No One Lives (2012)
Writer David Cohen and “Versus” director Ryuhei Kitamura’s nifty little horror flick surprised the hell out of me. As soon as I saw the WWE Studios logo, my heart slipped into the heel of my socks. Although the company’s releases are generally entertaining, I’ve never really encountered one that really blew me away. “No One Lives” might be light years away from perfect, but it’s one of the stronger genre films I’ve seen all year. The film tells the story of a group of low-rent criminals who come face-to-face with an unstoppable killing machine. The premise might be simple and stupid, but Kitamura manages to work wonders with the material. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t try to rewrite the well-worn slasher handbook used by countless filmmakers over the years. Instead, Kitamura and company use these tropes to fashion an experience that somehow manages to feel both fresh and exciting. “No One Lives” was unexpectedly enjoyable, and sometimes that’s the best kind of entertainment a horror geek can ask for. Luke Evans fans will probably love it to death. Definitely worth a look.
Atlantic Rim (2013)
I usually love the mockbusters perpetrated by the folks at The Asylum. Unfortunately, “Sharknado” writer Thunder Levin and director Jared Cohn’s “Atlantic Rim” is just a little too cheap and empty-headed for my liking. The setup is essentially “Pacific Rim” with a few tweaks here and there to avoid any lawsuit from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. I really loved the low-budget feel of the flick, probably because I spent a lot of time watching “Robot Jox” as a kid. However, even my love of giant robots and enormous lizards couldn’t keep me awake during this one. David Chokachi gives a particularly inspired performance, though his dialogue often sounds as like it’s being delivered by someone in the throes of a cocaine overdose. Graham Greene, on the other hand, looks beyond miserable. I suppose it’s tough going from “The Green Mile” and “Dances with Wolves” to something like “Atlantic Rim.” If you love The Asylum and everything they stand for, then you might find yourself enjoying the experience. However, don’t blame me when it feels like you’ve just been watching people screaming in tiny boxes for 90 minutes. Watch “Sharknado” instead.
I feel like I should have enjoyed writer/director Steven Knight’s “Redemption” more than I did. I feel bad about it. As a Jason Statham fan, I realize the guy can’t keep punching everyone he encounters on-screen. However, Knight’s story of a man looking for a little salvation is just too damn depressing to enjoy. Sure, Statham gets to knock the snot out of a few guys over the course of the film, but none of these moments are really enjoyable. What’s the fun of watching Statham fight if he’s just going to mope about it later? Everyone involved with the project does a wonderful job, particularly Agata Buzek. Unfortunately for this viewer, the maudlin tone kept getting in the way of everything else. “Redemption” is a strong feature, and any self-respecting Statham fan should probably give it a shot. If you’re looking for a lot of fun, then you might want to pull out your old copies of the “Transporter” series instead. This isn’t the sort of action flick you want to end your day with. In my opinion, it’s his least enjoyable outing since “Blitz.” I don’t regret watching the flick, but I doubt I’ll do it again.