Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: "David Lynch: The Art of Life" is a brilliant and bizarre look into the head of Lynch

David Lynch: The Art of Life Review

I've been a huge fan of David Lynch for quite awhile now. I have written hundreds and hundreds of words on my love for his work already on this blog, and I am sure I will do it again. I hope all of you have been enjoying the resurgence of "Twin Peaks" on Showtime this summer. That was one of the things that launched him into a high-profile career. His movies and his television shows and...well...pretty much everything he does sparks some kind of debate. You either like his work or you don't. There usually isn't any middle ground.

"David Lynch: The Art of Life" is a documentary all about Lynch discussing his life and how he became the man he is today. He discusses growing up with a nurturing, caring parents. He talks about moving to Philadelphia and strange, contradictory behavior he saw in the city of brotherly love. He discusses how he got some of his earliest work off the ground. Its a very talky movie, and some viewers may find this boring. Me? Well, anytime I get to hear people I greatly admire talk, I can't help but get wrapped up in what they are saying. 

Even though it wasn't, this feels like a documentary directed by Lynch himself. There are surreal bits throughout the entire movie, which only add to the style and surrounding of the entire documentary. This is a movie about Lynch himself, of course there is going to be weird moments. Scenes play with his voice-over cut to scenes of his art. Actual art. Yes, Lynch is a painter and sculptor when he isn't making entertainment for your screen. Much like his screened entertainment, his art is surreal and strange. And I secretly want to buy some to decorate my house with. There is also scenes of his first film called "The Alphabet." Anything connected to Lynch just wouldn't be Lynch unless scared the shit out of me, and there is scene from "The Alphabet" that did just that, I am officially scared to go to sleep tonight. Thanks for that, David.

"The Art of Life" is a unfiltered jump into the brain of an artist. Nothing more, nothing less. I couldn't have expected or asked for anything more.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Super Troopers 2 trailer

Oh boy, oh boy.

I love The Broken Lizard. They've been gone for way too long. I loved "Super Troopers." I love "Beerfest" and I love "Club Dread" All of those are movies are worth your time and attention if you are like me and need a good laugh all the time. There is also "The Slammin Salmon," if you like restaurant style humor. The Broken Lizard doesn't feel like what Adam Sandler and is company do, or Seth Rogen and his crew. What The Broken Lizard group does is entirely different from all the other comedy out there. That's why they have made so many popular movies.

"Super Troopers 2" hits theaters in April 20th 2018. Yep, that's right. 4/20. Why? Because of course it is.

The Broken Lizard comedy troupe consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Sloter and Erik Stolhanske. They are all greatly talented guys and I can't wait to see what's up their sleeve next year.

Now, get going on "Potfest!"

Review: "Death Note" squanders its great ideas

Death Note Review
Before we begin, let me just say that I never read the original "Death Note" manga. I never saw any of the previous films. This is my first media shakedown of any and all things "Death Note." I can't tell you how it connects to its source material. I can't tell you how it compares to other adaptations. I can't tell you any of that. I have no idea how fans have been reacting to this 2017 take of the material, but I know the critics haven't been embracing it. I know this series has passionate fans, and before any of them start yelling at me for what I am about to say, I need to lay bare that I a novice to this story and that obviously effects my viewing of it, just as if I am a hardcore fan of some adaptation.

You know what "Death Note," the 2017 Netflix version of this story, reminded me of? It reminds me of "Last Action Hero." "Last Action Hero" was a 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, where a young movie-crazed boy gets a golden movie ticket that allows him to enter the movie world of his favorite character, played by Schwarzenegger. Do you know what I'd do if I was suddenly sucked into the world of the movie I was watching right now? I'd enjoy the hell out of it. I'd explore every untapped corner of the world. I would just, flat-out enjoy myself. In "Last Action Hero," the boy just goes around trying to convince everyone in this movie world that they are living in a movie and it aimed for the easy joke every time involving Schwarzenegger. (Sly Stallone was The Terminator in this movie world? How funny!) Bottom line, "Last Action Hero" missed the fun of its material. It took an ambitious route then wrote a safe script around that idea.

The same thing happens in "Death Note." I don't know how much this American version differentiates from the original, so bare with me. But a high school student finds a book that says Death Note on the cover. When he opens it a death god named Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe). Ryuk explains that this student now has the power to kill, as long as they know the name and face of the person in question. You just take this notebook, write the full name of the person you want dead, write a description of their death, then within seconds it becomes a reality. For split second, the high school student is freaked, but then he tries to use the notebook for good. He targets criminals, pedophiles, global terrorists, drug cartels. But then, very soon, it becomes clear how muddy the waters get when you realize that you are taking lives out of the world.

That premise is a wildly ambitious one, full of potential and brimming with different avenues and ideas for a movie. For the first twenty or so minutes, I figured we'd get a wicked little thriller about the ideas raised in my paragraph above. As the movie played out, my thoughts continued. But as the running time dwindled down to zero, it was pretty evident that director Adam Wingard had no idea what the fuck he was making. This is a movie that has no idea what it wants to be. Is it a horror movie, is it a suspense thriller where a kid gets in over his head? Is it a police procedural? Is it a John Hughes style high school movie with a dark edge? We don't know. Clearly, the crew didn't know either, because they throw all of those strikingly different ideas into a blender and smoothie made from those ideas is the movie we get. 

There may be a stereotype that high school students are dumb, I find that harsh personally, but some people believe this stereotype. I don't mind movies about dumb people, but when a movie forces its characters to not behave like a normal human being, its hard for me to sit through. Light, the high school kid who obtains this mysterious notebook played by Nat Wolff, kills a bully near the beginning of this film, and besides a little screaming he never has a reaction. He starts using the notebook to off people left and right, but he never has one reaction to the fact that he's killing people. He's stopping them from breathing and that there is a creepy demon over his shoulder laughing manically why he does it. He has absolutely no reaction. No fear, no remorse, no guilt, no emotion whatsoever. There is no evidence that this kid is a sociopath before hand, so how can he not have some kind of reaction to killing people? Even if they are bad? Look, Paul Kersey from "Death Wish" may have been an architect, but when he kills his first victim after teaching himself the way of the gun, he has a real human reaction to it. How am I supposed to feel about a main character I can't emotionally connect with? And he runs and tells his crush Mia (Margaret Qualley) about this book and she just decides to sleep with him? What?

All of this is hard to accept since I was such a fan of director Adam Wingard. This guy made the incredibly smart slasher film "You're Next." He made two memorable segments in both "V/H/S" and "V/H/S 2." He made the awesome "The Guest." He's clearly a talented filmmaker who uses smart characters to tell an emotionally charging story. Here, his film is all over the place emotionally, all over the place logically and all over the place tonally. Should I feel bad for a kid who got someone important to him killed while a memorable 1980's song is blaring obnoxiously in the background? Ryuk is striking in the movie, even though we never really see him in the light, like you would in the previous movies. The score by the always reliable Atticus Ross is wicked powerful. The movie has some good ideas in it, and its rightfully stylized, but if a proper script was written to hone in those great ideas, this could have been something. Sadly, this is just a plain boring sludge through characters and stories we don't care about. And how much potential this movie had only makes everything more aggravating.

Netflix had an opportunity to turn a new fan towards all things "Death Note," now I don't care. Which is too bad.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: "All Eyez On Me" features strong performances, but painfully familiar territory.

