Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: "Gerald's Game" is an impeccably made Stephen King book come to life!

Gerald's Game Review

Don’t let “The Dark Tower” from August fool you. The year 2017 is going to be remembered as the year that Hollywood finally figured out how to properly adapt a Stephen King horror novel. Too many times in the past, Stephen King’s adaptations from book to any type of screen range from mediocre to bad. In most cases, at least. The best Stephen King adaptations have been his work that doesn’t fall into horror and when his horror stuff has worked in the past, it’s been made by veteran filmmakers who specialize in the strange and the difficult.

It seems that day may be coming to an end though. It seems that people who grew up as Stephen King fans, soaking up every little page written by the author, are growing up dreaming of bringing his work to life. At the beginning of the month of September, we got a damn good adaptation of “IT.” That’s a pretty difficult book to adapt just by itself, which I feel is why the original mini-series never quite held up over the years. Is the 2017 “IT” the most perfect adaptation ever? Of course not. I stand by original review, and I still plan to explain my feelings more in my future Further Inspection piece I am going to write up. But it got darn close, and that was music to my ears. Now, at the end of September, Netflix has released another close-to-perfect Stephen King adaptation. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star in “Gerald’s Game.”

What is “Gerald’s Game?” It’s not the typical Stephen King tale. King usually goes crazy with the weird in his books. He’s dabbled in all sorts of facets of horror. But he does not have too many horror novels that fall into psychological horror. “Gerald’s Game” is one of King’s rare excursions into psychological horror. Jessie and Gerald are a couple whose marriage is starting to fall apart, and to reinvigorate their relationship, they start to do things differently in every aspect of their relationship, including their sex life. Gerald likes to play a game where he role plays with handcuffs. During a visit at a remote cabin, Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed. Suddenly, Gerald is killed by a heart attack, leaving Jessie handcuffed to the bed, with no easy way to get out of the handcuffs. Much like Stephen King could write a hefty book about a dog with rabies in “Cujo,” he was able to write a hefty book of a woman handcuffed to a bed with her dead husband laying on the ground. She begins to hallucinate, and tries to get herself out of her predicament, while we learn more about her dark past.

The film version of “Gerald’s Game” really doesn’t stray too far from the book. I even think it might be more of a faithful adaptation than the recent “IT” movie was. Carla Gugino plays Jessie and Bruce Greenwood plays Gerald, and they are both superb. And no, just because Bruce Greenwood is Gerald doesn’t mean he dies early then is done. Sure, Gerald does die early, but thanks to Jessie’s hallucinations, we get lots of Greenwood’s Gerald and he is gleefully creepy as Jessie’s hallucination. Heck, Jessie talks to a version of herself in this movie, and even that exchange with herself turns on the big creep factor. There is a way director Mike Flanagan uses camera angles in a very Stanley Kubrick way. The way the camera focuses on a character’s full face while they say a bit of dialogue, then immediately cuts to the other character and their dialogue. It sounds so simple, but Flanagan found a way to make it come off odd and offbeat.

Henry Thomas, who you may remember as the little kid from “E.T.” or maybe even Leonardo DiCaprio’s friend in “Gangs of New York” makes an appearance here. He plays Jessie’s father in some of her flashbacks she has as her adrenaline starts to wane while trying to stay alive. When you see Henry Thomas in movies, he usually plays the boy-next-door type character. No matter the type of character and no matter the genre, he plays an innocent type of character. Not here though. In fact, I was so taken aback by Thomas’ character and his work in this film that I almost didn’t believe it was him. Henry Thomas turns on his full sleaze-bag effect and its quite striking. I don’t know want to get into any details here, but his work here is woefully powerful.

It’s amazing that so little happens in the movie, and despite the epilogue of the movie, as well as a few flashbacks, the movie takes place in one setting. But the film does possess the power to creep you out, to build some genuine scares. This might be one of Carla Gugino’s finest performances yet. The entire success or failure of the movie rests on her shoulders. It’s one of those movies that focuses mainly on one character, so that character has to be magnificent before the camera. Trust me, Carla is magnificent here. Yes, she’s an actress that I have liked many times before, but some kind of floodgate has opened deep inside her for this one, and the result is one of the best moments in her entire career.

If you’re a Stephen King in general, there are some links to King’s other works that I bet will have you giddy. There is a moment in the movie where Gerald calls a stray dog Cujo, even though the stray dog in the book was called Prince and the dog’s name was also Prince on the credits. There are some links to “Dolores Claiborne” and Gerald also talks about something about a beam, you know what that means! I think these might have been to wink and nod at the audience. I am not sure there is going to be some kind of crossover event with all these recent Stephen King adaptation, even though I would watch that unfold in a heartbeat.


We might be entering a brand new stage as Stephen King fans. Much like the superhero resurgence at the beginning of the decade, it feels like people are being hired to adapt Stephen King work who actually like his work. This might be a time when we look back and say, “man, that was a good time to be a Stephen King fan.” I hope we can ride this wave for the next quarter century or more. We shall see, but for right now, Mike Flanagan, job well done.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Review: The "Kingsman" series continues to bend expectations with "The Golden Circle"

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

It’s a real magic trick for a director to make a film with every emotion you’d find in an “important” drama film but also mixing in all the bombastic fun you’d expect from a typical blockbuster. In just a seven short years, Matthew Vaughn has gone from Guy Richie’s favorite producer to a fully-formed stylized director. This might be kind of mean to say, but I think Matthew Vaughn is the guy Zak Snyder wishes he was. Vaughn has a unique stylish eye, and watching his films kind of feels like you being transported to a different genre completely. Even though most of his directorial work so far has been comic book adaptations. “Kick-Ass,” and “X-Men: First Class” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” are all films I like quite a bit, and while I have enjoyed Bryan Singer’s return to the “X-Men” franchise, I kind of wish Vaughn kept making “X-Men” movies.

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a rare satisfying sequel. A movie that wastes no time reacquainting itself with the past characters. And honestly, I like that this sequel feels like a true continuation of the events that happened last film, instead of a new adventure entirely. Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) is settling into his role as Galahad after the death of his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) in the first film. Charlie (Edward Holcroft), the bully recruit from the first film didn’t die, and returns as a secondary antagonist towards Eggsy. Tilda of Sweden, played by Hanna Alstrom who Eggsy had anal sex with after saving the world in the first film is now his girlfriend. It feels like natural, progressing storytelling to not just drop important people or places or ideas in a sequel. Believe it or not, that happens often. I like that everything keeps moving in real time here.

The first “Kingsman” film was a pretty clever reaction to the James Bond series and even the modern era Jason Bourne movies, it was almost otherworldly how gleefully that movie destroyed expectations while also playing by the rules of the genre. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” continues that fun tradition of being a quasi-parody of the popular spy movie series’. The Kingsman are being hunted by a Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) a vicious drug cartel leader who has a deep affection for 1950’s and 1960’s iconography. Turns out she has some big plans for the world and she’s willing to go from drug dealer to outright terrorist to put these plans in motion. The members of the Kingsman organization are systematically hunted down, leaving only Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) left, the organization’s “doomsday protocol” means trekking to the United States of America to join forces with the American branch of Kingsman, known as The Statesmen. Together, resources are put together in order to bring Poppy Adams down before she poses too much of a threat to world peace. Oh, and did I mention that she has singer Elton John prisoner or leverage? Did I also mention that it’s one of Elton John’s finest presentence’s ever in anything?

