Friday, November 30, 2018

Overlord, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and The Endless

Nazi Zombies!!!! WOOOT!!!!
Okay, that’s the silly fanboy horror geek in me. Two of the most “guilt-free” monsters ever created are the zombies and the Nazis. Bring them together and you have a guilt-free experience of blood, guts, and full bore adrenaline body horror and nasty nasty NASTY blood and guts GORE!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!
Testosterone pumping, the movie starts and I’m all in…. We’re on a plane, we’re headed into Nazi territory, they’re shooting the plane, they’re jumping, and it’s chaos and madness and war war WAR!!!! And as they make their way through a night-enshrouded wilderness, hunted by Nazis, desperate to aid to mission that will secure Allied victory… my wife leans over to me and whispers “This is boring.”
Boring?!?!!! I shake my head in wonder and point to a screen where a landmine is blowing apart a poor American soldier, where there are hanging corpses in the trees, and where the German Nazi Forces are stalking the dark wilderness outside a small town in France. The mission depends on taking out that communications tower hidden in the bowels of the church where a scientist is performing experiments that will revive dead flesh.
Led by a demolitions expert (Wyatt Russell – Son of Kurt and Goldie), the rag tag soldiers are few in number and ill-trained to boot. French translator Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo), sniper Tibbet (John Magaro) and photographer Morton Chase (Iain De Caestecker) must trust a village woman (Mathilde Ollivier) to lead them through the forest, to the village, and then plan their strategy while hiding in her home near the church. But it isn’t long before they learn about the mysterious experiments taking place and are left battling something far more insidious than just the Third Reich.
No, friends… this movie is NOT boring, despite the eye-rolling protestations of my wife. And even she perked up when the soldiers finally learn what the experiments really mean and what dangers it represents.
A solid 8 out of 10.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
This Coen Brothers oddity hit Netflix, skipping a  theatrical run and leaving me to feel a little cheated as a result. But, at the same time, I can’t say that this would have necessarily been one of their usual hits with fans. With a series of six Western Vignettes, the Coen’s spin a bit of an awkward film with strange characters that is consistently entertaining but not precisely on the mainstream. They draw some amazing performances from a number of well-known character actors; including John Lithgow, Liam Neeson, James Franco, and others.
The film is often very dark, very bleak, and also very funny. It hits several comedic points, especially in the opening vignette about a traveling balladeer turned gunslinger. He’s an open, congenial, happy and cold hearted killer of men. Punctuated with acts of terrible violence, the light-hearted nature of the first vignette sets the tone for the rest of the series as we go from one unfortunate character to the next. Every moment was exquisitely planned to bring a depth of emotion and builds to the final vignette featuring five strangers traveling by stage-coach, a ride filled with dread and uncertainty.
Artfully shot with some amazing cinematography, I feel that the film would have looked amazing on the large screen and the sweeping landscapes felt far too small for the television. And this is probably the largest critique I can make regarding this feature- it’s too small for Netflix. Like a few other releases in recent months, the direct to streaming platform may be fine for convenience but ultimately harms the movie-going experience on the whole. I don’t just want to be entertained with a story, I want to sit in a theater and be amazed and transported. I want to have an experience. But this isn’t the fault of the film itself, but rather it’s distribution.
9.5 out of 10.
The Endless
After escaping from a cult nearly a decade prior, two brothers return after receiving a strange video. They come to find the cult is still living in a barren stretch of mountain desert inhabited by meth-farms, drug dealers, and other strange inhabitants. The brothers are welcomed warmly by the cult, fed, and they experience a kind of homecoming and acceptance that they never saw in the outside world. As one of the brothers begins to feel tempted for a permanent return, the other brother continues to distrust and question the strange atmosphere and behavior that he’s seeing.
That’s it. That’s the movie- that’s the absolute MOST you should know before seeing the film. What happens next is a strange story inspired by the madness of Lovecraft and the weirdness of Kafka. The world is not what we think, things are certainly not as they seem, and every trope one would expect is abandoned for a story designed to ask questions and never force an easy answer. This movie is just so fucking WEIRD, man! And the characters react perfectly to their increasingly bizarre situation, driving the narrative to an exciting conclusion.
10 out of 10.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody and Suspiria

