I Feel Pretty

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There has been a lot of hatred leveled at this film, and I am not certain the reasoning behind it.  Claims of “fat-shaming” seem to fall short if you, you know, actually watch the movie.  Now, if they claimed that the movie wasn’t as funny as it could have or should have been, perhaps I would agree.

Amy Schumer plays Renee Bennett, a woman who has a low level job that is matched by her low level confidence.  She sees how the world treats the beautiful people and she desires to have a part of that.  So when she has an accident during exercising and hits here head, she suddenly awakes seeing herself in a different view.  She actually sees herself the way she always wanted to be seen.

We, as the audience, only ever see Amy Schumer as she is, but the perception of herself as a beautiful woman changes the confidence of Renee so that she can get the job of her dreams, hook up with a sweet and kind man (Rory Scovel) she meets at the dry cleaners and become remarkably successful.

While there are plenty of plus sized jokes to be had here, I do not think the main message is fat-shaming.  I believe the message is clearly self-confidence leads to happiness and success.  If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything you want.  It does not matter what the world sees you as, but what maters is how you see yourself.

All of these fit together in a solid message that I think is worth hearing.

Now, the film itself is okay, but nothing really jumps out as great.  Amy Schumer is very good in the lead role.  She is warm and charismatic and delivers a strong performance.  Michelle Williams, who plays Renee’s boss, is really good as Avery, a rich, spoiled, yet deeply self-doubting woman (whose voice is like a baby doll).  The connection between Renee and Avery is a positive in the film.  I also enjoyed the natural feeling relationship that developed between Renee and Ethan, the man she meets in the dry cleaners.

Many of these side characters play against type.  You would expect them to respond in certain ways to Renee, but then they stop and do something different.  It had a feel of realness about it, despite the silly concept going on with them.

One problem is that the film, which is meant to be a comedy, does not have a ton of laughs in it.  It has a few that are nice chuckles, but nothing that really makes you laugh out loud.  It is more like an uplifting, crowd pleaser of a film than a comedy.  That is not necessarily bad, but fans of Schumer’s may be expecting something else.

The film does also feel fairly predictable.  You kind of know how this movie is going to go, and, in the end, that is really how it turns out.

Still, despite it not being a great film, I enjoyed watching it.  It may have felt overlong, but the message is an important one for people to hear and Amy Schumer does a solid job delivering it with some entertainment.

3.2 stars

Grease (1978)

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Grease is the word.

And the word this weekend was…old.

I had no idea that Grease was entering its 40 year anniversary this year until I saw a Fathom Events advertisement for it.  I remember seeing Grease in the theater as a child so I immediately felt very old.

I have always loved the music from Grease.  Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, the theme song Grease, Beauty School Dropout, covers by Sha Na Na.  There are so many great tunes that I knew I wanted to see it in a theater again, despite the chance that it made me feel really old.

After seeing it today, I did not feel old.  I enjoyed the film’s energy and music.

In 1958, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) spent much of the summer together on a beach with a lot of platonic fun.  Not expecting to see each other again, they head back to their individual lives.  However, Sandy’s family winds up moving her to the same school that Danny attends. Danny is the leader of a gang called the T-Birds and they are your typical 50s leather coat wearing punks who have a smart remark for anything.  When Sandy meets back up with Danny, he is extremely happy, but needs to save face with his gang mates by playing his feeling off.  Will Danny and Sandy find each other?

Well, watching Grease now a days, I was amazed how little of an actual story there was to it.  I mean, they had individual arches for the characters, but there is barely a throughline for the plot.  It truly feels like a series of scenes strung together by these characters knowing one another.  And the school year goes from first day to graduation without any semblance of time passing.

The key to Grease is the soundtrack and the remarkable dance routines.  From the boy-girl switch of Summer Nights to the huge blow up of You’re the One (That I Want), the ensemble cast dance in amazing ways.  This is a hoot to watch.

I love the song Sandy, sung by John Travolta after being dumped at the drive in.  The image of Travolta singing this on a swing set in front of a giant movie screen is iconic.

