Tuesday, January 17, 2017

NEIGHBORS (1981)

While I was writing a post about STRIPES, I remembered another comedy from 1981. Not that it really matters but I think maybe now NEIGHBORS was in fact the first R rated movie I ever saw? Not as good as STRIPES but I remember liking it. What can a 5 year old like about an R rated comedy? Obviously I was too young for the adult humor, so I probably just laughed because my dad did. Too young for the jokes, I think it was just how crazy and bizarre the humor got that kept my attention.

Growing up I always wanted to watch NEIGHBORS again. This was due to me becoming a big fan of The Blues Brothers. It bothered my parents so much that the VHS tape finally got tapped over. Having rewatched the movie since then I think it was because the movie just wasn't that great, not because of adult humor.

Earl's (Belushi) peaceful suburban life is about to get turned upside down when the new neighbors move in next door. The new neighbors, Vic and Ramona impose themselves on Earl and his family. Doing weird things like offering to get take-out but asking Earl to pay for it. But Earl notices that the Vic just goes back to his house and cooks the meal? There is a prank gone terribly wrong involving a truck rolling into a swamp. Not to mention endless flirtatious advances from the clearly oversexed Ramona.

The list of weirdness and rudeness goes on. But is all of this happening or is Earl making a big deal out of nothing? Or could Vic and Ramona actually be saving Earl from his everyday day to day life?

Knowing a bit about the films production history I can see why NEIGHBORS is kinda forgotten. I don't know if the reason is explained in detail somewhere, but it's a known fact that the film's starts did not get along with the movie's director. Problems began at the very beginning.

Typically known for always playing the loud and obnoxious type, Belushi was going to play the straight man this time around. And Aykroyd was going to play crazy for a change. This switch was made by the actors themselves just prior to filming. In my opinion the "experiment" worked out just fine. But ultimately I feel this was just the first attempt to sabotage a production they no longer wanted part of.

Things got so bad that Belushi reached out to his buddy John Landis and asked him to direct the film. When that didn't work, the two stars tried to convince the studio to let them direct the picture. In the end like the movie or not the production was a nightmare. The lead actors displeased and bad test screenings lead to re-edits and re-shoots. In the end as the films tagline suggests, "A Comedic Nightmare".

It's a shame NEIGHBORS would become John Belushi's final movie, he died less than four months after the films release. According to his friend and colleague Aykroyd, John was doing good kicking his drug habit but the crew on NEIGHBORS didn't do him any favors. Tragic.

So with watching it again just recently it's sad to say that NEIGHBORS isn't some hidden gem. But despite it's flaws I still find it an interesting and sometimes funny film to watch. Also this time around I noticed a few weird subplots that went no where. Probably due to the re-edits I'd imagine?

Despite their disdain for their director, Belushi and Aykroyd keep it professional and they do a good job with the characters. I love how crazy and flamboyant Vic (Aykroyd) is throughout the film, especially the first half. And Belushi does fine work playing Earl, the man too serious to have any fun.

NEIGHBORS is one of those movies that I'd show friends at a movie night. One of those "I betcha never heard of this movie", and pair it with a double feature along side THE BURBS.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

STRIPES

Sometimes I wonder what was the very first movie I remember watching? I don't think I'll ever remember, but it was probably something Disney. I do however remember my first R rated movie! It was the 1981 comedy classic STRIPES! I had to have be at least five years old, and it was either on HBO or my my dad rented it on VHS. The exact timeline is going to be hazey, but one thing was for sure and that was Bill Murray was a staple in the Cox household.

Besides STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK I loved comedies as a kid. The big three for me were CADDYSHACK, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, and of course STRIPES. if you couldn't tell, SNL was a family favorite!

Like I was saying, I remember my first R rated movie. I think my dad's logic was that a five year old wouldn't remember the bad language or nudity. If it ever got really bad I always just had to cover my eyes. But being the good parents my mom and dad were, it was once in a blue moon that I ever got to watch STRIPES. I remember now, it was taped off of HBO.

I think my dad was a huge Bill Murray fan because of the comedians anarchist approach, like with all the SNL alum. And he was also a fan probably because of Murray's rising popularity!

If I was forced to make a list right now of my all time favorite comedies, STRIPES would probably be number one on that list. I know it's my second most watched Bill Murray comedy. The most watched obviously being GHOSTBUSTERS. There was another Bill Murray comedy that I wore out the VHS tape watching, and that was MEATBALLS. Now, I love MEATBALLS but it is no where near good as STRIPES. I bring this up to point out the fact that I think it's the writing that makes the difference.

Both MEATBALLS and STRIPES were directed by Ivan Reitman. Bill and Ivan had something good going with MEATBALLS but whatever they did next had to be better. Enter Harold Ramis, a talented writer who helped make STRIPES the classic it still is today. And just a few years later this talented group along with Dan Aykroyd made GHOSTBUSTERS. Amazing!

For those who don't know, STRIPES is a slob of a movie about two down and outers, Tripp and Rusty, who join the Army just for the hell of it. It is this first half of the film that is the strongest and funniest. During basic training Tripp (Murray) gives Sargent Hulka hell. I still love the montage of basic training duties where Tripp is always slacking off resulting in him doing push-ups.

But my absolute favorite is still the impromptu marching formation the platoon performed at graduation.

It's still funny but once basic training is over the film's second half isn't as strong. Tripp and Rusty take two lovely MP officers for a joy ride to the Swiss Alps in a new state of the art Army secret weapon vehicle disguised as an RV. Come to find out the rest of their platoon is held hostage behind the Iron Curtain. It's a crazy climax in vein of ANIMAL HOUSE and BLUES BROTHERS. What was the deal with crazy endings to comedies in the late Seventies and early Eighties?

In conclusion, I still think STRIPES holds up well for a Bill Murray comedy. If you're a fan but haven't seen this one, I highly recommend you give it a watch.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

LIVE BY NIGHT

Who would have thought that Ben Affleck would become one of the greatest American directors working today? Not me. But it's true, after three consecutive good if not great films and Oscar for Best Director, Ben is a force to be reckoned with. I for one like his style, after his second film THE TOWN, I told myself I'll give all his future films a chance.

When it was announced that Afleck's new film was going to be a gangster movie, I couldn't wait! Within about a month of the films wide release a fair share of bad reviews began trickling in. That's disappointing! I'm still going to see it reguardless of reviews or a low RT score. Why? Because he's earned it.

