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Here's some of my favorite movie memories from the 99 cent double feature days.
The House That Jack Built (2018)
Yes It Churned My Stomach, Blah
This movie churned my stomach not because it was gory--I saw the Amazon version which I'm assuming isn't the uncut version which would have four minutes more of what I'm assuming are just scenes of heads exploding and body parts getting cut off. It churned my stomach because there isn't a pleasant moment in this entire film and the camera is constantly shaky and there is a scene in which the camera spins around giving you motion sickness not to mention the long drawn out watch checking sequences of the killer talking to a Freudlike angel of death. Apparently they could only commission one early eighties song which plays over and over and over during the two and a half hours of this poorly acted mess and which might have made sense in Natural Born Killers but doesn't make that much sense here unless you just want to make mass murder seem groovy.
Actually, I started writing this review before I watched the last half hour of this film and now that I've finished it I just don't even know what to say. This film isn't a "dark comedy" as people claim, but the ending sequence is so idiotic and comedic it's just ridiculous. All in all this film is a waste of time. It has no point to it. If you just want to see Lars Von Trier's new form of masturbation, this is probably his greatest ejaculation of all time, but as a film with substance and purpose, this is like watching someone vomit for two and a half hours.
Dog Years (2017)
Sorry but a trashy version of Lost in Translation
Yeah, okay, I didn't even know the actress was what's her name from Modern Family. She seemed to be representing a stereotypical white trash character with no other purpose but to show her navel. Burt was great of course, because he's Burt. Which makes us wonder if art isn't imitating life or is life imitating art. Pfft.
Good Acting, Visually Disturbing, But Makes No Sense
Personally I think Toni Collette should at least be nominated for an Oscar for her performance here. She really nails a mentally unstable person going off the deep end. Unfortunately the movie itself might be better considered for a Razzie. It doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a movie about the delusions of a crazy person ala BUG or is it about something truly supernatural--or both? I'm betting it's trying to be both but, eh, that just doesn't work because in that case you can't follow anything, nothing makes sense and you can't really get too invested in the characters because you don't know if they're coming out of right or left field. And this film is way too long. At over two hours to be honest, it gets kind of boring.
Red Sparrow (2018)
Pretty Good Spy Film
You know when half the reviews are rating something a ten and the other half are rating it a one, that it actually falls somewhere in the middle of that.
I had watched some reviews that noted how explicit this film was going to be. It isn't that explicit. What year are we living in anyway? The film Hardcore came out in 1979. Color of Night came out in 1994. Are we really shocked that a film about Russian prostitute / spies has a few scenes of *gasp* sex in it, in the year 2018?
This movie isn't as slow as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but it's pretty slow. But who cares? Nobody ever said it was going to be Sucker Punch. It's a Soviet Era spy saga (I guess, though I admit the time frame of the film is confusing since they were still using floppy disks but you could buy a burner phone out of a vending machine).
I think the biggest problem this film has is that it stars Jennifer Lawrence. Don't get me wrong; she does an incredible job. But people still see her as the innocent girl from Hunger Games. People are clutching their pearls that she might, oh my god, take on a more complicated role for once. I think in the future, when she has starred in a larger variety of roles, this film will be much more appreciated because people will stop obsessing over preconceived notions about the actress and watch the actual movie.
And for everyone claiming this film is degrading to women or whatever, I guess they didn't stick around until the end.
Game Night (2018)
Had Me Laughing Most of the Time
To be honest, Game Night had me laughing out loud more than any comedy I've seen in many, many years. This isn't to say Game Night is some brilliant masterpiece of comedy, but it more so reflects how poor most comedies have been in comparison. Game Night is a good comedy, bordering on great but with a few issues that hold it back from getting there. As I said, I was laughing out loud in the theater, so if this is what you expect from a comedy, go for it.
The chemistry between Batemen and McAdams is good and that's the first hurdle this raunchy romp manages to clear. In fact, all of the characters are likable which is refreshing. And even though the plot borrows heavily from other films such as Date Night or Pineapple Express or dare I say even After Hours, nevertheless it works. It's funny and entertaining.
It's odd that there are so many references to pop culture, especially to other movies and to film stars. You would think there would be more references to games, since that's the theme of the film, but the only real reference to a game (other than the scenes during which they are actually playing a game) is a lengthy metaphor involving a classic video arcade game.
There are a few things that held this back from being genius instead of just good. For one thing, there are a few moments where my suspension of disbelief was shattered. The most major instance of this involves a serious injury that seems to appear and disappear depending on whether or not it is needed for a sight gag. Also there's a major plot twist toward the end that comes out of nowhere and seems just too far fetched, but if you stick around for the credits there's a rather hilarious montage that explains it and so that can be forgiven. Also, some of the jokes that were really funny at the beginning are used again and again and become impotent by the end, especially those involving a rather slow minded individual who says stupid stuff.
