Saturday, June 10, 2017

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

Last year when I went to go see ROUGE ONE, one of the trailers before the movie was a teaser for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. My first reaction was "They made a fifth one"? When the teaser played in front of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 I vocally displayed my disgust. The company I was with quickly told me the movie was getting quite the positive buzz. I didn't believe them.

One day hanging out with a good friend of mine convinced me to see the film. From the things my friend had heard about the movie it sounded like fun. But, the early positive buzz quickly got buried under a fair share of negitive reviews. I became very "on the fence" about seeing it, so I opted out of seeing it opening weekend.

Instead, I decided to watch the first three movies at home. It had been awhile since I'd last seen Gore Verbinski's PIRATES trilogy, so I made a weekend out of it. And let me tell you, you need a weekend. I had forgotten how long DEAD MAN'S CHEST and AT WORLD'S END were? Also, I forgot how much I liked the movies! Yes, they are both long and convoluted but I'd be lying if I say that I didn't soak it all up!

Here's where I may loose some credibility, it's just how my movie brain works sometimes, but to me the original PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy is Verbinski's STAR WARS of the open seas.

The enchantment of the Black Pearl reminded how mythic the Millennium Falcon was in the holy trilogy. I know he was more concerned about the precious "cargo" aboard the ship, but we know why Vader wanted the Falcon in EMPIRE! And in DEAD MAN'S CHEST, I loved the Flying Dutchmen! Davey Jones and his crew looked fantastic! I was quickly reminded of the awesome bounty hunters from EMPIRE! And finally, the opening action scene of AT WORLD'S END in my opinion is an homage to Jabba's Palace in RETURN OF THE JEDI!

Watching the first three films got me pumped for DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES that I decided to go ahead and watch the fourth entry, ON STRANGER TIDES. That movie killed my buzz. ON STRANGER TIDES is the definiton of a rushed film. 2011 was too soon to bring back Captain Jack Sparrow. Everything about the production felt bland. The Fountain of Youth is a great concept, but it's not supernatural enough and ulitmatly doesn't seem to fit in this franchise.

Needless to say I was exhausted after watching four films. I made the decision that I could wait till DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES hit Netflix, which would be about 6 months from now.

A few days later I met my friend again at Barnes & Noble. We talked about geek stuff that we normally do, but we mostly discussed the PIRATES franchise. He had seen DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES twice already and said that I should see the film! This is why I take a critic's opinion and RT percentage with a grain of salt. My friends recommendation got me pumped again. Don't get that confused with me thinking I am about to witness the greatest summer movie of 2017? If I decided to see DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, I knew pretty much what to expect.

So upon my friends recommendation I watched PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, and I liked it. It's not as good any of the Verbinski films, but it's a whole lot better than the garbage that is ON STRANGER TIDES.

For the fifth adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow we have Henry Turner (all grown up now), son of Will Turner looking for Poseidon's Trident. Legend has it that the trident can break any and all curses of the sea. Henry finds the trident and no longer will his father be bound to captain the Flying Dutchman.

Aboard a British vessel pursuing a pirate ship Henry meets Captain Salazar, a ghost of the sea trapped in the Devil's Triangle. To save his own life Henry tells Salazar he knows Jack Sparrow. Salazar wants revenge and Jack's famous compass.

Henry finds Sparrow, and with the aid of young scientist Carina Smyth, our three adventures are off to find Poseidon's Trident

The movie was entertaining but like I said not as good as any of the original trilogy installments. For a fifth film in a franchise I am amazed that the special effects are still awesome! Captain Salazar and his crew are pretty creepy.

And yes, Johnny Depp is adding nothing new to Captain Jack Sparrow. But you know what, I love slapstick and Depp delivers in that department!

Here's what I didn't care for:

The characters of Henry Turner and Carina Smyth are pretty bland. In someways I am not surprised because this has been a problem since the sequels. In DEAD MANS CHEST and more so in AT WORLD'S END, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan became cardboard for the most part. And in ON STRANGER TIDES those supporting characters we're even more cardboard and completely forgettable.

This next complaint is a spoiler so if you're wanting to see the movie stop reading and go see it, I recommend it.

My final complaint is Captain Barbossa. It has nothing to do with Geoffrey Rush's performance, it's great every time! My problem is that they killed off his character, again. Yes, I am sure it is because this film is meant to be the last one. But you all know as well as I do that if DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES makes a lot of money then they'll make another one. And I'm sure they'll bring back Barbossa, again?

Oops, one more complaint. The post-credit scene completely contradicts the film. How can Davey Jones come back all octopus like when all the curses of the sea have been broken? Maybe it was just a nightmare? Yeah, of course it was...

In conclusion, I recommend PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. If you're a fan of the franchise then you've probably seen it. If you were turned off by the last film, give this one a shot, it's a well earned redemption. And do I think this should be the last adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow? Yeah, I think it's time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2

Consider me shocked that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie? I was certain a film with a sentient tree and talking raccoon was going to be the first Marvel Studios dud. But, all that changed once I saw that first trailer! Director James Gunn making a Dirty Dozen-esque film about a group of Space-Mercenaries saving the galaxy from a genocidal maniac, count me in! Lo and behold GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY became my favorite film of 2014!

To say that my expectations were high for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2 is the understatement of the year. I'm just happy to report that the anticipated sequel did not let me down. At the time of writing this post my only complaint of the film is that it might be a little too long? A third viewing will determine if I'm for certain.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 takes place what seems like only a few months after the events from the first film. The rag-tag group of space mercenaries doing odd jobs to help the galaxy. Star-Lord and friends are helping a race called the Sovereign (who are too pretty to deal with matters that might make them dirty) fend off an alien creature that loves to feed off of the Sovereign's precious batteries.

This action sequence kicks off the movie, but director James Gunn does something brilliant. Much like the original film, the sequel opens with a music/dance number. But this time it's on a whole other level. While the Guardians are fighting the alien in the background, Baby Groot is dancing to music in the foreground. It's just the joyous thing ever! I have two theories/opinions about this opening. First, it's just a throwback to the opening of the first film? Or, it's the films mission statement letting the audience know that they are in for a fun-filled comic book movie ride, in true Marvel Studios fashion!

The battery-eating monster creature is defeated and the Guardians are rewarded, but Rocket takes some batteries for himself. The Sovereign are slighted by this and demand nothing less than death. Outnumbered, the Guardians face certain doom until a mysterious figure appears and saves them.

The mysterious savoir is a man named Ego, who claims to be Star-Lord's father. Peter decides to go with Ego, but brings along Gamora and Drax in case something bad goes down. Rocket, Groot, and prisoner Nebula stay with the ship while Rocket repairs it. So sticking with second movie tradition, the team splits up.

Meanwhile, Yondu and his Ravagers are having a good time at a interglatic brothel. The Sovereign show up and offer a reward for the death of the Guardians. Yondu accepts the offer in his typical fashion, and by that I mean you know he's not going to just straight up kill the Guardians of the Galaxy. He'll scheme another plan, you just know it.

Back on Ego, Peter is getting to know his father but nothing is as it seems and something sinister is afoot. Yondu's plans backfire when Nebula escapes and captures him and Rocket. Can they get free and reclaim their ship in time to help the other Guardians of the Galaxy?

Man, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 rocks! I still think the first film is better, but just barely. Until I saw WONDER WOMAN it was easily my favorite comic-book movie of the year. Taking a page from successful sequels like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN, director James Gunn gets it right!

