Monday, April 24, 2017

Phil's Cult Classics: DEATH RACE 2050 (2017) from New Horizons Pictures/Universal Pictures - April 23, 2017

DEATH RACE 2050 Blu-Ray
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Manu Bennett, Marci Miller, Burt Grinstead, Anessa Ramsey, Yancy Butler, Charlie Farrell, Folake Olowofoyeku, Shanna Olson
Written by G.J. Echternkamp & Matt Yamashita
Cinematography by Juan Durán
Edited by G.J. Echternkamp & Steve Ansell
Produced by Roger Corman, Julie Corman & Lisa Gooding
Directed by G.J. Echternkamp
Production Companies New Horizons Pictures & Universal 1440 Entertainment
Released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment

In 1975, producer Roger Corman and director Paul Bartell released a film called DEATH RACE 2000 on an unsuspecting drive-in and grindhouse audience. It went on to became a true cult classic. In 2008, Corman made a deal with Universal Pictures to remake the film, simply entitled DEATH RACE, which eventually led to two direct-to-video sequels. Those films had no resemblance to the original, nor did it have the same premise. It seemed like Hollywood had miss the point yet again and it looked like we would never get a proper sequel. Then the King of the B's himself came up with the brilliant idea of making a true sequel to the original, which excited many fans. The end result was released earlier this year in the form of DEATH RACE 2050. So ladies and gentlemen, start your engines and get ready for one helluva ride!

The film's official synopsis: Legendary filmmaking icon, Roger Corman, is back with his most outrageous film yet in this sensational, action-packed and darkly humorous reboot of the original Death Race 2000! It’s the year 2050 and America is controlled by an all-powerful corporate government ruled by The Chairman (Malcolm McDowell). The masses have been brainwashed with violent virtual-reality entertainment. The event of the year is the Death Race, in which a motley crew of violent drivers compete in a cross-country road race, scoring points for shamelessly running people over and driving each other off the road. The reigning champion and fan favorite, Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who’s half-man half-machine, wants to take the crown, but his rebel spy co-pilot threatens his legacy

The original was a perfect blend of dark humor, social and political commentary and pure exploitation madness. The sequel is the same but more in your face, with the dark humor and madness cranked up to ten. The world of tomorrow is nothing more than a corporate owned entity, now known as The United Corporations of America.The biting commentary is painfully relevant, considering our so-called president and his swamp drenched corporate cabinet. So throughout the movie, I found myself laughing and cringing because it's so spot on as to the world we inhabit in.

Original Promotional Poster (2017)
Filmmaker G.J. Echternkamp is relatively new to directing, having made only two other features, a couple of documentaries and a handful of shorts. However, he manages to make a film that just screams, "Look at this crazy shit!" Despite his lack of experience, he makes up with enthusiasm, determination and sheer lunacy. He keeps the camera on the action, which there is plenty of and it's completely off the hook! Kudos to Echternkamp on a job well done! Also, he along with Matt Yamashita wrote the script, so lookout for this guy to become the next big Hollywood action director!

Filing the shoes of Frankenstein this time is Manu Bennett, whom you've seen in THE MARINE, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and THE HOBBIT TRILOGY as Azog. He's also done a lot of television shows such as Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Arrow (as Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke) and the hit MTV series The Shannara Chronicles. He brings his A-game to his character and raises Frankenstein to the level of on bad ass driver! Loved his performance! Actress Marci Miller from Days of our Lives is Frankenstein's navigator Annie Sullivan. Miller is a very beautiful and talented actress and she and Bennett have great on-screen chemistry. Malcolm McDowell does what Malcolm McDowell does best. 'Nuff said! Anessa Ramsey's character Tammy is one of the most vile, racist, batshit crazy chicks I have ever seen in a movie! And the shit she says is fucking hilarious!!

Now I'm sure all you die hard fans of the original want to know is how do the cars look in the movie? They look freaking sweet!! They're just as cool, if not cooler, than the cars from DEATH RACE 2000. I don't know who made the, but I want to have one of them! More specifically, I want Frankenstein's car!! And if there's anyway it included Marci Miller and her piercing deep blue eyes, well then I'll buy it buddy!!

DEATH RACE 2050 is an over the top, tongue in check, politically and socially charged, action packed thrill ride that will have you think and make you cheer for blood!! In this modern day world where movies take themselves way too seriously, it's good to see this kind of movie exist. And it's great to see Roger Corman doing what he does best!! This is exploitation cinema at its finest!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly Recommended!!