All Eyez On Me Review
Whether you like rap or not. Whether you ever heard a single piece of his music or not. Tupac Shakur was one of the most influential music artists who ever walked the Earth. At the age of 25, the year he was fatally shot to death, he had released 15 albums, seven posthumous albums, seven movies and 713 songs. Not only was he a musical and lyrical genius, but he clearly had a hunger deep inside him that any young person of any art or profession should strive for. Even though some of his songs would suggest otherwise, most of his music was trying to reach people, he was a spokesperson for his hood, his community and he was trying to paint a portrait with his lyrics and beats of what he grew up seeing and experiencing. Some of my readers may find this funny since I am a white guy from central Illinois, but I really enjoy Tupac's music, and I've been blown away how much of a deep impact it has had on me.

Frankly, he deserved a much better movie.

I figured the biopic movie was coming back. Especially when it came to famous rappers. In 2009, the film "Notorious" showcased a powerful look into the life of Christopher Wallace, AKA Biggie Smalls, and it was an entertaining and well-made look at his life in the east coast rap game. "Straight Outta Compton" has only grown on me ever since I saw it about two years ago, and if I catch it on HBO or any other outlet, I always stop and watch. I am instantly aborbed once again into the making of N.W.A., a rap group who worked together and concurrently with Tupac. With two fantastic examples of how to tell a great biopic on a rap superstar, and making one about the most influential rap artist of all time (arguably, I know), what could possibly go wrong.

Well, if you were to turn on "Straight Outta Compton" and play "All Eyez On Me" right next to it, you'd feel like you were watching the same movie. Sure, "Straight Outta Compton" is about a rap group; consisting of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. But the journeys taken by N.W.A. and Tupac are so similar that making a movie about each group so close together is nearly redundant. They were both west coast based rap groups, both experience extreme racism and danger from the California police, both raped about their struggles, both had a positive and negative relationship with Suge Knight, both were in and out of jail, and both were rattled by a death. Watching "All Eyez On Me" feels like I am only seeing a continuation of "Straight Outta Compton," not a movie about Tupac.

The movie is filled with strange decisions that kept pulling me out of the film. Jarrett Ellis plays Snoop Dogg, but when Ellis speaks in the film, I swear it sounds like the real Snoop Dogg's voice is dubbed over his. I paid close attention to his mouth moving when he spoke, and it looked like a bad dubbing, like I was watching a "Godzilla" movie. Either he's the best voice actor of all time, or this was a bad dubbing. Jamal Woolard plays Notorious B.I.G. who also played the same character in "Notorious," the biopic I mentioned earlier. While its kinda cool seeing the same actor play the same character in two different movies, I spent too much time wondering why Anthony Mackie wasn't playing Tupac and I was wondering where Derek Luke was the whole time. It was a distraction more than anything else. I don't think enough people would be able to make that connection in the first place.

Most of all, the most frustrating thing about the film is that it takes too many cues from bad biopics. I don't feel like I learned anything about Tupac as a person, I don't think I got any emotional depth off of him, I don't think I really got what made him tick as a person and why he made certain decisions in this movie. Like most bad biopics, this is a Greatest Hits CD of the big moments in Tupac's life. This is a biopic movie with the emotional impact of reading a Wikipedia article on Tupac. Both "Notorious" and "Straight Outta Compton" worked because I felt like a got a great understanding of why those rappers did what they did, why it mattered to them, why their need to make music was important to their core, I not only understood it but I felt it. I need more than just the lip service, I need the conviction and experience that can only come from a movie.

Demetrius Shipp Jr plays Tupac, and I can tell he's acting his ass off. He does good work here, but the bad mechanics of this screenplay really weighs his character down. This could have launched this rookie actor into a huge career, but sadly it features a story that you forget about right as you leave the theater. "The Walking Dead's" Danai Gurira plays Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mom whom he had a strong relationship with. Gurira and Shipp Jr set off emotional fireworks when they are onscreen together and they do incredibly solid work. Dominic Santana plays Suge Knight and honestly, it just feels like a normal Suge Knight adaptation. He's a greedy, sleazy, intimidating asshole, just like he is in every rap movie. Is there anything else to him. Can a movie provide insight as to why he acts the way he acts?

Tupac was the best rap star ever, this could have been magnificent. I think with the right script and direction, Demetrius Shipp Jr could have been nominated for some awards ceremonies this winter. But I think this script is so ordinary that his work here is going to get overlooked, and that's just sad all around. Like I said before, this guy deserved a much better movie that what he got, and we are all the poorer for it.


RIP Tobe Hooper

RIP Tobe Hooper
In just a few short years, we have lost a Holy Trinity of horror directors who mightily impacted the genre for generations and generations to come. Wes Craven passed away a few years ago, followed by George A. Romero only a mere month or so ago. Then yesterday Tobe Hooper passed away. Wes Craven showed a humanized version to horror, telling us that the monster may not be under the bed, but inside the darkest corners of ALL our hearts. George A. Romero gave rise to zombies, and used them as a metaphor for our culture and society. Tobe Hooper? He played with various aspects of the horror genre, and pushed them into the modern era.

There have only been a handful of horror movies that gave me such a striking reaction that I barely slept the night of viewing. One of the films that gave me one of my earliest sleepless nights was Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I figured I'd seen everything the slasher movie had to offer. I thought the movie would be fun, but I didn't expect to be so scared I couldn't sleep. There is lots that happens in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" that the audience doesn't see, take the first killing and abduction of the teenager who walks into Leatherface's house. It works because its a movie that plunges its audience into the minds of the killers, we really see how they work as a family unit. We see it through the POV of one of the characters, and we can feel their terror. For a movie called "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," its an incredibly bloodless film, it is a movie that is surprisingly all about the terror. Someone also pointed out one time that the movie has several scenes of horror images during the day. Usually in these movies, the monsters come out at night, in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," the monsters came around at all hours.

Another film Tobe Hooper directed is the equally terrifying "Poltergeist." No, I am not talking about that corporate, sucky remake from a couple years ago. I am talking about the original with Craig T. Nelson. A movie filled with scares, both big and small. I think its amazing that Hooper was able to create an image as popular and terrible as the infamous clown scene, and one as small as a group of chairs standing in a strange order on a table and both could come off so frightening. "Poltergeist" couldn't have been more different than "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," and if you stick them next to each other, it doesn't look like they were directed by the same person. Most directors, no matter how gifted they are, cast the same signature on all their movies, despite the genre they fall under. It seemed like Hooper brought a new bag of tricks to each movie he made.

Of course since Tobe Hooper was such a great horror director, he was going to be involved in something Stephen King related. "Salem's Lot" may have been a made-for-television affair, but there is no denying how much terror Hooper was able to pack into a television enterprise. The make-up was very reminiscent of "Nosferatu" from the silent era, he still was able to make it eerie. It also features one of the very best boo-scares ever.

There aren't too many early masters of horror left, but there is no doubt that Tobe Hooper left his mark on the horror genre for many years to come. And not, would you believe me if I told you that he directed the music video for Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself?"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Netflix releases their most exciting original movie with "What Happened To Monday"

What Happened To Monday Review

I've been writing about it all summer, and I hate to sound like a broken record. But its no secret that I have been a bigger fan of Netflix's television shows rather than her movies. They haven't had a breakout movie with the same power and popularity as its television shows. Netflix is really more known for its TV shows rather than its movies. Even though I love "Beasts of No Nation" and "Okja," it doesn't seem like everybody else who uses the app can say the same. For the most part, Netflix has been picking up movies from festivals. I like the idea, it gives little known movies a time to shine with a big audience. But neither of those movies really broke out like I hoped and Netflix original features have largely never found an audience.

I am betting that once word-of-mouth gets around about "What Happened To Monday," a science fiction film that hits closer to home. I want everybody to watch this, I hope this gets around to every Netflix user. I hope are getting no the internet to start an account, just to watch this movie. This is a kinetic, contact-high of an action movie, but with a little more. Its got something on its mind, and it was shockingly scary how much the storyline affected me.