He ups the ante without the film feeling too over-bloated. And he expounds on some character conflicts developed in the first film.

I love the sisterly rivalry between Gamora and Nebula. It's so fun and heartbreaking at the same time. Thanos better be careful of these two come AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR!

And of course I loved Kurt Russell as Ego! It was sad to see him play a bad guy (oops spoiler), but he's so damn fun playing a villain! Check out DEATH PROOF to see what I mean. Kurt has always been one of my favorite actors, so seeing him in the MCU puts a smile on my face.

But the best thing about GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 was Yondu. He was my favorite character in the first film, so it was awesome that his role in VOL. 2 ended up being important and stealing the show!

As I mentioned earlier, my only complaint with the film might be the length? A third viewing is in order to see if I really feel this way or not. The second time we were on the front row of IMAX 3D. It was bad, but not quite terrible? So as you can tell, a third time is a charm. And here in a few weeks my town is getting a new movie theater, a Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to be exact! And you can bet your bottom dollar if they are showing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, I'll be in attendance with a pint of my favorite Stout!

In conclusion, if you haven't yet, see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2! But if you love comic-book movies, then you probably already have!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ALIEN: COVENANT

One thing that I think is really cool about PROMETHEUS and it's sequel ALIEN: COVENANT is that director Ridley Scott is going for something different, and just not doing the typical prequel formula. Unfortunately, I'm sure it's only a matter of time (the next film) before producers and the studio mandates that Scott's new space-horror trilogy connect with his 1979 masterpiece.

Back in 2012, I was one of the crazy few that really liked PROMETHEUS. My peers really gave me crap for liking it, so I just kept my opinion to myself. There was a lot of dumb decisions and actions being made by so called scientists in the movie. We're talking some real stupid stuff! But despite all that, I loved how gorgeous the film looked! The production design was insane! I couldn't wait to buy the movie on blu-ray and wallow in it. In one scene there is this beautiful mural of the Xenomorphs, I wanted to study it for hours. The music, oh man, the PROMETHEUS score is so great! I'm glad to hear a slight return in the new movie.

In addition to all the dumb actions made by "smart" characters I think another thing audiences hated about PROMETHEUS was that there was no literal connection to ALIEN. There was this expectation of the origin of the Xenomorph. Instead we got something different, and far more interesting. Our favorite Space-Bug is there, just a little different. I had read recently that Ridley Scott thought that the Xenomorph was dead and old hat. He wanted to scare audiences with new horrors from the same universe. Turned out he was wrong. Some fans just want the same McDonalds double cheeseburger every damn time.

Now, I'm going to give some fans the benefit of the doubt and agree that some are valid in their distaste of PROMETHEUS. The main problem with prequels is that not everything needs explaining. Or as J.J. Abrams likes to put it, "you don't have to open the box of magic tricks". And I stand by those who believe that audiences don't need to know where the Space Jockey/Engineer or Xenomorphs came from? All we need to know is that they are not nice and must not reach Earth.

Scott tried something new with PROMETHEUS by showing us a different kind of Xenomorph. I was on board with this, the majority we're not. In fact, apparently audiences we're so disappointed that Ridley Scott himself apologized and promised the return of the Xenomorph in the next film.

ALIEN: COVENANT is a PROMETHEUS sequel first and ALIEN prequel last.

We start with what looks like "birth" of the android David. His creator Peter Weyland giving him tasks as if he's testing David for the first time. David is told to play something on the piano and his selection disappoints Weyland. He comments that without an orchestra David's selection is rather bland. It's very subtle but David takes it personally and in my opinion is the catalyst of this new trilogy. David is an android who wants to be god because he's felt slighted by his father.

10 years after PROMETHEUS and probably 30 years before ALIEN, the crew of the Covenant are on a colonization mission to find a new planet. Some kind of solar blast interrupts the ship and the crew must repair damages. Afterwards, the Covenant receives a signal from planet that is habitat.

Almost immediately the idea of visiting the planet is a bad idea. Two crew members get infected with some spores and a creature bursts out of them shortly after. Getting their butts handed to them by the creatures, a mysterious figure rescues them. It is David, the only surviving member of the Prometheus. But are the remaining crew of the Covenant really safe?

I really can't go into more detail than that without major spoilers. But, I will say that my favorite scenes in the film were between Warren (the new android) and David. Both characters played by Michael Fassbender, and it's amazing. Their interaction reminded me a lot of BLADE RUNNER, another Ridley Scott film.

Just like with PROMETHEUS I loved the look of ALIEN:COVENANT. I'm really digging these films I think!

When everybody's favorite Xenomorph shows up is really the weakest part of the movie, but that's just me. The aliens of the franchise aren't that scary anymore. Yes, they are still cool but not scary, ALIEN 3 was probably the last time? It was nice to see a proper return of the Xenomorph but it quickly became been-there-done-that.

In conclusion, I recommend ALIEN: COVENANT to fans of PROMETHEUS. But, if you hated PROMETHEUS and are a fan of the Alien franchise, I say go ahead and give the film a shot.

Friday, June 2, 2017

WONDER WOMAN

Okay, male comic book fan confession time, I never collected 'Wonder Woman' during my avid years as a reader/collector. Not because I thought the character was just for girls, I never found a good jumping on point. Also, if I remember correctly my friend (who literally had a comic book collection that consisted of a little bit of every title) said the 'Wonder Woman' comic (at the time) wasn't that great? That story might be incorrect a little bit, but we did have discussions about Wonder Woman, and they seemed mediocre.

While I never picked up her book, I always loved the character. It was cool seeing her kick butt in a Justice Leauge comic. And I absolutely loved the idea (more like fact) that she could give Superman a run for his money!

More recently another friend of mine who reads comics told me about the New 52 run of 'Wonder Woman', and it sounded awesome. Because of this I started reading the Rebirth issues of 'Wonder Woman', and they have been really good. To save money and space I recently transitioned frome single issues to trade paperback volumes. Cannot wait to pick up the Wonder Woman books!

I am part of the unpopluar group that liked BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. The Theatrical Cut is problematic and I vastly prefer the Ultimate Edition. Some issues just cannot be fixed, but for the most part as a comic book fan I enjoyed it. I really believe the best thing about the movie is when Wonder Woman shows up to help fight Doomsday. Yes, Wonder Woman steals the show from Superman and Batman!

Warner Bros has had a rocky start with their DCEU films, but I believe WONDER WOMAN is the first of many steers into correct course correction. Or maybe WONDER WOMAN will have fans (not critics) revaluate BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and/or be more optimistic in November when JUSTICE LEAGUE hits theaters. Whatever the case, I think it's a no brainer that Diana Prince is now the anchor for the DCEU (sorry, not sorry Batman)!

Patty Jenkins' WONDER WOMAN is an origin film where we see Diana grow up to become the Amazon warrior we know and love. One day a WW1 pilot crashes on a secret island called Themyscira. The pilot is about to drown but Diana saves him. Germans break the invisible barrier and attack the Amazon warriors. The pilot, a spy name Steve Trevor tells them about the war. Convinced that Aries the god of war is behind it, Diana goes back to the real world with Steve to defeat the Germans and stop WW1.

Man, this movie was awesome from beginning to end. The 2 hour and 22 minute run time really felt like 88 minutes (something that cannot be said about BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE). I was glued to the screen. In my opinion WONDER WOMAN is so far the best DCEU movie to date. The film feels like a return/throwback to Richard Donner's 1978 film SUPERMAN. WONDER WOMAN director Patty Jenkins has given us a classic comic book movie. The film is DCEU cannon, but I'd be lying if I didn't feel it was a cousin to SUPERMAN (78).