As a child, I also loved Sha Na Na, the cover band that sang a bunch of songs from the 50s and 60s.  Sha Na Na had a variety show on television for several years which I loved.  Sha Na Na was actually the first concert I went to as a youth.  Seeing Sha Na Na in Grease was great as I am picking out members from behind the cast.  In fact, Sha Na Na keyboard player Screamin’ Scott Simon wrote the song Sandy for Grease.

There are a ton of fun cameos in Grease as well.  Sid Caesar plays Rydell High’s Coach (who must coach every sport at the school, which go on at the same time).  Scene stealer Principal McGee is played by Oscar nominated actress Eve Arden.  Oscar nominee Joan Blondell was a waitress.  Frankie Avalon appears in a dream sequence to sing to Frenchie (Didi Conn).  Edd Byrnes (Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb) is here as the movie’s “Dick Clark” – Vince Fontaine.

Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway were wonderful together as the misbehaving Kenickie and Rizzo.

Sure some of the messages of Grease are antiquated these days, especially the Olivia Newton John must change into something she is not to get her “man.”  But to be fair, Danny Zucko was going to do the same for her as he somehow lettered in track.

Sure this is not a great movie, but there is enough here to have a lot of fun and the music is simply tremendous.

Grease is certainly the word.

classic

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Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare

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This one ain’t no A Quiet Place.

The latest cheaply made horror film from the new masters of cheap made horror films, Blumhouse, came out this weekend.  However, many of Blumhouse’s recent films, while cheap to produce and make, are not cheap in the area of filmmaking.  On the poster for Truth or Dare, it tells you it comes from the producers of Get Out and Happy Death Day.  Truth or Dare does not remotely come anywhere close to either of those two films in quality or entertainment value.

Well, there is entertainment to be had here, in the same manner that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is entertaining.  It falls into the “so bad it’s good” area and there is unintentional humor to be found here.

A group of college kids head to Mexico before graduation and wind up in an old broken down monastery playing a game of Truth and Dare.  However, when they return to the  States, they realize that there is a demon that is forcing them to continue playing the game with deadly consequences.

Related imageWhere do I start?  How about the funny faces that the kids make when the demon possesses them?  It is perhaps the most laugh-inducing thing of the whole film.  It looks like a poor man’s Joker face.  Come on, that isn’t creepy.  It is just laughable.

Then, none of these characters are worth cheering for.  In fact, most of them are just horrible people.  Even the film’s supposed heroine/protagonist Olivia (Lucy Hale), who tries to get out of the Spring Break trip by going to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, is shown in the end to be a selfish, lying schemer.  What she does at the end of the film is simply impossible to believe and flies completely opposite of what this character was intended to be in the first act of the film.

When these characters die, there seems to have little to no effect on the others in their group.  They keep saying that they have lost friends to this game, but they don’t look like they are upset.  Plus, none of the deaths have any style to them.  The film is rated PG-13 so the worst death we see is one of them stabbing a pencil into his/her eye, and even that is angled so you don’t really see anything.  This film feels like a bad rip off of the Final Destination films without the creativity.

This is a bad film, but it can be funny so it is not a total waste of your time.  Don’t see it in the theater though.

1.4 stars

Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson is back with a brand new movie, his second animation film, called Isle of Dogs.  You can definitely tell that this is a Wes Anderson film.

In a futuristic Japan, a crooked mayor exiles all dogs to a garbage island to protect the humans from the deadly Dog Flu, despite there being a potential cure being found by his political adversary.  However, the mayor’s ward, Atari, hijacks a plane and heads to the Isle of Dogs in search of his personal dog, Spots.  Crashing the plane on the isle, a pack of Alpha Dogs find him and choose to help him try and find his dog.

Atari is not actually the main character.  That would go to the Alpha Dog, Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston).  Chief is the lone voice of opposition to helping the boy, trying to get the rest of the group to follow him away.  He is always getting outvoted, so he has to go along with them.

Let’s start with the positives, because I think there are plenty of those.  The animation is wonderful and feels original.  It is unlike most anything I have seen and I did enjoy looking at it.

Another positive is the great voice cast.  Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlet Johansson, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Courtney B. Vance, Liev Schreiber, and Bob Balaban are included.  Many of these actors are regulars in Wes Anderson’s films and have a comfort level with the material.

