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06
Sep
18

Jur-ASS-ic World: Fallen Kingdom, Night of the Hunter

Jur-ASS-ic World: Fallen Kingdom
The second (or fifth, depending on how you count) entry in the Jurassic World series is just as dumb as the trailer would make you think. The island where the Jurassic World theme park is situated is about to experience a volcanic eruption so powerful it will decimate all life on the island, including the dinosaurs. Bryce Dallas Howard wants to rescue the dinosaurs, which seems like a pretty dumb fucking idea since every time the humans and the dinosaurs get together, it results in the dinosaurs eating the people. Chris Pratt thinks its a terrible idea, but since he needs a paycheck real bad, he goes along with her. What transpires next is a continuous chase sequence of humans outrunning dinosaurs, and then dinosaurs outrunning an unconvincing CGI volcanic explosion. Everyone survives, naturally.
The second half of the movie takes place in an isolated mansion where the rescued dinosaurs are auctioned off to people for various purposes, such as weaponizing them. The big attraction is a new dinosaur (every Jurassic Park movie tries to up the ante by introducing a new, scarier dinosaur) that is a genetic combination of a Velociraptor and the Indominus rex. Of course, in the previous movie, we learned that the Indominus rex was a genetic combination of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Velociraptor, so the new new dinosaur is basically the same fucking thing except smaller and stupider looking. Howard and Pratt run away from the dinosaurs some more, and shout some insipid lines. The bad guys all get eaten. The end of the movie is supposed to be a shocking twist, but it’s pretty lame: the dinosaurs get free in southern California. Except they already did that in Jurassic Park 2. So, nothing is new in this franchise anymore. I think the worst part is that this movie serves no purpose except as an extended trailer for Jurassic World 3: Dinosaurs Up Your Ass in California. What a waste.
Verdict: Shitty
Night of the Hunter
It’s a shame that director Charles Laughton only got to direct a single film, Night of the Hunter, while so many idiots like Michael Bay and M. Night Shyamalan get chance after chance to churn out dreck. Laughton’s single attempt at film-making turned out a now-legendary film. Night of the Hunter is an interesting study of sociopathy and religious preoccupation, stemming primarily from the titular character as played by Robert Mitchum. The story is brilliant in its simplicity: a con-man is jailed in the same cell as a bank robber. Before his execution, the robber lets slip to the con-man that someone in his family knows the location of the money he stole and hid. Upon the con-man’s release, he goes to the town to win his way into the family’s graces so he can acquire the money.
Mitchum’s con-man is rather likeable on the surface, but has only the charming superficiality seen in sociopaths. Beneath the surface, he is a terrible misogynist, a serial killer, and will do anything to get what he wants without any remorse. He quickly earns everyone’s trust (except the children), so no one believes the children when they claim he is a murderer. The character study is enough to write an entire book about, and yet is only one aspect of what makes this film great. However, compared to Mitchum’s power-house performance, none of the other actors hold a candle to him. He acts circles around everyone else, and perhaps this was intended by Laughton, but I doubt it. Mitchum is just too good, and his excellence makes everyone else’s mediocrity more apparent. The only other actor who acquits herself is Lillian Gish, a former silent film star who managed to successfully transition to talkies. The child stars carry the weight of the film, and while their acting is about as good as I would expect from a 12 year-old and a 7 year-old, they perform nicely, and successfully form the emotional core of the film.
The only major gripe I have is the relative anti-climax of the film. The children escape from Mitchum in a harrowing scene, and of course he tracks them down sometime thereafter. It is at this second encounter that the movie just sort of stops. Mitchum easily gives up without much of a fight, whereas the scene could have very effectively been played for terror.
Night of the Hunter is expertly directed, and has no right to be this good being directed by a first-timer. It uses bold, contrasting shadows. It uses religious hymns to haunting effect. It uses unique shots and angles I have never seen in any other film. Laughton was a borderline genius director, but we’ll never know if he could have channeled that genius into further films, or if he just had beginner’s luck. Regardless, this is a really amazing film, and one that deserves to be watched by everyone. Regardless of a few shortcomings, Night of the Hunter is a classic of American cinema.
Verdict: Awesome
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20
Aug
18

Person of Interest Season 3, Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1

