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Repo! The Genetic Opera Review


Very Good
Repo! The Genetic Opera clearly strives to defy description, which of course makes it fun to describe: It's a futuristic rock musical about organ repossession from the director of Saws II through IV, starring Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Paul Sorvino, and Paris Hilton. But it's also surprisingly fun to sit down and watch, provided you're in the mood for a low-budget musical that swings for the fences rather than Oscar glory.

In the year 2056, Rotti Largo (Sorvino) heads up GeneCo, which offers financing options for organ transplants (both medical and cosmetic), and has no qualms about a gory repossession if a buyer misses a payment. Scientist Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head) moonlights as one such repo man while caring for his sick daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega from the Spy Kids movies), who yearns to break free from the confines of her bedroom. Complicated backstories are illustrated, literally, via half-animated comics-style panels.

Continue reading: Repo! The Genetic Opera Review

Saw V Review


Weak
At this point in the Saw series, reviews really don't matter. Frankly, this is one of the few fright franchises where audiences don't care about character development, directorial flair, or narrative invention. Instead, they want more Tobin Bell as Jigsaw, more illogical puzzle kills, and a reverse referencing that makes unimportant characters major players in later installments. To that extent, Saw V is definitely no different. Unfortunately, whatever made the first four films tolerable has been whisked away by unimaginative writing and even more pedestrian direction.

Since the death of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), FBI agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) has been trying to track down his "other" accomplice. With female helper Amanda (Shawnee Smith) also dead, all leads point to Det. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). New agency head Dan Erickson (Mark Rolston) isn't so sure, however, and becomes suspicious. In the meantime, a new "game" has commenced. Five people -- a fire inspector, a building permit bureaucrat, a trust fund baby/drug addict, an investigative journalist, and a property developer -- find themselves locked in a life or death struggle to see who can survive, and who will be sacrificed. As well, Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) receives a mysterious box.

Continue reading: Saw V Review

Saw V Los Angeles World Premiere Held At Chinese 6 Theaters

Mark Burg Tuesday 21st October 2008 Saw V Los Angeles World premiere held at Chinese 6 theaters Los Angeles, California

Mark Burg

Catacombs Review


Bad
Here's what happens in Catacombs. Shannyn Sossamon plays Victoria, who arrives in Paris to hook up with her bratty sister Carolyn (marking inauspiciously Pink's speaking-role acting debut). After setting her down with some friends who tell her all about a kid who lives in the Paris catacombs, raised on raw meat and wearing a goat head for mask, Carolyn drags Victoria to a rave held in one of those catacombs, just like in The Matrix Reloaded only with nude, underground lake swimming.

Naturally, Victoria gets separated and spends the next hour-plus running around in the catacombs in her boots (has Sossamon ever appeared in a movie in heels? just wondering), being chased by, you guessed it, a dude in a goat-head mask. He doesn't stop, no matter how injured Victoria gets or how many people she encounters get killed... until the end, when one of cinema's most absurd twist endings of all time gets sprung on you.

Continue reading: Catacombs Review

Saw IV Review


Weak
Who would've guessed that from the lengthy list of gimmicks employed by the Saw series, the one to try patience in Saw IV would not be its elaborate, torture-happy deathtraps, serial killer Jigsaw's dour sermonizing, or its shamelessly amped-up filmmaking, but rather the filmmakers' insistence on movie-to-movie continuity. Saw IV, like its predecessors, takes places directly after, and in some cases concurrently with, the events of its immediate predecessor. For a time, this attention to detail seemed novel; but now lacking any real forward movement, the series threatens to collapse into a black hole of its own making.

The attachment of the Saw series to even its most inconsequential, dull, poorly-realized characters rivals and maybe surpasses head murderer Jigsaw's own hang-ups; the filmmakers have become serial killers by proxy, obsessed with every minor character who crosses their path. The sinking feeling I got watching Saw IV was not horror-movie dread, or even trepidation about the inevitable Saws five through ten in particular, but that Saw V will feel obligated to feature such dynamic new franchise additions such as that FBI agent guy (Scott Patterson) and that one cop who knew those other cops (Costas Mandylor). Based on series patterns, Joanne Boland and Julian Richings will have major parts in the next sequel, reprising their roles of "crime scene photographer" and "vagrant," respectively.

