Sunday, June 30, 2019

Overlooked Film of the Week- Boy Erased

Overlooked Film of the Week

Boy Erased
Even though I participate in predictions and watch each year religiously, the Oscars sometimes bother me. Simply because they take such small looks at years of movies, something I feel should be a limitless look, and push those movies to the forefront. They make it seem like each year is only defined by a small amount of movies that are, lets face it, picked and chosen to fit an agenda and are campaigned for the most. Not for some genuine need to find the best of the best. Movies nominated for the Oscars are the equivalent of being told to eat your vegetables. 

"Boy Erased" was a movie I figured would be a big name in this years Oscar race, and it was pretty much nowhere. Once I finally caught up to the movie, I was blown away by how much I loved the movie and I was equally blown away that it went quietly into the night during the Awards season this year. "Boy Erased" is a downright beautiful movie. It should have been awarded for some awards this year. It is brought together by a great cast, keenly directed by Joel Edgerton. Plus, its a movie that delivers an important message without ever feeling like its pandering to its audience. Not an easy feat, that. I think if everyone saw this movie, we could, at the very least, understand each other.

You probably have at least seen Lucas Hedges in a movie sometime between now and 2016. He's a bright young actor who is on the rise. He also seems to specialize in playing troubled teens. In "Boy Erased," Lucas Hedges plays Jared Eamons, a young boy in high school who is just trying to find himself. He comes from a loving but extremely religious family where his father Marshall (Russell Crowe) is a pastor of his local church. There is one problem with Jared, one he realizes fairly early in the movie. He doesn't find it a problem and it certainly isn't an actual problem. But Jared realizes he is gay. This is bad because he has no idea how his ultra-religious father will react to this. In the middle of his first year of college, he finally comes out to his father. Marshall seems to think he can become straight and sends his son to a Conversion Therapy center through a church.

Conversion Therapy camps were a hot topic during Decision 2016, because of Mike Pence's support of them. There are people who really believe, and try to explain through science, research and psychology, that homosexuality can be cured. The methods used in these camps range from emotional abuse to downright physical harm and after hearing survivor's stories on YouTube, well its quite eye-opening. No matter what you believe, torturing people is not right and assault like this should be a crime. 

"Boy Erased" kind plays like slow burn horror film. The boys at this Conversion Therapy camp aren't hurt right off the bat, but the camps director Victor Sykes (played by Edgerton himself) tries to connect a personal trauma to the reason why the boys are gay, and also tries to get the boys to do "manly things." The emotional abuse begins to heat up gradually, and you see the boys and Jared are in over their heads. Still, out of the love for his family, Jared wants to continue on with the program, even though its at odds with who is truly is as a person.

Joel Edgerton has been a remarkable actor who has recently been jumping into directing and what's been amazing to see so far is that he's almost a Jack-of-all-trades. His first directorial debut was "The Gift," which felt like a modernized Alfred Hitchcock thriller. "Boy Erased" is something completely new. A brilliant character-study of a young man trying to find himself in the most hellish terrain possible and how families change for those they love, when that love is real. As things get worse, its the love of Jared's mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman) that wins the day. The rapport between Kidman and Hedges dominates the film, and both actors are very good here. Nancy becomes more concerned with the love of her son rather than her beliefs in God.

Singer Troy Sivan plays one of the boys in the camp. He also sang the song from the movie "Revelation." I can't believe this song did not get nominated for Original Song. Its crazy. What's interesting is how the song sounds like a religious hymn, an almost meta meaning behind it all. Sivan is gay himself and religion has been tied to homophobia in our country. For a song about love and devotion to someone of the same sex, there is lots of meaning to it, especially taking into account its holy feel to the music. It is beautiful.

Acting is amazing all around. Edgerton is smarmy in all the right ways and creates a subtle foil to Jared. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers shows up as one of the camps counselors and holy crap. Its one of the best supporting performances of 2018. That's right. Flea. The Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave one of THE performances of last year. As always, Russell Crowe is still one of the most reliable actors working today. When Jared confronts his father and lays it all out at the end of the movie, but still wants to have his father as apart of his life...its amazing wordless acting by Crowe.

I hope future generations can see this movie and hopefully we can understand each other better and hopefully the future will be even better for everyone. Love is love and its all love.

Review: "Annabelle Comes Home" is the best stand-alone Annabelle film

Annabelle Comes Home Review

Hollywood has become the business of setting up a universe of movies. Sequels and prequels won't do the trick. We need entire worlds on our screens now. So far, only one company has done that well, and they are also the company that got it started. I am talking, of course, about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone else who has stepped up to try and get some of their own shared universe money have mostly fallen flat.

One franchise that has stayed in the game has been "The Conjuring Universe" and I really don't know what else to call this franchise. I just know that they've been keeping in the game ever since "The Conjuring" hit theaters in 2013, introducing us to Ed and Lorraine Warren, two experts in demonology and paranormal investigators. They have a room of artifacts they've continually blessed over the years, and that can lead to a huge host of stories. Which the franchise have indulged. Again, not all the "Annabelle" movies are that good and "The Nun" was pretty terrible. But they've kept the stories coming and people are enjoying what they are seeing. This third Annabelle movie is the best so far.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga return as Ed and Lorraine and as the movie opens, they are taking Annabelle off the hands of a poor family. On the drive home, the doll is definitely starts messing with them and an opening title card says that the Warrens thought that the doll was the most malovent artifact they ever gathered. Funny, the real Annabelle doll was a Raggity Anne doll. Its drives me nuts that Hollywood seems to have the need to purposely make things look scary. When something normal acting abnormal would be scarier. But that's just a personal hang-up.