Person of Interest Season 3
Person of Interest is a show that just keeps getting better and better. Season three manages to nail everything that works, and tosses just about everything that doesn’t. The biggest thing holding this series back has always been the “case of the week” format. It’s to be expected considering this aired on CBS, who is the king of the crime procedural. However, this season manages to dump the case of the week format a couple of episodes in. What follows are two lengthy serialized stories. The first focuses on Detective Carter and her personal war against the dirty cop syndicate, HR. While I was less than impressed with Taraji Henson’s performance in season 1, she improved in season 2, and she became the absolute highlight in season 3. Having her own storyline, and some real character work to sink her teeth into, Hensen excelled. The second storyline, which has a more intriguing plot, comes when a nefarious organization tries to bring their own surveillance machine online. There are plenty of twists and turns story-wise, and the large, looming threat ratchets up the tension and the action. The rest of the cast turn in good performances, and the action scenes never disappoint. The ultimate villain of the entire series is revealed at the end of the season, and I am very excited to see what comes next. I find it hard to believe that a show this good, a show about artificial intelligence and government surveillance, has gone this far on network television. If you can make it through the so-so first season, then stick with Person of Interest, because it has turned out to be great.
Verdict: Awesome
Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1
Ever since I watched the original Evil Dead movie on HBO, when I was way too young for it and it scared the shit out of me, I have been a fan of this franchise. Although it ended perfectly with Army of Darkness, like many fans, I thought there was room for more Ash Williams in our lives. I was ecstatic when they announced an Evil Dead television series. Decades removed from the last film, I couldn’t believe how perfectly they nailed the series. The first episode is Evil Dead through and through. It’s got just the right mix of horror and humor. Bruce Campbell is still the best when it comes to slapstick and self-deprecation, yet still manages to be a complete badass when the time calls for it. There isn’t much in terms of a plot, as it’s mostly Ash and his friends on some kind of quest to stop the Deadites. They go from place to place fighting evil each episode. The best part was when he summoned a different kind of demon to fight. He should have been the “big bad” for the season, but he only lasted two episodes, which was kind of a let-down. The show becomes a bit repetitive as they inevitably fight Deadites in each episode, and you know none of the main characters are going to die. This is probably the biggest problem with the show, that and some questionable CGI at times, although they do tend to go with more practical effects, which is nice. The final couple of episodes have a nice bit of nostalgia for long-time fans, and a cool twist to keep things fresh. Overall, this is a fun series, and anyone who is a fan of Evil Dead needs to watch it.
Verdict: Good
21
Jul
18

Le Samourai, The Commuter

Le Samourai
Jean-Pierre Melville’s landmark film is just as mesmerizing today as it was when it was released in 1967. On first watch it appears to be a straight-forward gangster story, a tale about a hitman scrambling for his life after a botched assassination. However, upon reflection, it is a film about much more than its mere script. It is a study in duality. We see hitman Alain Delon’s meager apartment juxtaposed against his impeccable attire. His methodical planning butting against forces he cannot anticipate. Control vs. chaos. Police vs. criminals. Refinement vs. brutality. There is so much bubbling beneath the surface that this is a film that demands to be rewatched again and again. Upon my first viewing, I was underwhelmed by the ending. But while examining it, it becomes clear that the ending was just as carefully planned by Delon’s character as any event in the rest of the film. He intended things to end the way they did, it wasn’t just a case of the good guys catching up to the bad guy. The movie is the antithesis of over-explaining things to the audience. We are never told who ordered the original hit, why the jazz club witness to the crime won’t identify Delon to the police, or why Delon unloads his gun at the end. It is up to the audience to put the pieces together. And 50 years later there are no clear answers, only general ideas about what Delon might have been thinking, or who might have been behind the double-crosses. The other thing that sets Le Samourai apart from almost every other movie is its effortless sense of “cool.” Delon’s icy, well-dressed hitman is frequently shot in profile. He never seems to break a sweat. He speaks seldom, and always knows exactly what to say when the time is right. He has everything planned out in advance. Yet it’s never contrived or cheesy. Everything that happens is practically the definition of cool. It’s hard to describe, but oozes down the screen in every single frame. Le Samourai has become a highly influential movie, inspiring John Woo’s The Killer, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and countless others. This is a movie I cannot recommended enough. It is a definite must watch.
Verdict: Awesome
The Commuter
Jaume Collet-Serra is a director who keeps making big-budget, high-profile films despite none of them ever being any good. And he somehow manages to keep snagging Liam Neeson to star in his trash, with this film marking their fourth collaboration. The Commuter takes Neesons’ cachet as an action star, and nudges it in a slightly different direction. Instead of being Taken On A Train, The Commuter acts as more of a thriller. Neeson plays a former cop turned businessman who loses his job, and can’t afford to pay his bills. On his final train commute back home, he is approached by a mysterious woman who asks him to use his “special set of skills” to find someone on the train (with only a pseudonym, and not a face) in exchange for $100,000. Given his unfortunate circumstances, he can’t say no. The bulk of the film takes place on the train, with Neeson stalking back and forth, trying various angles to find out who the mystery person is. He grows more frantic as the film goes on, because once the train reaches the end of the line, the mystery person will escape. Some of the methods of investigation were fairly clever, but, sadly, at the start of the third act, the film throws it all to the wind and devolves into a messy actioner. At this point, the train literally and figuratively goes off the rails in a laughably bad CGI-a-thon. We suddenly get a plethora of double-crosses, and badly directed fight scenes. Neeson hobbles around, shouts angrily, and tries his best not to lose his dignity. By the end, it turns out to be a fairly generic affair, and it ends exactly how you expect it will. A more competent director, with a sense of restraint, could have actually made this a great film, Hitchcockian, even. However, Collet-Serra is no Hitchcock, and he cannot say no to bad CGI and bad action sequences. The first two-thirds of the film get a score of Average, and the final third a score of Shitty, so the movie ends up with a final score of Bad.
Verdict: Bad
15
Jul
18