The story felt simplistic, yet needlessly complex both.  The villainous mayor and his political plans never really make sense, outside of the fact that he and his years of ancestors were cat people.  There is a political agenda in this movie and it is not that hard to see what Anderson is implying about the mayor and his manipulation of the public.

I also have a bit of a question on why this is set in Japan in the first place.  With the dangers of making an analogy between what is happening to the dogs and what has happened to other races being taken to interment camps, I am not sure Japan was the wisest choice.  I believe Anderson meant to infuse the Japanese culture into the story, which he did, but I am not sure that it truly aided the movie or is worth the potential trouble.

Plus, an argument could be made that there is the “white savior” in this story, thanks to the young girl character Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) who stands up to the mayor and helps save the day.

Another issue is that the film does not always translate the Japanese language for the audience.  They pick and choose when they translate and, since that is what Atari speaks, the film is in danger of isolating one of the main characters from the audience and thus not giving the crowd a real reason to cheer for the boy.  The dogs speak English, however, and I felt considerably more connected to them than I did the boy.

Isle of Dogs is a good movie that has some great touches to it, especially if you love the Wes Anderson eccentric films of the past.  However, there are some distinct questions in choices made by the director that might have limited the reach of the film.  Still, I liked more than I disliked.

3.5 stars

Rampage

The latest video game based movie is Rampage, starring The Rock.  Over the years, we have had very few video game movies that are worth anything.  The video game this movie is based on is one of the simplest games you are going to play so there aren’t a ton of expectations for a brilliant film.

However, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is always entertaining and is worth watching in just about anything he does.  This film came from the director Brad Peyton who brought us San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.  This film falls right into that company so you should know what to expect.

Primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) works at the San Diego Zoo and has a special relationship with an albino ape named George.  When George is accidentally exposed to a dangerous gas, he begins growing and starts becoming much more aggressive.  Turns out there are two other animals that had been exposed to the same gas and have been turned into giant beast.

Davis does everything he could to keep George calm, but when a group of government agents arrive, led by cowboy-like Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), they take control of George.  Unfortunately, two evil villains at the company whose experiments led to these accidental transformations are looking to draw these monsters to Chicago so they can make money out of the situation.

The three monsters arrive in Chicago and start crushing the city.  And Davis and Naomie Harris arrive to try to stop George.

Okay, so Rampage is a stupid movie.  There are so many moments that are so ridiculous that you can’t believe it.  Some of the characters are poorly written and have terrible dialogue.  Another problem is how these characters suddenly come up with ways around impossible situations- from out of nowhere.  The old Batman (1966) series would have Batman and Robin solving riddles and making illogical guesses that always turned out to be true (like Glu Glutton’s Glue Factory).  There are a lot of “Batman Leaps” in Rampage.

And yet, there is just something entertaining about The Rock and monsters destroying Chicago.

Yes, the two villains are simply horrid.  They are some of the worst villains to grace the screen in a long time.  Still, villain Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) gets one of the funniest (albeit unintentionally) exits of the film.  I actually laughed out loud when she met her fate.  These villains are total failures and they threaten to turn this movie from a silly B-movie monster flick into a terrible movie.

Thankfully, The Rock is here and he is one of the most charismatic actors we have ever seen.  He can make the worst film watchable.  He does it here as well.  However, the Rock does feel like a video game character himself since he seemingly could not die.  He went through a lot of stuff here, but it never appears to stop him.

The monster fights were actually pretty good.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan felt like he was playing a movie version of Negan (from Walking Dead), and yet I liked him.  He is one of those charismatic individuals whom may come close to The Rock.  He is just enjoyable to watch, and he is fun to root for here.

Sure, there are plenty of moments where you can’t help but roll your eyes at the ridiculousness of it, but you can be entertained by Rampage.  You have to approach it in the right manner.  This was never going to be an award winner.  It is a big, dumb action movie, with giant monsters.  If that is enough, then there may be enough here for you to have a good time.

3 stars

Chappaquiddick

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Chappaquiddick tells the true story of a political scandal that ended the presidential run of Edward “Ted” Kennedy in 1969.