We jump in time a bit and meet Ed and Lorraine's daughter Judy (McKenna Grace). Judy is sorta like the typical creepy kid we see in movies like this and I wonder if the real Judy was actually like this in real life. The Judy we see is skittish and a loner, the type of girl we'd expect to see from demonologist parents. She is frequently bullied and she's unsure if anybody is going to come to her upcoming birthday party. She is already seeing things and testing her clairvoyance. One person close to her in her life is her babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) who is watching her overnight while her parents are out. Mary Ellen's friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) invites herself over to the house after the Warren's leave. She's interested in their jobs and interested in their room of artifacts. At first, I was ready to write the movie off. Because of course Daniela gets herself into the room of artifacts and starts messing with them. Despite Mary Ellen and Judy telling her not to. I figured this would be another case of teenagers behaving in a way that teenagers don't really do in order to access cheap scares.

Turns out Daniela is going through a personal trauma and she wants answers, hoping to discover a life after Earth. Which leads her to wake up the spirit of Annabelle. While the movie is called "Annabelle Comes Home" it could have easily been called "Annabelle and Friends." Because Daniela literally messes with nearly all the artifacts in the room. When that happens and when the scary shit starts showing up. It. Literally. Never. Stops. "Annabelle Comes Home" is a relentless assault of scares of all types. It never gives you time to relax and catch your breath. It never stops scaring you.

Do all the scares work? Not really. Of course Mary Ellen has a crush. And of course that crush goes to the Warrens house to see her. And his big scene is that he is stalked by a werewolf. A completely CGI werewolf that doesn't look real. That made the whole auditorium erupt in laughter.

In speaking of an auditorium, this is a great audience movie. If you go for one reason, go with a crowd. Listen carefully to the other crowds. It will be part of the fun.

The acting stays consistent throughout the movie and this young cast does well. The movie doesn't shake loose all of its cliches. For a guy who has worked with children of all ages since 2010, I can tell you that children are not as stupid as ignorant adults like to think they are. I can't imagine teenagers behaving the way they do in some points in this movie. BUT tis what happens in horror movies in order to generate scares. I guess. Smart horror movies exist too, so it is possible to write horror movies with smart people. In fact, it makes those movies even scarier. This particular cast though gets you to care, and that is enough.

This movie could work as a gateway of sorts of other adventures. Lets dissect every artifact in that room. Let's hear the stories of all these things. While I liked this movie, I've had enough of Annabelle, give me some more stories in this universe though, I am having a good time here.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Review: "Child's Play" is, for better or worse, a step in the right remake direction

Child's Play Review
For about as long as I can remember, I've thought Hollywood has mistreated most remakes. They treat them like jukebox karaoke singings, mostly sung by really drunk, bad singers. They all look the same. The same scenes done over again, just with different actors. Seemingly pandering for the sake of pandering. I only thought Hollywood approached remakes only to make money, and usually there was no creative way to update the story in a meaningful way.

I have to say, whether you end up liking the new "Child's Play" or not, I hope we can agree that this is the template that should be used for future remakes. Right here. This movie isn't really a bunch of actors reacting scenes that are already iconic. This isn't actors going through the motions. The new "Child's Play" found a way to update the character, update the story, approach something familiar in a new way. The structure of the movie alone felt like absolutely not what I was expecting, and suddenly I felt on edge.

Not only that, but believe it or not, the new "Child's Play" is actually really entertaining. Once again, its got a voice of its own, and it maintains that voice all movie long. It's a movie that perfectly blends horror and humor in a big way. I know that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it works well for Chucky. I mean, the first "Child's Play" was pretty scary. The original Chucky was a pretty creepy looking doll and I know people who got nightmares just by looking at Chucky. But much like Freddie Kruger, Chucky eventually became a somewhat humorous serial killer. The sequels get a goofier and goofier as they go on and the new "Child's Play" definitely adopted some of that goofiness and humor. But the movie remains fun, and for those who like getting scared, horror movies are supposed to be fun. I don't think there is any material that is going to keep me up tonight, but there is so much that works that I am literally shocked.

The original "Child's Play" was very much voodoo horror. the spirit of a serial killer gets transported magically into the doll body of Chucky and it begins terrorizing people. Every time we think the old Chucky is destroyed, he magically puts itself back together again. That was mythology of the original Chucky. In this update, we learn about Kaslan Corporation created a line of high-tech dolls called Buddi. Buddi dolls are designed to control all technology in your home. He can adjust the temperature of your house if you have an electronic A/C unit. It can record your TV programs. It can control those independent vacuums. In Vietnam where the Buddi dolls are being made, a worker is fired for being insufficient. Out of revenge, the worker removes any safety protocols before committing suicide, and of course, this manipulated doll is delivered to the main characters in the story.