Well, the critics were right about this one. LIVE BY NIGHT is sort of a stinker. I'd really like to know the history of this film getting made. In the credits I noticed Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the producers of the movie. After thinking about it I could totally see him in the role of Joe, the main character. So it made me wonder if over time the project finally fell on Affleck's lap?

I also began to wonder if LIVE BY NIGHT was meant to be Ben Affleck's masterpiece? With lots of awkwardly placed voice-over narration, this first thing I thought was there must have been some studio pressure to cut the films run time down. LIVE BY NIGHT really feels to me like a 180 minute movie cut down to about 128 minutes. Because of this the 2 hour and 8 minute run time feels like 4 hours. I cannot speak for the source material the film was adapted from, but a film like LIVE BY NIGHT needs to breathe.

Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a "outlaw" who likes it just fine being a petty thief robbing banks from time to time. After an affair with a boss man's girl, Joe is double crossed and left for dead. Out of prison he plots his revenge. In order to do this he partners up with his former boss's competition Maso Pescatore. Mr. Pescatore sets Joe up nicely in Tampa, Florida to run illegal booze and open a casino.

Joe quickly does great for awhile but runs into some problems with the KKK. The KKK become a problem because of Joe's Italian crime boss roots and also his new Cuban girlfriend. Another problem is that of a police chief and his born again Christian daughter.

You can already see how epic this story is getting. It's not long before you can tell what everything is leading up to in LIVE BY NIGHT. It's just that when it does happen it gets there too quickly. Or not fast enough! The pacing of the film felt very jarring at times. I've seen enough of these type of movies where I was loving the choices Affleck was making when telling this story, but too many times things fell flat.

I knew beforehand that it took awhile for the ball to get rolling with LIVE BY NIGHT. GONE GIRL delayed production and I'm sure the same could be said about BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Maybe too much on Ben's plate is a reason LIVE BY NIGHT comes across as a little bit tired?

In conclusion, I recommend LIVE BY NIGHT. As I've begun writing this post I've grown to like the film a little bit more. It's got issues, but if a Director's Cut ever came out, I'd purchase it day one.

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2

It took a few years but I have now finally blogged about all 8 films in the Friday The 13th franchise released by Paramount Pictures. And no I didn't save the best for last with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II, It just ended up being the one I haven't talked about yet.

There was a time when FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II was my least favorite entry in the series. Over time I've grown to appreciate it. So much so that I now actually think it is a better movie than the original. Heavily edited gore and Hillbilly Jason being the only things going against the film. Other than that, the sequel has better characters, more production value, and it's a better directed film.

When comparing the two films FRIDAY THE 13TH will always beat PART II in the kills and gore department, hands down. But in terms of direction and camera work the sequel wins. While FRIDAY THE 13TH has it's moments of good tension building and inventive kills, the rest of the movie is flat and kinda boring.

Even though I think the sequel is a better film it too has it's fair share of problems. The main one being censored gore, a issue that will continue to haunt the series (except part 4). Like the original, there are moments where FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is down right boring. The film begins with a overlong recap dream sequence. I'm sure in 1981 this was fine with fans, getting everyone pumped. But it's long and drawn out, plus Jason going outside of Camp Crystal Lake territory to kill someone feels odd and out of place. The final issue I have is Jason himself. Hillbilly Jason just doesn't work for me, and it never will.

Speaking of Jason, time to point out the elephant in the room, Jason Voorhees. After FRIDAY THE 13TH became a huge hit Paramount Pictures wanted a sequel. Director Sean S. Cunningham liked the idea and presented a anthology concept. Paramount said no, we want Jason. Due to artistic differences Cunningham left the project.

While I like Jason as the killer, his being alive is kind of a plot hole. If Jason is alive, why then did his mother go on a murderous rampage to avenge her son's drowning? A huge plot hole for sure, but it makes for a great campfire story.

Now that the problems are out of the way it's time to talk about what I like. While all these films can be summed up as “Teenagers in Peril” movies with the characters only motivation is to be killed off by Jason, I do like the counselors in PART 2. Yes they are paper thin but likable, a trait long gone in horror, especially in slashers.

Before Tommy Jarvis became the closest thing to a “protagonist” in the series, there was hope for Ginny. Breaking the mold of the traditional Scream Queen, actor Amy Steel in my opinion set a new gold standard for strong willed “Final Girl” characters. The producers had a really good character with Ginny, it's a shame Amy never came back.

I mentioned earlier that FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is a better made film than the original, and it's true. Hands down Steve Miner is a better director than Sean S. Cunningham. It just boils down to that Miner is a better filmmaker. There is a little more substance in Miner's film, and it's got a few darkly comical moments too. There is a scene with a cute dog roaming the woods who runs into Jason, the very next shot is hot dogs cooking on a grill. It's hilarious!

It seems to me that the first four films in the series add something iconic to the franchise as a whole. In the original movie it's the twist ending, PART 2 is Jason's shrine to his dead mother, Part 3 is the first appearance of the classic hockey mask, and THE FINAL CHAPTER introduces the most popular protagonist of the series, Tommy Jarvis. In conclusion, I highly recommend FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. It's Jason's first legit appearance, the cast of camp counselors are better, and like I've said a few times already it's a better looking film than the original. You can tell the studio put a little extra money into the production.

So when the next Friday the 13th rolls around gather some friends put on a pot of coffee and marathon the first four movies!

Happy belated Friday the 13th!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

LA LA LAND

If you were to search this blog's archive or browse my movie collection you'd think I don't like musicals. Which reminds me, I really should review THE WIZARD OF OZ sometime! But yeah, I like musicals. The high school musical was probably my first foray into being a “critic” (for the record I do not consider myself a critic).

Deep down I think I always wanted to be a director. But there was a time that I wanted to be an actor. In grade school my grandma and her friend had season passes to Springfield Little Theater. I was always happy when I got to go! The most memorable ones were 'Little Shop of Horrors' and 'Wizard of Oz'. Because of my love for plays my parents enrolled me a summer school course for acting/performing arts. I didn't much care for it.

As a pre-teen and young teenager one of my favorite things to do was go see high school plays. 'Grease' was my favorite*. Back in Seventh grade I remember going to a high school production. It was a blast! I had fun comparing it to the film version and a Springfield Little Theater production (I think).

