Brigsby Bear

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Last summer I was able to see two wonderful independent films, Sing Street and Swiss Army Man, that wound up in my top five films of the year.  I was thinking about both of those films while I was watching Brigsby Bear because I had very similar feeling with this movie.  It was tremendous.

I am not sure how to proceed with this review without spoiling the movie and I do believe the fact that I went into the theater with almost no knowledge of what the film was about and I think that really helped with my enjoyment of Brigsby Bear.

James (Kyle Mooney) is the biggest fan of the series Brigsby Bear Adventures, a show that he grew up watching and that helped to form his moral compass.  When his entire world changed and his show went away, he decided to finish the story of Brigsby Bear himself.

Kyle Mooney is amazing as James.  He was one of the most original characters in a movie this year.  His innocence was charming and engaging.  Mark Hammill is his normal awesomeness as James’s father, Ted.  There was also a fun appearance by Greg  Kinnear as Detective Vogel.

There is a twist in the plot that happens early in the movie that really shifts the perception of the movie.  You think you are going to be going in one direction with these characters in this setting and then the rug gets pulled out from underneath James and the audience.  It was unexpected and it became something even more.

It would have been easy for the film to take James in a certain, typical way but the movie avoids the cliches with him.  He is sweet and he develops throughout the story.

There was a feeling of magic in this story.  By the third act of Brigsby Bear, I was fully entwined in the movie and emotionally connected to the characters.  There is so much heart in the film and it made me happy.  There were some funny moments too with its clever script.

Just like Sing Street and Swiss Army Man, Brigsby Bear has not found a large nationwide release.  It is difficult to find it in the theaters, but Brigsby Bear is definitely worth the effort.  It is one of my favorite movies of the year and is perhaps the most charming one of the year.

5 stars

Batman and Harley Quinn

Batman and Harley Quinn

I was excited about this film.  The Bruce Timm style animation of the film similar to the classic Batman: The Animated Series and the return of the great Kevin Conroy made this animated special Fathom showing something that I especially wanted to see.

I turned out to be disappointed with this one.

The film started out with an opening credits scene that was really campy and I immediately paused.  I had not expected the tone that this movie was taking, but I was ready to give it a chance.  I like the humor and there are some very funny moments in the movie as well.  The juxtaposing of the wild and campy Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch) with the stoic and hard-nosed Batman really works at times.

You knew this was going to be a different movie when Harley Quinn and Nightwing have sex.  Yes, that is what I said.

Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and The Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) have a master plan to turn everyone in the world into a plant-like creature using the formula created by Dr. Alec Holland (who becomes the Swamp Thing in DC Comics).  Batman and Nightwing are trying to prevent this and recruit Ivy’s B.F.F. Harley Quinn, who has been released from Arkham and has gone straight.

Batman does not trust Harley, but goes along despite his better instincts.

I was into the tone for a good portion of the film.  It was very unexpected because the tone of the Batman: The Animated Series was usually very serious and, even when something humorous happened, the serious tone was maintained.  Still, I remembered the episode when Harley and Ivy initially got together and it was pretty funny.  I like the laughs and the campy feel worked for part of the movie.  There is a scene at a henchman nightclub that is a hoot.  We also see Harley Quinn singing. There is also a very strong scene after a building gets burned down.  You get to see the Harley Quinn humanity during this scene and it gives you a different look at the character.

And then the film goes off the rails hard.

The third act of this movie is just tremendously terrible.  It took what was going to be a surprising and unexpected tonal film that I liked into a film that just does not work.  Moment after moment in this final set pushed believability to the breaking point.  This film has the final confrontation between Harley and Ivy that is so disappointing and cheesy, the arrival of a deus ex machina that actually turns out to be a complete waste of time, and an anticlimactic resolution that is downright stupid.

Batman and Harley Quinn was working for me for the first part of the film, as the campy factor was not too out of line, there were some legit funny moments, Harley Quinn was fun and it felt like they were building to a more serious conclusion after the dramatic scene with Harley after the fire, but the film completely spiraled into ridiculousness and lost me in the third act.  As good as it was to hear Kevin Conroy back as the voice of Batman (and Melissa Rauch of the Big Bang Theory was a solid Harley Quinn), the entire package just was not worth the build.  I left the theater feeling that this would have been better had it been Batman ’66 and we could just make the whole movie a joke.

2.6 stars

The Little Hours

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A raunchy comedy with nuns.

As with most raunchy comedies, if it is funny, other issues can be forgiven.  The Little Hours is funny.

Massetto (Dave Franco), a young servant fleeing from his master (Nick Offerman) whose wife he had an affair with, comes across Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), who is drunk and has lost his cart full of goods into a small river.  Massetto aids the drunken priest and Father Tommasso offers the boy a place to stay at his convent.

Problem though.  The nuns at this convent are not the regular version.  They are violent, attacking the previous handyman for talking to them.  So, to protect him, Father decided for Massetto to pretend to be a deaf mute.

The three main nuns, Sister Alessandra (Alison Brie), Sister Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Sister Ginerva (Kate Micucci), meet Massetto and he sends their libidos into the atmosphere.

This film is a satire on the church and the manner of male-female sexual relationships.  It does not take the group long to be succumbing to their lust.  Because it is a satire, these characters are not remarkably deep, focusing mostly on the archetype more than anything else.

