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!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

GREEN ROOM

Released in 2016, GREEN ROOM is a 2015 film from director Jeremy Saulnier. It also stars the late Anton Yelchin. Saulnier's movie is a midnight grindhouse flick disguised as a art house film, or vice versa.

I'm quickly becoming a huge fan of Saulnier's work. His film BLUE RUIN would have been my favorite film of 2013, but did not know about it until the following year. And GREEN ROOM is on the fast track to become my favorite of 2016. If not number one, then definitely somewhere in the Top 10.

Punk rock band The Ain't Rights are on tour. In true punk rock fashion they are a band that is barely getting by. You know times are rough when you have to siphon gas to keep the tour van going. During a interview for a promoter's local 'zine' the band mention they don't even have enough money to press a new EP record.

After some miss communication with the promoter and only making seven dollars a piece between them, The Ain't Rights decide to call off the tour and siphon their way back home. The promoter says he can make it up to them by setting up another gig in town. Reluctant at first, the band decides to play because after all a gig is a gig.

So The Ain't Rights show up to the venue and they find out their playing at a neo-Nazi bar. They make the best of it by starting off the set with a cover from The Dead Kennedys called 'Fuck Off Nazi Punks'. Once in a lifetime opportunity, am I right!

After the set they want nothing more than to get outta the place fast as possible. Sam, the guitarist leaves her phone in the green room. Pat, the bass player (and main character) goes and gets it for her. Witnessing a murder in the room, Pat tells them to run like hell while he calls 911. Extremely outnumbered, the band is forced to against their will to wait in the green room. What happens next is some of the most intense moments I've seen in a movie this year!

Like BLUE RUIN I was impressed with the use of color in GREEN ROOM. Set in the pacific northwest, we see lots of lush forest green. There is also subtle use of the color green throughout. Things like lime colored brake lines on a bicycle. BLUE RUIN was full of stuff like that! It'd be interesting to know how much of that was planned or just plain coincidence?

Another similarity in both films is the portrayal of violence and gore. BLUE RUIN is a revenge film that becomes a deconstruction of the genre, thus becoming an anti-revenge film. The violence and gore that the movie's protagonist dishes out becomes the opposite of cathartic. Saulnier really hit a home run with the message that when it comes to revenge, no one is a winner.

The violence in GREEN ROOM is no different. And what makes the tension so effective (in my opinion) is that this nightmare happening to the punk rock band feels real. This is how pacifists would act in a situation like this. And when the nasty things happen it's brutal. GREEN ROOM isn't as deep as BLUE RUIN. Maybe it is and I just need to watch it a few more times before it hits me like a ton of bricks. Until then, it's a shockingly violent but gorgeously photographed grindhouse film.

Highly recommended!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE

Batman is probably my favorite comic book character. Yes, I went through a Superman and Spider-Man phase but the Dark Knight has consistently been champ.

In this day and age of comic book fandom it's practically cliche (or uncool) to say Batman is your favorite character. I might be off by a title or two but as of now there are 7 Bat-Family comic books on newsstands published by DC Comics. That's impressive and insane!

I've been a fan of Batman since seeing him and Robin the Boy Wonder guest star on the SCOOBY-DOO cartoon. Reruns of the 60's Batman television show was pretty common at my house too. And of course we cannot forget SUPERFRIENDS!

Once grade school started I was all about Star Wars, GI-Joe, and Master of the Universe. It wouldn't be until the mid to late eighties browsing a comic book store changed all that, and the Creature of the Night came calling.

This story has been told more than once on my blog, so I'll be brief.

One evening after having supper at the Heritage Cafeteria located inside the North Town Mall (now a Walmart Super Center). While dad was in line to pay the cashier my Grandpa took me walking around the mall. We stopped inside a store called Comic Empire and he bought me a FLASH comic book. That's what I wanted to buy but it was a standee of Batman holding a dead Robin that intrigued me.

Sometime later my dad would bring me back to that store and I found out the standee was for BATMAN: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY trade paperback, and it made me a comic book fan for life.

I remember it being a much longer period of time, but things seem that way when you're younger. The release of 1989's BATMAN and me starting to read the comic and trade paperbacks were all probably within the same year?

Following BATMAN (1989), BATMAN: DEATH IN THE FAMILY, and BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS the next logical step was to read BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE.