I really enjoyed how colorful WONDER WOMAN was! I bet all the Themyscira scenes are just beautiful in IMAX 3D laser projection.

The cast is great too! Gal Gadot as Princess Diana/Wonder Woman is even better this time around. Move over Ben, Gal is the star now! And Chris Pine as spy Steve Trevor was great! I'm glad that Chris didn't get typecast as the young Captain Kirk from the new Star Trek movies. He is a talented actor and I expect even greater things to come.

One thing that I didn't much care for in the film was the villains. Why are villains so hard to get right these days? General Ludendorff started out being a real terrifying bad guy, but as the story progressed he became more cartoonish and over the top. and when Aries reveals himself it was kind of been-there-done-that in my opinion. The action climax (while very CGI) made up for it a little bit.

In conclusion, I highly highly recommend WONDER WOMAN! At the time of writing this blog post I like the movie more than GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2. It truly is that good.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

COLOSSAL

COLOSSAL is a 2017 film written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo. It stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a single woman who just can't seem to get her act together. Early on Gloria gets dumped by her boyfriend Tim because no effort is taken on her part to better herself and also stop drinking. She leaves New York and heads to her hometown to figure it all out.

Clearly hitting rock bottom Gloria is at a loss with her new chapter returning home. Things start to change though when she crosses paths with Oscar, a childhood friend. To help her get back on her feet Oscar hires Gloria to work at his bar. The two get reacquainted and become somewhat friends.

Gloria is adjusting a little bit but still can't help but get black out drunk. One morning the news is flooded with reports of a giant monster attack in Seoul, South Korea. Gloria starts to notice something strange about the monster and it's movements, they strangely mimic her own?

After some research and some experiments at playground/park, Gloria is convinced she is the monster!

Okay, that's all I can say about COLOSSAL. If you want to know more about the film you'll just have to go see it. In fact go see immediately! If you're a fan of genre movies and are tired of reboots, sequels, comic book movies, and movies based on intellectual properties then this is the film for you. Finally something original!

COLOSSAL isn't my favorite film of the year, but as things are going right now it'll probably be in my Top 10 of 2017.

As I mentioned earlier I don't wanna give anything away about the movie, but I will talk about a few things that I liked about COLOSSAL.

While the Kaiju movie is far from anything original, Vigalondo does manage to make a monster movie nobody's ever seen before. There is some deep deep emotional stuff going on in COLOSSAL that is disguised as a kaiju film. I haven't seen a monster movie this emotional sense THE HOST. Anne Hathaway gives a knockout performance that will be one of my favorites this year.

Speaking of great performances, I was really impressed with Jason Sudeikis who played Oscar. He is really branching out from his typical material. He has a couple of great monologues in the film, one of them being about buying a giant firecracker in Mexico. I was quite impressed.

And lastly, I was just impressed with how imaginative COLOSSAL was. It just wasn't another monster movie about smashing skyscrapers, or some big CGI disaster show. No, COLOSSAL is a kaiju movie where the real monsters are resentment, anger, surppresed feelings, and other ugly personal issues.

If COLOSSAL is playing at a theater near you do yourself a favor and see it immediately.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

There are some things I liked about KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD but those things are nothing to make me recommend seeing the film. As I was watching the movie I entertained the idea of it working well as a double feature with THE FORCE AWAKENS, and everybody slowly leaving (or falling asleep) before KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD ended. I'm sad to report that this film is garbage. It's disappointing really, because I am a big fan of director Guy Ritchie. I loved his last film MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

This isn't going to be an angry post about how much I thought the movie sucked, because I kinda figured as such anyways. I knew something wasn't quite right about KING ARTHUR: LOTS from the very first trailer. For me the Guy Ritchie style just didn't seem to fit with medieval stuff. (I'm not a fan of the A KNIGHT'S TALE treatment.) The second indication that the movie was probably a disaster was because there was a release delay and they changed the title too. LEGEND OF THE SWORD was a late addition.

The decision was final, I was going to pass on the film when it hit theaters this May.

But, a week or two ago I receive an email from AMC Theaters inviting me to a special sneak preview so of course I went. This was the first time our AMC Theater hosted a sneak preview like this. I hope there is more in the future because the staff at Springfield 11 need the experience. The event was chaos. I barely got in with only 4 seats remaining.

I cannot believe KING ARTHUR: LOTS is being released as a summer movie? It's more like a January release to be honest.

Here's the IMDB synopsis:

Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy - whether he likes it or not.

Arthur "coming up the hard way" and raised in a brothel really feels like the Guy Ritchie contribution, mostly everything else certainly seems like studio meddling. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if KING ARTHUR: LOTS was more the studios idea than Ritchie's? Meaning, Guy maybe wanted to do a sequel to ROCKNROLLA and Warner Bros agreed only on the condition that he direct their King Arthur movie that has been in development hell? I know that's probably a stretch, but that's what I'm going with.

I've seen lots of movies and I think I know a film taken from the director's hands when I see one. The story of King Arthur meets SNATCH doesn't need giant elephants with armor or heavy CGI action involving the sword Excalibur? Seriously, every time Arthur uses the sword we're treated to a X-Men movie or Zack Snyder effect extravaganza!

Yes, I know Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films had slo-mo and CGI, but nothing like this my friend! It's as if WB said we need this to look like our HOBBIT films or something?

Time to say something nice. I liked the costume design, the bad guys had this Kylo Ren thing going on. Hence me saying the whole double feature with THE FORCE AWAKENS. I've always found similarities with Excalibur and Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber.

I also liked a couple of the action scenes. The best one is probably the failed assassination attempt on the evil king.

In conclusion, I wouldn't recommend KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD to my worst enemy. Save your time and money and seek out EXCALIBUR (1981) instead, or just watch LORD OF THE RINGS for the umpteenth time.

I'm glad I saw this movie for free; otherwise, I would be really mad.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

GRINDHOUSE: 10th Anniversary

I remember the release of GRINDHOUSE like it was yesterday. For good reason too, I followed the progress of the film since conception! Hot off the success of SIN CITY and KILL BILL, filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were kings. They could do any film project they wanted! Rodriguez had several offers from major studios, I think a BARBARELLA and CONAN THE BARBARIAN remake were offered to him? Tarantino kept quiet (per usual) but let it be known that whatever he did next was going to be small compared to KILL BILL.

After a night of watching movies at Tarantino's home theater, the two decided that their next films would be a collaboration. But instead of one movie, like FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, they would both each make their own and play them back to back as a double feature!

The day I first heard about this, I read every movie news post with information on the progress of GRINDHOUSE. It was fun, but something I never really want to do again. GRINDHOUSE wasn't ruined for me because of this, but I felt like I had learned too much going in. And it's best not to know much when seeing a Tarantino film.

Has it already been 10 years since the release of GRINDHOUSE? It sure doesn't feel like it! What the heck is GRINDHOUSE you say? Well, it was a film directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Both filmmakers set out to create a double-feature experience with coming attractions and retro theater advertisements. You probably don’t remember it because the film bombed at the box office. Because of this the films were released separately on home video.

You're probably better acquainted with the separate titles PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino respectively. There are numerous reasons as to why the film bombed at the box office; released on Easter Sunday, poor advertisement, or a confusing title?

