Monday, October 31, 2016

TV REVIEW: ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD (SEASON TWO, EPISODE FIVE)

TV REVIEW

ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD

SEASON TWO, EPISODE FIVE- "CONFINEMENT"
Last night's episode of "Ash vs The Evil Dead" got its "Thing" on. Now, what exactly do I mean by that? Well, have any of you ever seen "The Thing?" The movie about a microscopic organism that can replicate anything it touches? Well, last night's episode reminds me of that movie. Instead of a microscopic organism, we had this evil demon who uses his nifty long nail to cut the skin off of people so that he can become them. He's so good at his job, that he'd make Buffalo Bill envious. Ash is in prison for the deaths of last episode, and the rest of his team comes to bail him out. When everyone learns that there is a demon in the midst, everyone gets paranoid. Since this demon can wear anybody's skin, he can literally be anyone.

This leads to everyone suspecting everyone. With some gore and death thrown in around the edges. I will admit that the introduction of Baal, the skin-loving demon, is kind of a disappointment. He seems more gimmicky as a character than interesting. This is supposed to be the Big Bad for the rest of the season, and I just don't know if I buy him as a great villain based on this introduction alone, so we will have to wait and see.

I was interested in what was growing on Pablo's chest. Some kind of weapon that will help defeat Baal. Sadly, the episode ends on a cliffhanger, so we don't learn too many particulars about what is happening next week. But they handled it in a fine parallel to the episodes greater "Thing" like story structure and I found that to be great fun.

This was another funny and violent episode. I just thought the introduction to this new villain was a bit of a bust. I hope the show will do a lot to get us excited for Baal. I also remain very curious to learn more about that mysterious, demonic rash growing on Pablo. There are some fun things that are going to be played with, and I remain excited.

Halloween Week: What I Watched This Weekend

I always love Halloween and all of my life, I have been a big fan of the horror genre. This weekend, it was all horror and Halloween-themed stuff on TV. All weekend long. I watched the "Paranormal Activity" franchise on FX, I watched "Krampus," I watched some of Stephen King's "The Shining" mini-series, I watched some episodes of "The Simpsons-Treehouse of Horror" and I watched a couple horror movies between baseball. One film that I watched was John Carpenters original "Halloween" from 1978.

No, I did not watch the Rob Zombie remake from 2007, I watched the original. We all know the original is great. But what makes it great?

Well for starters, what's amazing about the film is that there is no gore. At all. Whatsoever. Not in an extreme sense, perhaps there is a little at the VERY BEGINNING, but that's it. For the rest of the film's running time, there is no gore. Usually, when we think of masked killer movies, we think "slasher-horror." We think things are going to get bloody. But that was always the genius of the film, there was no blood. The film is an hour and twenty-nine minutes of pure terror. The killings in the film are all joking, more exotic murders not involving things that make people bleed. But what makes "Halloween" scary isn't how Michael My...err...I mean, The Shape kills. There are several scenes in the beginning of the film where The Shape is stalking Jamie Lee Curtis' character. Sometimes, we don't exactly know what we are seeing. We see him pear from a car, standing in a backyard, behind a bush. As characters do a double-take, we in turn do a double-take and  these second looks horrify us. Its amazing how the movie makes us question what we are seeing.

I have to go back to the non-gore thing one more time. Because everything that makes John Carpenters film a classic of the genre is what is wrong with Rob Zombie's remake. Zombie just made any old generic slasher movie. He turned Michael Myers into a big, bulky, Leatherface-ish lug. Michael Myers works because he's not Jason, he's not Leatherface, he's not Freddy Kruger. He's his own character, smart, calm and calculated. He's not the type who is going to butcher you with a knife, but he is extremely dangerous. Zombie transformed the character into the former and that was just sad. This is why I hate our remake culture. We sometimes ruin something that was already so great for no reason.

The film I watched last night was Lucio Fulci's "Zombie." This film came out in 1979. At the surface value, yes, you can call this film the Italian "Dawn of the Dead." It was cut from the same vein of those films and before then we didn't have a whole lot of honest-to-God zombie movies. So it felt very similar to the films George A. Romero had already made. But it was given the Italian touch. Italian style horror films are very different compared to American horror films. They have particular make-up affects, they don't hold back on the gore, there is almost a beauty to the way death and blood are depicted. You can definitely see that in "Zombie." Plus, there are some scenes that top some of the best scenes in horror movies. There is the classic scene of a woman trapping herself in a room as zombies are trying to get in. One zombie reaches through her wooden door and grabs her by the hair. The zombie begins to pull her, ever so slowly, towards him. The scene is a slow burn to see if her eye will go through a wooden stake made when he reached through the door. There is no cut-away, you watch all of it. And the eye actually, slowly goes into the stake. It's definitely not for the weak stomach, but then again, what zombie movie is?

Then there is the scene where a woman scuba-diving runs into a zombie underwater and when she finally gets away, the zombie comes into contact with a shark. Yes, there is a shark and zombie fight in this movie, and its actually kind of awesome! We see the zombie take a bite out of the shark, and then the shark in turn takes a bite out of the zombie. Do we ever see a zombified shark? I am afraid not, but that sure would have been cool, no?

These were the horror films I enjoyed this spooky season. What horror films do you enjoy during this time of year? How do you celebrate Halloween? I am now going to watch last night's episode of "Ash vs. The Evil Dead!"

Enjoy your Halloween folks!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Week: Best Modern Horror Franchise?

Right now, FX is playing the entire "Paranormal Activity" series, back to back. The only film they are not showing in the line-up today is "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" which only came out a year ago, so I guess it makes sense. I don't know about you but I love this series. I've talked about it here and there on this blog, but not a whole lot. Because of when these movies came out, I missed out on reviewing a lot of them for this blog. But I have tried to go back to take a peak at them again as much as possible.

Yes, this is a found footage franchise. I know you guys know how much I detest found footage, but "Paranormal Activity" always felt different. Not your average found footage franchise. I remember when the first movie came out in theaters, that people had to vote and get theaters excited to show it from town to town. I was a sophomore in college, and all the buzz generated on my college campus was massively positive. It felt like something new was happening in he genre, even though it looked to be wearing a familiar skin. I felt like I had to see it as soon as possible and when I did, it was under the most perfect of conditions. When a sequel was talked about, I will admit I panicked. I figured it would just be more of the same. A different family being haunted under a familiar style. What I didn't expect was to get an all-out sequel, a continuation of the story from the first film, an expansion of the mythology.

That to me is the secret of this series' success and why it stands out to say, the "Saw" franchise. The first "Saw" movie is a modern horror classic to me, that was milked to death. It never expanded its mythology, its understanding of The Jigsaw Killer, it was just a test to see how many clever ways people could die onscreen. That gets numbing to me. I yearn for good stories to tell, for development in the progress of the characters. That is what I feel the "Paranormal Activity" franchise did so well. Every new film led us deeper in this story of witchcraft and demons and other haunting fun. It may not have worked for all of you, but it certainly worked for me. 

I do miss the "Paranormal Activity "franchise, but I do understand why these things end. There is no way you can keep doing the same things movie after movie and keep them interesting. I will even admit that I felt like the franchise was starting to run out of steam at the end, and even now that its done, we still don't have all the answers. But I like sometimes filling in the blanks for myself. I don't know if we'll see another horror franchise like this in awhile.