A film critic once said the follow about science fiction: "Science-fiction films must not be afraid to be ridiculous. That's not to say that ridiculous automatically means good, only that the best science-fiction films are the ones that have a real sense of reach to them, films that are trying to do or say something, that aren't afraid to go for the big metaphor." The best science fiction films are those that aren't afraid to wear their metaphors on their sleeve, they take our culture and society and of the time and try to say something about it, dissect it, challenge it. There are many people who don't believe in climate change, and some of you may not believe in overpopulation. There is no denying it though, our population is skyrocketing. What will happen to all the rations and needs of all people when our resources are depleted? "What Happened To Monday" is set in a world where families are forced to only have one child per family. If you have more than one child, a government group takes them away, sedates them and freezes them. Only when the world is ready for more people will they be woken up. This isn't a subtle movie about what metaphors its making, and it makes its points in giant yet brilliant ways.

A grandfather (Willem Dafoe) finds out that he has seven grand-daughters who were born on the same day. The mother died giving birth, the father is out of the picture so the grandfather takes in all seven girls. Thankfully a doctor he trusts allowed him to leave with his grand-daughters. The grandfather then home schools the girls and teaches them to pretend to be the same person, the girls will take turns being the same woman. If one girl leaves, the others can't. If one of the girls breaks a finger, they all break a finger. Together as one person, the seven girls can somewhat have a normal life together.

The seven girls go undetected and eventually grow into adulthood, they have made a successful banker with the one persona they all share. Except one day, one of the girls doesn't come home. The other six daughters, all played by Noomi Rapace, giving her best performance since the original "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series. When another one of the girls goes missing, it becomes clear that the government has found out about them. The girls begin to fight for their lives and find out how they got figured out. The movie jumps gleefully between pulsing action sequences and powerful metaphor and the movie moves a great pace. Its the perfect blend of action and genre that made my head want to spin. It feels a little like "Total Recall," mixed with a little "Orphan Black," set in a future that would make Phillip K. Dick smile. The movie aims to please, that's for sure, but it also makes you think.

Not only is it a magnificent example of pop entertainment, its also wildly ambitions. Which may be its small downfall, the amount of double-crosses and twists in the last half hour or so is enough to make you want to roll your eyes, the drama and the story that brings you to that point is so strong that it ultimately doesn't matter. 

The performances are great all around. Like I said, Noomi Rapace hasn't been this great in awhile, and I found myself drawn to each personality she creates. Willem Dafoe is used sparingly here, but he's too talented a performer to not make the most of his time onscreen. Glenn Close plays the rich villain of the movie, because in every dystopian future, we need an evil woman in the forefront. But like always, she gives a rich performance. Everyone is so good here that trying to pick a single great performance is almost impossible.

There are never too many movies out there that I can recommend on several fronts. But "What Happened To Monday" works on several levels. It works as a gritty, dark vision of the future. It works as a staggering metaphor. It works as a kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall action movie. It works as drama, and it just all around features a little something for everyone. I hope everyone gets a chance to see this. Track this one down by any means necessary. I know you'll be glad you did. Netflix, this is the type of content you need to be investing in.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: "Girls Trip" is a trip worth(less) taking

Girls Trip Review
What is it about girl trip movies and boy trip movies that are so different?

I have seen several movies about boys taking a trip together, and seems to be some differences between them. If you watch "The Hangover" or "Swingers" or "I Melt With You" or "Very Bad Things"... some of those movies may dip into the same genres, but any two of those couldn't be more different from the other. With girl trip movies, they seem to be all the same. A group of friends get together after awhile, perhaps someone's husband is having an affair, perhaps the two besties of group don't feel close anymore, then they go on a crazy trip (and the crazy trip in a girl's trip movie is quite tame), then they all get upset with each other, then have epiphanies and they all make up in the end. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Sometimes, formula works. For some parts of "Girls Trip," it goes over somewhat well. There are some good acting beats, and an occasional scene that made me smirk. I didn't laugh, I didn't fully smile, I smirked. But I mean Rotten Tomatoes score of 88% tells me other critics went wild for this. I think that's being VERY generous. No matter what, the movie is just going through the motions of other movies we have already seen.

Tiffany Haddish plays the wild one of the group, a girl named Dina. She's the Melissa McCarthy of "Bridesmaids," she's the Zack Galifinakis from "The Hangover." But the thing is, Haddish is trying so hard being the wild card of the group that she ends up overacting. Instead of being funny or raunchy, she comes off as a teenager who just learned their first curse words, and she comes off more annoying than funny. Regina Hall plays the leader of the group, who has a cheating husband (Mike Colter) whom she still loves. Regina Hall can do funny and dramatic and find the right balance to it. She does good work here. Queen Latifah does good work here as the best friend to Hall who got away. Latifah is always good, and there is not a force on Earth that could stop her from delivering a good performance. Even in bad movies, she's good. Then there's Jada Pinkett-Smith. This is an actress who I am not always supporting. I mean, I can barely sit through "Gotham" because of her (And she's the least of that show's problems) and she's even good here. So there are some good performances here, and they do what they can to make this work.

But "Girls Trip" is just a massive regurgitation of other things we've already seen that I have a hard time sitting through it. You know why "Bridesmaids" was embraced by everyone in the audience? First of all, it was actually funny. Second of all, it kept all the innocence and thoughtfulness of a typical chick flick, girls trip movie, but blended it with some raunchy, delirious comedy. It really worked. I can't imagine why more studios aren't copying that template and just making a typical, plastic "chick flick" every few months. 

There is good performances here, but all "Girls Trip" adds up to is more of the same. Your mileage may very, but the critics are being way to kind toward this for some reason.


Joker Origin Movie

So The WB is working on some superhero spin-off movies. Movies that will not be connected in any way, shape or form to the DCEU that they are also creating right now, strange right.

Well, when I originally read that, I was a little baffled. What's the point of make these spin-offs if they don't take place in the universe they are creating. I can already see people getting wildly confused by all of this, but hey, it won't be my problem. As I was ready to laugh off this idea, I read more into it. Appears that we are going to get a Joker origin story. This is going to be produced by none other than Martin Scorsese. Yep, you have read that right. Yes, check your calendar, we far, FAR off from April. Martin Scorsese is producing an origin movie about The Joker. This movie will be co-written and directed by "The Hangover's" Todd Phillips.

Todd Phillips. Martin Scorsese. Doing a Joker movie.

My mind is having a hard time processing this.

So I wonder what type of movie we will get. Alan Moore wrote a fairly detailed Joker "origin." (I put origin in quotes because The Joker later says that he wants to remember his life as a multiple choice question.) in "The Killing Joke," which was adapted into an animated feature last year. While the movie was subpar, the comic book was pretty freaking great, but that's because Alan Moore is one of the best comics writers ever. Most of Joker's origins have revolved around a Red Hood gang, a man who fellow into a vat of chemicals which transformed him into the Joker. Like many comic books characters, his origin has been retooled many times over the years. Its even been pretty mysterious in some times too. So this will be interesting to see.

I have read that the movie will be set in the 1980's and will be a gritty crime movie set in Gotham. As of right now, there are no other details besides Scorsese and Todd Phillips attached. "8 Mile's" screenwriter Scott Silver will co-write with Phillips.

So...haha...what do you guys think.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Review: "Annabelle: Creation" is slow but somewhat spooky

Annabelle: Creation Review
This had everything going against it for me. It was a sequel to a film I didn't care for. It was a prequel, which to me has always been boring. You have to REALLY know what you're doing if you want to pull off a prequel. Because let's face it, its hard to build tension or excitement when the audience already knows what happens. It also seemed like a really cheap, shameless way to pump out more money from a franchise that was already doing just fine. When Hollywood exploits a franchise's every corner in the name of stacked greenbacks, it annoys me. How could I actually like "Annabelle: Creation."

