Predator (1987)

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This one is so much better than the new version that came out this weekend, The Predator.  It is not even close.

This movie really shot Arnold Schwarzenegger into the stratosphere of movie stars with his great performance as Dutch, the leader of an elite crew of mercenaries/soldiers who are sent into Central America on a secret mission.

While taking care of the mission, Dutch and his team encounter an alien being that starts hunting them and killing them off one at a time.

Why this works so much better than the new film? There are many reasons.  One, in Predator, we took some time to know who this group of soldiers were and how they were connected to one another.  They were more than just a bunch of traits.  They were characters.  They may not have been incredibly deep, but they gave you a reason to care about their imminent deaths.  Two, the humor was kept to a bare minimum in the original.  There were several one liners in the first Predator that worked (most of Jesse Ventura’s lines for example), but the entire crew did not feel the need to be cracking wise through the whole movie.  Three. the Predator itself was more than just a Hulk rip-off.  This predator was a real hunter and he took advantage of his skills and his knowledge to become a threat.  He was not just show up and batter people to death like in the new film.  Fourth, the story was simple.  It was a slasher movie with soldiers instead of teenagers.  There was no need for complex convoluted plotlines that some times did not go anywhere.  There was one major plot…to survive.

Predator had some serious violence.  I know that my friends in our Champions group of role-playing games always wanted one of Blain’s (Jesse Ventura) line guns after seeing the chaos that thing brought.  The scene of the soldiers just decimating the jungle after Blain’s untimely death (really, he died way too soon!!!) was just amazing.

I also loved how Arnold Schwarzenegger was battered and bloody and nearly died.  He did not stroll through the film like nothing would ever hurt him.  He was frightened by this monster and he had to use every trick in the book to survive and he knew that he was lucky.

After watching this week’s Honest Trailers which featured this original Predator, I have to agree with them that the scene at the very beginning revealing that the Predator came from outer space was an unnecessary scene that actually hurt the film.  How much cooler would it have been if we did not know what it was that was stalking these men and causing such violence?  Instead, we know immediately that it was an alien.  I have to agree with Honest Trailers here, even though it was not a major problem.

If you want to see a Predator movie this weekend, I highly recommend that you skip the one with the “The” in front of it and watch the first and best  one, Predator.

vintage

 

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Star Wars (1977)

As I was writing up my post on Muppet Treasure Island, I was flipping around the TV stations and I came across the original Star Wars, what would become to be known as Star Wars: A New Hope, on TNT.  So I watched it.

It has been awhile since I have seen this film that started a franchise that is so important to movies and to fandom.  It was such a treat this morning seeing the initial film that had so much joy and fun about it, before people got angry and insane over every little thing.  How the greatness of this epic came through the screen with great characters, exciting action, wonderful performances and a story that is simple yet full of heart on its own.

Watching it again made me remember how special it was to see Star Wars for the first time.  What a special feeling it brought to the viewer, filling him/her with a tale of a hero’s journey from youth to rebel fighter.

Sure, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was really whiny, but that only serve to show you how much the character grew over the years and the subsequent films.  We got continued goodness from Harrison Ford as Han Solo.  A brave and heroic princess who was not anyone’s damsel in distress in Carrie Fisher’s Leia.  The regalness of Sir Alec Guinness as our first ever Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The first time ever to see such iconic characters such as Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO.

Directed by George Lucas, the film truly holds up and actually looks even better than the CGI fests that populated this franchise in later episodes.

And there was the pureness of Darth Vader, before we knew that he was a hero fallen or that he would one day be conflicted because of his feelings for a son.  This Darth Vader was a classic villain who was bad ass and knew what he wanted.  He did not hesitate to strike down Obi-Wan with his light sabre and send the old knight straight into the world of Force ghosts.

Each character had an arch and they each became more than they were at the beginning.  Han Solo showed his heroic side for the first time (unless you count Solo: A Star Wars Story) as he returned to help Luke blow up the Death Star, an unbelievable weapon that destroyed Alderaan earlier in the film.