In this day and age GRINDHOUSE does sound a little bit like a porno title. But the title is a homage to the theaters on 42nd Street that would play movies all day. I think from midnight to 8:00am was a popular time? Some of the movie houses would show blockbuster films, but you had to sit through some trash first. But the lot of them would show exploitation films.

My early judgement of exploitation films was that they all must be XXX porno films? Yes they showed those on 42nd Street, but there was so much more. The famous New York City stretch (not anymore) had plenty to offer in terms of genre; Kung-Fu, Horror, Action, and Sexploitation. If not for Quentin Tarantino and his film KILL BILL, I probably would have never been interested in exploitation cinema?

After KILL BILL I tried to watch anything I could get my hands on, primarily Spaghetti Westerns, Blacksploitation, and Italian Horror. Because of this I now have a few "new" favorite films of all time!

So April 6th, 2007 GRINDHOUSE opens in theaters and I go see the first showing of the day. There were no midnight showings for it, back then that only happened with Summer Blockbusters. You're probably thinking that GRINDHOUSE doesn't really sound like a matinee type of film; you're right it's not, but I'm a fan, so first showing it is! Thus began a new tradition with watching a new Tarantino film, I'd see it first by myself then go to the prime-time show with friends. That first showing is all me!

Watching GRINDHOUSE that first showing I really felt like Rodriguez/Tarantino made the film for me!

With PLANET TERROR I got this "lost film" of John Carpenter vibe mixed with Italian Horror. The film is a roller coster ride! I love watching it still because I kinda get what's going on in Robert's head when I watch it. That being said, PLANET TERROR is the weak link in GRINDHOUSE. It's fun, but at the end of the day it feels like a cross between a experiment and glorified trailer.

Both PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF have a 'Missing Reel' gag. The joke is hilarious in both films, but you look at script for TERROR and the gag is written into the script. So what, right? Well, in DEATH PROOF it isn't written in. They shot the scene and removed it latter. The International version of DEATH PROOF (a.k.a. the non-GRINDHOUSE version) has the lap dance scene intact. Now it's just my opinion, but Tarantino's "gag" is way more clever.

Despite all my criticism, I still enjoy watching PLANET TERROR. It sets the mood for 3 hours of exploitation fun. After a experimental bio-weapon is released, turning hundreds if not thousands into zombie-like creatures, it's up to a rag tag bunch to make is safely to Mexico with their backs to the ocean.

My favorite thing about PLANET TERROR is the 80's style gore effects. As I said earlier the movie has a John Carpenter meets Italian Horror vibe to it. I always wanna watch ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD next!

Once PLANET TERROR finishes we are shown 3 previews of Coming Attractions; WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE S.S, DON'T, and THANKSGIVING. I'm picking THANKSGIVING to talk about. The preview is a fake trailer directed by horror master Eli Roth. Love him or hate him, the guy can deliver the gore/scares. His film HOSTEL: PART 2 was my favorite horror film of 2007, beating out GRINDHOUSE.

THANKSGIVING is a parody of slasher films that are set during the holidays. When you think about it every holiday has been done except for Thanksgiving. Recently I found a slasher set during Thanksgiving but I cannot for the life of me remember the title. Regardless, the concept is still hilarious! Spoiler alert, my favorite part is when the 'trailer voice' says the film is coming out "This February". It's funny because it's true, horror fans know what I'm talking about!

It's time for DEATH PROOF and I'm immediately transported to the 70's. The film is set during modern times (same with PLANET TERROR) but Tarantino nails the Seventies exploitation flick! There is plenty of homage going on in DEATH PROOF but this second feature doesn't feel like like an extended trailer or cool experiment; no, DEATH PROOF feels like a movie.

I've already reviewed the International version, so I'll try my best to stick with DEATH PROOF's 87 minute GRINDHOUSE cut.

Just like with PLANET TERROR, DEATH PROOF has all the snaps, crackles, and pops that make the film look like it's traveled all over the U.S. But, there is a middle part that is pristine? My guess as to why is that Tarantino is playing around with the idea that GRINDHOUSE has a "Frankenstein" copy of DEATH PROOF. The other day I read a pretty good theory on the scratched up first half, that the first half is Stuntman Mike's personal copy. It's an artsy opinion, but I like it!

He's also toying with the idea that this version of DEATH PROOF is the successful one. I remember hearing Tarantino talk about the exploitation film SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. At one point in his DVD introduction he tells the story on how the film was originally titled THE JEZEBELS. The film flopped during it's first run. So the studio changed the name to SWITCHBLADE SISTERS and it became a smash!

You see, DEATH PROOF is actually the films second title, the original title was THUNDER BOLT.

In Austin, Texas, the girlfriends Julia, Arlene and Shanna meet in a bar to drink, smoke and make out with their boyfriends before traveling alone to Lake LBJ to spend the weekend together. They meet the former Hollywood stuntman Mike, who takes Pam out in his "death-proof" stunt car. Fourteen months later, Mike turns up in Lebanon, Tennessee and chase Abernathy, Zoƫ and Kim, but these girls are tough and decide to pay-back the attack.

My favorite thing about DEATH PROOF while watching GRINDHOUSE is that at the once the car chase moves onto the highway, the audience is treated to somewhat of a triple feature with an amazing car chase finale! I really believe this is a trick Tarantino learned from legendary movie producer Roger Corman, give the audience more bang for their buck.

In conclusion, I wish GRINDHOUSE didn't bomb at the box office, but at the same time maybe I am a little bit? Because I really think it was due to the films poor reception that made Tarantino finally make INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, his 3rd masterpiece!

If you've never seen/experienced GRINDHOUSE and you're a fan of these filmmakers, I'm pretty sure the movie is available On Demand with STARZ!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Season 3

Previously on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER...

After a intimate moment with Buffy, Angel looses his soul and becomes evil. Thus begins the cat and mouse sparing that ultimately leads to the two-part season finale BECOMING. And what a finale it is! First a little back story.

Centries ago Angel was sired by a vampire named Darla ( more on her later), and about a century after that a band of Gypsy's put a curse on Angel. The curse would give him back his soul and Angel would remember every victim he ever killed. Living like a bum feeding off of rats and who knows what else, Angel gets help from a demon to get back on track.

It is now present day and Angel is watching from afar the Slayer from Los Angeles, Buffy. He immediately falls in love and wants to help her. Kicked out of school, Buffy relocates to Sunnydale and lives with her mother. Angel follows in the shadows. The two finally meet in Season One and the rest is history.

Now evil, Angel wants to send the world to hell, literally. With the odds stacked up against her Buffy and her friends once again try and save the world.

A lot happens in BECOMING. We see the origin of Angel, Willow and Buffy discover a spell that can restore Angel's soul, Angel toutures Giles, and Buffy forms an alliance with Spike!

Like I said in my last post I knew Buffy and her friends saved Angel at the end of Season 2 because I had been watching Season 3. What I didn't know was just how nail bitting BECOMING turned out to be!

A few highlights:

I absolutely loved the truce Buffy and Spike made! Some great character moments/writing when Spike offers the deal to Buffy all while sitting on the hood of a cop car. Joss is a genius!

Buffy tells her mom she is the Slayer. Smart move. You're typical show would have Buffy still making up excuses why she sneaks out at night in Season 7.

Willow starts to grow as a character with having a nack for magic.

Angel getting his soul back at the last minute but Buffy still killing him was an emotional wallop!

