Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Grudge (2019)

This is the Grudge as I never thought I could see it. The formula is completely different- instead of a husband having killed his wife and son, this story apparently eschews tradition and the wife is responsible for killing the husband and the daughter. Very different from before in that they just switched the genders. Also, remember how the croaking from the first film came from the death rattling last breath of the victim with the broken neck? This time, it comes from all the ghosts and especially from the drowning victim who didn't have a cat. Totally different. And remember the creeping, crawling, moving closer within inches ghosts from the previous films? This time they appear out of nowhere and show off spastic shaking heads as if they were lead guitarists in a speed metal band. And only for a split second before cutting to show us they're not "really" there. Totally different.

This version of The Grudge is entirely different from any of the others in that it wasn't really a Grudge film as much as it was a Smudge film, just sort of barely recognizable as the Grudge and only if you squint real hard and remember the first film.

The story, on the other hand, works perfectly well and is suited to the original material. The performances aren't bad and the pacing is at least consistent. A detective mourning the loss of her husband moves to a new town with her young son, she is immediately drawn into a mystery when a body is found on the outskirts of town. The body's last known address was at the house where a recent string of deaths (Murders and suicides) have taken place. Lin Shaye continues to solidify her increasing reputation as the Godmother of Horror and should start to be spoken of with the same reverence as Vincent Price Peter Cushing, and Boris Karloff with her appearances in the genre. She is a true horror Icon.

So I am unsure of whether I've spoiled the whole thing for you, but I insist that the numbers 9 and 4 should be repeated ad infinitum in every Grudge movie from now until eternity. There's plenty of room for an improvement... maybe from watching the first Grudge film and maybe trying to do the things that actually WORK from those films rather than pretending any of this mess did.

5.49 and not a strong recommend, but not necessarily an "avoid". Still, I can't really insist that it's anything great.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2019 TOP TEN LIST


Here is my best of the year, with a countdown. 2019 was a challenging year. I'd rather not dwell on it as I nearly cut my blog out entirely, but I still enjoy watching films. I really love maintaining my lists on Letterboxd.

10. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Long live the King! Kaiju madness erupts in this incarnation of Godzilla, which picks up where the last film left off and finds humanity struggling to survive and explore the giant monsters that lurk beneath the Earth. Enter Mothra, Ghidora, Rodan, and others- a total of 17 Titans are mentioned to have been found and humanity's time on our little sphere may have come to an abrupt end.

9. Polar:

Based on a graphic Novel produced by Dark Horse comics, "Polar" is a fairly standard Assassin taking out his former employers story. Mads Mikkelson is the Assassin, and it's a fiarly kinetic, fun, and amusing little comic book style story.

8. The Furies

A gruesome and fairly twisted flick about several women who are kidnapped and hunted by several masked killers for the sport and entertainment of others. It's a gory spectacle that is elevated by the pure artistry in the gore effects, including a terrific defacing of one victim.

7. It: Chapter Two.

While it doesn't succeed in capturing the same momentum of the first film, the continuing story manages to remain faithful to the book and has a few decent sequences of it's own. Bill Hader's performance is terrific and Jessica Chastain carry the weight of the majority of the film, but James McAvoy somehow manages to fail in capturing the charm of Bill.

6. Shazam!

So few films are willing to embrace the warmth, innocence, and pure fun that comics have long held for children. Many of our current films try to twist these heroes with jaded and "edgy" interpretations, from the Justice League to the Avengers- there is a sense of something dark and haunting about our heroes. Then- There's Shazam! And Billy Batson is the pure and unadulterated look at what it should mean to be a child in the eyes of a child, even one as frustrated and edgy as Batson.

5. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark:

Based on the collected works compiled by Alvin Schwartz, this film manages to creep, crawl, and worm it's way into the imagination to become one of the most effective genre films of 2019. It's PG-13 rating doesn't work to diinish the creepiness of the film and it's lack of patently offensive gore and vulgarity does not reduce the impact of the scares.

4. Avengers: Endgame

Pure spectacle, Endgame brings back our heroes for another go-round in the MCU. Five years after their failure to stop Thanos, the Heroes reunite to try and set back that which went wrong. They don't want to change the past as much as return those who have been lost to the world they left behind. Fun adventure, lots of plot holes, a number four on my list for good reason.

3. REady or Not

Pure fun.