Honestly, I think the low expectations may have helped. Well, at least sort of. "Annabelle: Creation" isn't a perfect film, heck I doubt I'd call it a great film. Its definitely not something I am going to put on my end-of-the-year lists, either of them I should add. There has already been plenty worst for a bad top ten, and I don't think this has chance to make the good top ten. But "Annabelle: Creation" features some wicked scares, some squirmy atmosphere, and some young actresses that at the very least play convincing throughout. Its pretty clear that this movie is working overtime to show its audience how much they liked popular horror movies from the past. Its kind of boring throughout most of the film, and the story gets kind of silly at parts. But there is also a savage quality to it that I feel each horror film needs. 

The film begins in 1943, a couple that go by the last name Mullins are mourning the death of their young daughter after she is accidentally hit by a car. Soon after, the Mullins believe that their dead daughter's spirit is talking to them, and Mr. Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) creates a porcelain doll to put their daughter's spirit in. Sadly, they are communicating with a demon. They lock Mr. Mullins doll in a room and leave it their for priests. Twelve years later, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a group of girls are homeless after her orphanage closes. The Mullins bring Sister Charlotte and the girls in. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is a sickly girl with polio, and she begins to be stalked by the demon that resides in the Mullins house, all the demon ever wanted was a human host, and now through Janice, it just might get it. 

So that's pretty much the plot. It plays like a regular haunted house movie, and for most of its running time, it does a good job. Like I said, there are some good scares in the movie, but not enough that I feel can carry a whole movie. Horror films with children in them are always tricky, because its tough to get it scary without disturbing your audience. I think the film benefits by delving into darker territory, I just don't think they ever get the most out of what they are trying to do with their material. Plus, like I said above, its a bit of a drag in most spots, and the pace just never keeps up. But this is a step up from "Annabelle" so I think that's slam dunk in itself.

The performances range from good to mediocre. I think Sigman, who I absolutely loved in "Miss Bala," does what she can to make the script work, as does Talitha Bateman. Miranda Otto shows up as Mrs. Mullins and her performance is fine. She's capable of doing better, but she's nothing out of whack. She's a little hammy here, and it keeps her from contributing to the spooky atmosphere this film is so clearly trying to achieve. The girls among the orphanage do a good job running around and screaming at the dark, which I guess is what they were hired to do.

This "Conjuring Universe-Franchise" is not going anywhere anytime soon. And heck, I'll admit it, not every movie in any franchise shines from point A to point B. "Annabelle" may have been a step down, but "Annabelle: Creation" is the sprint up the incline on a large hill. It maybe hard, but its getting to the top. This isn't a perfect horror movie, but it just might be what you're looking for as the summer movie season dwindles down.


Little Evil Trailer

Did you ever see "Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil"

It was a horror comedy from 2010 directed by Eli Craig and also written by Craig along with Morgan Jurgenson. It was pretty popular when it was released in 2010 and now has a quasi-cult following, quasi-popular following on Netflix. I loved the movie. It has both big horror moments and very laugh-out-loud moments. It was as very strong first film for Eli Craig.

Eli Craig is returning, to none other than Netflix I might add, for another horror comedy. This one is called "Little Evil" and it seems to be a slight parody of "The Omen." A father marries the girl of his dreams, and tries to bond with his new stepson. When the stepson starts to show strange behavior, he asks his new wife about it, who tells him he was conceived when she belonged to a doomsday cult.

The movie will star Adam Scott, Evangeline Lilly, Clancy Brown, Donald Faison and Tyler Labine. Labine was also in "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil."

There is definitely some riffs on "Poltergeist" and what looks to be "The Orphanage" or "Trick'R'Treat." But it looks pretty darn funny. Craig maybe a great new voice coming into the fold, and that's always exciting.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

TV Review: The Defenders

TV Review

The Defenders

I am a huge Marvel fanboy. I have been my whole life. I prefer Marvel to DC, now that doesn't mean I hate DC or I want their entertainment to fail, I just prefer Marvel stories to DC stories. Batman is my favorite superhero ever, yes. But if you were to take a look at the rest of the my favorite superhero top ten, it would be littered with Marvel characters. I like that their stories are more humanistic, their characters more vulnerable, and there is a more realistic tone to their stories, it makes the stakes so much higher on the reader.

Since I am such a big Marvel fanboy, does that mean I should love everything they dish out? Does that mean you should expect a eye-watering overly-positive review of all their movies and television shows? Absolutely not, I can't just write off a movie or a TV shows flaws simply because that red Marvel banner fills the screen. In fact, I have been pretty honest about my reactions to their films. My "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Iron Man 3" reviews were mixed. I have spoken up about what has worked and hasn't worked with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." I wasn't much of a fan of "Agent Carter." I was also so impossibly disappointed with "Iron Fist" that I never got around to finishing the first season and reviewing it for my site. So yes, Marvel has plenty of sins to answer for, don't get me wrong. Just because I love the property doesn't mean I won't be honest or fair in my write-ups and my opinions.

This weekend marked the release of Netflix's "The Defenders." Essentially, its the TV version of "The Avengers." Like we had solo films of most of the core team of Avengers leading up to their big movie together, Netflix had individual solo seasons, introducing us to Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, with the knowledge that they would meet up in a "The Defenders" mini-series. We have met all four players, and now its time for their big team up to stop a threat no one hero could face on their own.

Much like "The Avengers," there is a level of excitement that sets in just seeing Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) , Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) all onscreen together. Not only that, but Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), Stick (Scott Glenn), Misty Knight (Simone Missick), Malcolm (Eka Darville), "Foggy" Nelson (Elden Henson), Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss), Trish Walker (Racheal Taylor), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez) and Elektra (Elodie Yung), all of whom appeared in one or more of these Netflix series. So we see the world coming together, and just seeing these characters interact and share this world is half the fun. We have spent time with these characters and seeing them come together pays off. 

The action beats are pretty solid, and after slugging through the painfully mediocre fight scenes in "Iron Fist," these felt like a welcome commodity. The action is downright exciting here. The fight scene in the white business building that was teased in the trailers is pretty spectacular. Its so good, that I was afraid it wasn't going to get topped, but I liked some of the other action bits later in this mini-series. Some critics complain about some of the more comic book aspects of the show. Yes, these Netflix shows have leaned on some realism, despite revolving around superpowered people. By and large, I think the shows and "The Defenders" do a good job of balancing the real factor as well as the more comic book elements of this world. Its a tight rope to walk on, but I think the mini-series keeps it all together for the most part. Maybe I am a little more lenient on those ideas simply because I have been reading comics for so long. Four superhero types teaming together to fight mystical ninjas doesn't seem weird to me. 

Depending on what you thought of the performances of each lead hero in their respected solo shows will give you an indicator of what you will think of their performances here. I loved Cox as Daredevil, Ritter as Jones, and Colter as Luke Cage. They definitely don't disappoint here. If there was a character you thought was annoying in another show, you may think the same here. I found Finn Jones to be surprisingly annoying as Iron Fist, and he's once again surprisingly annoying here. Especially since I was such a fan of his on "Game of Thrones." I guess that should show that the actors are at least consistent. 