Once heading down the path of revelry, the nuns cannot be stopped.  There is a scene with witches that is extremely funny and downright shocking.

The actresses are funny in their naughty behavior and Dave Franco is imminently likable as the young Massetto who feels like he is being taken advantage of by all of the characters in the film.

John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon (who plays the head nun Sister Marea) are very good in the movie, and they have some very sweet scenes together.  Their relationship seems to come out nowhere, though.  Fred Armisen comes in later in the film as Bishop Bartolomeo and delivers some funny scenes.

The nuns though go way over the top.  I will tell you that the humor is not “rolling on the floor” laughter, but there are consistent laughs throughout.

There may be some who are offended by the use of the church setting to tell this raunchy satire, but it makes sense when you are dealing with isolated, horny individuals.  It was a decent film.

3.2 stars

The TV Week That Was

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Welcome all.  I have sixty minutes until this week’s Twin Peaks so I have to be focused and on-task to get this finished.

Image result for twin peaks arm wrestlingSince it is on my mind, let’s start with last week’s Twin Peaks.  I really enjoyed episode 13 as we got to see the two Coopers really stand out.  First, Dougie seems to be making everyone’s lives better when he comes in contact with them.  He is like a beacon of light while Mr. C (or Doppelcooper or Bob or whatever you want to call him) is the dark opposite.  The arm wrestling scene with Mr. C against the leader of that gang was one of the best arm wrestling scenes I have ever seen.  Plus, Mr. C gives One Punch Man a run for his money.  I am seeing an eventual face off between Dougie and Mr. C in the future of this series, which has only 5 more episodes to go.

Image result for pickle rickThe one thing that EVERYONE was talking about last week… Pickle Rick!  Yes, it was the episode of Rick and Morty where Rick turns himself into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy and winds up on a Pickle Rick adventure.  This was hilarious, but, honestly, the internet might have taken this too far.  Yeah, I know… what are the odds of that?

Image result for comrade detectiveThen, this week, on Amazon Prime I discovered a real gem of a series.  A six episode series called Comrade Detective.  This was a series that was brought to Amazon by Channing Tatum.  It was supposedly a recently discovered buddy cop series from during the Cold War era Romania dubbed into English.  In truth, the series was shot in Romanian recently and then dubbed into English.  The series is a wonderfully funny satire on Communism and Capitalism and the Cold War era mindset of the countries.  Tatum voiced our main character Gregor and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did the dubbed over voice of Iosef as the pair investigated the murder of former police officer Nikita.  Florin Piersic Jr and Corneliu Ulici played the detective pair in the Romania version and who we see acting as Tatum and Gordon-Levitt voice the characters.  It is very funny and well worth your time for a six episode binge.

Image result for fitz and Ted Unabomber manhuntManhunt: Unabomber was tremendous this week as well as we had a tense and dramatic one-on-one confrontation between Fitz and Ted Kaczynski.  Kaczynski told Fitz that he planned on challenging the legality of the search warrants that were used to find all the evidence against him from the cabin in the woods.  If he could get that search warrant thrown out, all of the evidence would be “fruits of a poison tree” and would be inadmissible.  The confrontation is beautifully played by Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany.  This series has been constantly good so far, and does not lose momentum when flashing between time frames.  Watching Fitz figure out information about the Unabomber by the linguistics language that he used was gripping as can be.

Image result for american ripper handwritingMeanwhile, the more episodes in, the less interested I am in the American Ripper documentary that is trying to make a case for H.H. Holmes as Jack the Ripper.  Each week, they bring up info that does not fit their case and they dismiss it as if it were nothing, only to grab hold of inconclusive evidence or rampant speculation.  They looked at handwriting samples this week, comparing some of Holmes writing to the Dear Boss letter.  The expert showed them several examples that did not match at all, but they seemed to focus only on the few examples that were called inconclusive.  They are preparing to look for potential victims at the bottom of a river that might have been encased in concrete, so this is interesting at least.  But it does not make the case for Holmes as the Ripper.

Image result for gong show on mondayI was so disappointed this week because there was no Gong Show.  ABC showed a Princess Diana special this week instead of the Gong Show (or Battle of the Network Stars, btw) and I could not believe how much I missed the proper sing-a-long.  Good news though, the episode of the Gong Show is to be shown tomorrow night.  Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston are scheduled as judges.

Image result for schmoedown modok patriotsOn the Movie Trivia Schmoedown this week, the team titles were on the line as the champions, The Patriots, defended against Team MODOK (formerly known as Rotten Tomatoes.)  This was an extremely entertaining match with the Patriots pulling out a victory in sudden death.  This was the fourth time the Patriots have successfully defended the titles since they won them and they are beginning to look as if they are one of, if not the, most dominant teams ever.  They were also very lucky as Matt Atchity was playing Boris Badenov and, while staying in character, this cost him a point in the speed round and looked to have rattled Atchity.  The rule that the person must answer in two seconds during that speed round is unfair to anyone who hasn’t done it before or who is trying to be entertaining as Atchity was.  Five seconds seems like a fast enough time.  But, it’s not my game.  I just love watching it.  The Patriots next title match will be at the Schmoedown Spectacular in December.