It took me awhile to read the popular graphic novel. For the longest time it was way overpriced and Comic Empire treated it like a R-rated movie. By the time I was sixteen, driving, and had a job that's when I finally purchased BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE.

I loved it! Immediately it was my favorite graphic novel. And it's influence of future Batman stories was massive. So popular and well received that in became actual cannon in the monthly books. Back then graphic novels were for the most part stand alone stories.

The story is pretty simple. Batman visits Joker in prison (Arkham??) to have a one-on-one conversation about their future together. You see Joker is always going to break out and Batman is always going to put him back where he belongs. It can't go on forever, eventually one of them is going to die from it. And if Batman has to kill him, Bruce wants Joker to know that he at least tried to help his arch nemesis all these years.

After poring his guts out, Batman realizes the clown in the cell is a impostor and that Joker has escaped!

On the loose, Joker sets in motion a lesson for Batman by paralyzing Barbra Gordon and kidnapping her father Commissioner Gordon. After putting the Commissioner through living hell, Joker tries to convince him that the real criminal is the Batman.

Batman and the Joker fight in the end and everything ties in nicely with the beginning of the story. The ending is something still debated on message boards and in comic book shops still to this day. Highly recommended comic book reading!

So it's no surprise that fans everywhere got excited when it was announced that WB was making an animated movie adapted from the popular book. And to top it off the definitive voice talent of Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) were returning. This was quickly becoming a must see/own feature!

For the most part I liked it. I like it a lot actually. The best parts are seeing the beloved graphic novel come to life in an animated movie. Very touching.

But my favorite part was when Batgirl and Batman have sex. Just like in the graphic novel. This makes perfect sense because of the bond these two characters have always shared in the comics. Right? No. Wrong! So wrong. I'm all for artistic license, but there are some lines you do not cross and having Batman knockin'-the-boots with one of the Bat-Family is fundamentally wrong.

I'm dumbfounded by this creative decision. Besides not making sense for the characters, the sub plot goes nowhere. There is nothing in the second half of the movie that screams Batman is mad at Joker for paralyzing Barbra, his now new girlfriend? What's done is done, nothing to do about it except filing it under Lame/Strange.

If fans of Batman ever read this I realize that I'm preaching to the choir, because like me a lot of fans are angry or scratching their head about the long Batgirl story tacked on to the beginning of the film in the first place. I didn't mind it at all with the exception of the sex scene. It would have made a lot more sense (in my opinion) if it was Nightwing rather than Batman.

Despite my complaints, I still recommend the DCEU Animated film BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE. The second half is too good for any Batman or comic book fan to miss.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

NERVE

There is a small movie out in theaters now called NERVE, the new movie from the guys that brought us CATFISH. And that alone was enough for me to check out the film. If I had seen the trailer beforehand I probably would've taken a pass on NERVE, because I think I got catfished on this one!

By the second act of the film, NERVE had me sold. Very entertaining! I kept thinking to myself this is what UNFRINDED should have been like. But the cracks started to show by the end of the movie. It's in the final moments where the film really lost me.

There is a new social media game that is all the rage, it's called Nerve. You're either a watcher or player. Contestants perform dares per users/watchers request. It's old fashioned Truth or Dare minus the dare part. The rules are simple; complete a dare and win money along with gaining 'likes', but fail a dare and you loose. The top two finalists compete in a dare to win it all. One important thing to remember about Nerve is never tell police about the game. Snitches get stitches.

Vee and Sydney are tow best friends in high school. Sydney is the popular and outgoing cheerleader. Vee is the more quite type who takes pictures for the yearbook. It's a stereotype in teen movies that's probably outdated by now, but I'm almost 40 years old so what do I know?

Sydney is an avid player of Nerve and a social media butterfly. She's constantly telling Vee to get out of her comfort zone and play the popular game. Vee persistently declines.

After an embarrassing but not too embarrassing encounter with the high school Quarterback, Vee signs up for Nerve to get her pride back.

Her friends can't believe it, Vee is playing Nerve! And she's good at it! She quickly becomes popular in the game and Watchers pair her up with Ian, who we find out is a veteran player.

At a certain point in the evening Vee and Sydney start throwing shade at one another possibly ruining their friendship. And Ian turns out to be more mysterious than we thought! Oh my! What's going to happen next!