DEATH RACE 2050 is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD at your local retailer. The film is also available on iTunes, Redbox, on demand and other streaming services.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Phil sees SADAKO VS. KAYAKO (2016) from Kadokawa/Shudder - April 23, 2017

In 1996, the late Wes Craven's film SCREAM had inadvertently ushered in a new wave of slasher horror films featuring, at the time, some of the most popular and young Hollywood actors and actresses like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Neve Campbell, Freddie Prinze Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Ryan Phillippe, Bridgette Wilson and Rose McGowan just to name a few. At the same time, Japan was experiencing a horror revolution of its own. Influenced by the old horror and ghost story classics from Japanese folklore, a new wave of movies called Japanese Horror (dubbed J-Horror) were dominating theaters. RINGU was released in 1998 and become such a huge hit that in 1999 the movie was remade here in America called THE RING. In that same year JU-ON became another sensation in Japan and was given the American remake in the form of THE GRUDGE in 2002. Then in 2016, fans of both franchises finally got what they've been dying for. Last night I finally watched SADAKO VS. KAYAKO on Shudder, the online horror streaming service.

Original Japanese Poster (2016)
The film's official synopsis: After viewing a legendary cursed videotape, Natsumi discovers she has only two days before she will be killed by the demonic entity known as Sadako. The only way to break the curse: pitting the demon Sadako against Kayako, an accursed spirit possessing a haunted house where everyone who enters disappears. SADAKO VS. KAYAKO brings the characters from RINGU and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE back to the big screen in a wildly fun, tongue-in-cheek thrill ride that finally answers the question: whose curse is stronger?

Boy, was this movie a fucking blast to watch!!! Think J-Horror meets FREDDY VS. JASON and that's what we have here!! It's batshit crazy on a Level 10!! Where am I going with all this? I don't know but I love this movie!!

Kôji Shiraishi is the man responsible for directing this amazing movie. I first became aware oh him when I saw the 2007 film KUCHISAKE-ONNA, better known here in the states as CARVED: THE SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN (which, by the way, is based on another old Japanese folklore). He's done some other fantastic fright flicks like GUROTESUKU (GROTESQUE), OKARUTO (OCCULT) and both TEKETEKE films. He keeps the film moving right along, giving fans elements from both franchises while providing new characters, new scenarios and new scares. His compositions and framing superb, pacing is great and does a fine job of combining random silliness and downright terror.

Yuri Kurahashi and Natsumi Ueno are our two main leads, portrayed by Mizuki Yamamoto and Aimi Satsukawa repectively. They have great on-screen chemistry together; the look and sound like they're best friends. Both bring emotional depth to their characters and are sympathetic to the audience. We really do feel for these two girls. At the same time, Suzuka Takagi (played by Tina Tamashiro) is being hunted by a curse of her own! When they team up with spirit medium Keizo (Masanobu Andô) and his blind psychic sidekick Tamao (Maiko Kikuchi), the shit hits the fan as they pit Sadako against Kayako in hopes that they will destroy one another.

Originally, the film first started out as an April Fools' joke when it was teased on April 1, 2015 but then became a reality when into production on December 10, 2015. It was promoted on social media like crazy and was released in Japan on June 18, 2016. It went on to play at several film festivals before it finally made its way here in the states where it premiered on Shudder on January 26, 2017.

SADAKO VS. KAYAKO is a balls-to-the-wall, J-Horror fans wet dream come true!! If you want to see something different and unique, then this movie is right up your alley!! Fans of both franchises will want to see this movie over and over again!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!! 

SADAKO VS. KAYAKO is now streaming exclusively on Shudder. To view it, sign up on its website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil sees THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE from IFC Midnight - April 22, 2017

Independent films have reshaped the cinematic landscape for last several decades. In the horror genre, these films brought new ideas, new stories, new scares and new voices that have impacted society and pop culture as we know it. From NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and TRICK 'R TREAT, the world of horror has seen some groundbreaking films that are both politically and socially charged as well as being just horrifyingly disturbing. Today's film has received so much acclaim that it's downright scary. And after seeing THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE for myself, those praises are very much deserved.

The films' official synopsis: It’s just another night at the morgue for a father (Brian Cox) and son (Emile Hirsch) team of coroners, until an unidentified, highly unusual corpse comes in. Discovered buried in the basement of the home of a brutally murdered family, the young Jane Doe—eerily well preserved and with no visible signs of trauma—is shrouded in mystery. As they work into the night to piece together the cause of her death, the two men begin to uncover the disturbing secrets of her life. Soon, a series of terrifying events make it clear: this Jane Doe may not be dead. The latest from TROLLHUNTER director André Øvredal is a scarily unpredictable, supernatural shocker that never lets up.