Kennedy, brother of President John Kennedy and candidate Bobby Kennedy, was planning a run for president in 1972 when his car went off a bridge into the water, claiming the life of a political strategist Mary Jo Kopechne.

According to the scandal, Ted left the scene of the accident and did not report it for 9 hours, thus leaving Mary Jo to die in the submerged car.

Ted Kennedy, played here by Jason Clarke, is shown as a damaged man who was desperately seeking the attention and approval of his father Joe (Bruce Dern).  Too drunk to be driving, Ted drove the car off the bridge.  However, the film does not show us how Ted escaped the car or why Mary Jo (Kate Mara) could not.  According to the film, Ted retreated to the party that he had come from to find his two friends/associates Joe Gargan (Ed Helms) and Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to help him.  They returned to the scene of the accident and tried to get into the car to save Mary Jo, unsuccessfully.  Joe and Paul left Ted with the expectation that he would report the accident, but he does not until the next morning.

The film indicates that Mary Jo survived for a while breathing in a small pocket of air in the car.  Had Kennedy called immediately, would she have survived?  He certainly believed that after he and his friends had returned that she was already dead, thus reducing the immediate need.  This was still left up in the air for the audience to infer what happened.

The film also played with the spinners after the event happened.  They were coming up with reasons why this had happened and how they would make it not destroy Kennedy’s career.  They kept claiming he had a concussion and was in shock.  Though the film hinted that that was not the case with a flash to the face of the doctor, I do believe that the film showed Kennedy in a state of shock after the events happened.  Maybe not concussed (though I would believe it), but certainly diminished.  Was he thinking straight?  I don’t know.

The performances were strong.  The story was well tole, but it did feel as if there could have been so much more to this story than what we got.  Maybe a mini-series on TV would be more effective.

What the film does very well is show the character of Ted Kennedy and the drawbacks he has.  The relationship between Ted and his father was very compelling and I could have used more of that.  It really was a psychological character study of a man who some believed would be president, but who failed to live up to the dynasty of his family name, especially inside his own head.  Ted’s lack of confidence lead to this entire situation, while the strength of his last name led to the lack of results in the criminal case.  I think there is no doubt that this prevented Kennedy from becoming president.

I still wonder how Ted Kennedy escaped from the car while Mary Jo did not.  There are several questions in this film that are left unanswered.  Sure it would have called for speculation, but some of that would have helped the overall quality.  Still, good performances, in particular from Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Bruce Dern, carry this to a decent biopic.

3.35 stars

 

Blockers

This past week, The Top 10 Show did the Top 10 Raunchy Teen Movies list and I had a definite problem filling my list (which I do every week after their podcast) up with films. In fact, I could only find six that I could rank.

Now, Blockers would be number one on that list.

As I stated, this genre of film is far from my favorite, but I really found Blockers to be more than just the sex jokes and the raunchy teen film.  It had some real heart, some very strong characters and a lot of really funny humor.  Who would have guessed?

Three senior girls(Kathyrn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon), who had been best friends since the first day of school, make a pact that all three of them would lose their virginity on prom night.  #sexpact2018.  Their parents (Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) accidentally discover this pact and decide that they would prevent their daughters from being successful in their pursuit of sex.

And so hilarity commences.

There were several things about Blockers that caught me off guard.  Mainly, I really liked how the story played the girls part of the story in a realistic light and showed three young female characters who were strong, brave and knew what they wanted.  These three young ladies were very different, but their friendship absolutely came through on screen and that chemistry between the three of them was a huge plus for the movie.  It was especially nice to see this type of a film coming from a female perspective that did not feel the need to play the girls off as the victims or as naive.  And all three actresses do a fantastic job, in particular Geraldine Viswanathan, who looks like a star.

The other half of the film featured the adults, chasing their daughters and this part of the film was considerably more slapstick or cartoonish, and these three actors do a great job with that.  Leslie Mann is great here, bringing the most experience in the role.  John Cena continues to show that he has skill in comedy and, while he still is learning, he provides a very solid and believable performance.  However, Ike Barinholtz was probably my favorite character because of how much his character played with the expectations of who he was.  He was shown originally as a scumball who cheated on his wife, but we learn more and more about him and we see him play against that type most of the time. This sets up the emotional reveal at the end that is a very strong pay off.

