OCTOBER 21ST, 2014

THE PURGE: ANARCHY // And with these words, “This is your Emergency Broadcast System announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge. At the siren, all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 hours. All emergency services will be suspended. Your government thanks you for your participation,” Universal stumbles upon their next horror franchise revolving around a yearly purging where all crime is legal for one night. Messing with expectations, “The Purge: Anarchy” really is the quintessential embodiment of the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Subtly, however, is not its strongest suit. In the follow-up to last year’s “The Purge”, starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, Universal and director James DeMonaco prove that they are listening to the fans and giving them what they want. The original was said to be slightly too small scale and did not delve deep enough into the “everything is legal for one night a year” premise. This time around the characters are stuck outside on Purge night and running through the streets of Los Angeles provide a much heartier glimpse at what this world looks like.

Frank Grillo plays the resident hero for the night, Sergeant, who is actually on a much less admirable mission when he comes across the group of people that need his expertise in staying alive. By stepping in to save a mother and her daughter forced into the street, we are given our reoccurring villain in the form of the apron wearing, gatling gun wielding, megalomaniac in the back of a semi-truck’s trailer. Also in need of Sergeant’s help is a couple, Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) whose car conveniently breaks down moments before the start of the Purge and within earshot of several sketchy men wearing painted masks, one of which reads the name “God”. The night’s journey becomes this strange maze-like adventure with carnage and death around every corner. Whether it is the wealthy citizens killing for sport at an auction or an insane woman with a megaphone and a rifle on the roof of a building, DeMonaco does a decent job of defining this world.

Making obvious jabs at the state of gun control in our country, DeMonaco throws subtlety out the window. Also, adding a few more rules into the fray this time, one gets the feeling this franchise could become extremely convoluted as time goes on. Regulating the use of certain weapons and offering a pardon from the Purge for those that have served in the military, one questions who is roaming around upholding these laws. The main reason for these additions is to give the anarchist group, lead by Caremlo Johns (Michael Kenneth Williams), rules to break. Fighting against the Founding Fathers, the governmental group in power that have instated the Purge, DeMonaco sets in motion the dysfunctional dystopian future full of disorder that our cinemas are already packed with. His best bet is to keep this franchise as dark as possible while remaining equally as fresh. With so many doors left to open and using the tagline “An American Tradition,” Universal has created a horror event that can be looked forward to just like the “Saw” franchise and the “Paranormal Activity” franchise that have come to a close.

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EARTH TO ECHO // Here is my theory: director David Green saw “Super 8” and heard critics call it a mix between “E.T. Extraterrestrial” and “Cloverfield,” pairing beings from another planet with children who assist in helping them get home. Instead of a little brown alien, however, director J.J. Abrams opted for an alien the size of his “Cloverfield” monster. Upon being exposed to the comparison, Green likely thought of doing the same exact blend, but instead, he would take the children helping the extraterrestrial storyline and place it in the found footage genre. Complete with shaky cameras, bike mounts, and even cell phone footage, “Earth To Echo” is a first person family adventure film that forgets to be its own film, while retracing the same old steps. The only element within the film that feels vaguely creative is the robotic owl-looking alien that just wants to find its spaceship and go home.

Tuck, Alex, and Munch are about to say goodbye to one another as their families are all moving away. But when one of their cellphones begins flashing a strange map, the trio set out on one last journey together out into the desert to track down the signal. There they find the strange little robot that is being hunted down by the men disguised as construction workers in their town. Keeping it a secret as they hunt down the parts for the alien ship, “Earth To Echo” does project some admirable visual effects, including a semi-truck being dismantled and put back together in the matter of seconds. However, the overall narrative feels extremely stale and the leading boys remain uninspired, delivering rigid performances. David Green proves what era he is a product of but instead of paying homage to these classics, Green copies and pastes the basics.

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SEX TAPE // The first thing to wrap your head around in the raunchy comedy “Sex Tape” is that the smoking hot Cameron Diaz, at 42 years old, is married to Jason Segel, who is 34 years old. The next is believing that they are so oblivious that they do not know how “The Cloud” works, the system where all your digital files are stored in which you can access them remotely from any device connected to that network or in which hackers can access to steal your naked photos which is much more believable and timely; but I digress. What is believable is that Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel) are like most couples where they slowly, over time find themselves no longer having passionate sex. In order to turn this around, they send the kids off to grandma’s and land on the idea of making a sex tape with the terms including to immediately delete the tape afterwards. What could possibly go wrong, right?

To justify this stretch of a premise, the writers give Jay the occupation of radio DJ, touting his amazing playlists. Needing to keep up with new iPad technology, he gives his old ones out as gifts, which include said playlists for the recipients to enjoy, making the connection why people would even have access to his Cloud account. Of course the sex tape does not get deleted and instead syncs to his Cloud account, showing up on every device given away, including one to Annie’s mother, Annie’s boss Hank (Rob Lowe), the couple’s best friends Robby (Rob Corddry) and Tess (Ellie Kemper), and even their creepy mailman. A great parody of this film could be done, seeing as most people would resort to calling customer service and having it removed, or following FAQ to a similar result. Instead, the haphazard couple sets out to destroy each and every device and, of course, this does not go smoothly.