Happy (Shitty) Ten Year Anniversary

In keeping with the crappiness of this blog, I decided to find a generic looking image. Ten years is a long time. Most film review blogs don’t last half as long. While it seems that this site has been on life support lately, the updates have still trickled in. I had no idea I’d keep my curmudgeonly reviews going for an entire decade, but hey, here we are. I appreciate my faithful readers, and my regular commenters for staying loyal all this time. I also appreciate the fact you keep coming back despite my hating just about everything I watch. I know I have trashed movies and TV shows some of you absolutely love, so thanks for sticking around. Most of all, I’d like to thank the people with no sense of humor, who comment angrily on one of my many satire posts; you’re the true spice of life.

So, for the tenth anniversary, I thought I would share my top ten favorite posts in the history of the blog. Fitting for a tenth anniversary, right?

20 Shittiest Anime of the Decade published January 22, 2010

Avatard Me Up (AKA Everyone is an Idiot) published February 20, 2010

Fake Indie Movies (AKA Fuck You, Hipsters) published July 17, 2010

4 Horsemen of the Film-Making Apocalypse: Part 4 – M. Night Shyamalan published December 3, 2010

Your Wedding Sucked published June 25, 2011

Reasons Why Predator Is Better Than The King’s Speech published July 29, 2011

Conan the Barbarian – Probably the Greatest Movie Ever Made published January 7, 2012

Classically Shitty: Breakfast at Tiffany’s published January 28, 2012

Michael F. Assbender Is In Everything published February 17, 2012

Lessons Learned From The Wicker Man (AKA Oh No, Not the Bees!) published October 26, 2012

I had trouble narrowing it down from a top 20 to a top ten, so there have been some decent posts over the years. And looking at my output, my best stuff came between 2010 and 2012. In TV terms that would be seasons 3-5. After that, I guess the blog jumped the shark. If you have a favorite post I didn’t list, let me know what it is in the comments.

Ten years are in the book, and here’s to a few more.

