Thursday, December 22, 2022

Top Ten List: 2022 Year in Review

 

TOP TEN LIST: 2022 

 

10, The Spine of the Night: In the vein of rotoscoping classics like "Fire & Ice" or Heavy Metal", The Spine of the Night is a gory throwback to classic dark fantasy with gore, blood, sex, and all the other good things I loved about those classic films of 70's and 80's. This is the kind of movie you want to watch with the lights of and maybe half in the bag... beautiful animation, great synth music, and good voice performances from Richard E Grant and Lucy Lawless. 

 

9. The Weird Al Yankovic Story: Gloriously entertaining and informtive look at the tortured life of an artist that defined his generation. The story of Weird Al is a rags to riches story that follows the haunted experiences of child abuse, the tormenting lack of acceptance, and the wild world of teenage Polka parties. Truly a deep look into the very true and very accurage life of Weird Al Yankovic. Never forget him. Never. 

 

8. Violent Night: A team of violent predators break into an affluent home on Christmas Eve and only one man can stop him... Santa Clause hmself, the jolly bowl full of jelly. And guts full of blood, cracked skulls full of brain matter, and broken bodies left scattered about and limbs akimbo.  

 

7. Nope: Tautly wound story from Jordan Peele, the Haystack family is in deep trouble when the patriarch (David Keith) dies from a mysterious circumstance. A coin falls from the sky, embedding itself in his eye-socket. This leads to his children inheriting the business; a black-owned horse-training facility that provides for Hollywood features. The brother and sister pair (Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer) are not entirely compatible with one another and eldest son OJ is forced to sell horses to the neighboring Western Attraction roadshow run by former child actor Ricky (Steven Yeun). 

 

6. The Northman: A prince escapes after the brutal murder of his father and spends the next several years working toward revenge against his uncle.  With the help of a witch slave, the young warrior will face his past, his mistakes, and his future.

 

5. Terrifier 2: Unrelenting and merciless, the Terrifier 2 is a gory and nasty film. A sequel to the break out horror hit from 2016, Damien Leone's film features old school practical effects and a simple plot o deliver the goods for the Halloween season. Forget that other slasher killer for a moment and check out Art The Clown's latest endeavors as he chops, slashes, smashes, chokes, shoots, and otherwise pummels the audience with a ruthless barrage of madhouse kills. 

 

4. X : The throwback classic exploitation nasty from director Ti West is the first in a proposed trilogy that already saw it’s sequel (prequel?) released in the same year. And will e higher up on this very list.  

 

3. Inu-Oh: Genre defying and visually stunning, Inu-Oh is a story ABOUT storytelling and the spirt, art, and soul that persists beyond many challenges. It can unify, it can exhilirate, and it can doom or save us all in various stages. Sometimes all at once. 

 

2. Pearl: A masterfully directed character study of a delightfully maniacal lead. Pearl is an amazing follow-up to Ti Wests' "X" and features a brilliant performance from Mia Goth. Presented in vibrant technicolor and beautifully shot, no stone is left unturned in this film. And with such a brilliant use of flowery adjectives, I bid you adieu. 

 

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once: If 25 year old me was told "The best movie you will ever see involves Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis having a Kung Fu battle, hot dog fingers, and anal plugs" that version of me would have looked at the insane rambling lunatic and told them he had no money and to stop bugging him. As it is, the 47 year old me who just watched Jamie Lee Curtis summon the power of prowrestling across the multiple dimensions in order to fight Michelle Yeoh is completely enthralled with the lunacy that took place in my local cinema. A must see film that goes deeper than the surface level insanity.  

 

OF HONORABLE NOTE: 

 

Superhero movies are starting to fall into the realm of diminishing returns, bringing in the audience but not really creating any new stories or challenges. The Batman found itself breaking the character down to it's detective roots, while Wakanda Forever struggled to find it's footing after the death of the lead actor for the Black Panther franchise. Black Adam was a fun little jaunt, and the latest Thor film brought very little to to the tale for fans and box office alike. 

 

Horror found a lot of exposure this year, going for the jugular with films like Barbarian, Hellraiser, and the Scream film. Some art house and foreign affairs caught my eye, like Saloum and Hellhole. Prey was an enjoyable jaunt that did something newer with the franchise that could, potentially, provide a building block for future franchise stand-alone feaures. 

 

Biggest Disppointments: I also had a number of disappointments this year- Halloween Ends at the near top of the list, providing a jaunt into something a bit outside of what I wanted to see. While not a terrible film in itself, it wasn't what I wanted. I was also disappointed by Rob Zombie's attempt at The Munsters, the latest Firestarter film (What was that??? Seriously?), the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, and the Terror Train remake.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Scream 2022 and Belle (AKA: The Dragon and the Freckled Princess)

 SCREAM 2022

My initial thoughts on the latest film in the Scream franchise is that it does precisely what the Scream franchise does and there's no reinvention of the wheel here. In fact, it' meta commentary on modern horror movies is going to probably split a vast majority of the fan base, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. I am not entirely sure that the commentary will hit with quite the same snark and humor as previous entries so that will be as it will be. 