Okay, now on to Season 3.

Season 3 of BUFFY is my favorite season! It's the season that I started watching in real time/broadcast, episode 9 till the finale. Every week me and my friend would try to watch it together. Great times! My friend was a bigger fan than I was, he would fill me in on all the stuff I missed. It was like hearing legends of the Slayer. I had never liked an hour long television show this much before. It was a show made for folks like us!

One of the things my friend helped me catch up on was the origin of Faith, my favorite (human) character of the series. In a nutshell I like her because she's Buffy unfiltered. They both have attitude but Buffy is more the Girl Scout compared to Faith. Faith is like the Darth Vader of the Buffyverse, and I love nothing more than troubled souls.

Without further ado here are some of my favorite episodes!

Episode 1:Anne

What a strong season opener! At the end of Season 2 Buffy saved the world but killed her boyfriend, got expelled, and her mom kicked her out of the house. Putting the past behind her she shacks up in L.A. working as a waitress in some greasy spoon diner. Back in Sunnydale her friends try and fight vampires waiting for their friend to return. Trouble always seems to find the Slayer as Buffy decides to help find a missing person.

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon, ANNE is top notch! One thing I notice to is the budget seems to be a tad bit higher. In it's own right Season 2 is amazing, but for me Season 3 is highest peak of the series.

Episode 3:Faith, Hope, and Trick

Every fan is different. I'm sure the majority consider Buffy Summers their favorite character, after all she is the main character. Don't get me wrong I adore Buffy, but rarely has she been my favorite character. That wouldn't happen until Season 6 and Season 7. Early on my favorites were Willow, Xander, Oz, and Spike. But Season 3 introduced my favorite Slayer, Faith!

What can I say, I have a thing for brunettes! As a character I was drawn to Faith's anti-hero bad girl attitude. Yes, Buffy is also a anti-hero, but Faith always had more finesse.

Episode 6:Band Candy

A school fundraiser where the chocolate candy bars turn the adults into teenagers. Some extremely funny moments in this episode. And Giles acting like a teenager is mandatory viewing!

Episode 9:The Wish & Episode 16Doppelgangland

This episode blew my mind! In the early years of my comic book collecting I always loved the Marvel Comics tile WHAT IF..., more for the concept rather than the stories themselves.

I'm sure I've already said this about another episode but THE WISH was a fan for life episode for me. A jealous (rightfully so) Cordelia tells her new friend Anya that the wishes Buffy Summers never came to Sunnydale. Turns out that Anya is a demon and grants Cordelia her wish. As you can imagine because of this Sunnydale becomes hell on earth, and we are introduced to Vamp Willow and Vamp Xander. Probably my favorite special guest villains of the series. You could tell the actors were having fun playing 'Monsters of the Week'.

They were so good that Joss brought Vamp Willow back for DOPPELGANGLAND, maybe my favorite Willow episode ever! Sorry, I'm going to say favorite a lot. My favorite moment from the episode is Willow pretending to be Dark Willow. Great episode!

Episode 13:The Zeppo

This episode is for all the nice guys who finish last. To prove himself "cool", Xander sets out and joins a gang and even fools around with Faith. After playing second fiddle to a Slayer, Witch, and a Werewolf it was nice to see Xander have center stage.

Episode 22:Graduation Day - Part 2

I picked PART 2 not because I like it better but because I liked how it ended the season. Not only is school is out for summer, but school's out forever! Yeah! The students blow up the school! With the Mayor defeated it marks a end to the chapter of Sunnydale's "Scooby Gang". It also marked a end for Angel and Buffy. I cannot remember if his spinoff show was announced yet or not? I'm thinking it was? And the big cliffhanger for me was that my favorite Slayer was still in her coma! Will Faith return?

With Season 3 over I was so excited for what was to come next. Never had I been this excited for a show during it's broadcast run! With the college years on the horizon, I like how the characters were transitioning into adult hood. I'd miss the high school library, but more excited for the future.

So the day of the Season 4 season premiere had arrived. We watched it at my best friends house with McDonalds in hand. The ANGEL season premiere followed after. Life was good! But the party was cut short. Next week Springfield, MO my hometown would loose The WB network, and I never watched BUFFY again until the seasons became available on DVD.

As of writing these blog post on BUFFY I am actually watching the series again. Season 4 is coming soon, but I think I wanna watch the rest of it before my next BUFFY blog. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 31, 2017

GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)

I'll be straight up front with you, I am not a Anime guy. I've seen a handful of them and only liked a few. One of them I liked happened to be GHOST IN THE SHELL. I didn't follow the story all that well but I liked the animation and action. Some of those images have been burned into my brain, like the spider Geisha cyborgs.

My interest in the classic Japanese Anime was because I had just seen THE MATRIX and wanted to see some of that films influences. One day I may revisit the original GHOST IN THE SHELL, but not until I've seen the American remake a few more times. Yes, a few more times! The GHOST IN THE SHELL remake is a feast for the eyes, and ears (the soundtrack is awesome!). When I do see the movie again it'll probably be in IMAX. The screen I watched it on was big but the image was dark and faded. I've come to the conclusion that this particular screen needs to be replaced.

There is a lot going on in GHOST IN THE SHELL plot wise. The script goes deep but not too deep with the philosophic and moral questions the story presents. Like when does a cyber-enhanced human stop being human and become a machine? I'm not the person to tackle such questions, I'm just going to focus on the movie.

In the future cyber-enhancement is a thing, and Major is the first of her kind. After a terrible accident a human is saved and becomes a cyber-enhanced solider to fight against the worlds most dangerous criminals. The movie is rated PG-13 so we're not talking JOHN WICK levels of gunplay, but the action in GHOST IN THE SHELL is pretty good. A there are some nice shot-for-shot moments on display.

Spoilers!!!

If you haven't seen the movie yet then don't read any further. If you're a fan of the original and/or like science fiction movies, then I recommend GHOST IN THE SHELL. Go see the movie then come back and read the rest of my review.

My biggest issue with GHOST IN THE SHELL is that the story is pretty predictable. We've seen it done many times, a hero who realizes they have been playing for the wrong team. The company who created Major has not been 100% truthful to their cyborg. The terrorist Major is after is really a victim. That's enough set up for you to get the idea. I knew how this movie was going to end pretty fast, and that always bums me out. The cool special effects and awesome music more than makes up for the weak spots in GHOST IN THE SHELL.

As far as the whitewashing of the lead character, it's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about it. All I have to go on is Scarlett Johansson's performance of Major, and she does a fantastic job. Her performance makes me want to watch the original again and compare the two. I'm guessing she probably did her homework, because it sure seems like she did? I've been impressed with the roles Scarlett has taken on as of late. Who would have thought that the young woman in LOST IN TRANSLATION would be a kick ass action movie star! And let's not forget her amazing turn as an alien in UNDER THE SKIN. Seriously, if you haven't seen UNDER THE SKIN do yourself a favor and change that!

In conclusion, I recommend GHOST IN THE SHELL if your just looking for something cool to watch this weekend. If you're a cyberpunk fan you may love the movie! It's been awhile since Hollywood has given us a cyberpunk right? I don't think it's gonna start a American franchise or anything? Who knows, if the film is a hit then Disney might start making live action Studio Ghibli movies! Oh yea...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tarantino 101: BREATHLESS

This is a new segment I'm going to try out, the influences of Quentin Tarantino. When it comes to someone with film knowledge like Quentin has, the influences must be endless. I'm willing to bet they are. But after years of watching and reading, I've found a handful of movies that shaped the filmmaker we know today.