Image result for orphan Black finaleLast night was also the finale episode of Orphan Black.  I have not been watching Orphan Black for the last season and a half, and I have not yet seen the finale, but I do want to see it.  Tatiana Maslany is truly a genius when it comes to this show.  She can play countless characters and you, as the audience, consistently forget that it is her playing them.  Truly Maslany gave one of the best performances on any television show in history.

Image result for stephen colbert said about North koreaThe best response this week about President Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” toward North Korea came from Stephen Colbert.  After showing the clip, the camera came back to an empty stage.  Colbert slowly peaked up at the camera and told Trump to “shut up” and that Kim Jong-Un was crazy.  Colbert showed the fear many Americans felt perfectly and helped to balance that out with humor.

That is it this week.

Next weekend:  The Defenders!!!!  Happy viewing.

 

 

 

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

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Fifty years ago, there was a classic film released that really changed the genre.  Produced by and starring Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde loosely told the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, notorious bank robbers during the 1930s.

Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), an ex-con, is caught by Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) trying to steal her mother’s car.  Enamored by his criminal lifestyle, Bonnie joined him in a bank robbery as the pair began a love affair.

The Barrow gang added Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck’s wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) and mechanic C.W. Moss (Michael Pollard), and they moved around Texas and the central states robbing banks and getting into shootouts with law enforcement.

This movie was groundbreaking because of the violence that it showed.  For the time, the violent shootouts were very graphic and the blood was shown as well.  Of course, it was tame in comparison to today’s standards, but this film led the way in what a movie could show.

Beatty and Dunaway had tremendous chemistry with one another and you truly believed that these two were the wild loves.  This was also one of the first films that shows their main protagonists as criminals, anti-heroes.  Bonnie and Clyde are extremely likable and easy to support.

The ending was a dramatic moment that came out of nowhere.  SPOILERS.  The ending was just like real life.  In a set up, Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in a hail of bullets by police officers including Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle).  Then the movie ended right there leaving the viewing audience shocked and wanting more.  I teach plot in my literacy class and we talk about the climax of a story being followed by falling action.  There was no falling action or conclusion here.  It took the climax of the film and just threw up the “THE END” on the screen.  There was not even any boxed text like you see in other real life stories where they have info on the screen for the audience to read.  It was just done.  That made this ending all the more unbelievable.

Bonnie and Clyde was a great film with a shocking ending and two extremely charismatic leads.  The film won two Oscars as well.  50 years later, this film certainly holds up.

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The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle Movie Poster

The Glass Castle is an uneven movie and I am not sure how I feel about it.  Based on the memoir of the same name by Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle tells the story of Jeannette’s childhood with her family, squatting in abandoned houses, running from the law and dealing with an alcoholic father.

The film, told by switching between Jeannette’s childhood and adulthood in flashbacks, presents us with an uncertain message, mainly about the father, Rex (Woody Harrelson).

Rex is a remarkably complex character, played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson, but the film has a mixed message about him.  They want you to both see how violent and abusive he could be while drinking, yet it shows you how quirky and imaginative he is at other times.  And while that is how you develop a very solid character, it seems like the film wants to excuse a lot of his behavior.  Honestly, I did not want to excuse any of it, considering how he acted.

Some of the best scenes of the movie came in the flashbacks between Harrelson and young Jeannette, played by Ella Anderson.  Anderson is the strongest child actor in a very solid group from this movie, and she has a lot of the heavy lifting involved in presenting this back story.  She has the heart of these scenes, including the strength she showed with her brother and two sisters.

Unfortunately, Brie Larson is not given the same amount of heart in the present day scenes, as she is written stoic and withdrawn.  She is engaged to David (Max Greenfield) who is given so little development that he comes off as a cliche of a rich investment banker.  There is also no real reason given for Jeannette to be this manner.  One would think it had to do with her childhood, but there is a scene of her with Harrelson when she was in college that seemed to change the dynamic between them, making the present day behavior all the more suspect.

Rex is both a terrible father and a wonderful father, and you see the background in which he was raised (with some horrible implications directed toward his mother) so you could almost accept the uncertainty with which the film pictures him, but Jeannette’s mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), is a different animal.  Rose Mary is an artist who seems to care only about her art.  She is selfish, full of excuses and lacks emotional strength.  In fact, one could argue that she wants to be in this type of a relationship.  There is a pretty brutal and abusive scene between Rex and Rose Mary in a flashback that showed the type of co-dependent relationship these two characters had.

And none of that was a healthy situation for four kids.  Despite growing up in at worse an abusive home and at best a non-conformist home where they were not the most important part of their parents lives, the kids seem unaffected in the long run.  Yet, in the end, the kids seem to forget all the negative aspects of their childhood, only remembering the happy times.  Either they are extremely healthy mentally or in complete denial.

The movie is simply too long, and because of that, it gets dull at times and repetitive at others.  You needed to shave about 20 minutes off of the run time, and I think you could do that by limiting the present day scenes, which did not feel necessary for the narrative.

Woody Harrelson is great here, and the child actor’s are all really good as well.  Naomi Watts is wasted as this shadow of a character and Brie Larson is not given the sufficient material for her skill.  Still, there are parts of The Glass Castle that are good, and the real pictures and home videos that play in the credits really bring you back into the minds of these kids who lived through what had to be a dark childhood.  Too bad the film wanted too much to put a happy ribbon on it.

