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!!

JEEPERS CREEPERS

JEEPERS CREEPERS is an awkward film to talk about. This is one of those judge the art and not the artist scenarios. For those that don't know, the writer and director of the movie did a bad bad thing. Look it up if you desire because we're not here to talk about that, we're here to talk about his film.

Released in 2001, JEEPERS CREEPERS seemed to come out of nowhere and became a semi-cult hit.

I don't recall seeing any previews for the film in the theater or on television? The first I'd heard about JEEPERS CREEPERS was from a friend of mine. He told me what the film was about and let me read all about it in one of his Fangoria magazines. With the admiration of my friends enthusiasm and the magazine article, I was on board!

It may have been 16 years since I saw JEEPERS CREEPERS at the theater, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Yeah, it was one of those experiences. The showing wasn't sold out, but I'd say it was about half full? I remember the movie starting off great, but there was a vibe among the audience that people's patience was wearing thin. There were a few too many “smarter than the movie” type of moviegoers in attendance that night.

To be fair JEEPERS CREEPERS is far from a perfect movie, and the film does require a lot of suspension of disbelief.

Driving home for Spring Break a brother and sister are taking the scenic route to visit their mom. On the road they encounter a scary truck (something out of a Mad Max movie) that nearly runs them off the road. After a terrible fright, things settle back down. But later on they see the truck again, this time at a house and someone is dumping what looks like bodies down a huge pipe. They get caught spying and the truck starts chasing them. Once again they are run off the road with the truck driving away. You'd think the guy would get out of the truck and “take care of them” for spying?

Curious about what was being tossed down the pipe, Trish and Darry go back to the house and investigate. After a gruesome discovery underneath the house (which upon a closer look was a church) the siblings high tale it to the nearest town and call the police. But it's too late as we find out that the truck and it's mysterious driver are stalking them!

The encounters start to become weirder and weirder as it become revealed that the mysterious driver is some sort of winged creature, a gargoyle if you will. It was around this point in the film, that a lot of the audience was having no more to do with this movie. I on the other hand was enjoying the film quite a bit! JEEPERS CREEPERS does have it's fair share of weak spots, but overall it's a pretty great creature feature.

When the movie was over you could tell people we're pissed. I especially loved the couple trying to get their money back. My advice to moviegoers like them is to suck it up! Go to a coffee shop order some pie and have a good laugh about what you saw.

In conclusion, I recommend JEEPERS CREEPERS. This Halloween make it apart of your scary movie marathon.

Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

BATMAN

It was early 1989 when I got into Batman comics. The DEATH IN THE FAMILY trade paperback was this first Bat-book I ever read. At this early stage I wasn't really collecting comics yet, and my reading was inconsistent due to issues selling out fast. It'd be at least a few more years before I started a subscription.

The first I'd heard about a Batman movie was reading the letters section of DETECTIVE COMICS #598. The issue number is the only detail I remember other than being super excited. I was so pumped! I remember the casting of Micheal Keaton as Bruce Wayne being such a big deal. Mr. Mom as The Dark Knight? Weird. I was too young to be cynical in 1989 so I didn't freak out, I just found it odd that a comedic actor was playing the part.

The time came and it was the summer of Batman. Everybody had Bat-fever and the movie was a smash hit! The film was so popular that it was several weeks if not a month or two till we saw the movie.

When we did finally see the movie is was like an all day thing. My parents and I saw it at the Battlefield Mall. We couldn't get right in so we bought tickets and walked around the mall until showtime. Back then it was perfectly normal to see a movie weeks if not months after opening weekend. These day if you don't see a film on it's opening weekend, you're yesterdays news.

I loved the movie! I wanted to see it again but couldn't due to a summer vacation to Disney World. My parents let me buy the novelization instead and I read it on the plane. I don't think I ever saw the movie again till HBO or getting the VHS for Christmas.

So that's my BATMAN story. Does the film hold up after all these years, especially now after the Christoper Nolan films? The answer is yes, kind of.

The dark humor of the film has turned slightly campy thanks to the Nolan trilogy, but it's nothing I have a problem with.

THE DARK KNIGHT is the better film but the 1989 film will always kick ass. 100% because of sentimental reasons. These days I feel like I'm watching a Hollywood blockbuster more than a comic book movie. But,viewing the movie as an adult the new thing I love most about BATMAN is the Film Noir aspect to it. Something I knew nothing about as a kid. Other than that you've got a decent Batman movie in there somewhere.