Most importantly, this movie has laughs.  It is well written and expertly executed, which is even more amazing when you consider that this is director Kay Cannon’s directorial debut.  She does an admirable job of balancing the two parts to the story and creating a group of characters in this ensemble that really stretch across the spectrum seamlessly.

The trailers make this look like a film that relies on the low brow humor, but I did not find it that way.  Sure there are jokes that would fall into that, but there are many other instances that are extremely funny and, most of those low brow jokes actually do fairly well.

However, I had to deduct a huge part of the score because of an extended puke scene and I HATE puke scenes.  Sure, this scene was not particularly realistic in its projectile vomit use, I still hate those.  I just do not like them.  It is a personal preference.

I also liked the three boys whom the girls take to prom.  Each of them play on typical stereotypes of characters but switch things around to make them fresh.  They felt like real kids who might actually like being together.

I will say that there were a couple of moments at the end of the movie that did not necessarily ring true.  At least one of the storylines between the parents and the kids turned out to be too easy of a fix- almost as if it were on a sitcom that had reached the end of the episode and needed to wrap up.  It felt as if the girl (without spoiling) should have been more angry with the parent than what she was.

Either way, Blockers was considerably better than I ever thought it would be.  It was very funny, keeping me laughing consistently throughout, and had unexpectedly sweet and pretty developed characters.  There are great performances and these characters end up playing against type.  Blockers is a very entertaining comedy, and that is something I don’t say too often.

4 stars

(sorry Chris…)

 

 

A Quiet Place

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Hoo-boy.

A Quiet Place is a horror/thriller, heavy on the thriller as I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, desperately looking to grasp on to anything to brace myself.

I have not been this full of tension and apprehension in a film in a long time.  And A Quiet Place starts off filled with this intensity and just never lets up for the entire 90+ minute run time.  I felt the need to inhale and try to be as quiet as I could while in the theater just because…

A Quiet Pace is the story of a married couple, Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), who are the parents of three children (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward).  This family lives in what seems to be a post apocalyptic world where alien monsters arrived and, while blind, respond violently to any sound that is made.  So in order to avoid being immediately slaughtered by these hideous creatures, the family is forced to live their lives without making any sound whatsoever.

Therein lies the tension because the human race is not meant to be a quiet race.

John Krasinski is also the director of this film and he does an absolutely tremendously spot on job.  Despite the fact that the dialogue is basically eliminated from the film, the manner in which he tells this story is amazing.

One of the best parts to me is that Krasinski does not waste time with endless exposition explaining what has happened to the world, or how this family has survived up to this point.  None of that is important.  Krasinski provides some newspaper clippings that help fill in some of the blanks, but the rest of it is left up to the imagination of the audience.  The cold open begins with a black screen with the words 89 days on it.  This tells you that whatever it was that caused this apocalypse has happened.  Then after the opening (which leaves you breathless, by the way) the film jumps to day 472 (around there).  Because of that, it seems obvious that this family has spent most of the last 390+ days figuring out how to live with the minimal use of sound.

And I accepted that completely.  I did not feel the need to know every little detail about how things work or what had happened to get them to this point. The film drops you into this point in time and you go with it.  Exposition weighs down so many movies that the distinct lack of exposition was a novel way to go.

The sound editing of this movie is absolutely brilliant.  The silence is played perfectly, and every little sound is masterfully placed for maximum intensity.  There are some jump scares, but they are well done and are placed int he film in exceptional locations.  They fit and this movie by no means depends on them.  They are just simply another tool that this film uses with utmost proficiency.

Then, the performances are mind blowing.  Emily Blunt has so much skill in conveying what she needs to with her face and her body and her attitude.  Krasinski is powerful here and he had me completely engaged with his character.  Both main children, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are amazing.  Simmonds is in real life deaf and so is her character Regan, and the film does this very creative technique to demonstrate that whenever Simmonds has the point of view.  It was very effective.

They also showed the use of sign language, which was one of the way this family communicated with one another and it was compelling.  I have never seen someone yelling at each other in sign language, but I did see it here.  Amazing job by these actors.

