Thursday, August 15, 2019

Is the Age of Nostalgia really working for you?

This was originally going to be a write-up on "Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling," the new short film on Netflix, and the first time Rocko has been on any type of syndication in a long time.

But, that won't be happening.

Sure, I watched the short. I enjoyed it. I was a fan of the animated show growing up. It had some funny moments of Rocko tackling modern life, and threw in some good puns here and there. But one thing kept nagging at me in the back of head. That nagging translated out to the following: did somebody somewhere really ask for this? I know fandoms create petitions and GoFundMe's all the time for revivals like this, with some arguably successful results, but was anybody's life really incomplete without Rocko in it anymore?

As we round out another decade of entertainment, it feels like we are living in the least creative time for screened media that I can name. Maybe I'm just missing something and when TV and film historians look back on this time many years later, maybe they'll have some bigger positives then I do. But I can't help it, we have become obsessed with what I can only describe as an Age of Nostalgia. Television has revamped several television shows. Disney keeps making live action movies of old animated classics. Things that haven't been popular in years are being talked as movies or shows. Just today I read about a new "G.I. Joe" spin-off series in the works, and I wonder, for how unpopular the first two movies were, why even bother?

I mean, the lack of creativity at the movie theater is already pretty daunting. Just a quick skim of Fandango would tell you that. Ask yourselves what the last movie you saw in a theater was that wasn't part of a franchise, wasn't based upon a comic book or novel, wasn't a spin-off, wasn't a remake, wasn't a prequel or sequel, wasn't some shameless rehash. It's a tough question to answer, isn't it? It's not like the 1990's where indie cinema got a fair shake, if you want something different, a true original voice, you literally have to WORK for it. Hell, genre movies aren't even trying to outdo anything else. Everyone studio is incorrigibly chasing "The Next Star Wars" or "The Next Game of Thrones." Apparently afraid to just make the next Big Thing.

I would also argue that this need to satisfy our nostalgic needs kind of plays into that. We would rather see a relaunch of something from their childhood than see someone try something new or different. I have to ask, is that what we really want. Is this really satisfying everyone? I can say for me personally, the results have been pretty meh. Live action "Lion King" did nothing for me, because its basically animated "Lion King," just with better animation. On the TV side, I only made it through a season and a half of "Fuller House," I only made it through a few episodes of "Roseanne" and the newest "X-Files" seasons were a waste of time.

The thing is, I really enjoyed "Twin Peaks: The Return" and I still hold lots of love for "Mad Max: Fury Road," and I think the reasons those two things clicked with me is that they were updates that still felt apart of their old worlds. They presented real development instead of treading water (which I think the shows above only did.) I may not be crazy about "Static Cling," but it at least had some funny insight of what it would be like now that Rocko is in a modern world, and they milked some good laughs from that concept. We can't just pretend time hasn't gone by, I need updates to be smarter and more clever, not just the same thing over again. Why even do that?

But there needs to be a balance, something that gives people what they want, without completely changing what it is they are making. Take the upcoming animated "Addams Family" trailer. I don't know what that is seriously supposed to be, but that ain't Addams Family...

You can go too far to different that it makes the thing you are trying to make unrecognizable. As with anything, there needs to be a fine line between an update and the same that needs to be struck for it to really be successful.

At the end of the day, I long for things that are new. I like being challenged. I like the potential of seeing something become a new franchise and we are just redoing everything, and making franchise of stuff we liked as kids, it doesn't allow for new creations. That makes me kind of sad.

Am I the only one? Do you honestly think "Top Gun 2" will work literally 33 years later? Are you counting down the days for the "Avatar" sequels? Are you longing day by day for a "Xena: Warrior Princess" reboot? Should I send Hollywood my scripts for "Street Sharks" and "Lost: The Movie" to see if they get made?

It seems the results are mixed at best. The DCEU is completely revamping what they are doing their DC superheroes, not connecting them to a universe. Universal Studios keeps trying to make their old school universal monsters a thing, and they've failed twice now. Nobody came and saw "Independence Day 2" in 2016. So I do wonder if it just depends on what the nostalgia is or if people are really asking for these things.

No matter what though, we are eventually going to run out of rebooting the things we love, then what are we going to do?