While I think we had yet to have a true comic book movie version, you cannot deny how classic BATMAN is. Jack Nicholson as The Joker is still just the best. The look of the film is still awesome. Danny Elfman's score is still to this day iconic! And lastly, Micheal Keaton will always be my favorite Batman. However, I love what Ben Afleck is doing with the role, so my opinion may change soon? Time will tell.

As time goes on (if not slightly already) I do believe Tim Burton's film will become completely overshadowed by Nolan's trilogy and future franchise installments. Who knows, maybe Ben Afleck's THE BATMAN (20XX) will set a new standard? Because like it or not, his portrayal is the closest they've come to a comic book version of the character. Okay that's not entirely true. I recently watched the animated movie BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, and that film is probably be best screen adaptation of the character we've seen so far. And why isn't it on Blu-Ray yet? Lame.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is a 2016 film directed by Mike Flanagan. It's a prequel to the 2014 movie OUIJA, which I have never seen and most likely never will. From the trailers it looked like garbage and was a critical and box office bomb.

I was shocked to death when I saw a trailer for a new OUIJA movie. That film made enough money to warrant a sequel? Needless to say, I barely paid attention to the preview. It wasn't until I saw it again that interest peaked. It was a prequel (oh dear) set in the 60's or 70's and it actually looked creepy as hell. But come on, it has to be a piece of crap! Doesn't it?

Talking with a friend at work we convinced ourselves it was worth a shot. The movie was coming to us from the people behind OCULUS and HUSH. Two very effective horror films! So I was sold. And even if the movie sucked, kudos to Universal Pictures for releasing a horror film in October. What a concept!

With OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL being a prequel I was really hoping one didn't have to see the original first? Turns out you don't thank goodness. More on that later. The movie takes place in 1967 Los Angeles. A widowed mother with the help of her two daughters runs a seance business out of her home. The oldest calls it like she see's it and considers what they do a scam. She isn't wrong. But the mom reassures her that what they do gives comfort to people.

One night Lina (the oldest) sneaks out to go to a friends house. Her and her friends mess with a new game called Ouija. A good scare happens and Lina thinks the board will be a good addition to her mothers business.

Alice (the mom) takes up her daughters suggestion and buys a Ouija. She doctor's it up a bit and gets the scam ready. But unbeknownst to her, a evil force is invited into their home. Slowly her youngest daughter Doris gets possessed and the horror begins.

QUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is really good. I can't remember the last time (especially in the horror genre) where a sequel was “night and day” better than the original. This isn't a EMPIRE STRIKES BACK situation. This is more like if THE SHINING was a sequel to THE FOURTH KIND.

The thing I love most about the movie is that it's creepy as hell! And on top of that there is no annoying jump-scares. The scariest moments in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is the long drawn out moments of silence. And the pay off is spooky, not just a jump-scare.

I was continuously surprised. Just about every time I thought the movie was going to do something dumb, the outcome happened to be smart. There's a scene when Doris puts the magnifying piece thingy ( It has a name, I just don't know it) to her eye and looks around the room. I thought typical jump-scare coming right up! But no, all we get is a reaction. A slow burn. Doris does this two more times in the film and it gets scarier each time. Refreshingly brilliant if you ask me!

The acting in this is really good! Every character is given material where you care about them as the story progresses. One of my favorite character moments is when the mom meets her oldest daughters guy friend. She gives him “the talk” and it's a great scene!

By no means is this film a perfect movie. I had some major problems with it toward the end. I won't go into spoilers too much, but the filmmakers decided to go all psychological at the end and it really didn't work for me. I could be wrong but I'm calling it a studio ending.

Even with talking myself into seeing the movie, I almost waited to just rent OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. What got me out of the house and into the theater was that I heard the director made the film look vintage. It's set in 1967 and you can tell. With whatever techniques and after effects they used the end result turned out great. Not at all did it feel gimmicky to me.

In conclusion, I highly recommend OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. If you're interested in seeing it I highly suggest seeing it on the big screen. I'm glad I did!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

THE THING (1982)

John Carpenter's THE THING might be my favorite from the director! BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is cool and HALLOWEEN has a special place in my heart, but THE THING is a masterpiece. I cannot remember the first time I saw the film, but I do remember avoiding seeing it at all costs. When I was a kid I would always catch snippets on HBO. THE THING was one of the first films ever to give me nightmares.