There are many reasons as to why I absolutely loved this gem of a horror film. One of them is that André Øvredal is just so damn talented. His directing is so precise and controlled, his compositions are flawless and you knows exactly to make us feel terrified. His visuals grabs our attention and doesn't let go until the movie ends. He's grown as a director; from TROLLHUNTER (which is freaking awesome if you haven't seen it yet) to this movie is astounding! And this is only his third feature film! I can't image what he's going to be like as a director in ten years! One can only hope for more original and horrifyingly cinematic tales of terror!

You can't have a good horror movie without a truly terrifying script and that's where screenwriters Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing come into the picture. These two individuals wrote one of the best original scripts ever! The story is simple but it's so dense and layered that it takes its time to unravel the mystery and horror. Taking something that's disturbing already such as working in the morgue and cranking up the fear up to eleven is no small feat to accomplish. But Goldberg and Naing pulled it off effortlessly, and as a result, scared the living hell out of me!

The film's cast turned in some outstanding performances. Brian Cox is a legend, having been in films such as BRAVEHEART, RUSHMORE, HIDDEN AGENDA and THE RING. Cox's casting as Tom is perfect as he brings his ability to add depth and personality to his character. Emile Hirsch's portrayal as Austin is also well done, as is his love interest Emma, played by the lovely Ophelia Lovibond. But for me, the best performance of the movie comes from our Jane Doe herself Olwen Catherine Kelly. It's not easy playing a dead person, but to do it throughout the film and be naked as well, plus having appliances, guts and organs all over you, well, that's some damn fine acting!

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is one of the best horror films of 2017!! Once again, the indie film world has unleashed of the scariest films I have seen in a long time!! So forget those bloated and shitty Hollywood horror movies and check this bad ass flick!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is currently playing in select theaters in cities nationwide. Check your local listings to see if it's playing at a theater near you. It's also available on Netflix, iTunes, video on demand and other streaming services. The film will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 27, 2017 from IFC Midnight.

 Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Phil sees THE BYE BYE MAN from STX Entertainment - April 22, 2017

I love horror movies! Ever since I saw Universal's 1931 classic DRACULA, my thirst for horror films has been unquenchable. I've seen an ungodly amount horror films in my lifetime. Some have been brilliant, others have left me scared for life. Some are guilty pleasures, others are WTFs that can never escape me. Today's film falls into the latter portion of my list. Yes horror hounds, I saw THE BYE BYE MAN on purpose and it was really, really, bad.

The film's official synopsis: When three college students move into an old house off campus, they unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to prey upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man's existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate.

OK, where do I start with this one? First the positives: I liked the poster. Looks really cool, doesn't it? Second, it's 96 minutes long so that was nice. Third, it....uhhhh.......has a cool looking poster. Yeah! Oh man, this is going to be harder than I thought.

The film is an adaption of the chapter "The Bridge to Body Island" in Robert Damon Schneck's book The President's Vampire. The screenplay was written by Jonathan Penner, who is married to the film's director Stacy Title. Her resume includes films like THE LAST SUPPER, LET THE DEVIL WEAR BLACK and the hip hop horror anthology HOOD OF HORROR. While I'm for having more female filmmakers in the horror genre, and in Hollywood in general, I would like to see a female filmmaker make a decent horror film. I wasn't impressed with Title's set-ups and compositions. Also, Penenr's script didn't deliver the scares, nor did it have character development, good beats or a satisfying conclusion in the third act. It all felt flat and rushed, which surprised me because  the film's opening really caught my attention. I was looking forward to see what was going to happen but I was disappointed with the final results.

The film's trio of characters are named Sasha, Elliot and John and they are portrayed by Cressida Bonas, Douglas Smith and Lucien Laviscount respectively. As much as I wanted to like their characters, I could have cared a less about them or their final fates at the end. I wasn't emotionally involved with them, which is a red flag in any movie that I watch. Whether it's a drama, a comedy, or a horror movie, if the audience isn't emotionally invested in the film's characters, then you're just wasting their time and intelligence.

The sad thing is that the film had the potential of being a great horror film, maybe becoming a new franchise that would show up the major studios. The trailer looked very interesting to me and I had high hopes for it. I really wanted to like this movie, but in the end it left me feeling like I was cheated. And yet, despite the negative reviews, the film has grossed $24.6 million against its $7.4 million budget. So apparently, the movie has an audience, so right now, I would like to congratulate everyone that worked on the film and all your success. But with all that said,  I am sorry that I did not like the movie.

THE BYE BYE MAN is a lackluster horror film that will bring nothing new to the horror genre! With such a promising and impressive opening, the film falls into the standard trappings of its own shortcomings. However, I am interested in seeing where Stacy Title's career goes and I hope she makes the ultimate horror film, or in another genre for that matter. 2 out of 5 stars! It's a rental at best!