There are so many great moments that I can even forgive those tacked on moments that just do not feel as if they fit, such as Han Solo meeting with Jabba the Hut and basically telling him the exact thing he told Greedo.  It was an unnecessary scene that felt repetitive and was tacked on just to shoehorn Jabba into the movie.  These moments are distractions, but cannot take away from the overall epicness of this classic.

There was a reason why this was such a moment in time.  Star Wars was one of the greatest movies ever made.

paragon

 

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

This coming Wednesday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I celebrate the holiday every September the 19th.  As the song says, it is a day when adults can show that they still know how to play.  In honor of the great day, I pulled out one of my favorite pirate inspired movies of all time… Muppet Treasure Island.

The Muppets became involved in a series of movies that retold classic stories using the Muppets in the starring roles.  Muppets Christmas Carol, Muppets Wizard of Oz etc.  This one was an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Kermit the Frog was Captain Smollet, the captain of the Hispanola.  Miss Piggy was his beloved girlfriend Benjamina Gunn.  Sam Eagle was Mr. Arrow. Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat were here as themselves.

However, there were three key human characters here.  EYG Hall of Fame Wild Card Inductee Tim Curry played the evil pirate chef Long John Silver, Kevin Bishop was a young Jim Hawkins and comedian Billy Connolly played Bill Bones, who had stolen Cap’n Flint’s treasure map.  The three of these actors brought a ton of humor and solid work to the Muppet cast.

I liked the songs on this film more than some of the other Muppet films.  In particular, “Shiver My Timbers”, “Professional Pirate”, “Something Better” and “Sailing for Adventure.”  While there may not be any instant classic such as “Rainbow Connection”, the overall quality of songs are wonderful.

Tim Curry is perfect as Long John Silver.  He provides the charisma of the gentleman of fortune and yet plays the sinister aspects of the character extremely well.  The relationship between Curry and Kevin Bishop was believable and true.

The film is quick-paced and fun.  It is a perfect way to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Ahoy!

vintage

 

The Endless

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I was at the iTunes movie store the other day and I came across a horror/fantasy Sci-fi film in the $0.99 rentals.  It was listed as a 2018 release (although I believe it may have debuted at a festival prior to 2018) called The Endless.  The synopsis was fairly intriguing and the price was certainly right.

The film turned out to be extremely solid and downright mind-trippy fun.

Two brothers, Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) and Justin (Justin Benson) received a mysterious video from the cult that they had escaped from as children and they felt a pull to go back to see exactly what they had left.  Once there, the pair realized that there was more happening than just cultist behavior.

Moorhead and Benson were not only the stars of this movie, but they were also the directors and Benson was the the screenwriter.  This film was very well done and had a real feel of an independent movie.  You could feel the surroundings.  The setting became an important aspect of the story.

The mystery of what is going on is very challenging, even when you know what is happening, it is difficult to comprehend and that thinking is welcomed in the horror genre.  In fact, not only was the script very intelligent, it was also creepy as hell, especially in the first half of the movie.

The film has an original story that weaves its way through the narrative successfully.  The performances were solid.  I especially enjoyed the performance of “cult leader” Hal (Tate Ellington).  Hal always seems to have something that he is keeping to himself, but you are never really sure what that might be.  I appreciate how the film deftly avoids the cliched answers that one might expect from the reveal of the film.

The Endless is a great horror movie and fans of the genre will enjoy watching this develop.

3.85 stars

 

Mandy

What. the. Hell.  was. this???

I’m trying to wrap my head around what I just watched.  I’m not sure I want to wrap my head around it.

It is certainly a horror/revenge flick.  But it was so out there that what I saw for most of the movie was so weird… it is difficult to really judge it.

One thing is for sure.  The only actor that could be in this movie and not be completely campy is Nicolas Cage (or maybe Bruce Campbell).  This role is just perfect for Nicolas Cage and his unbelievably over-acting, filled with moments of bulging eyes and bizarre facial features.

And… holy crap… there be violence here.

Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) are in love and are existing in what some may say as a heavenly existence.  When a vicious cult, led by sadistic Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) comes into the picture, the perfect couple is forever destroyed, sending Red on a bloody trip of vengeance.

