Saturday, February 20, 2016


There is a cool double feature you can have at your local multiplex this weekend. That is if you have the stomach for it. I'm talking about RISEN and THE WITCH. This double bill wasn't planed at first, it had been awhile since I watched two movies back to back. I had a blast, so I'm glad I did.

When I decided to see RISEN, the new faithploitation film from Affirm Films, the intent was to view it in critic mode. What is critic mode? It's when I go into a movie knowing full well I am probably going to hate it. Similar to having low expectations but the difference being, I might riff on the critic mode selection? I'm shocked to report that with RISEN, no riffing occurred. It turns out that RISEN is pretty good!

Unlike other Affirm Films productions, RISEN doesn't come off as preachy. In fact RISEN plays the sword and sandals genre pretty straight. Thanks in large part to director Kevin Reynolds, most known for the Kevin Costner classic ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES. Or WATERWORLD, depending on your definition of classic? But in all seriousness RISEN is well made. And it is so far my favorite of the faith based films that have become quite popular these past few years.

RISEN takes place days after the crucifixion of Christ. After the third day, Jesus returns just like he said he would. Both Jews and Romans become concerned and Pontius Pilate sends Roman military Tribune, Clavius to find the body of Jesus. During his search in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah, Clavius finds the thing he least expected. The Truth.

The first half of RISEN is the strongest. I was entertained with Clavius and his newly assigned partner Lucius searching and interrogating followers of Christ. I liked how Clavius kept digging for truth. Especially the scenes involving the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb.

The second half is good but not as strong. Mainly because the film starts to drag at this point. But the slow transformation of Clavius is strikingly convincing due in large part to actor Joseph Fiennes.

My experiences with the faith-based genre have never been good. Yes, there have been good stories/messages told now and then, but almost always the production value and acting in these movies are terrible. And I've never been a fan of the mentality that one should support a faith-based film just because they are a Christian? That just sounds ridiculous to me! Hence, my inkling to watch RISEN in critic mode.

So it's a no brainer that the main reason I like RISEN, the main reason why I would recommend RISEN, is because RISEN looks and feels like a real movie. Great production value. And the acting is solid, mostly due to British thespians. And Cliff Curtis plays the role of Jesus. Which he did a fantastic job, tasteful representation in my opinion.

I give RISEN a strong recommendation! It looks good on the big screen, so take in a matinee.

And lastly, I'm kidding about watching RISEN and THE WITCH together. It was a cool double feature, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart!


THE WITCH is a 2015 film written and directed by Robert Eggers. One of the most talked about films at last years Sundance film festival, is now playing in theaters nationwide. While not for everyone, I am glad a independent film is having a run at the multiplexes.

Man, did I have some trouble with this film at the start! Set in 1630's New England, everything about THE WITCH is spot on. Including the dialogue, which is hard to understand and made the movie difficult to follow sometimes. Luckily, the films horror atmosphere made up for my nit picks in authenticity.

I tend to stay away from horror films that deal with witchcraft and the occult. Things like that are way more terrifying (and real) than monsters, zombies, or Jason Voorhees. But with the rave reviews that THE WITCH has been receiving, I couldn't resist!

The story is simple, a family gets banished from a town for being too religious. Our maybe it's vice versa? Anyways, the family moves and sets up a farm on the edge of the woods. Everything seems hunky dory until the witch of the forest takes their newborn baby. After that, life on the farm isn't so great. The crops start to rot, goats milk blood, and the family starts to unravel at the seems. Fingers are pointed laying blame on who is a witch and who is not.

To reveal more would get into spoilers and ruin some horrific imagery that should be experienced on your own for those interested in seeing the film.

My first impression of THE WITCH after it was over wasn't good. I didn't like the movie. But on the way home from the theater I kept thinking about the mood and atmosphere of the film, and quickly my opinion changed. THE WITCH is a great horror film! In the titles and on the poster it says the movie is “A New England Folktale”. And it very much so feels like one!


What may upset a lot of moviegoers is that the film has pretty much zero jump scares, and you only see the witch/witches like 3 or 4 times. But with the creepy woods and dreaded atmosphere, I always had this feeling that something evil was always present!

And thinking back, I wonder now if William's family got banished in the first place was because the townsfolk sensed that something was just not right? I bring this up because after the newborn is taken away, there are accusations of witchcraft within the family. And spoiler alert, one of them becomes a witch! Was it witchcraft at play or destiny? THE WITCH never answers questions like these and the film is better off for it.