THE BYE BYE MAN is currently playing in select theaters in cities nationwide. Check your local listings to see if it's playing at a theater near you. The film is also available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD in rated and unrated versions. It's also available on Netflix, iTunes, video on demand and other streaming services.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees RINGS from Paramount Pictures - April 22, 2017

In the late 1990's, there was an influx of Japanese Horror films that caught American audiences off guard. These films, called J-Horror for short, revolutionized the genre and soon caught Hollywood's attention as well. Shortly thereafter, we began to see many of the J-Horror film remade by major studios in an attempt to capture that same audience, as well as get some of that sweet boxoffice dollars. Based of the RINGU films, 2002's THE RING became a sensation and has grossed over $230.1 billion dollars worldwide. It spawned a sequel in 2005 and THE RING TWO became another smash hit. earning over $160.4 million worldwide. However, the sequel didn't fair well with critics and fans who thought it didn't live up to the first film. Then came silence for the next twelve years until Paramount Pictures decided to resurrect the franchise once again. This past weekend I saw RINGS for myself to see if it lived up to the originals.

The film's official synopsis: A young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

While I found it somewhat entertaining, I thought the story was predictable and boring, the characters were underdeveloped and lacked any real depth, it wasn't really scary and we hardly got to see Samara. Not off to a good start there movie.

First off, credit to Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden and Bonnie Morgan for trying their best of making a good and scary movie. Really, thank you all for trying and I know you ladies and gentlemen really did try. But as the old saying goes, "You can put a pig in a dress but it's still a pig." But I don't blame you all. You're all talented actors and actresses and I hope to see you all again in other film projects, but I do not hold you accountable for this failed attempt of a relaunch of a major franchise.

First, I blame filmmaker F. Javier Gutiérrez for directing this lazy attempt of a movie. Hard to believe that this is the same guy who made the 2008 film BEFORE THE FALL, which was an absolutely stunning work of art! That was one of my favorite films of that year and I've been anxiously awaiting what his next film would be. And here it is, and it made me wanna bang my head against the wall. You totally let me down Gutiérrez. You shattered my world and now I wanna cry cause you made this shitty movie. 

Next on hit list, let's talk about the screenwriters for bit. The film was written by David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman and I just want to say that I hate you all from the bottom of my heart. Really, that was the best story idea you guys came up with? There's this "movie within the movie and, like, crazy scary stuff happens and then, like there's this new backstory about Samara and then there's Vincent D'Onofrio doing his thing, and then we end the film by using the standard, tired, cliched ending that Hollywood uses all the time." Seriously, you guys suck hard balls. Why didn't use some of the story aspects for the original RINGU films? Then flesh the themes out and combine it with traditional American aspects that audiences can relate to and skip the "standard, tired, cliched ending that Hollywood uses" and end the film with closure and then leave it alone. Is that too much to ask for these days?

RINGS is an unnecessary, unwanted horror film to a franchise that should have stayed dead! The film is twelve years too late and there isn't an audience there anymore. We've all moved on from this. It had its time but that was a long time ago. It's time for Hollywood to make original horror movies again! So stop wasting our time with these shitty remakes, relaunches and reboots and go make original movie again! 3 out of 5 stars! Wait till it comes out on Redbox!!

RINGS is currently playing in theaters nationwide. Check your local listings to see if it's playing at a theater near you.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees KONG: SKULL ISLAND from Warner Bros. Pictures - April 22, 2017

When legendary movie studio RKO released the original KING KONG back in 1933, I don't think they could've predicted just how popular and iconic their creation would become. It's spawned two sequels back in the 1930's, a 1976 remake and a 1986 sequel, he fought Godzilla and other monsters in Japan in the 1960's, became a Saturday morning cartoon, a comic book series and was remade again by fanboy Peter Jackson in 2005. Now 12 years later, Warner Brothers decided to once again resurrect this beloved big hairy ape once again and pit him against one of the best A-list group of actors ever assembled. So are you ready for my review of KONG: SKULL ISLAND?!? If not, tough shit I'm doing this review!

The film's official synopsis: When a scientific expedition to an uncharted island awakens titanic forces of nature, a mission of discovery becomes an explosive war between monster and man. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly star in a thrilling and original new adventure that reveals the untold story of how Kong became King.