One of the resources is Harry, who apparently never died in the first film. The reason being something kind of clever and funny. Colin Firth continues to defy expectations according to his greater career. Who knew he could be such a big badass. Edgerton does some really good work here again as Eggsy and I think he’s off to a bigger, brighter career from here, he’s the real deal folks. Unfortunately, the film sidelines some of the more interesting new characters. If you are expecting big things from Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry, then it is time to rewire your expectations a bit. They were game to play in this world, and when they are all onscreen, they do outstanding work, but they aren’t given a whole lot to do.  I wish we could have seen more of all three of them, but they make their time in front of the camera worthwhile. What I was surprised about though, is that Mark Strong has much more to do as Merlin this time around. He was mostly the all-purpose Q character in the first film. This time around, he is actually a field agent and he does some amazing work. He’s written completely different in this sequel, almost an entirely new character. I have to say that it nearly killed me when Merlin shows up in his last scene in the movie, it’s the strongest content in any movie that Mark Strong has created so far, and it further reminds me why I love him as a performer so much.

Let’s talk a little about Julianne Moore, because holy crap! Who knew that Julianne Moore could so…so…deranged. If you can imagine an older Harley Quinn outside the DC Universe, that’s Poppy Adams. She’s a character who is very happy to do some very ugly things, whether to punish her henchmen or to protect herself from her enemies. We’ve seen Julianne Moore play hateful bitches before. We’ve seen her do some pretty astounding dramatic work before. But I assure you, we have never seen her do anything close to what she does as Poppy Adams before. That I can guarantee you. I only wish they gave her a better villainous plot. I find it interesting that both of these movies feature some morally gray villains, but the overall reasoning behind Poppy Adams’ plot is kind of a letdown.

Despite the strong character work and the further fun of this weird spy universe, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” does suffer from some slight “sequel pains.” What do I mean by that? Well, there are several scenes, particularly in the first half of the film, where it feels the filmmakers are playing a game. There are several tongue-in-cheek references to the first movie. It feels like the film stops for these footnotes. “Hey, remember this scene from the first film?” “Hey, remember that scene from the first film?” There is quite a bit of that in the first half, and I admit, it really slows the first half down. There are some people complaining about the long running time of this film, and you definitely feel that long running time.


With that said, there is so much fun to be had here that’s hard to stick the film with some grimy nitpicks. I want a third film (especially since there is a rumor that Matthew Vaughn wants The Rock to be the villain in a potential third film.) Not only that though, I want new “Kingsman” movie every few years. Much like the James Bond series, I want “Kingsman” movies for the next fifty years. As long Matthew Vaughn continues to entertain the hell out of us, I will be in line to buy tickets to this series. I mean, Jesus, the final half hour to forty-five minutes of this movie is a big bombastic climax that will have you ranting and raving on your way out of the theater. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is so much fun, and worthy sequel that all seems so scarce these days.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Annihilation Trailer

In 2015, I named "Ex Machina" as one of my favorite films of that year. I recently rewatched it on Amazon Prime a few months ago, and that love hasn't waned a bit. Its a beautiful movie. A movie that does a tremendous job blending cutting-edge special effects with a relevant, believable story in a not-to-distant future. That's never an easy feat to accomplish, and writer and director Alex Garland made it look so easy. The film ended up winning the Best Special Effects Oscar in 2016, something I found to be a pleasant surprise.

"Ex Machina" put Alex Garland on my radar, and next year he's got another movie coming. This new film is based upon a popular novel by Jeff VanderMeer, a book I may just have to get my hands on before the Garland's new movie comes out. The movie is called "Annihilation" and looks to be another inspired, adult science-fiction film from Garland.

The marketing accomplishes exactly what good marketing should do. This teaser trailer teases. It shows us enough footage to get excited, enough whispers to want to be drawn to this story, but we don't get the whole movie in one trailer. You'd be surprised just how often that happens. The film reunites Garland with actor Oscar Isaac, who starred in "Ex Machina." But it appears that Natalie Portman will be the lead her. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Benedict Wong also star.

The trailer looks good to me, check it out.




Like I said, we don't get much of a story here. You'd have to go to the film's Wikipedia page in order to really get a grasp on what this is about. I like all the talent involved and the movie is once again strikingly beautiful. I look forward to this.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review: Its time to throw stones at this "Glass Castle"

The Glass Castle Review

I have been a huge fan of Brie Larson ever since I saw her. She is one of those performers that really chooses worthwhile projects instead of going after the easy money. I have really enjoyed watching her mix up her career with independent work, as well as throwing in a blockbuster or two every now and again. She has serious chops, and it seems like she’s career orientated, more so than other actresses in her age group. I absolutely would never have guessed that she’d be Captain Marvel for Marvel. (Personally, my choice was Rosamund Pike) When Larson was announced as Captain Marvel, it was like lightning in a bottle. It felt like I had one of those lightbulb moments, and I instantly found her casting of that role perfect. She deserves to be in this mega franchise.

One film I loved immensely with her was “Short Term 12.” A movie I have reviewed for my website before. A movie where Larson played a counselor for at-risk children. It was a brilliant showcase for Larson. “Short Term 12” was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and I thought he made a bold statement as a director. So when I heard that Larson and Cretton were reuniting for another movie, I was instantly on board. That film ended up being “The Glass Castle,” a film based upon an actual memoir.

So color me surprised that I am not falling in love with it right now. Sure, “The Glass Castle” is well acted. I don’t think it’s in Brie Larson or Woody Harrelson or Naomi Watts to give bad performances. Of any kind. This is a very well-acted film. The set and production design is exquisite and has a grounded, earthy feel that I think suits the film well. The cinematography is lush and luminous at times. The thing is, all the things I mentioned in this film are the side things. These are extra things that all go into making a movie work. I don’t want to say that these things don’t matter, because obviously they do. I don’t think any movie should ever look bad or have poor production value. But the main points that make a movie whole are all off in this film, not feeling right, never adding up to a satisfying whole.

The story itself is really, really weird. It’s so weird that I find it hard to believe that it actually happened, but hey, there are tons of strange real life stories that Hollywood has used as a basis for a film, so I suppose I shouldn’t be THAT surprised. Woody Harrelson plays Rex Walls, a man that takes his family going from home to home, state to state, neighborhood to neighborhood. Rex is an optimist, a nature-lover, a guy who lives on the fly despite having a wife and children to raise. Rex takes his family, and together they squat in homes and are constantly living in immense poverty. Rex can’t keep a job, and his wife Rose Mary (Watts) is trying to make in the art industry, but to no avail. This takes an unseen toll on their children, particularly Jeanette, who grows up to be played by Brie Larson, and whose character wants nothing to do her father.

The film shifts back and forth between the present and the future. We see an adult Jeanette try and reconnect with her family after a long time. We see her try to muster up the courage to tell her parents that she is marrying a rich man that won’t provide the same life Rex did. We see how young Jeanette’s relationship changes as she is a child to an adult. I get the themes of the movie. I understand that this is a coming-of-age story of sorts. I get that this is an examination of childhood to adulthood. I get that this is a movie about somebody who doesn’t want to grow up being the person her parents think she should, but never losing her family’s spirit deep in her heart. There are plenty of water works moments in this film. I bet they will work for some people, but they didn’t quite work for me.

