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.

 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Halloween Kills 2021: Evil will die tonight!!!

 

"Evil will die tonight!" 

The movie opens with a trip down memory lane, just past the closing moments of the original Halloween- as police are on the trail of Myers, following him to his home where he kills again. Where we see more of the terror he left behind on that awful night, after the credits rolled in the original John Carpenter classic. It closes a small hole left behind with the 2018 "sequel", which ignores all of the franchise films and focuses on what was left behind in that original film. 

And in 2018, Evil will die tonight. 

For Laurie Strode, it was a promise that failed to materialize within the opening moments of Halloween Kills, as Michael escapes the "death trap" we last saw him in. He is still the Shape, he is still the essence of evil. And he still has evil to do. 

He Kills again. And again. 

Evil will die tonight. 

For the former victims of Michael Myers, it's a rallying cry to strengthen them against fear of the dark and the lingering memories of Halloween 1978. Four survivors, Tommy Doyle, Lonny Elam, Lindsay Wallace, and Marion Chambers reminisce at a bar where they relate the events for locals and pay tribute to the dead and still living. Then they receive the news- Michael is back. 

Evil will die tonight. 

Tommy Doyle (Anthony Micheal Hall) will not stand aside to let others protect him anymore. He declares the above statement with rage, with fear, with determination to fight against the dark, to cast out the demon that has haunted his sleep for decades. It's a battle cry quickly picked up by the other people in town- echoing down the streets, in the hospital corridors, in the homes of frightened Haddonfield- it echoes loud, insistent, and virulently. 

Michael's greatest evil is the fear he creates- not just the victims of his brutality, but the families, the friends, the lovers, wives, husbands, children, and parents. And righteous rage will burn and it will consume- Halloween Kills is horror at it's best, at it's most brutal, at it's most gory, at it's most primal, it's most savage, it's more fear-drenched and it is a work of cinematic perfection.

10 out of 10

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

GI JOE BINGE thoughts.

 

GI Joe had some very odd seasons- in the first season, it was mostly a short serial involving the Weather Dominator and it focused on the initial Joe figurines. General Hawk led the team with the first figures, but this initial series focused mostly on Duke, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes.They fought the evil forces of Cobra, attempting to regain the broken pieces of Cobra's "Weather Dominator" device- a satellite that could control and terrorize the planet. It was fairly straightforward and was, itself, designed to act as a commercial to sell the toy-line.

The second season included the second series of Joes, though they still had many episodes that involved or focused on some of the classic Joes, including an "Elseworld" episode where the classic characters Grunt, Clutch, and Steeler would stay behind in order to fight the forces of Cobra in that other world where their duplicates had been killed in action. Joes featured in this series were largely Flint, Lady Jaye, Quick Kick, Alpine, Wild Blll, Mutt & Junkyard, and many more-- including my favorite episode that heavily featured Barbecue, the Joe fire rescue specialist.

I am currently on the third series, which focuses on the creation and rise of Serpentor as Cobra's new leader, replacing Cobra Commander. This would also heavily introduce Sgt. Slaughter as one of the lead trainers for GI Joe, and introduced many new recruits to the team: Lifeline, Leatherneck, Sci-Fi, Beach-head, and Wet-Suit. One of the primary running side-plots was the impending star crossed lover story between Zartan's sister Zaranna and GI Joe computer specialist Main-Frame.

All of this led to GI Joe: The Movie- intended for theatrical release, the animated feature film included celebrity voices such as Don Johnson as Duke's younger brother, Falcon. This film would introduce the far more fantasy-centric villains from "Cobra-La", an ancient snake cult that would ally with Cobra to fight our erstwhile heroes.

It was that film that sort of jumped the shark by stretching beyond the high concept ideas of a specialized Military Unit fighting an organized criminal terrorist organization. While occasional episodes introduced time travel, other realms, spirits, supernatural, and and other sci-fi elements to the series- it was all still wrapped around the idea of Cobra and the Joes.

