the group about Hitler’s obsession with UFOs, and his desire to build an army of super soldiers, ideas that are given a lengthy monologue as if to suggest that’s what’ll be turning up later, but never do. And then there’s a pointless lesbian relationship that begins to form between two characters, shortly before they leave to get help after an “incident” and don’t return.  Continue reading Urban Explorers (2011) review

Dead Heat (1988) review

Director: Mark Goldblatt

Starring: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price

ROGER – So what’s the story on these John Does? What’s so unbelievable?

CORONER – I’ll show you. The teeth and fingerprints are practically worthless but I noticed one thing – stitches. You can see where the cut was made, traversing the sternum and incised with an electric saw.

ROGER – They had surgery?

CORONER – Nope. They had autopsies. They’ve been here before, fellas. I certified them myself.

Dead Heat is an 80s cop movie in which one of the cops is a zombie. There you go, that should be all you need, enjoy.

Fine, I suppose I’ll elaborate for the sake of making this review worth your while, but that description really does sum up what I believe is one of the most criminally overlooked cult gems of the 1980s.

"Sorry lads, the lookalike agency needs to save money and Luke Wilson and Chris Kamara just aren't popular enough"

Detective Roger Mortis (get it?) and his partner Doug Bigelow are called to a robbery at a jewellery store. As the crooks leave the store they pull out shotguns and start shooting at the countless officers who have surrounded the area. Although the officers score a number of direct shots on the criminals, it doesn’t appear to harm them and they continue to shoot cops dead until one is blown up and the other is run over.

Roger and Doug reckon there’s something funny about this so they ask the coroner (and Roger’s ex) to look into it. It turns out the criminals had been dead before, and had somehow come to life. Dum dum dummm.  Continue reading Dead Heat (1988) review

The Shrine (2010) review

Director: Jon Knautz

Starring: Cindy Sampson, Aaron Ashmore, Meghan Heffern

“There is no retribution.” (Carmen, The Shrine)

Top tip for any budding filmmakers out there – if you’re going to set a film in a foreign location, make sure you read up on it first. Otherwise you’ll end up like The Shrine, a film set in the fictional Polish village of Alvania. That’s Poland, as in the country that doesn’t use the letter V in its language. That said, cultural inaccuracies aside, The Shrine is a half-decent horror that starts slow but ultimately ends well.

It tells the story of Carmen, a journalist who’s investigating claims that some tourists are travelling to Europe and going missing, only for their bodies and luggage to turn up in separate European countries. Carmen uses one of the missing persons’ journal to discover that they were last seen in Alvania, so she heads there with her photographer boyfriend and Sara, her intern.

I wonder if you'd be offended watching this film if you were Polish

When they get there they find an odd, dense fog in one section of forest, inside which sits an evil-looking statue. After entering the fog and seeing some weird shit, Carmen and Sara decide it’s time to leave but before the trio can get out of Alvania they’re captured by the locals, who it turns out don’t take too kindly to people who stand in their creepy fog.

To say too much more about The Shrine would be spoiling it, so I won’t. One thing I will say though is that it takes a pretty long time to get going. Once the three are captured things pick up a little and a couple of particularly nasty, gory scenes set the tone (tip – if you’re squeamish about sharp things slicing your heels or poking your eyes, it might be best to look away).  Continue reading The Shrine (2010) review