As I got older my interests changed a lot. I was big into comic books and drawing. Music became a big deal to me. Mainly the bands from the Northwest, the Seattle sound was what I was into. And movies really really started to become important to me. The films of Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino. These guys made me want to become a filmmaker.

So Indie Comedies and stylized violence dominated my late teens and twenties. The Musical genre became a distant memory to me. A childish thing I outgrew. And a genre that only drama class alums and Academy Award members could appreciate.

Then something weird happened. I forget the year, but during awards season I made an effort to watch CHICAGO ironically (Yes, I long for the day that a super stylized action film wins Best Picture). Turns out, I loved the movie! The spectacle of it most of all! I loved the production value of the movie. My appreciation for CHICAGO taught me that the Musical is a genre to be reckoned with and by nature cinematic!

I only saw CHICAGO that one time which I hear is perfectly okay because the film is overrated anyways. What? That's fine because while CHICAGO reinforced the cinematic importance of the Musical, it was a Broadway musical and classic film that made me love the genre!

10 years ago I went to spend a few vacation days in New York City. One thing I wasn't looking forward to on the itinerary was seeing 'Wicked' on Broadway. The main reason was because of the price of the ticket. Ouch! Now I don't know if it was worth every penny (honestly it is), but seeing the show was an experience I'll never forget. I'm sure the material played a part but it was the performances and production that blew me away!

More recently I went to see the film SINGIN' IN THE RAIN on the big screen. The only thing that could top that experience would be a pristine 35mm film print presentation. As of now SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is my favorite musical film. Because of it I have sought out several other movies just like it. In doing so I've found myself liking very few of them.

The reason I don't talk much about the genre is because I'm very picky.

If the music is good I guess I'm not picky? Example; I was going to say I also don't like a musical if all the dialogue is sing-song, like REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. But that's not true, because I loved SWEENEY TOOD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. It just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste, and you like what you like because you just do.

This all brings me to why LA LA LAND is my favorite film of 2016. I didn't want to alter my list at first because I already had my choices picked and SING STREET would be tough to beat. Secondly, I didn't want to have my viewing experience of LA LA LAND be tarnished with me wondering if it'll be my favorite film of 2016 after all?

About halfway through the film I knew I loved it, but I was going to leave my list alone. Then it was during the drive home and listening to the soundtrack on Spotify when I got home that my mind began to change.

LA LA LAND is kinda a personal movie to me right now. It's a film about not giving up on your dreams. I'm at a point in my life where it's well past “Poop or get off the pot”. But lucky for me I have nothing to hold me back to pursue my passion, and failure wouldn't put me into debt.

In LA LA LAND, Hollywood is a magical place where dreams come true. The prologue sets up that dreamers movie to L.A to make it big. They all have a story (song) about trekking to California from their nothing hometown. It's here that we meet Mia (Emma Stone) who is an aspiring actress. At first you'd think she's terrible, but that's not it at all. The problem is that in her hometown she was probably one in a million, but here she's one million in a billion.

After a disappointing party and walking home because of a towed car she hears some amazing piano coming from a nightclub. It's here that we're introduced to Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a talented piano player/musician who loves jazz. He loves jazz so much that his dream is to open his own nightclub.

The two meet and fall in love becoming each others muse. Eventually they realize though that probably the best way to reach their dreams is to go separate ways.

That's the best synopsis I can give without ruining the movie. In many ways LA LA LAND is a throwback to the classic musicals. Every shot in the film is magic. Shot in CinemaScope, the dance numbers are big and immersive. All the musical numbers are great and the final sequence at the end of the film is worth the price of admission alone.

While probably corny and cliche without the musical numbers it was the films message that really got to me. Never give up on your dreams (whatever they may be) even if it costs you something. Stepping out of your comfort zone or leaving a relationship is probably what it's going to take to make those dreams happen. In other words, life is all about risk.

Not everybody's dream will come true, but the point LA LA LAND is trying to make (I think) is that every dream is worth fighting for.

LA LA LAND is highly recommended!

* 'Grease' is not my favorite musical of all time or anything like that. Just at the time I enjoyed seeing different high school productions of it.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Forward to in 2017

2017 is the year I turn 40. Wow, hard to believe! It's also the year where I'm going to be so busy I can't see straight. For starters I have 3 months to loose 50 pounds before my birthday. It's a lifestyle change not a resolution! Secondly, 2017 is the year I'm going to start making movies. And last but not least, transition to a website instead of a blog. For the past few weeks I've been analyzing too much that I can't continue to review movies and make movies at the same time? That I can't do both? Challenge accepted!

I'm ready for 2017. Seeing that I already posted my favorite movies of year, I figured I'd get one more post in before the end of 2016. With Springfield getting it's very own Alamo Drafthouse in Spring of 2017, I thought it'd be nice to list my most anticipated films of 2017. It's still early, but there is already a good amount on the slate for next year. Let's get to it shall we!

And as far as order goes, lets rank them from least to most anticipated. I think 15 should be enough! Keep in mind these will be mostly genre films and summer blockbusters.

LA LA LAND

Yes I know, this film was released last year but we're probably getting it in theaters early 2017 if at all? I loved the directors last film WHIPLASH and I greatly appreciate old Hollywood musicals, and LA LA LAND looks like one if you ask me!

SILENCE

Another 2016 release, but the film doesn't get a wide release until January. Don't let me down Springfield!

LIVE BY NIGHT

Okay, this is the last 2016 release I swear. Same situation as SILENCE, and with Afleck notorious for casting beautiful people in his gritty crime dramas (THE TOWN), the major multiplexes shouldn't have a problem releasing it?

JUSTICE LEAGUE

A DC Comics superhero team-up movie, of course I'm looking forward to this it! Hopefully Warner Bros has heard the constructive criticism as they continue to move forward with the DCEU. I just hope they don't hire Trailer Park to edit these movies anymore?

GHOST IN THE SHELL

This is probably going to be weird and terrible, but in a good way I'm hopping. And let's be honest, fans of the original animated film are going to roast it anyway. Nerds are a hard sell, which is good but...

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Even with a visionary director at the helm, I don't see how they can pull this off? I bet they do!

THOR: RAGNAROK

This better be Thor and Hulk having adventures in space and we get to see Space-Gladiator Hulk!