If you're a fan of horror movies and are tired (like I am) of teeny-bopper PG-13 jump scare crap, then I highly recommend THE WITCH. And as a bonus you'll probably see the trailer for THE CONJURING 2 which was amazing, but will probably suck because it's a sequel.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


There is something wonderful happening at the box office this weekend. The weekend of Valentine's Day 2016. A Hard R comic book movie is making major bank! And the best part is, the movie is actually pretty darn great. The cherry on top is because of the success of DEADPOOL, we could get a sub-genre of Hard R mutant superhero movies, like X-FORCE!

They say third times a charm, and actor Ryan Reynolds has finally hit superhero gold. And for those keeping score, I'm not counting BLADE TRINITY. But thanks for playing! I had low expectations with DEADPOOL. Something about the marketing and fan anticipation bothered me. Guess I'm getting too old to get excited for dick and fart jokes? Nah, that's a lie. But the constant reminding that the movie is going to be raunchy got old real fast.

Ryan Reynolds plays ex-Special Forces Wade Wilson, a low life scumbag, who goes after worse low life scumbags. One day he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) his soul mate. They fall in love and get engaged. Shortly thereafter, Wade gets diagnosed with cancer. A lot of cancer. Low on hope for a cure, Wade opts for a rouge treatment. The experiment gets rid of the cancer and leaves him with accelerated healing powers, but also disfigures his whole body.

Vowing revenge on the ones who left him this way, Wade Wilson becomes Deadpool, the merc with a mouth.

To give a fresh spin on the tiresome origin story that every comic book movie does nowadays, DEADPOOL changes it up a couple of different ways. For starters, the source material is known for being meta and the movie wastes no time with it's main character constantly breaking the 4th wall. This sounds like it could get old, but trust me it doesn't. I cannot tell you enough how great this aspect of the movie is!

Secondly, DEADPOOL is told non-liner. We start in the middle with that awesome freeway action scene you've all seen in the trailers. Don't worry, the previews haven't spoiled a thing! In-between the action on the freeway we are shown how Wade and Vanessa meet and fall in love. Deadpool has his target dead to rights, but Colossus of the X-Men ruins the chances of that. Wounded, Wade tells us the rest of his origin while he heals. So it's middle, beginning, and finally epic conclusion!

These two aspects brought a uniqueness to the film that I enjoyed quite a bit. I'm happy that I chose to see DEADPOOL. And I hope to see great things because of it's success, like edgier comic book movies. Particularity of a mainstream nature. My dream would be if Marvel Studios had a go with some R rated comic book movies! But we know that would never happen. At least we are getting some great Marvel Knights type material with the Netflix television shows!

My only complaint about the DEADPOOL movie was the portrayal of X-Men's Colossus. It's not that I thought the movie got the character all wrong, it's just the character felt rushed and could have been better. His sidekick, Negasonic Teenage Warhead on the other hand was awesome!

If you like your comic book movies with a little more KICK ASS and less X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, then I highly recommend DEADPOOL.

Happy Valentine's Day!


MAD MAX FURY ROAD is a 2015 film directed by George Miller. It is nominated for several academy awards this year including Best Picture. And MAD MAX FURY ROAD should win all of them!

THE HATEFUL EIGHT is my favorite film of 2015, but tomorrow is a new day so that means MAD MAX FURY ROAD will probably become my favorite. By weeks end it'll be STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS. That's how much I loved those films last year! But in all seriousness, MAD MAX FURY ROAD was the best film of 2015.

Ever since MAD MAX 2, otherwise known as THE ROAD WARRIOR the plot of the films have pretty much always been the same. Max starts out only looking after numero uno, himself. But eventually he always comes across of folks that could use some help. He winds up doing only the bare minimum, at first. Then trouble comes along and he can't help but to always give the oppressed a helping hand.

The biggest thing I heard from people was how does MAD MAX FURY ROAD fit in with the other films? The answer is simple, it doesn't. All the sequels to MAD MAX are essentially the same movie. Each film is it's own myth about the legend of a man named Max Rockatansky, road warrior of the Wasteland.

In this latest tale, Max is taken prisoner and used as a blood bag in the Citadel. The ruler of the Citadel is the nefarious Immortan Joe. On a routine trip to Gas Town, Immortan Joe sends his most trusted lieutenant, Imperator Furiosa. She has plans of her own and travels off course in the Wastland. Immediately, Joe send his Warboys after her. Warboys are radiated soldiers willing to die for their king.

Max is a blood bag for a Warboy named Nux. After some of the best car stunts and straight up action I've seen in years, Max and Nux end up helping Furiosa with her mission. Freeing the wives of Immortan Joe.

Things heat up when Furiosa's secret rendezvous has dried up, literally. All hope seems lost until Max suggests going back the way they came. Back the way they came? It's crazy! With three factions chasing them down, and Max says they should go back and take over the Citadel. Furiosa decides to go back. The film isn't titled FURY ROAD for nothing!