How did you like it?

Halloween Week: Christmas Time In Hell!

Last night, I watched the World Series game three, then afterwards I was channel surfing. Trying to find something good to watch. I stumbled upon "Krampus," a Christmas-horror-comedy that I have a slight soft spot for. Its a movie I reviewed on this site last year, but its definitely grown on me since then. I think in general I have soft spot for the "Holiday Horror" genre, a genre we don't see too much of, but I really enjoy it when it comes around. I know the holidays are supposed to a loving and tender time of year. But let's face it, its also a time of great stress. On a wide variety of reasons, its a time of great stress and the best of holiday horror films tap into that stress and unleash something we can all relate to.

One good holiday horror film that is also a comedy is "Gremlins." Its interesting to me because "Gremlins" was always meant to be darker than it was. When you sit down to watch "Gremlins," its a lot more kid friendly than you may expect. But I am sure that the designs of the gremlins would freak a lot of children out, I know the commercials for Gremlins creeped me out as a child. The initial film? Well, I always found it to be a fun movie, its a goofy movie with some horrific potential. The sequel, was even goofier than the predecessor, but I have always enjoyed both movies on a primal level. I think depending on how old you are and how much you appreciate this stuff, "Gremlins" would work on you.

Another good Christmas horror film is "Black Christmas," and no I am not talking about the 2007 remake that was just a remake that nobody asked for. I am talking about the film that came out in 1974, a fantastic year of film in general I might add. Its about a sorority house who stay in their house for the holidays only to be meant by a killer. While the remake was of typical modern remake fashion, gore and torture-porn for gore and torture-porn sake, the original was something else. It brought on the dread, it amped up the creep factor and it was something that was genuinely scary. The deaths were pretty unsettling and disturbing, especially the iconic death of a person wrapped in plastic wrap, propped up to be sitting in a chair, looking out the window. Unsettling indeed!

What are your favorite Christmas-horror-films?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Week: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark


I don't know how many of you are children of the 90's. But one story that comes up in nostalgic conversation is Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. They were a series of horror-themed short stories written by Alvin Schwartz. Schwartz seems to be an author who wrote these books then seemingly disappeared from reality, but there is no doubt the power of writing and his illustrations. These weren't the illustrations we usually saw in books for children. There was a Tim Burton-ish, almost gothic quality to them. The thing is, they really could scare the shit out of you. At least, if you were in elementary school. I read that the books were re-released later after the 90's and the re-lease featured different illustrations. Apparently, the illustrations from the original writings were deemed "too scary" for children, so the old illustrations were lost.

The stories themselves? Well, some of them were spooky, some were funny, some were designed as cheap thrills for children to have fun with. There were short stories, there were poems and there were even Halloween-style games you could play. At the end of the day, the stories were geared towards kids. For instance, there was a story called "The Big Toe," about a boy who digs up a toe from the soil. The boy shows it to his mother and his mother cooks it for dinner. What kind of boy would not freak out digging up a big toe out of the ground? Better question, why would his mother cook it for dinner? Again, these were kids stories so some of them were kind of weird. (I actually told "The Big Toe" around a camp fire at a rodeo one time, and it delivered big laughs.) No matter what, there was a creepy vibe from each story that was both fun and unbearable as a child. 

I bring up this series of short stories, because Guillermo Del Toro has been planning to adapt this set of stories into a film. Its been talked about for a long time now and it seems like production has been on and off for awhile, but due to a recent article, Del Toro maybe moving forward with making the movie. Del Toro has a very specific style of horror filmmaking and it separates him from the rest of the herd. My question is, since these were based on children's books, would they still be scary? When Del Toro sits down to make a horror movie, they are indeed creepy and disturbing, and I wonder if that would show through in the final film. Like I said, the illustrations were creepy! I wonder if the movie would still pack the same punch. If it would be accessible to all ages, because if made a certain way, it would definitely be rated R. I'd love a no-holds-barred, creepy adaptation of this, but I don't know if that would be right for the spirit of these stories.

How would you like this adapted?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween Week: Children of the Corn

Stephen King is not only my favorite horror writer but one of my favorite writers in general. I love him so much that I can forgive him when he over-explains or goes overboard with all of his narration and description. Which, let's face it, happens in just about every one of his novels. I really have a soft spot for his short stories sometimes over his novels. He gets right down to the nitty-gritty with his short stories and the scares come a lot faster. One of my favorite Stephen King short stories is "Children of the Corn." Yep, you may know that title as a long-winded horror franchise. But it started as a Stephen King short story. A troubled couple is on a road trip to save their marriage, when suddenly they hit a child. Under further inspection, they find out that the boy they hit had his throat slit before getting hit by their car. Who would cut a child's throat and why? The couple see's that the next town coming up is Gatlin, Nebraska. They plan to drive into town and report the crime. When they get to Gatlin, they find the town both dated and deserted, which gives the wife the creeps. They stumble upon a church, which is the only building that doesn't look dated. The husband goes in and finds out that Gatlin is being secretly run by a cult of children who murdered all the adults in the town ten years prior, all due to their believes in a Pagan, corn-loving Jesus!

Creepy children scare me. Creepy religions scare me. So you can probably imagine that "Children of the Corn" creeped the fuck out of me. There is a moment in the story in particular, when the husband finds a portrait of the evil Pagan Christ the children worship and how King describes the painting...well... its something I hope nobody ever draws. I'd have nightmares forever. There is a slow burn to the story that pays off big by the end and even though its a short story, its successfully condensed and contains a great deal of good scares.

I sat down to watch the movie adaptation on Netflix a few weeks ago. I wish I was as enthused about the movie as I am with the short story. "Children of the Corn" the movie is a complete farce. If you are looking for something on Netflix this Halloween to watch and if you want a good scare, don't land on "Children of the Corn." Everything that made the short story special has all but evaporated from the film version's script. First, the couple is having problems, they are just a typical couple we find in horror movies that make dumb decisions because the movie needs them to. There is no sense of urgency to their actions, just mind-numbing stupidity. Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton play the couple and they do what they can, but even the best of acting won't stop you from laughing at the stupid dialogue. Second of all, there is not a single scare in the entire movie. We have so many great examples of freaky children in horror movies over the history of the genre. In this film, they are laughably not scary and completely non-threatening.

The worst part is that "He Who Walks Behind The Rows" is completely butchered as a character or presence. "He Who Walks Behind The Rows" is the name of the Pagan God the children of the corn worship. In the short story, his presence was brief, but you understood why you should fear him and why the children worship him so. The description is completely crazy King. My favorite kind of King. In the movie, well he's apparently a hedge-hog that drives in the ground. The couple kills the God in the stupidest way possible and the character's death scene is unfathomably funny. When you are literally laughing at a hyperventilating pace during a horror movie, that's a bad sign. That freaky portrait of evil Christ I describe above? We never see it! That image alone, if done right, could have conjured the worst of nightmares. But this movie ignored it completely!

