Tag Archives: low budget

The Courier – Review

23 Oct

While I may not be perfect at this, I like to think I’m the kind of guy that usually has good faith in movies that many consider to be awful (much like the second and third Matrix films, but we shouldn’t get into that). Case and point here with Hany Abu-Assad’s direct-to-video release, The Courier. I heard absolutely nothing on this, so much so that I really couldn’t have any opinion on it at all going in. Needless to say, I think, this is a very independent movie and that shows, but this isn’t a completely terrible film. It isn’t really all that good of one either.

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If you ever need a package delivered, no questions asked, the first person to call would be Frank from The Transporter, but that’s not this movie. In this case, you would call the Courier (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a mysterious man that delivers packages, and that’s all you need to know if he is to be hired. One day, he is approached by a rather hostile client (Til Schweiger) who demands that he deliver a suit case to a man long thought to be dead named Evil Sevile, who became one of the most notoriously violent gangsters in New Orleans. With the help of his new partner, Anna (Josie Ho), the Courier begins his 60 hour long mission, only to be attacked on all sides by FBI agents and another gangster that wants him dead (Mickey Rourke).

At first glance, and second glance, and probably even third glance, The Courier seems like a disgusting rip off of the much superior Transporter films. Well, that’s because it kinda, sorta…well…is. There is a lot that happens towards the end that adds some flair of originality, but the entire time I was watching this movie, I really wanted to be watching something else. That is not a sign of a good movie, especially one that rips off a whole idea from another film. If you’re going to rip something off, you might as well make it better. Not only was I put off by this, but the movie itself is just really boring.

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This movie is pretty much made to sound like an action thriller, but it is clearly lacking in action. I understand that this movie was pretty low budget for what it is, and you can see that the film makers really try, but I feel like film makers have to realize what they are capable of with the resources that they have. The director even said in the special features how limited they were while making this film. This makes it feel like a slow moving thriller with the story of a mindless action film. It makes for a really awkward combination. There was one scene in particular where I was really ready for the climax of the film. The set up was actually really cool and the setting was fun, but then the climax and the reveal happened. All I can say is that for all of that build up, it was pretty sloppy and all together uninteresting.

I can’t say that I completely hated this movie or call it a piece of shit, because it really isn’t horrible. I really enjoyed Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Losers, and I enjoyed him again here. The cast really is great. There’s Mickey Rourke, Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds), Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks), and Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad). That’s a pretty cool cast for a movie that is really underwhelming. The acting from these people aren’t the problem and the cinematography is actually pretty darn good, especially considering the director is an award winning film maker.

The Courier is one of those weird movies that really isn’t very good, even though it’s close to being something. It really is painful how much it rips off The Transporter and other action film cliches, even though there are many times where this doesn’t feel like an action film. It has to be hard making a film like this on such a low budget, and it unfortunately shows at times. I really can’t recommend this movie at all because it is so nothing special and bland that I really have to much to say about it. I guess I can just say, it’s a direct-to-video movie that is exactly what you’d expect from something like that.

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Primer – Review

13 Mar

When I think of time travel stories that push the realms of science fiction farther than what may seem possible, I think of movies like The Time Machine and the Back to the Future movies. Mainly, I think of Doctor Who, because that may be the most innovative and groundbreaking piece of work to ever deal with the concept. Never would I have thought of Primer, a super low budget time travel movie that shows how much you can do with some money and a great idea. With its technical jargon, mind bending story, and characters out for their best interests, Primer plays out like some sort of strange Shakespearean science journal.

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Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) are engineers hoping for any sort of major discovery to come their way. Operating out of Aaron’s garage, the two are working on a machine that can reduce the weight of an object, but to their surprise they accidentally invent time travel. This invention opens up a world of possibilities for the two engineers, and they decide to use this new found discovery to travel back through time and use their knowledge of the future to make big money on the stock market. With a set of rules in place to make sure they don’t severely mess up the space/time continuum, everything seems to be working until the two friends begin working behind each other’s back and changing events to their own desires.

This is one of the most difficult movies that I’ve ever sat through, and despite it just being a little over a hour, it felt like a much longer movie. The beginning of the movie really takes no prisoners in terms of scientific and mathematical dialogue. Carruth, the writer/director/star of the movie, stated that he didn’t want to dumb any of the dialogue down for audiences. I can really respect that, especially in a time where filmmakers really want to cater to their audiences. The fact that Carruth can write in such a way may be due to his degrees in mathematics and engineering. The dialogue may be hard to understand, but it sure is cool to listen to.