We are living in a transitional period with our technology. I've read stories about Amazon Alexa machines that heard people talking when they were supposedly turned off and made suggestions. I've read stories where people argue that the government is spying on us through our smart TV's and our Pokemon Go apps. I look something in passing on my PC and then I see advertisements for them everywhere. It seems like so much new technology is reading our minds, telling us things we want to hear. Its efficient, but it is downright scary. I know my parents got rid of their Alexa machine, because they were positively spooked by the stories. I am a little scared how technology will change in the future. This new "Child's Play" taps into that fear of easy technology that may not have our best interests at hand, and that simply don't leave us alone.

The manipulated doll gets put into a shop in Chicago. One clerk Karen (Aubrey Plaza) takes in the doll after its returned for being "too weird." He wants to do something special for his son Andy (Gabriel Bateman), a person she is desperately trying to understand. Its just Karen and her son at home, and she's doing everything for him. He ends up liking the doll and the doll seems to instantly imprint on Andy. It starts out that Andy gives Buddi, who eventually calls itself Chucky, some fun back and forth. Then he starts talking in depth about his life and his wants and needs to Chucky, and Chucky becomes overprotective over the boy. Chucky doesn't become a killer because their is a serial killer inside him. He sees it as no other option to be there for Andy. Andy is mistreated by Karen's boyfriend, and he doesn't have lots of friends. Its crazy that in the beginning, we kinda sympathizes with Chucky.

Let's talk about Mark Hamill's work. I love what Brad Dourif did with Chucky originally. But I have to give Hamill credit for making the role his own. There is no Dourif imitation in his voice work and for the guy who gave us the best Joker I can think of, it doesn't surprise me that Hamill has made another iconic character simply through his voice. It feels like a meta casting, simply because Hamill also voiced the character on "Robot Chicken," but Hamill gets very funny and very scary at different points in the movie, and its excellent work.

"Child's Play" isn't a perfect movie. I am not crazy of the Chucky design. I think Hollywood remakes are still going out of their way to try to make old characters scary looking, when if they just wrote scary characters, it would work better. But hey, the original Chucky was scary-looking, so I guess that was what they were aiming for. Its also more goofy and funny instead of genuinely scary. Its a gorefest and that is my least favorite type of horror. With all of that said, there is plenty to be fun with this movie. It's also a remake that actually feels like a remake. Thank God for that!


Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: Pixar defies the odds and goes 4 for 4 with "Toy Story 4"

Toy Story 4 Review
"Toy Story" must be Pixar's baby.

They certainly treat it as such.

It makes sense, the first "Toy Story" was 1995 and it really put Pixar on the map in a big way. "Toy Story 2" was the company's first sequel and soon after, they would be known as a company that didn't really play the sequel game. When Pixar finally decided to really start playing the sequel game, none of them measured up to the "Toy Story" sequels. Any of the three of them. The sequels to "Cars" are just mediocre, as is "Finding Dory." I am usually not a prequel person myself and sitting through "Monster's University" once was enough. When I rewatched "The Incredibles 2" to decide if I'd put it on my Best of 2018 list, I found myself impatient watching it a second time, and I am not sure it's a sequel built to last.

It seems like the "Toy Story" movies were destined to stand the test of time. It could just be my bias. I've had this little franchise of films ever since I was in Kindergarten. By the time I was in the middle of college, "Toy Story 3" came out, and I couldn't believe that the trilogy was still so profound all these years later. I figured they'd stop after three movies. What other stories could they possibly tell? What else needed to be said with these characters? It didn't seem like anything else, and the trilogy capped things off with an ending that was as close to perfect as it could get. Trilogies are hard to pull off in the first place, so knowing we had three great movies was a blessing.

There was no way a fourth film could work, right? My expectations have been really low ever since a fourth film was announced. I thought it would just be a cash grab, nothing to it but monetary profit. Even though Tom Hanks and Tim Allen talked it up, I still couldn't 100% give myself over to the idea of a fourth film we didn't need. Perhaps the low expectations made this experience a good one. I can't believe I am about to type these words but Pixar has gone four-for-four with their "Toy Story" movies. I can't believe I am saying that "Toy Story 4" is an excellent movie. Full of things I never would have guessed I'd see in a Pixar movie.

As the film begins, we learn what happened to Bo (Annie Potts), Woody's little girlfriend from the first two movies. We learned that she was given away sometime between 2 and 3, but we just didn't know how. We learn that she was given to a new family when Andy's little sister decided she didn't want her anymore. After the opening scene, we go back to Woody and the whole gang, adjusting to life as toys to Bonnie. The problem is Bonnie doesn't play with Woody much recently. Sure, she loves all of her toys, but she does have favorites, as all children do. Woody just isn't getting chosen as often as he was when he was with Andy. Woody being Woody, he sneaks into Bonnie's backpack when she goes to Kindergarten Orientation Day, just to be sure she has a good day.

She's pretty lonely at the start though, and Woody works behind the scenes to try and make Bonnie's day better. Which leads to the invention of Forky (Tony Hale). Forky is a spork with two googly eyes glued on it and paper for a mouth and a pipe cleaner for arms. Bonnie's creation makes her day so much better and she brings Forky home. She loves her new character. Thing is, when Woody introduces him to the rest of the toys, he runs straight to the trashcan. He is constantly trying to destroy himself. Because he knows he's not a toy, he wasn't created to be a play thing, he was created to be used then disposed of. Woody is constantly saving him, he knows the value Bonnie puts on Forky and he will do everything he can to show Forky how much he means to Bonnie.

