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Maple Pictures' January '07 Releases

Murder-Set-Pieces (January 17/07)

Despite the positive buzz that's been surrounding it for months now, Murder-Set-Pieces is almost immediately revealed to be nothing more than the latest in a long line of amateurish and flat-out irredeemable low-budget horror flicks. The extraordinarily thin storyline revolves around the exploits of a Hitler-worshipping psychopath (played by Sven Garrett), as he wanders around Las Vegas picking up and subsequently killing a variety of hapless women (hookers, mostly). Infused with headache-inducing stylistic tricks and dialogue that's unusually banal, Murder-Set-Pieces fails to engage the viewer right from the outset - with Garrett's astoundingly inept performance certainly not helping matters. At the very least, one would expect the movie to be loaded with superfluous and entirely gruesome kill sequences - though filmmaker Nick Palumbo manages to bungle even this aspect of the proceedings by leaving far too much to the viewer's imagination (ie he'll often cut away just at the moment of impact to either a shot of Garrett's character lifting weights or to ridiculous footage of his traumatic childhood). The use of dime-store psychobabble to explain away the central character's homicidal tendencies comes off as entirely needless, though that's nothing compared to the inexplicable inclusion of 9/11 imagery (huh?) in the film's third act. That Murder-Set-Pieces has received several positive reviews is baffling, and surely proves that some horror aficionados will give anything with a little (note the emphasis) gore a pass.

no stars out of

Unhitched (January 18/07)

Though Unhitched contains all of the beats and plot points that one expects from a contemporary romantic comedy - including wacky mix-ups and a race to the airport - the film certainly benefits from the light-hearted screenplay and uniformly charismatic performances. Stuart Townsend stars as Olly Pickering, a struggling author who attends an engagement party for old friend James (Steve John Shepherd) and soon finds himself falling for his fiancee (Amy Smart's Sarah). Olly's roommate, Murray (Seth Green), becomes convinced that James doesn't deserve Sarah, and begins working tirelessly to break the couple up (this is all unbeknownst to Olly, of course). It's a familiar storyline to be sure, but it's clear almost immediately that screenwriters Ed Roe and Stefan Schwartz are keenly aware of the sort of movie they're making - as evidenced by their willingness to poke fun at the genre's various conventions. It doesn't hurt that Townsend and Smart have great chemistry together - ensuring that the viewer can't help but root for their inevitable happy ending - and there's little doubt that Green's scene-stealing performance provides the film with most of its laughs. And while the whole thing does start to run out of steam in its third act, Unhitched generally remains an engaging and entertaining piece of work (that being said, one's ability to enjoy the film is directly related to one's tolerance for predictable romcoms).

out of

About the DVDs: Maple Pictures presents both films with letterboxed transfers (only Unhitched is anamorphically-enhanced, however), and though Unhitched comes up empty in terms of bonus features, Murder-Set-Pieces comes armed with a commentary track and a trailer gallery (the deleted scenes advertised on the packaging are nowhere to be found). Additionally, I have been informed by director Nick Palumbo that the version of Murder-Set-Pieces proffered by Maple Pictures (and Lionsgate in the States) is a heavily-censored hackjob. While I don't believe that more gore would've necessarily improved the film noticeably, it's a little disappointing to note that Lionsgate - a studio supposedly known for their horror-friendly modus operandi - have chosen to butcher a film in order to secure its place on Blockbuster's shelves.
© David Nusair