Like I said earlier, once the second act starts rolling I found NERVE very entertaining. But the ending didn't work for me at all. At best I give the movie a Netfilx recommendation.

SPOILERS!!

Before I get into potential spoiler territory I just wanna mention something that bugged me about NERVE and other Hollywood movies that deal with computers and hacking. Stop trying so hard to make hacking look cool. I'm ignorant on the subject but I know hacking a computer or the world wide web isn't glamorous. Thankfully you've got a standard to work from now, the television show MR. ROBOT. Watch it, learn from it. It's fake I know but they make hacking look somewhat real. Okay, rant over.

So here where NERVE looses me at the end. Vee gets in way over her head with the game and panics. It turns out that Ian is a slave to the game because he let someone die and told the cops. She tells the cops and immediately she looses the game. She has one last shot, compete in the final dare or her life is ruined forever.

I was still on board at this moment, but soon the movie just fell apart.

What probably would have been better is if a Watcher related to the player that died was getting revenge on Ian, forcing him to play until he dies. Something to that effect. But no, the movie wraps up everything very pseudo-nice and neat.

The movie ends with Vee having a friend who conveniently knows how to hack and shut Nerve down. She then gives a very preachy on-the-nose message about how a game like Nerve is wrong and do Watchers have nothing better else to do!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD

My introduction to the Suicide Squad happened during one of my early visits to the local comic book shop. It was 1989 and I was big into Batman because of the Tim Burton film and BATMAN: DEATH IN THE FAMILY. I wanted to start reading the monthly book but Comic Empire (the name of the store) kept selling out of current issues, and back issues were way too expensive.

With the latest issue of BATMAN sold out my dad let me buy a comic book guest staring the Caped Crusader. It was an issue of SUICIDE SQUAD. I remember it being not very memorable but what I took away from the book was that the characters really didn't seem like heroes.

As time went on I understood more what Task Force X was about. The government takes super powered villains and sends them on missions too risky for military and or heroic meta-humans. When I started getting serious about comic book collecting I think DC Comics must have canceled the book? I don't remember it seeing on the rack or in the order catalog? If I had, then I would have definitely read it on a regular basis.

Before the review it's time to talk about the elephant in the room, I'm talking about the DC Cinematic Universe. Oops, the DC Extended Universe. They're late to the party no doubt about that but Warner Bros is on the fast track to fixing that mistake with making Geoff Johns the head of creative in the DCEU. He won't be able to make every fan happy but it's a change that will ultimately be for the best. Only time will tell, but judging from the WONDER WOMAN trailer and what I thought of SUICIDE SQUAD, this fan is happy.

SUICIDE SQUAD is a 2016 film written and directed by David Ayer. It is also the third film in the DC Extended Universe, also known as the DCEU.

The film is about Task Force X, a covert black ops team consisting of super-criminals. Organized by Amanda Waller, the purpose of this “Suicide Squad” is to take out threats that could compromise our nation or worse, the entire world. Too nasty for military and probably too political for the Justice League, that's where Task Force X steps in. Completely off the record, the team saves the day only to be rewarded with reduced prison time or death.

For inspiration, the film uses the “New 52” iteration of Task Force X. I am unfamiliar with this era of DC but without looking it up I believe the team consisted of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Boomerang. A quick Wikipedia glance shows other super-criminals on the team but are not in the film.

Here's the DCEU Suicide Squad line-up:

Amanda Waller (Command)

Rick Flag (Team leader)

Katana (Flag's bodyguard)

Deadshot

Harley Quinn

Boomerang

Enchantress

Killer Croc

El Diablo

Slipknot

That's a lot of characters for a film so Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) get the most screen time. And I'm not complaining, both actors knocked it out of the park! I'm want that stand alone Harley Quinn movie as soon as possible!

Amanda Waller gets approval from the government to green light Task Force X after a convincing argument that nothing is stopping a meta-human from attacking Capital Hill or the White House.

At the top of her list of Task Force X candidates is the witch Enchantress. Magic is a dangerous thing in the DCEU, Superman even has a tough time against it (in the comics that is). So what a perfect weapon for Waller to have against meta-humans!

