Tag Archives: Doug Jones

Why ‘Raze’ Is Like ‘The Hunger Games’ for Adults

Zoe-Bell-RazeA group of women are forced to fight to the death until just one remains. Sounds a lot likeThe Hunger Games, right? Well, yes and no.

In Raze, this epic throwdown isn’t billed as an event geared towards the greater good of the country, rather for entertainment and entertainment alone. There is some talk about the winner defying weakness and becoming a Munad, whatever that is, but the film is really much more about boxing-savvy women being targeted, seduced by a nice looking guy, kidnapped, and thrown in a prison cell until it’s their time to fight. Then, two by two, the women are forced into an arena and required to battle to the death in an effort to keep a loved one alive. If a contender loses her life in the fight, the event organizers put a bullet in her husband, child or parent’s head.

While talking with director Josh Waller and stars Zoe Bell, Tracy Thoms, Rebecca Marshall and Doug Jones in New York City just before the film’s world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bell laughed and recalled, “I remember at one point we were all sitting around the table and I was like, ‘You know this Hunger Games thing? Is it bad that that’s similar?’” She continued, “One person said, ‘No, it’s a maximum budget, different sort of genre,’ blah, blah, blah, and then someone else said, ‘I don’t reckon that movie’s gonna do any good anyway.’”

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Interview: John Dies at the End’s Don Coscarelli and Paul Giamatti

Paul_Giamatti_Don_Coscarelli_John_Dies_at_the_EndDavid Wong’s book warns, “STOP. You should not have touched this book. NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late.” Too bad Don Coscarelli’s feature film adaptation of “John Dies at the End” isn’t branded with the same advice because once you get sucked into his world of soy sauce, meat monsters and Korrok, there’s no turning back.

Straight from Wong’s book, Coscarelli’s film features Chase Williamson as David Wong, a harmless college dropout consumed by the effects of a drug known as soy sauce. The thing is, Dave wasn’t even looking to get high. He thought his buddy, John (Rob Mayes), overdosed on the black stuff, so he was just being a good friend by taking John to the hospital along with the needle he injected himself with. Trouble is, Dave puts the thing in his pocket, accidently sticking himself. From that point on, he’s got no choice, but to play along, using bratwurst phones and battling otherworldly creatures if he’s going to save the world. Paul Giamatti steps in as Arnie, a reporter who arrives after all the insanity goes down and is tasked with putting together the details of David’s seemingly bogus adventure.

With “John Dies at the End” due for a theatrical release on January 25th, Coscarelli and Giamatti sat down for a roundtable interview to discuss the meat of the film (no pun intended), the current state of the horror genre, where “John Dies at the End” fits in and more. Check out all the highlights from the interview in the video below.

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Review: John Dies at the End

John_Dies_at_the_End_Poster“John Dies at the End” shouldn’t be a good movie. The narrative is just way too off the rails, there’s nearly no reasoning behind most of the plot points and the large majority of the visual effects are rather rough, but the power of smart and deeply dedicated filmmaking takes over and writer-director Don Coscarelli manages to lead his cast and crew through to an undeniably entertaining end product.

David Wong (Chase Williamson) is far from a golden boy, but he’s your pretty average slacker – that is until he comes in contact with “the sauce.” One night David and his buddy John (Rob Mayes) go to a party. John’s rocking out with his band while David’s moseying around, drinking his beer. He spots a jerk named Justin White (Johnny Weston) teasing Amy Sullivan (Fabianne Therese) about her prosthetic hand, and after rescuing said prosthetic hand, Amy tells David her dog bit some Jamaican guy and ran off. David tracks down the Jamaican guy who gives David the creeps by reading a recent dream and making him puke up a living bug. That’s enough for one night; David calls it quits, heads home and crashes.

Later that night, David’s awoken by a frantic call from John so he heads over to his place to check on him. Sure enough, John’s off his mind, running around his trashed apartment in his underwear. David tracks down the culprit, a syringe filled with a black liquid, and takes it and his deranged friend to the hospital. Trouble is, that black liquid’s got a mind of its own and David doesn’t make it very far before feeling the effects of the soy sauce himself.

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Interview: John Dies At The End Writer-Director-Producer Don Coscarelli

John_Dies_at_the_End_PosterMeat monsters, flying moustaches, chest-sucking slugs and bratwursts that function as cell phones. Think all that’s a challenge to sell on the big screen? Director Don Coscarelli takes it one step further aiming to do just that within a non-linear narrative in his adaptation of David Wong’s off the wall, time-traveling novel, “John Dies at the End.”

