July 22, 2018

Movie Review: The Equalizer 2

Four years ago, director Antoine Fuqua re-teamed with his Training Day star, Denzel Washington, to reinvent a 1980’s crime drama series as a big screen action thriller. That film was The Equalizer. That movie proved to be a hit, making more than $100 million at the box office. I liked it, I thought it could have been more, but there was something about how Denzel portrayed this character that I liked. I never thought it was going to be the sort of film that would get a sequel. Goes to show what I know, right? Anyway, the sequel is here and I went to see it, not expecting all that much. I am here now to tell you that this sequel surpasses the original by a long shot. This movie floored me and I can do nothing but recommend it.

July 18, 2018

Movie Review: The Black Hole (1979)

Recently, I decided to revisit a movie I remember loving as a child. I was curious to see how it held up, if it held up, and if my opinion of it has changed in the intervening years. The movie is none other than Disney’s 1979 science fiction epic, The Black Hole. Burned into my memory since my youth are the robots, the floating VINCENT, the malevolent Maximilian, the swirling of the black hole, and, of course, that rolling, flaming meteor that threatened to eliminate our intrepid heroes as we steamed towards the climax. Now, I have seen the film a few times over the years, but I cannot recall the last time i saw it. I was also sad to discover that I did not have it in my collection (thankful for the local library).

April 22, 2018

Critical Capsule: Blumhouse's Truth or Dare?

Sometimes you hear bad things about a movie, but you have to see it for yourself. That is what happened in the case of Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare? It is a movie that looked to be all right while also feeling familiar in a Final Destination sort of way. The movie was a big waste of time. Soulless, heartless, and pointless, a product designed to separate you from your money. It centered on a group of unlikable college kids who get suckered into a possessed game of truth or dare that doesn’t end until everyone is dead. Best part had to be the fart face the people make when under the influence of the game. It really was annoying he way it played out, and then that ending…. Can’t get much worse. Funny thing, I think the idea has promise, sadly, this was made as a product, not a movie.

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April 21, 2018

Critical Capsule: Ready Player One

When I first saw the trailer for Ready Player One, I was immediately interested. It was my introduction to the source, as I had never heard of the novel before. I was caught up in the nostalgic references to pop culture of decades gone by. Now, having seen the movie, I enjoyed playing spot the reference, as well as the lengthy horror movie sequence and the appearance of a certain mechanical monster. On the other hand, the story felt like a lot of what I have seen before and the lead actors did not have all that much personality. I had fun enough with it, but that is due to the references to things I like a lot better. Overall, I felt this was a mediocre movie banking on nostalgic recognition rather than doing anything interesting with it.

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April 20, 2018

Critical Capsule: Hellraiser - Judgment

The Hellraiser franchise has never been a great. I love the first two, I like the third and fourth, but after that, well, the less said the better. So, the idea of a new film, one without Doug Bradley, would seem like a fool’s errand. Surprisingly, I quite liked Hellraiser: Judgment. Writer/director Gary Tunnicliffe brought some interesting concepts to the film and has made the first genuinely interesting Pinhead film in years. There are some nice gore effects and I would have liked to have seen some of the ideas (like the Auditor and Surgeon Cenobites) expanded on in a longer film. On the other hand, I felt it fell into the same traps as many of the DTV entries where it is just some detectives tumbling into the Hellraiser world rather than being more about that world. Feels too much like two different movies shuffled together. Still, I have no problem recommending this.

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April 19, 2018

Screening Report: Uncle Sam at Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers (4/17/18) w/ Bill Lustig

It must have been a year or so ago that I attended a screening at the Alamo, in Yonkers, that was hosted by Bill Lustig. I forget what movie it was, but I want to say Vigilante or Maniac Cop 2. Wait a minute, you don’t know who Bill Lustig is? For shame. He is a director and producer who has been in and around the industry for decades, and he is responsible for bringing us such classics as Maniac and Maniac Cop. Well, in any case, after the screening, there was some discussion about any possible interest in seeing his last directed film, Uncle Sam. I was the first one to say that I would be there. It is not that it is a great movie, but it is a fun one that I thought would be fun to see with an audience. Now, here we are basking in the afterglow of a screening of said movie.

April 18, 2018

Critical Capsule: The Strangers - Prey at Night

The Strangers was a scary and effective horror film that had an unsettling realism about it. Now, we have the sequel that I don’t think anyone was really asking for, bearing the subtitle Prey at Night. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it has some well shot sequences. The movie itself seemed intent on doing nothing like the first one, thus defeating the purpose. Rather than terrifying the characters, it was more about terrifying the audience with unearned jump scares. On one level, I can sort of enjoy this, but then I get distracted by the terrible choices made by those behind the camera. It is as if they are seeking to undermine the elements that made the first so effective. In many ways I hated this movie.