Scream (2022) picks up in Woodsboro, the small town location of the original film, eschewing the numerical order as part of he "requel" commentary of the film. As we learn from this movies Expert, a "requel" is a film that acts as neither a sequel nor a reboot but a combination of both. That modern films who take this approach are trying to appeal/respect the older fans while also creating something "new" on the back of something that's already come before. It's a convoluted explanation, but works as a commentary on modern films currently making their way through streaming, cinemas, and direct to blu-ray. It' can't say it's Scream 5, but it's still basically Scream 5. 

It's been decades since the events of the first film, and all the kids are watching "elevated" horror these days and stupid slashers are cliche thing of the past. Nobody is likely to receive a mysterious phone call, because we have caller ID and we have Smart Phones, and security systems, and all the other stuff that makes us feel seen and safe- but then Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) receives just that sort of a call with a lingering threat that leads her to run out of her house- and directly into the waiting attack from a killer with a knife. This draws her older sister back to town, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Berrera) and it isn't long before a connection to the original Wooodsboro killings would be revealed. A new supporting cast of potential killers and victims introduced, the legacy characters are also drawn back to town for the grisly events. 

I have had a pretty interesting relationship with the Scream series, myself- as a fan of the slasher genre, the Scream series always sort of worked as a comedy horror more so than a general straight fright film. The "killer" was always pretty damned obvious, while everyone around me were losing their collective minds about the twists and turns of the pot. This film also has a lot of twists and turns, leading me to fully believe that one of the red herrings is responsible- 

BUT- when the big reveal does make itself known- there is virtually nothing that really makes sense within the plot or direction of the film that would follow through with it. It's so out of left field that it only works as a twist because nothing supports it. They retcon quite a bit of the film in order to shoe-horn the ending, linking it to the meta-commentary of film in the broader scope, but they forget the biggest point of a "reveal" in the process- it HAS to show some degree of consistency, and this one doesn't really do that. 

So, while the film is fun and consistent with it's meta-commentary- it ultimately fails to exist outside the line of what it's trying to say about modern horror films.

7 out of 10, strong recommend. 

 BELLE (2021) (U.S. Release in 2022)

Visually stunning- like so many reviews have already said, but also an emotional exploration of depression, abuse, neglect, and the dubious comforts of a virtual "reality"- a future MMORPG that allows the user to enter a VR that utilizes their own bio-metrics to create a virtual avatar. This Japanese animated feature film was originally called Ryƫ to Sobakasu no Hime (The Dragon and the Freckled Princess). It premiered at the previous year's Cannes where it received a 15 minute standing ovation from an appreciative audience.

A young woman named "Suzu" is a high school loner, shy, awkward, and coping with a severe depression after her mother's untimely demise. She enters the world at the behest of her friend and creates a persona that draws almost immediate attention with her music and singing. Her fame comes to a staggering halt after an encounter with "The Dragon", a ferocious loner known for combat games. 

The movie delves into the deep mystery of discovering the identity of the Dragon and his motives.

This is a solid 8.5 out of 10 and is nearly perfect, with unexpected twists and turns. It unwraps in a way that plays with audience expectations, but also openly defies many of those expectations in surprising ways. 


Monday, December 27, 2021

TOP TEN YEAR IN REVIEW: 2021

Ladies and gentlemen it has been a really hectic year in film. So let's talk about the elephant in the room, first; the pandemic closed theaters for a year and prevented the release of a whole slew of films that were held back for theatrical release. The longer the pandemic stretched out, the more desperate distribution companies became and eventually developed a number of plans to cash in on their releases as soon as possible. Firstly, they started to follow a "Direct to Streaming" model that first released films directly to pay-to-steam services, charging an arm and a leg for movies and recouping some losses there. Secondly, several companies started to develop a direct to streaming option directly related to those distribution services, such as Disney+, HBOMax, and Paramount+. And then, thirdly, started to release films both theatrically and direct to streaming- resulting in massive financial returns due to the nature of content piracy. The results saw a strange mix of films benefiting from Streaming while other films were hurt. And the public zeitgeist is somewhat all over the place-

Comic book films seemed destined for burn out with several financial failures such as Black Widow, Wonder Woman '84, and The Suicide Squad getting hit pretty bad by this dual release strategy and the massive failure of The Eternals to live up to industry hype (even as fans were already rolling their eyes at yet another retcon group of heroes that would "alter" the MCU). 