Growing up with HBO and renting movies from the video store, John Carpenter was my favorite filmmaker; however, I was just too young to realize it. It wasn't till 8th grade or my freshman year of high school that I even knew who John Carpenter was. This was a time where I rented a lot of the movies I loved as a kid. There was CHRISTINE, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK just to name a few. Re-watching them I noticed something, this guy named John Carpenter had his name above the title of the movie.

As a child of the eighties I only knew two names of directors, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. So you could say that my early love/discovery for John Carpenter films was a catalyst for becoming a movie buff.

Before the internet and IMDB, browsing the video store was where you found what movie you were looking for. I found out that the Carpenter films I hadn't seen yet were mostly horror. I had seen CHRISTINE already, but no way was I watching THE FOG or HALLOWEEN! Those box covers were creepy. And THE THING? Forget about that!

Let's go ahead and fast forward to where I finally became a fan of horror movies. After seeing all the Freddy movies and Jason films (most of them anyway), I was ready for the other masked killer Micheal Myers. I had forgotten HALLOWEEN was a John Carpenter film, so I was a little pumped to watch it. After the movie both my friend and I became hard core Carpenter fans. And while it's not his film, HALLOWEEN II made me become an all time horror movie fan.

I was ready for THE THING. Turns out, I wasn't. Some images are burnt in your brain forever, I quickly found that out watching the movie. I didn't cover my eyes or look away, but I wanted to. Never had I seen a horror movie like that before. Some of the most gruesome special effects I had ever seen! And let me just say, even after 35 years the effects still hold up! Now that's saying something.

John Carpenter's THE THING had such a profound effect on me that I never rented it again. It wouldn't be until DVD that I revisited the film again. And it wasn't until Shout Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-Ray that I realized THE THING is my favorite John Carpenter film. I might have to watch HALLOWEEN this year to confirm?

For those that don't know, THE THING is about an American research team in Antarctica. It's the first week of winter and the group get a unwelcome guest. An alien force that can assimilate into anything it touches. It's up to the members to stay alive and be sure of who is human, and who is not.

So right off the bat, the thing I love most about the film is the special effects. For 1982 it's still fantastic looking! Added to this I wanna mention the production design, you really feel the isolation this group is facing. A small base camp surrounded by snow and ice.

Next, I love the tone of THE THING. From the beginning of the film things don't start off quite right. You're kinda confused at what's going on just like the characters are. And you don't know who the alien is and when it's going to strike next. A great showcase of terror and suspense from the director.

The ensemble cast is great. Kurt Russell is great as always, but everyone is believable in the role that they play.

In conclusion, I highly recommend THE THING. The film isn't for the faint of heart, the creature effects and gore will knock your socks off if you're not careful. But the movie is required viewing if your a horror movie fan.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

BLAIR WITCH

To this day, 17 years later THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is my favorite marketing of a movie. This film had horror fans going nuts! Was the footage real or was it fiction? Yeah of course it was fake, but back in 1999 the debate raged on even after leaving the theater.

For me the hype/curiosity all started while hanging out with my best friend(also a fellow movie buff). We were at his house one day and he asked me if I had heard of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? No, I said. What's the Blair Witch? Almost immediately we went to his computer and checked out the website. My friend read me the legend and showed me the video clips. And went on and on how the kids filming a documentary went missing. I found the whole thing creepy and convinced it was real.

Then a few weeks later a special aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and their was something about it that made the whole THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT found film seem very fake. But I still wanted to believe. Then days leading up to the theatrical release MTV News broke the story that the film was indeed fake. My friend and I were crushed. But deep down we knew all along the film wasn't real.

When THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out it was an instant blockbuster smash hit! It became (and still is I think) the most successful independent film of all time. All because of a clever marketing campaign. Was it fake or real? That was the conversations happening in theater lobbies across the nation. Very quickly however, came the backlash.

Some theater goers hated the found-footage style of the film, and could not see beyond a 87 minute movie of people lost and screaming in the woods.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was definitely not a movie for everybody. In my opinion for the film to work, the viewer really has to be in the mind set that the woods are haunted and cursed. This suspension of disbelief is key, without it you're likely to find the movie boring and stupid.