I think you have to be in the right mind set to watch Mandy.  It comes off as a violent dream, one that you cannot awaken from.  There may be a perverse enjoyment in watching Red cut through these cultists that infused themselves into their lives, but there is also a feeling of grossness here.  Does the film go too far?  Hard to say.

I have never been much of a fan of the torture horror porn style of film and this feels as if it fits into that more than any other.  I do believe there are metaphors and symbols sprinkled throughout the film that give it more of a message or weight that might be seen easier upon a second viewing once I am used to what is happening on the screen.  However, I am pretty sure that a second viewing is not happening.

The soundtrack is pounding and cannot be ignored.  Each shot has a weird color scheme to it, leaning heavily on the blood red.

Perhaps the fact that I am disturbed by the film is the real point to it.

3.1 stars

The Predator (2018)

Although I was not a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980s, I did love Jesse “The Body” Ventura, from the WWE, so I loved the classic 80s action movie, Predator.  Because of that, I was excited when I heard that they were doing a new Predator movie directed by Shane Black, called The Predator.  I liked most of Black’s work and I thought this would be a nice blend of action and character work.

Nope.

This was awful.

A regular predator arrives on earth with an unknown mission and he comes into conflict with the group led by American sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook).  It took out that team, but it was captured. leaving McKenna alone and looking to be crazy.  As evidence, McKenna took some equipment from the predator and mailed it to his own post office box, which mistakenly ends up in the hands of his estranged son, Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who is on the Autism spectrum (and apparently genius level).  Rory is able to trigger the gauntlet that had been sent and accidentally tips off the super Predator that had been in pursuit of the smaller predator.

Meanwhile, McKenna wound up on a bus heading to an asylum but he was conveniently  on the same bus as a group of crazy soldiers called The Loonies.  When the storylines converged, they teamed up to try and prevent the predators from doing whatever they were going to do.

The film is needlessly convoluted and confusing in many points.  There are bunches of storylines going on at any one point in the movie and the film touches upon them and drops them willy-nilly throughout.  There are many times that the narrative structure felt more like a mishmash of scenes instead of a well thought out plot.

Not that Schwarzenegger’s Predator was a deeply involved story.  It was the story of a hunter creature stalking and killing a group of well armed men.  It was a slasher horror flick masked as an action movie.  Either this new film did not know what it wanted to be, or, worse yet, knew what it wanted to be and did not understand the basic component of what makes a successful Predator movie.

There were too many jokes.  Scenes were dismissive and played for comedy.  Very few of the jokes worked, even with the remarkably funny Keegan-Michael Key as one of the Loonies.  Key’s character just did not work for me, and any enjoyable scenes with that character was strictly from the talent of Mr. Key.  And above all else, despite there being many quips and one-lines, there were none like “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

The action was fine, but unremarkable.  There were actually several scenes where it looked like an old eighties film, and not in the good way.  The CGI and effects were hit and miss, which is inexcusable at this time in movie history for a big budget movie.

The cast was adequate, but nobody truly stood out.  Olivia Munn was fine in her role, but casting her as a scientist was a bit of a stretch for sure.  Sterling K. Brown’s Traeger was a dull villain whose motivation was confused at best.  I hated Thomas Jane’s character of Baxley, whose character trait apparently was that he had Tourettes syndrome.

The film had a lot of noise and a lot of gunfire with little purpose behind either.  And there felt as if there were no stakes at all because nobody had any fear or concern or emotional ties to anything that happened.  When Jacob Tremblay takes the Predator helmet that hi dad mistakenly mailed him and used it for a Halloween costume, the mask activates on its own and kills somebody.  That does not seem to bother Tremblay’s character in the least.  No one has any normal human reactions to what is happening around them and so why should I care if any of them are in danger?

The Predator is a mess of a movie and I really disliked my time watching it in an IMAX theater.  It did not look good, had average, at best, performances and tried to juggle too many plots where one or two would have sufficed.  The Predator was not a good film.

1.5 stars

 

 

Unbreakable (2000)

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This coming January, M. Night Shyamalan is releasing the new film called Glass, which features the characters from this classic film, Unbreakable, and the film from a couple of years ago, Split.