One big influence to Tarantino's early work is the 1983 film BREATHLESS. Directed by Jim McBride, the film is a remake of the beloved French New Wave film A BOUT DE SOUFFLE from 1960 directed by Jean-Luc Godard. One day I may blog about the 1960 classic, but today it's all about the remake.

First off, how dare there be a remake of the French New Wave classic! Automatic dismissal! In 1983 when the remake was released that was what most critics thought. A reaction still popular today among remakes.

From the get go it's kinda easy to see why Tarantino might like BREATHLESS. It's an American remake of a movie that more or less is a love letter to Hollywood crime films from the 30's and 40's. Both films are aware of their source material, but not in a meta way. It's similar to how PULP FICTION was a love letter to movies and of course pulp fiction.

Car thief Jesse (Richard Gere) has to get out of town quick after shooting a policeman on accident. But before he leaves he has to convince his new "girlfriend" Monica to go with him. The longer he waits the closer the law is to catch him.

I have never been a big Richard Gere fan, but he's is amazing in Breathless! The over the top performance he gives playing Jesse grew on me. He over does it, but there comes a moment where it all makes since. I love rock n' roll, so Jesse being a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis I dug quite a bit! There is a hilarious moment when Jesse steals a Porsche, he tosses out the owners music and plays his personal cassette tape of The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis!

Another obsession Jesse has is the comic book character The Silver Surfer. If he can, Jesse keeps a issue rolled up in his pants or coat pocket. The creed of Norrin Radd starts to become allegorical to Jesse's plight.

If you're a fan of RESERVOIR DOGS and have seen it a few times you may have noticed a poster of The Silver Surfer. This easter egg was explained in a interview with Tarantino on the DVD. He went on to further discuss how the look of the film became an influence.

Having seen BREATHLESS several times now (thanks to Shout! Factory releasing it on Blu-Ray), I can really notice hints of PULP FICTION. For starters they both feature that bad ass guitar song from Link Wray called Rumble. If you're unsure what song I'm talking about it's most notable in my opinion when Vincent and Mia are having their 'uncomfortable silence' moment in Jack Rabbit Slims.

Another thing I noticed is Jesse's girlfriend Monica is French. In PULP FICTION Butch's girlfriend (or wife?) is also French. Coincidence, I think not! The way both couples fight and make up is similar to a degree.

So I know some of you are probably thinking "Cool, it's an influence to PULP FICTION but is the movie itself any good?". The answer is yes and no. Yes, in that the film is still entertaining for what it is. But no, of course BREATHLESS is not as good as PULP FICTION.

I loved seeing all the influences to Tarantino's early work, but I found things I liked on my own about BREATHLESS. Any chance the movie gets it's colors pop, sticking with the theme that Jesse is a fan of a comic book hero. Director Jim McBride is obviously a fan of rock music because his film plays fast and loose, just like rock n' roll!

In conclusion, I'd say if you're a Quentin Tarantino fan and have never heard of BREATHLESS, then it might be worth your time to check it out!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

MULTIPLE MANIACS

So it's come to this? Have I become a fan of the films of John Waters? Probably not, I can only deal with trashy cinema in small doses. However, I could listen to John Waters talk about movies all day. His knowledge and opinion of film has interested me for quite some time now. His movies on the other hand never appealed to me. Sorry, no interest in watching a drag queen eat a dog turd.

Catching snippets of POLYESTER and HAIRSPRAY on cable made me realize there was a counterculture to John Waters's films that I didn't understand and didn't care to. The look of his films reminded me of how strange and unusual I thought Pee-Wee Herman was before he went mainstream. Yes, Pee-Wee freaked me out before PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

It must have been sometime in the late 90's during the boom of DVD and special features that I started paying attention to John Waters. I can't remember the movie, but a behind-the-scenes documentary had a interview with Waters, and the rest is history. I remember having conversations with a good friend of mine and we both agreed that we loved hearing John Waters talk about movies. Him and David Cronenberg to be exact.

The moment that I decided to go ahead and give his filmography a try was while I was watching the special features on my BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS blu-ray. I think I enjoyed more of what John Waters had to say about the film than Roger Ebert, who wrote the screenplay! Waters' knowledge of exploitation films amazed me, most importantly the rise and fall of them. And I found it interesting his explanation of why his films failed the exploitation and grindhouse market.

This month the Criterion Collection released MULTIPLE MANIACS, the second feature from filmmaker John Waters. Curiosity getting the best of me but still worried I didn't run out and purchase the movie. Once I saw that there was a Director's Commentary, I bought the film immediately! If I thought the movie sucked at least I knew I'd enjoy Waters talk about it. Luckily I got the best of both worlds! I found MULTIPLE MANIACS entertaining and the commentary enjoyable.

Released in 1970, MULTIPLE MANIACS was trashy, shocking, and offensive. Today the film would be seen as being politically incorrect more than shocking. The trashiness is still there but it's more ironic now in 2017 than it was in 1970. MULTIPLE MANIACS had me laughing (in a good way) even during the controversial moments. It's deffinatly a midnight movie for sure!

A traveling sideshow 'Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions', is a front for a band of psychotic kidnappers/killers (I wonder if Rob Zombie is a fan?). Star of the show Lady Divine becomes enraged when she finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Divine proceeds to go on a murderous rampage and descends into madness.

It's really not the plot of MULTIPLE MANIACS that makes the movie interesting or worthwhile, it's the absurdity. And there is a sub plot that I found bizarre. The film was made during the Manson Family murders hysteria, and Charles Manson had not yet been charged with the Sharon Tate murder. It is left vague but it's suggested that Divine may have been involved in the Manson murders. At the time this was probably regarded as poor taste.

Spoiler Warning!!

Speaking of poor taste, MULTIPLE MANIACS is probably most known for one of the most craziest and tasteless things ever put on film! For those that don't know, I'm talking about the scene where Divine gets raped by a giant lobster named Lobstora! It has to be seen to be believed! The vicious and repulsive act sends Divine into madness and begins terrorizing the town. What a strange way to spoof the B-Movie science fiction films John Waters saw at the drive-in?

Another influence was black and white soft core Swedish art house films. According to Waters himself that's one of the reasons he thinks his films failed on the exploitation circuit, because they we're too art house and way too ironic. Patrons of grid houses wanted/loved to have their sex and violence real and gritty. For whatever reason the perversity of MULTIPLE MANIACS and his other films didn't register with the 42nd Street crowd? I'll admit I am a bit confused by this seeing that PINK FLAMINGOS (the follow up to MULTIPLE MANIACS) was a huge success in the midnight movie market. Maybe the gridhouses were dying off by then?

In conclusion, I love MULTIPLE MANIACS! For the type of film it is, it is a masterpiece! Extremely uneven at times but I admire the no-budget aspect of it all. Love his films or hate them, the fact remains that in the genre of trashy cinema there is only one John Waters.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Season 2

Season Two of BUFFY made me a fan for life. I already liked the show from what I had seen from Season Three (my favorite season), but binge watching the sophomore season on DVD I knew BUFFY was my kind of series.

In my all too brief post about Season One I forgot to mention a key element of the show, the “Scooby Gang”. The “Scooby Gang” consists of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. With the help of Buffy’s Watcher Giles, the “Gang” keeps Sunnydale safe from demons, vampires, and Monsters of The Week. Over the course of two seasons the circle of friends would grow to include Angel, and Oz.