Continue reading: Saw IV Review

Dead Silence Review


Terrible

Dead Silence sucks. It's as simple as that. I like schlocky horror films as much as the next guy, but there's nothing to like about this one. Not one thing. Warming your hands over a burning ten-dollar bill is preferable to watching this film.

It's the sort of bad movie that makes you wonder how it emerged a winner from the studio production lottery. Surely a surplus of terrible ideas exists in Hollywood, so how did this particular steaming pile get made into a movie? I can't say for sure. The inner workings of Hollywood deal-making are beyond my expertise, so I'll confine my comments on Dead Silence to its general awfulness, resisting the urge to speculate on which member of the film's creative team kidnapped and held for ransom which studio executive's infant child -- the only possible explanation for green-lighting a movie this irredeemably bad. (Here's why: The filmmakers made the studio a lot of cash with the Saw series. -Ed.)

If you haven't seen the Dead Silence trailer, you may not know that the film centers on a murderous ventriloquist, whose spirit has risen from the dead, and an army of spooky dummies who do her bidding. It's hard to say whether director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Wannell, both of whom are credited for dreaming up the story, were inspired by Chucky from the Child's Play movies or the scary clown doll from Poltergeist, but one thing is clear: Dead Silence possesses exactly zero ounces of originality. (The title sequence, for instance, is the filmic equivalent of plagiarism -- unrepentantly stealing from Steven Soderbergh's 2005 film, Bubble.)

The movie starts with some painfully awkward exposition followed by -- what else? -- a murder. One night James Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife, Lisa, discover a package containing a ventriloquist dummy left in front of their apartment door. Despite their foggy recollections of a ghost story from their childhood involving dummies and a psychotic ventriloquist who cuts out people's tongues, they don't think too much about the mysterious package. James goes to pick up some Chinese food and returns to find his wife dead, her tongue gruesomely removed and the doll lying in a heap next to her corpse. The detective assigned to the case, Jim Lipton (Donnie Walhberg), quickly fingers Ashen as the prime suspect, thus setting the wheels of plot in motion. With Lipton watching his every step, Ashen returns to his hometown to bury his wife and find the answer to her murder. He discovers that long ago a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw was killed by an enraged mob and ever since then certain families in the community have been killed off, one by one, each person's tongue ripped out by the avenging Mary Shaw and her legion of dummies.

In my movie-watching experience, I've seen Superman turn back time, zombies come to life, and Meg Ryan fall in love with Billy Crystal. And in each case, I was onboard, willing and eager to suspend my disbelief. That wasn't the case with Dead Silence. Wan and Wannell are determined not to acknowledge the inherent campiness of a movie featuring killer ventriloquist dummies and a spectral puppeteer. It's as if they think their grim refusal to address the obviously ridiculous makes it less so. Have they not seen the Scream movies? Do they know that self-awareness has been part of the horror genre for more than a decade now?

During the screening I attended, I fought off more than one urge to shake my fist at the screen. This is filmmaking at its wretched worst. At least Child's Play had a sense of humor. All Dead Silence has is dummies.

Now who's the dummy?

Saw III Review


Good
The Saw series, like most horror franchises, uses a lot of constants in its formula -- even when those constants don't seem particularly vital to the quality of the series. Saw III, for example, matches its predecessors in the dubious categories of histrionic yelling, equally histrionic smash-editing (often incorporating a generous helping of re-used footage, from the previous films or even from earlier in this one), and plot twists that depend on those histrionics to drown out implausibility.

But Saw III does actually have a plot to twist which, like its predecessors, sets it apart from most slasher films. When we last left Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, the only cast member who doesn't have to scream half his dialogue), he was dying, and taking young Amanda (Shawnee Smith) under his wing to continue his work. Saw III picks up with Jigsaw in even worse shape than before, his body breaking down while his moralizing creepiness remains more or less intact. Amanda brings in an unhappy doctor (Bahar Soomekh) to keep Jigsaw alive along enough to see one of his most elaborate games played all the way through.