After the success of the movie, Hollywood rushed a sequel into production. It bombed. I haven't seen BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2, but after hearing some people talk about it I may check it out. There were talks of a third Blair Witch movie but after the poor box office of the sequel, those plans were quickly scraped.

So the Blair Witch “franchise” died off, but the found-footage horror sub-genre lived on. I don't know how long Lionsgate has been wanting to relaunch the Blair Witch films? But I'm going to take an educated guess and say they wanted to bring the franchise back to life after the success of PARAMORMAL ACTIVITY.

It took 17 years for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to get the sequel fans deserve. And what better team to bring it than director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. I have been a fan of these filmmakers since their contribution to V/H/S. And after seeing their film YOU'RE NEXT I became a fan for life.

Adam and Simon's new film was going to be a horror film called THE WOODS. Cool, of course I'll see it. I couldn't wait!

They showed THE WOODS at this years San Diego Comic Con. But what the audience saw that day was BLAIR WITCH, a true blue direct sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. The geek community went nuts. And of course I was excited but also a tad discouraged my two new favorite filmmakers were not making something original.

BLAIR WITCH takes place 17 years after the events depicted in the original film. After discovering some video footage of what appears to be his sisters experiences in the haunted woods of the Blair Witch, James and a group of friends head to the forest in search of his lost sibling.

My first impressions of BLAIR WITCH were not that great. I left the theater thinking it was just okay. Don't get me wrong, I thought the film was very effective and scary. The sour taste in my mouth was that the movie had too many similar moments from the original. Which automatically makes it one of those remake/sequel things. And they added jump scares this time, which the original had none.

But after mulling it over in my head for about 48 hours, I love the film the more I think about it. Because just like with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT you have to be in the mind set that getting lost in a haunted forest is some scary shit! And BLAIR WITCH builds on this mythology perfectly!

The main thing I kept thinking about was how much I loved the haunted forest. The filmmakers still follow the less-is-more aspect of the original, but also add a little to the legend. In THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT it's implied that the three teens get lost because the witch is messing with them. In the new film they add the aspect that if you stay in the woods overnight, that's when the Blair Witch curses you.

I love stuff like that! Adding to the mythology of the story without heavy handedness.

And lastly, the film was just down right scary! There is a thunderstorm at the end of the film and the lightning shining through the boarded up windows of the decrepit old house was absolutely terrifying. And yes, we are shown the Blair Witch this time. It seems like something unnecessary, but it's appearance is brief if not subliminal and maybe out of this world. And I found that very cool.

If I had to pick somethings that I didn't like about the movie I'd say that the jump scares could have been left out of the movie. Probably a studio mandated thing? And the film has a antagonist that I found really pointless. I don't know if the point of that character was to make you think the curse and Blair Witch doesn't exist and that crazy townsfolk cultists are behind it all?

My final thoughts are that I highly recommend BLAIR WITCH. It is a good worthy sequel done with love and respect for the original film.

Friday, September 2, 2016

31

THIRTY ONE is a 2016 film written and directed by Rob Zombie. It is his 6th horror film and by far his best movie to date. Never mind the Rotten Tomato score, better yet, embrace it! 31 should wear it's “critical” response proudly.

Going into THIRTY ONE I wanted to hate it. Hate it with a passion. After his last film THE LORDS OF SALEM, I was ready for Zombie to branch out as a filmmaker. I wanted him to do something different besides horror. For years he had been talking about wanting to do a hockey movie. Cool! Something different! Sadly, it sounds as if said movie will never happen.

I get the impression from a recent Q&A interview that Zombie cannot get the funding he needs for BACKSTREET BRAWLERS (I think that was the title). To me this is so lame. I hate how Hollywood and maybe even a fan base can pigeon hold an artist. In his frustration he made the comment how he could come up with a horror movie idea (THIRTY ONE) in five minutes and get the funding with a snap of the fingers. But a hockey movie? Forget it.

Hearing set backs like this makes me hate Hollywood and so called “fans”. It reminds of when the band Black Sabbath had a song on their most recent album called 'Is God Dead?'. Ozzy sang that he wasn't. Some fans flipped out! “How can a heavy metal band have a song about God and say he's not dead”? I found it both hilarious and lame.