I was taught for years in school that each story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The end is part of the story. So I wonder if a story just keeps going on and on and on...does the story become less special?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: "Batman: Hush" is another satisfying DC animation installment

Batman: Hush Review
The general consensus is that "Batman: Hush" is one of the best Batman stories ever told. Originally written by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, it tells the story of how a mysterious new villain called Hush tries to destroy Batman. Hush recruits a whose-who of Batman villains, and the story features many fun twists and turns. It's ripe for a good adaptation, and still to this day, I am blown away we haven't seen Hush show up in the live-action movies yet. But, I have enjoyed, time and time again, the wonderful animated DC movies, and it seemed like a perfect fit.

Is this movie a frame-by-frame direct retelling of the original comic book? No, they made some differences. Honestly, some of the differences make up my list of gripes. In the novel, Hush is revealed to be Thomas Elliot. Elliot is an old friend of Bruce Wayne, they grew up as friends. Elliot has some dark secrets and demons and he blames the Wayne family for them, which explains why he becomes a villain later on. He knows seemingly everything about Bruce Wayne, even that he's Batman. He remains several steps ahead of Batman during his whole plot, always covering his tracks. While he gets other villains involved it is essentially his plan. This movie changes things up a bit, and I don't think I liked the differences here. Without giving anything away, they take away that prowess of Elliot and it rubbed me wrong. 

But hey, Batman gets a pretty fleshed out romance with Catwoman. I mean, it gets really fleshed out. Some really good development takes place here. Its cool to see Catwoman as a believable anti-hero, as she's been an on again, off again villain for awhile. 

The animation is, as to be expected, top notch. It's a harrowing adventure that plays a little rougher, if you are getting tired of all the kid-friendly superhero movies coming out. This is yet another good animated movie to add to the collection.

Review: "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" is a pretty nifty adaptation

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark Review
I have been a big horror fan pretty much all my life, and I have hunch as to what lead to that fascination. While I've been a fan of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Edgar Allen Poe, I think the author that really set me over the edge of horror fandom was Alvin Schwartz. Schwartz wrote three anthologies under the "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark" moniker. The stories were aimed at children, and I collected these anthologies when I was in 3rd and 4th grade. The stories were fairly easy to read, and had many humorous moments. But there was stuff that really got under the skin of young readers. Did I mention the artwork in the books? Because damn, it was nightmare-inducing. In fact, as the anthologies got reprinted, the original artwork was taken out as it was deemed too scary for young readers.

For a long time I tried to imagine a screened version of "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark," I didn't care if it would be a movie, a TV series or some kind of mini-series. I wanted to see someone step up to the plate and give it a try. I learned maybe two or so years ago that a movie was being planned. I pretty much jumped for joy when I read that Guillermo del Toro would be involved. As the movie got closer to release, I was bummed that it wasn't going to be a natural anthology.

At the same time, I get it. Anthologies are tough, they are only as good as their best story, and as bad their worst story. So maybe creating an original movie binding the stories, a la "Goosebumps" wasn't all that bad an idea. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the movie that was created here. Do I think it's a perfect movie? Absolutely not. The movie certainly plays the cliche game throughout. I think my dream adaptation would be a Twilight Zone style television series, where each story gets its own spotlight and can get fully explored. But hey, director Andre Ovredal did the best possible job he could to find a unique and cool way to throw in as many stories as possible.

The movie takes place in 1968, and we follow horror fan Stella (Zoe Colletti) and her two friends Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur). They get together on Halloween night in that year of 1968, and they eventually meet a new friend Ramon as they sneak into his car at a drive-in movie to get away from some bullies. Ramon is played by Michael Garza. Before we get too far into this review, let me point out that all four of these children don't even have Wikipedia pages yet. They are about as unknown as unknown actor gets. I have to say, for child actors, they give 110% to their roles. I think they did their very best and when I care about the fates of characters in a horror movie, that's a good sign. I cared about these guys.