One of the most unforgiving flaws of this film is that at least three of the best gags in it are given away in the trailer. One in particular involves a jet engine. I won't go into spoilers but if you've seen the trailers, you know what I'm talking about. This could have been one of the most surprising, shocking and hilarious moments of the entire film, but since I already saw it in the trailer, it barely got a chuckle out of me.
But let me go back to what I said at the beginning. It had me laughing out loud. In fact, even after leaving the theater, for a couple of hours I was remembering pieces of it and laughing out loud about it after the fact. Rachel McAdams was particularly smart and funny throughout and even though the plot is convoluted beyond all measure, if you can forgive that and roll with the slapstick you'll have a hell of a good time.
Aus dem Nichts (2017)
The True Meaning of In the Fade Revealed
The following study is meant for those who have already watched the movie In the Fade. It contains spoilers.
The original title of In the Fade is Aus dem Nichts, or From Nothing. While the American title doesn't mean much, the German title offers a hint about how we should view this slow burner. What are we to gather from the "nothing" offered to us?
If we are to take this film at face value and believe what the film tells us, then there are no surprises. Katja Sekerci's husband and son get killed in a terrorist bombing in a Turkish neighborhood of Germany. Nazis are blamed for it and there's a trial. The Nazis get acquitted. Katja is out for revenge. All of that is revealed in the trailer and that's pretty much the surface of the story. However, there's a much deeper story being told here. It's what's not being told that fills in the blanks, so to learn the deeper story the information literally has to be pulled out of nothing.
Let's start at the beginning. Nuri Sekerci is in prison. Everyone is cheering for him and hugging him as he walks the hall. At one point he throws both hands up and flashes what appear to be gang signs. Everyone cheers. We find out he's walking the hall in order to go to a room to be married to Katja, a woman covered in tattoos. So right off the bat, we know these two aren't angels. He's a convict. She's a woman who is marrying a convict, a man she met because he was her drug dealer in college.
Flash forward. Now Katja is older. She's with her son Rocco. On their way to Nuri's office they nearly get hit by a car. She spouts profanities at the driver but surprisingly her little son Rocco spouts a more vulgar string of vulgarities. She laughs it off. Calls him a little "gangster." She drops her son off at her husband's office and something symbolic happens. She tells her little son not to look at the computer screen too much and his response is that he already wears glasses. Before she leaves, Nuri reminds her that she's forgetting her own pair of glasses. This suggests that Nuri and Rocco are seeing things clearly while Katja is oblivious.
While her husband is at his office working, she goes off with her pregnant friend for a relaxing day at the spa. That's her life I suppose. She slacks off as her husband works. On her return to her husband's office, that's when she learns that a bomb has gone off and both her husband and her son are dead.
From this point forward we are led to believe that Nuri had given up the drug business after the birth of his son and that the bombing was a random incident orchestrated by some Nazis who hated Turks and who didn't necessarily target Nuri or Rocco. But is getting out of drug dealing that easy? There are only two sources telling us that Nuri had gone straight and neither of them is reliable. The first is Katja, and she isn't completely convinced since she goes to her lawyer-friend Danilo to reassure her about it. Our second source is Danilo, who isn't a reliable source at all because he supplies Katja with a bag of drugs that he claims were given to him by some clients. It's one thing to defend drug dealers but another to accept drugs from them and then also distribute those drugs. Danilo is in the drug dealing business so how can we trust his word that Nuri wasn't?
During this meeting with Danilo, Katja suggests that the Nazis were behind the bombing. This suggestion comes quite out of the blue and Danilo doesn't seem very surprised by it. It's as if, without actually spelling it out for us, they are talking about a certain group of Nazis that they are familiar with, not just Nazis in general. There seems to be an unspoken suggestion that Nuri had some dealings with some specific Nazis. Perhaps he was supplying some Nazis with drugs and perhaps he did indeed go clean, cutting the Nazis off from their supply. This might inspire the Nazis to take action against him. Or perhaps Nuri was still in the drug trade and he was competing with the Nazis for the market. In any case, when the drugs her own lawyer supplied her cause Katja to end up in an interrogation room, and Katja suggests the Nazis killed her husband, the detective asks some logical questions, like were there any previous racist incidents in the neighborhood leading up to this. The answer is no, suggesting once again Nuri was the target and not just a random victim of a terrorist attack.
Katja is suicidal. We suddenly find her in the bathtub bleeding out, having cut both her wrists. The phone rings and it's the detective leaving a message on the machine saying she was right, Nazis were involved and the suspects have been arrested. With that glimmer of hope she puts her suicide attempt on hold for the time being. The only thing keeping her alive at this point is the anticipation of seeing the husband and wife Nazi team get justice. But they don't. They get acquitted.