The film stars Chase Williamson as Dave, a guy who goes from living the typical lazy slacker life to battling supernatural creatures and traveling to other worlds via a new drug known as soy sauce. In his attempt to rush his buddy John (Rob Mayes) to the hospital after indulging in a bit too much of the black stuff, David gets stuck with the needle himself, letting the sauce loose in his system, heightening his senses to a superhuman extent and making him the centerpiece of an epic battle to save the planet.

Think that sampling of “John Dies at the End” sounds a little off the rails? Just wait until you catch the full feature. The movie is currently available On Demand, but in honor of its January 25th theatrical release, Coscarelli sat down to talk soy sauce and all of its outrageous side effects. Check out what Coscarelli had to say about honing his narrative, finding the right actors to strike the perfect tone, the plan to manufacture meat monsters and more in the video interview below.

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Review: The Watch

Original plots don’t even seem to do the trick anymore. Whether the movie’s about an alien invasion, a hotel robbery, babysitting bad kids or a disastrous couples retreat, we wind up with a tiresome tone and jokes that feel awfully familiar. Lucky for Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, their standard is slightly elevated by a stellar somewhat new find, Richard Ayoade.

Evan (Stiller) loves starting up local clubs. In fact, he doesn’t really have many friends, only the folks that join his groups and his employees at Costco. When his late night security guard is killed at the store, Evan takes it upon himself to track down his murderer by starting a neighborhood watch. When the first neighborhood watch meeting arrives, Evan is ready to go with pamphlets and a map of the town, but his only three members, Bob (Vince Vaughn) the intense yet loving father, Franklin (Jonah Hill) the police officer wannabe and the seemingly normal Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) who enjoys a certain naughty fantasy would much rather party at Bob’s than take the neighborhood watch seriously with Evan.

However, when the guys come across some mysterious green goo that leads them to an out-of-this-world silver ball with the power to blow cows away, the fact that aliens have invaded their quaint little town of Glenview is undeniable. When the cops refuse to believe that the town is under attack, Evan, Bob, Franklin and Jamarcus have no choice but to man up, guzzle some beers and protect Glenview from the aliens themselves.

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Review: Carnies

You know what the movie industry needs more of? Carnies. Vampires were fun for a while, but how much more bloodsucking can we endure until we run dry? Carnies on the other hand, are a breed that has gone vastly unexplored and offers an abundance of disconcerting characters and illusions ripe for the big screen. One of the first to dig into the pool of circus freaks is Carnies and it certainly exemplifies the natural appeal of the subject matter.

Ratty and Virgil (Doug Jones and Chris Staviski) are both employed by Helen (Denise Gossett), the owner of a traveling sideshow. Ratty is the snake handler, Virgil’s the strong man and they’re joined by a slew of standard carnies including fortune telling gypsies, a sword swallower, fire-eater and more. Minus the financial troubles brought on by the Great Depression, business is as usual. Well, that’s until a murderous force invades the camp taking out the carnies one by one. Even with a local detective (Reggie Bannister) on the case, little light is shed on the situation. Virgil, Ratty and the sword swallower, William Crowley (David Markham), band together to do a little investigating of their own. Little do they know, the power they’re up against is no ordinary carnival freak.

In a time when modern carnivals around the country can entice hoards of suckers to dump $5 on a clearly bogus oddity, a movie focusing on the more ominous and seemingly real acts of the 1930s is greatly appreciated. A sense of uncertainty and terror is combined with cartoonish elements, namely Virgil’s very fake mustache, creating the atmosphere of an actual sideshow, one in which you can have fun and enjoy entertainment, yet still feel uneasy while doing so. Intensifying the sensation is the refreshingly inventive cinematography. Odd, but effective angles are frequently used as well as atypical viewpoints. Ratty’s love for his snakes becomes exponentially more powerful when he professes his love for ‘his queen’ and the speech is presented from the serpent’s prospective.

But Ratty is the only character who can easily do without the added bonuses provided by any department – cinematography, makeup, music – and solely rely on Jones’ ability. He’s the most natural of the cast and it only helps that the role is the most well developed of the bunch. Bannister and Gosset find similar success in their roles, but neither Helen nor the detective are very likable characters and lack Ratty’s commanding presence. Staviski’s portrayal of Virgil is a little harder to digest. Like his mustache, Staviski’s performance feels fake. On occasion he’ll deliver a line or two with an intense degree of authenticity, so the talent is certainly in there, but he just isn’t capable of holding it throughout a scene.