Early on, the show emphasizes extremely well the importance of friends. Buffy Summers is the main character of the show but her two best friends are probably my favorites, Willow and Xander. When I started watching the show I quickly identified with these characters. Willow being the brains of the group and Xander being the class clown. It was easy to relate to Xander, too many times in my own life going after looks rather than seeing true love in front of me. And Willow, soft-spoken and shy, afraid to grab what she really wants.

During the course of the series I wanted these two characters to finally get together. But it makes sense why it never happened.

For me personally the best teenage romance stuff happened in Season Two and Three. Let me list some highlights and the main story arc for the season.

While BUFFY has it's fair share of monsters and vampires, the teenage soap opera elements we're good too! Let's face it, love stinks! While I was always rooting for Willow and Xander to hook up, I loved the triangles that followed. Willow, tired of waiting for Xander trades up and starts taking interest in Oz, the quiet cool guitar player in a band.

Oz ended up becoming a favorite of mine. Him and Willow made a good match. Plus later he gets turned into a Werewolf! More on Oz and the actor Seth Green in Season Three's post.

I don't remember the exact timeline of events, but also around this time Xander and Cordelia begin to sneak around and make out in broom closets. The Xander and Cordelia tryst was kinda strange to me. I wonder if the writers and producers were testing the waters wondering if she was Scooby Gang material? The whole lovers dance gets pretty dramatic and almost ends tragically for Cordelia!

There was however another romantic relationship in Season Two, one that was more apocalyptic, Buffy and Angel (the vampire with a soul). This doomed romance started in Season One and kept boiling right up to Episode 13 of Season Two. The episode, titled SURPRISE is a fitting one because Angel's ability to feel human emotion is jeopardized when an intimate moment with Buffy threatens to destroy his soul.

Knowing everything was going to be just fine (because I had seen Season Three), I still found myself in shock. Angelus (evil Angel) scared the crap out of me! I now understood the hatred Angel got in Season Three. This just showed me how awesome the level of writing was on BUFFY. I still get chills and think that Angel/Angelus won't be coming back!

Now here are some of my favorite episodes in Season Two!

Episode 3:School Hard

If I were to ever make a "Favorite Episode List", SCHOOL HARD would probably be in the top three! I love SCHOOL HARD, it is my most watched episode second to GRADUATION DAY and THE WISH (both from Season Three)!

Not only does SCHOOL HARD set the bar for the rest of the Series, it introduces my favorite villain, Spike! Angel's old friends Spike and Drusilla visit Sunnydale for The Night of Saint Vigeous. Buffy tries to protect her fellow students, the principal, and her mother from the uninvited guests who have crashed parent-teacher night. The hardest part is protecting her secret.

The entire episode is a blast and set's the tone nicely for things to come. The punk rock attitude is what I like most about Spike. Not even in town for a week and he starts running things, vowing to kill the Slayer. We also find out that Spike has a history with Angel, a mythology for the show is set. Another thing SCHOOL HARD did that took me a few viewings to catch was the tiny chess pieces the episode was placing for Season 3!

Episode 6:Halloween

The first Halloween episode of the series, and it's a good one! Buffy's costume causes her to lose her powers and the kids she, Willow and Xander are trick-or-treating with turn into their costume characters! Could Giles have something to do with all of this?

I remember this being one of the very first BUFFY episodes I ever saw. It and THE PACK made me want to start watching regularly.

Episode 11:Ted

Buffy's mom has a new boyfriend Ted, whom everyone adores - expect for Buffy. It turns out that there's more to him than meets the eye. The late John Ritter plays Ted and it's one of the best episodes!

Episode 9 -10:What's My Line?

This two-parter is a pretty important Spike and Drusilla episode. If Buffy was any other Slayer, Spike would have killed her by now. Not wanting any distractions while trying to cure the crazy from Drusilla, Spike sends a nasty batch of bounty hunters to kill Buffy. These two episodes are action packed with crazy bounty hunters and a new Slayer. Yes, a new Slayer! I'll get into that more with Season Three!

Episode 17:Passion

All the kids are falling in love, why not the adults? Hey, Watchers need lovin' too! That's right, in Season One and Two, Giles had a girlfriend. Computer Lab teacher Jenny Calendar was a sweet sweet character. So sweet that show creator Joss Whedon killed her off! This was something fans never got used to and often feared. I remember this episode hitting me pretty hard. I couldn't watch the next episode(s) for at least a week! Poor Giles.

That's it! I only had six favorite episodes in Season Two. Just kidding! There is actually just too many to mention. Like I said earlier, I love all the love triangles that went on this season and the Buffy + Angel romance as well. In my post for Season Three I'll discuss the events of Season's Two season finale and the repercussions of said events.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER turned 20 yesterday, but I'm going to continue talking about the seasons all year long. Next up is Season Three, my favorite season!

Happy Slaying!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE GREAT WALL

When it comes to monster movies I am a pretty easy sell. Over the summer last year is when we first started getting trailers for the new film from visionary filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), a movie about monsters attacking the Great Wall and a bunch of Chinese warriors defending it. And out of the smoke rises our hero...Matt Damon?

The casting of a Caucasian Hollywood star is lame, especially when it's purpose is to generate box office dollars. That being said, THE GREAT WALL was a joint production with Hollywood and China. Politically incorrect as it may seem, China is just as guilty casting an white American bankable movie star. Politics really isn't what this blog is about, but I just wanted to give my two cents on the matter. Moving on.

English mercenary William Garin (Damon) and his partner Pero Tovar of Spain are traveling through China in search of gunpowder, sorry I meant to say 'Black Powder". Their paths cross with a band of marauders and are ruthlessly pursued. One night they are attacked, not by bandits, but by something else! The next morning William and Pero are pursed again, but find sanctuary at the Great Wall of China.

Their welcome is short lived when orders are given to execute Willian and Pero. Death will have to wait because monsters begin to attack the Wall. The opportunity of escape appears but William instead joins the fight against the monsters. This wins him good favor with the Chinese army.

A weakness in the monsters is discovered, but the findings might be too late once it has been discovered the Wall has been breached! The fight moves into the city where our warriors have one last shot to kill the monster's Queen.

Man, I really wanted to like THE GREAT WALL but I just found myself being bored too many times. A monster movie from the guy that gave us HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS shouldn't be boring! Almost every single action scene came off as very matter-of-fact like. There were no bad ass moments to be found. When the weapon that works best against the monsters, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

The costumes and set designs were beautiful but that was about it.

The monster's (I don't remember what they were called) were kinda cool, but not cool enough. Plus they were CGI which gets hinders the suspense quite a bit. The horde of monsters reminded be of the zombie hordes in WORLD WAR Z. Coincidence that Max Brooks, the author of World War Z has a story credit for THE GREAT WALL?

With the exception of the costumes and choreography, the climax of the film was the only thing that felt Yimou like to me? And that was the our two heroes were fighting monsters inside a Stained Glass tower!

In conclusion, if you like monster movies then give THE GREAT WALL a Redbox rental, or wait until Netflix. It is a decent popcorn flick, just not one worth seeing at the theater. If there is ever an extended cut released on video, I might see what that's all about?

One thing is for sure, THE GREAT WALL is a whole lot better than JASON BOURNE? Oops!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Season One

In the nine year history of this blog I don't think I've ever wrote a post about television? Well, that's about to change. This year my favorite hour long television series BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER turns twenty! To celebrate, the least I could do is say a few words about each Season. I'm sure the professionals will have a better tribute next month? Until then, you're stuck with me.