Katja is a drug addict. She's also mentally unstable. These accusations were made by the sleazy defense lawyer, but if you think about it, it's true. First thing she does after the tragedy is score some cocaine and opium from her lawyer, and she smokes the opium out of a folded piece of aluminum as if she's done it a thousand times before. If her own lawyer hadn't supplied her with drugs, which she got busted for, the defense wouldn't have been able to use that against her when scrutinizing her credibility in court. She also physically attacks the defendant in court, suggesting again that she's mentally unstable. She personally sabotaged any hope of a guilty verdict by her own actions.
By this point there is something else that is perhaps keeping Katja alive, giving her a glimmer of hope. She hasn't had her period in months. Perhaps she's pregnant.
Katja plans her revenge on the Nazis. She builds a pressure cooker bomb similar to the one that was used on her family. This isn't so far-fetched. She has access to the trial evidence and during the trial the instructions on how to build such a bomb were clearly illustrated. Also, she was married to a drug dealing Turkish gangster. It's not all that hard to imagine that she might have had some experiences around bomb making. She locates the Nazis living in a camper on a beach in Greece and puts the bomb behind the camper wheel with the intention of blowing it up by remote control when the Nazis come back from their morning jog. But she gets cold feet and takes the bomb away. Could be she was still considering the possibility that she was pregnant, and she would certainly be arrested for murder, giving her unborn child no chance in life. Another reason might be the way the original bombing was described during the court proceedings: as cowardly.
But then she gets her period. She's not pregnant. She goes about her revenge once again, this time not in a cowardly way, not hiding in a bush at a safe distance with the detonator. This time she straps the bomb to her chest and walks right into the camper on the beach and blows it, herself and the Nazis to hell. She has become a suicide bomber.
Once when talking with her lawyer as they both were chugging shots of alcohol like it was going out of style, she posed a hypothetical: what if she and Rocco had been killed instead. Nuri would have taken matters into his own hands and wouldn't be sitting around putting up with the "chit chat." So in the end she did what Nuri would have done. If this line of reasoning is accurate, it would suggest Nuri was more than just a gangster and drug dealer, that perhaps he had ties to terrorists and perhaps there was a lot more going on "in the fade" or "out of nothing" than what was being supplied to us on the surface of this tale.
There was some kind of written statistic that flashed by so fast at the very end that I barely could read a third of it. It had something to do with how many attacks there are against immigrants, or something like that. I wonder if this bit of information was tacked on for an American audience since this film really isn't about immigrants being attacked. This film is a mystery, a character study about a drug addicted, suicidal, self-destructing woman whose drug dealing, gangster husband is murdered by some Nazis for a reason perhaps only she knew of but never revealed to us.
Den of Thieves (2018)
Chews Up Already Done Ideas and Spits Out Something Ho Hum
What we have with Den of Thieves is this: Gerard Butler doing an impersonation of Russell Crowe if he was doing an impersonation of Al Pacino's character in the legendary Michael Mann film Heat; put that collage of borrowed ideas up against Pablo Schreider (transformed from doofus George Mendez of Orange is the New Black) doing an impersonation of Jon Bernthal of the Walking Dead if he was doing an impersonation of Robert DeNiro's character in Heat; and then pit them both up against a wily O'Shea Jackson Jr. doing an impersonation of his father Ice Cube if he was doing an impersonation of Kevin Spacey's character in the film The Usual Suspects. Now. Throw in a scene in which 50 Cent does an impersonation of Martin Lawrence's character from Bad Boys II, add a pinch of the bank robbery from the film Dead Presidents but make it as complicated as something out of a Mission Impossible film, spice it up with a bunch of subplots about family that never develop into anything, and throw this entire done-before mess into the shredder and cross your fingers and hope that what gets spit out isn't just confetti for a snow globe.
Beware the p(l)ot holes near the billboards
I will say that I enjoyed this film, mostly due to Frances McDormand's performance. It was surprisingly funny given its subject matter. But after thinking about it for a few days after watching it, I have to say a few words about the writing, because it seems everyone is raving about how "Oscar worthy" the writing here is, and at first glance, I thought so too. But thinking back on it, I'd have to say the writing is actually pretty sloppy. There's a lot of stuff here that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I mean a lot. I can't explain this without revealing spoilers, so be warned.
--Most strikingly the (deputy?) Chief Dixon violently attacks Welby, busts his face with his gun, throws him out of a window and proceeds to kick him while he's down, all in eyes view of the new Chief Abercrombie. Sure, he gets fired. But not arrested? Not even sued?
--And as for Abercrombie. He shows up the morning after the previous Police Chief died and declares that "they" sent him as a replacement. They who? Is there some force outside of Ebbing that dictates who their police chief is? That part really didn't make any sense to me. Also, replacing one of the main characters halfway through the film, a character we're starting to get to know, with a stereotype that we don't know anything about, was rather odd.
--Someone lights the billboards on fire. But apparently only the paper on them burns, not the old wood that's been sitting there decaying since the 80s, because they are able to paste duplicate posters to the existing structures without any problems. That's laughable. That old wood would have been a pile of smoldering cinder.
