Sunday, October 22, 2017


Ever since seeing KILL BILL VOL. 1 and KILL BILL VOL.2 I've always wanted more exploitation films shown at the theater. Since then, Hollywood has put out more than a handful. And a ton has shown up on VOD. My favorite exploitation film this year so far is JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2. But it may have two serious contenders, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 and WHEELMAN!

First off, it was a miracle that I even got to see BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 on the big screen! A big shout out to my local Alamo Drafthouse for making that happen.

For me BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 came out of nowhere. As I recall I don't remember hearing a thing about the movie until it became a hit a this years Fantastic Fest. It didn't take much for me to be interested. A gritty prison movie starting Vince Vaughn, and it's from the guy who directed BONE TOMAHAWK. Consider me instantly sold!

Not always, but it seems that most films that get bought at Fantastic Fest don't get shown again until a year later. So I was surprised how quickly BRAWL IN CELL BLOCL 99 was available on VOD and theaters. Not that long ago if I was wanting to see a film like BRAWL I'd have to rent it on VOD. But now that there is a Alamo Drafthouse where I live, the odds of me seeing more independent fare on the big screen has risen.

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is about a former boxer named Bradly (don't call him Brad) who get's laid off from his job as a Repo man or Tow Truck driver, it's definitely one of the two. Adding to his bad day Bradly comes home catching his wife about to leave him. Frustrated, he takes his anger out on her car. As my friend put it, Bradly goes 'Street Fighter' Challenger Mode on the car by busting windows with his fist, chopping of side mirrors, and ripping off the hood of a car. Yeah, don't mess with this guy!

After a heartfelt talk they decide to stay together. But Bradley needs a job and some good money. Temporarily he decides to run drugs. Several months go by and Bradley's wife Lauren is pregnant and their financial situation has improved. One day Gil, Bradley's boss tells him to run drugs with a couple other guys. Bradley has a bad feeling about the job but Gil convinces him to do it anyway.

Sure enough Bradley's gut feeling is right and because his two new "co-workers" decide to go cowboy on the police, he kills them. Not giving up Gil or any other associates, Bradley is served a sentence of 7 years in prison.

After about what feels like only his first week in prison Bradley gets blackmailed into getting transferred to a maximum security facility. He's ordered to kill a inmate or his baby will be aborted. Bradley goes along with it and gets transferred, only to discover that he's been double crossed and has now entered a world of utter hell.

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 is the most gritty and violent film I've seen this year! Yeah, JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 has a higher body count (therefore more violent) but the brutality that Bradley lays on his oppressors is just as shocking as the Boogyman's gun-fu! Seriously, Bradley could go toe to toe with Captain America and I'd probably be putting money on Bradley.

If you like gritty exploitation movies then I highly recommend BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99! Sometimes Alamo Drafthouse curates a pre-show before the movies. There is a reason that they showed the trailer for RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY before the movie.


I love horror movies. Over the past few years that love has been an oscolating wave, but overall I still admire the genre. During a slump I found myself seriously thinking about retiring from watching scary movies. My reasoning at the time was because of burn out and just not interested anymore. Then I started to watch some cult classics that I had never seen before; and voila, I fell in love again!

The movie that got me back into loving the fun of horror films was PEICES, a grindhouse cult classic from the early eighties. The film is popular for it's over-the-top slasher gore. Some scenes are pretty tasteless, but a horror fan should laugh a bit for how ridiculous PIECES gets!

This is a review of HAPPY DEATH DAY I promise, I only bring up PIECES because it's the film that reminded be that horror should be a fun genre. And HAPPY DEATH DAY is fun; unfortunately, I just was not the audience for it.

College student Tree, relives the day of her murder over and over again. With the help of a fellow student they decide that to end the loop, Tree find out who her killer is. Yes, it's GROUNDHOG DAY meets HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

In the beginning I was on board with HAPPY DEATH DAY! For starters, I loved the look of the movie. It has this '80's soft focus to it. I felt that I was watching a film from that decade. Next, Jessica Rothe was superb as Tree, our main character! She carried the film for me all the way to the end. As a fun bonus I loved spotting who the killer was (I watch too many of these things) as soon as they appeared on screen! It was during the montage of Tree getting killed over and over that I started to loose interest fast.

My biggest issue with HAPPY DEATH DAY is it's PG-13 rating. Now I'm not asking for the movie to be a gore-fest, but the film should meet expectations somewhere around the middle? And for those that are thinking "HAPPY DEATH DAY is a movie that doesn't need gore", I think it does? It's important for me to remember that HALLOWEEN (1978) had only a few specks of blood during it's entire runtime.