Stephen King is the master of suspense, and this adaptation gives that nickname ill-will. I would skip this film completely. Its completely incomprehensible and doesn't scare a single minute in its run time. How this became a series, I will never know.

I hope to write one of these each day leading up to Halloween, I am going to try to find something I like for tomorrow. Thanks!

Who Played It Best? Frederick Loren/Stephen Price

Who Played It Best? Frederick Loren/Stephen Price
"House on Haunted Hill" is a fun little horror movie. It was one of the first spooky haunted house movies (not because of the title) and it set the template for the slasher movie. But, the secret weapon to the film was that it was full of twists and turns. Those twists and turns still hold up, even though the film was made in 1959. The film starred Vincent Price, who was the actor at the time that was in every kind of horror film under the sun at the time. He was the bogeyman of his generation. Its a fun movie that I love watching each year around this time. Its not a movie I'd ever suspect would ever get remade. But it was a film that certainly was remade in 1999. The remake kept the original name, but Geoffrey Rush ended up playing a character named Stephen Price, which was basically Vincent Price's character, Frederick Loren, just with a different name. Perhaps to honor Vincent Price. My question for tonight is, who played the character best?

My Two Cents
Like I said above, Vincent Price was the bogeyman of his generation, and he got quite good at playing these creepy characters. Sure, you can say that he essentially became a typecast actor, but he was damn good at it. He brought a brilliant, smug and believable life to Frederick Loren. We believed that he was snarky rich man, but that he had something sinister under his sleeve, that he was hiding something evil under that smile of his. Its a masterful performance, one of my favorite in all of horror movies. So I have a particular bias when it comes to Vincent Price's work here. While I think Geoffrey Rush did good work here, he doesn't begin to compare to the work done by Vincent Price. Ergo, for me, its no competition. Price gets the edge.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comment section below. You can also email me your votes at bloggershawn@gmail.com. You will have until Monday, October 31st to vote! So get those votes in before Halloween!

LAST WEEK: WHO PLAYED IT BEST? COUNT DRACULA
 I can't believe that I have been doing this blog for as long as I have but I have never had Count Dracula star in this column. Until now. A handful of actors competed to be crowned the best actor to play Count Dracula. The results are in and the winner is...
I am just as surprised as you, but I learned last week that Luke Evans fans are incredibly passionate.


TV REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (SEASON FOUR, EPISODE FIVE)

TV REVIEW

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

SEASON FOUR, EPISODE FIVE- "LOCKUP"
Its taco Tuesday! Well, I personally did not ingest any tacos today, but maybe you did. I know the characters on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." sure did. At the very least, they did at the prison Coulson, Mack, Quake, May and Ghost Rider ended up going. They planned to break Eli Marrow, Ghost Rider's uncle out of prison so they could help them locate the Darkhold, the mystical book that brought all these ghosts back to life, who are still possessing people in order to do their bidding. I am starting to get the idea that the Darkhold is what lead to Robbie Reyes becoming Ghost Rider in the first place, and if the commercial for next week is any indication, we will certainly find out next week how Robbie got his demonic powers. We also learn that the Watchdogs are recruiting from prison, as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents found lots of inmates with the Watchdog tattoos. Lucy, the evil ghost lurking in the shadows, set a bunch of the inmates loose, which led to some big showdowns throughout the entire episode. While S.H.I.E.L.D. gets out all in once piece, Eli Marrow gets captured by Lucy. Man, all that effort for nothing at all!

There is also a another plot where the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Jeffrey Mace gets on national television to discuss S.H.I.E.L.D. and why they are seemingly protecting the Inhumans. He is debating against that US senator who is secretly working with the Watchdogs. She is trying to discredit the organization, asking why they would help Inhumans. Then Jeffrey Mace reveals that he himself is an Inhuman and that S.H.I.E.L.D. will remain legitimate. His national numbers skyrocket and he has Jemma to thank. Jemma helped him with the segment on TV and Mace got Jemma out of a particular lie-detector test. What did the test mean for Jemma? Will she have a closer relationship with Mace? Are Jemma and Fritz on the outs again? We will have to find out later.

Tonight's episode felt more like a filler episode more than anything. With each season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." having over twenty episodes, you have a few of those filler episodes. Coulson's team infiltrated a prison and got Marrow out just for him to get captured again. At the end, it makes you say, what's the point? Sure, Jeffrey Mace told the world he's an Inhuman, but that literally could have happened at any episode. When the episodes feel like filler, that is definitely sucks for me. It seems that next week's episode will be a origin on Ghost Rider, and I can only assume that next episode will also feel like a filler episode. I wish this show could be a little more slimmed down. Keep it short and sweet, and to the point. On the other hand, I'll be interested to see how the Darkhold plays into "Doctor Strange" in a few weeks.

What did everyone else think?

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Accountant: A rough edged mystery done spectacularly well.

The Accountant Review
I took a quick peek at the Rotten Tomato meter for this film and I read that this film is currently sitting on a 50% on the rotten-to-fresh scale. I am completely baffled. I think 50% on this movie is being a little too hard on it. 

"The Accountant" has a lot going for it. There is action, the kind of action that feels in-your-face and completely gritty. Every gunshot, every punch, every head-hitting-the-wall all feels real. It feels like you literally in the corridors watching these events unfold. Sometimes its easy to take the sound editing and sound mixing rooms for granted. Hell, I'll admit that I do that quite a bit when I sit down to watch a movie, but with "The Accountant," its hard to ignore. I can't think of another movie that were the sound effects were almost a character unto itself, but its very impressive.

"The Accountant" would be, at the very least, passable as a bone-breaking action movie. But the movie has a cool story too. It follows Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) a man who has a particular gift with numbers and mathematics. He uses a small-time CPA office as a cover to do freelance accounting for several different criminal organizations all over the world. He also happens to be autistic, which has been a gift and a curse his whole life, but his particular case of autism allows him to get into the very specific details of a job, and it has allowed him to be very successful. Growing up, Christian was always moving around thanks to his father (Andy Umberger). His father was in the army and he didn't believe in sheltering or catering to his son simply because he was born with autism. He taught his boy how to fight, how to interact with a cruel world, he never gave his son a crutch simply because of his condition. 

Some of you may find this plot-point heartless, some of you may find it rather unbelievable. Yeah, its weird that father would throw their child with autism into dangerous landscapes in an effort to do a better job preparing him for the world instead of a professional neurologist. But his father is a military guy and the movie makes it pretty clear from the beginning that Wolff's father was never very good at the job of parenthood, so I can buy into his hardheadedness easy enough for the movie. 

Wolff's work eventually catches the eyes of the United States Department of Treasury. Agents Ray King (J.K Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who plan to arrest Wolff for his financial crimes. All while Wolff gets hired by a technology company run by a lighthearted guru (John Lithgow) to see if there has been any financial foul-play. This leads Wolff to meet Dana (Anna Kendrick) who works for the company. Yes, there is some financial foul-play, but who is doing it and why. Why is Braxton (Jon Bernthal), a dangerous private security operative involved? Plus, agents King and Medina dig up some evidence that Wolff may also be a trained killer, is it true and if so, what does it mean?