Bonnie's family takes her on a surprise mini-vacation to celebrate how much of a good girl she was at Orientation and this leads to Woody and Forky getting lost due to all their bickering. They bond while trying to get back to Bonnie's family trailer and on the way back, Woody hears a voice from the past. The voice coming from an Antique store. Its Bo. The Bo we remember. When Buzz realizes Woody and Forky are missing, he goes out to look for them. All the while a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) is also at the Antique Store wanting Woody's voice box. This is the major crisis of the story, because it wouldn't be a "Toy Story" without a major crisis.

As we learn Bo is a toy free from any ownership, who helps other lost toys find kids, and while Forky brings everything back to being "Bonnie's trash" the metaphor that "Toy Story 4" is making comes quite clear. I've seen children's films challenge the zeitgeist. I've seen bold statements on social issues made in family films before. But one thing I didn't expect from a "Toy Story" movie was a metaphor for existentialism. And the way the film goes about discussing this topic, still wrapped in its happy-go-lucky, children's animation is rather remarkable.

I don't think I really need to tell you about the animation itself. Its Pixar for crying out loud, and they are once again at the top of their game. It was funny watching a special on the entire series before the films release over the weekend. Because even in high definition, you can still see the seams of mid-1990's computer generated animation watching the first "Toy Story." It really is amazing how far we've come in the animation field and the attention to detail in this fourth chapter is powerful on such a grand scale.

Now, is "Toy Story 4" as good as the other three? Honestly, I am not sure. Don't get me wrong, "Toy Story 4" is a great, great movie. Probably one of the very best you'll see all summer. I am just not sure it hit in the heart on the same level the past three films did. There is no scene that can even compare to the incinerator scene from "Toy Story 3." The reason why "Toy Story 3" felt like a perfect ending was how Andy gave away the toys as he went off the college, and that goodbye scene before the credits still hits hard almost a decade later. "Toy Story 4" will definitely give you all the feels by the end, but for completely different reasons. Also, for reasons I didn't find as emotional. By the end of "Toy Story 4" characters are saying goodbye all over again, and it feels like a stutter.

"Toy Story 4" also doesn't feel like a complete "Toy Story" movie. This is mainly a Woody and Bo adventure, with Buzz pretty much a supporting character. The other fan favorites like Jessie, Bullseye, the Potato Heads, Slinky Dog and the rest are pretty much regulated to cameos. I would be lying if I said that didn't bother me, and I would have preferred a story that featured all of Andy's ex-toys as big parts of the plot. I guess its a good thing that the new toys Woody encounters are so much fun. Keanu Reeves plays Duke Caboom; a Canadian Evel Kenival if you will. Who was abandoned and now doesn't have the confidence in himself that he once had. Oh my God is Reeves hilarious as a voice actor, breathing life into a character I didn't know he could. Reeves created my favorite character in the entire movie. I was also pleased as punch that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele show up as Ducky and Bunny, two plush toys who help Buzz find Woody. 

I may not think "Toy Story 4" quite lands the emotional sledgehammer they are so graciously aiming for. But that doesn't matter. There were moments in this movie where I was laughing through tears, moments that made my heart jump for joy. This is a tremendous edition to the franchise, both harrowing and hilarious. The rich animation makes for an experience to get lost in. I may end up preferring the first three to this one, but that doesn't change the fact that "Toy Story 4" is still a great experience. I didn't know I needed a complete ending to Woody's character and emotional arc, and now that I have it, it all feels right in the end. I will always have a friend in all four of these movies, to infinity and beyond.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: "Men In Black: International" is four times too many

Men In Black: International
Before we begin, I need to get something out of the way. I LOVE the first "Men In Black." It was a movie I watched quite a bit as a kid. I remember having an Agent K and a Edgar action figure. It was one of my favorite movies of the 1990's, one that I really go nostalgic for. The two were just that, they were sequels. They were fun, but they were disposable fun. They tried different things, but they just didn't hit the high I felt the first film did. Still, I will always have fond memories of the franchise as a whole.

The Hollywood landscape has changed drastically since 1997 though. One of the first things I wrote on my website here was how the idea of selling an idea using one or two A-List stars is dead now. You need a recognizable brand in order to build a franchise these days, and just because something was hot in the late 1990's and the early 2000's, does not mean there would be an audience today. The last "Men In Black" was only 2012, so perhaps there was still enough juice to make another go, even though the fourth film didn't feature the original two leads.

There was plenty of fighting between the director, the producers and the studio heads on "Men In Black: International," the new fourth film recently released. I can tell there were disagreements on this movie, it shows. "Men In Black: International" is mostly a mess. A forgettable chapter in this franchise that nobody asked to continue. Its a cobbled together Frankenstein Monster that feels like its three hours long. In short, nope doesn't work.

If you need more, I'd be happy to indulge. So let's jump in, shall we? First of all, like I said, even though the second and third films of this franchise were uneven, they at least tried something different. They at least expanded upon the universe in interesting ways. "MiB: International" is pretty much the same movie as the first. Tessa Thompson is a person who happens onto the MiB pretty much by chance, a la Will Smith. The movie vaguely ties into the past of another agent, a la Tommy Lee Jones. There is a royal alien in danger. You can tell they used the first film as a guide and built a movie that feels like it was made from a kit. Don't even get me started on all the callbacks to the first film either. Each and every one a stupid distraction. Oh, there's the pug that can talk! Oh, there's the noisy cricket! Oh, the cars are so fast! 