2. Alita Battle Angel

Holy crap, this movie had EVERYTHING in it!

1. One Cut of the Dead

If there was one film I want people to see from this year, this movie is it. But you have to stay with it for the whole run- you can't leave because you think it's boring, you can't leave because you don't quite get what's happening... everything is answered in the movie and it's well worth the wait and the watch. I guarantee you have never seen anything like this before.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

TOP FILMS OF THE PAST DECADE 2010-2019

  • Here are my favorite films from the past ten years. It's by no means a list of all the films I've enjoyed, but just some of the top rated films of the deades and th ones that have stood out the most for me. It's also been a couple of challenging years, and this blog has stood as a decades worth of reviews in theater, books, wrestling, and ESPECIALLY films.



    Image result for hateful eight

  • The Shape of Water
  • Moana
  • Evil Dead
  • It
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Isle of Dogs
  • A Quiet Place
  • Green Room
  • Get Out
  • The World's End
  • The Endless
  • One Cut of the Dead
  • Alita: Battle Angel
  • Victor Crowley
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Annihilation
  • Mandy
  • Aquaman
  • The Witch
  • Deadpool
  • Dave Made a Maze
  • Frozen
  • Train to Busan
  • Don't Breathe
  • Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
  • Crimson Peak
  • John Dies at the End
  • The Babadook
  • WolfCop
  • It Follows

Comment?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (Some spoilers at the end: will WARN)

REVENGE!!!

It hits the screen in bold print, and the big spoiler is that the Emperor is back and he intends to burn the entire galaxy to a cinder. Everyone is afraid, the Resistance is desperate, and Kylo Ren is on the hunt for the man who could threaten his power. After having been written into a corner by Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams is forced to rush several answers to The Force Awakens lingering questions: Who is Snoke? Well, there are a couple dozen "Snoke" clones rotting in a few vats. What secrets did Vader promise Kylo Ren? No, it was the Emperor. Who is pulling all the strings here? It's the Phantom Menace himself, who Kylo meets within the film's opening moments. How did he survive? I think the real question is whether he really did survive... I'm not even sure that's an important matter when telling the story here. He is back.

Rey, meanwhile, has continued her training with Leia. In what, to me, was one of the more awkward disappointments in the film- Leia's footage is obviously cobbled together from unused footage taken during The Force Awakens. There's no way of getting around this: It's not the performance she would have delivered and the actors were trapped acting opposite footage that was clearly meant for other scenes.

But all is not awkward cuts and pulpy returns- Finn, Poe, and Rey must race to find Palpatine, and to do that they need a device, and to find the device they have to race across the Galaxy. The cast is on a mission in a last second leap to save the galaxy. And, I'll be honest, I wish we had this character dynamic to play with earlier in this new trilogy.  I like these three- they have humor, compassion, warmth, and a general sense of camaraderie. And Rey is faced with setbacks, trauma, and an actual character arc in this film!

The relationship between Rey and Kylo is the statement that this film tries to make. The effect they have on one another, the reason they are drawn to one another, and I thought it worked. I thought it was built throughout the film and was one of the few things that wasn't rushed for the sake of making up for lost time. And, I may be a sucker, but the film's finale- from the battle in the upper atmosphere of a planet to the battle below, was pure pulp goodness and made me happy.

8 out of 10




*****



SPOILERS





*****

There is a lot of seedy hate on this film. The last film pretty much divided the fandom straight down the middle and I thought it wrote the third film into a corner. But this film does attempt to course correct on many of the things Rian Johnson did WRONG. A Jedi's weapon deserves more respect, an actual arc for Rey and some reason why she is being pulled so strongly by the darkside, the importance of actual STAKES when it comes to the First Order, some kind of answer on who Snoke was supposed to be, a general sense of respect for the fans of both previous trilogies.

Also: Neither my wife or son picked up on this- But did ANYONE pick up that Finn and the rebelling Stormtroopers were all Force Sensitive? They planted that seed way back in TFA, but it finally saw some fruit in this movie. But my wife didn't pick up on it and it may have been too subtle- drop a line if you picked up on this. I'd like to know if I'm not the only one. 

Okay, there's a lot of negativity online about this movie and a bunch of Frequently Made Complaints. So I thought I'd offer my perspective on many of them.