So back to the movie, I went into THIRTY ONE thinking I was going to hate it. Quite the opposite happened, I loved it! And it wasn't because of my low expectations. With THIRTY ONE being a Rob Zombie film I knew exactly what to expect. I could play the film in my head without really seeing it. Characters getting into a situation with no hope of surviving.

I revisit his other films once in a blue moon, especially HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS because of how uncomfortable they make me feel. The sense of dread. All these things are in THIRTY ONE, but the one thing different I liked was how some victims fought back. But as always, Zombie hits you in the gut at a visceral level. I consider him one of the truest exploitation filmmakers working today.

Nothing about his films feel trendy. Most of them if not all being set in the Seventies is about as retro as Zombie gets. Everything else feels authentic because that's his eye for cinema. The sleazy exploitation film.

A good example is filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (whom I'm a fan of) and his contribution to the film GRINDHOUSE, the 87 minute PLANET TERROR . I thought the movie was super cool, but ultimately it's just a feature length trailer and has retro written all over it.

If 42nd Street was still running today the way it was in the late seventies and early eighties, then THIRTY ONE would fit right in!

THIRTY ONE is about a group of carnies driving to the next Carnival. What state fair takes place in the fall? Especially on the 31st of October? Anyways, after a stop for some gas they get abducted by a strange group of folks. Demonic Hambulgers is what they look like.

The carnies are forced to play a murder game, think THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME with a dash of THE RUNNING MAN.

The object of the game is to stay alive for 12 hours. Each round the odds of surviving all depend on how well the victim, er...I mean contestant did the previous round. Each round the murderers get more nasty and inventive. They are all sadistic clowns with an appetite for killing. We got a little person that's dressed up as a Clown Hitler, hillbilly chain-saw wielding brothers, and a twisted clown couple who call themselves Death and Sex. But the one you gotta watch out for and who steals the show is Doom-head. This clown makes Heath Ledger's Joker shit his pants!

It turns out that THIRTY ONE is Rob Zombie's masterpiece!

Rob has taken all the good and all the bad and everything else he's learned from his previous films, and it's all come down to THIRTY ONE. The bonus is that fans are going to be thrilled to death (no pun intended). A perfect storm if you will.

In conclusion, if THIRTY ONE had become Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes then you would know that Rob Zombie had made a terrible exploitation film. I wonder if CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD or CANNIBAL FEROX has a Fresh percentage?

For gory horror and Rob Zombie fans only. I highly recommend 31!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

YOGA HOSERS

Why do critics hate Kevin Smith? Is this a war he's brought upon himself, and Internet personalities/critics are just bulling him? These are good questions to tackle another time, today we're just going to focus on his new movie YOGA HOSERS.

YOGA HOSERS is the 12th film from writer and director Kevin Smith. It is the second entry of Smith's 'Great White North' trilogy. It stars Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith (his daughter). High school BFF's Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie (better known as the Colleen's) work together at a convenience store and are both yoga enthusiasts. Forced to work on their day off the girls end up fighting off a horde of sausage monsters called Bratzis (Nazis made out of bratwursts).

The Colleen's team up with legendary man hunter from Montreal, Guy Lapointe (think Canadian Inspector Clouseau). The three unravel a fiendish by the Nazi Adronicus Arcane to kill every art critic in Winnipeg.

Kevin Smith was at one time my favorite filmmaker. His early film spoke to a generation of geeks way way before geek culture was cool. For a few years his first film CLERKS was my bible. That movie planted a seed in my brain that somebody like me could be a filmmaker.

Over the years his critical success has gone from bad to worse. At one point he decided to stop making movies, but ultimately chose not to care (sort of) what the critics thought of him films!

I have always enjoyed his sense of humor so it's easy for me to be bias. Maybe every single one of his films suck?

As a fan, I have yet to throw in the towel. His first stab at horror with RED STATE was one of my favorite films of 2011! And TUSK isn't that great of a movie but I loved the heart and soul Smith put into his strange-as-all-get-out Walrus picture.

YOGA HOSERS is a good example why I consider myself more of a film enthusiast rather than a critic.

I was thoroughly entertained by YOGA HOSERS! Kevin Smith made a (true) PG-13 midnight Teen Comedy. And I have a soft spot for that genre. The two lead actors had great chemistry together on screen. The fact that Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Smith are best friends in real life probably played a key role in how believable their characters were.

