Wednesday, January 19, 2011


(Full disclosure time, folks.  My friend edited this film.  Now you know so don't think I have some personal bias for loving this film.  Its a great movie.  Would I lie?  You probably shouldn't answer that question.)

EISIS is about a man named Eisis.  He is part of a four man special forces recon group sent in to some country to investigate the possibility of a Russian presence.  While on recon the entire team is wiped out by a mine.  Only Eisis survives.  On his own the soldier must survive his wounds, hide from a Russian Captain and his men and wait for extraction.  Eventually he befriends a lady shaman who helps him while he continues his mission.

To start things off this isn't an action movie.  It is an art film.  It just happens to be a badass art film.  There is weaponized military might mixed with nature and eastern religious beliefs.   You can tell there are some brains behind the camera.  This is a well directed movie and very colorful.  Its a low budget movie but it never feels that way.  I love the night scene where the special forces have just parachuted in and everything is in green nightvision.  It was filmed in the day with a green filter to make it nightvision.  It allows us to see what the soldier sees in their world.  Its highly imaginative.  The entire movie takes place in the woods.  Most movies would become tedious and boring but not EISIS.  Watching our hero survive in the wild with his military training while the lady shaman helps him and eventually befriends him is compelling.  You are not quite sure where the story is going or how these two are going to work together because they come from two different worlds.  Its an unpredictable film to say the least.

If you watch the world premier feature on the extras DVD you learn that the story and imagery in this film has a specific meaning to the director but he purposely leaves the explanations of what your are seeing vague so you can come up with your own interpretation.  That's kind of neat.  At one point Eisis has a dream about a fallen viking also named Eisis.  Maybe he's an ancestor and his strength is carried on in generation after generation.  I have no idea what that means except both characters are wounded and must continue to fight.  They don't really follow that up with more dream sequences to parallel with the story.  It almost seems out of place but it still works.  The only time it is referenced again is near the end when Eisis is running to save the day and a brief flash of a viking shield and spear (or sword) appears.  The lady shaman has a vision of a tree coming to life and walk past her.  Its a great special effect.  Maybe these kinds of "out of left field" moments may be off putting to those who seek a more action extreme in this film because it deals with the military.  It is risky to put originality in one's work nowadays. 

I guess maybe my only complaints are that EISIS is a little slow in the middle.  It takes a long time for our two main characters to come together and help each other out.  But its never boring.  Let the movie take its time.  The visuals, direction, and concepts presented in the film keeps your mind occupied seeking deeper meanings.  Also the Russian Captain is surprisingly a very interesting character. I would have liked to have had the film explain what his impact on the locals would be if he succeeded in his mission.  That would add a bigger sense of accomplishment in the success of Eisis's mission.

This is a very exciting piece of work.  According to the director the film goes for authenticity.  So a lot of what you see from the soldiers and their practices to the shaman and her rituals are real.  This is a labor of love.  It is evident from every camera shot, piece of music, sound effect and bizzare imagery that there was a lot of thought put into EISIS.  You are not watching another RAMBO clone or something.  EISIS was made to make you think.  It has been a couple of days since I bought it and I still keep going back in my mind thinking of what I saw in this movie.  I plan on watching it again very soon just to see if I get more out of it from a second viewing.  I bought this film simply because my friend had a hand in putting it together.  What I found was a small masterpiece of filmmaking. 

Buy it at


Monday, January 17, 2011

THE PUNISHER......The watered down one.

Back in the mid 90's I was on this Gary Busey kick where I would watch as many of his films as possible.  There was one film called WARRIORS where at the beginning of the movie these special forces guys led by Busey walk through these tall reeds of grass approaching a mafia birthday party.  They gun everyone down including the kids.  It wasn't a very good movie.  Gary Busey didn't die in it.  Busey's best films are usually the ones where he dies in them.  The WARRIORS was a pretty forgettable film.  I hadn't thought of it in years until I was sitting in the theater watching Thomas Jane's THE PUNISHER and I saw the exact same scene happen right before my eyes.  I knew right then that this wasn't going to be the Punisher movie I had been waiting my whole life for.

To sum it up exactly take one part badassness and two parts weak sauce and put them together.  Stir thoroughly until everything that resembles the Punisher from the comic books is completely mushed away into a bland mish-mash of uncreative mainstream gobblety-gook and pour it into a baking pan in the shape of Spider-Man.  Bake for one hundred and twenty three minutes.  Taste what you have created.  Tastes pretty "blah" doesn't it?  Its not terrible but it isn't what you want either.  That is what T.J.'s THE PUNISHER is.  It doesn't suck completely but it does suck in enough areas to ruin what should have been an easy comic movie franchise.

First off lets talk about some positives.  I like the villains.  Travolta is great as Howard Saint the father of a tight knit crime family that is responsible for the death of the Punisher's family.  I know a lot of critics think he is terrible and way over the top but I think he plays the part just right.  He is sharp as a switchblade.  I like how he and his men dressed in black stick out in stark contrast from the happy sunny Florida setting.  The film has a retro eighties action film look to it which is nice to see in this age of over the top CGI extravaganzas.  The blood effects and explosions are practical until the stupid Punisher skull explosion fire at the end.  Thomas Jane is passable as the title character also known as Frank Castle but he doesn't feel authentic.  He always has this sad dopey expression on his face.  He isn't mean looking enough.  The Johnny Cash hit man was pretty cool too.  I really liked his death song for the Punisher.

