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John Allman

If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

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New Releases for May 29, 2012

Posted Jun 3, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jun 3, 2012 at 06:22 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season
Genre: Horror/TV
Created by: Alan Ball
Run time: 730 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: There are some people who didn’t appreciate the fourth season of HBO’s marvelous “True Blood,” and I think I know why.

Horror fans, particularly those who love everything vampire, weren’t thrilled with the fact that “True Blood” took a major risk in its superb fourth year.

The risk? Making vampires take a backseat to other supernatural and fantastic entities, namely witches, witch doctors, malevolent ghosts, werewolves, shapeshifters and spirit mediums.

To say “True Blood” brought the whole gang to the dance would be an understatement.

In addition to spending a good chunk of the season on creatures other than vampires, the creative minds also committed a second blasphemy, one that injected the show with some much-needed pathos: They showed vampires could be weak and vulnerable.

Look, I understand if you didn’t like the fact that the dashing Eric Northman spent a five-episode arc oblivious to his true lineage, following Sookie Stackhouse around like a little, lost fang puppy. I get it if you hated to see Pam suffer the curse of rotting flesh. I sympathize with the Bill Compton fan base who felt the undisputed King of Louisiana wasn’t given enough to do after being exposed for betraying his beloved Sookie.

Get over it.

The fourth season rocked harder than any season past. Marnie, the focal point and big bad, was a fantastic villain, a conflicted dabbler in the dark arts possessed by the spirit of a vengeful, more powerful necromancer. Marnie represented a very real, genuine danger for the show’s vampire core. 

Much like white trash loup-garou Marcus Bozeman, who presented a palpable threat to both Alcide and Sam Merlotte. Much like the returning spirit of Renee, the serial killing baby daddy from Season 1. And even recovering V-addict, and unhinged werewoman Debbie Pelt.

Every major character squared off with a formidable foe this season. The stakes, no pun intended, could not have been higher, and for me, Sunday nights couldn’t come fast enough.

This is a box set to go out and buy immediately, especially since the Fifth Season starts in just two weeks. 

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Oh yes.
Nudity – Everybody gets naked. Sookie and Eric have fairy sex throughout at least two episodes.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – Considerable.
Bad Guys/Killers – Every character is a different shade of grey.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Audio commentaries, Enhanced Viewing Modes, featurettes.
On the Web –

Gone (Lionsgate, 95 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): “Gone” is the worst kind of B-movie pulp, the kind of movie that you expect to be awful, but which pleasantly surprises you for about 40 minutes. Then logic, pacing and character development go completely to hell midway through and the damn thing ends up sucking even worse than you expected. Only now, you’ve wasted an hour and a half and you’re totally furious.

Amanda Seyfried needs to fire her agent, or her manager, or herself. Her big sexy Mark Rydenesque saucer eyes are only going to carry her so far, and “Gone” marks the latest in a string of high-profile dogs, coming on the heels of “Chloe,” “Red Riding Hood” and “In Time.”

It’s one thing to tackle a pure-genre thriller because it has an intelligent script, an up-and-coming director or an eclectic cast. But “Gone” has none of the above. Seyfried is reduced to uttering ridiculous quips – “Just watch me!” – and trying to play detective, tracking down a serial killer who kidnapped her a year earlier and who now has taken her sister.

The twist is that the cops never believed she was abducted, so they completely disregard her when she races into the station, claiming her sister is the latest victim. So Seyfried goes home, gets a gun and starts trying to crack the case herself.

Director Heitor Dhalia spares no opportunity to blow past logic like a drunk ignoring a stop sign. He sets up so many red herrings as the potential killer, including a police detective played by creepy waste of talent Wes Bentley, that when the reveal does happen, the killer’s identity is completely glossed over. It doesn’t matter. It’s no one you would have even suspected.

There are two moments in “Gone” that should have sent movie-loving aficionados rolling into theater aisles, doubled over with laughter. They also should serve as Exhibits 1 and 2 why movie fans need to storm Hollywood and demand better genre entertainment.

The first comes about two-thirds of the wayt hrough the film. A massive manhunt is underway for Seyfried, who has at this point brandished a gun on an unarmed civilian, blasted her way out of a police standoff, led officers on a high-speed chase and violated the terms of her release from a mental hospital by possessing a handgun.

The police captain calls all hands on-deck, and Bentley’s detective is noticeably missing. A-Ha, you think. They’ve totallygiven it away that he’s somehow connected to the killer, if not the killer. The captain asks the lead detective where Bentley is, and I kid you not, the lead detective says that Bentley had to leave to take his sick mother some soup. That’s right! Soup! Sick mother! Massive manhunt! Nowhere to be found. All the detectives shrug their shoulders and seem to accept that this behavior is somehow acceptable. What…the…Hell?

The second best moment comes about 25 minutes later, after Seyfried has saved the day, defeated the big bad guy, vanquished her personal demon, yadda yadda whatever. She returns home to a squadron of copcars surrounding her house. The detectives, including Bentley, who really was apparently taking his sick mother some soup – WTF? – gather around Seyfried to ask questions. And she claims it was all in her imagination, and closes her front door, ostensibly closing the book on the whole ordeal. Click. Good night.