The tone of the film gets a little wonky here and there and sometimes the characters start to get long winded. A few more cuts to flashbacks instead of just one would have helped one scene of exposition in particular. I like listening to Smith's words but depending on the scene watching a person talk can get boring.

In conclusion, I recommend YOGA HOSERS to hardcore Kevin Smith fans. And for those who like silly midnight comedies, go ahead and give this one a shot.

SAUSAGE PARTY

If SAUSAGE PARTY doesn't become my favorite film of 2016, it'll definitely be the best comedy of the year. The film is a riot!

The last time I laughed that much in a theater was during THIS IS THE END, another Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg masterpiece. I've been a huge fan of these guys since PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. So far their only speed bump has been THE GREEN HORNET. If I had to guess, I'd say the problem with that film was studio related and not the talent involved?

The beautiful thing about SAUSAGE PARTY is how politically incorrect it is. Did I get offended? Absolutely! Did I care? Nope, not one bit. I have pretty thick skin when it comes to comedy. We've become too soft and too easily offended as of late. Lighten up people, it's just comedy.

One of the many messages in the film I like is deep down ultimately we've got to start loving one another more and stop with the hate. If you disagree with someone it's fine, just move on, but most importantly don't be a douche about it.

To say that SAUSAGE PARTY is just a raunchy take on the Pixar films wouldn't be a incorrect assumption. I'm pretty sure Seth and company at one time or another watched TOY STORY stoned out of their minds? (Geez, I sound like that nerd from DAZED AND CONFUSED. Lame) Instead, I found SAUSAGE PARTY more of a parody of VEGGIE TALES.

The film slams the belief in religion pretty bad. In this day and age Christploitation films like GOD'S NOT DEAD, I don't blame them. This believer thinks those type of movies are a terrible representation of Jesus and the Christian faith.

Frank (Rogan) is a hot dog who along with his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda cannot wait to be bought and taken to the great beyond. There the two can consummate their relationship. In fact, every item in the supermarket (perishables mostly) believe it is their purpose in life to be chosen by the gods (the consumer) so that they can live for eternity in the great beyond.

One day a jar of honey mustard gets chosen but is brought back and tells everyone that the Great Beyond is a lie!

This causes a great panic and Frank, Brenda, Sammy Bagel Jr., and others journey to the liquor aisle to learn the truth from Firewater, one of the elders of the supermarket. Many hijinks ensue as Frank continues one his quest alone, while Brenda and the others just try and make it back to their aisles/homes. All the while Douche, the films villian, is on the hunt for Frank to exact some payback.

SAUSAGE PARTY may be the best of it's kind since SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, AND UNCUT and BLAZING SADDLES. I hope the movie continues to do well because Hollywood needs to continue to make comedies that take risks. And people offended just for the sake of being offended really need to grow a pair!

SAUSAGE PARTY is highly recommended!!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

DON'T BREATHE

Horror movie season is upon us. This is a time of year where I like to spend late August through the month of October and cozy up to some scary movies. I try to watch new ones every year, but mostly watch my favorites of the genre. And last night I welcomed a new classic. Fede Alvarez's new film DON'T BREATHE!

It's been awhile since I saw a horror movie at the theater, the best way to watch a scary movie. And last night was amazing. DON'T BREATHE had a good trailer and has been getting some positive buzz so the theater was packed. Before the movie started there was a video of the director thanking everyone for coming out to the movies. He also said that horror films are best seen in a dark auditorium full of strangers. I couldn't agree more!

Three robbers target a house in a run down part of Detroit, believing the owner has a large sum of money inside. The best part about it is that the guy is blind. But once inside, they discover the home owner has dark secrets and is pretty resourceful.

Like the trailer show, this movie is intense! We're shown fairly early in the movie the layout of the Blind Man's house. It's some very arty camera movement but the director isn't just showing off. These scenes are important for later. And it makes us comfortable alongside the robbers.

Things go bad fast for our main characters once it's revealed that the Blind Man is a bad ass. You quickly feel sorry for both the home owner and criminals. I rooted for them just to find a way out of the house as fast as possible and never return. But sooner than you think the film takes a turn, a very dark turn.

Again like in the trailers we see the home invaders trying to escape from the basement in pitch black darkness. This was a great juxtaposition from earlier and to the films overall narrative.