1. No, this does not attempt to wash away, erase, or in any way diminish the legacy of OT or the destiny of Vader. Anakin Skywalker brought balance to the Force. He destroyed the Jedi, he destroyed the Sith, and he destroyed the Emperor. His return does not diminish those acts or that trilogy and Rey is NOT the "chosen" one. Her story is not of Destiny fulfilled, but that of Destiny denied.

2. "shipping"- I hate that phrase. But let's address it here- Rey and Kylo were drawn to one another since the first film and his eventual redemption had to have a pay-off. Did I want them to have a relationship? Wouldn't have bothered me if they didn't- but I'm also not going to shit on this story arc because it makes sense from the threads begun in TFA.

3: "shipping vol.2" - I still hate that phrase- WHY THE HELL DID ANYONE THINK POE AND FINN SHOULD BE A COUPLE?!?!! Two guys can have a perfectly fine relationship of respect and friendship without sex being involved. So could two people of the opposite sex. It doesn't actually serve the story- so why? Whatever... I wish the film had closed with the two of them holding hands as the twin suns set in the distance. But I'm a softy.

4. The Return of the Emperor: Did you know that George Lucas did Star Wars because he couldn't do Flash Gordon? Did you know that Emperor Ming was killed at the end of each Serial before finally being killed for good in the last serial? You know why? Because he's Ming the Merciless!!! Star Wars isn't Shakespeare in the Park... this is based on serials and pulp space opera so expect bad guys to come back when they're thrown down dark tunnels. Also... sorry, not sorry, a fucking planet of goddamn SITH clones???

5. "Representation"- It's a word that was kind of flung out there and is getting some traction regarding a kiss between a homosexual couple in the film's final moments. Some people are upset that it's happening at all (Those are homophobes) and others feel as though it's mere tokenism. I don't really have a horse in this race- but I will say that the character was a major supporting character in the past two films and a high ranking member of the Resistance. Doing a brief google search on the actress, I'm pretty sure she is very proud to have been shown providing that representation in the Star Wars universe and I don't think people need to be kissing every moment to show that they are, in fact, homosexual. (Side story; a gay friend of mine in a play we were in was told to act "more gay", to his shock and astonishment and lamented "Should I suck someone's dick or something?".)

***

Not a perfect film, but enjoyable. But I did have one lingering question when a certain actor popped up as if he had been in the trilogy the whole time... "Get that fucking hobbit out of my Star Wars!"

Monday, November 11, 2019

DOCTOR SLEEP


I have a "love/hate" relationship with Stephen King. When he's on, he is definitely on... but when he's off, It's just hard as heck to continue reading or watching his movies. And while many people were excited to see King revisit the character of Danny Torrance, the novel never piqued my interest enough to try and read the book. I was aware of it, I knew it existed, and several friends gave it some high praise... but pass.

Fast forward a few years and Doctor Sleep is adapted into a film directed by Mike Flannagan. Mike's no stranger to King, having previously adapted Gerald's Game for Netflix. He has a few movies under his belt and the man knows what he's doing with a camera- he can build up suspense with the best of them and he isn't afraid to paint the screen red.

Billed as a sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep reintroduces us to an adult Danny Torrance who is struggling to cope with the trauma and aftermath of the incidents that took place in the Overlook Hotel. He strikes up a strange communication with a girl (Abra- played by Kileigh Curran) who has the Shine, just as he did when he was a child. She, in turn, has managed to gain the attention of a wandering group of Psychic Vampires who feast on the life energy of those with the Shine.

The movie isn't "bad", per se. The action sequences are well shot, they do a semi-decent job in building the tension and setting an atmosphere. Unfortunately, whether through the choice of King or the adapters of the film, young Abra is never in any real peril. She's smarter, stronger, and far more powerful then any of her would-be assailants. A sinister Rose the Hat (Rebeca Ferguson) is repeatedly foiled by the crafty girl and is repeatedly battered. There is nothing scary about the monsters of the film once Abra gets involved, and even Danny's ultimate decision to revisit the Overlook seemed meaningless to the story and only served to bring his character a sense of closure.

6 out of 10.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Halloween Horror FilmFest: The Rules

My wife is a patient, loving, and caring soul. But she really is not really backing me up on my annual tradition, and that's okay. But one of the things that frustrates her is that my movie picks are often confusing, she is also frustrated with my flat out refusing to watch some movies, and she simply doesn't understand THE RULES.