The thing is, old fans of this franchise aren't going to want to see the first film redone. New fans won't get half the callbacks to the old film. "Men In Black" was hit in 1997, but lots of kids who have the summer off don't remember that year, perhaps they weren't even born yet. This film suffers from the same problem "Independence Day: Resurgence" did. In 2019, I don't know if there is a strong enough audience for this. You have to think outside the box if you are really going to get it work and this is a film that played everything safe.

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are solid leads, and they play their parts well. Hemsworth will be a movie star for quite awhile, and Thompson is right behind. There is no doubt that they had a blast making this. There are actors like Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kumail Nanjiani, all of whom give it their all. There is really no fault in the performances, I just wish what this cast would have done with a better script. The visuals have that cartoonish, exaggerated animation to them, which became kind of a hallmark after the first film. I liked seeing those.

For an hour and forty-five minute movie, it feels overly-long. There seems to be one main villain, but then there is another, and then another. The film feels like a climax that doesn't end once it rolls to the end. There are also times when the it doesn't even feel like a "Men In Black" movie. I want to see cool guns and gadgets in a "Men In Black" movie, clumsy fighting scenes I can do without.

I know Sony fought hard to make another one, but sometimes its better to leave something alone. How many great fourth movies can you name?


Monday, June 17, 2019

The Banana Splits Movie

I wasn't alive yet in the 70's, so I did not see The Banana Splits show. Apparently, there is going to be a movie about the old children's show. But it is going to be horror?

I wonder if this does well if we'll get a Sesame Street horror movie?

Review: "Murder Mystery" is a somewhat funny Aniston/Sandler romp, but ultimately predictable

Murder Mystery Review
The long Adam Sandler experiment on Netflix has shaken out just as you'd expect. There are lots of silly comedies starring Sandler that have filled up on the streaming service. Some have been good, most have been forgettable, which is a nice way of summing up Sandler late in his career. What's extra interesting is when he teams up with Jennifer Aniston. So far, including the new Netflix film "Murder Mystery," all three films of theirs have been the same. There is lying and deceit, there are exotic locations, and ultimately love wins. Certainly some nice messages, but I am left wondering when they'll decide to think outside the box.

In "Murder Mystery," Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston play Nick and Audrey Spitz. He's a cop who is struggling to become detective and she's a hairdresser who is addicted to murder mystery books. They are the type of couple who had many dreams and things they wanted to do as a couple, but they just never got there. Time got away from them, and Nick didn't move up the latter as fast as he thought he would. As the film opens, Nick has once again not got detective and he's running out of courage to tell his wife. Nick promised a long time ago that he'd take Audrey to Europe, and Audrey is starting to think they'll never go. As a way to dodge telling Audrey the truth, he takes her on the much anticipated Europe trip.

While on the plane to Europe, completely by chance. Audrey strikes up a conversation with Charles Cavandesh (Luke Evans) an uber-rich guy who was off to a family meeting, and on a whim invites Audrey and Nick to a party on his family yacht. When they think their original plans are too boring, they reluctantly agree. They meet actress Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terrance Stamp), his son Tobias (David Williams), his girlfriend he stole from Charles (Shiori Kutsuna), a race car driver (Luis Geraldo Mendez) and a colonel (John Kani). The meeting is about who will get the Quince family fortune, which he ends up giving to the girlfriend. Before he can sign the will, the lights go out, and he is killed. 

This is a movie where everybody at the party has a motive to want the Quince fortune. For a little while, it feels like Agatha Christie on a boat. After a few more bodies pile up, the main suspects are the Spitz's, who have to try and clear their names. Audrey tries to help using her mystery book obsession, and Nick tries to use his detective skills he knows he has. Of course, his lie will come to light. Of course the couple will help each other figure out the case. Of course, they will use the skills they have to figure out the murder.

What's even less surprising is that the mystery is pretty straightforward. You'd think for the amount of time spent developing Audrey's obsession with mystery novels, that the movie would have a trick or two up its sleeve. Well, don't make me laugh, the mystery in this movie is about as basic as it gets and very little is surprising. Sandler and Aniston are Sandler and Aniston, they have both developed two movie star personas that they use well. I'll admit there were a couple times when Sandler really cracked me up, still he's been funnier in the past. Luke Evans looks built to play a smuggish aristocrat and there really wasn't anything surprising about his performance.

If you want a good Netflix original with Sandler, check out "The Week Of." Its a funny movie, but its got real heart and soul in it too. It seems when Sandler and Aniston team up, they go through the motions. "Murder Mystery" is nice fluff, but fluff nonetheless.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Doctor Sleep Trailer

It was my dad that got me on Stephen King. One of the first King books I read was "The Shining."

I didn't see the Stanley Kubrick movie until much later in life, and even though it really isn't the book, Kubrick was able to make something that still truly terrifying. There are some adaptations that truly ADAPT the books, and sometimes there are REACTIONS to things. I believe Kubrick's "Shining" was a reaction.

In 2013, Stephen King wrote a book called Doctor Sleep and picked up Danny Torrence, the main character in "The Shining," as an adult. They are now adapting the movie into the book and it really, really looks like a straight up sequel to Kubrick's classic.