Things go wrong and Enchantress goes rouge. So the teams first mission is to stop her magical havoc and bring the witch back. Simple enough, but things don't go as planed when you've got a group of super-criminals being told what to do. And no secret mission is easy when Joker arrives to save his girlfriend.

As a fan of comic books and comic book movies I highly recommend SUICIDE SQUAD. It's not perfect and has a fair share of pacing issues (studio mandated re-shoots), but the film is loads of fun.

Probably my biggest complaint about the movie is that I never got the feeling that Task Force X was a team of super-criminals. Degenerates yes, but not villains. Maybe I would have thought differently if the studio didn't demand that the director go back and give his film a lighter tone.

I find it kinda ironic that we got a “R-rated” BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE on home video, but SUICIDE SQUAD according to the director is going to remain PG-13 because there is no alternate cut? Hopefully we'll get a ton of deleted scenes if anything. Come on, why did the Killer Croc and Batman scene get cut?

And that's it as far as complaints go.

Here's a condensed version of what I liked in the film.

Will Smith. I loved every second of him on screen! I geeked out way too much for a 39 year old when Deadshot and a very popular character tussled on camera for a bit.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is a revelation, I can't see anybody else in the role but her. I'm happy for all the fans of the character, this is really your movie and I'm glad you finally got it!

The Joker! Now there is already a division of fans that love or hate Jared Leto's take on the character. I think it is way way too early to pass judgment seeing that we only get a taste of things to come. I thought that Joker was great in the movie. I love that it's a less anarchist and more modern day gangster approach.

The thing that caught my attention the most was Enchantress. The action climax of SUICIDE SQUAD is something we've seen a million times, but the magic element really captured my suspension of disbelief. And it made me wonder if magic is going to play an important role in future DCEU? I'm probably getting my hopes up, but instead of some CGI nonsense I actually saw potential.

Friday, July 15, 2016

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

Whenever it was announced that a third Ghostbusters movie was never going to happen I was crushed. Shortly thereafter a friend of mine assured me just how horrible of a movie with three old fat guys catching ghosts would be. It took awhile but I eventually agreed. The only other option was the characters passing the torch to a new team. Then Harold Ramis died, and at that point I felt the franchise should be over.

The idea of an all female Ghostbusters team sounded interesting to me from day one. I was really on board once the cast and crew was announced for the film. I have loved all of Paul Feig's films, especially SPY. So no preconceived hate/judgment from me about GHOSTBUSTERS (2016). Then I saw the trailer.

That first trailer for GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) has to be one of the worst teasers for a franchise I've seen in a long long time. None of the jokes worked, none of them! When a slap gag with a character saying “That's gonna leave a mark” is your best joke, people in the audience have no reason but to panic. With Feig's background in R-rated comedy I was hopping Sony was just showing restraint, and that the film was actually a hard PG-13.

In my opinion the marketing got worse, but I thought the final trailer was better. What I did like from the get go was the look of the film. You could tell they were going for something different and that scored points for me.

One thing I have never really understood is the fandom of the Ghostbuster franchise. Yes, the original is a comedy classic! Heck, I've probably watched it 50 if not 100 times! But to some fans this is their Star Wars. And I just don't get it?

The week of GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) I became pumped! I watched the 1984 original twice, yes twice. And I must say the 4k mastered Blu-Ray is stunning. Way better than the 2010 release.

As I was saying, I was getting real pumped for the new movie. The early reviews have been mostly mixed and I've decided to go in with a open mind and positive outlook. If Sony is really wanting a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, then come on, show me what you got!

Despite call backs from the original film, GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) starts out strong as it's own thing. Then the cameos show up and that's when the film starts to become blah. I understand why the cameos are in the movie, I was even looking forward to them but I thought they all sucked. Except for one, the Harold Ramis one. Blink and you'll miss it!

Here is director Paul Feig trying to do something different (which he does) but every 30 minutes or so we the audience are reminded of the original film. Thanks Sony, we get it! Because of this the movie starts to drag and begins to suffer from sloppy editing.

Okay, story wise it's basically the first film so I don't need to go into explaining the plot. Except for the villain is not Zuul but some guy who is tired of being a social outcast so he plans on opening some portal to another dimension. In other words, mass hysteria!