There are quite a few moving parts in "The Accountant," but never is the movie hard to follow and never does the film not give an explanation. In fact, its a little funny, because "The Accountant" is one of those movies where literally every character is somehow connected to Wolff's past in some way. There are some "big reveals" at the end of the film and my fiancee was pretty sure about two possible theories involving those reveals. She actually guessed one of the reveals correctly, and even though I figured it would happen once she mentioned it, I kind of hoped it wouldn't come true. Its the type of reveal that feels taped onto the ending of the film, only to deliver a shock to the audience. Sadly, it kind of just feels out-of-place and the film would have been much more satisfying it was just a typical, action movie closing. Instead, the movie tries to convince us that this big reveal matters, but it really doesn't and its a major side-step in an otherwise cool and entertaining movie.

But that big reveal never derails the picture and there is also another reveal right before the end credits that neither of us saw coming, and I really dug that one. It may seem goofy that just about everyone in the movie is connected somehow, but it ends up working. Part of the reason it works is because Ben Affleck does such a tremendous job in this movie, its insane. He has all the autistic ticks and mannerisms down pat and he created a compelling character through all of it. He has a wonderful supporting cast helping him and Kendrick, Lithgow, Simmons, Addai-Robinson, Bernathal and even an appearance by Jeffrey Tambor are all well-done. This is a beautifully and artistically well-acted film. The cast helps you buy into the absurdities of the film's plot.

I think you'll be surprised just  how much "The Accountant" works for you if you allow yourself to open up to it. This has some very good action, fun character moments and has a gritty, little mystery at its core. Its only somewhat uneven, and the rest of the movie works so well that I could forgive the minor missteps that happen along the way. This is a fun little caper to check out as we exit October.

FINAL GRADE: B+

TV REVIEW: "ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD" (SEASON TWO, EPISODE FOUR)

TV REVIEW

ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD

SEASON TWO, EPISODE FOUR- "D.U.I."
Last week, a couple big things happened on "Ash vs The Evil Dead." First of all, Ash's beloved car, The Delta, was possessed by the Book of the Dead, which took the lives of some college kids looking for a thrill stealing the car. Second of all, Ash's father, Brock is killed by Ash's possessed car. That killed me. I loved seeing Lee Majors and Bruce Campbell bounce off of each other onscreen. Lee Majors' character was such a stunning, well-received character and they killed him off after only three episodes. I wanted to see their relationship grow and nurture. But as episode four opened, we saw Ash sort-of "mourning" over his dead father's body. Just as Ash says his final farewell to his dead father, his still possessed Delta drives off.

Inside the Delta is the last college red shirt still surviving Delta going all "Christine" on her friends. But also in the car is Pablo. He makes it into the car to try and stop it. He wants to get the Book of the Dead out of the car to end the possession. Surprisingly, this subplot takes up a decent segment of tonight's episode. It was something I did not expect, but something I enjoyed seeing. Ray Santiago has been excellent on this show, but he's always been a supporting character. Here, he steps up and fleshes out Pablo in some minor key notes. I was about to rant to all Holy Hell when the episode tried to sell the idea that Pablo dies. But it turns out that he has a vision of the Delta killing him and not something that actually happens. Pablo is also inarguable in getting the Delta out of its possession near the end of the episode. The Book of the Dead talks to Pablo and gives it a special word to end the chaos. The question that still remains was, why did the book talk to Pablo? Hopefully we find that out later in the season.

The ending of the episode? Well, it was Ash and Pablo versus his possessed car. In standard "Ash vs Evil Dead" fashion, it was quite crazy! It also seems like Ted Raimi's character from last week may become someone we see on a regular basis. If this is true, then I am all for it. There is some funny material in this episode when Ash is chasing his car to save Pablo. He has Ted's character in the car and they believe  that they are going to strip club. There are some very funny moments in this quick scene and Ted sells each of his lines. He takes Ash's news well, that he's a demon hunter and is trying to find The Book of the Dead. Who wouldn't, honestly?

There was also an interesting subplot involving Kelly and Ruby. They create an interesting yet uneasy alliance as Kelly helps Ruby find one of her demons and destroys it. I really would enjoy seeing a few episodes of Kelly and Ruby going off on their own and doing some independent demon-killing. They work well together and its fun to see some good, old-fashioned girl power on this show. I hope to see more.

It was another wacky episode full of mayhem. But the icing on the cake was the song from the old "Great White North" show featuring Bob and Doug McKenzie. If you don't know what that means, seek it out on YouTube or check out a movie called "Strange Brew." Nice touch, nice touch indeed.

What did everyone else think?

Couch Potato: Episode Three


It was a warm Sunday evening last night in October, what do you think I ended up watching last night?

If you said "The Walking Dead," then you guessed correctly. I have been waiting for seven long months to find out who Negan killed at the end of the season six finale and there was some big payoffs in the season seven premiere. And seemingly just as many disappointments. A lot happened last night, and so I spent literally the entire third episode of my TV  review show discussing the premiere. 

Yes you will find out who Negan killed.

Yes, you will find out a lot more too, so if you have not seen last night's premiere, do not watch this week's episode, I don't want to give anything away if you have not watched it yet.

What did the rest of you think of the Walking Dead premiere?


Friday, October 21, 2016

Audrie and Daisy: Documentary urges discussion of teen rape.

Audrie and Daisy Review
I think the biggest event that happened last March that had lots of people talking was the Brock Turner case. He's the Stanford student who was at a party, found an unconscious girl, dragged her around a dumpster and sexually assaulted her. Two men on bikes caught Brock in the act and Brock ran for it. The two bikers went after him, caught him and held him down until the authorities arrived. Sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? Sadly, we all know it wasn't. Brock Turner got six months, three on good behavior. Why? Because the judge pitied him because he was a good swimmer. Whats sad is that athletes of color have gone down for similar crimes and gotten years in jail.

At the end of "Audrie and Daisy," the new Netflix documentary detailing two different cases of teenage sexual assault, we learn that sexual assault is most common in our teenage population and several cases go unreported. Why do so many of these cases go unreported? Well, just watching the new documentary by Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen, you get the a real clear picture of why they go unreported. The victims don't feel they have any avenue to travel down. When they are brave enough to stand up and take a stand for what happened to them, they are treated as the criminals, not the victims. Our culture when it comes to sexual assault is proven backwards in this new film.

Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman have similar stories. They were both young teenagers who found themselves at a party with alcohol apart of them. They both passed out intoxicated. They were both sexually assaulted. When Audrie found out what happened to her, she was so distraught and guilt-ridden over it that she committed suicide. When Daisy found out what happened to her, she tried to reach an outlet, find some kind of justice. But when the justice system got involved, what ultimately happened was no jail time for the attackers, and a massive wave of cyber-bullying for Daisy. If you have a good memory, you may remember hearing about Daisy's story, because it got public media attention. All the little town of Maryville could focus on was the unwanted attention the media brought, not focusing on the case and figuring out what was right. The sheriff gave our favorite excuse as to why the charges were dropped on Daisy's attackers. It was "boys being boys" and "crimes happen against boys too." 

Well, yes we understand that crimes happen to boys as well. That's not the point of the case though. The case involved boys and that is why those particular boys were being prosecuted. But these boys belonged to rich and powerful parents of this small town, just as Brock Turner was a swimmer going to make it to the Olympics, so we can't destroy their lives with this crime.