Now, with all that industry fan talk out of the way- let's get on to the list of my own TOP TEN films that were released in 2021- 

10. Antlers: One of the many films held off on release during the Pandemic, Antlers is based on the short story "The Quiet Boy" by Nick Antosca.  In a small town, a town slowly dying with the closure of it's coal mine, lives a small family- a father and his two sons. Their mother has passed away and their father is struggling- scavenging and cooking meth, the man does his best and his children are not in a good place. And then, one day, things go terribly bad for him- and he starts to change. I love me a good Wendigo story, and Antlers creature effects live up to the hype. 

9. Nobody: Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is about as "average" as they come- clocks into work monday through friday, works out Thursday, takes out the garbage on tuesday, goes to sleep, rinse, repeat, one day to the next. An average man, milquetoast even, with no major personality quirks or exceptional skills to speak of. His daily life is the photo-perfect example of a man who is only going through the motions. But, after a home burglary, something eats away at him and we find out he's a former operator in some very dark dealings. 

8. Army of the Dead: Style of substance here as director Zach Snyder returns to the horror genre.  It takes it's cues more from "Escape from New York" and "Doomsday" rather than George Romero's zombie films,however- a group of ex-military are tasked with the opportunity to make in excess of several million dollars, tax free, if they can raid a Casino Vault  the day before the government plans on dropping a nuke atop the zombie infested Las Vegas.

7. PG Psycho Goreman: This film is about the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. A horrible, loveless, sadistic creature with no pity, no remorse, and no compassion and her hopeless captive, PG Psycho Goreman; An eternal and evil warlord from the Planet Gigax. He is enslaved by Mimi, a young girl who finds a secret gem that gives her the power to control the ultimate power in the universe. 

6. The Suicide Squad: As mentioned above, the film was not exactly tearing it up at the box office but I do beleive that had much more to do with its dual release to streaming and cinema. It probably could have done much better, but the film's "R" rating release probably didn't do much favors. Still, I had a blast and it was balls to the wall a good time. 

5. Rurouni Kensin: The Beginning- The fifth and final film in the Rurouni Kenshin live action adaptation of the popular manga and anime series is also the FIRST in the series. A prequel to the first four films, the fourth of which was shot back to back with this feature- it is the story of a swordsman during the Meiji uprising and his work as an assassin and the things that would later lead to his future redemption. 

4. DUNE: Villanueva's Dune is  an epic visual feast, adapting James Herbert's sci-fi masterpiece without sacrificing much to cinematic pacing. The hot desert winds run dry and ragged across the soft flesh, and Arrakis is an unwelcome place for its newest stewards, the Royal House Atreides. Duke Leto and his family prepare to take their new seats from their bitter rivals, House Harkonen. The Native Fremen people have long been at war with their former overseers, and Leto hopes to sway the people to foster a mutually beneficial relationship. 

3. Halloween Kills: The sequel to Halloween 2018, the film picks up right from the prior films' end point with Micheal having escaped Lauri's death trap. The film explores more of the horror surrounding Michael, the man himself simply a force of nature that drives the arcs of various other characters. 

2. Ghostbusters: Afterlife- After the death of Egon Spengler, his long estranged daughter and her two children move into the dilapidated farmhouse he's been living in for the past few decades. Grand-daughter Phoebe takes center stage as an awkward science nerd investigating the cause of her grandfather's death (And life.). 

1. The Harder They Fall: One of those rare films that hit all the right notes. The Harder They Fall features a collection of real life characters from the Old West, although artistic license had been taken when delving into this story. Nat Love (Jonatan Majors) leads his gang on a revenge-fueled quest to track down and kill recently released outlaw Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) and his own gang. And, while we're at it, let's throw in legendary lawman; Bass Reeves (Delroy Lind). The violence is ramped, there's a good bit of social satire, and the whole thing builds to one tremendous climax. AMAZING film from top to bottom.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

31 Days of Horror... 2021

 Annual "31 Days of Horror" movie list.

I missed a few days... kind of sad about it. Tried to make up for it.
 1. Creature From the Black Lagoon
 2. Dracula
 2.B Frankenstein
 3. Friday the 13th
 4 Friday the 13th Part Two
 4B. Friday the 13th Part Three
 5 Friday the 13th Part Four: The Final Chapter.
 5.B Venom: Let There Be Carnage
 6. Solomon Kane
 7 Nightmare on Elm Street
 8 Terror Train
 8B. Angel\

9
 10. People Under the Stairs
 10B. Prince of Darkness
 11 Freddy Vs. Jason
 11b. Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
 12. Friday the 13th (2009)
 13 Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
 14. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream WArriors
 15. Halloween Kills
 16. V/H/S/ '94
 17.. Seance
 18 Blood REd Sky
 19. Night Teeth
 20. Superhost
 21 The Curse of the Werewolf
 22.
23
24.
25 Slumber Party Massacre
26 Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
27. Young Frankenstein
29. Halloween
30. Invisible Man
30b Wolf Man
30c. Butchers
30d. Butchers
30e. Shadow in the Clouds
31. Arsenic and Old Lace
31b. Monster Squad
31c. The Evil Dead.