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

Super creepy asylum film from the director of THE RING. Sold! Plus it looks very inspired from 70's cinema. Double sold!

ALIEN: COVENANT

Fans of the franchise and haters of PROMETHEUS should be pleased. I think they heard your complaints.

WONDER WOMAN

The wait for a Wonder Woman is finally over! Why did it take so long for a superhero movie like this to come out? The trailer is fantastic. Cannot wait!

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO

I'm ready for another story in this universe. LOGAN

Potential to be the greatest comic book movie ever!

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Favorite film of the year excitement on this one! Fingers crossed this will be the first movie I see at Alamo Drafthouse!

STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII

Will we find out who Rey's parents are? Will Kylo Ren betray the Dark Side like his grandpa? I cannot wait to find out!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Super predictable pick I know but there is a reason this is probably everybody's most anticipated film of 2017!

Happy New Year!!!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Disappointments of 2016

At first I really wasn't going to do one of these lists this year because with time, money, and Rotten Tomatoes why watch bad movies at all? The future of my blog is uncertain in 2017. I may be revamping a switching to an actual website next year. It'll be written reviews with the intent of video blogs and YouTube channel eventually.

But, I received some constructive criticism the other day that might make me scrap the whole thing. If I am not a member of the press or have connections to get early screeners for movies, I shouldn't give Hollywood my money to continue to produce crappy movies. This person has a point, and it's making me rethink some things.

So this years list is more of a selection of disappointments rather than 'Worst' movies I saw. It's going to be a mixture really. And maybe disappointments are far greater punishment? No, not really.

Top 10 Disappointments of 2016 (10 – 1)

JASON BOURNE

For a good part of the year this movie was between 'Close But No Cigar' and 'Disappointments'. It came down to this and HARDCORE HENRY. I'm not a fan of either, but JASON BOURNE has no excuse for how terrible it is. Shame on the actor and director for laughing all the way to the bank I actually went to see this on a Thursday night with a large group of fans, and NONE of them liked it.

THE BOY

I remember the trailers for this and I couldn't take it seriously. Sorry, but evil dolls just don't do it for me unless they are named Chucky. It wasn't until a recommendation from BirthMoviesDeath that made me wanna check it out.

THE BOY was never going to set the horror world on fire, but I found myself enjoying the movie quite a bit. Then the ending ruined all of that! And I'm not talking about the twist. Toward the end a dumb ex-boyfriend character shows up out of the blue to create drama and suspense that the movie didn't warrant or need. Dumb.

MR. RIGHT

Written by Max Landis and directed by somebody. On paper this movie kinda works but on screen it just keeps getting worse and worse. The only thing that saves this movie are it's two stars, Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick. They are both having fun with their characters and salvaging what they can to make MR. RIGHT worth watching. I personally think the director needs to watch more tough guy movies and rely less on goons saying the 'F' word.

HARD TARGET 2

It breaks my heart to have this movie on this list, but HARD TARGET 2 definitely earned it. Not even one of Hollywood's greatest action stars working today saved this movie. I hate that Scott Adkins is in this! His appearance in DOCTOR STRANGE makes up for it.

HARD TARGET 2 reminded me of those terrible Rambo knock-offs from the late 80's and early 90's. The good old days of when two mounted machine guns on a motorcycle is better than one! Cool!!!!

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY

Comedies really shouldn't be on lists like these, because what I find unfunny someone else will think it's hilarious. Too much of what this film was going for punch line wise I just didn't care for. But we call agree the movie is probably better than FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK.

HOW TO BE SINGLE

Again, comedies really shouldn't be on the list but this movie was a chore. Rebel Wilson is amazing but here she kinda got on my nerves. And Dakota Johnson has ZERO star power whatsoever!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

Not crazy enough and not rated R. A PG-13 zombie movie when there is a popular television show that's more graphic than most horror films? Get real.

THE FOREST

Jump scare, dream. Jump scare, dream. Wash and repeat.

INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE

If this is one of the worst or most disappointing movies I've seen this year then I'm probably doing pretty good. I lay it all out in my review, check it out. But it's worth repeating that the studio messed up big time by not showing up to Will Smith's house with a dump truck of cash!

CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY

Awe yeah! Martial arts and wu shu action from the director of IRON MONKEY and action choreographer of THE MATRIX! What could go wrong? Everything apparently. Probably not the worst film of 2016, but it sure pissed me off!

Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Favorites of 2016

This year wasn't a great year for film. A lot of the one's I wanted to love ended up being just okay. And let's face it Summer movies sucked in 2016! Either I'm getting older or they're getting stupider? The answer is both. But, I have a feeling 2017 is going to rock in terms of cinema!

To help ease the pain of January we've got SILENCE and LIVE BY NIGHT to look forward to. And we got LEGO BATMAN MOVIE and JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 helping us through February. Then in Spring of 2017, things are going to start becoming awesome with Springfield, MO getting it's very own Alamo Drafthouse theater! I cannot wait.

Before I list my favorite movies of 2016 there are some films I haven't seen yet, LA LA LAND and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA were two movies that I was really hoping to see but probably won't get to until next year? Oh well. And as always if there is a critical darling that's not on my list it's because I probably haven't seen it, or didn't think it was as good as the 10 I picked.

Let's get to it shall we!

First, some honorable mentions: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, CAPTAIN AMERICA – CIVIL WAR, and THE NEON DEMON.

Top 10 Favorites Of 2016 (10 – 1)

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

When I heard that Richard Linklater was making a spiritual sequel to his 1992 film DAZED AND CONFUSED I like everybody else was skeptical. At least it wasn't going to be an actual sequel, that was good news! But could Linklater repeat the brilliance of his sophomore film without it being just a repeat? The answer is yes. The similarities are there and obvious, but I actual found the film to have more in common with his debut feature SLACKER. They're not all masterpieces but I've learned to never doubt the auteur Richard Linklater.

EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

I haven't been a teenager in quite awhile but I can't help but think that this film is the real deal. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is the funniest and most important teenage coming-of-age film I've seen in a long time. I think moviegoers are afraid of real these days, especially real women. Nadine, who is the main character in this is a hot-mess and audiences don't like uncomfortable. They want Disney or 90's Alicia Silverstone.

