Review: ‘The Lazarus Effect’ (one actress’s valiant attempt to save a thriller)

Flatliners plus (choose ONE) A: Hollow Man, B: Lawnmower Man, C: Lucy.

After a scientist named Zoe (Olivia Wilde) theorizes a serum to regenerate disconnected brain tissue when stimulated electrically, her fiance Frank (Mark Duplass) puts their marriage on hold to secure a grant and complete the project with her. Three years later, a breakthrough restores a canine to life…but (of course) something isn’t quite right with it. The research team is forced to recreate the experiment when a loophole allows their research to be stolen away, but a lab accident pushes them to attempt a human trial; cue the special effects, horror makeup, and existential mumbo-jumbo.

Taking a cue from the “horror in a box” formula (lock your characters in, shake the box, see what falls out), The Lazarus Effect does a fair job of setup – pretty much everything we know from the trailer. At a glance, the story promises tying physics to metaphysics in a way that could might have been Event Horizon cool…until they do nothing with it. The story owes its existence to pretty much any story where science induces instant brain evolution to push a person off the rails, but with too many one-note characters and a severe lack of any explanation, every drop of potential is pissed away. Instead, Ms. Wilde inexplicably terrorizes the team until the film mercifully ends, only then hinting on something that might have made sense if there had been anything prior to support it.
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Review: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2′ (No. Just…No.)

Remember how bad you thought the original movie was going to be? That.

After altering the course of human history with his knowledge of the future, Lou (Rob Corddry) has made billions but still acts like a jerk. His son Jacob (Clark Duke) is going dangerously down a similar path of destruction while Nick (Craig Robinson) is feeling the guilt of ripping off songs no one else remembers and calling them his own. When a mysterious assassin shoots Lou in the crotch, Jacob and Nick drag him back into the conveniently relocated temporal hot tub to change the past. Instead, they end up in the future without a clue how to fix the real problem: how to make a sequel work without John Cusack.

To create a sequel intended for fans of the surprise hit (and surprisingly good) original film Hot Tub Time Machine, there are a few minimums that should have been addressed. Okay, fine, you couldn’t get John Cusack back for whatever reason, but every film needs a lead actor – and a lead story, for that matter. Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, James Franco, or Paul Rudd…was NO ONE available? Rehashing the same issues as the last film with all the secondary characters makes the film drag out into exactly what it is: genuinely funny people ad libbing their way between plot points and hoping there’s enough footage to fill a ninety-minute running time. In spite of a couple of actual laughs, the result is an underwhelming “nope.”
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‘Fifty Spades of Grim’ (A Spoof of You-Know-What)

All the disturbs…two hours shorter and less the price of a movie ticket.

Anti-Valentine’s Day: Heartbreak Pizza by Kimmie Chameleon!

Just in time for Anti-Valentine’s Day: Heartbreak Pizza by Kimmie Chameleon! Enjoy.

‘Fifty Spades of Grim’ – See it on Valentine’s Day RIGHT HERE!

What? You thought I was kidding? Not so much.
Yes, it’s a spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey. What do you mean, did I actually read the book or see the movie? Um…well, that should be obvious…er…hey, look! It’s The Sandman! :: disappears ::

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Review: ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (an Iranian Vampire Western at last)

Everything in the Iranian ghost-town of Bad City is for the taking, but it can’t always give you what you want.

Arash (Arash Marandi) is a diamond in the rough. He works hard for a rich woman, bought his own car with his savings, and takes care of his junkie father. In a dying town where oil, drugs, and prostitution are the only businesses booming, it is a lawless place where people either disappear or their found bodies are dragged into the local trash pit. For all the temptation, however, Arash’s attempts to do the right thing haven’t gone unnoticed – a vampire (Sheila Vand) has taken up residence in their little town, and she knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, women, and foolish little boys.

Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour describes her film as the first Iranian Vampire Western, a moody and monochromatic film inspired by the spaghetti western style of Sergio Leone. Right down to the music cues, there is a Tarantino feel about the way the film flows but with far less dialog – it’s all subtitled, by the way. In spite of all the death and despair, the story is really about loneliness, whether your life is on hold taking care of an ill parent or you’re a centuries-old vampire mistaken for a young girl out on a stroll. How much are you willing to risk or forgive to make a human connection?

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Review: ‘Byzantium’ (girls crash a boys-only vamp club)

Femme fatales vs. the gentleman’s club – vampire style.

Clara works at a strip club; Ella goes to school. They live together telling neighbors and co-workers that they’re sisters, but the truth is that these two young women are centuries old – and on the run. While Clara survives any way she can to take care of Ella, Ella is more discerning with her life and the lives she subsists upon. Clara thrives on secrets, but Ella can’t help but tell her story and make as many connections as she can. Unfortunately, the secret to their immortality is not only a closely guarded secret but a forbidden act for their gender, and the ones who keep it for themselves will stop at nothing to make their ancient order pure again.

This slow-burn story takes a few leisurely turns in revealing its plot, evenly split between a character piece and a mystery thriller. Unlike Only Lovers Left Alive, this story is more secretive concerning how and when these vampires were created; while we get a glimpse into how they exist day-to-day and decade to decade, there is a constant threat of discovery that keeps things a bit hectic for our protagonists. Working against this dynamic is Ella’s constant need to tell her story and the consequences of someone actually believing her. An interesting thing about this film is the misogyny among the vampires, that their biggest crime the women are accused of is being female, as if only a man can make a decision about taking a life.

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