Archive for the ‘Rise: Blood Hunter’ Category

362 – Rise: Blood Hunter

January 2, 2008

Despite its unwieldy, off-putting title, Rise: Blood Hunter (aka simply Rise) isn’t as terribly cheesy and disgusting as I imagined it would be. A reporter (Lucy Liu) wakes up in a morgue’s body drawer and discovers she’s been changed into a blood-seeking, human-chomping immortal, or something, and rather than gleefully embrace her new self she decides to track down the evil bastards who put her in that condition, making her a sort of avenging angel for all those who have been similarly wronged.

Sadie Blake (Liu) is a sexy, classy young lady who’s just written a front-page story about teen goth clubs. One of her coworkers, the nerdy computer stereotype, tracks down a phone number that one of the teens handed to Sadie – turns out it’s not a phone number but the first in a series of clues that leads to a website devoted to some weird bloodsucking cult. Sadie, of course, thinks the story’s over and goes on a quickie vacation to Mexico with her sister, but when she returns, you guessed it, her coworker’s dead. Sadie follows clues like a good little Nancy Drew and winds up getting kidnapped (several times) and killed (several times), all to figure out who or what’s behind everything.

The story jumps around a lot, flouting the conventions of time as we know them; things simply don’t happen in the exact order we’d expect them to, which clouds Sadie’s motives and intentions quite a bit. Is she good? Is she even human? After all, once she’s been attacked by the vampire people, she’s not exactly the picture of health, and she’s gotta eat to survive. Is her ultimate goal of revenge enough to offset the unpleasant facts?

It helps that there’s a typically hissable bad guy, Bishop (James D’Arcy). He’s eternal, of course, and he kills and mutilates and rapes for the sheer joy of it. There are no moral or ethical quandaries with this guy. Plus he has an effete, brandy-swilling British accent, making all the more unctuous and slimy. (Well, he’s slimy also because he’s often covered in someone’s blood.)

Now, granted, this isn’t a pleasant, sedate movie to watch. It’s full of gore and guts, although not so much as, say, a movie like Saw or Hostel. It’s still not for the weak of stomach. You might remember how, in Kill Bill, The Bride traveled all over to wipe out those who’d wronged her – but the film didn’t show us this in the order in which each avenging occurred, did it? So you’d see Uma Thurman wander over to Viveca Fox’s house not knowing if she’d already visited Lucy Liu. Well, you would know, of course, if you picked up on the subtle hints, and that’s exactly how it is here. At one point, Sadie runs into alcoholic, world-weary cop-with-a-conscience-and-a-cause Clyde Rawlins (a fantastic Michael Chiklis) and mutters something about having seen him before. And if you watch the movie closely, you see exactly where. It’s as if there are no coincidences in the movie, and I think that works in its favor.

Still, it IS just a revenge flick, albeit one with vampires and a kick-ass crossbow. Liu is very, very good – she’s not the screaming, hands-in-the-air type of heroine, but she’s also not the balls-out gut-stomping Lara Croft type, either. Remember, Lucy Liu is petite; she doesn’t automatically have this intimidating screen presence, so she uses what she has and makes the most of it. In her case, I’d have to say it’s her eyes, flashing terror or courage in…. well, in the blink of an eye.

So despite some predictability, the movie does work, thanks to Liu and the novelty of the disjointed sequencing. There are quite a few chills, and the plot doesn’t stray too far from its main revenge thread, thus simplifying matters.

***

Summer Movie Preview, Part I

May 18, 2007

Back when I worked video retail, the big question we got every day was “What’s in that’s new that’s good?” Kind of a vague, open-ended question; how do I know that what I think is good is what you think is good? I don’t. But customers always seem to believe that the doofus behind the counter somehow is an expert. This might make sense in doctor’s offices and auto shops, but the doofus behind the video-store counter doesn’t know any more than you do.

Plus, of course, movies are highly subjective. I didn’t like Gosford Park but maybe you, dear customer, would. And so on. Everyone has different tastes, right?