Split was a real return to form for Shyamalan, who spent several years making dud after dud.  At one point, Shyamalan was being referred to as the “next Spielberg” after his massive hits, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.  However, after a few more marginally successful films, the wheels came off and Shyamalan’s films took a steady decline.

However, he had started to recover when the excellent Split was released and it caused a sensation, not only for the brilliant performance of James McAvoy, but also the surprising tie in tagged at the film’s conclusion.  It turned out that Split took place in the same universe as Unbreakable as we see that film’s David Dunn (Bruce Willis) watching a news report about the happenings of Split.

In a world where cinematic universes are all the rage, M. Night Shyamalan had created one without any fanfare or promotion.  The announcement of the release of Glass came soon after this.

Looking back on the first film in this universe, Unbreakable is so much better than I even remembered.  I remember liking the film originally, but not being blown away by it, which should be considered shocking.  I was a huge comic book fan and I loved Bruce Willis too (from Moonlighting, Die Hard and the Sixth Sense).  Unbreakable should have been right down my alley.

I must say, after the rewatch tonight, I really dug it more than I remembered.

The development of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) into the villainous Mr. Glass is amazing and was completely unnerving.  I remember being shocked and not 100% sure what had happened the first time I saw the film and this time, you can see what he is doing as the film progresses.  This would be one of the films that started the reputation of Shyamalan as a filmmaker whose films ended with a mysterious twist.  That kind of shoehorned him into a path that he could not maintain during the down period.

Bruce Willis is excellent here and the chemistry between him and Sam Jackson is undeniable.  How Willis’s character, David Dunn, slowly comes around to acceptance that he was more than just a normal man is smart, realistic and well done.  It may be a slow burn, but I found it to be fascinating.  The pain of his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) over his father’s refusal to accept his destiny was difficult and the scene where Joseph takes his dad’s gun was as tense of a scene as you are going to find.  You just were not sure of what was going to happen.  I also loved the scene near the end where David showed his son the newspaper of the “Hero” and silently let hm know that Joseph was right all along.  The single tear that Joseph wipes away is beautiful and speaks of the character perfectly.

Robin Wright as David Dunn’s wife Audrey was wonderful as well.  I loved her as Buttercup in the Princess Bride but I did not know that it was her in Unbreakable until after the film was over and I saw the IMDb page.  David and Audrey had lots of trouble between them but the sweet ending with David telling her that he had a bad dream, building on an earlier scene, was such an amazing restart to their relationship.

Unbreakable was a much better film than I remembered.  I was completely engaged in the movie and the relationships of the characters within.  The film plays like an origin story of a super hero, only to reveal that it is also the origin story of the super villain.

Can’t wait for Glass!

paragon

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Peppermint

Jennifer Garner stars as She-Punisher.

What?  She’s not?  I thought she might be Francine Castle since her film here is basically the exact story of Frank Castle, Marvel Comics’ Punisher.

But no, Peppermint does not feature the debut of the She-Punisher, but it may as well have.  Garner stars as soccer mom turned psycho terrorist Riley North, who returns to her home five years after seeing her husband (Jeff Hephner) and her sweet daughter (Cailey Fleming) gunned down in front of her by a drive by shooting.  The perpetrators of the crime, despite being identified by Riley, are set free by a crooked system of a judge, district attorney and defense attorney that have been bought off by crime lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba).  Riley disappears for five years, turning herself into a revenge seeking murder machine.

I actually liked this more than I thought I would.  It is not a good movie, as much of what it should have done was skipped.  Jennifer Garner was outstanding as the grief-stricken psycho.  You could both relate to her and be amazed at her ability to murder people.  She hit the emotional beats here well and she played this character as slightly unhinged, which helped make sense of how a normal person could become this mass murderer.

The biggest problem of the film was that the real culprits that I wanted to see her take out in her quest for revenge was the people directly involved in the murder of her family and the subsequent cover up in court.  However, of these characters, we only see her kill the judge and one of the shooters (there were three) and that shooter we see get his before we even knew what was happening.  It was the opening scene and it was not as powerful as it could have been had we known what he did to deserve it.  Even still, they could have kept that as an opening scene if they had not killed all of these others off screen.