THE HANDMAIDEN

From the director of OLDBOY, that's the only reason I saw this film. If not for Chan-wook Park I probably wouldn't have giving the film a shot. THE HANDMAIDEN is proof that I'll continue to watch anything from the director. I'm planning on a full review for Valentine's Day next year, so look forward to that! This film made me blush. Who says the erotic thriller is dead? Maybe fluff like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY but not THE HANDMAIDEN, nope, no sir.

DOCTOR STRANGE

In a time where comic book movie fatigue is starting to rear it's ugly head, Marvel Studios pulls a stunt like DOCTOR STRANGE and totally redeems the origin story superhero films that fans are getting tired of.

ARRIVAL

I think I like last year's SICARIO better, but Denis Villeneuve is a genius and I cannot wait for BLADE RUNNER 2049!!

ARRIVAL is great for being the alien invasion film it is not. That's all I can really say other than I highly recommend seeing the movie.

GREEN ROOM

I'm happy as a clam to finally have a grindhouse horror film on my 'Favorites' list. A beautifully shot drive-in movie is how I describe GREEN ROOM, and I love that!

HELL OR HIGH WATER

A movie about two brothers who only rob banks to pay off a mortgage with a Texas Ranger hot on their trail. The trailers for this made the movie look like a run-of-the-mill DTV release. The movie is anything but that! Highly recommended for those who love 70's cinema.

THE NICE GUYS

Shane Black just needs to go ahead and write and direct all the movies! That's going a little overboard I know, but damn, I just love Black's style. He is a master in pulp, double feature this with his KISS KISS BANG BANG and you'll know what I mean. This pairs very well with PULP FICTION so I'm told, and I 100% believe that!

And my favorite movie of 2016 is...

SING STREET

I haven't stopped thinking about this movie since I saw it. When it came out on Blu-Ray I let four or five people borrow it! A review is coming soon. Seriously, any of my top 5 picks could be number one, and up until 1/06/17, SING STREET was it. But not anymore.

And my favorite movie of 2016 is...

LA LA LAND

I almost didn't update my list but thinking about LA LA LAND overnight I couldn't stop help myself. The film is just pure musical magic. And what I think the movie is really about hit close to home. My review says it all!

Thanks for reading! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

ROGUE ONE

It's hard to imagine that a year ago STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS was released in theaters. And thus a new tradition is born, a new Star Wars film at the end of every year! It's weird to me that these movies are going to continue after I die. Will I want to even see the new Star Wars when I'm 75?

When news broke about the first Star Wars Anthology film being about the Rebel spies stealing plans for the Death Star, I thought it sounded brilliant. I love the men-on-a-mission genre. THE DIRTY DOZEN and THE GUNS OF NAVARONE are two of my favorite war films. The only doubts I had of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY was if it was a story that needed to be told? The opening crawl of STAR WARS told us basic information, and our imagination did the rest. Was this new movie just an excuse to have Darth Vader (a.k.a brand recognition) appear in the new cannon?

The verdict is still out if I think this is a “necessary” Star Wars film? That doesn't imply that I didn't like the movie because ROGUE ONE is pretty awesome! It's a war movie set in the Star Wars universe, WHERE EAGLES DARE with Droids! What's not to like!

Days if not hours leading up to seeing the film my anticipation was getting the best of me. Debating with friends on how much this “standalone” film was going to compare with the Episodes? It was confirmed by Lucasfilm that there would be no crawl at the beginning of the movie. Those are only for the Skywalker saga. That actually makes sense but now begs the question, what other things will be missing? The Star Wars logo? The famous Kurosawa transition swipes?

After the Lucasfilm logo and the most famous blue lettered title card in cinema history, the movie begins! No Star Wars theme or crawl. This was jarring at first but a nitpick that was easily forgiven and forgotten.

Like I mentioned earlier, ROGUE ONE is a war movie. For years the Empire has secretly been building a battle station rumored to destroy planets. An Imperial pilot has defected and has vital information regarding the technological terror the Empire has constructed. Galen Erso, the engineer who designed the weapon for the battle station has a message for his old friend and extremist Saw Gerrera about said weapon. Rebellion Intelligence learn from this and sends Cassian Andor to intercept. Cassian finds Erso's daughter Jyn, in hopes of convincing Saw to tell the Alliance everything he knows.

Jyn learns of the trap that her father designed into the Death Star so that it can be destroyed. At the Rebels secret base it is decided that this information is too vague to launch an attack upon the Empire. It's up to Jyn and a band of rogues to steal the data that could save the galaxy.

SPOILERS!!

While I really really like ROGUE ONE it goes without saying that I have issues with the film. First of all the characters aren't that memorable, unlike last years STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS. The other issue I have is the return of classic characters. Since ROGUE ONE is a prequel to STAR WARS we see Grand Moff Tarkin. Instead of casting an actor who resembles the late Peter Cushing and apply prosthetic facial makeup, the filmmakers decided to go with CGI?

I've seen the movie twice and the first time was in 3D IMAX, the CGI face I didn't find too distracting. But when I watched it a second time in a regular theater, the CGI was super noticeable. The technology is getting better but I don't think will ever be perfect.

Speaking of CGI the next scene I wanna mention is the final shot. Love it or hate it, it's one of those seemingly mandatory shots in any spin-off tying together the main story. Yes, I'm talking about Princess Leia. I like the scene because I'm a Star Wars geek. But completely understand why folks would hate it and deem it pointless. It does seem like a gag for the fans sitting up in the cheap seats.

In fact, I wish the film would have ended with Jyn and Cassian's dying embrace. Too much of a downer I know. That might have be too bleak?

But I gotta give Disney credit for allowing ROGUE ONE to go as dark as it did! In the beginning of STAR WARS I felt is was always implied that the Empire killed the spies who stole the Death Star plans. And like any good suicide mission film, nobody in ROGUE ONE was coming back home.

I would have put money down that Disney mandated the character of Jyn and at least two others safely escape the Empire. Turns out I was wrong, and I'm happy about that.

The first two acts of ROGUE ONE are pretty slow with some nice action beats sprinkled here and there. I found the cloak and dagger stuff interesting. All the intercepting of transmissions involving the Intel of the Imperial defector, Saw, and Galen felt like an old school spy/war movie.

But it's the films final act that earns ROGUE ONE it's full admission price. The attack of Scarif is the catalyst for STAR WARS. It's the opening crawl come to life. Was it necessary? Probably not, but for those fans who always dreamed that this universe was bigger than the Skywalker family, Episode IV is now even better because of it.