There is a great connection between these characters who are dealing with so much more than just these monsters that will kill them if they make any sound.  There are intricate problems between each character and these actors bring out the best in each other.

Another great thing is this family of characters are shown to be very intelligent instead of the bumbling idiots that usually take up horror movie space.  I love that.  They were doing things that made sense and even those choices that might not be wise are done in service to the characters.  It is apparent that the characters are the most important part of this story and everything else just goes to help show who these characters are and how they are going to grow.  And you believe it totally.

The creatures were made by Industrial Lights & Magic (ILM) and it shows because these monsters are terrifyingly authentic and look to be right out of someone’s nightmares.  There is no troubled CGI here.  However, Krasinski wisely does not over use the shots of the monsters and use them at the proper time to illustrate the characters and the terror of the situation.

There are so many moments when I was simply holding my head and wondering if this film could be more tense…and then it topped itself.  I legitimately came out of this movie with a physical visceral anxiety, amazed at what I had just seen and shaken by the process of seeing it.  I sat through to the end of the credits not because I wanted to see them or expected any post credit scene, but because I needed to take a breather.

This is maybe my favorite movie of the young year so far.  I was completely invested in the film and the characters as I gritted my teeth and held my breath through each anxiety filled scene.  A Quiet Place is an original film with great performances, a well-told story that does not bog itself down with unnecessary exposition and tension from the get-go.  Great job to all involved.

5 stars

 

North By Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest

I wanted to break out of the monster rut that I had gotten myself into with the Sunday Great Easter Binge-a-Thon.  So I was looking for what I wanted to watch and I pulled up the AFI list of Top 100 movies.  There are several of these films that I have not seen that I consider holes in my film knowledge.  As I was going through them, I came across North By Northwest and, being a Hitchcock fan, I thought that was a perfect film.  I had never seen it and it was available on YouTube.

Cary Grant played Roger Thornhill, a New York advertising executive who found himself unwittingly stuck in the middle of an international espionage plot.  Finding himself as a fugitive, Thornhill jumped a train to Chicago where he met beautiful blonde Eve Kendell (Eva Marie Saint).  Eve helps him avoid capture by police and Thornhill tries to figure out exactly what happened to him.

This film is a lot of fun.  Cary Grant really goes all in on the story and the weird things that happen to his character.  You can see the character of Roger Thornhill change as the film progresses and he is placed in one dangerous and confusion situation after another. You can see Thornhill get better and better at the trickery as the film progresses.

Eva Marie Saint is great as Eve Kendell as well.  She was way more than just a pretty face in this story.

Hitchcock creates suspense throughout the entire story as the viewers try to figure out what is going on.  Hitchcock drops pieces of the truth as the film moves along.  He mixes humor in with the suspense and mystery making this very entertaining.

The suspense is at its highest peak on the top of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  For 1959, the effects were decent and did not take me out of the excitement of the situation.

A Hitchcock classic.  Check that box off – Have Seen.

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North by Northwest

The Fly (1986)

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It was unintentional, but the Great Easter Binge-a-Thon has kind of turned into monster central here, as the next film I have watched today is the 1986 remake of The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.  This has joined today’s monster fest with Jaws, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the zombies from Zombieland.

The remake of The Fly was one of those films that received a lot of positive remarks from members of the staff at Collider, and I had not seen it since it came out (and I am not sure I eve saw the entire film) so I thought this would be a good one to include.

I love Jeff Goldblum, and there are plenty of Goldblum-isms here.  The film wisely does not lose its sense of humor and the script keeps returning to that humor as a way to mask the fear of what was happening.  At least that is until there is no room left for humor.  And then it is horrifying.

Again, much like the Creature, the practical effects may not look as realistic as some of today’s CGI films,but I think it is much more terrifying.  Some of the things that happen to Brundle here – well, I would hate to have happen to me.

Goldblum plays scientist Seth Brundle who is trying to impress journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) by showing her his new technology that was going to “change the world” in his words.  It is a teleportation device that he has created.  After some experimenting, Brundle believes that he has perfected it enough to teleport a living object.  So he, like so many other mad-scientists, tries it on himself.  However, a house fly found its way into one of the chambers and gets fused together with Brundle.