--Mildred is portrayed as such a tough-ass, assaulting a dentist, kicking children in the crotch (with no repercussions I might add), storming into the police station spouting vulgarities, but when she's confronted by a guy who suggests he's actually the one who killed her daughter, she freezes and seems helpless. One might say the fact that she didn't go psycho in this scene is what makes this screenplay original but someone else, like me, might argue that it's just out of her character and doesn't make a lick of sense.
--Chief Willoughby for some reason is an old geezer but has a young, attractive Australian wife. He also has two young girls. Yet he's completely vulgar around them. While instructing them about a game of fishing he invents, he calls the blanket they are sitting on the "god-dam blanked"--twice--to little four or five year old girls. He says to his wife later that it's her turn to "clean the horse *hit" out of the barn. OK, I actually have quite a bit of experience tending horses. It's not called "*hit" it's called manure and you wouldn't even call it that--you'd just say "clean the barn" if you really owned horses. The writing of his character, other than the scene between him and McDormand while they were sitting on the swings, was actually horrible.
--Mildred burns the police station down, throwing 5 Molotov cocktails out of the still broken windows of the advertising agency across the street (not boarded up by then?). And the new Chief just accepts the explanation that she didn't do it because she was with James. No more investigation. Ho hum. Police station burned but oh well. And then a few scenes later, Dixon is apparently in the suppose to be burned down police station sitting there having a conversation with the new Chief.
--Dixon is a complete jerk to the bone. He gets a letter postmortem from the now deceased Chief. Suddenly he's a good guy. Yeah right.
I could go on and on with this but I'm afraid my word limit here is going to expire soon. I'll still give this film a 7 star rating because I DID enjoy watching it, but the writing here is really not all it's cracked up to be. It does feel like it's a big novel with a lot of twists, but in retrospect it's more like a parody of a big novel with a lot of twists, and the twists don't make a whole lot of sense.
IT . . . was just okay
I haven't read the book.
I actually paid $22 to see this on IMAX (well, what they're calling IMAX at the Regal anyway), that's how up for it I was. I very, very rarely pay to see a film in a theater with so many online options available, but hey, Richard Roeper said it was not only one of the best horror films ever made but one of the best films of ANY genre ever made. I should have known better. I lost respect for Roeper when he gave Jupiter Ascending an F. Anyway, no, it's not one of the best films ever made, not even one of the best horror films ever made, and I'll tell you why.
Mind you, I haven't read the book.
So what we have is Goonies or Stand By Me or more recently Stranger Things (you know, a group of boys, sometimes with one girl thrown in, having an adventure together), except this time around these kids aren't naive or innocent so to speak. They all have dealt or are currently dealing with some horrific trauma. It's a nice plot twist that IT feeds on their real life fears, but since their real life existence is actually in a way just as or more terrifying than a ghost clown is, it kind of makes the ghost clown less terrifying. All the adults in this film are just sons of bitches, so compared to this ghost clown, who isn't real so to speak and who isn't going to be around permanently, the adults in this film are more horrifying than the monster is. And the bullies, who are but a mere pack of caricatures, are so conscienceless and ruthless that they defy plausibility and once again come off as more menacing than even Pennywise.
Like I said I saw this in IMAX. I didn't really want to see it in IMAX but that just happened to be what was playing at the time of day I was available. And let me tell you it was LOUD. Way too loud. Too loud for a horror film. A scary horror film has to have some subtly. This thing was just a constant barrage of obnoxious music you'd expect from Indiana Jones not a film about a killer clown, people screaming, Pennywise screeching, the bullies yelling. Never in this film are you given a chance to relax, which makes the jumps scares, and that's pretty much all the scares there are here, much less effective.
In my opinion the kids couldn't act that well. Often times they seemed to be reciting lines. All the cute one liners that were suppose to be funny fell flat. It was very formulaic. I didn't understand why the female lead was being bullied. She's borderline gorgeous and smart and witty but for some reason the homely dumb girls pick on her. It just didn't work for me. And there were a lot of other things that were completely implausible. Early in the film the short chubby kid gets a really major wound (trying not to spoil things) on his gut, but in the next scene he's swimming in a quarry. Lol. What?
As for Pennywise, was Bill Skarsgard even there? Most of the clown scenes were CGI, and the ones that weren't, I mean he's so heavily made up in costume and white face did it really matter who was behind there? And without fail, just when he was getting creepy, suddenly there'd be a big bang of music and the CGI clown would scream and come rushing at lighting speed at whoever was the victim at the time. This happened so many times it stopped being scary because we expected it. And we never get to know why Pennywise is even haunting these kids. We knew why Freddy Krugar haunted kids. Their parents burned him to death for being a child molester. But what's Pennywise's motivation. Some vague things are mentioned about the history of the town but it's never revealed why this ghost clown has come back to haunt the kids of Derry. Didn't make sense.
And the movie is way too long. Way too long. It's a movie about a killer clown, for crying out loud, not Schindler's List. I was yawning by the end and could barely sit through yet another scene where the kids are all bonding together.