I don't know for how long (probably since 1977) but among fans of STAR WARS there has been a debatable plot-hole in the film. That of the Death Star's weakness, the thermal exhaust port. The design flaw has been the butt of the joke for many fans of the film. ROGUE ONE has fixed that. From now on it will be kinda cool knowing that Galen Erso made the flaw on purpose. He gave the Death Star a fuse.

Now the moment you're probably all wondering, what did I think about Darth Vader? I'm happy to announce that Vader is back! Back to the Vader we know and love. George Lucas dropped the ball big time with the character in REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Vader is awesome in ROGUE ONE! The film gives him the menace that we remember in the original trilogy. He has his own castle in the movie! And despite what Lucas tried to make us think, Anakin is not in that suit 24/7. Which reminds me, the suit. The suit is a throwback to how the design looked in STAR WARS. They did a fantastic job. I wanna believe the costume was practical but I'm unsure? What looked CGI to me could have been crisp digital projection?

But let's talk about that castle for a bit. Way before REVENGE OF THE SITH the Obi-Wan and Anakin duel on a lava planet was already cannon. In the early stages of per-production on EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Lucas toyed with the idea that Darth Vader lived in a castle on a lava planet. A planet where Anakin became more machine than man.

I swear that when I was younger a friend of mine had a Star Wars comic book that showed Obi-Wan defeating Anakin on a lava planet! Maybe it was a origin of Vader issue? Regardless, I love the fact that this was cannon before Episode III. And that ROGUE ONE does a bit of retcon when it comes to the prequels. Meaning, the new film might be using notes and concept ideas that predate REVENGE OF THE SITH by a long shot Yeah, Vader probably lives on Mustafar as a tragic reminder to himself of the monster he's become. But was it always called Mustafar?

There is only one lightsaber in ROGUE ONE and rightfully so! Probably my favorite Darth Vader moment is when the Imperials board a Rebel cruiser. The Rebel soldiers are ready for battle! Scared but ready. The fear on their faces when Vader appears tells you everything you need to know about the Dark Lord of the Sith's reputation in the galaxy!

Due to budget and special effects limitations the classic lightsaber duel from STAR WARS is pretty un-spectacular by today's standards. So in the new film when Vader goes all Jason Voorhees with his lightsaber, it feels somewhat out of place. The scene becomes glorified fan fiction. I normally hate fan fiction but here I give it a pass.

ROGUE ONE needed to have Darth Vader be scary and kick ass. For far too long has the character been the mascot for Star Wars. Everything from hip-hop dancing at Disneyland, car commercials, and greeting cards it was time to remind people that Vader was once the greatest film villain ever!

In conclusion, I highly recommend ROGUE ONE. Is the film "necessary"? I think so, and so will other Star Wars fans. It's a great war film first and a good Star Wars story second. I just hope the Han Solo movie doesn't end with him and Chewbacca setting a course to Mos Eisley?

And I almost forgot to mention K-2SO. He's great! A welcomed tradition of memorable droid characters in the Star Wars universe. But contrary to popular critic belief, K-2SO is not the only memorable thing in the movie.

May the Force be with you!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is a 2016 film written and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford. It is his second movie following 2009's A SINGLE MAN, which was a critical darling. I am unfamiliar with the world of fashion but after watching only his second directorial feature, the man should get behind the camera more often.

With a film staring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal you'd think such star power would have NOCTURNAL ANIMALS playing nationwide? I love going to my local art-house movie theater, but given the chance, I'm picking the multiplex. It's a matter of better presentation, sorry. So as I was saying, two big movie stars and no wide release? Weird. It wasn't until the movie started that I realized why this wasn't playing across the hall from MOANA.

The opening minutes of NOCTURNAL AMIMALS is the most awkward time I've had in a theater this year. A bunch of middle aged obese women dancing around in nothing but their birthday suit. Awkward. I started to wonder if this was Tom Ford's attempt to be David Lynch? At this moment the context of the naked women became clear, we're watching an art exhibit show. There is a meaning behind them but I best leave that to those better at film analysis.

Susan (Amy Adams) a art gallery owner one day receives a manuscript from her ex husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn't spoken to or seen in years. She begins to read the book and quickly discovers it mirrors their relationship.

When we first meet Susan she is a very lonely woman. Which explains her exhibit of naked overweight women. The women are happy and liberated. Susan is not. A lot of empty spaces occupy her home. And the relationship with her womanizing new husband appears unhealthy and toxic. Susan begins to read the book and she gets hooked. At first it's because of how much the story reminds her of what she did to Edward. This is one of three narratives shown non linearly in the film. The novel is second narrative.

The novel is about one man's revenge against those who raped and murdered his wife and child. With the help of a Texas lawman they track the men down and plan to kill them. Without getting too spoiler-ish the events in the book mirror why Susan and Edward ended their marriage. More accurately, why Susan wanted to get a divorce.

The third narrative is how our main characters met, fell in love, and got divorced. This is where the film really gets interesting and cool, or too 'on the nose' depending on your taste. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is a film that requires undivided attention.

Once we start seeing how Susan and Edward met and fell in love, director Tom Ford starts giving us awesome visual cues. One example; in the manuscript narrative, the mother and daughter are found dead on a red couch. In the past narrative we see Susan telling Edward that she wants a divorce, she's sitting on a red couch.

That was an easy example, there are tougher ones that I won't spoil. The ending is a big one that I'm still trying to figure out. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is indeed a revenge story but it also might be the best thing to ever happen to Susan. Edward may have hurt her and helped her at the same time?

I was expecting more of a straight forward film noir with NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. But glad I got a more complex movie instead.

In conclusion, I'm only recommending NOCTURNAL ANIMALS to movie buffs. I could see a lot of moviegoers hating the three narrative structure of the film. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are good as always!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

MOANA

2016 has kinda been the year of the animated film for me. I've seen five this year. Five in the theater, that's a new adult record for me. I'm I ashamed? No. All of them have been very good if not great! To be honest most Disney Animated and Pixar films give the live action stuff a run for their money. That's a scary thought. Not from a creative perspective but a business one. Do movie goers only flock to the theater to see Disney films anymore? That's a opinion I may tackle some other time. Today I'm talking about MOANA.