I feel like everything I have discussed so far is icing on the cake. This is extra stuff that we hope to enjoy every time we sit down to watch a superhero show. Yes, the action scenes are thankfully good. Yes, the performances are there. Yes, they got the wow factor of these characters together in one place. The next piece of this puzzle is, can the show generate a storyline where we care what happens to these characters? How far can they take this story of evil mystical ninja's? Well, the answer to that question seems to be not much. First and foremost, our heroes take four episodes to finally get together. In the first four episodes, its mostly filler of catching up with each hero and getting to know where they are right now. That may help for those who haven't seen any or all of the Netflix Marvel shows so far, but it kinda slows the momentum of this mini-series by doing so. Plus, what each hero is doing is so boring that's its hard to get into what they are doing. If this was a thirteen episode run, like all the solo shows have been, then this may not have been a problem. But with eight episodes, it seems like everything is pushed fast at the end.

One negative a show falls into is circular plots, things that have happened already in a previous season. It seems like in "The Defenders," there is a circular plot every few episodes. Iron Fist can't stop talking about how he failed Kun L'un, Daredevil can't stop talking about how he failed Elektra, Luke Cage is trying to adjust to life after prison, and Jessica Jones is getting over killing Kilgrave. But over eight episodes, it feels like these conversations are happening over and over and over and over and over again. So often that I can't help but find it distracting. 

Possibly the biggest sin "The Defenders" commits is totally wasting Sigourney Weaver. I mean its freaking Sigourney Weaver, playing the villain of this mini-series and she is totally wasted. She plays Alexandra, not introduced in any previous shows. She's the leader of The Hand, this band of mystical ninjas who we met in "Daredevil" and "Iron Fist." While I think Weaver does good work here, she's barely used and the treatment of the character, was just so sad. We barely get to know her as a character or feel the intimidation of her villain before she's prematurely killed two episodes for the end of the mini-series. If you got a big name like Weaver and she's playing a villain, give her something to do! I don't know if this was a result of having limited episodes. I mean, the assembling of the team seems rushed, since they meet in episode four then spend the next few trying to trust each other, they pretty much assemble then the show is over. They team up then leave before we get to know them. I could say the same about Weaver's villain.

The acting is great, the action scenes are so cool that they will make you swoon. But there is a rushed quality to lots of the mini-series. "The Defenders" is good TV. It's fun TV. But I think if there was enough time, effort, and skill given to this mini-series, it could have been great TV. I hope if they make another Defenders series, they get right to the story, and that they don't waste their villains. I was hoping to love this mini-series, I really did. But "The Defenders" ends up being a mixed bag. There is plenty of good stuff, but its mostly left with moments full of potential more than anything. 

I am still excited for Netflix Marvel, but I am hoping this next phase of TV, they improve on their mistakes and I hope the next time this foursome meets, its more exciting. "Daredevil" and "Jessica Jones" are still the top tier Netflix Marvel shows. "The Defenders" was fun, but very slight.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Beyond Skyline Trailer

Did you see the movie "Skyline?" Don't remember? Don't worry! It was one of the absolute worst movies of 2010. It was a fantasy movie that didn't set up any type of rules, and made up things as it went along. It was a thrilling space invasion that had no thrillers. It featured characters that weren't likable. Its not a movie I would have expected to get a sequel, as it seemed to come and vanish without a trace the month it was released. I had to look up the film's box office. I was equally baffled that "Skyline" had a $10-20 million budget and made over $78 million at the box office. While not a total box office scorcher, I figured the film wouldn't have broke even. No matter what though, the movie was highly unpopular when it came out.

Its not a movie I would have ever expected to get a sequel, but somehow it is. This sequel stars Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais, so some major asskickers are starring in this. But I beg to wonder, is that enough? Sure, the sequel looks wildly different from the first film. But does that mean its worth making? Does that mean it will make it better? Nobody cared about this movie it seemed like, so why even attempt a sequel? Its an odd thing to turn into a brand in the new age of filmmaking. I wonder if it will stick

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: "I Hate You, Old Man: Film Nerd 2.0 vs. Friday The 13th"

Book Review

I Hate You, Old Man: Film Nerd 2.0 vs Friday The 13th"

Former Hitfix film critic turned independent digital magazine writer Drew McWeeny has written another book. Back at the start of this year, I reviewed Drew McWeeny's first book. Something that McWeeny has defined himself by is how to approach showing media to our children. In his first book, he offered a timeline to view the "Star Wars" movies to your little tykes, which gives the saga more emotional heft. Now, in his second book, he is writing about how to introduce the horror genre to young, budding horror fans.

Much like his first book, much like his Film Nerd 2.0 series (A column of reviews where McWeeny not only re-reviewed a host of older movies, but recorded his children's reactions to them), this is a unique, informed and fun little book. This is something that can help a parent approach this kind of media and also a quick read that will put a smile on your face. In the book, McWeeny details his own personal history with the horror genre. Which films he loves, which films maybe didn't work for him, and the films that nearly killed his enthusiasm for the genre itself. McWeeny also jumps into the the history his sons Toshi (around 12 years old) and Allen (around 9 years old). McWeeny discusses how his sons slowly fell in love with the genre and how as a father McWeeny carefully introduced the genre to his sons. It wasn't always easy though, McWeeny recalls a moment when he showed Toshi "The Twilight Zone Movie" years ago, and how Dan Aykroyd's "You wanna see something really scary?" scene sent Toshi out of the room. Its nice when somebody can admit their mistakes and discuss how he made those moments better. 

McWeeny also offers two lists in his book. The first list is 150 Films You Should Share With A Budding Horror Fans. Its a list that is exactly how it sounds. This list includes the older Universal Monster movies, comedies like "Young Frankenstein" and "Ghostbusters," and most 1950's science fiction movies. Easy enough to understand why those titles would fit that bill. None of those movies are particularly scary, and even if some of those movies have tense or creepy moments, its not damaging horror. Horror is a genre that challenges our inner demons. Its a gateway to darkness that does engulf our world. If you have young adults and children interested in the genre, you have to lay them down carefully in it, not destroy their psyche right out of the gate. Although I will say that "Carrie" shows up on the 150, and that I found a little surprising. But perhaps that is due to my own personal history with it. I saw "Carrie" at a young age simply because I read "Carrie" at a young age. It was the first Stephen King book I read that turned me into a die-hard fan. When I watched the movie, there were some moments that kept me up that night. There are some moments I think require a certain amount of maturity in children, like understanding Carrie White's crazy mother. But overall, this list is a safe list, and definitely I will use with my own children, if scary movies are their thing.

One of my favorite things about the book is how McWeeny stresses to use this 150 titles for budding horror fans. He writes in his book about how not every movie fan is created equal. Some people just do not like being scared. At all. They don't find it fun. They don't find it entertaining. They want nothing to do with it. I remember when my wife and I first started dating, everyone I knew had seen "Paranormal Activity" in the theater and were hyping it up big time. I had to talk my wife into seeing it with me, and trust me it took two days. While she slept like a baby the evening after, I felt bad after ward. People may not like that type of release and McWeeny discusses the importance of never pushing horror on anybody. I think its really unsafe and unwise to push anything we love on our kids, simply because they should follow their own interests. But if your children happen to like horror, the 150 titles McWeeny suggests are a great place to start.

He also lists 75 titles you should NOT show budding horror fans at all. The list is pretty self-explanatory and I can't honestly say I was surprised by the choices. Of course if you have a ten year old who is curious about the horror genre, the worst place to start would be showing them "The Exorcist," or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "Peeping Tom" or "The Shining." The point is get your kids to find the fun in a film genre, not destroy the genre completely for them. I don't know a single parent who would start their horror fans with the extreme stuff, but I do remember my ex-girlfriends sister showed "The Messengers" two three pre-five year old children she was babysitting at the time. Oh my, I wish I knew how that one went over. So I guess making this list of 75 titles isn't so self-explanatory?