It’s time to take a look at some upcoming movies (theater division). Now, when I review movies, I really try to target the review to as many people as possible, so I don’t just take the attitude of, “Well, I hate costume dramas, so I’m gonna give this one a bad rating.” That’s not fair, is it? No, it is not. I try to think, “what would most people find appealing about this movie? What would they dislike?”

Anyway. Now you know the motivation and angle. Let’s see what’s coming up.

Shrek the Third (May 18): Finally, the green guy is back. I think they’ve been promising a third Shrek movie for… well, since before the second one, back in 2004. And there’s a rumor that a fourth one is on the way as well. See, I like Shrek. I like the potshots that the movies take at Disney. I like the gross humor. I think the three leads (Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz) are perfectly suited to their roles. So I’m looking forward to this one, even if it’s not as good as the first two.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25): Okay, for this one I’m a little more skittish. Yes, I’m looking forward to it, and yes, I want to see it in the theater, but… is it played out? It’s going to be a bit longer (168 minutes). I wonder if it’ll fall into the trap of having its leads rush from Action Scene to Action Scene, which it kind of sort of did in the last movie in the series. But at least that one had the bonus of a good twist at the end that led to this inevitable third film. So color me skeptical – I hope it’s as good as one of the first two. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and the emaciated Keira Knightley return. (Knightley is a pretty face and a good actress, but boy does she look too skinny. She looks positively little-boyish.)

Bug (May 25): Ah, finally, a nonblockbuster. Michael Shannon plays a war vet, and Ashley Judd plays an agoraphobe. They’re holed up in a seedy motel, and they have insect issues. Is it all in their minds? Hells, no! Or maybe. Good to see Judd not playing some plucky damsel in distress for a change. William Friedkin is your director; maybe he has another hit here.

Mr. Brooks (June 1): Kevin Costner is a serial killer, and Demi Moore is the dick out to capture him! Why, it’s like they’re playing against type! Cmon, if Moore wasn’t gonna cut it as a stripper, what makes us think she’ll be a good detective? (Hint: only if she gets nekkid.) Costner, though… he might work in this role, because it’s one of those cold, emotionless, no-range-required roles that more or less define him. So yeah, it’s something new for him, but it’s not sea-change new. He’s a bad guy, not a good guy, so that’ll take some acting strength, but I think he’ll be okay. William Hurt’s in it, too. I bet he plays a guy who’s unhinged on the inside but normal on the outside.

Rise: Blood Hunter (June 1): What is it with Lucy Liu and stupid titles (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever)? But this IS Lucy Liu, so I’m already inclined to watch. (Lucy, if you’re reading this, I’m available!) Liu plays a woman who wakes up in a morgue and finds out she’s undead. Man, I hate those kind of mornings. Anyway, she vows revenge on those who hath wronged her. Would most of us go after the people who killed us, or would we just be pissed that we weren’t, you know, actually dead? Liu doesn’t often get good scripts, but when she gets ’em, she’s good. This one’s written by the guy who wrote Snakes on a Plane, though, so..

Surf’s Up (June 8): This looks bad, so it’ll probably make a lot of money. Why wouldn’t it? It’s animated, and it has penguins, and we all know how much people love the penguins. But cmon, surfing penguins? Plus the one guy on the box looks like the guru guy voiced by Robin Williams in Happy Feet. I mean, exactly the same. I don’t think I’ll catch this wave. (See what I did there? I made a bad pun.)

Ocean’s Thirteen (June 8): George Clooney is making this one, he says, to make up for the second one, which was mostly bad. Just about everyone returns, but there’s a lack of estrogen – no Julia Roberts, no Catherine Zeta-Jones. Wait, there’s Ellen Barkin. Like I said, a lack of estrogen, but I kid. Al Pacino’s in it; wonder if he’ll be hammy? There’s also apparently a rumor that Angelina Jolie will be in it. The rumor’s from April 2006. The movie will be released in a few weeks. So I dunno what that means, but if Jolie appears it can only be a good thing. As for the plot, someone doublecrosses Reuben (Elliot Gould), so the gang has to avenge him. The movie has to be better than the uneven second one, but I hope the added cast members aren’t a mere novelty.