2.9 stars

 

 

To the Bone

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The third of the Netflix movies that I wanted to watch was called To the Bone, and it was a tough one.

Lily Collins played Ellen, a young artist who is struggling with an eating disorder after a life of complications.  Ellen finds her way to a doctor (Keanu Reeves) whose methods are somewhat unconventional.  He admits her to his treatment facility, where she meets a group of others struggling with food.

Right off the bat, there are some imagery in this movie that is difficult to see.  Lily Collins is a tremendously beautiful girl who looks horrible.  At one point, her mother says that she “looks like a ghost” and that simile is an apt description.  I certainly hope that Lily did not starve herself for the role and that the images of her thinness was some sort of special effect.

The film is as much a character study of a young girl struggling with the difficulties of life as it is a picture about a disease, which is why To the Bone is as effective as it is.  Ellen (or Eli as she comes to be known) is a fully fleshed out character and her interactions with the other characters make you care even more for her.  The film also slowly dishes out the facts of her life that has led her to such a troublesome point, on the verge of her body shutting down.

At the treatment center, Eli meets Luke (Alex Sharp).  Luke is one of the most original and likeable characters you are going to find.  Every moment he was on screen was like a light through the troubles.  Now, the relationship with Eli and Luke might have been a little too quick, but the connection was definitely felt.  Alex Sharp was great as the always positive Luke.

Keanu Reeves was solid as Dr. Beckham, but he was not the star of the show.

To the Bone was a tough film to watch, but it is an important one to help understand something that, as a heavy individual, I find hard to comprehend.  Refusing to eat is something I cannot relate to, but I can relate to these characters and their troubles and, because of that, I can understand why they took the steps that they took.  This movie may not be for everyone, but it was powerful.

3.8 stars

 

Message from the King

Message from the King Movie Poster

The second of the Netflix films that I wanted to get to was Message from the King, starring Chadwick Boseman.  I’m not sure what I was expecting from this one, but what I got was a film that started as a type of a mystery, but evolved quickly into a dark tale of revenge.

Jacob King (Chadwick Boseman) arrived in Los Angeles from South Africa in search of his sister Bianca (Sibongile Mlambo), who had disappeared inside the city’s sleazy sections.  Jacob’s investigation quickly led him to discover that his sister had become deeply involved in the corrupt life of LA.

Jacob starts off as a seemingly innocent character.  Someone who has arrived in LA with eyes wide open, just hoping to find the loving sister that he remembered as a youth in South Africa.  However, we discover that Jacob is anything but the innocent naive man we thought he was.  In fact, he becomes as brutal as the world around him.  The film plays with the questions about Jacob and why he was as capable as he was right up until the final scene of the movie.

This film was all over the place for much of it.  It made you think it was going to be one way, but then pivoted away into another.  The inconsistencies messed with a plot that was fairly straightforward and typical.

What elevated this material was Chadwick Boseman.  The star of the upcoming Black Panther film showed that he was ready to lead a huge action flick with his efforts here.  Boseman carried the emotional weight of the story, and the impact of everything that happened is evident on his face.  The coldness is just a cover for a man struggling to do what he needed to do.  Boseman is one of the best young actors around today.

There is a solid cast around him as well.  Luke Evans is here, though his character is fairly one note and his inclusion is confusing.  Even though this, Evans was someone who you loved to hate.  We also had Alfred Molina, who takes a real chance with his performance in Message from the King.

There were some brutal moments in the movie, as it earned its R rating, but I don’t think the film ever really took it too far.  The action was solid, although pretty basic.

The performances were the strength of this film, while most of the rest of it was unremarkable.  This one is a borderline film for me.  If you like a straightforward revenge action flick, you could do worse than Message from the King.

3 stars

The Incredible Jessica James

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There are several NetFlix films now available that I am going to get to tonight or this weekend.  The first one was a film that was recommended by the Schmoes Know Show this past Wednesday in their Indie segment.  It is a film that debuted at Sundance starring former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams.

Williams plays Jessica James, a struggling playwright in New York City who has just had a break up with the man of her dreams.  In order to try to get on with her life, her friend Tasha (Noël Wells) sets her up with a divorcee, Boone (Chris O’Dowd) and the pair strike up a friendship, bonding over the losses they suffered in love and the connection of truth-telling.

This was a great film.  It was a romantic comedy that was smart, funny and full of heart.  Jessica Williams is the biggest reason behind this because she is just unbelievably charming here.  She absolutely lights up the screen, and she shows off a great range of ability as well. She not only handles the humor as you would expect, but there are some strong scenes with her mother and sister that inform on the character of Jessica James and the feeling of isolation and loneliness that she felt.

There is fantastic chemistry between Williams and Chris O’Dowd as well.  The dialogue between the two of them is just brilliantly written, sharp and witty.  They make you fall in love with them as a couple immediately and in a manner that you really believe.  Jim Strouse was the writer/director of The Incredible Jessica James and he does a wonderful job providing this pairing with amazing words.

The film starts with a really fun dance segment which brings the viewers into the mind of Jessica James immediately.  This intro does as much in the few minutes to let you know who Jessica James is as many movies do in hours of screen time.