The worst one was the lawyer defending the shooters, played by Michael Mosley.  This guy showed up at her house after the shooting to try and buy her off and when that did not work, he tried to intimidate her and he wound up using her medication against her.  This guy was the biggest slimeball in the whole movie, but his death was off screen, covered by a line of dialogue.  In a revenge film, I want to see the people I hold responsible get theirs.  I don’t just want to hear about it at a later date.

Most of the movie was focused on the pursuit of Riley against the big boss Garcia.  That was fine, but I really would have liked less of that and more of killing that lawyer.  Or, at least, the other two gunmen.  Instead, they are just dead within the first five minutes after the flashback and it has no emotional response from the audience.

The action itself was good, but not at the same standard of a John Wick.  There were some things that Riley North was able to do that felt like credibility was being stretched too far.

There was nothing new in this movie, but it was an alright shoot ’em up film for what it was.  It could have been a much better revenge film, but the movie does not understand whom the audience wants to see get theirs.

2.85 stars

The Nun

The next installment of a prequel to the Conjuring series came out this weekend with The Nun, which followed behind the pair of Annabelle movies.  The Nun made an appearance in the Conjuring 2 film and became an iconic scene.  It felt like a good idea for a spin off.  However, feelings can be deceiving.

The Nun is a horrid horror movie.  It was just terrible with so many problems in it that make horror movies cliched and boring.  I fought to stay awake through much of the movie and I found it to be just one of the worst films of the year.

After a nun apparently committed suicide, Rome sent Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to investigate in Romania.  They also, apparently, send a nun who had yet to take her vows, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), with him.  Once in Romania, the pair met the man, Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), who had discovered the nun’s body.  The trio realized that the location of the “suicide” was a place where a great evil had taken root and they had to stop it from gaining a foothold in the world.

There were so many scenes here that were just so terrible, and most of them were simply strung together as a series of seemingly unconnected events.  There were just so many ridiculously bad scenes throughout that this movie was such a waste of a good creature.  Actually, you do not see the Nun herself much in the movie.

Without spoiling, the ending sequence was so unintentionally hilarious that I could not even get the laughter out.  I sat there with a shocked expression and my mouth agape.  I don’t want to spoil, but I am going to include three words to make you understand what I was watching:  “flushing the toilet.”  You’ll know when you see it.  And what led to that moment of levity was perhaps the stupidest way for this to go down.  So bad that it might make you spit.  (Hint, hint)

Taissa Farmiga was fine as Sister Irene, but she was not able to elevate the material any higher than what was here.  Frenchie was not the worst character because he seemed to embrace the cheesiness of the character and played it as a silly, cartoonish character.  And then what happened to him was disappointing.

The Nun was a terrible movie with little to no redeeming quality.  I hadn’t even mentioned the scene with the buried alive priest.  Ugh.  Just not worth the time.

0.75 stars

 

American Animals

American Animals Movie Poster

I had been hoping to see this movie for quite awhile, but this past week’s Top 10 Show made me even more interested.  Matt Knost, one of the co-hosts of that podcast, listed American Animals as his number two movie of the summer and he said that he nearly placed it at number one.  That rave was fresh in my mind when I happened to find it at the iTunes store.

While I might not put it at number two on my list of summer movies, there is no denying that this film is something special and worth every minute of its run time.

In this true story, four intelligent college students from Kentucky plan out one of the most audacious robberies in U.S. history as they tried to steal several million of dollars worth of rare books from the special collection section of the library in broad daylight.  The film focuses on the four young men and their involvement in the caper.

The film was shot in an original style, part documentary featuring the real life people and part re-enactment as actors took on the roles of the real students.

Leading the cast was the spectacularly chaotic Evan Peters as Warren.  Peters brought such a sliminess to Warren and yet he had that charisma that makes you understand how he could convince two others to join them.  Warren and Spencer (Barry Keoghan), who portrayed a certain innocence that felt corrupted by what happens in the movie, plotted out their plan for the heist before realizing that they needed to have help.  They recruited former classmate Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas (Blake Jenner) to fill vital roles in the heist.

As events began spiraling out of their control, the four students found themselves in way over their heads without any real way out.  What was thought as being fun and adventurous turned into stress and guilt-ridden compulsions.  As their perception of the situation became more realistic, each man had to face their role in the crime.