But why not? Why can't anybody be responsible for their actions? Why are certain cases special like this and not everyone gets a fair shake. Why are victims of rape tormented afterwards? Is rape culture real? I would say rape culture is real, so why does nobody want to admit it?

Its sad that a documentary has to be made about this subject. But with the recent Brock Turner case, and that one of the people running to be our next President is involved in something like this, its need to be seen. "Audrie and Daisy" is a documentary we need right now, and it breaks my heart. We need to make sure rape victims have a voice. That they get a fair trial. We need to make sure those in question are responsible for their actions, no matter how rich and powerful they are or their families. A possible perpetrator in a rape case shouldn't be given special treatment simply because he's a hometown hero, he should remain responsible for his actions. This movie proves that we are still afraid of the big, fat "R" word. I even think people misuse the word. But when somebody is saying they have been raped, we shouldn't automatically say they are crying wolf. Conduct a fair investigation. We need people to come forth and have their voices being heard.

I hate getting political on a movie blog, but "Audrie and Daisy" is a movie that is going to get you thinking. Its going to get you debating. Its going to force you to think about this subject. Like I said, its a movie we need right now. Its righteously powerful.

FINAL GRADE: A

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Trailer

"Guardians of the Galaxy" was a major surprise in 2014. Everybody was expecting it to bomb that summer. But when you bet against Marvel and Disney, it makes an ass out of you and me.

I love "Guaridans of the Galaxy," I continue to love the movie. This sequel to that film is one of my most anticipated films coming out next year and May can't get here soon enough. 





Usually, when Marvel releases a trailer, it focuses on certain battles, we see people in action, characters we have grown to love. While there is some action in this short trailer, I love that the biggest highlight of the trailer is Drax the Destroyer and Star-Lord talking about dancing. Dancing. These are some of the best realized characters in the entire Marvel Universe, and this should bring them to a whole new level.

And baby Groot? How cute. Looking spiffy in his miniature jacket.

Logan Trailer

Everything that has a beginning has an end. Sadly, Hugh Jackman's run as Wolverine/Logan is coming to an end. Maybe I am jaded because Wolverine has always been my favorite superhero, but I have liked Logan's run as the character. It's been an impressive road that he will be saying goodbye too, appearing as the character more times than both Sean Connery and Roger Moore played James Bond. So that's some fun trivia you may not know.

Now, many people prophesied that Wolverine 3 would be an adaptation of "Old Man Logan." Which wouldn't work unless Fox made a deal with Marvel for the X-men to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comic "Old Man Logan," Red Skull (Captain America's arch-enemy) gets every seemingly every supervillain in the Marvel Universe  (think Dr. Doom, Magneto, Green Goblin, Abomination, Loki, Dormammu) together and they all gang up on and kill all the superheroes. Cap. Iron Man. Spider-man. Thor. The Fantastic Four. All dead. All that are left are a depressed, remorseful Logan and a blinded Hawkeye. Logan needs money in order to pay rent to the Hulk, who has turned evil, so evil he raped his cousin and began an inbred Hulk family. (Its written by Mark Millar, whose kind of a fucked up guy). Hawkeye has a job and will pay Logan enough money to keep his home for a lifetime. So they drive cross-country across a supervillain dominant America to complete this task. 

In this trailer for "Logan," the seemingly final movie about Wolverine, we definitely see a vibe and a style of "Old Man Logan," but this isn't a straight adaptation. It also looks like this sequel will involved X-23, which was a female clone of Logan. How she fits into the plot should be interesting. 

The only thing I can't figure out is the grand conundrum of this film is the problem that plagues the entire "X-Men" franchise. Where the hell does this movie fit into the grander scheme of things? At the end of "Days of Future Past," we are led to believe what Professor X told Logan, that mutants will have a brighter future now that they changed the timeline. Yet, in the future, all the mutants are supposedly gone? The "X-Men" franchise is still the most frustrating modern franchise, narrative-wise. But, that doesn't take away from the power this trailer possesses. I am ready for another great "Wolverine" movie.

And the Johnny Cash music? Perfect.





Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Michael Moore's Secret Movie??

I know, I've said some pretty nasty things about Michael Moore. Over the summer, I saw his latest documentary "Where To Invade Next," which felt was more of a self-parody on the big man himself and not so much a provocative or interesting documentary. I think Moore at times can have a knowledgeable voice. But as some have said before, he's his own worst enemy. 

What I never expected from Michael Moore was that he'd make a secret movie. It is being released soon. When I say soon, I mean sometime tonight. I don't know when the New York IFC Center picked up Moore's movie, but Moore premiered it sometime tonight. If not yet, then sometime tonight at that venue. Apparently, he hired a publicist today, sometime today, to book screenings in Los Angeles and further in New York sometime in the near future. He also finished editing and mixing of the movie tonight too, so that its all ready for the premiere tonight. Now that's some tight work, I wonder if he pulled it off.

Now, like I said, I haven't always agreed with Michael Moore and I can't stand it when he uses editing and manipulation in order to make certain points. Other times, I think he makes entire documentaries where he has no idea what he's talking about. However, this mystery movie is about Moore invading TrumpLand.

Hmmm...maybe I am interested, Mr. Moore.

Here's a brief synopsis:

"the film Ohio Republicans tried to shut down. Oscar-winner Michael Moore dives right into hostile territory with his daring and hilarious one-man show, deep in the heart of TrumpLand in the weeks before the 2016 election.

The Ohio Republicans tried to shut the film down? Oh no!

If Michael Moore is taking a shot at Donald Trump and his followers. Of all people. Man, how is that not cinematic gold? 

When will this be in the Midwest? I got to see this ASAP! This will either be a very well done, informative documentary by Moore or one of the finest comedies of the year. We shall see!

SOURCE:
http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/secret-film-michael-moore-in-trumpland-given-last-minute-release-333

TV REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (SEASON 4, EPISODE 4)

TV REVIEW

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

SEASON 4, EPISODE 4- "LET ME STAND NEXT TO YOUR FIRE"
Tonight's episode had such highlights as Quake rekindling with Hellfire. Coulson and Mack teaming up with Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider and Coulson have a street race! And Radcliffe teaching his android the importance of lying. It was a fun episode tonight, and it proved that two subplots in one episode is probably best for this show.

Quake met up with Jemma, she needs her help. Quake knows that even though S.H.I.E.L.D. is new and improved, there are still leaks. There are still corrupt corners of the organization. She knows, somehow and someway, The Watchdogs terrorist group is getting classified information on Inhumans in the United States and they are using that information to exterminate the Inhumans. Quake and Jemma work together to pinpoint someone who can lead them to The Watchdogs. That Inhuman just happens to be James from last season. You remember James AKA Hellfire. He was the HIVE henchman who used the flaming chain that tricked lots of Marvel fans into thinking Ghost Rider was coming to the show (which now makes Ghost Rider's introduction in this new season slightly ironic). I was hoping that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was going to wipe James' slate from last season clean. That Hellfire would take his rightful spot in S.H.I.E.L.D. and in the Secret Warriors and we would get a Quake, Yo-Yo and Hellfire team-up. No such luck. James is in cohorts with The Watchdogs, helping them trap Inhumans. So that he can "be the last one to die." I think that's what he said, but that motivation seemed a little flat. So yeah, James is depressed and stuck in life with no motivation when Quake and Jemma happen upon him, but that's really why he's still a villain?