The most important takeaway from this book is what McWeeny has stressed since the beginning of his Film Nerd 2.0 excerise. That point is we need to listen to our children. We need to discuss the media they digest. Especially in a world where so much media is available to them at a given time. We can't allow our children to have no filter, but at the same time its also not good to just blindly band things from them. There needs to be a balance to it, and that comes with parents and children having a conversation about media. As McWeeny records his children's reactions to certain horror movies in the beginning of this book, its amazing how wise beyond their years his children are. That's because McWeeny has those conversations with his children and he knows as a father what his boys are ready for. Sounds easy, right? Well, after four years of working and running a daycare, I can say with some authority that there are several parents who don't get this idea at all. There are three-year-old children playing Child's Play and The Walking Dead instead of Cops and Robbers, and they are not afraid to be overly-violent. I knew a kid who boasts about seeing Deadpool, and rubbed it in kids faces, telling them that they are dumb for liking Batman, Superman and Iron Man movies because they don't curse or slice their enemies in half. There is no understanding of subtext or context, and clearly no conversation. This is parents wanting to be their children's friends instead of being their parent. Like I said above, there needs to be a balance on what to show our children and what not to show. McWeeny knows what his kids can handle by having the conversation about the media they ingest and how they react to it. That's what it should be all about when it comes to sharing media with the next generations.

Wanna buy this book? click here! You can also use that website to listen to McWeeny's groovy podcast 80s All Over and you can buy his other book and check out his digital magazine, Pulp and Popcorn.

More and more, McWeeny is becoming an advocate to how to delicately and responsibly share media with our children, his two books are filled with tips I hope to use one day when and if my own children become as movie crazy as I am. I hope these books break out and more people starting looking into these readings, its deeply original and sincerely heartfelt.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Review: "Detroit" cuts deep and punches your heart

Detroit Review

Strap in, readers. I've been thinking about this one for two days now. I am well aware of the controversy surrounding this film. Some are calling "Detroit" one of the best films of the year, others are calling its historical inaccuracies dangerous. What can you call a movie that two polar opposite reactions depending on who you ask? How do you even approach reviewing a movie like this?

Here's the answer to those questions above. I think a movie that causing two radically different reactions is a movie that's really trying to say something. A movie that doesn't give you a comfort zone. A movie that doesn't play by any set of rules. I have read some reviewers say that "Detroit" adds up to lots of anger and no catharsis, but in a weird way, I think that's part of the point. I left the theater on Saturday totally numb from this film, then I read up on social media about what's happening in Virginia, and it was enough to make me want to faint. Unfortunately, we have NOT put the past behind us, and whether you think "Detroit" is the best movie of the year or not, its definitely one of the most important.

How do you review a film like this? Well, you just got to be honest with the experience you had in the theater. Okay, so there may or may not be some wild historical inaccuracies, I have loved several movies with historical inaccuracies. The film also details to us that many parts of the film had to be dramatized because the information needed to fill the gaps was unavailable. After doing some research of my own, what happened at the Algiers Motel in the city of Detroit during the city's 1967 race riots is very confusing. You can go ahead and argue that the way director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal filled those gaps was a way to sell an agenda. But if you do your own research, its abundantly clear that three white police officers abused their powers that night, and at least two black teenagers died at their hands in cold blood because of it.

The movie begins with a beautifully affective animated history of how African Americans migrated from the South to the industrial Northern urban areas. Eventually, white Americans entered those same areas to find work, and their were several racial problems that began to occur, including at least four race riots. Then we move right into a African American party for two black men returning from Vietnam. The party is loud and they don't have a liquor license, so everybody is told to leave. When they go out the front of the building, where the entire party is escorted away in police cars. A large mob appears and when the police haul the party goers away, the mob lashes out. Soon enough, buildings are burnt to the ground, shops are looted and the state police and National Guard begin to move in.

One of the complaints I've heard is that there isn't a lot of time for character development. Its kinda true. The movie really isn't about the riots themselves, but the Algiers Motel incident in particular. We quickly meet Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a guy who works as a security guard protecting a shop from looters, Larry Reed (Algee Smith) who was set to lead sing in the real band The Dramatics, before their venue was completely evacuated due to the riots, Krauss (Will Poulter), Demens (Jack Reynor), and Flynn (Ben O'Toole) three trigger-happy Detroit police officers on duty during the riots. The incident at the Algiers Motel plays out like horrifying blur, and I think that it created that way by design. I will argue though that each character is given enough personality to make their actions count, and when things really go south, you care about the fates of the victims of the incident.

So what exactly happened at the Algiers Motel in July 1967? Well, the night Dismukes was on duty and Larry ended up at the Motel after his venue was evacuated, a black teenager fires at Dismukes and a group of National Guardsmen with a toy cap gun, just to play a prank. Due to allegations of sniper fire during the riot, Dismukes and the National Guard think its a sniper, and police are called over to the Motel to assist the National Guard. The officers who respond to the call are none other than Krauss, Demens and Flynn. They raid the Motel, call everyone in the Motel downstairs and begin searching for a gun, never finding one. Things only go downhill from there, as the three officers turn a racist cheek in trying to find the gun and the shooter. And tactics used to scare information out of the Motel tenants soon becomes something dark and awful.

Before Andy Muschietti directed Stephen King's "IT" that is coming out next month, Cary Fukunaga not only wrote the script but was set to direct as well. Fukunaga hired Will Poulter to play Pennywise, and when Fukunaga dropped out of directing the movie, Poulter also moved on and ended up not playing Pennywise. I only bring this up because when you see Poulter play Krauss in "Detroit," you will understand right away why he got the Pennywise job. I will be surprised if Poulter plays a hero anytime in the next few decades after this blisteringly horrifying performance as Krauss. There is a moment after a particularly brutal moment with a tenant when Krauss flashes a smile at a woman, and it was enough to put nausea in my stomach. Krauss is a terrifying racist cop, and Poulter really embraced what he was given to do here, while Reynor and O'Toole are equally despicable, its Poulter's character that is the ring leader, making sure this bad behavior continues, and its a complete unflinching performance.

John Boyega also does great work here as Dismukes. Playing a guy who is trying really hard to defuse each bad situation, and those good deeds eventually bites him in the butt. Its amazing how many emotions Boyega displays here in this movie, and he plays everything straight and realistic. I have loved Boyega before anybody else did when they saw him in "The Force Awakens." I knew in 2011 when I saw him in "Attack The Block" that he was going to be an important player moving forward, and that seems to be true so far. No doubt though, the best and most iconic performance of in the entire movie is Algee Smith as Larry. We see most of this incident through his eyes, and he becomes the most affected by what happened to him that night. I don't know a thing about Algee Smith, but I think this is going to open several doors for him. I hope he is prepared to travel down all sorts of avenues, because it truly is coming.

Anthony Mackie, John Krasinski, Hannah Murray, Kaitlin Dever and Jeremy Strong all show up to provide enriching support. Kathryn Bigelow proved many times before that she can cast big stars in small roles and make them make those small moments big. She has a real eye for actors and with the wonderful script by Mark Boal, her actors set off fire works. Taken in the clear journalism on display and the engrossing sets of 1960's Detroit all play a part in making this movie a brutal portrait of what happened that summer. It seems like no matter what Bigelow does, controversy seems to follow her (Apparently during the making of "Zero Dark Thirty," Bigelow was exposed to classified information from the Obama Administration). Whether your a stickler on historical accuracy or not, you owe it to yourself to see "Detroit." Its so well made, and so unflinching in its drama, and you can't say that this movie isn't relevant today. Will it be a movie you will want for hosting a movie party? Absolutely not. This is an afternoon movie, no doubt. But still worth seeing.