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What actually makes Primer so cool is how low budget it is (it was only made for $7,000, and most of that money went to buying film stock). Everything about it feels low budget, and I’m not just talking about the aesthetics of the movie. Even the whole time travel machine feels like it could’ve been made in someone’s garage, and it was. There’s no cool sound effects or flashiness that helps a lot of time travel films and shows. This one is completely an idea. We know how the machine works (sort of) and we believe science will happen without special effects telling us. Don’t get me wrong, flashy science fiction is awesome, but for  Primer it is completely unnecessary.

This movie is a sci-fi film that’s heavy on the science, but seems pretty light on the fiction. Yes, of course, time travel is not possible, and scientists say it will never be possible. It’s set up in a way in this movie that it seems like this would be the most possible it would ever be. This is what crude time travel would look like. The whole science behind it is mind boggling, and once the two engineers begin going behind each other’s backs with the machine, the plot becomes almost impossible to follow. This was intentional, however, and trying to piece together everything that’s happening and make sense of it is part of what makes this movie so much fun.

Primer is not a movie for everyone. I feel like the way the plot twists and turns completely out of the space/time continuum without explanation is so unapologetically mind boggling, that people would lose interest. You have to know what kind of movie you’re going into see, and it’s one that doesn’t dumb down it’s theory or dialogue for the audience, nor does it take the time to completely explain everything. If you want a movie that’s going to make you think pretty hard for a couple of days in order to even remotely understand what actually happened, Primer is the low budget masterpiece you’re looking for.

Re-Animator – Review

16 Mar

H.P. Lovecraft was a really strange guy, and I’d really love to talk more about him, but this is a film blog so I’m going to talk about film. How can I make this connection? Ah, yes! Re-Animator. Many have dubbed this film as a definitive cult classic and one of the best horror films of the 1980s. It’s appeared on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Going into this movie, I was really hoping, like REALLY hoping that I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

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Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a brilliant scientist. In fact, he may be too brilliant. After being kicked out of the University of Zurich, he resumes his studies and experiments at Miskatonic University, where he also meets fellow student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot). Cain, much to his dismay and horror, learns that West’s experiments involves a reagent that will reanimate recently deceased corpses, only they are much more violent and behave very much like zombies. The last thing that Dan ever suspected he would do with his years at university would be fight off a horde of living, breathing corpses all while protecting his girlfriend (Barbara Crampton) and West’s discoveries from the hands of Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale).

Horror is a really fun genre, because it seems like it would be the polar opposite of comedy, and yet they are so similar. It’s easy to find yourself laughing at a scary movie, and it also isn’t rare to find really great horror comedies. Re-Animator is one of these hybrids that certainly doesn’t take itself or the source material too seriously. This film was made out of the fun of making movies for people who don’t exactly want to over think every movie they see. There probably won’t be too many intellectual conversations surrounding this film, but sure is a lot of fun.

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A very large part of this movie is the gore and the effects that were used to make sure it looked as insane as possible. This where a lot of the humor comes from, and it works very well. There are a few effects where it’s really obvious how they did it, but there are a few that still have me scratching my head. Let me just say that Re-Animator takes the violence, shocks, and gore to an extreme that was oh so popular in horror films of the 1980s. This truly was the golden age of horror, where anything flew and people weren’t so squeamish. To put it in perspective, 25 gallons of blood were used for this movie. Not too shabby.

Jeffrey Combs obviously steals the show here with David Gale close behind. Combs is the definition of a hysterical sociopath (I haven’t forgotten Dexter, don’t worry). He delivers remarkably intelligent, but uncomfortably nutty lines with such composure that you can’t help but crack up. David Gale has a cool little character arc from a relatable professor to an evil, idea sucking head that stars in one of the most memorable (and strange) horror scenes in all of film history. Bruce Abbot is about as mediocre and uninteresting as you will find in a movie, but still likable none the less. As for Crampton… well… she can scream very well.

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It’s impossible to really recommend Re-Animator without letting you know exactly what you’re getting into, and I think I explained it pretty well in this review. It’s funny, bloody, and scary. Combs and Gale own their roles and definitely had a great time performing, but the rest of the cast is pretty typical for a low budget horror film from the 80s. Check your brain at the door and get ready for some gruesome dark comedy that’s splashed with red and neon green.