It doesn't matter that much. Coulson, Mack and Ghost Rider come and save the girls from the clutches of James and The Watchdogs. Watching Ghost Rider and James go mano-a-mano was entertaining enough and I am glad Ghost Rider's flaming skull wasn't a "one episode sighting." (Something that could be said about HIVE last season, and Mr. Hyde the season before last). Quake and Jemma together made a fun team, and it was a highlight of tonight's episode to watch both of them work together. Though the possible Hellfire, Yo-Yo and Quake team-up is MISSED OPPORTUNITY #3,000 that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has made.

So you are probably wondering how Coulson and Mack ended up with Ghost Rider? Well Coulson and Mack just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Coulson met with Ghost Rider's uncle Elias Morrow (Jose Zuniga) about his falling out with the corporation he once worked with, which is the link to the ghosts wondering around S.H.I.E.L.D which drew Agent May insane earlier this season. If you know the comics, you will recognize the name Elias Morrow, but it doesn't seem like this is the Morrow from the comic books. He's still very much alive and still human. Coulson gets in Lola, his old red convertible and races Ghost Rider, which turns out to be one of my favorite moments of the series so far. I loved it! Loved it! We didn't learn too much more about the ghosts and the book they want. But that looks to be the focus of next episode. I love the mystical, comic-booky road they are taking with this season and I'd much rather see this stuff unfold than the old government corruption we have already seen time and time again on this show, with the whole Watchdogs angle. I know the show gearing up to tie into "Doctor Strange," but the show itself can still pay off from it.

And Radcliffe? I can't read if he has bad or good intentions. Why couldn't he be upfront with Coulson that Aida was an android, and his plans for Life Model Decoys? I hope Radcliffe isn't a villain, I want John Hannah in all future "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." seasons until the end of time! I will be interested to see how this Life Model Decoy story unfolds.

This was a solid hour of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.S" and one of their better episodes overall. What did the rest of you think?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio developing a Captain Planet movie?

Reading movie news, movie reviews and everything new and old on the subject is apart of my daily life. Its why I do what I do right now, not being paid for it. Sometimes, things get announced and I don't get too surprised anymore. I may get excited, or I may get slightly blindsided, but I end up loving the choice. Whether its a cast choice I like, or a director adapting something I love or a screenwriter attached to do something cool. I live for the thrill of anticipation, and I live for the thrill of the payoff, watching these things unfold onscreen. Way too often am I so blown away by an idea that I can't believe it. But, sometimes it happened.

I didn't expect many things to happen today that ended up happening. One of those things was the announcement that Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way, is developing a Captain Planet movie.

I grew up with Captain Planet. It was about five teenagers who had magical rings that controlled a certain natural element. When they brought the rings together, they created a blue and green superhero named Captain Planet who fought for Mother Nature and all of her creations! Each episode always ended with a nice tip to keep the planet greener and thriving. It was something I had always loved watching growing up, because of course I did. How will it work as a movie today? Well, we will just have to wait and see.

I guess, when I think about it, I suppose I am not that surprised that Leonardo DiCaprio of all people is attached to make the film. I mean, he already talks and acts like he's Captain Planet already, which isn't a bad thing at all.





I have no idea if Leo plans to star as Captain Planet, or if he's merely throwing money at the movie. But this is a little bizarre, but it could be a good bizarre. Leo really believes in making this planet green again, and he clearly cares about his beliefs. Could this be a genuine "save the planet" movie without jamming the politics down our throats? That remains to be seen.

I wonder if Leo isn't playing Captain Planet, if Don Cheadle will put the Captain costume back on again...

Definitely more on this story as it progresses...

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/76516

Hunt For The Wilderpeople Review

Hunt For The Wilderpeople Review
Does the name Taika Waititi mean anything to you? If it doesn't it certainly should, because he's an independent filmmaker who is about to go supernova by next year. I first encountered Taika Waititi when I DVR'd a movie from Showtime called "What We Do In The Shadows," it was a "Office-style" documentary-comedy about a group of vampires living together and how they live out their daily lives. Its such a clever take on the vampire movie and it was filled with perfect homages and big laughs. I knew then that Taika Waititi was a person to be reckoned with, a name that should be household, no matter how many movies he has under his belt. You may really start hearing his name tossed around once "Thor: Ragnarok" hits theaters, because Waititi is hard at work directing that film as we speak. Since San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, Waititi has already had some genuine fun with "Thor: Ragnarok." More than ever I am wildly curious about a new "Thor" film and I hope Waititi is able to sneak some of his unique, personal humor into this massive Marvel machine.

"What We Do In The Shadows" was such a remarkable discovery that I feel compelled to push Waititi's latest film, "Hunt For The Wilderpeople" on everyone. Everyone should see this film. This film features a quasi-Wes Anderson vibe, but its completely Waititi. This is a different type of comedy that zigs every time you think its going to zag. Every time you think you have the film figured out, it continues to surprise you. Plus, any film that can use Nina Simone's "Sinner Man" to near expert use deserves credit altogether.

Julian Dennison plays Ricky Baker, a child who sent by child welfare services to go live with his Aunt and Uncle out in the country since no foster family want him. Ricky is a city kid, and he's immersed in the "gangsta rap" lifestyle. At first, you can tell Ricky is hopelessly out-of-place. You think this will be a battle-of-the-wills type movie where Ricky will remain defiant against his newfound family until they learn to love each other.

You'd think that, and then you'd be wrong.

Ricky really begins to connect with his quirky Aunt Bella (Rima Te Waita) and his delirious Uncle Hec (Sam Neill). Everything seems to be going just fine, until Aunt Bella suddenly and unexpectedly passes away. After an offbeat yet hilarious funeral, we are left with Ricky and Uncle Hec, who can't really connect with each other at all. But they will, right? The rest of the movie will be your typical, Hollywood film about two opposing forces coming together and calling each other family?

Well, you'd be wrong again.

Instead, Ricky runs away, fakes his own death and tries to make it on his own in the surrounding wilderness. Eventually, Uncle Hec catches up with him. Child services return, demanding Ricky to give him to a new family, but they believe the mentally unstable Uncle Hec kidnapped Ricky and is on the run, which leads to manhunt for Uncle Hec. Ricky thinks him and his uncle should stand their ground, which leads to a most unexpected comedy. Its amazing that by this point, I completely threw formula out the window and sat back and enjoyed the film Waititi had made for me. There is an offbeat, almost otherworldly humor found in "Hunt For The Wilderpeople'' which completely works for the movie. All played over a carefully picked soundtrack that matches each track to each scene.

What is also amazing are all the fantastic performances, made up of mostly people I had never heard of before. The work done by Julian Dennison is very good, and this young man is someone we will be hearing about for a long time. Sam Neill? Well, he's a veteran at this point, but I can say without hesitation that this is one of his best performances. Through slicked-back silver hair and a big, bushy beard, he disappears into the role. Delivering a performance unlike any other. There is also palpable supporting work done by Rhys Darby, Rachel House, Oscar Knighley, and a cameo by Waititi himself which is quite hilarious.