Early on I knew director George Miller made something special. There is something old school about his film. I noticed what I would consider homages to METROPOLIS and the Westerns of John Ford. And be still my heart, the use of practical effects! Real cars smashing into real things, and dumb people driving them to! Stunt people aren't really dumb, they are probably as professional as you can get, but it does take a little bit of crazy to do what they do.

Which leads me to saying that MAD MAX FURY ROAD deserves to win every nomination it received at the Oscars this year.

There may be more Mad Max films on the way? Which I'm all for, only if Warner Bros lets George Miller have final cut. But if this was the last one, I'm okay with that as well. I'm just glad I got to see another adventure with Mad Max in the Wasteland.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


THE HATEFUL EIGHT is the 8th film from writer and director Quentin Tarantino. It is his second western and his most Tarantino-esque movie since DEATH PROOF. His two previous films INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and DJANGO UNCHAINED have QT written all over them, but those are part of his revisionist trilogy. THE HATEFUL EIGHT doesn't feel like it belongs in that group. Or maybe it does?*

Ever since it was announced that Quentin's next film was going to be another western, I couldn't have been more excited. DJANGO UNCHAINED was such a beautiful film, that I wanted more. And it's rare that Tarantino repeats himself. Two westerns in a row? But like I suspected, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is nothing like his previous film. It is indeed a western, but the look and feel is something else entirely.

Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth is on his way into Red Rock to see his bounty hang. One Daisy Domergue, wanted dead or alive for $10,000. And when John the Hangman catches you, you hang. The road to Red Rock is a treacherous one. You see, Ruth and his prize are aboard a six-horse carriage racing to beat a massive snow storm. They aren't going to make it, so stopping at Minnie's Haberdashery is the destination for now.

Along the way to Minnie's the stagecoach picks up two more passengers, bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix, the new sheriff (allegedly) of Red Rock.

When they arrive to Minnie's they are greeted by unfamiliar faces; Bob, who is taking care of the place while Minnie is away. There is Oswalso Mobray, a hangman, along with Joe Gage, just your regular cow puncher. And finally we have confederate general Sanford Smithers.

From the get go John Ruth doesn't trust any of these strangers, and lets it be known in a manner of speaking. The Major himself has his suspicions. Tensions become high as the eight begin to wonder who is going to make it till morning, if any of them at all!

DJANGO UNCHAINED was a fairy-tale like Spaghetti Western. Django, the films protagonist goes through proverbial hell-fire to save his wife Broomhilda. Taking place under the backdrop of a Sergio Corbucci style Spaghetti Western. Which tend to be more politically charged and violent than the more popular Leone westerns.

While definitely having the classic trademarks of a Spaghetti Western, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is different. For starters it has this grandiose 1960's feel to it. Unfortunately I was unable to see the film in glorious 70mm. But even in the multiplex version you can sense that Tarantino was influenced by 60's cinema. And not only cinema, but 1960's television as well.

That's only half of what makes THE HATEFUL EIGHT unique. The rest is made up of two other genres. The first being the thriller genre. Quentin has his own TEN LITTLE INDIANS going on here. And the final ingredient, is a dash of horror. Yes, THE HATEFUL EIGHT could be considered Tarantino's take on JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING. The proof is on the screen. You've got Kurt Russell, snow, isolation, claustrophobia, and trust issues. The film even has unused score music from Carpenter's film! How cool is that!

Okay, I apparently suck at math because two halves make a whole but I'm not done talking about what else makes this movie amazing. The cast and just how well most if not all of them sing Tarantino's wonderful dialogue! Everyone is great but in my opinion it's Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Samuel L. Jackson who really shine here. Walton is on the fast track to becoming my favorite actor working today!

THE HATEFUL EIGHT is very much like a play, and reads like one as well. I've thumbed through the screenplay while drinking coffee at the bookstore and breeze through my favorite monologues over and over again. Once you find that rhythm of the dialogue, it truly becomes like music. And it's the “bad notes” in the dialogue that keeps things interesting and original.

I'll admit, just then I was trying to sound all smart and cool, but probably came off as sounding crazy or weird. I'd be better off just saying Tarantino writes his dialogue extremely rhythmically and leave it at that.

Three of my favorite films of last year; STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, MAD MAX FURY ROAD, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT have all been at one time my number 1 film of 2015. Yesterday it was THE FORCE AWAKENS, but today it's HE HATEFUL EIGHT.

*THE HATEFUL EIGHT started out as Book One in a series of Django paperbacks that Tarantino was going to write. He thought that the story he was writing did not fit the Django character, so scraped the idea and altered into the screenplay/movie we know today. I really hope he writes those Django paperbacks one day, I cannot wait for something like that!