There are going to be some things that will be interesting about this adaptation. In the Kubrick movie, the chef Dick Hallorann died, he did not die in the book, and he later teaches Danny to restrain his shining powers, as Dick has them too. I wonder if that will just be a thing in the movie that gets omitted. There is updated imagery here I never thought I'd see again, and its certainly made me curious to see.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: DC Animation can't lose! A look at "Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"

Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
When I was a wee lad, I used to collect action figures. You can also bet I would soak up any cool cartoon I could at any given moment. I loved the "Batman The Animated Series." That will, in my mind always go down as the best Batman cartoon ever. Probably the best Batman series, period. Growing up in the 1990's, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was at the height of its popularity as a cartoon. There were all sorts of action figures in my collection, characters from fandoms of all kinds. When I had friends over or if I was just playing by myself, I'd make up crossovers before making crossovers became cool.

If I were a kid growing up right now, I'd probably would have lost my mind for "Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." I definitely would have lost it growing up in the 1990s. Who wouldn't want to see Batman teaming up with the Ninja Turtles. Sure, sometimes they'd fight each other. But their heroes, it really isn't a spoiler that they'd come together as allies. Fans of either property is really going to love this movie. Its fun how it all comes together. Batman is the stern upper lip, no-nonsense leader and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Well, they are just that, with each of their individual personalities still intact.

Shredder makes his way to Gotham City. He has formed an alliance with Ra's Al Ghul. The Shredder wants the secrets to the Lazarus Pit in order to achieve immortality, and Ra's Al Ghul wants the mutating ooze to make his assassins stronger in battle. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles follow Shredder and his Foot Clan to Gotham. Batman is already investigating and can see something is on the rise. The two factions of heroes eventually team up to stop Shredder and Ra's. Along with a bunch of mutated Gotham villains.

Oh yes, imagine a Snake version of The Joker

If you've been having fun with the animated DC movies, get ready for their most ambitious crossover! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: "Dark Phoenix" feels like the first X-Men movie that is phoning it in

Dark Phoenix Review
Just in case anybody didn't know, there is a re-release of "X3: The Last Stand" in theaters right now!

Wait, what?

If there is one big ticket franchise that has been moving forward in a very weird way, its been the "X-Men" franchise. You can almost compare it to the James Bond movies of the 1960s through the 1990's. Each movie seems to beat to sound of their own drum. No matter what they do, continuity doesn't seem to be a factor in the storytelling at all, and if you think about the continuity of the franchise for too long, you will give yourself a migraine. It was a franchise with a difficult birth. Fox studio head Tom Rothman tried tooth and nail to bury the franchise at every turn. He didn't believe it would make money, so he tried to torpedo it immediately to save face. The thing was, the franchise did catch on. It was one of the key ingredients we needed to really get the superhero movie culture we are living in today.

The X-Men are my favorites. I've always had such a deep love for the characters. They are my favorite of the Marvel stable, and I hope that says something, because I prefer Marvel to DC. I love these characters, I loved them growing up. I continue to enjoy X1 and X2. X3 is a mediocre effort, there is some silliness to it, but some parts are okay. I would rather not talk about "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." New life was breathed into the franchise with "X-Men: First Class." I really liked "The Wolverine" and "Days of Future Past." I thought "Apocalypse" was decent, not bad and not good, decent. The "Deadpool" movies are great, but they are on an entirely different wavelength. Overall, its been a fun series. 

This leads us to "Dark Phoenix," the last mainstream X-Men movie in the Fox franchise. Yes, we are getting one more spin-off, so this is essentially it. Just as I feared, its essentially a remake of X3. Do you guys remember X3? The X-Men movie from 2006? It told a half-assed Dark Phoenix Saga adaptation, the biggest problem was that major story was shoehorned into another story. Like I said, there are some things I like and some fun in it, but its mostly a mess to get through. "Dark Phoenix" may have an entire runtime to itself and it doesn't really have to share itself with another story. But it's essentially a remake of X3.

I mean, here's just a quick list of similarities. Jean Grey acquires strong powers as a child. Jean Grey meets Charles Xavier. Xavier takes young Jean Grey to his mutant school. He puts mental blocks into her head to keep her from using her power. Her powers get unlocked. Some major characters die. She seeks help from Magneto. She gets manipulated by a greater evil. She turns a bunch of people into molecules. Heck, even the set during the final fight in "Dark Phoenix" looks eerily like the set from "X3." Its like they didn't even try to do anything different.

This new movie follows the comic books just a little bit better, and maybe that will make comic fans happy. But the movie as a whole is burdened with the feeling of "been there, done that" and it almost makes the movie slightly embarrassing. Jennifer Lawrence seems like she's been phoning it in as Mystique since "Apocalypse." and she comes off mostly bored in this movie. Plus, she gets a big SJW line that is shockingly bad. If you thought the A-Force reference in "Avengers: Endgame" was bad and forced (I'd personally disagree with you) just wait until you hear the name change Mystique suggests. I was a fan of Sophie Turner on "Game of Thrones" but here, much like Lawrence, she seems bored by the whole thing. Tye Sheridan  has always come off as a blank and while it slightly worked for him in "Ready Player One," he never really comes off like Cyclops, but maybe a Cyclops impersonator.