Continue reading: Saw III Review

Saw III Review


Good
The Saw series, like most horror franchises, uses a lot of constants in its formula -- even when those constants don't seem particularly vital to the quality of the series. Saw III, for example, matches its predecessors in the dubious categories of histrionic yelling, equally histrionic smash-editing (often incorporating a generous helping of re-used footage, from the previous films or even from earlier in this one), and plot twists that depend on those histrionics to drown out implausibility.

But Saw III does actually have a plot to twist which, like its predecessors, sets it apart from most slasher films. When we last left Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, the only cast member who doesn't have to scream half his dialogue), he was dying, and taking young Amanda (Shawnee Smith) under his wing to continue his work. Saw III picks up with Jigsaw in even worse shape than before, his body breaking down while his moralizing creepiness remains more or less intact. Amanda brings in an unhappy doctor (Bahar Soomekh) to keep Jigsaw alive along enough to see one of his most elaborate games played all the way through.

Continue reading: Saw III Review

Saw II Review


Terrible
When I was living in New York, I had the misfortune of spending a better part of one night in Penn Station. Tired of wandering, I wound up in the men's room around 3:45 AM and was greeted by quite a sight: a homeless man bathing in the sink, another making dreadful noises in a toilet stall, and a janitor sweeping up God know what off the yellow tiled floor. The janitor was smoking and the bathing homeless man asked him for a drag. The janitor requested that the homeless man to show him his teeth and the homeless guy obliged, presenting a sore mouth with maybe two or three black and yellow teeth jutting from obscenely swollen gums. The janitor said, "Alright," shrugged, and then let the guy take a drag of his smoke. After the guy with the rotting mouth took a nice long drag, the janitor took back the cigarette and smoked the rest of it.

Saw II made me feel like I was watching that same thing for 90 odd minutes. It's a picture as revolting as it is needless.

Continue reading: Saw II Review

Saw Review


OK
You know how some movies have perfect trailers -- so imaginatively cut together that you can't help but have to see the movie when it comes out? And then you see the movie and it kinda sucks?

Saw is that movie.

Continue reading: Saw Review

Bull Durham Review


Excellent
The first thing you notice in watching Bull Durham 14 years later (now that it has reappeared on a Special Edition DVD) is how incredibly young the players are. Costner's hairline is way up front, Sarandon is a little less wrinkled, and little Tim Robbins looks like he could be in high school.

The story, however, still feels ahead of its time, with Sarandon's femme fatale narrating a tale of how she adopts one player at her local Durham Bulls minor league baseball franchise every year -- providing him with countless years of expertise about the game and essentially screwing him silly along the way. This season, it's "Nuke" LaLoosh (Robbins), a wild pitcher who could use same taming. Also on the case is catcher "Crash" Davis (Costner), whose life lessons also help him out on the field.

Continue reading: Bull Durham Review

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Mark Burg Movies

Saw V Movie Review

Saw V Movie Review

At this point in the Saw series, reviews really don't matter. Frankly, this is one...

Saw IV Movie Review

Saw IV Movie Review

Who would've guessed that from the lengthy list of gimmicks employed by the Saw series,...

Dead Silence Movie Review

Dead Silence Movie Review

Dead Silence sucks. It's as simple as that. I like schlocky horror films as much...

Saw III Movie Review

Saw III Movie Review

The Saw series, like most horror franchises, uses a lot of constants in its formula...

Saw III Movie Review

Saw III Movie Review

The Saw series, like most horror franchises, uses a lot of constants in its formula...

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Saw II Movie Review

Saw II Movie Review

When I was living in New York, I had the misfortune of spending a better...

John Q Movie Review

John Q Movie Review

It's tough to imagine a movie star of Denzel Washington's stature making a credible beleaguered...

Love Don't Cost a Thing Movie Review

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