Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Genius that is Uwe Boll - Guest Blogger T.C. Martindale

Okay, I am delighted to include a movie review by my pal and awesome writer, T. Chris Martindale. He's published four excellent horror novels (Google him. Go ahead! It makes him giggle like a schoolgirl), several screenplays, and writes the best movie reviews I've ever read. He very kindly wrote one of Uwe Boll's latest masterpiece of craptitude, BLOODRAYNE, just for me...and I'm sharing it with my loyal readers as a reward for their...er...loyal reading! Enjoy...and you can bet this movie will be in the queue for Bad Movie Night!

There aren't many sure things in the movie business these days. There was a time when Spielberg would've qualified, but that was before the Crap That Shouldn't Be Named (oh okay, WAR OF THE WORLDS). Peter Jackson can make a magnificent LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, only to bore you to tears with a KING KONG remake that should've run about half as long. Tom Hanks was pretty dependable there for a while, but not after THE TERMINAL and that weird hairdo in THE DA VINCI CODE. Harrison Ford? Let's not even go there. But if you shift your tastes to the other end of the spectrum, where bad is SO bad it's actually good, there are two people you can bet on every single time and never be disappointed. One is Mr. Tubby Lovin' his own self, Steven Seagal, who hasn't met a terrible script or all-you-can-eat buffet that he didn't like; and the other is German director Uwe Boll.

For those unfamiliar with Dr. Boll, he specializes in buying the rights to popular video games, and then making movies that have almost nothing to do with said games, thereby alienating what should have been a built-in audience. Skibo logic like that makes him a particular hero of mine. Well, that plus his complete ineptitude when it comes to story structure or characterization or anything else related to moviemaking. HOUSE OF THE DEAD and ALONE IN THE DARK tanked at the box office, and his latest, BLOODRAYNE, was no different; now it's out on DVD in an new uncut/unrated version. So, you ask, is it any good? Well of course not, don't be ridiculous. It's just as terrible as his other movies. But is it enjoyable?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Uwe wastes no time putting his stamp of hilarity on things. BLOODRAYNE the videogame is about a female half-vampire who fights Nazis in the 1930's. So, naturally, Dr. Boll puts his movie in Eastern Europe in the 1700's. Of course, that makes perfect sense. And given the new location, you would want to hire actors who can project the correct accent for the region, correct? So you turn to thespians like Michael Madsen (KILL BILL) and Michael Pare (STREETS OF FIRE) and Michelle Rodriguez (LOST, BLUE CRUSH), who all studied in the classic Monotone style and have a hard enough time sounding like Americans who can barely stay awake, let alone Slavic characters. Add to this mulligan stew a few dashes of Udo Kier, Meat Loaf Aday (I guess he's using his last name these days to separate him from all the other Meat Loaves out there), Billy Zane, whose company released the movie and is now being sued by Boll for doing a shitty job of it, and Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley as Kagan, the king of the vampires. Yes, you heard right, Gandhi's playing the Big Bad in this thing. On the one hand I can see that -- maybe he's tired of being "Oscar Winner" Ben Kingsley, maybe he's just a regular guy who wants to cut loose and have fun in an over-the-top performance, really ham it up and pick the scenery out of his teeth later on. On the other hand, maybe he had a mortgage payment due and really needed the money. After seeing the performance, I have to lean toward the latter. But more on that later...

As the title character, Bloodrayne (who, incidently, is never really called that, it's mostly just "Rayne") Boll cast Kristanna Loken, who's only credit of note prior to this seems to have been the unspeaking Terminatrix in TERMINATOR 3. It's an odd choice, since Ms. Loken is not particularly buxom or hard-bodied like the character in the game, nor is she a martial artist or at all convincing in her action sequences. She is extremely tall and long-limbed and looks more like a volleyball player than an action heroine. Of course, she does drop her top without hesitation, so I'm sure that figured into it, but c'mon! Are you telling me there aren't any well-built athletic women in Hollywood who'll flash their mommybags when necessary? Or in Europe for that matter? Hell, I've seen at least three females on those annoying GIRLS GONE WILD! commercials late at night who would've been more alluring or convincing in the role. Ah, but then we would've lost that massive contingent of TERMINATOR 3 fans, wouldn't we. Very cagey, Dr. Boll.