This foursome decide to check out a supposed haunted house. The house originally belonged to the Bellow family, which helped found the town. Inside the haunted house they find a secret room belonging to the family's daughter Sarah. They also find Sarah's book of scary stories, the legend has it that if Sarah told you a story, it was the last story you'd ever hear. Sarah was removed from all family photographs, so even the family was afraid of her. So of course, the group eventually leaves the house with the book. Similar to the "Goosebumps" movie, the famous stories from Schwartz's anthologies begin to appear in the book as if by magic. Sure enough, they begin to come true in the town and terrorize the people of the town. Unlike "Goosebumps" though, this isn't some comedy where a silly version of Alvin Schwartz appears to help our group. The kids are on their own, and the results are sometimes fatal. We see lots of disturbing things happening to young people. Take a scene where a teenager begins to turn into a scarecrow and vomit hay. Much like the original artwork, this is a horror movie that really goes all out on the scares, and I applaud Ovredal for never holding back.

 For this movie, I was scared they'd water down the scares and numb the movie down a bit. But oh no, that's not true at all. I've read on Twitter that parents who took their kids to this were told by their kids that they probably won't sleep that night. I was amazed by the atmosphere created in this movie based on children's stories, and I was similarly amazed by the creepy scenes. I don't know if I'd say they all land, but the mood and atmosphere created for this was totally shocking.

I wish they cooked up a story that wasn't so similar to "Goosebumps." But like I said, they tried. It's not a perfect horror movie. In fact, better ones have already come out this year. But I have to say, that I went in with low expectations, and I ended up liking the result. I hope fans of the old Schwartz stories have a good time in the theater, and get all the nostalgic feels. 


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Review: My SPOILER-FILLED mumbling on my tardy "Spider-Man: Far From Home" Review

Spider-Man: Far From Home Review
People, and Americans seemingly in general, seem to have a hard time giving others credit for things. It seems to tough for many people to ask for help, to look like they need it. We love getting all the credit for our own work, even if we do sometimes work it teams. How do we measure the worth of someone in a team? Also, when and how do people decide that something they've help create is their own? Think back on the Mark Zuckerberg case with the Winklevoss (spelling?) twins. How much of that story to believe is true? We are also living in a time where we have to be the best at what we do, and nobody can do it better than us.

These are thoughts I had in my head as I watched Quentin Beck reveal his plot. Sometimes, it helps having expectations completely get reversed watching a movie. Anybody who has casually picked up a comic book or vaguely remembers the old "Spider-Man" cartoon probably knew that Jake Gyllenhaal's Quentin Beck was secretly a bad guy. I figured it'd be revealed he'd be bad. Sure enough, I was right. Just how far they'd go with his character was a huge, and nice, surprise.

But before we really get to know Quentin Beck, we get back into the life of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his crush MJ (Zendaya) and his rival Flash (Tony Revolori) and how they deal with the fallout of the Snap. Which isn't called The Snap anymore, it is referred to as The Blip. That event from five years ago, where half the universe's population suddenly disappeared. I was hoping that his movie would discuss this in at least some form, and it's the source of some of the film's early laughs. The kids are discussing how weird it is that their class is full of kids who came back to life from Hulk's Infinity snap and kids who grew up five years older. They are also dealing with how bummed they are that they have to redo their previous year of high school from the beginning. After such a turbulent year, they need a vacation, and Peter, Ned, MJ, and Flash go on a school Europe trip during the early days of summer. Peter wants to leave his spider-suit at home, only for his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) to pack it anyway.

It wouldn't have mattered of course. Because Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been tracking Peter all the way to Europe. Peter has known this as well, he's been ignoring calls from Fury for a few weeks. He really wants to enjoy his European vacation, but Fury can't let him. Seems like there are attacks all over the world, that creatures that represent a different element have come from an alternate Earth to destroy Peter's reality. The only survivor of that alternate Earth is Quentin Beck and Fury is pairing him up with Spider-Man to battle the Elementals, since apparently all the surviving heroes from the battle with Thanos are either off-Earth or unavailable, its up to Spider-Man to help.

One of the biggest appeals of Spider-Man is how a hormone-filled teenager balances the turbulent terrain of the high school years, budding adulthood and also committing to be a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man. That appeal is front and center in this movie, and Holland continues to be a pitch-perfect Peter Parker. He's got this "cute" plan to ask MJ to be his girlfriend, using the romance of Europe as an aide. But how can he do that when the world is seemingly in peril? Its the relation to those crazy teenage years that drives the drama of the movie, and these actors have done nice work making this feel very real. They look like regular high school kids with their own needs and their own pressures. Adding the fate of the world in Peter's case makes Peter's journey all the more engrossing.