The story itself is pretty simple and there is not much by way of plot.  Still, the film does a really good job of providing us with a look into the life of this charmingly fun woman and the rebound relationship that might just turn out to be more than she expected.

It is a short movie, coming in at only 83 minutes, but it was extremely fun and enjoyable and I am glad that it was on Netflix, giving me a chance to see it.  Jessica Williams is the next Daily Show correspondent to hit it big.  She is a star of the near future.

4.5 stars

Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation Movie Poster

A horror prequel of a horror prequel.

You don’t see that every day.  What is even rarer is a horror prequel of a really terrible horror prequel tat turns out to be good.

Yet that is what we have with Annabelle: Creation.

The Conjuring was a really enjoyable horror movie, featuring the scary doll Annabelle.  So, of course, sensing the dollars that it could bring, the studio brought us a prequel story of that doll in the film, Annabelle.  And it was terrible.  However, it did make some money and they wanted to continue the Conjuring Cinematic Universe (like everyone is trying to do these days) and so they did another Annabelle film.

This time, though, they gave us a director who had some vision for this film.  David F. Sandberg directed the highly entertaining Lights Out last year, and he brought something special to this film and turned Annabelle: Creation into a very good, scary and engaging time at the theater.

This is an origin story of Annabelle the doll, seeing how she was created and how she came to be possessed by the evil spirits that would cause such trouble.

A group of orphans taught by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) arrive by invitation of the Mullins.  The Mullins, Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto) who had lost their daughter in a tragic accident years before, opened up their homes to these orphans, giving them somewhere to be.  However, it is clear that there is more going on in this house than the children would expect.

Two of the girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson), are extremely close, swearing that they would never leave one another and that they would only be adopted together.  Younger than the others, these two are naturally isolated from the group.  Janice begins hearing noises coming from the room that Samuel had told her never to go into, and that leads to trouble.

The relationship between Janice and Linda was at the heart of the movie, and really helped to anchor the audience to these characters.  Janice and Linda do receive some development, and this connection to one another is the strongest aspect of that.  Unfortunately, the rest of the girls are not very well developed.  I also would have liked more development from the Mullins as well.  The beginning of the film presents us with some, but I would have liked more from them.

The strength of the film is the look and the feel of the scares.  The imagery is very scary, and there are some very disturbing flashes in Annabelle: Creation.  I think credit should be given to Sanberg for much of the success of the film.  He builds tension extremely effectively throughout the film, and many of the scares are very original.

Now, I do think he relied too much on jump scares in the movie, and the music cues became irritating at times.  You could usually tell when something scary was going to happen, because, just like in your typical horror movie, the music would go silent, or the sound would begin to grow.  Having said that, there are several instances where the tension is dragged out more than what you expect, so you are building tension waiting for the scare to happen.  There are also a few times when the scare does not happen, keeping you off-balance.

Plotwise there is nothing here that you haven’t seen before.  In fact, you see a ton of the horror tropes scattered throughout.  There were so many of them, I wondered if Sandberg was specifically trying to go down a checklist of the tropes.  There was the car that wouldn’t start, the creepy kids, the priests and nuns, the ghosts in the house, the jump scares, the stupid choices the characters make, the axe, objects tossed around the room, the haunted house, and of course, the creepy doll.

However, despite the overabundance of horror tropes, the film does subvert several of them.  That axe does not lead to a murder.  The film avoids the last one standing trope.  And the film does not deal with the kids trying to convince the adults something weird is going on.

There was only one moment in the film that I really hated.  It was a laughable moment when the ghost of the Mullins girl turned to face Janice.  I won’t tell you what she says or what she looked like, but it almost pulled me from the film.  Fortunately, it came back strong.

It was fun watching Annabelle: Creation because I had a group of younger girls in the theater I was watching this in and they spent much of the film screeching at the scares.  They helped make these moments more effective.

The performances are very solid in the movie.  I wanted to specifically mention Lulu Wilson, who was also in the much better horror prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil.  She is excellent again as she was in that film.  Talitha Bateman was also very good as Janice.  These two worked very well together.  Stephanie Sigman does a great job as Sister Charlotte. She is a charming presence and gave the audience an adult to root for.

This was a very solid horror movie that, while it played with a lot of the tropes, did so in a different way.  The characters that had some focus were very likeable and you could really root for them.  The imagery was very scary and well done, and the film makes Annabelle scary once again after the doll had become more of a joke in the first prequel.  The film also does a great job of tying it back into the other films in the cinematic universe.

If you are a horror fan, you’ll find a lot to like in Annabelle: Creation.

3.6 stars

 

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein (1948)

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I was always a fan of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.  I loved the “Who’s On First” routine.  I loved all of their other movies.  But when they came across the Universal monsters, the pair took it to another level.

This film also boasted the appearances of Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (who would become the Wolfman) and Bela Legosi who is the Count.

These actors truly make the film work by playing their individual monsters straight.  They are not played for humor.  In fact, that straight play works extremely well with the lines delivered by Lou Costello.

There is more slapstick comedy here than the normal Abbott and Costello movie.

Dracula has a plan.  He wants to revitalize the brain of Frankenstein’s monster by replacing it with a viable (and simple) brain.  And whose brain do you think is the one that will work?  That is right.  It is Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello).  With the help of a beautiful lady scientist (Lenore Aubert), the Count looks to lure Wilbur into the spider’s web.