These are my thoughts. I could go on or edit this thing to make a much finer review but there's already over 200 reviews here for this film so this will be all the time I'll invest in it.
I give it six stars.
Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
The Best Game I've Played Since Prince of Persia Sands of Time
Finally finished Horizon Zero Dawn on Playstation 4. Clocked in 86 hours of gameplay. This explains why many critics, even if they gave it high scores, really didn't understand the brilliance of it. They didn't play it. Most of them claimed they finished it after about 30 hours. No, not possible. All you could have done in 30 hours is rush through the main story without experiencing the vast world that was offered. What a great game. I'd score it a perfect ten if not for some moments of very frustrating platforming, so I'll give it a 9.7. The only thing I didn't finished was getting perfect scores in all the hunting challenges because, my god, that would have added at least another ten hours to the saga and even though this is an excellent game, anything can get old after nearly 90 hours of binging it. Looking at the final credits now and even those are spectacular. Best $40 I've ever spent. (oh, and Lance Reddick should get an Oscar for acting in a video game, if that category ever comes to exist.)
Let's just be honest. Ozark is no Breaking Bad. It tries to be. It tries extremely hard to be that and Fargo as well but in the end the writing is just not up to par. Too many times things just don't make sense. Like in a scene where the wife is trying to get into her husband's computer. She tries to guess a password once, twice, and then she looks at an envelope with some typewritten numbers on it and then suddenly she guesses his password on the third try. Huh? What? How? Doesn't make a lick of sense. This is just one tiny example of the many things in this show that just don't make sense. And that was the thing with Breaking Bad. Everything did make sense. I'd challenge anyone to find something in that writing that was too implausible or incongruous. Too many times in Ozark did I shout out loud, "That makes no sense!!"
Now don't get me wrong. This isn't a horrible show. It isn't written as poorly as 24 Legacy was. But it is nowhere near Breaking Bad status so just stop it already. One gets the feeling that the writers of this show really didn't know anything about or even research properly the subject matter they were tackling. Really? You have to put drug dollars into the dryer to make them look used? Where do you think drug money comes from? From the streets. From drug deals large and small. They don't come from the Federal Reserve handing out pristine, crisp bills with numbers all in unison. And some jerk throws the daughter off a boat, nearly kills her, sets her up to take the fall for stealing the boat. But a few episodes later, she's hanging out with him on the roof of his trailer. What? Why? Doesn't make a lick of sense.
Jason Bateman is being Jason Bateman throughout the entire thing. He's not even acting. He's just doing his Jason Bateman schtick. It worked in The Gift and it works for the most part here, but please, don't compare it to Bryan Cranston's stellar, multi-layered performance in Breaking Bad. It doesn't even come close. His character Marty Byrde never really gets a chance to be fully developed. We get the sense that Byrde has a talent to talk his way out of anything, but there are too many times where the only reason he actually got out of the situation he was in was because that's how the screenplay was written. And why he did half of what he did regarding the heroin kingpins--well that left me scratching my head. At one point the preacher puts a cross on top of the partially built church and that meant Marty was forced to give the Smells hundreds of thousands of dollars? Huh? Why? Doesn't make a lick of sense.
This show tries really hard to be Breaking Bad or Fargo and as a result it misses the opportunity to be itself. Once again, this isn't the worst television out there, so hopefully in season two it will find it's own groove and stop trying to be what it's not. But, no, it's not a ten, not a nine, not even an eight. It's a six and at least that's not a five.
An Epic Masterpiece
Just watched GOLD starring Matthew McConaughey. This is an epic movie. It's only two hours long but it feels like a three hour movie. I don't mean this in a bad way. It's not that it's slow and boring and seems like it's taking a long time, more that it's so complicated and has so many unexpected turns that it feels odd that it's all packed into two hours. This film starts out kind of like Boiler Room and then turns into Wolf of Wall Street but then takes a pretty depressing turn in the third act, but what can you do--it's based on true events. McConaughey is as brilliant as ever, playing a gold prospector who is way over his head and out of his league and one of the things to be noted about this film is the costumes: it really took some guts to continue to dress the characters like white trash as they suddenly find themselves in Wall Street society. And the musical score as well is suburb and very foreshadowing. I really loved this movie. Well worth a watch.
White Girl (2016)
Realistic and Disturbing
Just saw the movie White Girl. This is one that I'll have to spend some time thinking about. Very controversial, even pornographic at points. Cultures clash in unexpected ways when a couple of white college girls move into a Latino neighborhood and start hanging out with the local drug dealers. Reminiscent of the German film Victoria (it almost seems to be a remake of sorts except not shot all in one take) with a touch of Spring Breakers (if you haven't seen that one don't be fooled by the title, it's pretty horrific), all wrapped up in Project X I suppose. Nothing is romanticized here, especially not the inevitable tragic ending which is the ultimate statement about white privilege.