I almost took a pass on seeing MOANA at the theater. With already seeing ZOOTOPIA and FINDING DORY, I felt MOANA could wait till Netflix. It's a good thing I didn't wait, because MOANA rocks on the big screen. We're well on our way to Winter 2016 so it was inviting to see an animation style lush with color and Polynesian culture. The music is good as well!

This is a animated musical so you gotta talk about the music. You've got the guy wrote the HAMILTON Broadway musical co-writing some of the songs. While I cannot vouch for HAMILTON , I do know that Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented. The songs in MOANA are proof, plus the new cantina song he wrote for STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is awesome!

But the ultimate credit for the music in MOANA has to go to the directors of the movie, Ron Clements and John Musker. Among others they directed ALADDIN and THE LITTLE MERMAID, so right there it's a automatic win. I had a friend in high school who had the ALADDIN soundtrack. We listened to that thing ironically for the most part, but those songs were catchy I'll admit.

So of course MOANA is about Moana, a young woman who will one day rule her people. But Moana has no interest in such things and would rather go sailing beyond the reef and explore the sea. Her chieftain father will have no such thing as it is forbidden for anyone to go past the reef.

Years go by and something (as in a curse) has been slowly killing the plant life on the island. Moana and her grandmother know the cure is out beyond the reef. The sea has always had a special bond with Moana. She knows it's up to her to find Maui, the demi-god, who according to the myth is responsible for the curse because he stole/lost an important stone.

Against her father's will Moana sets sail to find Maui and return the stone to where it belongs. And it's here where our adventure finally begins.

I say finally because it feels like the film takes forever to get the adventure going. I know this is a kids movie so it's normal for exposition to get repeated, but I clearly felt a redundancy issue with MOANA. There were too many false starts to the adventure in my opinion.

Once Moana and Maui meet the real fun begins. I felt myself getting lost in the mythology of the film. The search for Maui's hook-staff was my favorite part. Our two heroes have to dive into some kind of monster realm to steal back the hook-staff from a giant crab. It reminded me of CLASH OF THE TITANS or a SINBAD film.

It also made me think of another animated film that was released this year. I found myself getting a tad bit distracted thinking about KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS during some key moments. But that's okay, stuff like that is bound to happen in movies. Blame it on coincidence and the writings of Joseph Campbell.

In conclusion, I highly recommend MOANA if you're a fan of Disney animated films. It's a beautiful movie to look at with fun mythological adventure, the songs are great too.

Friday, November 25, 2016

LOVING

The other day while seeing THE HANDMAIDEN at my local art-house movie theater, I saw a trailer for the film LOVING. They had the poster in the lobby and I thought nothing of it. Just looked like a romance movie to me. The trailer however pulled my heart strings. Very moving.

LOVING is a 2016 film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It is based on the true story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, and their years-long civil rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. The couple went out of state to get married in Washington D.C., the state of Virginia didn't like that very much and put them in jail. And after jail, banned them from the state for 25 years.

After a new residence and three kids later, Mildred decides the city is no place for her children to grow up. Taking a friends advice she seeks the help and writes a letter to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The situation gets his attention and a lawyer from the ACLU quickly gets appointed to handle the case.

Spoiler alert, they win. What I love about LOVING is Nichols and his decision to make the civil rights aspect of the film always in the background. What is front and center is two people madly in love and just wanting to be a family. I was waiting to cringe at the Oscar bait moments concerning speeches from lawyers and judges ( if this was the 90's there would be). But there was none. In fact there wasn't one cliché. The film just shows us the power of their love.

Okay, the scene I'm about to describe may sound cheesy but I swear it's not. The Loving's just received news that the Supreme Court is taking their case. They tell the lawyers they are not going, seeing that it's not required for them to be present in Court. A tad shocked and dismayed one of the lawyers asks Richard “What do you want me to tell the Court”? Richard replies, “Tell them I love my wife”.

That scene sums up the entire film perfectly! Not to mention the whole point of the film.

LOVING certainly will be one of my favorite films of the year. Will it crack the Top 10? Doubtful. I love a good drama, but I'm a genre kinda guy. But you never know? My list so far has a lot of art-house in it. Here's a preview (in no particular order): THE NEON DEMON, SING STREET, THE NICE GUYS, GREEN ROOM, HELL OR HIGH WATER, and EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!.

I left the theater changed after seeing LOVING. Not to get political or religious but I left a little teary-eyed thinking to myself thoughts about the 'pursuit of happiness', 'enabling rights', and who are we to judge what love is. It's good when a film fills you with emotion to stop and think about society. LOVING didn't get preachy so neither am I.

In conclusion, I highly recommend LOVING if you like a good love story and civil rights drama that's cinematic. Which reminds me. I still need to see Jeff Nichols' other 2016 film MIDNIGHT SPECIAL!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

One film franchise I've yet to talk about are the Harry Potter movies. I like the series just fine but seven films is something I just don't wanna commit to right now. What I will do is give you a brief history of how I became a fan of the books and movies.

When I first heard about HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE I wrote it off as a kid's movie. I eventually saw the film and thought it was okay, okay enough to watch the second movie as well. Cool kids films and nothing more. Long story short, it wasn't until going to see HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX with some friends that I became a fan.

To say the film had me confused is a understatement; but, I loved the world these characters were living in. The next day I went to the bookstore and bought the first three books. I had just gotten out of a terrible relationship and craved alone time. All I did for a month was go to work, and come home to read Harry Potter. Not bragging, but I read Years 1 – 4 in a 2 two weeks time. I slowed down after Book 4.

By the time I got to HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE I was disappointed. The books were becoming way way better than the movies. Meaning the films really felt like they were becoming fan service to those who've read the books. One of these days I might watch them all again just to see if they hold up as just films? PHOENIX, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, and DEATHLY HOLLOWS I & 2 probably do not.

When Warner Bros announced they were making more Harry Potter films I wasn't very excited. I quickly thought it was going to be about his kids going to Hogwarts. Boring! But when I heard it was a non Potter tale, that's when I became open to the idea. An original movie set in the Wizarding World written by J.K. Rowling, count me in!

The year is 1926 and Newt Scamander is making a brief stopover in New York City. Newt, a collector and document keeper of magical creatures runs into trouble when his suitcase gets swapped with an identical case. The mix-up causes Newt's creatures to run amok in the city causing trouble. Meanwhile ,a dark force is wreaking havoc as well. Coincidence? Or is dark magic afoot?