Yup, that right there says it all!! Let me cut to the chase: you have Tom Hiddleston (Loki!), Samuel L. Jackson (Bad Ass Mutha Fucka!), Brie Larson (Marry me!), John Goodman (Another Bad Ass!), John C. Reilly (Hilarious!) plus Corey Hawkins (Yo Dre!), John Ortiz (AVPR Dude!), Tian Jing (Babe!) blowing shit up, getting their asses handed to them by King Kong, who then tears shit up by beating up all kinds of crazy looking monsters with a soundtrack that includes Jefferson Airplane, The Stooges, Creedence Clearwater Revival, David Bowie and Black Sabbath?!? Take all of my money now please!!!

But seriously, this a blast to watch. Major credit to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts for making such a kick ass movie. Known previously as a television director on shows such as Single Dad, Funny or Die Presents..., Death Valley and Mash Up, he gained acclaim and attention for his 2013 indie coming-of-age film THE KINGS OF SUMMER. It's amazing that four years later he's directing a multi-million dollar Hollywood film with major stars. It's also worthy noting just how much of a 180 he took when making this film. It doesn't look anything like THE KINGS OF SUMMER and that's astounding to see! Making a little indie film is totally different than making a major studio project so congratulations to Jordan Vogt-Roberts for pulling off this impossible feat!! I can't to see his next film project!!

KONG: SKULL ISLAND is one bad ass action packed adventure film that you need to see on the big screen! Also, for all you film fanatics out there, the movie is also being screened in 70mm special engagements is select cities!! So you have no excuse to not see this movie!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

KONG: SKULL ISLAND is currently playing in theaters nationwide. Check your local listings to see if it's playing at a theater near you. Also look for 70mm screenings in select cities as well.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees MOANA in 2D from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures - April 22, 2017

Family movies are often referred to kids movies due to the fact that they're aimed specifically for kids. While that's a generic definition of that, it's whole heartily false. As a forty-something adult, I enjoy in what they bring. They're extremely fun to watch, have interesting characters, are set is some fantastic world and lastly, more importantly, they remind us that life is magical and anything is possible. It's the inner child in every adult that begs to be let out once in a while, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I feel it's a healthy expression. Case in point, my recent viewing of the new Disney movie MOANA, which is one of their best films in a long time.

The film's official synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island's fishermen can't catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti's heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology.

You can always count on Disney to bring in the fun with their characters. Voice over actress Auli'i Cravalho is perfect as our heroine and adventurer Moana. She brings strength, naivety, self assurance and that spirit of adventure to her character. The man himself Mr. Dwayne Johnson brings the laughter and fun as Maui, the mystical God who teams up with Moana to fulfill her quest. Now I have to admit that Johnson has become one of my favorite actors in Hollywood right now. Mainly because he's really good actor. And by doing voice over work for this movie, ot proves that he's a very talented individual. Guiding Moana on her journey is Gramma Tala, voiced by the talented  Rachel House. If you don't know her name yet, you better get acquainted with her work. She's been several amazing films like WHALE RIDER, EAGLE VS. SHARK and has appeared in television shows like Hope and Wire, Soul Mates and the Wolf Creek mini series.

What I really enjoyed about the movie is that it takes us back to when were we younger; to a time when were optimistic, full of life, always looking for adventure and not being scared of it because it sounded like fun to us. Now that I'm older, I don't feel as adventurous because I'm now wiser, smarter and I don't feel like I have the time or energy to do anything (yes kids, getting old does suck). But I can still remember what those emotions feel like, and at times it makes me feel young again. That's what's fun about kids movies: they make you feel young. And there's nothing wrong with that!

The other factor I enjoyed was that it touches upon adult themes; such as responsibility, destiny, life and death. However it's told in a way that children can understand. These are very important life lessons to learn, even though we wish we could ignore them. Unfortunately, we cannot and therefore, it's a part of life that we must accept. That's also what I enjoy about kids movies; there's a lot of life lessons that are shown throughout the frames of the movie and that's a smart thing to address.

Directors John Musker and Ron Clements did several months of research for the film. They immersed themselves in the Polynesian culture and mythology of the its people. They really tried to make the film respectful to the culture and I think they did a damn good job. So two big thumbs up to Musker and Clements on a job well done. And on a side note, this is the first Polynesian-themed Disney animated feature film since 2002's LILO & STITCH. About damn time we got another Polynesian movie Disney! What took you so damn long, huh?

MOANA is a superior family film that will be watched for generations to come! It full of laughs, adventure, fun and once again shows that with a little bit of self-confidence, there's nothing we can't do! So kids, I say to you all is this: Go out there and make this world a better place! And make sure your folks take you to see this movie!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

MOANA is still playing in selected theaters nationwide. Check your local listings to see if it's playing at a theater near you. The movie is also available on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as digital download, on demand, iTunes and other streaming services.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!