There are a couple of performances that stand out. James McAvoy is still a convincing Professor X as is Micheal Fassbender as Magneto. Fassbender has crafted a performances so canny that I feel like he's set a new definition of the character, separate from Sir Ian McKellen's. Nicholas Hoult is still a striking Beast, and still pours plenty of emotion into his character. Evan Peters once again has some great moments as Quicksilver, but he's knocked out of the movie fairly early. That's a damn shame, he stole two movies and the thanks he gets is getting sidelined for this entire movie. Plus, the hint that maybe Magneto and Quicksilver are related is totally dropped here. Alexandra Shipp does a nice accent and newcomer Jessica Chastaine was apparently told to just stare glumly at the camera and blankly blurt out dialogue.

The special effects are about as standard as they come for X-Men movies and I have always dug that there was a certain look to the spectacle of these characters that separated itself from the MCU. After so many superhero movies, and after each of these movies creating fantastic superhero scenes (and some mind-numbing superhero scenes) "Dark Phoenix" is oddly normal looking. Like every other X-Men movie, some characters are given no traits to play with and just show up to simply show off their powers. It never quite hits the epic feeling it so strongly wants to.

Some fans have been wry of X-Men going back to Disney, but perhaps that might be a good thing. Fox had a decent run, no doubt about it. We certainly owe Fox as fans our thanks for really helping turn the tide on the attitude toward superhero movie, because we wouldn't be in the golden age we are in now if we did. But all good things must come to an end, and telling from "Dark Phoenix," the train may be coming into the station one last time.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: "Godzilla: King of Monsters" is the king of monster movies

Godzilla: King of Monsters" Review

I get the biggest kick out of people who put so much energy toward analyzing a tomato meter and using it to decide if they like a movie or not. I mean, even though there are some critics I read faithfully and trust dearly, I still feel I have to give every movie a shot myself. I have never said to myself, "well so and so doesn't like it, so it won't be for me." Most critics use some kind of hivemind and will repeat the same titles like a mantra. I could care less about all that. I started this blog due to my passion towards movies, and that has fueled this blog ever since. 

Here's my dirty little secret. I don't care what a critic says about a movie. Just like I don't care how much money a movie makes. Those things don't stop me from loving the movies I love, and I sure hope its the same for you. The average critic will look at a movie like "Godzilla: King of Monsters" and write it off right away. It has big monsters, its CGI-ridden, the storyline is goofy. The average critic should know better. Its a Godzilla movie. I wasn't expecting an award-worthy screenplay. I wasn't expecting a thought-provoking story. You go to a movie like "Godzilla: King of Monsters" to watch some giant monster mayhem. That's the experience, that's what this new movie delivers. If you went to see "Godzilla: King of Monsters" expecting anything more, that is on you, not the movie.

Let's discuss what's important here. Some critics have complained that the monster fights are too dark in places. I say no, I could follow them just fine. Even when they take place at night there is an urgency to them, the use of the dark environment that allows you to really get into the fights. This isn't like the Long Night episode of "Game of Thrones" that recently aired. The monster fights scenes are so epically grand, that you will have to hold your head onto your body to make sure it doesn't spin off. They are tremendously made, and your eyeballs will thank you for all the pieces of candy they'll be eating.

I am sure when critics write about how bad this movie is, they are talking about the human plot. You don't watch a "Godzilla" movie for the human story. There's eco-terrorists trying to set monsters free, a government group trying to keep them alive and a father just trying to make it. Sometimes its hard to figure out who is on whose side. Sometimes its hard to read what the motives of the characters truly are. The human story is filled with actors like Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farminga, Kyle Chandler, Ken Wantanabe, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and they all do fine. Charles Dance shows up as a human villain who might as well have a mustache to twirl. The actors give it their all and they remember to have fun.

Depending on what type of movie fan you are, this will either be for you or it won't be. Some people love some good old fashioned monster mayhem in the summertime and others do not. Its up to you, just don't blame the movie for your problems.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark trailer

I've been a horror nut ever since I was very young and one of the first books I read was "Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark." I got the book before they did a recall of sorts and changed all of the illustrations in the book. Because lets face it, those illustrations were nightmarish and how myself or any kid for that matter didn't need therapy is a blessing. I have a soft spot for the book and I never thought I'd see it as a movie.

The movie is coming out soon. Guillermo del Toro is producing, which gives me good vibes. However, I am not a fan of a storyline that ties all the stories together. This would have probably worked better as a TV anthology series, in the vein of "Black Mirror." I think the wrap around plot will take away from the adaptation of the stories themselves, and that will be slightly infuriating. With that said, they've got the illustrations down perfect. There is some genuine creepiness in the trailer. I am just not completely sold on it, and that kind of breaks my heart a bit.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: "Brightburn" might just be the surprise of the season

Brightburn Review
Even if you've never picked up one of his comics. Even if you've never liked any of his recent movies. Superman is the most iconic and well known superhero in the world. Simply because he's the oldest superhero in the world. I mean he's called SUPERman for a reason. He's the guy that can do anything, but understands the meaning and responsibility of unlimited power. And he's always used it wisely. Even though he doesn't rank very high on the list of my favorite superheroes, I understand we wouldn't have a genre without him, and there wouldn't be these people called superheroes, which have been a big part of my life.