In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Ethan Hawke vs. John Travolta
With In A Valley of Violence, Ti West takes the plot of John Wick and turns it into a western. Although this isn't as ultra-violent as the Keanu Reeves vehicle, the story is identical. Local boss' son kills the bad man's dog and the bad man gets revenge by killing everyone in his path. In this case, the reason there isn't such a huge body count is laughably because the town of Denton literally has only 9 residents living in it: the Marshal, his four deputies including his son, the two women, the bartender, and the general store manager. Oh yeah, and there's a preacher roaming around somewhere out there. Yeah, I know, quite silly. But silliness in this homage to spaghetti westerns is part of what makes it so enjoyable. It gets pretty intense at times too; it's by no means a comedy. What can I say? This is no Unforgiven but I enjoyed it all the same. If you like westerns and also like films that pay respect to film history, check this one out. You won't be disappointed.
The Greasy Strangler (2016)
Nauseating and Humorless Attempt at Camp
Eh, this is really nothing original. If you grew up in the seventies and eighties you've already seen this with the work of John Waters and Troma, among countless other forced attempts at camp by horror movies such as Dead Alive or Street Trash. I knew what I was getting into from the start because I saw the trailer which seemed pretty quirky and funny. But the trailer was only a minute or two long. Dragging this one joke out for ninety minutes proved to be a really excruciating experience. I honestly can't say I laughed once during the entire thing, but I do admit that it made me nauseous. The Napoleon Dynamite type of nerdy characters and dialogue might have worked in a film set in reality, but in this nonsense world it just made the film all the more irritating, along with a musical score involving nothing but someone banging on an organ. This is the stuff of a twenty minute short, not a full length feature.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
The Kid Doesn't Lose Weight?
I loved this movie. I had fun watching this movie. I thought some of it was really over the top and silly but all in all it was a fun buddy movie. But I have one complaint. The kid doesn't lose any weight. The kid is out there, in the wild, eating nothing but eels and rabbits and whatever else they can find, for six months or more, and he doesn't lose a pound of weight. He's just as obese at the start of the movie as he is and the end of the movie. Now I don't expect a child actor to do what Robert DeNiro did for Raging Bull, but come on, at least give him a girdle. At least try to create the illusion that he was out in the wild for six months living on nothing but roots and the carcasses of birds. That's really my only complaint about this film. Otherwise, enjoy.
The Good Neighbor (2016)
The Bad Movie
This review contains SPOILERS but it doesn't matter because you shouldn't waste your time seeing this anyway, LOL.
Just when you thought the found footage genre couldn't get lower, we get "The Good Neighbor"--a micro-budget film about an old man being stalked by his teenage neighbors who illegally spy on him with cameras and try to convince him that his house is haunted. The premise sounds okay, I suppose, but unfortunately this movie is so boring you'll wish it had more scenes of "The Good Neighbor" snoozing in his chair.
Why is this crap called The Good Neighbor? It isn't about the old man being a good neighbor or a bad neighbor or any kind of neighbor at all. It's about some spoiled brats tormenting him with video surveillance and creating a fake haunting to create a documentary that, even if it was completed, would have been so illegal that they'd never be able to release it to anyone. What a plot. Why not call it "The Bad Neighbors"?
Let's get straight to the chase. The acting is horrible. And I mean horrible, like first year acting school horrible. The writing is also horrible. These kids who live next door to this old man supposedly have all this technology to create the illusion that the old man's house is haunted, but they do nothing with it. Sure, a screen door slams (did they install a motor to it?), and the lights flicker, and the radio goes on and off, and, well, that's about it. Wouldn't this have been a gem if they took it to the limit and actually made furniture move around ala Poltergeist (as they suggested they could do) or even project holograms of ghosts or some other crazy stuff? Wouldn't that turn into something mind boggling? But no. Instead, they turn the heat off on the poor old man and shatter his window. Lucky he didn't die of pneumonia! Good job.
James Caan is great here and that's why I'm giving this crap fest a two instead of a zero. Please don't tell me this is James Caan's "comeback role". He's 76 years old and has had a distinguished career and doesn't need any "comeback". Here he does his best Michael Caine impersonation and it's actually solid work. Too bad it is lost in this drivel of a film, that's not about him but rather about beer swigging teenagers who could use a good spanking. I'm just going to assume someone involved in this mess was James Caan's great grandson or something so that I don't keep wondering why he agreed to be part of this garbage.
And the plot. Uggh. Apparently there's only one cop in this town because every time something happens, just this one cop shows up. And he's a stereotype. As is the Asian prosecuting attorney. As is the judge. As is the big crowd of people and media mob outside the courtroom after the trial, a trial that involves the death of some loner old man that nobody cared about before he died yet suddenly the entire world seems to be on the courtroom steps in support of him. LOL. As are the titles to the chapters as if this two penny film is as important as some big budget Quentin Tarantino epic.