"Hunt For The Wilderpeople," is about finding your people, and its about coming of age. It a humorous way, it defines who we are as people, our taste for adventure, our need to prove ourselves, to defend what we love, and nurture what we care about. There are relentless themes spilling over each frame about belonging and family and survival that it nearly knocked me flat. Waititi has lots of fun with his themes, but he makes sure they matter.

Anybody who is a fan of comedy in general, deserves to put this film on their watchlist. Watch out for Taika Waititi. If I didn't say it enough already.

FINAL GRADE: A+

Sunday, October 16, 2016

TV REVIEW: ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD (SEASON TWO, EPISODE THREE)

TV REVIEW

ASH VS THE EVIL DEAD

SEASON TWO, EPISODE THREE- "LAST CALL"
After last week, Ash got the Book of the Dead, he only had to fight off an evil Deadit and literally get his head shoved up its ass in order to win the day, but he got it. He put the the book in his classic Oldsmobile, only to have the car stolen at the end of last episode. It turns out in this episode, we find out that a bunch of weed-buzzing college kids stole Ash's car. In order to get his prized car back and the Book of the Dead back to its rightful owner, Ash comes up with a plan to lure the thieves to his favorite bar.

He's going to throw an obnoxious kegger, and see if the thieves show up so he can get his car back.

It leads to a hilarious episode of Ash, Pablo and Kelly trying to navigate through this party and hopefully find Ash's cherished car. This episode also sets up a really good guest appearance by Ted Raimi. Ted Raimi is the younger brother of Sam Raimi, who directed the "Evil Dead" movies and gave birth to our favorite hero, Ash. In this episode, Sam plays a bartender who makes a very colorful, but ultimately distasteful drink for the partygoers to enjoy. The drink was called "Pink Fuck," and it was mighty powerful. (Yes, you read that right, the drink was called "Pink Fuck.") Ted and Bruce Campbell have always bounced off of each other very well, and this was an outstanding opportunity to watch the two of them work together. Ted Raimi does really good work here, and even has some unsuspecting human moments with both Kelly and Pablo, something I wouldn't have expected from this episode. 

Lee Majors character Brock shows up again and I continue to look forward to Lee Majors' father character butting heads with Ash. It leads to some tremendous acting and even more tremendous laughs. Throughout the party, Brock is hitting on several women, and he is about to take one young girl home. The only problem is she turns out to be a Deadite, which leads to one of the big action set pieces of the episode. In typical "Ash vs. Evil Dead," fashion, it is nice and bloody. What I didn't expect to have happen was Brock to not survive the encounter. In typical, gory fashion, they gave Brock a delirious death sequence, but I feel Brock's exit came way too soon. Brock was about to reveal the family secret he's kept for the first two episodes and now its left us wonder if and when we will ever figure it out. How could they drop Brock like that? Why would they ramp up this family secret only for it not to be learned? But alas, this is "Ash vs. The Evil Dead" after all, there has to be some kind of supernatural way for Brock to return to the show right? They wouldn't just leave that plot thread hanging, right?

The subplot of the episode was the fate of the people who stole the Oldsmobile and it turns out that one of the college kids who stole the Oldsmobile accidentally read from the Book of the Dead, which turned Ash's beloved car into a killing machine. You can think "Christine," but a try to imagine a much more brutal, more animated Christine and you may get the point. One of the college kids lost their genitals and there was no shortage of interesting ways to kill off the young red shirts. All with manic glee.

It was another gleefully sick episode of "Ash vs. The Evil Dead." I hope we haven't seen the last of Brock. I hope we haven't seen the last of Ted Raimi. I was quite happy when I learned that, after a full first season of naysaying, it seems "Army of Darkness" is indeed in the canon of this storyline and that's pretty cool. I will be awaiting once more until next week to see what happens next.

What did everyone else think?

Who Played It Best? Count Dracula (Which actor over the years has done the best as our favorite vampire?)

Who Played It Best? Count Dracula
Count Dracula has been a character in pop culture canon and he will live forever in it. How did such a character become so popular? Perhaps he was the first vampire to have real character, that's definitely a huge factor. Another factor is that many artists over the years have created his story, recreated his story, expanded upon the character, reimagined the character, all of this has added to the characters dominance. Count Dracula has been around in our popular culture for so long that several actors have portrayed the character. Bela Lugosi is no doubt, the actor who made the character most popular. But Max Shreck before Lugosi was the fan favorite, and for starring in a silent movie, he was quite horrifying. It seems as the years wore on, the character got more colorful and more gruesome, and I am sitting here today wondering if there is somebody who did it best?

My Two Cents
There have been lots of actors who have stepped up to the plate to play this character, and it seems like an almost impossible task to really pick a winner. I will say that I would rank a certain number of actors who portrayed the character in a certain light and made their presentation of the character memorable. Those actors are 1. Bela Lugosi 2. Max Shreck 3. Christopher Lee 4. Gary Oldman and 5. Klause Kinski. There is also performances by Gerald Butler and Luke Evans and the short-lived television version played by Jonathon Rhys-Meyers for the more recent portrayals. But I believe those five that I ranked really put the character on a new pedestal, they made the character completely their own and they are the versions we will discuss the most in the future. I can see any of those five winning the contest. Since so many actors have played the character, don't forget to write someone in if you think I missed them.

Agree? Disagree? Fire away in the comment section below. You can also email me your votes at bloggershawn@gmail.com. You will have until next Sunday to vote.

LAST TIME ON WHO PLAYED IT BEST? SPIDERMAN
  Last time we did "Who Played It Best?" We had a rematch between two Spider-men. When I initially posted about Spiderman, I pitted Toby McGuire against Andrew Garfield, and Garfield ended up winning. Now, Garfield is defending his title against Tom Holland and the winner was...

Yep, there is a new king in town


Star Wars: Rogue One New Trailer



I firmly believe that this movie is going to make me cry.

With each new "Rogue One" trailer, this movie looks like its gets better and better looking. I love the mythology in each of these shots. The statue of the jedi, broken and being buried in the sand was one scene in particular that really gripped me.

But nothing could compare of that shot of Darth Vader moving very fast through the smoke, oh man the chills!

It seems with each new trailer we see the stakes being laid out for our heroes and I think its going to be a very harrowing journey!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Ten Best Across-The-Board Trilogies

I have watched "Captain America: Civil War" several times since buying the blu-ray a few weeks ago. When I saw the movie in theaters back in May, I had watched "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Captain America: Winter Soldier" all the night before. I was cranked up on all things Captain America when I saw the movie. Not only did I love the movie, I had a very special retrospect of the everything. I declared on social media that the "Captain America" trilogy was one of the best film trilogies of all time. I still believe it.

I was thinking today, and I thought to myself: what other good trilogies are there? Sure, when we do the legwork and put our thinking caps on, we can think of several. But what made all three "Captain America" films special is that each film developed Steve Rogers as a character, each film gave him a new threat to defeat while also echoing threads from each previous movie. Nowhere in this collection of films does anything simply tread water. I also love that when you watch the final battle between Iron Man, Captain America and The Winter Solider in "Civil War," Steve's entire story comes full circle.