I am sure there is a decent, provoking movie hidden in this story somewhere, but the script by Cretton, Andrew Lanham and Marti Noxon is lifeless. There is no sense of tension to the action of the film, nothing that registers with the audience. There are some big story beats in few moments of the film, something that we are supposed to get a real reaction from, but fall on the floor with a large thud that seems to echo in an empty room. There is no emotional depth in this movie. There nothing for the audience to cling to, that they will find memorable later on. It’s a very boring film, which made me sad. The characters never really gave me anything to identify with or provide me with anything that struck me as genuine.

I wish I could say I liked this film more, but the structure of the film feels disjointed. The film doesn’t transition very well between the memories of the characters. I see that the cast is working their asses off here to make everything count, but their work is in the service of an emotionless script, something that doesn’t allow its audience to feel anything. That’s too bad because I am huge fan of everyone in this movie. But they are given funny moments where I didn’t laugh, tear-jerker moments where I didn’t cry, and emotional beats where I didn’t feel anything at all.

It’s a movie like “The Glass Castle” that really gets under my skin. Even if I hate a movie for pretty much everything in its contents, at least that movie made me feel something. While I like the actors and the extra scenery, I don’t get anything off of anything else in this film. Its something I feel I will have forgotten by the end of the week. I want to feel something for every movie I sit down to watch, and if a movie appears and goes through the motions and has nothing to offer, that’s what really feels like a waste.

FINAL GRADE: D

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

IT: Chapter 2 gets a 2019 release date!

Well, as no surprise to anybody paying attention, "IT" is getting a sequel.

This was always the plan, there was always going to be a kids story and an adults story later. That was how the book was written. The book went back and forth between the adult and kid story. If one thing really disappointed me about the film, its that they left out the back and forth between the two stories. The power of memory is so important to the book that I kind of had a hard time with it not being in the new movie. But I want to put an emphasis on the "kind of," I stand by my review. I really liked the movie.

"IT" has been a smash hit at the box office. I think its been a bigger hit than anyone expected it to be. So we are getting the second half to this story. The towering conclusion. The first film had a very small budget, I hope with all the money this first film is raking in that the sequel gets a bigger budget. I hope we see more of It's world. I hope we get a real reference to The Turtle and why he's important. I can't wait for casting and production to start! You have grabbed the audience, now take this thing off the rails like it should!

Prepare for more Pennywise and The Losers Club on September 6th 2019!

SOURCE:
http://variety.com/2017/film/news/it-movie-sequel-release-date-1202570309/

Review: "Naked" throws everything at the wall, and nothing sticks

Naked Review

This may come as a surprise to some, but I actually get a kick out of the Wayans brothers. I used to watch their show with my best friend, and I always found them funny. I think there are very few people who really understand what makes a parody or spoof movie tick, but I felt the Wayans brothers really knew what it took to make a worthwhile spoof movie, and I still enjoy both "Scary Movie" and "Scary Movie 2" for what they were. Once the Wayans brothers left that franchise, it never recovered, and it just became another standard spoof franchise. I think when they hone in their comedy, they make good material. They aren't afraid to be relentless, they aren't afraid to try different styles, and they had good stage presences. Somehow though, all three of them (Damian, Marlon, Keenan Ivory) all fell off the map. I always thought comedy was poorer for it.

I suppose Marlon Wayans just needed a paycheck bad. Like really bad. That is the only thing I can think of that made him agree to star in "Naked," a recent Netflix addition that is one of the dopiest films of the year.

The film begins with Marlon Wayans playing a man named Rob Anderson. He's a guy who can't commit to anything. It took seven years for him to finally propose to his girlfriend Megan (Regina Hall), he's offered a full time job in a classroom after working as a substitute for many years only to turn it down. He's afraid to grow up, afraid of commitment, afraid to take big steps to improve his situation. But alas, he is finally engaged to the girl of his dreams, even though her family doesn't approve of their relationship, because Rob can't offer financial stability. The night before the wedding, Megan goes on her bachelorette party, and Rob goes on his bachelor party.

The next morning, Rob wakes up in the elevator of a hotel he is not staying in, and he's completely without clothes. Okay, this has the potential to be a funny comedy. A guy, having a "Hangover" type bachelor party before his big day and he trying to figure out what happened to him and how. Rob tries to get back to his hotel, throw his suit on and get to his wedding before the bells ring. That's material ample enough for a fun comedy. There are some potentially funny moments that are sadly handled in an unfunny way, but the movie seemed like it was finally getting going, and I was curious to see what Wayans had in store and what was going to happen.

Then the wedding bells rang, and suddenly Rob is back in the elevator of a hotel he is not staying in and he's completely without clothes. Suddenly, the movie shifts from "The Hangover" to "Groundhog Day" and the rest of the film is a comedy of how those two radically different ideas are meshed together. For no real reason I might add, the reason why Rob keeps going back in time every time the wedding bells ring is never explained. There is no supernatural element, no angels, no aliens, nothing of the sort. It's just something that kind of happens to add more "funny" moments in the film that end up falling apart like a stack of cards. The mystery is still there, but its not a very surprising one nor is it a very funny one.

Whats really shocking is that the movie features people like Wayans, Hall, Dennis Haysbert, and many other talented and funny people, but they are playing such horridly pedestrian characters that I can't believe any of them signed up for this. They are playing characters in a comedy where they don't make the audience laugh. They are playing people with no emotions, no depth, no heart or souls. Each character in this movie are nothing but blanks, and I guess everybody needed a little money, because I don't know why anybody would want to have signed on for this. I won't say that anyone is particularly bad in this, they just have nothing to play here.

Not only is "Naked" not a funny movie, it has no idea what comedy it wants to be. Sometimes its a Hangover rip-off, other times its a "Groundhog Day" rip-off. Sometimes it wants to be a romantic comedy, other times it wants to be raunchy. It has no idea what it wants to be, and that's a little infuriating. 

There are already plenty of content to "Netflix and Chill" to, you can skip this piece of rotten fruit altogether.

FINAL GRADE: D-

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: "American Assassin" basks in the ridiculous and wackiness

American Assassin Review

There is a movie like this that comes out every other September or so. Its a politically confused, popcorn-style action movie about an undercover spy working against a terrorist cell from the Middle East. Sometimes, we learn that the events of the film were later manipulated by the Americans. There is quite a bit of ridiculousness to much of these movies. But sometimes, they turn out great (Body of Lies), sometimes they turn out fun (The Kingdom), and sometimes they turn out bad (Green Zone). "American Assassin" is that September release. I feel it falls somewhere in the middle of good and bad.

The film opens with, as these movies usually go, with a sad terrorist attack. Mitch (Dylan O'Brien) proposes to his girlfriend on the sunny beaches of Spain. Suddenly, undercover Islamist terrorists begin gunning people down on the beach. One of the people among them is Mitch's girlfriend, Mitch himself is wounded and he is left for dead on the beach. Many years later, he is training himself to fight, use weapons, and spying. He is bent on revenge, and he plans to kill the terrorists that killed his family. Now, if you think about this too long, you'll give yourself a brain aneurysm. Yes, I get that there is supposed to be some suspension of disbelief when it comes to movies like this. Hell, Bruce Wayne trained himself to become Batman, something I don't think could be possible for anybody. But Batman lives in the realm of comic books. "American Assassin" is grounded in a James Bond-like reality. So I suppose I can get over the weirdness that some kid could successfully pass as a Muslim just by growing a beard and a mustache and he could somehow become a seasoned killer in a matter of months, even years. 