Porpentina, a lackey for the Magical Congress of the United States of America, notices Newt using magic in public. She tries to report it but gets lectured about her role in the MACUSA. Instead the Congress seem to busy trying to determine if dark wizard Grindelwald is on the prowl. And Percival the security chief is on the case.

Eventually Newt's task of finding all of his Beasts crosses paths with Percival and his investigation. And he must stop the dark force before it's too late.

For a original story FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM manages to make a very entertaining film set in the Wizarding World universe. My favorite character was the aspiring baker Jacob. This character was the audience guide for the movie. The filmmakers did very well with how they handled the info drops to Jacob (and us) to move the plot forward. A lesser screenwriter and director would have put the required exposition in a voice over narration, or something boring along those lines.

The other thing that makes the new film great is that the reminders you are watching a Harry Potter spin-off are kept to a minimum. There was no winking to the audience that we're indeed watching a Potter movie. I noticed a few easter eggs but nothing too obvious.

In conclusion, I might end up liking this new Wizarding World franchise better than the Harry Potter films. It's way too early to tell for sure but I just have a feeling. The seeds have been planted for Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald! Even though fans know the outcome, it'll be a treat to see it play out on the big screen. Wizards during WWII, I cannot wait!

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is highly recommended.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

DOCTOR STRANGE

Before I begin I must tell you that if you're going to see this movie you MUST see it in IMAX 3D. Tonight I just saw it in a standard theater, but that's changing tomorrow. Even if I had seen it on the IMAX I'm still seeing it tomorrow. Yes, it's going to be one of those posts/reviews!

DOCTOR STRANGE is my favorite comic book movie of 2016! It's debatable the movie might be my favorite comic book movie of all time! Now, I don't wanna get carried away so I'll give the film some days if not weeks to brew in my head before I make a statement like that legit. But there is a sequence toward the end of the film that is the best live action comic book I have ever seen. Ever!

My knowledge of the Doctor Strange character is very limited but I know enough that the film seemed very faithful to the source material. To be fair this is Marvel Studios we're talking about, they know how to do it right! To prepare for the movie I had been reading the new series for about a year (12 issues and a couple one-shots), and I was surprised at how much I picked up on. If I was able to notice a few easter eggs, then fans shouldn't have a problem finding tons more I'd imagine!

The only thing I dreaded about seeing DOCTOR STRANGE was the chore of sitting through another origin story. Can I just wait and see DOCTOR STRANGE 2? But like it or not origin films are necessary. I really believe Steven Strange is going to play a vital role in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. And for us the audience to buy into what he can do with his powers, they need to start at the beginning. Showing up to save the day in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR without a proper introduction can't cut it these days.

Doctor Steven Strange is one of the best Neurosurgeons in the country, maybe the world. After a horrific car accident leaving his hands practically useless, Steven searches for a miracle procedure, but no surgeon on Earth will take the risk. One day a physical therapist tells him about a patient far worse than him who got better because he didn't give up hope.

Steven meets the patient who then tells him he must go to Nepal if he wants to be healed. Reluctant at first, Steven goes anyway. There he meets the Ancient One, who tells Steven about healing and his greater purpose if he so desires to choose it. After an astral out-of-body experience and trips to several multiverses, Steven Strange wants to know more. All of it in fact. And thus Doctor Strange is born.

Good thing Steven is a fast learner because as soon as he learns some of the mystic arts, he's reluctantly defending one of the three Sanctum Sanctorum's from Kaecilius, a evil Sorcerer Supreme hell bent on destorying Earth.

DOCTOR STRANGE is your standard origin comic book film. But there are enough interesting distractions that make you forget it is a standard origin movie. I actually found myself wanting more scenes of Strange learning the mystic arts. It's so good! My favorite is a shot of him sleeping while his astral body is hovering bedside reading a book.

I still have lots and lots to say, but I wanna give people a chance to see it. And I want to see it a few more times as well! I'll try my best and share more thoughts at the end of the year.

In conclusion, I highly recommend DOCTOR STRANGE. It's my favorite comic book movie of 2016 I have no doubt. And in all seriousness I can't believe we even got a Doctor Strange film to begin with? What will they give us next? Thank you Marvel Studios! If they keep making them I'll keep saying “Make mine Marvel”!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE

There are lots of dastardly deeds going on at the Christian haute couture fashion house. Everything from backstabbing (naturally), drugs, and murder. Yes, murder. Somebody knows a secret and is killing off the staff to keep it that way.

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is a murder mystery that popularized the giallo genre. It also became the prototype for slasher flicks decades later. The film is beautifully shot and directed by Mario Bava, the godfather of Italian horror.

The plot of BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is extremely thin, but that doesn't matter because Bava's film is style over substance done right. The story is best described as Agatha Christie “lite”. You don't have to pay that close of attention to realize who the killer(s) are.

What you really want to admire is the production design, staging of the scenes, camera movement, and lighting. As it turns out, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is homework if you ever want to make a slasher movie.

Fashion model Isabella knows a secret, a secret so scandalous that she got strangled to death because of it. Her diary becomes a hot commodity and the body count rises due to it's popularity. A masked killer starts offing staff left and right to get their hands on the diary. A investigator shows up to arrest some suspects. But like always, the murders continue. And the killer is revealed to the audience.

Like I said, the killer in BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is easy to spot. It's the technical aspect of the film that is amazing.

Mario Bava's films are just as influential to the modern slasher film as Hitchcock's PSYCHO was. Even more so I'd say. The only difference is there is hardly any “slashing” in a giallo film. Victims are almost always choked to death in those movies. Sometimes a straight razor shows up, but only sometimes.

It's not that the kills are inventive or anything, it's more how they are staged and lit. I will say a few of them are creepy which leads me to the next influence.

Another influence is Dario Argento's SUSPERIA . That film would not exist if not for BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.

Both of these masters of Italian horror know how to use Technicolor really well. Half the time I don't know what's going on in SUSPERIA. All I know is that I love watching it!

I've been slacking this year but I'm going to try and watch more of Bava's films in the future. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite horror movie directors. I even loved his last film before he died, SHOCK. It's not very good but found it more entertaining than THE BABADOOK. Yeah, I said it!

In conclusion, if you're a fan of horror and a slasher flick movie buff, then BLOOD AND BLACK LACE is required viewing.

Happy Halloween!!