How many trilogies have pulled that off? Really think about it? How many trilogies out there are across-the-board great? Each film is amazing, not just good or mediocre or "that sucked, but the other two were great." But how many trilogies featured three amazing movies? The true answer is not that many, and I have decided to think hard on the subject today and I came up with the ten best Across-The-Board trilogies.

Now, let me be clear. These trilogies made the list because all three films are great. On this list, you won't find Sam Raimi's "Spiderman" movies, or the "X-Men" movies or even "The Godfather" or "Dark Knight" trilogies. All of those trilogies have one thing in common; they all fall apart at the third film. The third film of any series is tricky, because how can keep making your characters and their journey relevant? Its a particular skill-set that only few possess. That is as clear as day as I made this list. "Indiana Jones," "Mad Max," "Terminator" "Shrek," "Evil Dead" and "Star Wars" missed the list too because those aren't trilogies, those are film series. I will not cherry-pick in order to find a trilogy in a series. That to me felt like cheating, and missed the point I am trying to make. Making three good movies in a row is special and happens rarely. So please keep that in mind as you are reading my list.

10. "THE MATRIX TRILOGY"
Yep, you read that correctly. Look, your mileage may vary. I know I am one of those odd people who loves "The Matrix" movies unabashedly. But think about how many great science fiction franchises out there that perfectly blend social issues and philosophies of life in all three of its films? These films are filled to the brim with metaphor. (For a Theology final I had in college, I actually wrote the many ways Neo parallels Jesus Christ across all three Matrix films.) Not to mention blending those big ideas in a film featuring robots, kung-fu, machine guns and lots of loud, rock music. Each film feels like a fever dream, a warped and green version of a philosophy class taught by one maniac of a college professor. Each film works, yes even the "Dragonball-esque" finish in the last film. Yes even the truce reached in the last film. You may disagree, but each film is smart and blending brains with bombast proves to be hard for many in Hollywood. The Wachowski's made it look easy across three films.

9. "THE MEXICO TRILOGY"
On a surface level, one could look at the three films Robert Rodriguez made here just see the same thing. Yes, each film follows a loner Mariachi player who carries a guitar case full of guns, seeking vigilante justice on drug dealers. What Rodriguez does so well though, is make each film have its own pulse, its own style. If you really over-analyze things then sure, perhaps Rodriguez did just simply tread water. But the wiring of each film is different, the style of each film is different. If you didn't know that these movies weren't made by the same guy, you'd have no way of knowing they were connected in the first place. Plus, its just a wonderful spotlight on Antonio Banderas and the third film features one of the best Johnny Depp appearances of his career. AHEM. Of. His. Career.

8. "THE VENGEANCE TRILOGY"
At first glance, these films may not look connected. And yes, you'd be correct. The films are not connected in any thematic sense. They are more like blood relatives to each other. Each film deals with revenge, violence and salvation. That was the goal South Korean filmmaker had when he set out to make each of these films. SO in that way, these films are connected. The world of international films says they are a trilogy and its almost creepy how certain themes or character beats echo in each of the films. "Oldboy" is still the best of the bunch, one of the very best films of the 2000's decade and one of the leading films that really brought South Korean cinema to American attention. I watch it and it still feels like a bomb going off, that's what great cinema can do to the viewer, and this trilogy does it in spades.

7. "THE TOY STORY TRILOGY"
I had to sneak this trilogy in before Pixar made a fourth film in the series. They are planning a fourth film in this saga and it scares me on all sorts of levels. Why ruin a perfect trilogy by adding an unneeded fourth film? Didn't Pixar already tell a complete story with these characters? Is a action figure love story really what we need now after this perfect trilogy? This trio of films was never just another children's series. Each film told a true story of the human psyche. The need to be needed, to be wanted, to be the best that you can be, to use yourself to the fullest. These are all things any human being on this planet earth can relate to. And Pixar made these films with humor and a unique balance of tender moments. This trilogy was a game-changer animation-wise and it put Pixar on the map in a big way and made them the studio they are today. There is a lot to celebrate here.

6. "THE CAPTAIN AMERICA TRILOGY"
I have already spread all the love of this trilogy above, either you're in or you're out. The best superhero trilogy of all time.

5. "THE THREE COLORS TRILOGY"
Krzysztof Kieslowski made something special in the 1990's. Much like the Vengeance trilogy earlier in the list, these films may not feel connected in any thematic way in the beginning. But Kielsowski took the French flag, and looked at the colors from left to right and got blue, white and red. Each film in the trilogy is named after one of these colors. The colors represent the ideals of the motto of the French Republic; liberty, equality and fraternity. It is amazing how well each film fits the motto they are channeling, the metaphors they are reaching for. The result is a trilogy unlike any other.

4. "THE DOLLARS TRILOGY"
Sergio Leone was a god of filmmaking. The true grandmaster of spaghetti Westerns. Leone gave birth to this wee little sub-genre and changed the industry forever. These didn't feel like your father's Western's. They didn't do too much to interpret the American identity through the time period or really exploit it for any reason. Clint Eastwood is like a lone samurai in these films, walking through seemingly deserted terrain, helping and lending a hand wherever. They didn't feel like your normal Western, which is what breathed a new life into the genre at the time.

3. "THE BEFORE TRILOGY"
What makes our journey through love so different from everyone elses? We are, in fact, looking for the exact same things in love, aren't we? What each film in Richard Linklater's special trilogy does is pick up on its two star-crossed lovers in different times in their lives, apart by a degree of ten years. The first film is that love-at-first-sight feeling you get when you meet someone you are interested in. The second film is about coming together when your feelings are on high. The third film is about being together for awhile and struggling to keep it all together after conflict. Linklater's films almost feel like an odyssey through the trials and tribulations that come with being in a long-term relationship with someone. He literally puts love under a microscope. It seems as I get older, these films speak to me in very different ways, especially since I have been with the same girl for seven years now and we will be married in seven months. It hasn't always been love-drunk road, but how we get back on that road is what's most important.


2. "BACK TO THE FUTURE TRILOGY"
Magic. Every. time.


1. "THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY"
What made J.R.R. Tolken's book so popular? For me, it was that he took a story clearly set in the vast realms of fantasy and wrote in a fashion that made it feel like it was pulled from history. I am almost prepared to declare that Middle-Earth was a real place in some frame of time, because how can all that detail go towards something not real? Not bad for a book that featured monsters, elves, dwarves, trolls, magic, hobbits, giant spiders and walking, talking trees. What Peter Jackson did was take Tolken's book and made a series of films that also felt pulled from history. Middle Earth in Jackson's books feels like a real place, like Jackson was able to find some parallel dimension traveling hardware or something. Even though this is clearly fantasy, he made us feel a full emotional overload. We feel for these characters, they become our friends. Coming from a extreme horror background, things get creepy and strange in various moments of the trilogy. Jackson was also never afraid to go dark, but always shining a beacon of light. I have been drunk on this trilogy since grade school, the highest praise I can hand any trilogy.

So, what say the rest of you?