On to the plotline, what there is of one. Seems that Kagan, aka Evil
Gandhi, is looking for the three bodyparts -- an eye, a rib, and the heart -- of some magical vampire from days gone by. Legend says if another vampire acquires those pieces, he'll be granted godlike powers...though if you think about it, how magical could they be, considering their original owner had 'em and got snuffed anyway. Arrayed against him is the Brimstone Society, a sort of fraternity where they kill vampires instead of smacking each other with paddles. The leader is Vladimir, played by a somnambular Michael Madsen with a sweet, sweet mullet. I do hope the long matted hair was Michael's own; if not, that means there was someone on the crew who was actually responsible for running that particular hair extension through the dirt, plying it with oil, etc. to achieve that particularly un-comb-able look. Props to him or her, that's a job I wouldn't want. Vladimir's lieutenants are Katarin (Michelle Rodriguez), wearing that patented scowl of hers that she brings to every role, and Sebastian (Matthew Davis), the only passably handsome guy around, so you know he'll be the one knocking the boots with Rayne before the movie's over.

Meanwhile, Bloodrayne is the sideshow attraction in a traveling circus, at least for a couple of minutes. We see her in bondage, then cut away to Madsen looking half-tipsy or Kingsley looking chagrined, and by the time we get back to Rayne she's now sitting in the woods covered in blood and mewling pitifully. What the hell? Cue the flashback machine! Apparently one of her handlers crawled into her cage and tried to do some actual handling, and that triggered some very annoying MTV-style flashbacks (that's right, flashbacks WITHIN a flashback! You go, Uwe!) of Kagan killing her mother, and that caused her to vamp out and kill most of the circus folk. It also gave her a goal, to ferret out her daddy Kagan and lay down some whupass on his Oscar-winning self. (Exactly why Kagan molested her mother and then let her live long enough to raise a child to eight or nine is never explained; neither is the question of whether all vampires get horny for human tail, or whether that's just Evil Gandhi's personal peccadillo...)

Long story short, Rayne joins up with the Brimstone Society, finds the
missing pieces of Mr. Magical Vampire, and takes them to her daddy for the final showdown. Along the way we get...

- many incredibly bland and clumsy fight scenes, both on the part of the principals as well as extras that just sorta mill about and flail their swords in the air. One guy runs down a staircase at Madsen and just throws himself PAST him; I don't think Mike ever even raised his sword to fend him off. Now that is one obliging bad guy!

- some halfway decent gore effects, like swords in the cheek (good target that, considering all the vital organs inside the mouth), heads split open, limbs hacked off, etc., with generous gouts of blood all around. One poor sap gets cut in two at the waist but the extras continue to chop at his torso anyway and it continues to gush blood like a geyser.

- Ben Kingsley looking all pale and sickly like he's got stomach flu.
Maybe he read the script after all. Ninety percent of his role requires him to dress in fancy tunics, sit in a straightback chair and stare into space. Tough work if you can get it.

- singer Meat Loaf in a white wig, looking like somebody's grandma. He's supposed to be a hedonistic vampire surrounded by a gaggle of naked prostitutes played, interestingly enough, by a gaggle of naked prostitutes. Cheaper than actresses in that neck of the woods, apparently.

- Kristanna Loken trying desperately to act but not having much success. The only thing you can say about her is, she's pleasant to look at and her voice sounds exactly like Kathleen Turner, at least when she was younger, before she got all huge and her voice dropped into Harvey Fierstein territory...

- while trying to obtain one of the magical artifacts, Rayne finds herself in a boobytrapped room where giant buzzsaws whirl out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly. She evaluates the situation and realizes the only answer to this is...cartwheels and lots of 'em! After all, no blade can cut you while you're doing a cartwheel! (At least that's better than the original DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie, where Justin Whalen found himself in a similar situation and decided the answer was Run Real Fast, Then Dive!)

- while in a cell at Brimstone Headquarters, Rayne has another jumpy
vampire dream about her daddy; when she wakes, she inexplicably grabs
Sebastian, throws him against the bars and mounts him like a pony. Welcome to Romance, Uwe Boll style! Since we've seen nothing to foreshadow this randy behavior ahead of time, we can only surmise that glimpses of Oscar winners make her really really horny...

- Michelle Rodriguez decided to try acting about halfway through the movie by attempting a pseudo-European accent on several occasions. On her third try, my ears started to bleed.