At first, the changes were positives.  Brundle had more stamina and strength, but soon he realized that there was going to be changes that altered what he was.

David Cronenberg directed the reboot and brought a level of fright to the slowly transforming man.  The man into a monster trope is certainly well represented among horror films, but this one is done with a flair and a humor that most do not attempt.

This version of the Fly brought us the well-known quote “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

funtime

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Zombieland (2009)

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And now during the Great Easter Binge-a-Thon, it is time to “Nut up or shut up.”

That is right… it’s Zombieland!

I remember seeing this movie at the Voy Theater and going in without any expectations.  I came out of it completely loving it.  One could argue that Zombieland was at the head of the renaissance of zombie related pop culture.  Zombieland certainly took the genre in a different way.

Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a survivor of the zombie curse and he has a list of rules that he follows.  These rules pop up on the movie screen whenever they come into play. The rules include “Double tap”, “Don’t be a hero,” “Always Wear your seat belt,” and “Beware of bathrooms.”

Columbus, who was a loner, hooked up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a bad ass zombie killer, and sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin) and the foursome tried to survive the land while learning to trust one another.

Zombieland also featured one of the greatest movie cameos of all time with Bill Murray.

I found Zombieland to be remarkably funny and still enjoyable to this day.  The four actors have great chemistry together and they have great comedic timing as well.  Some of the “zombie kills of the week” examples are a hoot (especially with the piano).

Zombieland was a whole lot of fun.

classic

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Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

The winner of the past year’s Academy Award for Best Picture was Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which, for obvious reasons, owes a lot of dues to the 1954 classic, Creature from the Black Lagoon, as del Toro saw the film as a child

One of the Universal monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, sometimes referred to as Gill-man, premiered in 1954 near the end of the 3D craze.  Over the years, the Creature became popular and successful as the other Universal monsters.

In the film, Dr. Thompson (Whit Bissell) discovered an artifact in the Amazon of a fossilized hand, a hand of something that had never been seen before).  He went to recruit help where he found David (Richard Carlson) and Kay (Julia Adams).  David was a former student and he was intrigued by what the doctor had found.  He brought his benefactor Mark (Richard Denning) with him and they formed a group to see what htey could find.

However, once they got back to the excavation site, the men the doctor had left were killed.  To make it worse, they spent several days finding nothing.  Then, David came up with an idea that the fossils had wound up in the nearby Black Lagoon, so the group took off on their boat to explore the idea.

The conflict between the human characters made it easier for the Creature to pick them off, but, like King Kong before him, the beauty killed the beast.  The Creature seemed to have some kind of attraction for Kay (and who could blame him).

I enjoyed the film in the black and white that it was originally shot in, and the Creature itself looked decent for the special effects of the time.  The practical effects were very well done and the fight scenes underwater must have been difficult to shoot.  Either way, everything looked tremendous.

I had a great time watching this film and I can see how Guillermo would be inspired by this.

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Jaws (1975)

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Jaws Class of 2016

The Great Easter Binge-a-Thon continues this Easter morning with one of my favorite movies of all time.  Another Steven Spielberg classic…. Jaws.  The movie that made people everywhere afraid to go into the water.

Jaws was credited as the first of the big “summer blockbusters” as it led to what we have today.  It creates a tone unlike many of these types of films.  Spielberg famously got very lucky during filming as the shark robot, named Bruce, would not work properly and forced Spielberg into shooting Jaws differently.  The had to hide the shark with camera tricks and shots.  The ensuing scenes created that fear of the unknown and a sense of mystery that served the tone brilliantly.

Jaws boasts three of the great movie characters of all time.  Roy Schneider played Chief Martin Brody, the Chief of Police of Amity-an island in the New England area who had a fear of the water.  Richard Dreyfuss played Matt Hooper, a young marine biologist brought in as a shark expert.  And Robert Shaw played Quint, the grizzled shark hunterhired to kill the shark who owns the Orca, a boat that needed to be bigger.    These three characters are the lifeblood of this film and the interactions between the three of them made Jaws more than just a horror film.

in fact, perhaps the best scene of the entire film is the USS Indianapolis scene where Quint revealed that he was aboard that ship during World War II when in was sunk by a Japanese submarine and 1200 men floated in the water for days.  After rescue, only 300 men survived.  That scene should have earned Robert Shaw an Academy Award.

