Friday, March 8, 2024

Top Ten Movies of 2024 (My Opinion)

 Here is my top ten list of the past year. I know it's a little late and my blog is all but dead, but I thought I would post it all the same. Life is out of control and I just don't devote the time I used to in order to promote the films, music, books, or experiences I used to love as much. I never really wanted to be some typical "review person" and looked to be more honest than I have been entertaining- but enough whinging and cringing, let's get to the list. 

10. Cocaine Bear:  An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine. Fun, frolicing, violent, and goofy. Worth the time in the theater and will probably be a cult hit in years to come.

9. Last Voyage of the Demeter: Inspired by the brief chapter in Dracula, this story follows a crew as they unwittingly carry the vamiric count aboard their ship and become victims to his thirst.

8. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves - It's been done before. It's been done very badly. A feature length film based on the vague idea of Dngeons & Dragons, a sy-fy channel follow up- none of it based on he world building of any particular setting, but it had dragons and magic and thieves and all that jazz. And it had the enigmatically intense and bizarre performance from Jeremy Irons... But this is NOT that movie. From all the trailers, it felt like a formulaicwith the current Marvel formula. It delivered on all the appropriate fronts and was a great popcorn muncher of a film. 

7. Silent Night: John Woo's return to the American audience with fantastic storytelling technique that required no dialogue and still told a brutal and effective morality tale on the costs of revenge and grief. 

6. Sisu: A gold miner goes on a Nazi killing spree at the tail end of WW2. 

5. Thanksgiving: Eli Roth's "Slasher" film about the title holiday. Good old fashioned gruesome fun. 

4 Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One- One of the most fun experiences I had in the theater and a true to form espionage tale with the Impossible Mission Force led by Tom Cruise 

3. John Wick Chapter 4- Each of the John Wick films introduces a new motif with a nod to certain action films and sub-genres... this was "Once Upon A Time..." and widened the Wick Universe with some interesting twists and a pitch perfect villain. 

2. Oppenheimer: The biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the Atomic Bomb and much more. 

1. Godzilla Minus One: The film that left me in tears- the most appropriate and insightful look into post war Japan, the effects of grief, trauma, and PTSD- the heroic efforts of Japan's people to unite for themselves and solve proplems independently of it's Government. An absolutely perfect film.

Sunday, August 27, 2023


 AEW All In 2023

I have a lot of thoughts about the show, but let's get to the matches first- 

The "Preshow' matches- 

There was a brief contract signing situation between Miro and Will Hobbs, but it didn't really break down into too much of anything. The two glared at eachother and set up their PPV match at All Out, which is ONLY a week away. It was a little weird as neither wrestler is someone carrying a storyline that the fans are reall invested in, but it was a good way to get some eyes on these two. 

ROH Tag Team Championship:  MJF/Adam Cole vs. Aussie Open ( Mark Davis/Kyle fletcher)

Most of the buildup for this match is really about the World Title match that will be happening in the Main Event. Over the past several weeks, Cole and MJF have had a bizarre friendship blossom as wrestlings' most vicious and "evil" heel (MJF) seemingly found a real friend in Cole and the two have been way over with the audiences despite a losing effort against FTR earlier this month. The match against Aussie Open was a way to continue that storyline, but Aussie Open weren't just going to sit back and play second fiddle while their own tag titles were on the line. Consummate heel sadism set the tone as they cut MJF from making repeated tag attempts only for the audience to erupt when Cole eventually made his way into the ring. Ultimately, we had a great finish where MJF/Cole stood victorious in the ring with the ROH tag team titles held high. 

FTW Championship:  Hook vs. Jack Perry

Perry's recent heel turn hasn't worked for me. I get the gimmick, I get that he's a smarmy little punk brat, but he's ultimately coming off in a really grating way that goes beyond simple heel heat for me. I don't want ot see him get beat up, i just dont want to see him. Hook, on the other hand, is really good- but he's doing something with his recent look that I'm not sure is helping him- not sure if it's his workout or his diet, but he looks thinner than he should as a wrestler. The two worked a gimmick match with a little blood and a destroyed limoousine, with Perry turning to the camera to make comments regarding a backstage incident that the fans really don't care about and makes him look really REALLY bad right now. In the end, Hook winds up with the FTW title back over his shoulder.... a title that is unrecognized by any organization, mind you. It's a trinket Taz (Hook's father) used to carry around in the old ECW for awhile. There's no significance to it otherwise. 

CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe

Ostensibly, Punk is supposed to be defending the "real" world title, but there are enough fake titles on the line already and I don't think that it has anything to do with the real drama of the match. Joe and Punk go back to ROH and 2003. This match was about these two old warhorses going at it once again and the rivalry they've carried for 20 years(!), so the title was just a trinket to dangle for later angles. This was about these two men opening the biggest PPV of the modern era and having fun out there. And the one thing that you can tell by watching this match is they are having an absolute blast. Punk hits his Pepsi Plunge finish after the two men traded a Hulk-off moment, a great way to start the show and set the pace. 

Kunosuke Takashita / Juice Robinson / Switchblade Jay White vs. Kenny Omega / Kota Ibushi / Adam Page- 

I'm not sure what was supposed to be happening in this match, but I will say that it felt like the Golden Elite were wrestling like heels throughout the match while Jay White (who is supposed to be a heel) took a whole lot of bumps for them. Then the actual heels of the match took a small measure of control before Adam Page came in and ran a superman on all of them, frenetically running from one high flying spot to another an ultimately the match ended with Takeshita getting a pin on Omega to the dismay of the London fans who were heavily behind Kenny. 

AEW World Tag Team Championship: FTR vs. The Young Bucks. MATCH OF THE NIGHT

And it's no small thing that I'm calling this match of the night considering the whoppers that came up later- but hear me out, these two teams gave us hellacious false finishes and built up their match from one moment to the next. I'm not a Young Bucks fan by any stretch of the immagionation, but I am a huge FTR fan and those four men tore the house down with their match. This is the modern era's greatest tag rivalry- whehter you hate either team or love them, these guys gave one of hell of a performance and FTR retained their championship after a second shatter machine. 

Stadium Stampede: Best friends (Lst below) vs. Blackpool Combat Club (and friends) List below

The Stadium Stampede concept is an AEW original and it's basically two teams of five fighting all over the stadium and looking for a pinfal or submission. Anything goes, hardcore rules, the whole nine yards. It's not going to be a technicians dream, it's going to be death match style wrestling and high spots one after another- it's total chaos and it's fun, but way too much happens to take note of everything. On the Best Friends side we have Eddie Kingston, Orange Cassidy, Trent Baretta, Chuck Taylor, and Penta El Zero Mieda. On the BCC side we have Jon Moxley, Claudio Castignoli, Wheeler Yuta, Santana, and Ortiz. The whole thing was a bloody affair and Moxley, at one point, wound up with wooden skewers sticking out of his head while Orange Cassidy coated his taped fists in broken glass. The finish came when Orange Cassidy took the win for his team by pinning Claudio Castignoli. 

AEW Women's Championship: Saraya vs Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm. vs. Britt Baker

A decent match that I'm not sure was placed well in the card, but Saraya took home the championship at sunset to a large celebration before her home country audience. Saraya was once called Paige in the WWE and had a movie made about her life so this was just a smart decision from a booking angle. 

Darby Allin / Sting vs. Christian Cage/Swerve Strickland in a coffin match

Really good match and story going into this as Darby is challenging Cage's protoge for the TNT championship, but has had issues withboth Swerve and Christian along the way. This also got some star power on the PPV with Cage and Sting, got eyes on Strickland and Allin, and gave all four men some great moments to build on. Allin gets the win after stuffing Strickland in the Coffin, but I think Strickland actually came out looking the best out of everyone here. 

Will Osprey vs. Chris Jericho 

Jericho is played to the ring by his band, with the audience inging alon to Judas- and the two men had an AMAZING match!!! On a lesser PPV, this match would've stolen the show. As it was, it was an incredible introduction for many audience members t the talent of Will Osprey and the wonderul continuation of Chris Jericho's legacy in this business. And, with no shenanigans or major moments of gratuitous violence, Will Osprey defeats Chris Jericho. 

AEW Trios Championship: The Acclaim and Billy Gunn vs the House of Black (w/Julia Hart)

Solid trios match finishing a storyline that saw Billy Gunn redeem some recent losses and take home gold with his friends, the Acclaim. House of Black with an interesting show of respect at the end for their opponents.Fun match, but after the prior match there was no way they were going to overshadow that or tak away from the coming Main Event. 

MAIN EVENT: AEW WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: MJF defends the Title against his best friend and partner, Adam Cole. 

This match should be studied for a long time by people wnating to get into the business of what prowrestling is and how to remain true to the characters and the storyline. This was an incredible match that saw emotional highs and lows, with the audience sent on a journey of wondering "will he? Won't he?" Will either man betray the other? Why would they? For a title? For a moment? For glory? And it was an investment of time and heart and it really elevated the bar on this story and became something huge as a result. MJF retains after doubt from Adam Cole makes him toss away an opportunity to nail the wounded champion with his title, allowing MJF to snatch a small package and get the three.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Top Ten List: 2022 Year in Review




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.  




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.