17
Jun
18

Solo: A Star Wars Schlock

The latest Star Wars movie, directed by Ron Howard, is the most Ron Howardiest movie Ron Howard has ever Ron Howarded. That is to say, it’s pretty average. It’s not offensive, it takes no risks, and it offers nothing interesting or unique to the Star Wars canon. From the outset, the entire movie was a mistake. Nobody cared about Han Solo’s origin story. The first film, A New Hope, was Han Solo’s origin story. He was a smuggler who only cared about himself, and who ultimately came around to helping others. It was a perfect, if somewhat shallow, character arc. We didn’t need to see what he was up to when he was younger. This only removes the character’s mysteries, and makes his backstory more complicated, and not in a good way.
The movie begins with Han on his home planet of Corellia, where he scrapes by dealing with shady gangsters. He tries to escape the planet with his girlfriend, Emilia Clarke, but she is unable to get out. Han enlists in the Empire to become a pilot with the goal of one day returning to Corellia to save Clarke. The movie then skips over what would probably have been the most interesting part of his past: seeing Han as an Imperial pilot who washes out of the academy due to bad behavior. We could have had a Star Wars version of Top Gun, which would have been a totally unique spin on the franchise. Instead, we follow Han who is now in the Imperial infantry (although why is he not a Storm Trooper?), where he meets up with Woody Harrelson, and joins his criminal organization. They botch a train robbery, and the second half of the film follows their efforts to pay back the main bad guy who was expecting a big payday from said robbery. Along the way we are introduced to Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, and learn the origins of Han’s greatest exploits. Yawn.

Continue reading ‘Solo: A Star Wars Schlock’

08
Jun
18

Deadpool 2 AKA Skull Poop L 2

Ryan Reynolds read my review of Logan, and agreed with me 100% that killing Wolverine was a mistake. After all, it’s referenced in the opening scene of Deadpool 2. How could Fox kill their most profitable superhero? What a bunch of morons! Anyway, it’s nice to know that Reynolds has good taste in blogs. Oh, and by the way Ryan, you still owe me $500; you can send it to me via Paypal.
Deadpool 2 is a classic superhero sequel movie. Classic, though, isn’t always a good thing. It excels and stumbles in all the usual ways a superhero sequel does. However, with Deadpool being a unique character, breaking the fourth wall and satirizing the idiocies of the genre, the film manages to keep itself afloat, and entertains throughout.

Continue reading ‘Deadpool 2 AKA Skull Poop L 2’

18
May
18

The Other Side of the Door, Doctor Strange

The Other Side of the Door
This 2016 horror movie tries to be the Indian version of The Grudge, but is too inept to be scary, and too stupid to be entertaining. Some white people living in India get in a car accident, and the mom’s son dies. A mystical Indian woman (this movie assumes all Indian people are mystical) tells the mom if she spreads the son’s ashes on a temple’s steps at night, she can speak to him one more time. The catch is that they have to talk from opposite sides of a door, and she can’t open the door no matter what. This being a horror movie, and the characters all being idiots, she obviously opens the door and lets her son’s evil spirit back to the land of the living. The son’s spirit terrorizes the family, but it’s mostly just stuff to startle the audience. The film’s low body count prevents the audience from feeling that there is any real threat to be found. The acting is dreadful, and there is a lot of scenery chewing and screaming over ridiculous things. The mystical Indian woman dies, but other mystical Indian men ultimately save the day. In a “twist” ending that is completely hilarious and eye-rolling at the same time, the mom dies, and her husband brings her back from the dead and opens the temple’s door, starting the whole thing over again. If the movie wasn’t so badly acted and directed it could have been decent, but it languished. Setting it in India could have given us an insight into a culture we rarely see in Western cinema, with a unique twist on the horror genre, but it’s all couched in generic mysticism, and the entire point of being set in India is lost. This movie is only good if you need to laugh.
Verdict: Shitty
Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch dropped his Sherlock Holmes role and donned a doctor’s white coat and a bad American accent for this 2016 film. As far as Marvel movies go, Doctor Strange wasn’t too bad. It is removed from the super-self serious tripe we got with Captain America, and the herky-jerky “everything and the kitchen sink” stuff from The Avengers. Unfortunately, it plays out like every Marvel origin story. Cumberbatch is an egotistical neurogsurgeon (has there ever been a movie doctor that wasn’t egotistical?) who loses the use of his fine motor skills, but replaces them with the ability to conjure magic. Yeah, sure, okay. The villain has the same powers as him, which is something we always see in Marvel origin stories. It’s completely predictable with nary a story-telling stray alley or twist to be found. On the positive side, the visual style is rather unique. The psychedelic magic made it rather a pleasure to watch. There were enough moments of levity sprinkled throughout to keep the movie bouncing forward without becoming a self-parody. Basically, it’s a generic Marvel movie wrapped up in a fresh visual style, and a lead actor who is fun enough, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I didn’t find myself getting bored with this one, which is more than I can say for most of this studio’s output.
Verdict: Average



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