My fandom doesn't start with Season One, I started watching BUFFY during Season 3. It wasn't until 2002 thanks to DVD that I finally saw all of the first season. That being said, the first episode I ever saw of the show was from Season One titled THE PACK. I'll get back to that in a minute. First, let's do a little history.

For those that know me it would seem natural that I'd love a show like BUFFY? A bad ass girl in high school kicking vampire and monster butt! What's not to like? Well back in 1992 I saw the movie and didn't think much of it. When the show debuted in 1997 I took a pass for three reasons, I didn't like television that much, it was on The WB which was a network for teens, and I thought the movie was lame.

One evening probably late 1997 or early '98, I was watching television flipping channels and I came across an image of a cute blonde bashing a skeleton to dust. Grabbing the channel guide I quickly looked to see what I the heck this show was! Lo and behold, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER! Curiosity started to get the best of me but I still was highly suspect.

A few weeks later I sat and watched a full episode. Buffy and her classmates were taking a field trip to the zoo. Some students go off the beaten path and get possessed by a pack of hyenas. The next day at school 'the pack' start acting like bloodthirsty animals!

The episode was fantastic, and still to this day THE PACK is one of my all time favorites! Unbeknownst to me THE PACK was a rerun because the episode I saw next was from Season Two, TED. Turns out the episodes that followed were all reruns, I tuned in while the show was on a season break. Season Two had just ended.

All this BUFFY nostalgia is keeping me off track, for now let's focus on Season One.

The first season of BUFFY is a mixed bag for me. The show was ahead of it's time. While procedural storytelling was the standard back then, BUFFY was breaking the mold with serialized episodes. A format that hit the ground running in Season Two and the rest of the series. Season One was serialized but with only 12 episodes it was difficult to pull off. To compensate the season relied heavily on monsters of the week. I'll talk more about the 'Monster of the Week' in the next post.

While I'd love to give you a summery of every episode, I just don't have it in me. After awhile I would just be a rambling mess of hyperbole. So instead, I'll just give an overview of the season arc and say a few words about favorite episodes or episodes that stood out.

Episode 1 & 2:Wellcome To The Hellmouth and The Harvest

This two-parter is basically a pilot episode that gets right into the action! Buffy Summers transfers to Sunnydale High to make a fresh start, but can't escape her destiny as a Slayer. On her first day she meets Rupert Giles, the new school Librarian. He also just so happens to be Buffy's new Watcher, a teacher in all things Slayer related. She tells Giles she no longer wants to be the Chosen One, but when her new friends Willow and Jesse get captured by vampires duty calls.

It turns out that Buffy's first day of school coincides with the ascension of The Master, a powerful vampire intent on making a meal out of her friends and re-opening the mouth of hell.

It was nice to finally see how-it-all began. And watching these episodes I really started paying attention to creator Joss Whedon's writing and craft!

Episode 6:The Pack

As I mentioned before this episode was the first one I watched. And it is still one of my favorites! For network T.V. back in the late 90's this was some dark stuff! The possessed students straight up kill people, I couldn't believe it! It was risky making one of the main characters part of the 'Pack', a risk that paid off extremely well. Bold moves like this became a mantra for the rest of the show.

Episode 12 :Prophecy Girl

Here we are at the Season One finale and Buffy's future is looking bleak. Giles discovers an ancient book that foretells her death and the end of the world!

Having already seen Season Three and some of Season Two, I knew Buffy was going to kill The Master and save the world. But this episode still kicked my butt! I had no idea that she died and came back stronger than ever! And to be honest it is a pretty good finale if the show only lasted one season.

In conclusion, the first season of BUFFY is strong on it's own but gets forgotten due how amazing future seasons became.

That's it for now, stay tuned for Season Two!

Monday, February 13, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

It's only February and I already have a favorite movie of 2017! Yes, I love JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 that much. Next month there are at least 2 films that could knock it down, but it's doubtful. LOGAN, a movie I've wanted to see since the very first trailer. The final Wolverine movie looks like the solo film I've been wanting since X-MEN! I expect great things, and word is I'm going to get them. The only problem now is that JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 has set the bar extremely high!

The other movie arriving in just a few short weeks is KONG: SKULL ISLAND. Why this isn't a summer release I just don't know? That might be the tale tell sign the film isn't that good? But those trailers are amazing!

Folks, even GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI now has a run for their money!

Okay, I think thats enough convincing you on how much I loved JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2.

The sequel picks up pretty close to where the last movie left off.* John is tying up loose ends and getting his car back. And immediately we have one of the greatest actions scenes in the film! There was a brief moment where I was almost convinced this first scene was better than my all time favorite action scene? The House of Blue Leaves scene from KILL BILL! Not to worry, KILL BILL is still king (if just barely)**

Our favorite Boogyman gets his car back and is finally ready to retire, a second time. The moment is short lived when Wick is visited by the man who helped him retire originally. A slimy European by the name of Santino (what a great name) has come to collect his debt. Wick begs him not to, but a blood oath is a hard one to forget.

Santino cannot take no for an answer and takes a rocket launcher to John Wicks home (big mistake). Left with no choice, Wick honors the blood oath. Only to immediately regret it when he is told his mark. The sister of Santino, Gianna. Gianna is next in line to run the crime family, and Santino just can't have that.

You can sense right away that something just isn't right about all of this, so Wick prepares for war. And you guessed it, Wick gets double crossed! And Santino being the pussy that he is puts a hit on John Wick for Seven Million Dollars! But Santino forgot one thing, you can't kill the boogyman.

Preparing myself for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 I did something I normally don't do, I did not watch any trailers. None. I went in fresh, and it was amazing! Risky for sure but I knew I was in good hands with the same writer and director returning. If Fox leaves them alone then I'm sure their DEADPOOL 2 will be amazing!

So without giving away too much what can I say that I love about this movie? Let's start with how the sequel expands on my favorite thing about the original, the world building. In the first film I absolutely loved the secret society of assassins. So cool that they have their own rules, currency, and exclusive hotel.

CHAPTER 2 delves into this more with glorious detail. I'm sure it was in all the trailers but I loved the montage of Wick getting his guns, blueprints, and tailor made suit. So fun!

Second to the world building is of course the action. There is so much bombastic gunplay in this movie that even I started to feel a bit concerned. It was only for a brief moment because I don't mix stylized movie violence with politics. But yeah, there is way more gun-fu this time around, just like any good action movie sequel should have!

And third, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 has a glorified cameo that had me grinning ear to ear! And no, I'm not talking about Morpheus.

You know, there's not really anything in this movie that I hated? I wasn't too impressed with the ending at first but once I got home and thought about the film all night, I changed my opinion.

One criticism I have is the future of the franchise. I do not want any sequel to be a prequel. The audience doesn't need to see a movie about John Wick's first assignment. Laugh all you want but you know it's true! The moment Keanu decides to call it quits, the studio will pull the lame prequel card. But, I'm optimistic something that dumb will never happen as long as the original filmmakers stay with the franchise.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO is highly recommended!

*If this was still the days of VHS I would make my own super edit of both films back to back. I'd cut out the end credits and have CHAPTER 2 start seamlessly.

** I'm mainly talking about domestic Action movies. THE RAID and THE RAID 2 I think are better action movies than KILL BILL or JOHN WICK 1 & 2.