But okay, Mitch is in kill mode. He's making such a big splash that even the CIA is tracking him. But instead of bringing him in, Mitch is used as bait. Once Mitch is face-to-face with a big name terorrist leader, the CIA swoop in and kill everybody, and bringing Mitch to Langley. Again, its such a weird situation that you are either going to argue the logic of such a move or you are going to be having such a wacky fun time that you won't care. A CIA director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) plans to recruit Mitch in a black ops group called Orion. Orion is lead by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) the highly decorated, no-nonsense military guys we usually see in these movies. Stan trains Mitch, and he rises to the top of Stan's operation then they eventually go after terrorists together.

The movie quickly becomes a checklist of notions we usually see in these movies. Mitch is difficult to train and to work with. Stan makes several speeches about how Mitch "can't get emotional" and "you're not ready" and blah, blah, blah. There is a secret behind the main villain of the movie that Stan is keeping from Mitch and the rest of the black ops team. The movie is working overtime in order to entertain the shit out of its audience. But the story itself features logic flaws. Its flimsy as a story line and it mostly feels like things I have already seen in better movies. 

Dylan O'Brien tries to make this work, and honestly he does a fairly good job. O'Brien is one of those young actors who actually has truth in his hype. You can kind of tell that if the role of Mitch was given to someone like Zac Efron, or someone similar, the movie may not have worked as a whole like it does here. O'Brien is a good lead, and proved that he can handle a grounded action movie. If he chooses, he may be bigger than the "Maze Runner" stuff, and that's always good to learn. Michael Keaton is, as always, incredibly good. He's having a great year with "The Founder" and "Spider-Man" and here he delivers once again a memorable performance. Taylor Kitsch turns up late in the movie and he does good work here. The movie is well cast and well-told by the actors.

What surprised me the most is just how uneventful the action scenes felt. Usually, in these grounded action movies, the action beats are the things we can rely on the most to pull us into the movie. I couldn't believe that the action scenes were so incredibly dull. I didn't feel thrilled watching the action scenes. In fact, I didn't feel much movement at all. There is a stiff feeling to the action beats in this movie, and it was the one thing that surprised me the most about watching "American Assassin."

If you go to a movie like "American Assassin," be prepared to be bored by the action scenes. Don't expect the movie to be very exciting, don't expect the story to make much sense. What you can expect is a cast of wonderful actors trying to make this count, and because of their passion, it kind of does. I can turn my brain off for a few hours and enjoy myself for the most part. But I can't go the full hundred, I have to go fifty, and the movie has to go fifty. I am not entirely sure that happened.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Little to do with movies, but here it goes...

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tomb Raider Trailer

Last night, I teased the upcoming trailer for "Tomb Raider" with the official release of the film's poster. The poster was fine I guess. It's a typical, generic, adventure movie poster. I said last night that I would decide whether or not I'd be interested in this until I saw the trailer tonight. I didn't have a chance due to my busy work day today to sit down and watch it now. So, what did I think of the trailer?

I generally love the type of movie of someone going on an Indiana Jones style adventure. I like hunting for artifact type movies. I love heroes on a mission type movies. This looks to be that type of movie. I think Alicia Vikander is a better actress compared to Jolie (sorry!) and she seems more than game about playing this character, and doing something slightly different than what we saw with Jolie. We have Dominic West as her father. We have Walton Goggins as the film's villain, and you can't go wrong when Walton Goggins as your villain. I like that Nick Frost will be playing an arms dealer, and I hope he's not a quick cameo. We shall see.

The trailer itself looks very effects heavy. But I shouldn't be surprised. This is, after all, based upon a video game. There are going to be some effects. I just hope that they don't drown out the movie. I hope they feel practical and not artificial. Overall, it doesn't look like a total shit-show like the first two Lara Croft movies. However, for whatever reason, video game movies always turn out to be shit, so hopefully Vikander and all her collaborators can cure the curse.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TOMB RAIDER POSTER

After fifth grade was over for me, one of the first big blockbusters of the summer I saw was Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. I didn't know much about the games, except I had this weird attraction to an animated avatar that I am still a little embarrassed by. But other than that, I can't tell you much about the games. I have never played them. Heck, I've never watched somebody play them. I didn't know what to expect when I was a dawning sixth grader, but when I originally saw the first "Tomb Raider" movie, I thought it was cool. I didn't think anything much beyond that. As I got older, I saw more and more how dumb the movie was. I never gave the sequel a try. Well, maybe I gave the first twenty or so minutes a try, then shut the movie off. There are not too many movies out there that I stopped watching after a few minutes. So I hope that says something.

Because I have no connection to the games, I can't tell you how excited I am for the "Tomb Raider" reboot. The poster is below. We get our first trailer tomorrow. We will see how good it is. I like Alicia Vikander quite a bit. That's the soul reason why I will at least give this movie a try. She's done some very good work, she allows herself to be challenged and she's anything but cookie-cutter. So perhaps she add some needed depth and pizazz to the role. We shall see.

Well, she at least looks the part well.

I can't say I will be excited or not until I see the trailer tomorrow. We'll be back then to discuss it. Until then...goodnight.

Review: "Raw" is a bitter, cold-blooded horror film

Raw Review

It doesn't happen often, but some nights when I am watching a movie, I can say with confidence that I had an experience that I never thought I'd have. An experience that I don't think I am going to shake for days, perhaps even weeks. An experience so visceral that I know I won't forget it anytime soon. "Raw," a French horror film, is one of those experiences.

Many horror fans claim that the country producing the best horror has been Japan. I can understand why someone would say that. They don't hold back, on gore or subject matter or, well, anything. I think France comes pretty close to the notorious attitude that Japan's horror output has created. There was a film that came out in 2003 called "In My Skin" and while I never saw it, because I don't know if you can actually track it down anywhere, its a movie about a woman's need to personally inflict pain upon herself. Its a movie that forced people to run out of the theater, it forced people to faint and it forced people to vomit. There are not many movies in the history of cinema that have that kind of impact upon people. The same things where said when "Raw" made its festival run, that people ran out of the theater, fainted and even vomited. Something like that, you kind of just have to see for yourself, right?

"Raw" is about a vegetarian named Justine (Garance Marillier) who is one her first year of veterinarian school. Her whole family are vegetarians and its the only diet she's ever known. On her first night of school, she is put through a rather brutal hazzing week, which tests her limits as a woman. One day, all of the freshman get animal blood and animal guts poured on them. Its on that day when something happens to Justine, something awakens deep inside her. A new kind of hunger she's never experienced in her life. Soon, she begins eating exotic dishes she's never tried before, like shwarma. Then she moves to raw meats. Then...she begins to want to eat fresh human organs. 