This movie might have been saved with some final surprise: like the corpse of the boy's father rising up through the old man's basement floor or something similar to the end of Friday the 13th or Carrie. But no. They were too lazy to even think up an ending. Instead we get a long shot of the snotty nosed little brat who orchestrated the entire thing standing on the court room steps as he's surrounded by a stereotypical mob consisting of, and I'm not kidding, someone from every ethnic background on the planet. I can't even go on, lol. I think you get the picture. Two stars. Probably the worst movie I've seen this year.
Friend Request (2016)
Scary as all @#$%
This horror gem, surprisingly directed by Simon Verhoeven, some German actor with no other experience whatsoever directing horror films, is hands down the best horror film I've seen this year. This film is filled with freaky mind-@#$% moments. The acting is rather good and the camera work is even better. Sometimes the jump scares are a little off but as a whole, this film excels in presenting what a good supernatural horror film is suppose to deliver. The name Marina should have been hammered into this film a little harder since she has the makings to be a horror villain classic in the lines of Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers. Give this one a bit of an advertising budget and put it out into the mainstream theaters and I'm willing to bet it takes off like wildfire.
The Fits (2015)
What A Strange Little Movie.
This 68 minute film (not counting credits) is acted out nearly entirely by female children. They are high school children I guess, although some of them seem much younger than others, so maybe it's one of those high schools that has a "junior high" included. Anyway, all the girls are trying out and / or practicing for some kind of dance group that they have in this particular school. It's not cheer leading and it's not pom poms -- it's just, dance. I don's know if this is a real thing or not but whatever, that's what they're doing. So, some of the girls are experiencing convulsions and fainting. Why? I don't know and neither will you after watching this film. And that's about it. That's the plot. There's not much more to it. But, somehow this little gem of a film is completely watchable, not just because of the amazing feat of getting so many child actor to act so naturally that you'll wonder if they are even acting at all or if someone had a hidden camera in a real school somewhere, but because the flow of the film seems like real life events occurring. I mean, don't expect this film to be Step It Up or Stomp The Yard; it's much too low budget and abstract to be your typical arts as sports film. But if you're ready for an amazing achievement shot on what must have been a shoestring budget, relish what this strange little movie has to offer.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)
Nor Am I A Very Interesting Movie
Yeah. This one's weird. It tries its hardest to be some kind of Donnie Darko. At other times it tries to be some kind of Phantasm. Ultimately its kind of a mess. It tries. It tries really hard. It's an original thought, mixing psychological suspense (a kid who has all the earmarks of a serial killer, although this plot line goes nowhere) with the supernatural or is it science fiction (some old man who is really a creature from beyond who feeds on human organs to survive). Sounds like it should be scary as all hell, doesn't it? It's really not. It's really very slow moving and so ambiguous that its kind of boring. I know this is suppose to be based on a book, so I guess the plot was set in stone, but wouldn't it have been cool if the young killer and the alien creature sort of teamed up Mr. Brooks style or something? I mean, an hour and forty five minutes is a long time to watch something with such a minimal plot as this film has. The film is very well shot at times and I did like how the seasons changed early in the film and we were suddenly in winter with snow on the ground. I'm not going to say this film isn't visually stunning; at times it is. But it really drags on and on and I honestly can't put my finger on why exactly it just doesn't connect but it just doesn't. It seems to be an experiment, like Donnie Darko was, or like Phantasm was, but one that for whatever reason just doesn't hit the ball out of the park like those movies do.
Blood Father (2016)
Mel Gives it His All
Mel Gibson gives it his all in Blood Father as John Link (sort of sounds like John Wick, eh?), the gristly ex-con living in a trailer and struggling to stay on the wagon. Erin Moriarty also gives a good performance as the young Lydia, John's estranged daughter, who looks him up because she needs help when some real baddies are after her. It's not fair to compare this film to Taken, because John Link is no indestructible super-hero who can kung-fu his way out of any situation. He's just a regular guy who happens to be a bad ass. If you wanted to compare this to a Liam Neesum action film, probably Run All Night would be more appropriate; but in reality, this is sort of a throw back to the low budget action films of the 70s, and it reminded me in tone to films such as Race With the Devil. On the other hand, this isn't pure over the top action either. There's a lot of time spent on the rekindling of the relationship between father and daughter, and all the action is presented within a somewhat realistic text. I thought a little bit more extreme action couldn't have hurt, and that was what I was prepared for early on during the siege of John's trailer, but other than the grand finale at the end, all the action in the middle was quite subdued. But that's okay, because this isn't a John Woo film. It's a film where Mel Gibson gets to remind us why he's a great actor and it's a film that delivers a couple of good life lessons, and, hey, William H. Macy is even thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed it.