So let's get down to it! What did I like about GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)! Many things, I liked the characters. They need some more fleshing out but I'd watched the continuing adventures of Erin, Abby, Holtzman, and Patty. Speaking of Patty, she stole the show for me. So funny! Kids, this goes to show you that you can't trust a trailer. I hated the character just going by the trailers! But in the movie I got a kick out of her.

The look of the film I found interesting. The original film was photographed like a horror movie. For the reboot Paul Feig chose a different approach, his film looks more like a cartoon, but in a good way. The use of color in the opening scene was just amazing.

Speaking of cartoons! The ghost catching tech in the new film is awesome! I dug all the new weapons, especially the proton-whip. I know it strays from the original but the new gear works in Feig's film.

And lastly, I really liked how all the ghosts looked. Even the Ghostbuster logo ghost who looked dumb on television, but seeing it in IMAX 3D made a world of difference. Creepy for sure!

The good news is that I think there were more things I liked about GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) than disliked.

For me the biggest problem with the film is pacing and editing issues. Probably a common problem with comedies. As much as I hate to say it, the cameos drag the film down. I think the movie would be much stronger if they we're left out.

I give GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) a matinee recommendation. And I normally don't do this but I highly recommend seeing the film in IMAX 3D.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

SWISS ARMY MAN

Weird. Weird, but in a creative way. That's the best way to describe SWISS ARMY MAN, the directorial debut of Daniels' (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). The film got some buzz at Sundance because one of the films stars, Daniel Radcliffe plays a dead guy who farts a lot. Why wasn't Adam Sandler approached for this movie/role?

SWISS ARMY MAN is going to be one of those movies that has no middle ground. People will either love it or hate it. There will be no “it was alright” and if there is, then that person is lying. I can see why there were walk outs when the film screened at Sundance. All I can say to those people is that they missed out. Yes, there is a lot of farting and poop in the beginning but the film itself addresses that everybody poops.

A man named Hank is stranded on a deserted island. Having given up of ever being rescued, he decides to hang himself. Feet on a cooler and noose around his neck Hank is ready to die, but all of a sudden in the distance he sees a body lying on the beach. Surprised by his new neighbor Hank's feet slip off the cooler and he starts to choke. Luckily the rope breaks (or does it) and Hank goes to investigate the body.

Much to Hank's disappointment, the body is dead. Decomposing had begun to set in and the washed up body has a comedic amount of high pressure gas. So much that Hank uses the body as a jet ski (It's at this moment where you have to decide if this is the movie for you or not). The body has enough fuel that the pair end up on a beach. To be honest I had to take a phone call during this part. When I returned to my seat I wasn't sure if it was the same island or what? Quickly I realized they were close to civilization.

Hank starts to realize hauling around a dead body is a hindrance. He decides to part ways, that is until the body supplies him with a fountain of water. And to top it off the body starts to speak. So begins the friendship of Hank and the body whose name is now Manny.

As the title of the film suggests, Manny can do many things. He can chop wood, light fires with his butt, shoot rocks, and many many more things. The other thing about Maney is that he becomes someone Hank can talk to. In a nutshell they talk about life. Hank has some issues that need sorting out and Manny becomes therapy in a manner of speaking.

A good chunk of their conversation is about a girl on a bus that Hank was afraid to talk to. It's strange and heartfelt how this dilemma is dealt with.

I can't spoil the ending but once Hank and Manny arrive at civilization, the film takes a turn. Yes, the whole “is Manny real” is kept ambiguous. But it's wonderful how the Daniels' handle the films final scenes. I laughed hysterically at the ending of the film but also found it touching.

I highly recommend SWISS ARMY MAN simply for the fact that it is a very creative film.

So far this summer movie season has been a drag. Besides CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and THE NICE GUYS, my other favorite summer movies have been two art house films. Kinda cool!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE Ultimate Edition

Is BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE Ultimate Edition worth seeing? If you're a fan of the theatrical release then yes, the Ultimate Edition is mandatory viewing. Trust me, you'll never watch the cut shown in theaters ever again. If you hated the movie; I'm sorry, the 3 hour version will not sway you're opinion.

The Ultimate Edition of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a better movie than the theatrical release. The first thing you'll notice is that the sub plots are a little better to understand. Especially the ordeal in Africa. The added scenes help big time; however, Superman being framed for the death of those people is still a little dumb.