Yes, the movie is very clear in what you are going to see, and it tests your sense of sight, your stomach and your sanity all in one horrifying one hour and thirty minute package. Its a terrible blend of body horror and psychological horror that works for every minute of its screentime. But, you have to be an adventurous horror fan if you are going to like this movie. This isn't a movie that focuses on the blood and the guts and the spectacle. It focuses on the mood, the atmosphere and the need to feed. There is a moment in the movie when a character's finger gets cut off by accident. Justine picks up the finger. She studies it for a minute or two. Then she sniffs it, considers it. Then slowly begins to lick it. Its a strange scene because it is forcing us to identify with a girl who is slowly turning into a cannibal. She begins licking and gnawing at the finger, slowly and surely. Its a disturbing scene, a disgusting scene, a scene that should never belong in any type of movie anywhere. It demonstrates just how far Justine is willing to go to satisfy the hunger she feels so badly. 

The work done by Garance Marillier is simply incredible. She forces us to feel every bit of her deterioration. We are forced to understand why she likes this lifestyle and why she feels she has no other choice but to feed. For this reason alone, Marillier's performance is bigger than stellar. We as an audience get a personal view of how a girl slowly develops the need for raw meat. The entire cast is great, full of great French actors who created this very sick world of cannibalism. The movie has one of the most unexpected, apocalyptic endings of the year. The actor who plays Marillier's father is Laurant Lucas. He is simply known as father, and his big reveal in the movie nearly made my heart hurt. He sells every moment of the the brief scene.

"Raw" is a test to horror fans. How much of something gross and gruesome can you handle? This will go around as one of those dare movies that you have to see to believe. Like "The Human Centipede" or "Cannibal Holocaust." For me? I had quite the time diving deep into this film, enjoying every filthy bit of it. I may not have fainted, or vomited or ran for safety. But I did enjoy the dark world that "Raw" offers. And you just might too.

FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, September 18, 2017

RIP Frank Vincent

RIP Frank Vincent

"Go home and get yo' fucking shine box!" That line has become engraved in our popular culture. I had a roommate in college that loved that line. He'd use it playing video games online. He'd use it if I told a lousy joke or if I pranked him good or just for the hell of it sometimes. That line, of course, came from "Goodfellas" spoken by Frank Vincent who played Billy Batts. Billy Batts harps on Joe Pesci quite a bit in that movie, and sadly it gets him killed by the hands of Pesci and Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta. Dont worry though, old Billy Batts got his revenge on Pesci in another Martin Scorsese gangster movie in 1995 called "Casino." A movie in which Frank Vincent's character clubs Joe Pesci's character to death with a metal baseball bat. Yikes, bad way to go.

If there was a single tough guy role or gangster role to fill, Frank Vincent was your man. You can find him in "The Sopranos," "Goodfellas," "Casino," "Raging Bull," "Wise Guys," "New York Undercover" and "Cop Land." He even provided voices for gangster characters in a couple Grand Theft Auto video games. 

Frank Vincent may have been a red blooded Italian, but that doesn't mean he only limited himself to tough guy roles. Vincent appeared in such films as "Do The Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever" by Spike Lee. He was on a few episodes of "Cosby." He was also very good in "The Last Exit To Brooklyn." 

But alas, You will know Frank Vincent the best for his work as being a gangster. And a smooth gangster he was. I hope he rests in peace, and I will miss his brilliant work in these movies, and all the other work he's done.


RIP Harry Dean Stanton

RIP Harry Dean Stanton
Last week, we lost a very beloved actor. At least in my mind he's beloved. Harry Dean Stanton was one of those actors who seemed like he was everywhere. Even though you may not have known his name. Too bad too, because he left a memorable image to all of the roles he took up. Whether they were leading roles, supporting roles or just a walk-by cameo, Harry Dean Stanton always gave us something memorable every time he went in front of a camera. Not only was he great performer, but he served our country during World War II where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. 

My first exposure of to Harry Dean Stanton was seeing him in David Lynch movies. I was a big fan of Lynch ever since I was introduced to his work with "Mulholland Drive." I was way too young to see that movie originally, but it opened myself to all things Lynch. Harry Dean Stanton may not have appeared in "Mulholland Drive," but he did appear in "Wild At Heart," "The Straight Story," "Inland Empire," and "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me." Lynch loves using the same actors in his movies, so its no surprise that Lynch kept coming back to Stanton. Stanton was great in all of those movies, and no matter how much screen time he got, he was always great.

Even if you are not a Lynch fan, and I wouldn't blame you if you weren't, then you probably saw Stanton is "Alien," where he played Brett. Or maybe you saw him in "Red Dawn" as Tom Eckert. You may have also seen him in "Escape From New York" with Kurt Russell or "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson or "Christine" with that killer car. You may remember him as the FBI agent in "Godfather Part II" or Willard in "Kelly's Heroes" and he was Saul in "The Last Temptation of Christ." The guy has been acting for many years, and he was constantly memorable, constantly pushing himself as a performer, constantly making himself something different in every role. One character doesn't look the same in one movie or the other. 

I could spend all night discussing Stanton's work in "Paris, Texas" or "Cool Hand Luke" or "Repo Man" or "The Pledge" or "Anger Management" or "Alpha Dog" or "You Me and Dupree" or "Seven Psychopaths" or "Two-Lane Blacktop" or "Pretty In Pink" or "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" or "A Civil Action" or "The Green Mile" and on and on and on. I mean to fully appreciate the career of Harry Dean Stanton would be to have a five month film festival. He got so much accomplished and created so many friends I can only see in the movies. He will be missed.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: "Nobody Speak" reminds us why the free press is an important part of our country

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press Review

"Our Liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost" This is a strong quote from Thomas Jefferson and a very important quote. The free press is a very important part of our First Amendment, which is a our freedom of speech. The press has both a duty and a right to report on the things affecting our world, they way they see it. Yes, the press has made some mistakes in the past, but does that automatically mean that they are fake news?

Now, more than ever, the press is under attack and it feels like they are becoming a less and less respectable source of news. But where does the line bend when trying to decipher if the press is making up fake news, or if the party in question is simply trying to cover the truth? That is the very question "Nobody Speaks," a documentary about figuring out if the media is really out to sell a fake story, or if the people behind the scenes are trying to hide the truth. Much of the documentary is about a court case revolving around a sex tape involving pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and his best wife. Hogan is suing Gawker Media for bringing the tape into the open and writing about it.

This is a movie where everyday, we are all walking the tight rope line between challenging the freedom of the press or keeping certain voices quiet in order to hide facts. The film gets into President Donald Trump and his fascination of calling every media outlets fake news, it discusses the importance of the free press. Its highly provocative in the way it sheds light on both sides of the story, and how those who go around touting "fake news" or blaming the media for woes may not be who they say they are.

I found "Nobody Speak" to be fascinating and a huge eye-opener to what we call freedom of the press, and why we should continue to fight for it everyday.

FINAL GRADE: B

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cast Party: Adult Loser's Club

Cast Party

Adult Loser's Club

Welcome to the first edition of Cast Party, a new game where I look at a popular coming attraction and give my picks on who I would choose to play the main characters. I hope you enjoy and feel free to play along as we put forth our choices for these casts.

Tonight's cast sheet is for the following...


When the plan was being formulated to bring "IT" to the big screen, it was always a plan to make it into at least two movies. The first film was going to focus on the kid's story and the second film was going to focus on the adult story. That idea is still moving forward, and with "IT" crushing it in the box office right now, its pretty much inevitable that we will see the Loser's Club unite twenty seven years later to battle Pennywise once again. The big question we have now is, who will play the adult versions of the Loser's Club? So the big question now is who will play the Loser's Club older selves? The kids from the first film have given their ideas on who should play the adults, and you can find those ideas with pretty minimal effort. Now, its my turn. Here is the list of actors I'd like to see tackle these characters. Keep in mind, since this is twenty-seven years later, and the kids being 12 or 13 in the first film, I'll only be considering actors in their late 30's, early 40's. So keep that in mind as you read on.