The Whole Truth (2016)
Pretty Damn Good Movie
The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama. If you're not up for that, then don't watch it. Courtroom dramas take place in a courtroom. If you're not up for a movie that primarily takes place in a courtroom, then don't watch it. If you like courtroom dramas however, this is sure to please. The closest I can compare this to is perhaps Primal Fear. Keanu Reeves plays a defense attorney who is tasked with representing a client (relative of a friend actually) who refuses to speak. The happenings in the courtroom are complimented with speculative flashbacks (could it have happened this way or maybe it happened that way). As things unfold we learn that there is a deeper conspiracy at play that I won't go into because that would spoil it. Suffice it to say, for a movie that was less than two hours long and primarily was shot in one location (the courtroom) I never got bored. This is no work of genius, mind you; it's not A Few Good Men nor is it To Kill A Mockingbird--but it's pretty damn good nevertheless. So if you like courtroom dramas, do check it out.
Your Guess is as Good as Mine
Observance starts out promising, making you think it's going to be some type of Rear Window, Body Double, Blow-Up or Blow Out type of suspense mystery. Instead, about halfway through, it turns into a confusing, "plotless" experiment in body horror and dream imagery. This is when the minutes start going by ever so slowly as, if you're like me, you start moaning and groaning, wishing something would happen already, wishing some plot would develop, wishing something would be explained or at least make a lick of sense. About two thirds through, if you're like me, you'll start looking at your watch wondering if you should even bother continuing; but you'll hang in there because the camera work is awfully nifty, the music is haunting, the lighting is creepy and there are a handful of jump scares after all. Then the credits will roll and, if you're like me, you'll shrug your shoulders and ask yourself, "What the heck was that?"
Horace and Pete (2016)
A Ten Star Show That At The Same Time Is A Waste
I was watching some video review of Better Call Saul when the reviewer in passing mentioned Horace and Pete. Horace and Pete? Why had I never heard of this show? So I got myself a copy and binge watched it over the course of three days. All I can say is WOW. This is my kind of drama. It's basically Cheers spliced with My Dinner With Andre; in other words, Cheers if Cheers was about real life. Unfortunately it's a bit too real, as characters that you instantly fall in love with just as soon die or disappear for other reasons, robbing you of the opportunity to enjoy them some more.
In fact, so much in the lives of Horace and Pete crumbles by the final episode it is guaranteed that there will never be a Season 2, and that just plain sucks. Why create such lush, developed characters if you're just going to flush them down the toilet? And what great characters they are!
Alan Alda shines the brightest as one of the last remaining Archie Bunker's on planet earth, but he only appears for a few episodes (in one of them he's merely a hallucination). Steve Buscemi is spot on as Pete, co-owner of the bar who is clinically psychotic and can only keep his disease under wraps by taking a very expensive drug, who finds out he isn't really Horace's brother but in fact his cousin. Edie Falco does her greatest work yet as the rough around the edges sister suffering from cancer who would like nothing more than to shut the doors of Horace and Pete's and move on in life. Jessica Lange is nothing short of wonderful as a barfly who's welcome unfortunately runs out early in the season. Add to this mix a theme song by none other than Paul Simon and a slew of cameos from other great dramatic actors (we even get the voice of K-Billy Super Sounds of the 70s) and the result will leave your jaw dropping through eight episodes.
I say eight because by this time the writing and acting seems to get a little rushed (maybe Louis CK was running out of money by this time, and had to move it along) and the final episode will leave you so furious and disturbed that you'll look back and wonder was it worth it. Horace and Pete is masterful at delivering emotional pain, perhaps too masterful, because pain hurts and that's what you'll be left with at the end of the binge: a lump in your throat and a bit of heartache.
I give it a perfect score of ten because it really is that good, and maybe you should just think of it as a really long movie that has an ending, because as television it's an odd bird (nothing is consistent: one episode might be thirty minutes long while the next might be fifty minutes long for example). Like some of the characters, the show itself is suicidal and it makes damn sure there is NEVER going to be a Season 2. What a loss. What a shame. It'll make you want to cry.
Scherzo Diabolico (2015)
Where do I even begin? This movie starts out like it's going to be somewhere between A Simple Plan and the rather obscure Hong Kong horror film Run and Kill--that is, a plan that goes terribly wrong resulting in unexpected bloodshed. Spoilers ahead. A lawyer kidnaps his boss' daughter not for ransom, but in order to put his boss in an incompetent state of anxiety so that his boss will get fired and he will get promoted to his job. The plan works until, well, until the movie decides to get pretty surreal and defy all logic as the boss' daughter becomes a psychotic serial killer. This film certainly builds a hell of a lot of tension and leaves you guessing which direction it's going to take next, but unfortunately the direction it takes will leave you shrugging your shoulders in confusion at the same time that you're at the edge of your seat. The most disturbing thing about this movie is the reactions are so overblown. A guy kidnaps a girl just because his boss won't pay him overtime, and then the girl brutally murders a slue of people just because she got kidnapped. This is a very unsettling film that doesn't seem to have any other purpose than just to freak you out. I wish it had a more cohesive plot; it probably would have been even more disturbing if the things that played out made even a lick of sense. But if you're into this type of nightmarish mind-f**k it won't be a waste of your time.