This is one of Hollywood’s first horror/comedy mash-ups.  There is a lot of humor here, without sacrificing the scares.  It is also one of the better examples of the Universal monsters coming together in a movie (which also included the voice of Vincent Price as the Invisible Man making a special cameo).  The Dark Universe stumbled out of the gate with The Mummy.  Perhaps they should look at this as an option, at least with the narrative.

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Image result for twin peaks episode 13 earlier timeGood evening everyone.  I only have about an hour and half to get this done before Twin Peaks starts.  This week, the 13th episode of the Showtime series will be shown at 7 PM Central time.  I assume this will be the same going forward fro the remaining six episodes of the event series.  It should be plenty of time to finish up this column, but I do have to stay focused.  By the way, I am ready to make my random prediction that Twin Peaks: The Return is going to end with Amanda Seyfried’s character in the last scene, wrapped in plastic.   I believe that they will be ending this series with the same image that they began the original series, except with it being Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic.  I have no knowledge of anything but if that happens, remember where you heard it first.

Image result for herr starr preacher tv showI caught up on Preacher this week, seeing the previous two week’s episodes.  We got the introduction to a new villain last week in Herr Starr.  Herr Starr is involved in the white suited people intending to protect the lineage of Jesus.  We see how much of a horrible man Herr Starr is despite being an agent for Christianity.  The way he became the final combatant for the job was to shoot the other applicant instead of the target (for target practice).  I do like the introduction of this character and I am looking forward to seeing him interact with our main cast.  However, I was not a fan of the sub plot of this episode where Tulip was having some kind of PTSD from her interaction with the Saint of Killers.  That felt pretty forced considering what we have seen of Tulip of the first season and half of the show.

Image result for shinsuke vs. CenaTuesday we got a great match on Smackdown, with major implications for SummerSlam.  John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura faced each other with the winner being declared the #1 contender for Jinder Mahal’s WWE Championship.  In what would have to be considered a bit of an upset, Nakamura defeated Cena cleanly after delivering a devastating back suplex and the Kinshasa.  I was truly hopeful that Cena was okay after the suplex because the landing was extremely ugly, but he seemed to be okay.  After the match you can see Shinsuke approach Cena and mouth “I’m sorry” and Cena responded with “Don’t be sorry” and a handshake.

Image result for manhunt unabomberI saw the debut of the new Discovery true crime series, Manhunt: Unabomber.  The series is an eight episode show presented in a scripted format, much like the People vs. OJ from last year.  The show included double time lines, following the pre-investigation by the FBI and the attempt to then get a confession from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.  Paul Bettany played the bomber in the show.  It does a good job of showing how profiling helped catch him, despite the initial belief that the Unabomber was an uneducated airport employee.  I enjoyed the first two part night and look forward to fining out more about the series as it progresses.

Related imageAnd we also continued to find out more about how H.H. Holmes is Jack the Ripper.  American Ripper has yet to show me much of anything outside of some weird coincidences between the two serial killers.  There did appear to be some close ties with the way Holmes killed to the final death of the Ripper. Still, much of the show feels like a stretch to me.  True crime seems to be everywhere these days, and as long as they continue to be interesting, I think that is as good as any other genre to see.

Image result for the sinner usa networkUSA Network debuted its new summer event series called The Sinner, starring Jessica Biel.  The show introduces us to Cora Tannetti, a young mother whose marriage seems to be strong.  Cora, however, has something going on.  At the beach, she sees a young couple kissing passionately and she takes a knife and brutally stabs the man multiple times in the neck and face, killing him.  The show gives us no reason or motive for the attack and it devastates her family.  However, Detective Harry Ambrose, played by Bill Pullman, wants to know what the motive was.  The show really grabs you with that brutal, violent attack and makes you engaged with the mystery at the center of the show.

Image result for gong show shaving creamI just love the Gong Show.  It has become one of my favorite hours of television of the week.  This week we had four different acts receive a perfect 30 from the judges, which makes up for the lack of any good acts from the week before.  I look forward to the proper sing-a-long all week long, something I never expected when I first realized that they would be singing Shaving Cream each week.  I would miss it terribly if they didn’t sing it one week (thanks Albert!).  We also had Megan Fox this week!  Plus Andy Samburg.  Not sure how many more weeks The Gong Show will be around, but I will be enjoying each and every one ABC gives me.

Image result for whose line is it anyway macchioWhose Line is it Anyway moved to Thursday, so I had to flip back and forth between it and the Battle of the Network Stars.  I prefer that to Mondays though since there are way too many shows on Mondays to watch.  This week we had Ralph Macchio of Karate Kid fame make a guest star appearance on the improv show.  Interestingly enough, this week also saw the announcement of a new Karate Kid series, starring Macchio, on YouTube Red.

Bill Maher returned form vacation and jumped with both feet back into Real Time on HBO.  Maher’s first guest was former Vice President Al Gore, there to promote his new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel.  Maher also brought out a Barack Obama imitator during his New Rules segment to prove to the Republicans that they would not be okay if Obama had said some of the same things that Donald Trump has said.  This was hilarious.

