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February 1, 2023

A Binge too Far #29 – The Sicario duo (2015 - 2018)

 

Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) in Sicario (2015)

Sicario (2015) poster

Sicario
(2015)

 

Honorable rookie FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) volunteers and joins an elite task force with a mission to tackle major hits against the Mexican drug cartels, but what at first seems like a step up in the general field of law enforcement, it is in reality a journey deep in the annals of corruption, where the line between being a good guy or a bad guy is really thin.

 

Directed by Denis Villeneuve [Blade Runner 2049 (2017)] this high profile action film about the genre’s ever-ending fascination with the subject of the war on drugs is featuring a great cast (other than the aforementioned protagonist we also get Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro), a very engaging pace that rarely becomes annoyingly bombastic (which is a welcome surprise in this genre), and a tendency to give equal time to all players of the game.

 

Made on a whooping $30 million budget, it was selected at the competition of Cannes Film Festival, became a sensation with the critics, received BAFTA and Oscar nominations, and won audiences so much that it went on to gross a respectable $85 million, guaranteeing a sequel.

 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
(2018)

 

U.S. politicians need to escalate the war on drugs and in order to do that they secretly hire Alejandro (returning Benicio Del Toro) and Matt Graver (returning Josh Brolin) who are game for getting their hands dirty. The conspiracy they stage gets the cartels fighting each other, resulting in a chaos of abductions and murders. The statement made by the franchise is once again that law enforcement agencies need to be brutal and vigilant in order to fight the powers of evil, but to me this sounds unethical, dangerous, and slightly fascist.

 

This sequel was directed by Stefano Sollima (son of legendary Italian filmmaker Sergio Sollima) and is less subtle than the first film, but not as bombastic as promised by the premise either. Made on a larger budget than the original, it grossed less too – an estimated $75.8 million, but still the franchise seems to have legs a third movie is already in the works.


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January 21, 2023

DON’T BE LATE and PEDIE THE CLOWN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (Shorts) REVIEWS

Last April, I picked up a handful of films from an independent movie maker out of Flint, MI. Tyler Zickafoose (if that’s not an awesome name, I don’t know what is) and his Atomic Swan Films company were set up next to me at the April Ghoul’s Day event, hosted by the Flint Horror Collective. Tyler was extremely personable and was obviously passionate about making movies. I decided to buy a couple, letting him know I write reviews for this website and to be warned that if I didn’t like something, I would shred it like an asshole.

Surprisingly, or maybe not, he was down for it. He also gave me one or two for free (it’s been a while – sorry, I can’t remember exactly) despite my potential assholery to come. Now, nearly a year later, I’m finally getting off my ass to review them.

 

So far I’ve only watched three short films. I thought these were all full-length features so I gave one to a friend, not thinking to review it because it must have been the exception in the pile. If I’d known, I would have included it for this post.

Oh well. Let’s just move on with our lives and talk about the two shorts, “Don’t Be Late” and “Pedie the Clown: Vampire Hunter”.


DON’T BE LATE (2018)

The DVD begins with a few trailers for upcoming projects – “Killer Raccoon Fish in 3D”, some kind of Wings Pizza thing, “Among Thieves”, which tells us nothing about the film, and “Rise of the Ninja”. I’m pretty sure I have the “Rise of the Ninja” film so look forward to THAT review later.

The main short is about a dad and his son heading to the video rental store to get that “dinosaur movie where the dinosaurs chase all the people”. Despite the video store not having a porn section (which this guy should know since he bitches later about being a loyal customer, but I digress), dad gets the movie. The rental store clerk, Mr. Friendly, instructs him to return it by tomorrow at 10:00pm and “don’t be late”.

Despite the gentle reminder, dad brings the movie back a day late and is charged a $2 fee. This is when he pitches an absolute fit, ranting about being a loyal customer and how shitty the place and he ain’t paying. But instead of storming out, he decides to use the bathroom first to take a dump.

When you gotta go, you gotta go, you know?

As you can imagine, Mr. Friendly isn’t too pleased with the turn of events and grabs a rusty hammer to solve the issue.

 

Umm….

Look, I like the idea of it. Short, straight to the point, no excessive padding (well, maybe a little with the additional scene with another customer), shows us everything we need without massive exposition dumps to explain character motivations or plot lines. Granted, the acting is pretty bad, the editing choppy as fuck, and the sound is completely uneven. But I have to say it was okay. Sort of.

3/4 hatchet (out of 5)

 

PEDIE THE CLOWN VAMPIRE HUNTER (2019)

The next short opens with a title screen describing the following footage as found at an unknown location and filmed at an unknown time. Anyone with heart issues should NOT watch it.

Pedie the Clown is teaching a group of kids how to build their own vampire hunting kit. The film focuses only on Pedie as he describes each item while he smokes, drinks, and drops a bunch of f-bombs. Eventually, one of the kids points to a vampire off screen and Pedie steps away to take care of it.

When he returns, disheveled, wig askew, and bible tucked into his pants, he wraps up the show reminding the kids they’ll be exploring yoga next week.

 

Um….