The thing I hate most about T.J.'s THE PUNISHER is how uncreative the story is.  Again we must suffer through another origin story that follows the SPIDER-MAN formula.  SPIDER-MAN  was also an origin story that had a hero defining memorable line "With great power comes great responsibility."  Also the soundtrack has a duet between the idiot lead singer of Nickleback and the hokey gross lead singer of Saliva.  THE PUNISHER is an origin story with the not so memorable weak hero defining line "Good memories can save your life" or something like that.  It tries to be deep but fails miserably.  At least the duet between whatshername from Evanescence and the singer from Seether is way better.  Look how they treat the story.  First we get a bunch of boring, awkward, poorly acted family scenes to show us the human side of the Punisher.  Of course there is a child that gets to barely spit out his lines and deflate any sense of seriousness the film strives to maintain.  Why do we need to see the origin of Punisher's trademark skull?  The skull represents protection from evil spirits?  WTF?  The comic book Punisher came up with the white skull as a symbol of punishment and to draw the eye of the enemy to fire at his armored chest instead of his head.  See there is some thought there.  None of this, my son bought me this shirt so now I got to wear it so he doesn't feel bad from beyond the grave crap.

The Punisher's past family life is something none of us should see.  It is something that should be left up to the imagination.  But of course the movie needs action scenes so where do they put the biggest one in?  Well the big family reunion seems just as good as any for an action scene.  After all they used guns to kill his family in the comics.  Lets up it a little and involve the Punisher's entire family, relatives and that guy from JAWS as an homage to JAWS because I like the movie JAWS.  Put gun fights in there as well and be sure to add a big car chase with explosions and motorcycle riding and sailing!  The result is the audience's emotions to the characters are distracted by all the action going on.  The spectacle takes the place of the loss of Frank Castle's family.

THE PUNISHER is a revenge film when it shouldn't be.  Castle's main motivation is punishing the guilty.  It is not for revenge.  In the comics I remember reading in the early series the Punisher talking about not knowing if he ever got the guys that murdered his family.  It was realistic like in DEATH WISH.  Charles Bronson never went after the guys that murdered his wife and put his daughter into a coma.  He went after crime in general.  The Punisher did the same.  The not knowing fueled his mission to punish evil doers.  By giving THE PUNISHER the cliched most obvious plot about going after those who murdered his family not only shows how unoriginal the studio is when creating the film but how the creators completely missed the point of the whole character of the Punisher.  I know that in the film the Punisher states that this is not about revenge but it clearly is when after completing his mission he attempts suicide.  His pain from the experience of loss should be responsible for his need to continue on doing the Punisher's work not some weird flash of his dead wife making sad faces at him.

Is it just me or did they overly sexualize the Punisher and make him really stupid?  Seriously I think ol' Frank Castle spends most of the movie with out his shirt on showing off his perfectly sculpted sweaty boobies.  He is like one of those "BOD" fragrance commericals.  He even has these deep meaningful conversations with his neighbors with his shirt off.  When he is wearing a shirt its a tight white t-shirt.  Does he make money winning wet t-shirt contests at gay clubs?  He sure looks like he does.  That is not the Punisher I know.  The funniest part has to be when he rises from the floor in that elevator with his shirt half torn and Rebecca Romain Stamos at his feet with the dramatic lightning over emphasising the cheesiness of the scene.  It looks like something right out of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.  Why would the Punisher announce to everyone in the media that he is alive?  Wouldn't a better strategy for revenge be to make your enemies think you are dead so they don't know who to look for when they go after you?  Why would the Punisher think that no one would call the cops the second they see him on the streets?  Doesn't he risk his fellow neighbors calling the cops on him?  They obviously know who he is from watching the news.  He got really lucky is all I'm saying.  Also the bad guys find his place of residence pretty easy (how?) which almost got him and his new friends killed.  Frank Castle in the comics was a soldier.  He thought in a militaristic mindset on how he dealt with criminals.  There was none of this drinking your sorrows away melodrama or exposing himself to the media and to the cops.

Thankfully THE PUNISHER WAR ZONE got it right.  I can die a happy man now.  Maybe I will do a review on that one someday.  Watch and compare.  Which one understands the Punisher better?  Which one is more creative, colorful and fun to watch?  Heck, I think the Dolph Lundgren version of the Punisher is a far more superior film than the high budget blandfest that came out in theaters in 2004.  I love Thomas Jane.  I don't fault him for the poor story and terrible dialogue.  I do believe that he actually saved the Punisher franchise by rejecting the sequel script.  That allowed for a "no name" actor to take the role and allow a smaller studio to take a more creative approach to the next Punisher movie.  The bigger the name the more mainstream and PG-esque the film has to be.  I still like this version of the Punisher even though there is a lot to forgive.  It has some decent action moments near the end and the funny neighbors are likeable even though they have no business being in a Punisher film.  At least this film doesn't have the Punisher jumping from a tall building and following him down as he shoots his guns shot like DAREDEVIL and GHOSTRIDER ripped off from SPIDER-MAN.......At least.