Review: "The Dark Tower" has forgotten the face of its father

The Dark Tower Review

Forget what you've seen from this film's advertising. Matthew McConaughey is not the villain of "The Dark Tower." Sony Pictures is the villain of "The Dark Tower." They did what The Man In Black couldn't do across seven books. They brought the Dark Tower down, The Crimson King is ruling the chaos.

Imagine that Peter Jackson didn't make "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy in 2001, and that he was gearing up to make the trilogy this year. Imagine Peter Jackson not receiving the creative freedom or the budget he received in the real world, tension's rise between studio and director. And after almost a decade of false-starts, Peter Jackson leaves the project and an untested novice director takes his place. Instead of carefully adapting each book in J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy, New Line wants this newbie director to make one movie due to budget concerns. Samwise, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Theoden, Eomer, Arywin, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, and other key characters are omitted from the script. Frodo moves from lead character to supporting character and "The Lord of the Rings," just one movie, is put into production. The film follows Frodo finding The Ring of Power, then hoping on the back of an Eagle with Aragorn, the real lead of the movie, and together, they fly to Mordor to destroy the ring. They make a couple stops so Aragorn can fight some Nazgul, trolls and orcs. But Frodo and Aragorn eventually make it to Mount Doom, Frodo drops the ring in the volcano and they fly off into the sunset. The film is, after all, a mere hour and a half.

Would that be the adaptation Tolkien and audiences at large deserved? Well, that's kinda what happened with "The Dark Tower." Written by Stephen King, "The Dark Tower" was seven novels epic about a lone drifter trying to stop a dark lord from getting to The Dark Tower, a huge castle-like fortress that holds the universe together. Much like Middle-Earth, Narnia, and Westeros, King's Mid-World is a textured, detailed fantasy world. The Gunslinger aka Roland Deschain is mysteriously drawn to the tower, and he doesn't want someone as dangerous as The Man In Black to reach it. Sure, there is more to it than that, but I don't want to ruin the magic of this series for you. Many have called this series Stephen King's magnum opus, a strange yet sophisticated blend of horror, fantasy, science fiction and even Western into one crazy cool story that you won't be able to shake. 

I wish I could say the same about the movie adaptation, but I can't. "The Dark Tower" could have been on the same wavelength as "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, or the Narnia movies, or HBO's "Game of Thrones" and even the "Harry Potter" movies. We have so many good examples of great fantasy out there that Sony could have used any of those as a template of adaptation. But they didn't. Every decision made here is completely safe. 

Big mistake number one is definitely Roland Deschain (Idris Elba). I don't have a problem Idris Elba playing him, I never gave into the controversy of a white character in a book becoming black in the movie. In fact, now that I've seen the movie, Elba did a wonderful job playing Roland. The problem I have is that "The Dark Tower" isn't his story. It's Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) story, and that feels wrong from the start. The movie spends pretty much the first act focusing on Chambers, his visions of Roland, his visions of Walter (McConaughey) the dark figure trying to bring about the end of the world. We see Jake go to shrinks, we watch him have a troubled time at school, we watch him disapprove of his mother's (Katheryn Winnick) new boyfriend. While we watch this, I was thinking "where the hell is Roland" this whole time. Imagine a "Harry Potter" movie adaptation that decided to focus on Ginny Weasley. What the hell kind of adaptation would that be?

One of Jake's visions leads him to a house, which leads him to Mid-World, the world where Roland leaves and where the dark tower exists. Jake and Roland finally hook up, and unfortunately, Roland is a supporting character in his own story. The movie is all about Jake. We eventually that Walter is drawn to Jake's psychic abilities. His "shine" as he calls it. Oh yes, that's a big Stephen King reference, a reference the movie goes out of its way to mention 10,000 times. Jake's psychic powers will bring the dark tower down, which will lead a bunch of CGI spectacles (monsters) to Earth to destroy the world. Seven books to draw material from, and "The Dark Tower" is just another Chosen One story. Mixed with an ordinary revenge movie I might add, all they did with Roland's character was turn him into a man seeking revenge (How clever!) for Walter killing his father.

I know this review may say otherwise, but I am usually not a stickler when it comes to Hollywood adaptations, because as long as a film crew can capture the essence of the book or comic in question, I can roll with any changes. The entire essence of King's books have been omitted. Sony took some names and ideas and a couple locations from the book and slapped them on a lame Chosen One fable/ revenge thriller that feels powerfully ordinary. And can tell me all you want that this was intended to be a sequel to King's books. Its not though. I know Sony said so, but its not. Besides some quick lip service and some close-ups of The Horn of Eld, there is no indication that this is any sort of sequel. There is little to no information given on Roland or Walter's history, no mythology of Mid-World given, and no understanding of Roland's journey up to this point. The references to King's other work in "The Dark Tower" novels not only showed that all of King's work was connected, it paralleled and affected the novels at large. The references to King's other work in the movie add up to nothing more than a handful of tongue-in-cheek, in-jokes. The "sequel" talk was just Sony giving its writers a creative license to do whatever they wanted with the material, and what they chose to do was boring.

I feel bad, because Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are doing everything they can to make this count. McConaughey is fine as Walter, but the script lets him down in a big way. They don't give him any good lines or any good moments in the movie, and the climax between him and Roland is so laughably bad, and it might just be the stupidest climax to any movie you'll see this summer. I don't know who that guy was McConaughey was playing, but it wasn't The Man In Black. I don't know what those "Island of Dr. Moreau" mutants were, but they weren't the villainous Taheen. Most of all, if they HAD to turn this into a Jake Chambers story, at least get a kid who can actually act.

Sony had a mighty opportunity and they righteously squandered it. We missed out on another great fantasy world. I think they may have messed up so bad that this might be our only trip to Mid-World, and its going to take something special several decades from now to get this bad taste out of our mouth. That's just sad all around. "The Dark Tower" doesn't work, dear sweet God it doesn't work.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: "The Emoji Movie" is nothing more than fluffy cuteness

The Emoji Movie Review

In a world where everybody has a cell phone seemingly attached to their wrist, I suppose it was a matter of time before we started seeing movies about them. I figured one of the easiest, most accessible ways to communicate smartphones and cell phones was through animation. But just because there is a logical choice at hand, doesn't automatically make it the right choice. I know that may sound weird, but I hope it makes more sense as you read on.

Emoji's are just a weird, lazy way to communicate with others through our cell phones. They don't exist in a fantasy land. There is no story behind them. They are not based off of anything. They exist merely to help us show emotions, feelings and communication. That is their sole purpose. In that regard, making a movie about cell phone emojis couldn't have been an easy feat. How do you make a feature length movie about something that are just lazy ways we talk to each other? The idea of an emoji is a silly, lame concept. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they spawned a silly, lame movie.

First of all, making an emoji movie and selling it to kids seems like a strange idea, creatively. I work at a daycare. Most of the target audience for this movie is full of people who couldn't tell you what an emoji is. Except perhaps, the poop emoji, which for some reason has become popular. But most four and five years old children are not using cell phones, so why try and sell them something they don't understand. For most of the film's running time they will not understand that the movie literally takes place in a smartphone. They won't understand the purpose of the emoji. They will just see bright yellow things walking around, floating and talking without any idea the point of the story or why there is a major crisis of any kind. Sure, kids are getting cell phones younger and younger, but they are texting people. They certainly are not sending emojis to people. At most, they are playing video games and that's it.