- "Bring me my thralls," says Evil Gandhi to his second-in-command. Then as he walks down a line of troops with an utterly wan expression on his face, we hear the following voiceover: "The time has come to fulfill your oaths, my loyal thralls. Scour the land, find Brimstone and destroy it, bring the dhamfir to me, leave no human alive that crosses you, the promise of eternal life awaits those that succeed, those who fail will find only death." Now go back and read that out loud, as quickly as possible and in a complete monotone. If you can do that, then you too could be King of the Vampires...

- What about Michael Pare, you ask. What major part does he play? The
answer is none. Late in the game, after Rayne breaks one of her funky
tonfa-swords, they go to a weapons guy in the village to get another set. Weapons guy has an eighties-style shag and a moustache and looks nothing like Michael Pare; in fact, I didn't recognize him at all till he opened his mouth and that same lackluster line delivery came out. Oh yeah, that guy! He hands them the swords, then slips out the back door and is never seen again. Thanks for coming, Mike! For that little work, they must've paid him in loose change and Arbys coupons.

- Michael Madsen's death scene in the climax has to be seen to be
appreciated. Two vamps grab him by the arms and start gnawing on his
shoulders, but Mike's expression doesn't change at all. Evil Gandhi
thrusts his sword into Mike's chest and his expression STILL doesn't change as he slowly sinks to the floor. Maybe he thought this was just a rehearsal, either that or those nights on the town in Romania were really taking their toll...

-in the finale confrontation between Daddy and Daughter, classically
trained actor and thespian Ben Kingsley actually throws a Chuck
Norris-style side kick. Ladies and gentlemen, that alone was worth the
price of admission right there. Now, if I can only see Sir Anthony Hopkins work a nunchuk, just once, I'll die a happy man.

With everyone dead (sorry if I gave that away), Bloodrayne sits down in her daddy's Barcalounger and gets this wacky gleam in her eye. Which I guess means "I'm remembering a lot of stuff..." and gives Uwe an excuse to run a best-of reel with the most gory killings from the movie. See the blood splatter, see the guts cut open, see the arms hacked off one more time. It's like watching the whole movie over again, only without the annoying dialogue. Finally, after way too much of this, we get back to Rayne on her chair, and she smiles at us. Then we see her ride away on her horse and the credits start to roll. What the hell?

As enjoyable as it is to see distinguished actors like Kingsley debase
themselves for a paycheck, I would much rather Uwe Boll embrace his inner hack and cast from within his own stratum in the movie business. 'Cause we all know there was only one man alive who's worthy to play the role of the King of the Vampires, and that man is...Steven Seagal! Sweet Jebus, if only we could have gotten those two together. What beautiful music they
would've made...



  • At 10:56 PM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    Hated War of the Worlds, loved Munich.

  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger Other Lisa said…

    So what happens when TC likes a movie?

  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Um...well...the reviews aren't as fun to read. At least, not for me. And actually...he DID like this movie. Just not because it was good, y'see...

    Didn't see Munich!

  • At 8:53 PM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    Zhadi --

    But didja see any of those posts you were supposed to write, hmm?

  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Oh, MS...have pity! I'm still catching up on email from my computerless times...and also I started a new book project. And the dog ate my homework and...and...

    Yes, I know. I suck. And I'm gonna be gone this weekend to a twilight tour at the cat compound, so I won't have my computer...but I'll try and write something tonight.

  • At 9:01 PM, Anonymous J. Branch said…

    My friends tend to affect my tastes in various areas.

    Gotta say though, having known you as long as I have, the one thing I never picked up, was your taste for "B" (or "C") movies.

    Yes you might've turned me into a Cat Curmudgeon... but.. the 'B' movies. Nope, never had a chance.

    And would you believe, after a year in Bumpus, now their are 4 ferals, for whom I am center of the universe (two of which actually let me hold them and enjoy it).

    The 95 cent 8-pack of cheap hotdog meat that I use as treats (over the course of several weeks) doesn't seem to hurt either. :)

  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Okay, all those bad horror movies I watched and talked about and you didn't notice? I am shocked! I LOVE bad movies...and good ones...and silly ones. I'll watch any grade of movie, from A - Z! And then ask T.C. to write a review about it!

    Once they let you hold 'em, they're no longer feral. They're yours.

  • At 3:22 PM, Anonymous J. Branch said…

    Zhadi wrote: Okay, all those bad horror movies I watched and talked about and you didn't notice?

    No. I noticed. I just was never able to develop the same appreciation that you had for them.

    Zhadi wrote: Once they let you hold 'em, they're no longer feral. They're yours.

    Hrmm,... *sighs*.. yeah, I was kinda afraid of that.


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