As a child, nothing scared me more than the scene where Quint was slowly being consumed by the shark.  And there are plenty of suspenseful moments like this scattered through Jaws.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the score from EYG Hall of Famer John Williams.  There may not be a more iconic theme than the Jaws theme.  Every time we heard those well known beats that picked up intensity, you couldn’t help but be uneasy.

Jaws is one of the best movies of all time and can be watched at any time and still create the same emotions in a viewer as it did the first time you saw it.  It holds up today and is a must see for any cinephile.

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Minority Report (2002)

I had not seen this film in a long time so I wanted to make sure it was included in the Great Easter Binge-a-Thon.

This past Friday, I saw the most recent Steven Spielberg film, Ready Player One, in the theaters and I found it missing something that made it feel off.  I could not put my finger on it, but it just lacked something.  Minority Report is 100% wonderful and is a compelling and considerably better futuristic movie directed by Spielberg than Ready Player One.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the Chief of a bureau of the police called Pre-Crime.  This bureau used three orphaned people called the precogs to see murders before they take place and arrest the perpetrators prior to the crime.  The process seemed to be working well.  So well that the program was going to be expanding nationwide.

However, things get strange when Anderton himself is shown to be committing a murder in one of the precogs’ vision, leading to him trying to avoid capture while investigating what is going on.

This movie is based on a short story from EYG Hall of Famer Phillip K. Dick and Spielberg takes the imaginative story and creates a brilliant world.  But there is more here than just the futuristic technological advances.  There is a mystery behind the story that sends the characters on a journey as interesting as any technology or precog.

Max von Sydow gives an excellent performance that keeps you guessing up until the very last moment.  Colin Farrell is one of the detectives trying to track down Anderton.

Minority Report is one of the top science fiction movies of the past 20 years and features a top notch performance from Tom Cruise.  Cruise believed in the pre-crime technology for years until it became something that he was forced to look at closer.

This was another film talked about by the Top 10 Show and I am so glad that I added it to the binge-watch.  It was a great reminder of what a fantastic director Spielberg can be.

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The Wrestler (2008)

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A powerhouse performance highlights the next film in the Easter Binge-a-Thon as Mickey Rourke resurrects his career with his role as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

This is a tough watch, one that really rips at the emotional heart of the viewer.  Randy Robinson is a broken-down, aging professional wrestler who is no longer the headliner of the major promotions.  Going form small arena to small arena on the weekends, riding on his reputation, Randy struggles trying to balance his real life with the life in the ring.

Honestly, this film is only somewhat about professional wrestling, although the parts about wrestling is the most realistic parts of any wrestling film.  The movie focuses on Randy “The Ram” as a character study.  Randy tries to make money with a job at the supermarket, tries to make up with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and tries to start a relationship with a strip club dancer (the effervescent Marisa Tomei).

The way Aronofsky filmed The Wrestler showed how sad and alone Randy was and how he used the ring as an escape.  Even when he was faced with the dangers of his heart trouble, he found the ring to be an easier place to exist than the real world.

Some of the scenes with Randy and his daughter were just heart- breaking and so very real.  It played like some of the scenes from the documentary Behind the Mat.  There was not that many scenes with his daughter, but they were sincerely impactful to the story and to the character.

Then, after seeing the hardcore wrestling scene, it was one of the hardest scenes to watch as a wrestling fan.  Just watching the backstage doctors trying to remove the pieces of glass and staples from these men was difficult to watch.

And the final match with the Ayatollah (Ernest Miller) was really tough to watch as well as Randy faced his reality that inside the ring was more to him than outside.  The way the end of the film is left up to interpretation is a brilliant (although frustrating) way to end the film.

Mickey Rourke was absolutely robbed of an Academy Award as he should have won for this rile.  It is one of the most personal, most raw, most devastating and real performances you will ever see.  Whether you love professional wrestling or not, The Wrestler is a masterpiece in cinema.

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