Hostel: Part II (June 8): Death and dismemberment are back, baby, only this time it’s three chicks instead of three dudes. Okay, whatever. On the one hand, I’m glad one of them isn’t Paris Hilton (as rumored), but on the other hand it would have been sweet to see her killed. We do get Heather Matarazzo, Lauren German, and Bijou Phillips. (I’m resisting making a Matinee at the Bijou joke, because it’s too easy and younger people wouldn’t get it, anyway.) The three get lured to a hostel, and then bad things happen. With any luck, this will be on par with the first one; expect a lot of gore and torture and creative deaths.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15): Did you see the first F4 movie? No? Did anyone? No, wait, someone must have. I wonder if it was all fanboys trying to see Jessica Alba’s ass. Anyway, the four leads return, which I’m ambivalent about, because really, this isn’t a movie that focuses on character development; it’s really just about blowing crap up. In this one, the Four face off against a new threat, the Silver Surfer, played by a hologram. I’m no comics dude, but I always thought the Surfer was a good guy, but apparently I’m wrong. The movie already feels desperate, as if the studio is just trying really really hard to get some kind of franchise. I mean, hey, other comics movies do well, so let’s flog the F4 horse. My bet is that there’ll be a third movie, but it’ll be about one of the villains, or the Silver Surfer, and perhaps the original cast won’t even be in it.

Nancy Drew (June 15): I’m not in the target audience for this movie, and I don’t intend to see it, but I kind of liked the concept. Nancy Drew is a girl detective, much on the order of the Hardy Boys, but even younger. This movie is set in the present day, but Nancy is a throwback, an anachronism; she dresses and behaves as if it’s 1940. (At least that’s what I gleaned from the trailer.) So there’s that little hook thrown in for flava. Apparently this Nancy is a bit younger than the one in the books, but since most girls of today probably haven’t yet read the books, I don’t think it’s a huge problem. This looks like a cute, quiet hit.

Evan Almighty (June 22): All right! Morgan Freeman as God. This time, he tells now-Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) to build an ark. Oh, yeah, like THAT’LL happen. Now, though, we’ll see if a movie of this stripe can survive without the strong personality of a Jim Carrey; Carrell is more of a reactor than a actor at times. In 40 Year Old Virgin, he merely reacted to the chaos around him – which was funny, don’t get me wrong, but here he might find it a little tougher, with less comic support. And the movie apparently cost a lot to make, thus upping the pressure.

1408 (June 22): Another Stephen King adaptation, and it’s been a while since they’ve been any good. Come to think of it, they’re almost never any good, but the ones that are good are choice indeed. Here’s hoping this fits in the latter category, and it should, given that Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack, merely two of the awesomest actors ever, star. It’s about a paranormal investigator who enters the titular hotel room, which is supposed to be totally haunted. I love closed-room mystery horror freakouts, so I’m all for this one.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 27): Everyone loved Die Hard. Everyone loved Die Hard 2. Die Hard 3, not so much, so I dunno what to make of this fourth one, ten YEARS after the last one. John McClane’s way too old for this crap. Still, I like Bruce Willis in most about everything. I just hope it doesn’t really, really suck.

Ratatouille (June 29): Uh, yeah. A Pixar movie about rats. I didn’t see Flushed Away, but I have the same reaction – huh? Wha? Okay, sure, it has the pedigree of Brad Bird directing, and he’s the guy who did The Incredibles (I was one of a few who didn’t think it was awesome), but still… rats. Animated rats. Whoopdedoo.

Okay, this is getting long, and I have actual work to do. (I know!) Therefore I’ll do a part 2 later. Maybe today, maybe next week, maybe next month.