UNO: Films that specifically take place during Halloween are all eligible, regardless of genre.
(Arsenic and Old Lace, et al)

TWO-O: Horror films that have no set time period may also be eligible.
(Alien, et al.)

THREE-P-O: Films with a dark supernatural flair may also be eligible with caveats.
* I call this the Ghost rule, because it's not horror but it has ghosts.*

FOUR-E-O-E-O: the following traits disqualify a film : Any other holiday (Other than Friday the 13th which CAN occur during the fall).

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Some Reviews... short and sweet. Halloween Fest 2019

HOUSE OF THE WITCH

A fairly standard and formulaic horror flick. A couple of teens head out to the local "haunted" house where they are systematically killed by the ghost of a Witch that had died some hundred or more years prior. Look, the story wasn't all that compelling but the film wasn't actually very bad. Nor was it very good. It was just sort of there and was a decent hour and a half spent for a horror fan. There's no reinvention of the wheel, here.

5 out of 10.

THE FURIES

Is the game over? Is there an escape?

The monsters are coming... one after the other, the monsters will come and they will kill them all, one after the other. When Kayla wakes up in a box, she finds herself the target of a hunt. But she's not the only one, as other women are also waking up locked in boxes and being hunted by masked maniacs. Each maniac is linked to the victims in a way that is revealed through the film.

High gore meter ups the ante of what looked like a fairly standard torture-porn slasher flick. The film makers probably thought they were making some sort of statement regarding misogyny, but I think they missed the mark and wanted the film to be more than it was. But as a fun gory romp, the movie delivers on the goods.

8.5 out of 10.

IN THE TALL GRASS

Around this time last year I was watching "Gerald's Game" on Netflix. And this year they repeated the success of that film with another King adaptation, though this one also receives a co-writer credit from King's son, Joe Hill. The two crafted a brilliantly claustrophobic story that could almost happen to anyone- getting lost in a field of tall grass. But there's something dark about this field, something very twisted, and everything becomes lost in this film where neither time nor space continue to play by the rules.

And if there is one thing I love, it's the twisting reality of cosmic horror and the fear of the unknown.
Vincent Natali is no stranger to claustrophobia, having previously explored the subject in Cube. He masterfully take advantage of the surrounding field and builds on the suspense endangering the pregnant Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted). While trying to help a young boy find his way out of the field, they find themselves separated and hopelessly lost. But most of the film's menace comes from the boys father, unnervingly played by Patrick Wilson.

If you're looking for a pretty decent halloween jaunt, this one won't lead you astray.

8 out of 10.

CROCODYLUS

 Some sort of gator-croc-humanoid hybrid thing that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Over acted, underfunded, and unfortunately available on Amazon Prime this creature feature makes the Asylum films look like big budget Hollywood features. A small town sheriff has to contend with devious scientists, distraught(?) parents, crooked politicians, and a monstrous creature of dubious origins. Ancient Indian rituals are involved, so is toxic waste, so is genetic experimentation, as is medical testing, and the list goes on- and people are incapable of speaking like actual humans while reciting lines written by someone who has definitely seen the movie JAWS a few times in his life.

You can skip this one unless you really enjoy bad creature flicks.

2 out of 10

EAT LOCALS


Adding to my Halloween 2019 list, I'm not entirely certain how I managed to miss this entertaining vampire romp from across the pond but I'm glad I found it streaming on Amazon Prime tonight. Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), and Eve Myles (Torchwood) are among the well established cast fanging it up in this campy horror-comedy.

Every fifty years or so, this small council of vampires meet to discuss old feuds, territory, debate food quotas, and vote on new members to the council. On this evening, there will be a few unexpected guests and arrivals. Primarily, the group is introduced to a young Romani man (Billy Cook) brought in as a guest by the seductress, Vanessa (Eve Myles, noted above). And then, a group of vampire hunters waiting in ambush surrounding the farmhouse where the group is meeting.

Who you root for throughout the film may change throughout various moments, as we get to know all of the characters involved. Peppered with the rather typical dry British humor you might expect, the film doesn't flinch from the grue and gore that horror fans just love to see.

Satisfying 7 out of 10.

Keep up on the rest of my 31 Days of Halloween Horror Flicks through Letterboxd.

 31 DAYS OF HORROR

And as always, feel free to leave comments below.