Ann Dowd played Betty Jean ‘BJ’ Gooch, the librarian in charge of the rare books. The fact that there was just one individual librarian overseeing the books propped the crew up, making them believe that this was going to be an easy heist.  It turned out to be anything but.

The story takes some unbelievable turns that prove why the old cliche “Truth is stranger than fiction” became a cliche in the first place.  What at once seemed to be a simple and fail free crime turned into a cluster quickly.  And the improvisational skills of the thieves were certainly not well developed.

The film felt like two separate films.  The first half was up and exciting, with great music to match.  Any time I can hear Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” I think it is well worth it.  Add in Ace Frehley’s New York Groove and the soundtrack is awesome.  However the second half of the movie highlights the characters’ panic and frustrations, bordering on deep regret.  This feel is compounded by the interviews with the real culprit.

The film also plays with point of view as Spencer indicated that he was not sure what exactly he had seen or how he remembered what was going on.  The film brought that out as a element of the story and it made the film feel even more like a documentary.

This was an extremely well acted, overly original, fantastic heist movie that becomes more than just that.  It is a look at the mind of these four students who believe they are doing something exciting and adventurous, but they discover quickly that the lives of big time art thieves may not be what they are cut out for.

Thanks Matt for the recommendation.

4.75 stars

Kin

Sci-Fi epic.  Road film.  Family drama.  Heist film.  Coming of Age tale.

There are a lot of genres that the new film from directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, Kin, could fall into.  Unfortunately, it seems like the film tries to be way more than it is capable of being.

Young Eli (Myles Truitt) is a kid in trouble at school and with his adopted father (Dennis Quaid).  Eli is out salvaging metal for scrap when he comes across a crime scene with men whose heads had been blown off.  While there, he finds a weird blaster/gun of some kind and takes it with him.  Meanwhile, Eli’s older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) is being released from prison owing money to a bad man named Balik (James Franco).  Balik tells Jimmy that either he brings him the 60 thousand dollars or he may collect it from his father and brother himself.  This pushes Jimmy to make some poor choices.

Jimmy does not yet know that his little brother has a weapon that will level the playing field for them moving forward.

I will say that there were some things that I did like about the movie.  I really liked the performance by Myles Truiit.  He showed me that he was very capable of leading this film.  He was believable and engaging, making it easy to root for him.

I wish I could say the same for Jack Reynor’s character.  I hated the brother character so much.  He was selfish, immature and the choices he made put everyone into danger.  Even at the end, it wasn’t that Jimmy learned any lasting lessons.  He took advantage of every situation, whether or not something tragic happened and, in my eyes, he failed at his attempt to prove his love for his brother.  I did not buy his last minute redemption in any manner and it was only through a conveniently timed deus ex machina that he survived at all.

Speaking of that ending, it was just out of nowhere and was totally against most everything that had happened up to this point.  It felt completely out of place in this movie and any goodwill that the film may have built up prior to this was completely lost with this five minute scene.  It made no sense even after the surprise cameo took off his Idea Men (Animated Tick reference) helmet and was able to finally speak clearly.

The trailers made this film feel as if the brothers Johnny and Eli would really form a strong bond after Johnny was released from prison, but that did not happen.  Heck, the brotherly bond was a complete failure in my mind.  I would even say that there was more of a connection between Eli and the stripper Milly (Zoe Kravitz) the brothers meet half way through the film.

Kin has some positive about it, but there is so much that ruins those positives that by the time you give up rooting for Jimmy and the ridiculous sci-fi ending happens, you have checked out of the early positives.

2.5 stars

The Birds (1963)

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Another Hitchcock classic down.

I had a great time this morning watching the creepy and frightening The Birds, Hitchcock’s follow-up to his all-time classic Psycho.

San Francisco socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippy Hedren) met handsome lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a pet shop.  Knowing who she was, Mitch had played a bit of a joke on her to put her in her place.  Melanie wasn’t going to settle for that so she purchased two love birds and followed Mitch to his home town of Bodega Bay to deliver the birds.  Melanie met Mitch’s overprotective mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy), his little sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) and an old flame Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette).