I can't tell you how the movie ends but during the finale DON'T BREATHE had women cheering and men grossed out. Speaking of the audience? The audience reactions were fantastic! And they were mostly for amazing reveals in the film. The dumb jump scares were minimal but when they did happen the scare was earned.

I highly recommend DON'T BREATHE. We're at the end of summer and what a film to kick off a good solid two months of horror movie watching. Too bad we've probably seen the best horror film of the year already. In October we get RINGS and OUIJA: ORIGINS OF EVIL. Both films look pointless and terrible! But hey, the new BLAIR WITCH film looks promising!

Good bye Summer, hello Halloween!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

THE LOBSTER

THE LOBSTER is a 2015 film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. It is a critical darling of 2016 and more than likely will receive even more acclaim at the Academy Awards next year. All the praise THE LOBSTER is receiving is well deserved because I too believe it's one of the best films of the year.

When I first heard about THE LOBSTER I wanted to see it. Colin Farrell turning into a lobster if he doesn't find love? That's a synopsis for a movie you don't hear about everyday. Count me in! Little did I know how great the film was actually going to be.

Not quite experimental enough, not body horror, and way better than I expected the movie to be, THE LOBSTER is a dark comedy set in a dystopian near future. If you're single you are sent to The Hotel to find a romantic partner in 45 days. Failure to do so results in being turned into an animal of your choosing.

Obviously a satire on the cultural and societal pressures of dating, marriage, and remaining single, THE LOBSTER felt like a film speaking to me. Yes, I want to find companionship and get married but the older I get the more I'm set in my ways. Especially if society keeps trying to tell me otherwise.

The story centers on recently divorced David as he searches for a new love. He just has 45 days, at which point, if he's still single, he will be turned into a lobster. David picked the lobster as his animal because they can live up to a 100 years old, have blue blood just like aristocrats, and stay fertile all of their lives.

The Hotel has several strict guidelines, for example; singles cannot mingle in couples areas, you cannot masturbate, and of course you have to be compatible with your mate. Failure to comply with these things leads to punishment or immediate transformation into your animal.

There is one incentive The Hotel offers and that is hunting deserters. Mixed with citizens who have left The Hotel or never went in the first place, these loners take refuge in The Woods. Guests can add days to their stay by hunting these strays.

This is the first half of the film. We see the inner workings of The Hotel and how they “help” singles find a match. David meets some interesting people during his stay. I found it odd (in a cool way) how David (Colin Ferrell) is the only character given a name. We're never told nor do we hear the names of the other characters. The narrator just refers to them as Lisping Man ( John C. Riley), Limping Man (Ben Wishaw), Hotel manager (Olivia Colman), and so on.

Limping Man's stay I found very telling of real life. Spoiler alert!! He fakes having chronic nose bleeds so that he'll be a match for Nose Bleed Girl. And later in the film we see that these characters are miserable, you can see it in their eyes. But I guess living a lie is better than being turned into an animal?

It's coming down to the wire for David as he only has a week left and still hasn't found anybody. I don't want to completely spoil it, but due to some events David goes AWAL into The Woods. While there he meets a group of deserters/loners and falls in love.

The second half of the movie really focuses on this, other singles hiding in The Woods. The vast surroundings of The Hotel become an exile all there own. Here, paring up is strictly prohibited and punishable by those in charge. The leader of these loners does her best by making sure no one falls in love. No matter where you go, your romantic life is strictly managed.

I took it as a statement of sticking-to-the man for forcing singles to “find love” at The Hotel.

Seeming not to be able to catch a break, David and his new found love decide to leave The Woods and try a new life in The City.

It's hard to talk about a film like THE LOBSTER without ruining it. The outcome of Limping Man was spoiler enough in my opinion. It's full of metaphors and allegory that is sometimes on-the-nose and other times worthy of analysis. For example, the name of the woman David falls in love with is Short Sighted Woman (rim shot). But overall there is something meaningful to this dark comedy.

Like I mentioned earlier, THE LOBSTER is one of the best films of the year. And it'll probably be one of my Top 10 favorites of 2016. I love the attention it demands from its viewers. It's weird, full of anarchy (screw society), and in the end is compassionate.

One of the most creative films I've seen all year. I highly recommend THE LOBSTER!!