Most often than not, raunchy comedies end up going for a PG-13 rating, when really they should just bite the bullet and go full R rating. “Sex Tape” faces a much sadder outcome, as it is an R-rated comedy that feels more like a PG-13 film. When the main couple’s highlight antics includes wrestling a dog and facing off with a not-so-intimidating Jack Black, one realizes that nothing can top the idea of the couple’s sex tape. In a possible spoiler, the film does deliver said sex tape in small portions at the end of the film and this reveals the reason for the rating. Obviously I am not complaining, as an actual PG-13 version of this film would take away all the sexually explicit glimpses at the unquestionably attractive Cameron Diaz, but for the action antics of the film not to push boundaries leaves the audience wanting more. What amazes me most, to which I had a similar reaction to the film “Walk Of Shame”, is how a film starring such high profile actors such as Diaz and Segel could still feel like a straight-to-DVD affair. Perhaps if a raunchy comedy director like Todd Phillips were to have gotten his hands on this, it could have been something memorable and great, but instead it will remain that little black smudge on the careers of everyone involved.

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SNOWPIERCER // Dystopian future. Impaired class systems. Pending apocalypse. These are the themes being beaten to death in Hollywood these days. “The Hunger Games”. “Divergent”. “The Maze Runner”. All of these films have come out in the last few years and tend to tell the same stories over and over again. Not to mention all of these films are directed by white males, starring predominantly white men and women. Truth me told, producing something different under these parameters seems almost impossible. Yet South Korean director Bong Jong-ho steps in and shows exactly how to revitalize these devices with his own dystopian future saga in “Snowpiercer”.

In the world of “Snowpiercer,” the Earth has become an iceland unable to sustain human life. The last remaining humans are aboard a train that revolves around the globe at incredible speeds, thanks to an incredible engine. Like any antiutopia, a class system has formed on the train, with those living in the front wanting for nothing and those in the back living in squalor, being fed black gelatin bricks that will make you cringe when you find out what is actually in them, and often having their children taken from them by members of the front sections. Taking time away from carrying his shield for Marvel, Chris Evans steps into the role of Curtis Everett, a man from the back of the train that has become a quiet symbol of rebellion. Curtis follows the guidance of the mysterious Gilliam (John Hurt), waiting for the perfect moment to free the key maker, Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) and fight their way towards the very front car of the train.

Whereas most of the dismal future films have casts that are predominantly white, Jong-ho brings together a formidable cast from all different cultures and race. Brits Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell represent their homeland, Octavia Spencer provides the film some color, and Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, who hail from the director’s home country of South Korea, deliver two of the best performances in the film. Just as the train is a melting pot of culture and race, so is “Snowpiercer” a melting pot of themes and styles. Martial arts fights are mixed with straight-up bar room brawls. The humor that is known from Korean cinema meets the twists and turns of an American thriller. Even the themes of age transcend anything in Hollywood at the moment, with some of the most important characters in the film being children. Jong-ho is unafraid of taking chances and each and every one taken in this film pays off.

“Snowpiecer” is the dystopian future film that Hollywood wishes it had made. Deftly dark in nature, by being separated from the Hollywood machine, Bong Jong-ho is allowed to take the unorthodox steps required in making this one of the most original movies of the past decade, even while brushing against every single theme listed earlier. Along with the perfect desaturated cinematography for this specific genre, choreography that rivals many of the most recent martial arts action films, and some truly phenomenal writing, which produces some of the most memorable on-screen moments this year, “Snowpiercer” is one of those near perfect films that does not come along often enough. By the time the credits rolled, I realized how sick I was of white directors directing white casts in Hollywood movies. To get some real flavor and to create a truly dynamic masterpiece, a filmmaker has to be willing to change the spectrum and take some chances. Bong Jong-ho does that on every level and still garners a critical success that most Hollywood films could only dream of.

New Releases
Autumn Blood
Canopy 2-denied2-small
Earth to Echo
The Fluffy Movie
Life After Beth
The Purge: Anarchy
The Scribbler
Sex Tape
Snowpiercer

TV Box Set

  • Duck Dynasty: Season Four-Six
  • Ghost Hunters: Season Nine – Part Two
  • Mad Men: The Final Season – Part One  
  • Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
  • Silent Witness: Season One
  • The Soul Man: Season Two
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • The 1000 Plane Raid
  • All Hallows Eve
  • Battle B-Boy
  • Blackbird
  • Bloodworx
  • Cannibal 
  • A Christmas Carol (2014)
  • For A Woman
  • Gabrielle 2-denied2-small
  • Gift Of Winter, The
  • Gorky Park
  • Homecoming
  • The Housewife Slasher
  • Kundo: Age Of The Rampant  2-denied2-small
  • La Dolce Vita: Criterion
  • The Last Sentence  2-denied2-small
  • Le Chef  2-denied2-small
  • Letter To Momo 
  • Misfire
  • The Naked Face
  • Necrophile Passion
  • Norte: The End Of History
  • Nuclear Nation
  • One Night in Vegas
  • Play Hooky
  • RoboRex
  • The Search for Simon
  • See No Evil 2
  • Sexina
  • Siddharth  2-denied2-small
  • Snap (2014)
  • The Squad
  • Swamphead
  • Sword of the Conqueror
  • To All A Goodnight
  • Tormented Female Hostages
  • Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort Unrated
  • Zombie Hood
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