As the human drama continued to play out, the local birds started to act in peculiar ways: a seagull struck Melanie on the head.  A group of birds attacked a fishing vessel in pursuit of fish.  Crows began to group up.

Soon, these packs of birds were attacking school children, breaking into houses and pecking the eyes out of local residents.  Mitch and Melanie desperately tried to keep his family safe from the deadly assault of these birds.

The Birds is a fascinating film.  First of all, it is extremely suspenseful.  Hitchcock masterfully builds tension and suspense with each shot of the birds and the use of silence in the background.  The first half of the film is spent on developing characters and their motivations and the horror elements of the film are placed on a slow burn.  This worked brilliantly by building the anxiousness of the audience.  Then, when the birds would attack, it provided even more of a shock to the viewers.  I know that I shouted out loud several times (when the birds came flying out of the fireplace into the Brenner home, I blurted out).

Making things even more tense for the audience is the fact that Hitchcock has taken a species that has never been aggressive,  that have been docile, and turned them into monstrous killers.  Birds are just a normal part of the world.  In fact, you probably do not even notice that they are there.  That only adds to the overall effectiveness of the sudden turn into creature features.

Finally, the fact that Hitchcock does not take the time to give any reasons behind the attacks or any motive whatsoever makes the violence even more disturbing.  There are several potential hints dropped throughout that could lead to answers.  These include things like: “it’s the end of the word”, the constant shots of the two caged love birds, Melanie is evil and has brought this curse with her, poisoned bird feed, the birds are getting sick etc.  Honestly, I prefer the open ended aspect of the film’s feathered felon’s motivation because it allows you to decide for yourself which of the obviously dropped hints are important and which ones were Hitchcock just playing with the audience.  I suppose there is a strong chance that Hitchcock had no idea the real motivation and he just provided a series of possibilities to keep people talking.

There are some tremendously iconic horror scenes in The Birds, including the children running in fear from their school and Melanie trapped inside a phone booth.  There are some amazing shots that director Hitchcock placed in this film that creates such a wonderful tension in his viewers’ mind.

Even the ending left the results in question, and I thought it was quite the ballsy choice.  Hitchcock did not feel the need to wrap things up in a neat bow and the unpredictability of the whole film shows what a master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous (2010)

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Weird.

I was watching a Movie Trivia Schmoedown episode and there was a question about a movie called Drop Dead Gorgeous.  The question asked about plot details and sounded interesting to me so I went looking for it.  I found it on Amazon and so I was excited.

As I’m watching the mockumentary at the heart of the movie, I was thinking to myself that this did not remind me much of the question in the Schmoedown.  Pushing that aside, I kept watching until the end.  Then I went to Rotten Tomatoes and this film had no rating on the site.  I was confused even more.

Then, I saw it.

I saw another movie named Drop Dead Gorgeous, but it had been released in 1999.  That was the film the Schmoedown question had been written about. This one was an entirely different movie.

Hm.

This film was a mockumentary about a filming of a model for the new campaign of fashion star Claudio (Steven Berkoff).  Claudio had chosen young and unknown model Cynthia (Ivy Levan) as his new “girl” and she dove into the life of a model, including drugs.  Unfortunately, Cynthia overdosed in the middle of a photo shoot.  The problem was that her untimely death did not stop the shoot from continuing.  In fact, her death actually made her even more in demand.

There was some real dark comedy here and I did not mind much of it, but the characters were so out of their minds that it made much of the satire involved to be too crazy.  I started wondering why the dead body of Cynthia didn’t start going through the stages a dead body would go through, but perhaps the film was not interested in any sort of truth.

There were many moments of dark humor here.  Some worked but a lot of it was kind of over the top.  At first I thought there was going to be a mystery involved int he death, but that was not a focus.

The film was scathing towards the modeling world, no doubt.  The way they treated Cynthia’s dead body as a lump to be bent and taken advantage of was shocking.  It was certainly saying that this is how real living models are treated.

The problem was there was just too cartoony characters involved here that overtook the message.  The film was watchable, but it could have been extremely more biting than it turned out to be.