1. Bill Denbrough- John Krasinski
In recent years, John Krasinski has been proving more and more that he's ready to take his film career seriously, and he's been seemingly pushing himself as an actor. He's not just "the guy from The Office" anymore and he has been making an impact on dramatic roles. He nearly disappeared in "13 Hours," and even though I didn't love that movie, I sure did enjoy Krasinski's role in it. I also really liked him in "Detroit," where he was a total creep. Krasinski is good at being the alpha male, and I think him being the leader of this group of friends only feels natural, and he'd bring the poise, innocence and bravery that the role would require.

2. Beverly Marsh- Jessica Chastain
Yep. When someone is perfect for a role, they are plain perfect for a role. Sophia Lillis, who played Beverly in "IT," says Chastain should play adult Beverly. Chastain has already worked with director Andy Maschietti in the film "Mama." There are also even rumors that a deleted scene from "IT" featured an adult Beverly...played by none other than Jessica Chastain. I feel she may be a shoe-in, if she has a scheduling conflict with something else or if she's just not interested are always on the table, but I can't think of another reason why she'd pass on this. Even though I will say Amy Adams, Bryce Dallas Howard and even Christina Hendricks would be very good alternates.

3. Ben Hanscomb- Joel Edgerton
Yes, I get that Chris Pratt is the current favorite to play Hanscomb and I get that it would be ironic because Pratt used to be a tad overweight and now he's in shape, which is the exact transformation that happens to Ben in the book. But I think Pratt's personality would be better showcased if he were cast as someone like Richie. There is a striking shade of innocence required to play Ben Hanscomb well, and I think Edgerton could portray that innocence in a very profound way. He may a be a little too old for the part, but his baby face look would probably help out with that.

4. Richie Tozier- Mark Duplass
I know that Bill Hader is a favorite to play adult Tozier, and I will admit that you wouldn't hear me complain if he would be cast. I think it is important to find someone with a comedic background to play Tozier. If you saw the first film, you know why. Tozier is the comic relief of the gang. He's the guy making impressions, making the one-liners and has an abundant knowledge of pop culture. I give the edge to Mark Duplass because, even though Duplass has done lots of funny things in his career, he's also proven to be a profound dramatic actor. Tozier is a complex person, he's a funny guy but he's got a big heart, strong loyalty and he knows when to step up and be brave. I think Duplass would be able to transition between all of Tozier's emotions while making it all feel natural.

5. Mike Hanlon- David Oyelowo
I am hoping the second film plays it a little closer to the books, if they do then Mike Hanlon is going to be a critical character. This is because Mike is the only member of the Loser's Club to stay in Derry. When Pennywise does resurface, its up to Mike to track the others down and get them to Derry, to do good on their promise. Mike goes through lots of self-doubt and suffers from some inner turmoil before contacting any of his old friends. I think Oyelowo would be able to portray that perfectly. Plus, he looks like a librarian, right?

6. Eddie Kaspbrak- Casey Affleck
I wasn't expecting young Eddie Kaspbrak to be the little spitfire that he was in the movie that came out on Friday, but hey I welcome it. Eddie might have been my favorite of the kids in the movie, and I love that he was a hypochondriac who had encyclopedic knowledge on anything pertaining to germs, but he was slyly brave and wasn't afraid to stand up for himself, even if it took some confidence build up. Believe it or not, Casey Affleck could be perfect for this. He's fresh off an Oscar win, and his filmography has proven that he has great range. Even in one movie. He can be blisteringly funny while also being endearingly heartfelt. Alas, he'd probably have to get a haircut. I think Affleck slight childish voice would only bring out the emotions of Eddie Kaspbrak even more.

7. Stanley Uris- Scoot Mcnairy
Between "Gone Girl," "Argo," "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice," "12 Years A Slave," and "Killing Them Softly," Scoot Mcnairy is an actor who has built a strong reputation only starring in mainly supporting to small roles. He's the kind of guy who can show up for one or two scenes and deliver something strikingly memorable. If you know the book, then you know that Stanley Uris isn't going to get nearly as much screen time as the other Losers, so why waste millions on a big name when you can get someone just as good who will leave a lasting impression on the character? For a guy who will do quick, great work then leave, Mcnairy is the only guy for the job.

So this is my Loser's Club.

Agree? Disagree? Fire away in the comment section below! Who do you think should play the adult Loser's Club in "IT: Chapter Two?"


Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: Andy Muschietti's "IT" blends faithful adaptation and new vision in a terrifying cocktail.

IT Review

If there is one author that I can wholeheartedly thank for really pushing me to read novels, its Stephen King. The first time reading one of his books felt like I was coming-of-age, and not every author can take a genre and redefine it to fit their visions and styles. Not that this trend only exists in horror, King's "Rita Hayworth and the Shawkshank Redemption" and "The Body" (which became "Stand By Me") don't read like the typical stories. There is a type of language that King invented himself, and he's not afraid to push boundaries in any genre he picks to play in.

Which has made his stories tricky to adapt onto screen. Believe me I know. I have seen dozens and dozens King movies and King mini-series and King television. Some were good, some were bad, most were mediocre. I think it just shows how difficult and elaborate King's texts are, and it takes someone incredibly passionate for his language who do the best in adapting his work. I grew up watching the 1990 "IT" mini-series. I saw the mini-series, read the book all within a summer and early fall season. I was the same age as the young Loser's Club when they first encountered Pennywise The Dancing Clown, so the story has stayed with me in a way few stories do. The 1990 mini-series still exists in the pantheon of nostalgia. Personally, it's okay. I sure found it frightening when I was younger and I think Tim Curry did exactly what he was hired to do as Pennywise. I don't think its held up well, and it doesn't come close to getting under my skin anymore, but for its time it was definitely okay. Its a tough story to adapt on ABC though.

There has been a long road to getting "IT" on a big screen, let alone giving it an R-rating. Cary Fukunaga originally wrote a script and was set to direct the film, even going as far as casting Will Poulter as Pennywise. I read his legendary script and I would have definitely loved to see the psychological strangeness of his first season of "True Detective" to "IT." But relations fell through between Fukunaga and Warner Brothers, so his vision never came to fruition. Fukunaga still has a screenplay credit for the adaptation by Andy Muschietti that is getting released this weekend. Some of the scenes from his script were included in this new film.

So...how is Andy Muschietti's film?

Look, I am not going to play the "well, in the book King did this" game. Hell, I am not going to play the "in Fukunaga's script, he did this" game. I truly am not a stickler for adaptation details, as long as the essence of the story remains true. Which was the main thing that frustrated me most about "The Dark Tower." I can honestly say that Muschietti has captured the essence of Stephen King's novel with a powerful, frightening affect. Yes, Muschietti has updated things. The teenagers story no longer takes place in the 1950's, but the 1980's. Muschietti uses 1980's nostalgia to surpreme dosage and you can't help but smile at the background of the settings and the topics which The Losers Club discuss. "The Dark Tower" angered me because it felt like it was made by someone who merely read a Wikipedia page about The Dark Tower. "IT," throughout its updates and abysmal changes, feels like it was made by people who read the book, and I couldn't have asked for more.