Overall, Carnies comes across much like Staviski’s performance, amateurish, however, that’s the beauty behind the film. As a debut feature writing-directing effort, Brian Corder’s production is admirable. He’s created a band of fascinating characters, an inventive story and, most impressive of all, presents them in a visually rousing manner. Also deserving of praise is Jeffrey Hayat and José J. Herring, those responsible for the score. They manage to make the opening credits, which merely consist of a rosewood font and simple animated background, intensely menacing with their orchestral composition. The tune pops up on occasion throughout the film and, whenever it does, delivers the same foreboding effect.

For those looking for a Hollywood-grade, CGI enhanced experience a la Cirque du Freak, Carnies will likely fall short. However, if you’re able to forgo all the fine-tuning money can buy, it’s a fascinating and memorable story. The most important thing one should take away from Carnies is its dare-to-be-different execution. It’s not entirely successful, but it’s the blatantly noble effort that’s so deeply appreciated and makes Carnies a worthwhile film.

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Review: Legion

There’s nothing worse than a disappointing movie. The plot is intriguing and the cast top-notch, yet Legion is an epic failure. It’s swallowed up by its effort to be a movie of multiple genres ultimately failing to attain any of the target thematic denominations. In fact, the only category Legion earns a place in is comedy for it achieves an amount of unwarranted laughs of biblical proportions.

Legion opens with an angel named Michael (Paul Bettany) falling to Earth. First order of business? Clip off those pesky wings. Next on the to-do list? Assemble a serious arsenal. After a quick chat with a possessed cop it’s off to the desert to unite with a group of people holed up in a diner. The phones are down, there’s no radio and they’ve just been attacked by a nasty grandma with a thing for rare meat and climbing up walls. Luckily for them, but unluckily for us, Michael comes to the rescue and to explain what in God’s name is going on.

Even with shoddy filmmaking, Legion is still tolerable up to this point. Poor character introductions are passable as long as there’s some meat to the story thereafter. The only meat in Legion is the steak left on Grandma Gladis’ plate. It tries to be serious, it tries to be funny and it tries to be scary, but doesn’t succeed at anything except being a waste of time.

The once promising premise runs into trouble when the details are unveiled. Michael used to be a general in God’s army, but when assigned to take out the baby brewing in diner waitress Charlie’s (Adrianne Palicki) belly, he goes rogue. God decides that he can’t take humanity’s crap anymore and Charlie’s baby is the key to ensuring the species’ demise. Now, Michael finds himself on the other side of the battle trying to protect the unborn child from an army of possessed-shark-toothed people.

He’s not a one-man army, but his backup isn’t much help. Charlie is on strict “don’t be brave” orders so that leaves the diner owner Bob (Dennis Quaid), his son Jeep (Lucas Black) and employee Percy (Charles S. Dutton). Bob is perpetually confused and when Jeep isn’t moping about Charlie’s lack of affection for him, he’s too afraid to arm up and be a man. Thankfully Percy has something to offer both Michael and the audience. He’s one of the film’s more dynamic and interesting characters and Dutton provides him with a nice degree of authenticity. Tyrese Gibson’s character, on the other hand, is an absolute joke. Tough guy Kyle rolls up in his big black SUV packing heat and mouth full of stereotypical and obnoxious dialogue. There’s also Sandra (Kate Walsh) and her rebellious daughter Audrey (Willa Holland). They’re mother/daughter strife is completely unfounded, but once Sandra is pushed into the background, Audrey has some engaging moments.

Palicki is wasted as Charlie. She’s got talent and a natural ability to acquire a sense of endearment, but she’s drowned in shoddy dialogue and a silly premise. The worst part about Charlie is her relationship with Jeep. Black puts on an emotionless performance. Putting on a puppy dog sad face isn’t going to earn you any of the audience’s sympathy, it’ll only render the character completely ineffective. Palicki shares her get-out-of-jail-free card with Bettany. He isn’t given much to work with, but manages to make Michael seem somewhat human and a rather fun hero.

That being said, Legion isn’t all bad. Even with zero emotional impact, Legion can be rather suspenseful. Waiting for the next evil thing to invade the diner is a seriously anxiety inducing experience. Unfortunately, this one plus ends up adding to the film’s grand disappointment. When a concept has so much potential and fails to deliver it falls hard. Legion has so much going for it that its poor quality is almost insulting.

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