Superhero movies are big business right now. And as I've said before, as the genre is allowed to get weirder, people are going to try to start doing their own things with the genre. I think we've finally reached a pinnacle moment in the sub-genre of superhero movies, and how long the this money machine lasts will be up to Hollywood itself. It took a few decades for these characters to slowly get introduced to an audience, build up how each character is different and alike, set up their worlds, risk everything by making them interact. Now, characters were once C and D list heroes are now A list heroes, because the sub-genre has been so popular. A movie like "Avengers: Endgame" and "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" can make mad gobs of money, even though those are the two "silliest" superhero movies ever made story-wise. Finally, a genre that was looked at with disdain is now the gold standard in filmmaking. Sure, maybe Steven Spielberg is right, maybe this sub-genre can't last. But as long as artists continue to push themselves, that shelf life lasts longer.

We've received an onslaught of Marvel movies by this point, and it looks like we are about to get the same thing with DC. People are really beginning to get a general understanding between the differences of the two major comic book companies. They also understand outsiders like The Tick and Hellboy. It looks like its time for comic book movies to go"post-modern." When films like "Mystery Men" and "Chronicle" and "Hancock" tried that previously, they didn't work because the norms of the genre weren't established yet. As much as I think "Mystery Men" is one of the best superhero movies ever, it bombed because people didn't really get what they were watching. Now that we've had many movies in the superhero genre and we've seen how these worlds work, its about time we got some original voices thrown into mix, and see who could really subvert the franchise. It seems like the next step. But when M. Night Shyamalan tried it with "Glass," it still didn't hit the target it so desperately wanted to hit.

I am pretty sure "Brightburn" was the movie "Glass" wanted to be. 

You can watch a trailer for "Brightburn" and think. "Really, so basically he's Superman, but bad?" Like it or not, that's not an original idea, there have been plenty of stories published by DC where Superman went off his rocker. "Superman: Red Son" is a great what if story about what the world would have been like if Superman's pod landed in Communist Russia instead of America, and its a cool concept and an equally cool book. So just taking Superman's origin and changing him into a bad guy wasn't enough to grab my attention. Perhaps the low expectations is what made this such a great experience for me, because I can't believe how much I was entertained by this.

If you know Superman well, then this quick plot synopsis shall sound familiar. A family (Elizabeth Banks, David Denman) are ready for parenthood. Something crashes in their backyard. Soon after, they are raising a baby. The whole family lives on a farm. The boy, who will eventually be played by Jackson A. Dunn, begins to reveal he has superpowers. He is an introvert who is often bullied. It all sounds so familiar doesn't it? Except this story doesn't have a happy ending. One night, the boy named Brandon finds a mysterious spaceship buried in his backyard. Instead of getting a nice hologram message from his alien dad, Brandon is told to take the world, and take the world he does.

Yeah, its a pretty shameless "evil remake" of Superman. If that's really how you want to look at it. But how I saw it was a pretty damn good subversion of the superhero genre. A clever take on this type of movie told in a new light. You can get all caught up on how unoriginal it all is or can take it for what it is. The acting is pretty solid across the board, and the special effects is used sparingly. It just rugid enough to feel real world. Plus the blending of horror elements with the superhero genre doesn't sound like it should work, but somehow does. Because let's face it, if a Superman-like being introduced themselves tomorrow, how frightened would you be? Be honest.

The transition from horror to superhero movie is a little sloppy here and there, but there is a grand feeling of confidence that keeps you entertained. This movie is positively leveled with ambition and that is something that always counts with me. The story is simple and tight, its able to keep you focused and it all mostly makes sense. Unlike "Glass" where it felt like not everything really added up at the end. This one may shock people because its not something that will really make you feel good, they really aimed high when trying to blend horror with the superhero genre and its a job well done overall.

The ending of course points to a larger world. It looks like there is an evil Aquaman and an evil Wonder Woman running around somewhere. Also, if you really know your indie movies, there is a cameo that made me smile big during the mid-credits. If director David Yarovesky and Producer James Gunn plan on making their own "Warped DC Universe" on screen. I am definitely all in. 

Really what got me, and what usually gets me were the characters. Sure, they make some horror movie errors here and there, but the movie remains entertaining throughout. Jackson A. Dunn is quite the discovery here,  and I'll be curious to see him in other things in the future. It was only a year ago for me when I first became a dad, and while its been the greatest gift I've ever been given. Being a parent is hard work. You can read all the books and watch all the DVDs on parenting you can, but truly nothing prepares you for it. It can be a very anxiety-ridden experience, because you are responsible for keeping a small life form alive, healthy, and knowledgeable. Just one can be a juggling act that you do all day, everyday. As a parent, you want to get your kids on the right footing, make sure they grow up to be good people. I just don't know how I'd feel if I woke up on morning and found out my child had done something earth-shatteringly bad. Its probably a mini-nightmare for most parents. How do you make sure your kids make the right decisions when your not there. Can you parent too little? Can you parent too much? If "Brightburn" does anything, it subtlety pushes the nerves of parents and shows just how challenging it can be at times.

I always love it when I get an unexpected time at the movies. This is not at all what I imagined I'd see tonight nor is this the review I figured I'd write tonight. In the age when the superhero genre is reaching a certain saturation point, I hope we see more of this kind of movie being made and I hope this isn't the last time I get to visit Brightburn, Kansas.