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April 17, 2018

Critical Capsule: Game Night

This movie was a complete surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling great or anything, but it is genuinely funny, involving, and actually kept me guessing throughout. Game Night is a legitimately fun movie that just when you think you see where it is going, it swerves and changes everything. I liked the cast, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are a good lead pair. I also liked that the makers tried to do stuff with the style to further the concept of games, most notably using tilt shift to make the town look like a game board and the cars as game pieces. This is he sort of surprise I like to have, when hoping to be entertained, and walk away genuinely liking it.

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April 16, 2018

Critical Capsule: Annihilation (2018)

Alex Garland is a name that perks my ears, he is a filmmaker who is adept at bring intelligent genre fare to the big screen. His latest is an adaptation of Annihilation, I am not familiar with the book, but after seeing the movie I am curious. The movie is mesmerizing and while I sort of get it, I cannot explain it. It is fascinating to watch this movie unfold and seemingly refuse to answer any questions. It is sort of like the tree in Empire Strikes Back, Luke is told all that is inside is what he brings. Inside the anomaly called the Shimmer there may be more than what the women bring, but the influence of what they bring has an impact. Then there is the final act, some of the freakiest stuff I’ve seen in a mainstream release. This is a movie that begs for multiple viewing to unlock its secrets.

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April 10, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

It seems like every year has that one genre film that breaks out and gets on the hype train. In many cases, the hype is deserving. Even though hype has a way of leading to backlash, i have found the films to get the positive hype to be more than deserving. One thing that I am liking is that in recent year the films are retaining the quality and are skewing closer to mainstream success. I love the idea of more people discovering genre films and letting the sickness spread. In case you didn’t know, the movies I am referring to are It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, and now we have A Quiet Place. I make no secret that I love them all.

March 29, 2018

Movie Review: The Teacher

There was probably a time when a teacher seducing a student was considered taboo and was an act that was completely unheard of. It must have been a long time ago. It seems like we can not go all that long without story of some young teacher seducing a student for illicit sexual escapades. Just the other day I saw a news story about a guy who took off with a female student on the sports team he was coaching, only to get caught trying to get a job to make some money to get across the border. It all makes the plot of The Teacher seem all that more mundane when all you need to do is turn on the news for something more scandalous. Still, I found the movie to be pretty watchable, although not terribly good.

March 15, 2018

Movie Review: Mayhem (2017)

On one hand, Mayhem is just the kind of movie that I should love. On the other hand, Mayhem is just the kind of movie that I should hate. With that said, I guess it makes some sort of sense that I am somewhere in the middle with regards to how I feel about it. There is about as much to like about it as there is to dislike. In some ways I wish this was a short film, as that is one of the problems, it feels stretched, straining to be a feature length feature film. There is nothing worse than padding, right? Stop saying these meaningless words and get to the point Just get to the action already. Get on with it. Right?

March 8, 2018

Critical Capsule: Spawn

I decided to revisit the Spawn film the other night. Just as I had suspected it is as bad as it ever was, yet I still find it as compelling as ever. The film is seriously dated and somewhere along the way in adapting it from comic to screen, it lost a good deal of the seriousness and darkness that it had. That said, the hero of Spawn is still a compelling character, a killer recruited by Satan doing his bidding on Earth while thinking, or trying, to do the right thing. I have always loved this character and this film will always evoke a love/hate response from me. For as bad as it is and how much was changed, there are still elements that I like. Michael Jai White, a victim of bad writing, has the physicality to play the role and does his best with what he has. The shining performance belongs to John Leguizamo, legitimately electrifying as the bad guy, a short, fat, white clown. I cannot recommend this movie, but it has a secial place for me.

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February 19, 2018

Movie Review: Winchester

Being a horror fan, i sometimes feel obligated to get out and support horror movies in the theater. This means i often sit through awful mainstream dreck without an ounce of artistry to its money sucking soul. Of course, I do like being surprised by mainstream horror, movies like The Conjuring and Insidious did just that. So, when i first saw the trailer for Winchester, I thought I was in for that rare mainstream treat. The film, based on the trailer, had an interesting look, an interesting premise, plus the added bonus of Helen Mirren. Then I started hearing that it was no good, slow and boring and I almost took a pass on it, but faced with sold out Black Panther screenings, it looked like a good alternative to me, so I gave it a shot.