But HALLOWEEN, HAPPY DEATH DAY is not. Where HALLOWEEN relied on mood and atmosphere, HAPPY DEATH DAY is more rooted in the look and feel of a mid-eighties and post-SCREAM slasher film. While mostly butchered by the MPAA, the era of slashers that I'm referring to were still rooted in some nice splatter every now and then. Something that HAPPY DEATH DAY is lacking.

By the final act of the film it felt like I was watching a late '90's horror movie? Remember those? Where every horror movie poster was emo profile pictures of the cast. SCREAM knock-offs that were considered good because horror had been gone from the multi-plex theaters for so long that we didn't know any better? It wasn't until films like CABIN FEVER and HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES that made us realize that horror kinda sucked in the mid-nineties.

On a positive note the horror genre has been on the rise as of late. IT, GET OUT, SPLIT, GERALD'S GAME, and THE BABYSITTER are just a few titles that I think really hit home runs for the genre! And with the success of HAPPY DEATH DAY, maybe we'll see a resurgence of the slasher flick. As you know, horror in Hollywood always comes in waves, and it's about time for the slasher to return.

This year Halloween falls on a weeknight and next weekend is Season 2 of STRANGER THINGS. I doubt it but I will try my best to review the season as soon as I finish it. There may be some other treats I'll share this week!

Thursday, October 5, 2017


About a month ago I got to see BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT on the big screen. The local Alamo Drafthouse held a screening of it in preparation of the highly anticipated sequel BLADE RUNNER 2049.

Somewhere around the mid-nineties I rented the original BLADE RUNNER (the cut with voice overs). The movie was entertaining, and I absolutely loved the special effects (which still hold up in my opinion). At the time, the Deckard (Harrison Ford) voice overs didn't bother me, I just excepted it as part of the movie.

It wasn't until a few years later when I saw the Director's Cut that the film really blew my mind, and found the viewing experience better with the voice overs taken out.

Another thing that blew my mind with the Director's Cut was the now added notion that Deckard was a Replicant. I thought it was the coolest thing! Thinking on the film these days, the theory doesn't make much sense? In interviews Ford has stated that Deckard being a Replicant is dumb. And with the character appearing in the sequel, it makes the idea non plausible. Seeing that Ford hates the theory makes me believe it won't even be brought up in the new movie.

I haven't seen the movie in a long time but still consider it a favorite. It's strange that I don't own it on Blu-Ray? The other day I found THE FINAL CUT in a bargain bin at Walmart. Unfortunately, the disc is bare bones with no special features. Soon I'll just order a version that the special features, and the Director's Cut. THE FINAL CUT is great, but my gut tells me I like the Director's Cut better. It's been so long that I cannot tell the difference, so it probably doesn't matter?

Watching BLADE RUNNER today, I've picked up more on what the film is actually about. Back in the day I loved the futuristic look of the film and it's special effects. My favorite thing about the movie still to this day is the Film Noir aspect. But now that I'm older I like the philosophy of religion, and moral implications of tinkering with genetic engineering.

The Tyrell Corporation advanced robot evolution into the NEXUS phase; a being virtually identical to a human being, known as Replicants. The NEXUS-6 Replicant was superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence to the genetic engineers who created them.

The NEXUS-6 were used as slave labor on off-world colonies, but after a bloody mutiny the Replicants became illegal on Earth, punishable by death. A police squad known as Blade Runner Units are tasked to hunt down and destroy the androids.

A group of NEXUS-6 Replicants smuggled their way back to Earth in search of the creator. Deckard, a retired Blade Runner is called in to track down the 4 Replicants and terminate them on site.

For 1982 the special effects in BLADE RUNNER hold up well. Really well. Watching the 4k Master on the big screen was a near perfect presentation. Probably the best the film has looked since 1982! Even on a flat screen at home the Blu-Ray is gorgeous.

As I mentioned earlier, I loved watching the film as a science fiction noir. A hard as nails detective going around a futuristic Los Angeles hunting android fugitives, what's not to love! Now that I'm older I actually feel for the Replicants. Their humanity has more heart than any human.

Watching the film these days I take more notice of the eye motifs throughout the movie. The old saying "Eyes are windows to the soul". The obvious question then is do Replicants have souls? Without going into spoilers, the answer is yes! At least that's what I believe.

On the first few viewings I always just thought that the four NEXUS Replicants were just insane murderous androids? But now I see them differently, I see them as victims of circumstance. The opening scene where one of them blows away a Blade Runner for mentioning how the Replicant "feels about his mother", is total disdain for it's creator.