Besides a lot of extended Batman stuff, I also really liked the added scenes of Clark Kent doing some investigative reporting in Gotham City concerning the vigilante. It made for a more dramatic build up to their fight.

My biggest disappointment of the Ultimate Edition was none of the stuff I hoped and wished for were in the movie at all! I would have put money down that we'd see a Robin flashback for sure. And with Jenna Malone's role added back in, for sure I thought there would be a “killing joke” of a Barbra Gordon scene! Wrong.

As for the “R rating” the only things they added were a F-bomb and some extended fight scenes and gun play.

For a 3 hour run time the film seems to run smoother than the theatrical version did. While still overstuffed, I like the pace of the Ultimate Edition.

I mentioned it in my original review and I'll say it again. When they bring Superman back in JUSTICE LEAGUE I want him to be different. It'd be a perfect time for the character to be the boy scout hero, like the Christoper Reeves Superman. But we'll probably get a INJUSTICE version of Kal-El instead.

In closing, the Ultimate Edition cut of the film (the director's original cut) is a better movie. But time will tell if it holds up once the DC Cinematic Universe starts rolling full steam?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE

It's probably been a good 15 years since I've seen INDEPENDENCE DAY. I watched it enough in the late 90's that I really never needed to see it again. But after seeing INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE I owe it to myself to watch the original again. Not because the 2016 sequel is awesome and I wanna have a nostalgia trip, but because the first film is a masterpiece compared to the crap I just witnessed.

INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE is on the fast track to becoming one of my least favorite films of 2016. I was mildly on board to begin with. I never felt the desire to see what these characters have been doing the past 20 years (with the exception of Jeff Goldblum of course). What got my attention in the trailers was that Earth ended up integrating the alien technology to make defense systems and vehicles.

The other added interest was some much needed down time for myself, and a summer blockbuster felt like a good idea. I appreciated the escapism, but the film was pretty bland and straight up boring.

It's been 20 years since the events of the first film and now the aliens are back. Back with a vengeance! Citizens of Earth always knew that the aliens would come back and when they did the planet would be ready for them with the Earth Space Defense, or ESD for short. Just not ready enough it turns out. This time around the aliens are sporting a spacecraft 3,000 miles wide (heh)! The saucers from the first film we're only 3 miles wide.

The huge mothership begins to drill into the Earth to reach the planet core. We try and stop them but with only giving you lite spoilers, the aliens set a trap. So it's up to David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and others to figure out how to stop them, again. Ticking clock climax within ticking clock climax.

What made the first INDEPENDENCE DAY work so well was it's impressive mash up of a Irwin Allen disaster movie with science fiction action. A lot of movie buffs including myself eye-roll at the mere mention of the film nowadays. Which in my opinion stems from all the cash cow rip offs that came afterwards, including director Roland Emmerich's other movies.

I'm not saying INDEPENDENCE DAY is the best film ever. I'm saying the formula worked. It's a super fun thrill ride. And sadly everything that INDEPENDENCE DAY got right, INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE got wrong.

I don't like doing the laundry list of what's wrong but I'll name a few anyway.

Poor character development or lack thereof.

Liam Hemsworth is one of the films heroes (top billing if I remember correctly) and here he is about as charismatic a piece of wood.

All the young characters suck in the movie, I was perplexed that I did not like a single one!

The only character I liked was David Levinson, but that's only because Jeff Goldblum is awesome. Bottom line and I never thought I'd say this, but Will Smith should have been in this movie! The charm that his Captain Steven Hiller brought to the first film was sorely missed.

Fox should have just paid Will's price and stuck with the draft where his character doesn't die.

This film had 5 screenwriting credits by the way. And believe me, you can tell.

There are some sub plots that come out of nowhere and with no rhyme or reason all connect with each other in the end. At times it really felt like you were watching several different drafts of the film. And I'm sure the studio thinks nobody will notice because they are distracting you with special effects.

The CGI in INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE isn't bad per say, but it strangely makes the film look oddly flat at times? Grand wide shots of stuff happening on screen that is clearly computer generated. So maybe the special effects were bad after all! By the climax which is with a gigantic alien queen (sound familiar) and all the ensemble sub-plot characters coming together, I was ready for the movie to be over with.