Second of all, Sony made a movie targeting an audience that doesn't understand the essence or the culture behind emoji's and they just made a typical Disney movie. We follow Gene, voiced by T.J. Miller, who is growing up to be a "meh" emoji. When he is ready, he is going to sit in a cubicle (hardy har har) and when his owner picks his emoji, he makes a "meh" face so his owner can send it. Gene's family doesn't believe he is ready, and honestly he isn't. At first, he nearly destroys all the emojis in his owner's cell phone. He faces destruction for his malfunction, but goes and tries to prove that he really can be a true emoji. Sweet. Heartwarming. Unoriginal. I guess that was their only hope of selling this movie? Just take the regular Disney template and apply it to cell phone animations. It doesn't help that their idea of humor is safe and unimaginative from the start. (Oh, let's pretend that the Poop Emoji is going to say shit but then cut away to a different "sh" word before he does!) Sony couldn't have done more to show me that what I was watching was just another Hollywood animated movie.

The movie barely ties the emojis to the cell phone in any significant way. The movie doesn't use each character in a clever way. Its just taking one specific emoji, then giving them the easiest of easy jokes as personality. This is the least developed, least interesting animated movie I have seen in a long time. With talent like James Corden, Anna Faris, Maya Rudolph, Patrick Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara and Rob Riggle. I could hardly believe they all signed on to do this. It would have been better if this was targeted towards adults. I am not saying make a raunchy film like "Sausage Party," but since cell phones are used by so many adults worldwide and so many send emoji's daily, why not make a movie about that? If this was geared towards the right audience, perhaps it could have worked. But this just another familiar kids movie, lacking in imagination and emotion.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: "Atomic Blonde" features a brilliant female hero with a hacked screenplay.

Atomic Blonde Review

Let's get one thing out of the way first. "Atomic Blonde" as action set pieces is pretty kick-ass. If you've ever wanted to see Charlize Theron really kick some serious butt as a lead action star, then look no further. She is a tornado of fury in this movie. Theron creates a commanding, powerful and most important of all, believable persona in this movie. She has done very good dramatic work in the past, and putting those action skills to the test almost look like muscles you've never been able to flex before. She feels unleashed in this movie, in the best possible way.

Another thing I liked about her character is she is allowed to be vulnerable here. We care about her more because her character comes across more human. She isn't merely playing an invulnerable superhero simply because she can. She gets bruised here, she bleeds here, every punch she suffers in this movie looks like it hurts. She has the same vulnerability you see in the Daniel Craig "James Bond" movies or The Jason Bourne series. Those little details matter in making sure the audience cares for the characters, and on that front they succeed. And for all of the perverts of the world, there are a couple hot make-out sessions between Charlize and Sofia Boutella that I sure will have you squirming with joy.

If I based this entire review on the action scenes, I'd probably give the movie an A+. There are quite a few in the movie itself, and there is a good reason why the movie has continuously been compared to "John Wick." This is raw, unseasoned action of the highest order. These are fast-paced action scenes that are not nuanced by shaky cam. We see every punch land and everything break and its wildly exciting. There is a great cast of supporting characters including James McAvoy, John Goodman, Bill Skarsgaard, Til Schweiger, and Boutella. This is about Cold War spies, some of my favorite history we can read about. In the backdrop of the late 1980's, and the music used in the film is apart of the fun, and apart of the appeal. There is absolutely no reason for me not to love this movie. How can you fuck up a Cold War spy movie, set in the late 1980's with Charlize Theron as the star?

Well I don't want to oversell you. "Atomic Blonde" isn't a terrible movie. Its not even a bad movie. I was celebrating most of this movie. The only thing I find to be a disservice to the entire experience was that screenplay. So much of it feels ripped off of "The Usual Suspects" that its almost laughable. But imagine putting "The Usual Suspects" in a blender with M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" and its over-abundance of twist endings, and you can see where this is heading, story-wise. Oh, but spy movies are supposed to have twists and turns. Yes, I understand that. But when they are so blatantly borrowed from other movies, that becomes more of a distraction than anything else. Are we really reaching a point where all future original ideas are going to be pieces of other movies without any clear, new thought involved? Any movie can go overboard with their reveals at the end. There comes a point where it doesn't feel clever and feels more like a prank. "Atomic Blonde" edges closer to joke than cleverness. 

If anything, I kind of hope that "Atomic Blonde" becomes a series of films. I love Charlize in the role. I love the action sequences of the film. I was impressed by the world created in this one movie, and it is a place I'd be willing to visit again a few years down the road. I hope the sequel spawned from this tell better stories. Theron deserves more in the story department, that is for damn sure. There are so many things a series could expand on and improve on and I surely hope there is enough money made from this property that this can become a reality.

For now, Charlize Theron kicking butt to "Blue Monday" will be one of my favorite images I saw in a movie theater so far this year. I hope you think so too. Even though the script lets the experience down to a degree, "Atomic Blonde" is absolutely worth seeing.


mother! Trailer

I love Darren Aronofsky

Ever since I first discovered him in high school thanks to "Requiem For A Dream," I was hooked. That movie is as dark as anything I have ever seen, but it gets under my skin every time I watch it. Same with "Black Swan" and parts of "Pi," Aronofsky can make brutally dark movies, but still find the beauty in all of it.

Not that all of his movies make you feel like crap afterward. "The Fountain" and "Noah" are both largely underrated motion pictures, filled to the seams with beauty and bombast. Declarations of love in all its forms. But let's face it, the best avenue to travel with Aronofsky is horror and he may have hit a homerun again.

"mother!" is coming out this fall, it stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris. It looks like some very terrible things are happening to Lawrence, but its unclear what they are. I have talked before about how I hate it when commercials show the entire movie in one trailer, it takes so much away. Here, not so much.

"Black Swan" and "Requiem For A Dream" really freaked me out, I hope I can sit this one next to those two!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Josh Brolin as Cable in Deadpool 2


Josh Brolin is looking pretty cool as Cable. He pretty much looked like he's supposed to from the comics. I would have never guessed in a million years that Brolin would play Cable, but as I think more of it, it feels perfect.

I can't wait for the first trailer.

Ryan Reynolds is raving about this on Twitter.

I need a trailer yesterday!

Review: "Message From The King" is a slight yet bloodthirsty revenge flick

Message From The King Review
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Black Panther got his revenge on Bucky Barnes in "Captain America: Civil War?" Well Netflix's new "Message From The King" may hold the answers. Okay, I don't want to overhype this, but perhaps it can offer a fictional path to those answers. "Message From The King" stars Chadwick Boseman, who plays Black Panther in the Marvel movies. In "Message From The King," he plays a South African man who flies into Los Angeles to see how his sister is doing in America. The accent he has is so identical to the Wakandan accent he made for himself that it nearly took me out of the film. Sometimes I wanted to laugh, other times I was engulfed in the film.

As my headline would reveal, this is a revenge flick. So when Jacob King (Boseman) gets to America he finds his sister dead. He does some investigation and research and he discovers that his sister may not have been as innocent as he remembers in South Africa. Still, he loves his sister very much and he starts going around, extracting revenge on those who involved in the murdering of his sister. That's as simple as a revenge flick can get, and honestly its as simple as they should get. One of the strengths of "Message From The King" is how straight forward it is. Revenge films don't work when they are complicated. Even though Quentin Tarantino puts his unique spin on revenge movies, he always remembers that. This is not a convoluted or disjointed movie, and the film greatly benefits from that.

I think Chadwick Boseman is tailor made to become an action hero. Much like Bruce Willis, he has enough talent to venture into any genre he pleases. Its pretty awesome watching him push through the bad guys. I like that the movie tries to not be a conventional revenge flick. The film is supported by a lovely group of supporting actors, including Teresa Palmer, Alfred Molina, Luke Evans and Tom Felton. But the movie is fairly boring and ordinary. The film tries hard to be different from the rest of the revenge herd. But there are still so many parts of this movie that feel like its going through the motions that its hard to give myself up to it completely.

But hey, Black Panther going all B.A. on bad guys maybe enough to sway your opinion on this one.