 

Made in plenty of time.  Tonight continues to be busy as I need to watch Twin Peaks, the Dodgers-Mets game on ESPN, Family Feud, 100,000 Pyramid and the new Rick and Morty.  Sundays are a great night of TV.

Happy Viewing!

Detroit

Image result for detroit movie poster

Powerful.  Painful.  Difficult to watch.  Impactful.

Kathryn Bigelow, the director of Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, has now completed her third true story to film, as she tells a story set during the Detroit race riots of 1967.  This is a period of time that I am unfamiliar with, so I entered Detroit without any preconceived expectations.

But here is the thing that I think the film has misrepresented about itself.  Honestly, I do not think that the movie is about the Detroit riots.  This film is centered about the events that happened at the Algiers Motel on one night during the Detroit riots.  Because the riots are in the background, there had to be attention paid to them, but the film’s main story beat certainly occurs during the second act when the Algiers Motel comes into play.

Historically, the Detroit Police responded to someone firing a gun from the Algiers Motel (according to the film, the gun was actually a starter’s pistol) and a small group of Detroit policemen took the motel’s residents and lined them up against the wall and basically attempted to torment and torture them into a confession.

Because there was such a group of individuals involved in this movie, the first act does play as jumbled, because each of these characters needed to be introduced and their reasons for arriving at the Algiers needed to be covered.  Add to this the necessary background information on the riots that was presented in the first act, it is no wonder why the first act feels clunky, especially when compared to the tension filled and kick in the stomach that is the second act.

The cast is amazing.  Each actor in this film brings perhaps their best work ever.  John Boyega, whom despite the trailers is not the main character, brings such a richness to the character of Dismukes.  He was a security guard who approached the National Guard and wound up following along after the “sniper” shooting.  You can see how Boyega has to walk a tight rope between what he sees happening and being able to justify in his head why it is being done.  He believes that the police are on the side of the law, but it is clear that he had issues with some of the tactics.

Another stellar cast member is Gotham’s Jerome, Will Poulter.  Poulter plays the main Detroit racist cop who does such tremendously violent and cruel things, despite believing what he was doing was the right thing.  Poulter was terrifying and was as frightening as any horror movie monster.  You have a visceral reaction to the man and you just wish someone would step up and stop him from doing the heinous things he was doing.  I think this was a potential Oscar worthy performance.

If I had to pick, Algee Smith would be the character that would be considered the main character as his story has the most consistent through line through all three acts.  Smith played Larry, an up and coming singer whose big break with Motown was ruined because of the riots.  This is a character that you see have the most development and the one to whom the story has the most effect.

There are plenty of other strong to great performances here including Jacob Latimore (from Sleight), Ben O’Toole, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, LOST’s own Walt- Malcolm David Kelley, Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and Nathan David Jr.

That second act just busts you in the gut.  You feel uncomfortable and helpless.  Bigelow successfully places you as the audience in the place of the people being tortured by the cops, and you can’t help but feel not only empathy, but a weakness, a helplessness.  It is palatable.

One of the things that hit me personally was how there were so many other people involved in this situation, whether it was John Boyega’s character or National Guard officers who looked at the situation, realized that what was going on was excessive or downright wrong, but none of them did anything about it.  They had several scenes of these other members of law enforcement literally turning away and saying that this was “Detroit police’s case.”  They did not want to get involved.  They did not want to get their hands dirty and, because no one was willing to step up and say the process of what was happening was wrong, innocent people wound up dead.  It was very frustrating as a viewer who wanted the story to turn out okay.

Now, I do not think this is a perfect movie.  In fact, I would venture to say that the first and third acts of this movie were, at best, okay.  I think they both suffer in retrospect because the second act was so compelling and so suspenseful that the resolution just does not, or cannot, match it.  Yes, I know that there was only so much you could do at the end since this was a true story, but the presentation of that end was nowhere near as captivating as what had come before it.  There was also a strange animated beginning of the film that, seemed fine at the time, but now doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.  Honestly, I do not remember much about the animation, so it did not do its job.

This is a powerful movie that made me question why people can be so cruel simply because of a surface difference like skin color.  The film clearly connects to the world that we live in today as well, as this is a big theme of the film.  However, it is not just a “blame the cops” piece.  One of my favorite moments of the late second act was when Larry had been released and he was running, injured and bleeding, through the streets of Detroit, he stumbled across another Detroit police officer who was shocked at what had happened to him and helped him to the hospital.  There was nothing about his skin color.  He was just an injured man who needed help and this officer helped him.  This small moment of humanity is Bigelow’s way of showing that not every police officer was a racist piece of crap.  It just happened that the three main Detroit cops in this story were horrible people, but that was not them all.  I really appreciated that scene.

This is most likely another film that I will not watch again, but I was glad that I saw.  It made me think and it hit me with powerful emotions like a sledgehammer.  You should definitely see Detroit because it challenges your thoughts and perceptions of the world.