The film marked the end of the "Real American Hero" cartoon series, but a new series developed by DIC would attempt to continue the series in 1989 with a five part series, and then continuing for another 44 episodes in 1990.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge dares to ask the question: "What if the Right Wing Extremist Chodes acted just like the Antifa Rioting Dipwads? Your answer is this ham-fisted attempt at a "morality" play. At it's core, it's the same high concept idea that's gone on for probably too long, but this latest film does get a few kudos for bringing out the "Mad Max"-esque aesthetic and filling the runtime with enough blood and violence to make it worthwhile. 

So here we are, four years after the Purge "ended" and the New Founding Fathers have been elected BACK into power and have immediately restarted the annual purge. Seriously an sincerely, I have to sk how this idea ever blossomed- it's such a dumb concept. But that's not what I'm here to talk about- I'm here to talk about THIS movie, the latest in a long series that includes FOUR films and TWO seasons of television programming. So let's get to the plot of this film... 

Two Mexican immigrants have fled the Mexican cartels to the United States where they find gainful employment and wind up experiencing their first Purge. Meanwhile, the husbands' wealthy employer is protecting his own family on the same night, across town. We see a bit of tension between Juan and the eldest son, Dylan. The night is mostly uneventful for both families- and then, when the sirens echo and the Purge is called to a halt- a new group of Racist Anarchistic Lunatics (called the "Ever Afters") decide to enact their own rebellion with the Forever Purge. With this act, the two families are thrust together ad forced to flee to Mexico. Tensions are high as the two families are also forced to face their own racism, their own paranoia, and also learn to trust and rely on one another to survive. 

THE GOOD: Okay, one of the things I actually liked about this film was that we see the "aftermath" of an annual "purge" event. We see the smoked out ruins of homes, businesses, and bodies that litter the streets and the carrion that feast.  It's an eerie thing and might remind some viewers of a zombie film in a few ways. 

THE BAD: It's a whole lot of political nonsense delivered with a ham-fisted approach that dumbs down a great many issues. There are a number of scene chewing performances, but none more ridiculously over the top than a Neo-Nazi with a swastika tattoo on his freaking cheek "identifying" the sounds of various "gunfire" taking place out of sight. It was was just silly and forced.

Mild recommendation if you enjoy the Purge films. There isnt much new here, though having an opportunity to experience the aftermath of one night is actually kind of chilling and further builds the world.

 

Monday, June 28, 2021

"With Teeth" by Brian Keene

 I am a big fan of Brian Keene's work. 

Not going to lie here, as this crazy sonofabitch caught my attention and absolutely shredded my soul with his novel "DarkHollow" (AKA: The Rutting Season). He just continued to shred me with a series of Zombie novels that completely reinvented the genre in a way no film has managed to capture, twisted a coming of age story into horrific discoveries and revelations regarding the cycle of abuse, and introduced a ruthless "hero" willing to do anything to stop the Elder-thing forces that constantly threaten Keene's shared multiverse of horror. 

Now, here's the thing- EVERYONE eventually has to write a vampire story. It's practically a "coming of age" event for horror writers and such. And while I am a fan of Keene's work, I in no way have a full collection of his books and stories at my fingertips. So when I managed to get a little extra money on "Prime" day, I saw that Keene had a fairly new novel out and that it was going to explore some very ravenous vampires in the West Virginia Hills. 

I had to have it. 

And with the opening lines of the novel, I was hooked- my cheek drawn down to the page, ripped by the cold steel of Keene's wordplay. He knows how to turn a phrase, capture the voice of his lead character, and lead the reader through a journey that finds a group of middle-age men taking a trip to a dark hollow deep in the West Virginia woods. 

What stands out about the novel, however- is that Keene captures the very real and compelling reason for their journey. He describes the characters, letting us know about the economic struggles of their families, what is driving each man, and how each character connects to the others. These are all familiar faces that many people have seen in their day to day lives- poor men in dire straights hoping to make a quick buck on a "get rich" scheme. They're all just as hungry as the vampires they're about to encounter, just as desperate, and maybe just as brutal when it comes down to it. 

Keene's novel comes with two additional vampire stories, one of which references the clan of monsters in the West Virginia woods- the other deals with another group of vampires trapped within a watery grave. 

Highly recommended 8/10. I think a part of me wanted the story to go on, but there you go.