For those of you who never read the books or the saw the mini-series, "IT" is an epic horror novel about a fictional town called Derry that is haunted by a powerful entity that feeds on people. Its favorite way of stalking potential prey is morphing into Pennywise The Dancing Clown to lure children to him. A boy named Bill Denbrough lost his brother, and soon his six friends begin to experience the terror of Pennywise. So much so that they decide to ban together to destroy it once and for all. They don't know if Pennywise is truly defeated, so they promise to come back to Derry to defeat it again. Sure enough, 27 years later, they get together to fight it once more.

This first film focuses entirely the Loser's Club as teenagers. We are introduced to Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophie Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Gazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs), all of whom share a bond of being stalked by the evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgaard). King's book has always been more than just a horror story about a killer clown. It was a coming-of-age story for these kids. This event affected their lives, and they become adults merging out of the sewers after their last encounter with Pennywise. That's important to the story, and Muschietti has mastered it completely. Watching this group of kids interact together will make you cry at moments, laugh at moments, cheer at moments and you will just love just watching these kids spend time together. Also, when Pennywise attacks, we feel the stakes because we care about these kids. Each actor does incredible work, etching in the quirks and mannerisms of each kid without it coming off hammy. Each of these kids could have a very great career ahead of them if acting is what they choose to do.

So let's talk about Pennywise for a moment. Because after all, if Pennywise doesn't work, then the whole story falls apart. The best thing Skarsgaard did as a performer is completely make us forget about Tim Curry, just as Heath Ledger completely made us forget about Jack Nicholson when rebooting The Joker. When Skarsgaard is sitting in the sewer drain talking to Bill's brother Georgie, its killer stuff. Skarsgaard has completely redone Pennywise and he creates something long-lasting with the character. I love that, because its difficult to do. Pennywise is supposed to a menacing, disturbing character, a killer that keeps coming and coming. But he's got a personality like Freddy Kruger and Chucky the doll, blending those two traits together can sometimes turn into cheesiness. But I think Skarsgaard strikes a near-perfect balance, finding the right moments to unleash each trait.

That's also important discussing the scares of the movie. Most of the scares in the film feel like they were created in a Blumhouse factory, and one thing I do really wish we got in this adaptation was more psychological terror. There are lots of scares in this movie that are meant to be "boo-scares" and while I will admit that some definitely landed, this was story that affected the mind and I wish we saw more of that. There is also an 80's movie vibe that stretches across some of the scares, and I got a kick out of that.

"IT" is a long movie, which didn't surprise me nor bother me. The book itself is a little over 1,100 pages. It truly is an epic horror story. While the movie runs nearly two and a half hours, it still feels like something that is in fast-forward. Mike becoming good friends with the other Losers, the bully Henry Bowers personality shifts throughout the movie, Beverly's family...it all feels bulldozed through to keep the story going. It doesn't make the movie bad, just entire scenes and even characters don't feel like they have time to breathe. But overall, the film still flows really well, there are just some story and character beats that feel like they happen off camera, instead of things we actually see play out.

The bottom line is this, Stephen King adaptations are tricky, very tricky. That is why so few of them have actually worked. Muschietti gets so much right in this adaptation that I can help but recommend the movie. I think its worth a look, and I haven't said that about a Stephen King movie in quite some time, so it feels good to say. There are so many things that I want to say, so many details I want to discuss at length. I definitely want to return for a long overdue Further Inspection article a few weeks from now once you all have had a chance to see it, because there is SO much to discuss here. The thing is, the movie works, Muschietti nailed the important things and while some things get changed from the book, the essence of the story is intact. For once, I am absolutely rabid about a sequel. I can't wait to see the Losers Club again, all grown up, to face off against Pennywise once more.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Colin Trevorrow exits Star Wars: Episode IX

Colin Trevorrow, who is famously known as the director of "Jurassic World," was all set to direct "Star Wars: Episode IX" (complete title still unknown). It was announced last night that Trevorrow has abruptly left after a mutual decision made by Trevorrow himself and Lucasfilm executive Kathleen Kennedy.

"Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part was on Star Wars: Episode IX. Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will share more information soon" said the statement released by Lucasfilm last night.

I was pretty critical earlier this summer when Phil Lord and Chris Miller left the Han Solo movie, and now its highly suspect that Trevorrow and Lucasfilm parted ways so far into development of episode IX. I hate hysteria, and I never mean to give into hysteria. But for crying outloud, what is going on over at Lucasfilm. Lots of people were critical on episode VII by just being a faint remake of the first film, I was personally able to move past that as I felt it didn't derail the movie. But I am getting serious "Empire" vibes from the first trailer for "The Last Jedi" and I am starting to really wonder if Disney bought Lucasfilm just to happily remake the original trilogy. That might be nice creatively, but it doesn't do much for the general audience. I still love episode VII, but even I can recognize a remake when I see one. Is that really why Disney bought Lucasfilm? To essentially remake the original trilogy?

Like I said, I don't mean to give into the hysteria. There could be a very reasonable explanation for this. Carrie Fisher passed last year and I think Lucasfilm is still scrambling to put a finishing end to Princess Leia's story line in these movies. Something that will honor her memory and honor Fisher as a performer. No easy feat, that. So I can understand if Trevorrow's vision and Lucasfilm's vision just didn't sink up. Creative differences happen more often than not in this business, so I can totally understand if that were the case. No offence to Trevorrow, but "Jurassic World" was just a carbon copy of the all the other "Jurassic Park" movies. I am glad he got to play in the sandbox that inspired him to make movies in the first place, but there really wasn't a point to "Jurassic World." People treat Trevorrow like he's some kind connoisseur in film, but he's made one mediocre film and now he's a go-to guy for high-concepts and fantasy?

I'm just gonna say if VIII and IX are just clever inversions on "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi," I am going to be profoundly disappointed.

SOURCE:
http://www.aintitcool.com/node/78485

Gerald's Game Trailer

This is a pretty big week for Stephen King fans.

First and foremost, "IT" hits theaters this weekend. I am reading lots of positive buzz, and it seems like people are buying pre-tickets in droves. I think Andres has made a palpable and faithful adaptation, but also making something of his own. All the positive buzz is making my heart fill up with more and more joy. I can't wait to see this movie.

Stephen King fans also got one more surprise this week. Netflix is releasing another King adaptation at the end of the month. "Gerald's Game" is a book where King nearly dips into erotic thriller. A couple vacation to remote cabin in the woods. They get frisky, and to jazz up their intimate life, the husband handcuffs her wife to the bed. He suddenly has a heart attack and dies, leaving his wife handcuffed with nobody near to help her out of the cuffs.

Yeah, it only gets crazy from that moment on...

This looks like another great adaptation. I love Carla Gugino, I have for a long time, so I am very much looking forward to this. Mike Flanagan made the incredible "Hush," a home invasion horror film with a little bit of a twist, and I cannot wait to see what he does with a King book.