And that's all before Peter discovers Quentin is a fraud and he's been controlling the Elementals the whole time.

Quentin Beck is an ex-Stark Industries employee who helped create some top-of-the-line tech for Tony and got no credit for it and was eventually fired for being too unstable. Man, that's the type of character Gyllenhaal can do in his sleep, no wonder they hired him. Beck leads a disgruntled cabal of ex-Stark Industries employees who are trying to help turn Beck into a hero. Sure, one could say that this feels like the Marvel version of "The Incredibles" but Beck is trying to make sure there's no more special people, he's just ready for people to finally know his name. He wants to finally contribute to society after being ignored by his former employer. He's ready to show the world how great his brain is, and get that fame, that recognition. Even if it means people will die.

Once it is revealed how great an illusionist Beck is, it leads to some of the most unique visuals in a superhero movie yet. The two showdowns between Spidey and Beck are just cool. They're just amazingly cool. Its amazing just watching the challenge that Beck presents to Spider-Man and the special effects work, as expected, is phenomenal.

The film is filled with fun performances. Batalon continues to be a trusty friend to Peter, and I liked that he got a short yet sweet love story of his own in this movie. Zendaya is subtly funny as MJ here. Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove are also funny as the two chaperone teachers who go on the trip with the students. Jake Gyllenhaal, like I said, is really good playing charming unstable, and he definitely makes you feel for his dilemma, even if we disagree with his methods, which are always my favorite type of villains. No doubt, the best surprise was J.K. Simmons showing up in the post-credit scene as J. Jonah Jameson. Yep, the same actor has played the same character in two different universes. Make no mistake, this isn't the same Jameson from the Sam Raimi movies. The MCU version is a Alex Jones clone, essentially. I am very interested in an MCU where superheroes have to be also deal with fake news media and how journalists will begin to manipulate a story for clicks on their websites.

Overall, "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is a great coda to the first 22 movies of the MCU. A sign of a bright future. The reminder that Spider-Man is in magnificent hands over at Marvel Studios and Disney and also sheds light on some wonderful possibilities for future stories. Not only that, the movie has some smart things to say about legacy, how we move on from tragedy, navigating the teenage years, and the hardships of becoming a household name. This wasn't the movie I thought it was going to be, and sometimes that's just what I need.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Haunt trailer

I like a good horror movie just like the next person.

Eli Roth as producer scares me a bit, I think he's kind of a hack.

But the writers of "A Quiet Place" both writing and directing this gives me hope. I am hoping for the best.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Bloodline Trailer

Well, you've never seen Seann William Scott like this before, that is definitely something new. I was just thinking to myself the other day just where the hell this guy went. But rest assured, it doesn't look like anybody will be laughing at him when "Bloodline" is released.

As for the trailer itself, well I can definitely relate to the anxiety of bringing a newborn baby home. Its one of the most uplifting, happy and sometimes terrifying experiences ever. But I can't say I've been so anxiety-ridden that I go into the night and kill people. This looks like "Dexter The Movie." Giving somebody an outlet to kill and we are supposed to not feel guilty rooting for them because they are killing bad people. It seems awfully familiar.

So I am hoping this trailer is a little misleading and hopefully its got something clever under its sleeve. I am easily intrigued by this new Scott.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Lighthouse Trailer

Robert Eggers both divided horror fans and revitalized the horror genre with "The Witch." I fell madly in love with the movie. I am still in love with the movie. I get drunk every time I see it, flipping for it every time. Ever since, I've been patiently waiting for the next thing Eggers chooses to do. Heck, it didn't even need to be a horror movie, I just couldn't wait to see what he was going to do next.

"The Lighthouse" is what's next for Eggers. It stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The first trailer is pretty creepy. A different style of creepy compared to "The Witch," which I like. I love it when directors in a certain genre explores all the corners of said genre. I can't really tell you what this is about. I know it was fairly talked about at Sundance this year. I also know it looks creepy as shit.

Anybody still doubting Pattinson as Batman should take a look here. Not a sight of "Twilight" anywhere to be seen.