Bohemian Rhapsody
I’ve said it a thousand times if I’ve said it a million times; “Freddy Mercury is the GREATEST front man that ever lived!”
My mom wrote in one of my baby books that my favorite song was “Another one Bites the Dust”, so we are going back past my first memories to the womb and back a little further. Queen has been a staple sound in my life, digging deeper than I believe anyone even realizes. I read some Scholastic Biographies of the band, so I know that the Brian May gets that unique guitar sound by using a metal pick. I know that Freddie was an immigrant. I knew that their drummer was going to be a dentist before Queen found the success it reached, and I knew that each member of the band brought a distinct and different sound to their experience. Whether it be a hard rock classic, a disco beat, or an epic blend of rock and opera, the band has been paving the roads since their initial success and beyond the death of Mercury himself.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a dramatic retelling of the bands rise to fame and Mercury’s tumultuous life. In order to get the spirit and soul of the story right, the movie plays with a few time jumps and dramatic moments so that they can fit the bands experiences into a dramatic structure. In other words- While not an entirely “fictionalized” account, this movie doesn’t come close to telling the complete story. Some events are played up, other moments played way down, and still other moments totally shuffled out of time itself. (We Will Rock You was written in ’77, I believe.)
But, like the focus of the story itself, Rhapsody doesn’t let the truth get in the way of being an entertaining celebration of life, love, and music. And Rami Malek brings Freddie to life once more, recreating the moments that were so incredibly important to the band itself. Their struggle to get the titular song played on the radio, their experimentations with sound, and their critical performance at LIVE-AID, which is the penultimate performance and one of the most legendary rock performances of all time.
I’ve never been much of a “reviewer” so much as a writer who speaks from his heart about the things he loves- and there was a smile on my face through most of the film. Tears in my eyes obscured some of the details, a quick jump to the restroom saw me miss out on a moment somewhere, but all in all the film hit all the right notes (Pun intended.).
8 out of 10
Dario Argento’s original film is, frankly, one of my favorite films in the Italian Horror sub-genre. It’s brutal, bloody, deliberately paced, exquisitely designed with a stunning color palate, and has an amazing score by Goblin. So I’ve been very eager to see the remake, released this past week in our local art-house theater. I was there early on a Saturday afternoon with Remo D himself, though I did miss the first five or ten minutes due to events outside of my control.
Dakota Johnson stars as Susie, a new dancer entering a West Berlin Dance Studio amidst the crisis of the 1977 plane hijacking of dissident terrorists. She is unaware that the Studio is run by a coven of witches, but it is soon apparent that things are horribly amiss. Where the film works is when it chooses to focus on the actual horror story- A witches coven caught between two paths. Tilda Swinton stars (most notably) as Mme. Blanc, a witch who is seeking to replace the mysterious Mother Markos as leader of the coven. All of which serves to execute a subtle examination of power, corruption, and guilt.
All of which is dragged out with a taffy stretching exercise that examines the shame of an aging psychologist. He becomes embroiled with the Coven when his patient(Chloe Grace Moretz) goes missing and he tried to impress the dangers of the coven on another dancer (Mia Goth). And if we had only played with a few moments, that would be well enough. But we spend far too much time traveling back and forth between East and West Berlin, listening to the hostage crisis play over television and radio, watching the doctor lament his long lost wife to Nazi occupation, and what basically felt like an entirely separate film that continually interrupted the flow of the primary narrative.
From an artistic perspective, the director very likely achieved their vision of what they wanted the film to be. With several stunning moments, I want to like the film far more than I actually did.
7 out of 10.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Terms of Use at Paperwing Theatre Company.

The set is black with neon trim paint, offering a bleak view somewhat inspired by Tron but with a sense of dystopia. Two monitors are locked on either side of the small stage where a lone bed lies atop nothing but a box spring, the covers disheveled as random "parts" lie scattered about. Motherboards, wires, some tools, and a chair-

Terms of Use is a science fiction exploration of a future that is far to near and far too present to our own time. Writer Patrick M. Brennan's stage-play calls for complex management of multiple media features, including interaction with video feeds and the live actors on stage. All of which is capably handled by the shows director, Erin Davison. The fictional world plays all too well with today's concerns with privacy and data mining too often hidden in the "terms of use" in so many current services which seem oddly free. In this "Fictional" story, Virtopia is the Virtual Reality world where many play, work, and spend their spare time. Miss V (Alyssa Matthews) is our virtual guide, company spokes-model, and the long pined for "Fantasy woman" of too many dreams. She is the Artificial Intelligence that learns just enough to be clever, but never displays an ounce of humanity within her circuitry.

Take a snapshot of a broken family. CC (Jay Brew) and Martha (Alanna Youngblood) are siblings living together many years after the death of their parents, but only a few short years after the estrangement of their outlaw sister, Fanta (Lucy Tran). They share the rent with local grifter, Erik (Jason Roeder). CC's recent hacking to create modifications to Virtopia are coming to a head as he's caught the attention of black market customers, a network of cyber-terrorists, and the company itself. His experiments may have also opened a door beyond death itself. Or could this be something worse?

Jay Brew brings his best performance to date as the deeply troubled CC, whose experiments may destroy everything his family has left. He's obviously broken from the moment we meet him, suffering from a childhood injury that's left him permanently crippled. But while CC is the deformed backbone of the show, the emotional heart is Martha. Alanna Youngblood is a force of nature on stage, capturing the heartache and worry of a sister on the edge of faith, hope, and heartbreak. She's largely turned a blind eye to the dangers of the virtual world, but it's also blinded her to the allure that threatens to tear her family apart.

And the siblings are going to have trouble knowing who to trust. Everyone wants a piece of what CC's found, for one reason or another.

8 out of 10 and an excellent production from Paperwing Theatre.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

31 Days of Halloween/Horror 2018

Here is my list for 31 Days of Halloween!
  • Caught
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls
  • The Return of the Living Dead
  • Hell Fest
  • Stephanie
  • Corbin Nash
  • Army of Darkness
  • Friday the 13th Part III
  • Venom
  • Terrified
  • Sightseers
  • Clowntergeist
  • The Void
  • Terrifier
  • The Chair
  • Hell House LLC
  • Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel
  • The Witch in the Window
  • Halloween
  • Island Zero
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Satan's Slaves
  • The Evil Dead
  • Trick 'r Treat
  • Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil

I also attended EVIL DEAD: The Musical and THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW as parts of my monthlong journey.... which leaves me three movies short of my goal of a solid 31. Failure stings a bit, but there were nights and days where the time just wasn't there.

See you next Halloween, Dear Faceless Readers.... MUAHAHAHAHA!!!!