Wait a minute…wasn’t she in violation for carrying a loaded gun? Oh, that’s right, she said she never had a gun. Wait a minute…didn’t she cause a high-speed pursuit, followed by a standoff at a local hardware store? Yeah, well, nobody was really injured, so…Wait a minute…didn’t she at least file a false police report if the kidnapper/killer she claimed took her sister she now says never really existed? Ow. My head.  I think something snapped. My brain just attempted a Triple Lindy and crashed into the second diving board because “Gone” doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Oscilloscope Pictures, 112 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): The latest release from Oscilloscope Pictures will likely divide viewers. It might even cause conflicting emotions in those who find a resonating note buried deep within director Lynne Ramsay’s blunt, emotionally bruising examination of sacrifice, regret, motherhood and evil.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin,” adapted from the book of the same name, looks at the internal and personal destruction that tears apart a typical American family following a shocking act of violence. Ramsay doesn’t shy away from the most difficult aspects of the narrative, namely whether it’s wrong for a mother to instinctively dislike a child with something bordering on hate. It further complicates the question when the child in question is Kevin, who might just be evil incarnate, but who also forced his mother to abandon her dreams and become domestically comatose.

That’s not an easy question to put out there, and it doesn’t make for two hours of happiness and light. But there’s nobody better to play the mother in question than Tilda Swinton, an uncommonly striking yet inexplicably plain woman with almost alienesque features. Swinton immerses herself in these complex, complicated roles, and through her eyes we follow a literal road to hell.

In one early scene, when confronted by a stranger at a strip mall, Swinton receives a vicious slap across the face, and the brutal, unexpected force of the blow seems to leap off the screen and across your own mouth.

“Kevin” may not be a defining work, but it gets major props for not backing away from some seriously intense themes that are rarely depicted on film, much less discussed.

Also Available:

Man on a Ledge – Sam Worthington continues his trend of following an A-list blockbuster with a B-grade genre thriller, this time stepping out onto a ledge without a net.

The Aggression Scale – Home invasion thriller featuring a host of genre favorites.

Maverick: The Complete First Season – James Garner owned the role. He just lent it to Mel Gibson.

Memorial Day – The story behind the war behind the holiday.

Goon – Surprisingly homophobic hockey story about a guy who’s better with his fists than his skates.

Rookie Blue: The Complete Second Season – ABC police procedural’s second season.

Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Third Season – Popular cable serial about reincarnation and making amends for one’s superficial decisions in life.

The Queen’s Palaces and The Diamond Queen – More British monarchy than most can handle.

Coriolanus – Ralph Fiennes directs this adaptation of the Bard.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies – The sequel to the musical, The Phantom of the Opera.

Telling Lies in America/Traveler – A two-fer of tales about con men making a living in America.

A Necessary Death – Gripping documentary about suicide that follows one young man’s decision to take his own life.

Not To Be Overlooked:

The Devil Inside (Paramount, 83 minutes, R, DVD): Decidedly better than his 2006 video-game horror show “Stay Alive,” writer/director William Brent Bell goes the ‘found footage’ route for “The Devil Inside,” but the genre format traps him in a corner and ultimately undermines all the good moments that lead up to one of the most What-The-Hell endings in recent memory.

The best bits of this “Devil” come from a handful of surprisingly creepy exorcism scenes, which are broadcast by a series of handheld and surveillance camera monitors. The crackling bones and unnerving contortions on display by the possessed are cringe-worthy for all the right reasons. “Devil” delivers much more effective jolts than several recent big-screen iterations, specifically “The Last Exorcism” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

And the story about a young woman, who is trying to understand her family’s history, specifically why and how her mother was convicted of murdering three church members during an exorcism, and who travels to visit her mother in a hospital in Rome for the first time in many years, sets up a good excuse for the cameras to always be rolling.

But Bell’s film tips its hand too early, within the first 20 minutes, during a classroom lecture in Rome where young theologians and ordained priests are studying the art of exorcism and the various phenomenon of possession. As soon as you hear the professor toss a one-off definition of a particularly nasty demon trait, you know what’s coming later on.

That’s not necessarily bad.

What is bad is that just when Bell kicks things into high gear, and the blood starts flowing, he paints himself into a box that he can’t escape from without abandoning the found footage format. As a result, he simply ends the film and offers a single sentence coda directing viewers to a website to see more footage.

That’s unacceptable, in my opinion, and it’s one of the reasons why the Found Footage genre continues to frustrate more than thrill. Sure, there are standouts – “Chronicle,” for example, and “Cloverfield” – but for every unexpected success, there are four or five other films, like “The Devil Inside,” that inexplicably offend viewers by trying to stay true to an inflexible medium that constrains and confines more than it elevates.

“The Devil Inside” is a fun film – for 78 minutes. But the last five minutes completely color you against all that you enjoyed.

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