Maybe I have to keep looking for the other Drop Dead Gorgeous.

meh

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Searching

Unfriended meets Mystic River.

This film falls into the next “big, new” genre of movie making, in the same vein as found footage was, which is called Screen Life.  Screen Life is a genre where your story is told by characters staring at a screen, usually that of a computer, and surfing the web across the different well known platforms that everyone uses.  This is easily the best version of this genre to be made yet.

In the film, David Kim (John Cho) realizes that his 16-year old daughter Margot (Michelle La) has gone missing and he tries to do whatever he can do to help the investigation by searching through her social media presence.  Some of the things that he discovered led him to believe that he did not know his daughter as much as he thought he did.  Detective Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case and she has to try and reign David in.

This movie truly transcends the gimmick of the genre.  This is more than just the pieces of the sites like Facebook and Instagram or the Apple apps and techs that are available.  The reason this is more than what you see is the mystery of exactly what happened to Margot.  As David is searching through her laptop for some kind of clue, we the audience are able to be looking too.  The mystery is compelling and has plenty of red herrings to keep you off balance.  I usually see through these mysteries pretty quickly, and, though I had some suspicions, I had not determined the truth prior to the reveal and any film tat can do that for me is a winner.

John Cho, who spends most of his time acting with a computer screen, is absolutely fabulous as the desperate dad who has to go through a gamut of emotion.  From fear to loss to guilt to shame, Cho shows them all.  The character of David slowly breaks down as the movie progresses and everything that they try winds up as a dead end.  He carries the darkness of the movie with him with every possibility that ends up wrong.  However, he is also very smart and I love some of the scenes where he figures something out and how he reveals how capable he truly is (hacking into his daughter’s Facebook is one example).

Most of the film comes directly from the point of view of David, looking on the computer,looking on the social media, talking on the phone.  The only negative I have about the film is that, in the third act, that point of view gets a little muddled as some of the expansion of the techno uses seem to isolate David from the POV.  We see a police interrogation room and we see some network news coverage that feels like the POV shifted.  Although that did not ruin anything for me, I did feel the shift ever so slightly.  It still worked for me in the end.

Searching is an amazing film that kept me on the edge of my seat, hoping to discover what had happened and had me wishing/hoping that this would not end with sadness.  I really had no idea where the film was heading and that is a true bonus in today’s cinema.

4.9 stars

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

Based on a short lived ABC television program, Police Squad!, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad started a successful spoof franchise starring the always wonderfully deadpan Leslie Nielsen as the bumbling yet somehow super effective police officer Frank Drebin.

The Naked Gun is unapologetic for its comedy and it is not afraid if a joke does not hit because if you, as an audience member do not like one joke, wait ten seconds and there will be five more.  The rapid fire humor covers all realms of type during the 90+ minutes and Leslie Nielsen is the perfect foil for it.

Frank catches wind of a potential plot to assassinate the visiting Queen of England by local businessman Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban).  Why did Ludwig want to assassinate the Queen?  Well, it is never quite revealed, but those pesky plot details are just in the way.

Ludwig’s assistant Jane (Priscilla Presley) is sent to get close to Frank, but she falls in love with the cop, causing even more trouble for him.  Frank’s quest to stop Ludwig seems to border on obsessive so he is removed from Police Squad, but that does not stop him from heading to an Angels baseball game where the assassination is scheduled to take place by one of the players.

The baseball scenes in The Naked Gun are some of the best comedy of the entire movie.  Frank finds himself as the singer of the national anthem before he works himself into the role of the home plate umpire.  These baseball scenes are a total hoot.

The film features great cameos from Reggie Jackson and EYG Hall of Famer “Weird Al” Yankovic.  There is as well a long list of baseball announcers appearing including but not limited to Jim Palmer, Dick Vitale and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

There is also a strange cathartic release seeing all of the harm done to OJ Simpson’s character, Norberg, as Frank’s partner and best friend is constantly placed in situations that cause him harm or pain.  Just something right about that.

The Naked Gun is certainly a ridiculous film, but as a spoof movie, it is one of the true classics.  You cannot go to a Naked Gun movie for the intricate plot.  It is meant to make you laugh, and Naked Gun does that throughout the movie.

funtime