4.5 stars

 

Site News

Just wanted to touch on some things…

EYGHoF

Most importantly, the ballot for the 2017 EYG Hall of Fame is up and active on the front page of the website.  We have a good list of potential HoF inductees again this year with people like Steve Irwin,  Stephen King, Josh Gates, and Billy Nye, characters such as King Kong, The Joker, Dick Tracy, Iron Man, C3PO/R2D2, BB-8, and Frankenstein’s Monster, movies and TV shows including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Wizard of Oz, Game of Thrones, The Six Million Dollar Man, Jeopardy and SNL, and other various items including the flux capacitor (from Back to the Future), Starlog Magazine, Mad Magazine, ghosts, Barbie, NASA, the Rubik’s Cube and YouTube.  Your votes do count and you may vote as many times as you would like until the poll ends on September 19th (Talk Like A Pirate Day).  I only ask that you vote responsibly. Do not just sit and vote over and over again to unbalance the poll.  You want to vote multiple times…please do so.  Just keep it in mind to be reasonable.

I am trying to continue to write the “classic” reviews but I do not want to just do reviews of all my favorite former films.  That was why I did Batman and Robin.  I want to try and space out those all-time greats (Princess Bride, Raiders, Star Wars, etc) so it doesn’t just look like the best of the best.  Any suggestions?  Next week, Bonnie and Clyde will be shown at Cinemark and I might make my way to see and review that one.  The Princess Bride is going to be shown in October at Cinemark, so I will probably hold off with that film until then.  If you haven’t guessed, The Princess Bride is my favorite film of all time.

I’m hoping to get to Detroit either tomorrow or early next week.  School will be starting up again very soon, so the time available is going to shorten.  I have a lot of curriculum to get ready for school as well.

I am so excited for It in September.  I hope that I am not disappointed in the film.  The trailers have looked just tremendous.  It is right near the top of my most anticipated remaining films of the year.  I would say that Thor: Ragnarok is number one right now and It is probably number two.  Others include Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Justice League, Annabelle: Creation, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The Battle of the Sexes, Blade Runner 2049,.

I am not looking forward to Flatliners.  That reboot just looks dumb and unnecessary.  Maybe I am wrong.

I love the Gong Show.  It’s just surreal fun with some of the silliest to stupidest things you’ll ever see on TV.  Last year, I loved ABC’s reboot of the Match Game and this year, The Gong Show.

I am a Dodger fan and as of my writing today, they have won 43 of their last 50 games.  That is just insane.  I also just about peed myself when they made the big deal at the trading deadline and brought in Yu Darvish.  It was like the head office is all-in as well.  The Dodgers have not won the World Series since 1988, the year of Orel Hershsier and Kirk Gibson’s home run.  I will never forget that home run moment.  One of the greatest baseball moments in my life.

Okay, that will do it.  Remember, cast those votes for the EYG Hall of Fame.  Every vote matters.

Kidnap

We have a new entry into the film genre of “so bad it is good.”

Kidnap is an extremely stupid, completely implausible, and frustratingly silly movie that is actually quite fun to watch.  It’s not a good movie, but it appeals to the crowds who like a bad “B” movie that you can laugh at and wonder why these lame characters make the choices that they make.

Halle Berry plays Karla Dyson, a recently separated wife who takes her son Frankie (Sage Correa) to the park for some mother-son fun time, only to have him taken by two lowlifes.  Karla sees this, and, like a woman possessed, pursues the kidnappers relentlessly through the streets of New Orleans, bystanders be damned.

Nothing will satisfy the onslaught of the maternal instinct overwhelming Halle Berry in Kidnap, except for the immediate return of her son.  Honestly, I think that if this woman was in hot pursuit of me, I would have tossed the kid out and left to fight another day.

Halle Berry says in the film, “You took the wrong kid!” and that is without debate.

The action scenes in this film are edited terribly.  In these scenes, there are so many rapid cuts that it is almost impossible to tell what is going on.  There is one scene, in particular, in a tunnel that appears to be moving in slow motion.

Things happen in this film that can not possible happen.  Halle Berry is a great driver and her minivan has to be the most kick ass minivan ever constructed, because that thing takes so much punishment and just keeps on running.  Plus, she would be able to pull over, but then almost immediately find the kidnappers once again.  She was amazing in her trailing abilities.

Of course, I kept on wondering why she didn’t do certain things.  I don’t know how many times she had a weapon in her hands only to put it down for no apparent reason and never return to it.  These kidnappers also seemingly gave her ample opportunities to stop them, but she never took advantage of it.

At one point, the kidnappers had indicated that they had a knife at the throat of Frankie, and then a few minutes later as the car drove directly beside the minivan, held that same knife out of the window, exposing his entire arm.  One swerve would have crushed his arm and caused him to lose that knife easily.  Instead, she does not take that action.

Later Halle is in the kidnappers’ home with a shotgun, lays it down to call 9-1-1, and leaves it on the counter.  Um… don’t leave it there.  It was the kidnappers’ gun, they might be able to use it on you later.

There is also a situation where an attack dog chases Halle into the water, but then just kind of disappears.  The dog literally is never seen again after this.

And anyone who happens to get in the kidnappers’ or Halle’s way are either dying or having their car crushed.  There are so many innocent bystanders that pay the price here that it is amazing that the police aren’t out in full riot gear trying to stop both of these forces of nature.

Halle Berry is probably the best thing here, but she overacts throughout and the dialogue is laughable.  The action is poorly shot and edited.  There are so many times that I found myself thing… “why doesn’t she just do this?” that it became annoying.  This is another film that could be a great RiffTrax Live film, because, even though it is a terrible movie, it was kind of fun.

2 stars