2017 could be the year where Stephen King horror adaptations got back on track. I am praying, praying that this is the case.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: "Little Evil" is another fun, yet downgraded Eli Craig horror-comedy

Little Evil Review

When I wrote about this film's trailer not too long ago, I discussed how much I liked Eli Craig's first film "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil." While the movie was a sly and shameless ode to slasher movies. It had its own pulse, it had its own style and it didn't feel like any other horror-comedy I could think of at the time. I figured Eli Craig could become a new, exciting voice in the world of horror-comedy, two genres that walk on the same line, but that not all directors master. His second film, "Little Evil" is more parody than original idea, which is another tricky thing that can end up putting a filmmaker into a straight jacket. The film mostly parody's "The Omen," but there are also funny references to "Rosemary's Baby," "Poltergeist" and "The Shining." 

The story is simple and probably easy to digest for anybody who has been a big fan of this genre. A man named Gary (Adam Scott) marries a woman named Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and together, they start to build a life together. Gary inherits Lucas as his stepson, Samantha's son from a mysterious relationship Gary doesn't know much about. Lucas, played by newcomer Owen Atlas, is as one could guess, very strange. It seems like bad things happen when he's around. He doesn't talk. He looks creepy. He even wears a nice suit, because we all know that little kids in suits are very scary. Gary catches wind that Lucas may have been conceived when Samantha belonged to an old cult. Gary soon believes that Lucas is the Anti Christ.

There are two types of spoof that I've noticed over the years, and the funny thing is that Mel Brooks is responsible for perfecting both of them. For better or for worse. The first type of spoof is one where the director soaked up everything from a certain genre or a certain type of film, and builds jokes from that. When we look at "Young Frankenstein" and "Blazing Saddles" and "High Anxiety," it shows us that Mel Brooks had a very deep understanding about Universal monsters and westerns and Hitchcock mysteries and built striking humor from soaking those things up like a sponge. The second type of spoof just remakes certain scenes and scenarios and tries for the easy, slapstick joke. You can see that most notably with "Spaceballs." It seems like Eli Craig is aiming for the first type of spoof at times, and when he focuses his energy like that, the film is funny. But it mostly leads down to the second type of spoof. Craig uses the easy joke each and every time. While sometimes the movie works, its mostly predictable humor.

Adam Scott and Evangeline Lilly both do good work here. There are also some good performances by Clancy Brown and Donald Faison. Owen Atlas gives a good creepy look and perfects the spooky little kid look. This cast does a good job landing some of the funny moments and I will admit, I laughed. There were some moments I enjoyed. This is not a comedy where I didn't laugh. I can't say that I laughed a lot though. I also can't say that I found Craig's work super clever. That is a little disappointing. His first film showed so much potential and promise, this just felt like a bad parody. But when good moments land, they land hard. I still think that Craig is still a fun director and storyteller. I just hope he does something ambitious again, instead of something that feels like product.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Review: "Logan Lucky" is another slick, sleek heist movie by Steven Soderbergh

Logan Lucky Review

I really enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" movies. I liked the first and the third film the most, but the second film was still very enjoyable, even if it did feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the films. For a trilogy that originally began as a remake, I hope that is saying something. I guess I should say that I saw Soderbergh's remake before I saw the original Rat Pack version, which may have affected my thoughts a bit. The Rat Pack "Ocean's Eleven" isn't something people think of when they reflect on the classics from the 1960's, but I think its an incredibly fun movie. What Soderbergh did though is something I wish more people did with remakes, he took what made the first film work and expanded on the good. Trimming the fat of the thing too. He didn't just make a frame-by-frame reshoot for monetary profit.

Soderbergh has returned to the heist movie with "Logan Lucky." Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" was a white collar heist movie, "Logan Lucky" is a blue collar heist movie. I am almost certain that Chris Pratt will love this movie. Now, two movies cut from the same cloth by the exact same director, does that mean that both movies are the exact same? Absolutely not. I will say that there are similar musical scores, there is some of that fun dialogue we know from Soderbergh, but much different and featuring a totally different tone to fit some of the more "redneck" aspects of the movie. Plus, I will argue that you should pay attention. I am sure some people will argue that "Logan Lucky" is just redneck "Ocean's Eleven," but that couldn't be further from the truth.

The Logan family is actually pretty unlucky at the beginning of the movie. We learn that Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a blue collar laborer who could have had a promising football career before a terrible injury. He is also divorced by his wife (Katie Holmes) who is making it harder for Jimmy to see their daughter. Jimmy's brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost his arm during the Iraq war and now runs a bar. The family curse runs throughout many generations seemingly and at the beginning of the film, Jimmy loses his job. The brothers are feeling desperate for cash and they are feeling of turning to a life of crime, something both brothers used to deal in at one time or another. They plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on race day during Memorial Day weekend. They ask for the help of their sister (Riley Keough) and career criminal Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who is in prison and will be during the race. How will the brothers break Bang out of prison to assist them in a heist?

The film is very funny, although its doesn't feature as many punchlines as "Ocean's Eleven" did. The pacing is also a big issue. The movie just doesn't move at an exciting pace as some of Soderbergh's other fun movies. Soderbergh kind of jumps back and forth between smart, cerebral dramas where he purposefully draws out scenes and then he punctuates his time with fun films like this or "Oceans" or "Haywire." With "Logan Lucky," it sometimes feels like he is trying to blend both of his talents together. Its a ballsy move if anything, but its kind of a nightmare pacing wise. I thought the movie took its time really getting going, instead of just throwing us into this world and there were moments that drag in between. Not nearly enough to derail the film by any means.

Daniel Craig has all of the best dialogue and moments in the movie, and he definitely comes out this thing as the favorite of the film. Who would have known Craig could be so blisteringly funny at times? Not to say that Channing Tatum and Adam Driver aren't good, because they definitely are. People keep talking and talking about Matthew McConaughey's Renaissance in his career, why is nobody talking about Channing Tatum's? This is a guy that felt like he was going to be another annoying heartthrob. But lately he's been playing to his strengths and really pushing the boundaries as a performer, and its leading to a rewarding career. Adam Driver is also proving more and more how strong a performer he is as well and that he isn't going to be the "Star Wars" guy. By any means. Its the small roles that are going to sneak up on you. Seth McFarlane shows up here, sporting a British accent. At first I didn't realize it was him, but it definitely is. He only has a few scenes, but he makes the most of his screentime. Hillary Swank also doesn't have that much screen time as an FBI agent hot on the trail of the Logan brothers, but she certainly makes the most of her time onscreen.

The familiarity may be a little too much for some audiences to get past. But Soderbergh was planning on being done with directing in 2013. He's been done since that year. He wanted to jump back in and direct a movie just to shoot this script. Maybe some things are similar to "Ocean's Eleven" by design. But the characters stakes, their emotional journeys and their interplay is so vastly different that I can't just call this a retread. Its too bad if Soderbergh is truly done, because he could have been the master of heist comedies. I mentioned Chris Pratt earlier in this review, because he recently got some unwanted heat for saying how blue collar workers are rarely represented in blockbusters. This feels fresh because its taking place in a world we really do barely see on screen, and part of the films fun is using the deep south as a character onto itself. 

But even if you find it too familiar or even if you find it slow at some points, the film is still very successful at entertaining the hell out of you. This was one helluva way to end summer 2017 for me. Hats off to the cast and the crew who put this fun little piece of candy together. I really hope audiences really start chomping at the bits to this, because this is a big, contact-high of a movie. 

FINAL GRADE: B+