The last thing I'll complain about admittedly sounds like a nit pick, but the musical score for INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE was terrible. Nothing memorable about it at all. It sounded like the main theme from the original on a loop, droning on and on and on.

In closing I want to reiterate that I do not hold INDEPENDENCE DAY in some high regard. It's a pretty dumb film peppered with cool fun stuff. It's success is responsible for what seemed like an endless slew of disaster movie crap. But at the time of this review I do think it's a better film (a masterpiece even) than the sequel.

If you loved the first film and are a fan of sci-fi action then you may like INDEPENDENCE DAY RESURGENCE, but I highly doubt it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is the most frustrating comic book movie experience I've had in awhile. Frustrating, because I'm so mixed on what I thought of the film. I liked it! that is a fact, but it's got a lot of stupid stuff in it. Real stupid.

As a comic book fan, I really liked the movie. There were times I even loved what I was seeing. But BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE isn't perfect and deserves the criticism it is receiving.

The sequel to MAN OF STEEL picks up 18 months after the world was introduced to Superman. But first we are shown the attack on Metropolis from the point of view of Bruce Wayne. And he is pissed! It's a powerful scene and we get a clear understanding why Bruce hates the last son of Krypton.

But there may just be someone who hates Superman more! The son of Lex Luthor, Alexander. While watching the movie you may have blinked and missed some character development? He basically wants to have some control and order for meta-humans. Apparently Superman isn't the only god among us? Oh, and Alexander is crazy! I have two thoughts on this; one, he is a clone of his dad and two, he is being manipulated by the DC universe villain known as Darkseid. I really believe both of those are correct!

While saving Lois Lane in Africa, Superman is set up by mercenaries for killing some people. A U.S senator wants answers and Luthor gets involved to bend the favor toward his will.

Meanwhile, Bruce is tracking a potential WMA and discovers it's kryptonite. After a terrorist bombing of a Capital building involving Superman, enough is enough and Batman steals the green rock from Lex Corp. He decides Superman is a threat to our world and must be killed.

The plot thickens as it becomes evident that Alexander Luthor is behind the whole thing and forces the two titans to fight to the death. Like any good evil mastermind, Luthor has a back up plan in the form of a General Zod mutated monster. And if you've seen the trailer you know already that DC's holy trinity (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) team up to fight the monster.

Man, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a lot to take in! A lot of things in the film don't make sense and it's overstuffed with cinematic universe world building, but I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy this film! While not perfect, this is the DC comic book movie I've been waiting for!

The things I hated. Why do people believe or think that Superman actually killed those “terrorists” in Africa with a gun? Why didn't Superman see the bomb in the Capital building? Why is Bruce Wayne not smart enough to realize he's being punked by Luthor? This is a detective we're talking about here! And last but not least, the appearance of Doomsday was way too soon!

I have a few more questions and complaints but the rest are extreme nitpicks.

The things I liked/didn't have a problem with. I liked that Luthor had files of other meta-humans in the world. It made sense plot wise. At the beginning of the film he was trying to get government approval to protect the world from these “threats”.

I liked the Knightmare dream sequence, it was so bad ass! Darksied is coming! Someone pinch me, Darksied is coming! And I felt this whole sequence had weight to it for future films. Batman better settle his beef with Superman is all I'm saying.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is a gorgeous looking movie. It's cinematic in every sense of the word!

I loved the music! Especially Wonder Woman's theme! Which brings us to the surprise hit of the film, Diana Prince! Gal Gadot the short amount of time she's on screen made me optimistic about her upcoming stand alone film!

The main event of the film, Batman vs. Superman was adequate with moments of awesomeness. If you're a fan of Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS then you'll love this fight. It could have gone longer and should have been the climax of the film, but oh well.

Ben Afleck as The Batman (heh) is the best thing about the DC cinematic universe! I have wanted a version of this character since for ever. Cannot wait to see what is in store!

And finally, Superman. I think we're seeing a slow evolution the character, he's not the iconic Boy Scout yet but he's getting there. I have faith that by the time JUSTICE LEAGUE: PART II comes out, he'll be sporting the spit curl.

If you like comic book movies then I recommend BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. It has it's flaws but we're not talking BATMAN AND ROBIN bad. More like IRON MAN 2 bad.