I could go on and on with further analysis but my amateur attempt would ruin the film. Practice makes perfect, but not on a classic like BLADE RUNNER. A audio commentary would better suit me I think? I've always wanted to do an audio commentary with one of my favorite films, maybe someday?

I'm cutting it pretty darn close with this post and the release of BLADE RUNNER 2049. The early buzz is thus far extremely positive and I cannot wait to see the new film!

Monday, October 2, 2017

IT (2017)

A little over a year ago I began reading Stephen King's IT in preparation for the new film. I got about 400 pages in and got distracted. I never picked it back up. The novel wasn't bad, I just have a short attention span with books a lot of the time.

About a month ago I picked up my iPad and started reading (from the beginning) IT again. Needless to say I didn't get the book read before the movie. This didn't concern me much because I knew the film adaptation was going to be different than the source material.

The day had come that I was going to see the movie. I was pumped! It had been awhile since there had been this much excitement for a horror movie. The release of IT was a pop culture event!

I saw the film weeks ago, and loved it! It reminded me so much of THE GOONIES and THE MONSTER SQUAD. There hasn't been a blog post till now because I wanted to finish the book. Well today that finally happened.

Right off the bat I just wanna say that I think I like the book better than the movie? There is still a lot to process about that because the novel is so long (maybe too long). The thing I love most about the novel is that the epic story is a monster mash of sorts. All the major Universal Monster make an appearance, and even a few 50's B-movie ones do too!

When watching the film, I so wished that Warner Bros paid a little bit to get the rights of classic movie monsters for Pennywise to transform into. It's 1988 in the movie adaptation, so Freddy or Jason would've been perfect!

Another thing that makes me think that I'll like the book better in the long run is that I don't think IT: CHAPTER II can do the story with the adults justice? In the novel it switches back and forth so beautifully and meticulously, that I don't how the filmmakers could do it, especially if the kids stuff is done? I personally think scenes with the kids were filmed knowing full well that there'd be a sequel?

Enough with the comparisons, on with what I thought about IT.

As I mentioned earlier, I loved the movie. Two of my favorite genres of film are horror and coming-of-age, and IT succeeds at both. I was never scared while watching the movie, but more times that not I was creeped out by the imagery in the film. The same feeling I get when watching a Nightmare On Elm Street movie, a franchise that had a big influence (another plus) on the film that's easy to tell.

I have some criticisms on the horror elements of the film, the jump scares we're lame. The only two that I give a pass are the hobo and when Pennywise jumps out of the slideshow. Everything else was lazy. Luckily the tone and atmosphere win over the jump scares.

The home run of IT is the coming-of-age tale between these 7 kids. The film tugged at my heart strings a little bit because I was the same age as these kids in 1988. Was I a "Loser"? I don't think so, but I sure as hell wasn't one of the cool kids. I liked movies and comic books too much, and I sucked at sports.

The casting of the kids was perfect! I won't go into spoilers but finally Hollywood gives us gem of a film where kids being kids looks and feels real. Ben was the kid who I identified most with, a youngster with a weight problem and super shy.

The film centers on a group of kids living in the town of Derry, Maine. Their leader Bill, is determined to find his missing younger brother George. You see, Derry has a missing kids problem of sorts. And not only that, but strange stuff happens all the time in the quaint little town.

Bill and the rest of the Losers Club finally figure out that some strange force has been terrorizing Derry for many many years. Every 27 years or so, It, better known as Pennywise The Dancing Clown feeds (literally mostly) on the fear of the townsfolk. The victims are mostly children. I think it's because kids are most always easily frightened.

When it comes to the Losers Club, Pennywise has met his match! Don't get me wrong, he can get the best of them when it comes to frights, but something is off? It's like the kids have luck on their side, or maybe a turtle? Turtle? Yeah, the novel gets weird and word is the second film will too.

About now you're probably thinking what I thought of the T.V. mini-series back in the day? I'll I'm going to say is that piece of nostalgia does not hold up at all. Sorry, it's crap! And, please stop referring to the new film as a remake. It's an insult to the film. Calm down, if you like the mini-series that's cool. Who am I to take someones joy away from them?

Since August I've been on a Stephen King kick, and there are no signs of slowing down. The other day I watched GERALD'S GAME (review coming soon), and I bought King's new novel Sleeping Beauties. With the exception of THE DARK TOWER, 2017 has been a pretty good year for King fans.

Happy October,