Look, I actually liked this one. The sound is better, the only editing needed was for the commercial breaks, and Tuan Edwards as Pedie was fucking hilarious.

Yes, he was the same guy who played the dad in the video rental short, but maybe since Pedie didn’t really interact with any other characters, it was easier to lose Tuan and only see the clown. Also, he spoke in a high squeaky voice while delivering zingers like “holier than thou water” in reference to booze that, “yes, tastes like Jesus’s piss”.

I mean, I actually had to pause the DVD because I was laughing pretty hard.

I wouldn’t call this a short film. If anything, it’s a great comedic skit – simplistic and funny as fuck – but not a film.

2 hatchets (out of 5)

 

NOTE: I wish I could link something but their YouTube channel hasn't uploaded anything for 8 years and the FaceBook page was last updated in 2020. So...not sure what's up with that. 




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January 1, 2023

A Binge too Far #28 – Rise of the Predator (2018 & 2022)

A stunning frame from Prey (2022)


Happy New Year! For me New Year’s Eve is always about changes and setting new goals. Well, for starters, I thought I’d change the way my posts work in Cinema Head Cheese. You’ll still be getting one post per month by yours truly but for 2023 you’ll get A Binge too Far posts on the 1st of January, February, March, May, June, July, September, October, November, and you’ll get Static Age posts on the 1st of April, August, and December (essentially becoming a quarterly column). In other words, every three A Binge too Far posts, will be followed by one Static Age post. I decided upon this new arrangement in order for Static Age to grow even bigger and include more content each time (I’m thinking more than 2,000 words and more than ten series tackled per post), while of course A Binge too Far will remain pretty much the same, with a special that’ll included a couple of reviews in each post. Got it? This time we’ll take a brief look on the two recent Predator releases.

 

Reviews:

 

The Predator (2018) poster

The Predator
(2018)

 

Another tagline reads “You’ll never see him coming.”, to which I should add that we would probably be better off if we didn’t anyway, but here we are with another Predator film (1987 – present) on our hands. But is it any good? The short answer is, unfortunately not. Although director Shane Black (who also co-penned the screenplay with Fred Dekker) went for an R-rating (as promised in his interviews), and the beheadings and overall mayhem are intact, there’s not much else to enjoy here. For starters, the plot is thinner than the ones usually employed by SyFy product, and the acting is bordering on the laughable. If you care to see it, all you need to know in advance, story-wise, is that the film concerns a Predator that is on custody by human scientists that keep him under heavy sedation, and – surprise! – he escapes, and now humanity is in danger. Will we be able to save our asses?

 

Produced by Lawrence Gordon (who had also backed the original film) on a $88 million budget, this premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018 before embarking on a general theatrical release which doubled its money (it went on to gross more than $160.5 million), so we might see more of the hard boiled aliens. However, the film will remain immortal in popular culture memory solely because of the controversy it caused to PC circles because sex offender Steve Wilder was cast in a minor role, which was then left in the editing floor due to the fabricated outrage.

 

Prey (2022) poster

Prey
(2022)

 

Naru (Amber Midthunder) is a young Comanche woman who faces sexism from her tribe who’d prefer to have her as a cook due to her gender, but she wants to be a hunter and becomes one of the best after meticulous training, which comes handy when her small community in the forest is attacked by an alien predator.

 

Working as a prequel, this fifth installment in the long-running franchise is both entertaining (mainly due to its several outstanding gore and action set-pieces) and masterful (due to several well-staged one-shots and a stunning cinematography), resulting in what is possibly the best chapter in the series since the original.

 

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (who also penned the story, with Patrick Aison, who in turn wrote the screenplay), this started development during the production of the 2018 film reviewed above and it was shot in Calgary in 2021 on a massive $65 million budget. It premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con before receiving a release as a Hulu original to positive reviews from fans and critics alike.


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December 21, 2022

Giftwrapped and Gutted (2019) Movie Review

Yeah, I suck as a movie reviewer. At least in 2022. So let’s get some holiday-themed trash on the site and try harder for 2023.

Good? Good.

It only seems fitting to present some absolute crap for my first movie review since…February. Dayum. 2019’s Giftwrapped and Gutted comes to us from W.A.V.E. Productions but probably should have been flushed directly down the toilet instead of released into the world. Mall Santa Chuck is fired for too much drinking on the job. And instead of taking a hint and cleaning up his act, he uses this opportunity to stalk and kill a bunch of local waitresses, and wet t-shirt hotties, from him favorite watering hole.

I know. I don’t get it either but here we are.

But wait! Before this story gets going, we are treated to a movie within the movie. The opening few minutes are of another shitty Christmas horror movie playing on Chuck’s boss’s office tv. Whining about why these terrible films keep being made the manager THEN decides to fire Chuck.

By the way, the Manager is played by the writer/director/fx/editing/cinematography/producer guy for Giftwrapped and Gutted, Gary Whitson.


Wow, that’s sooooo meta.

Anyhoo, Chuck sulks home where he is berated by his nagging wife. He snaps and hog ties her with some Christmas lights. Somehow she manages to choke herself to death while struggling to get out of her binding, which pleases Chuck to no end, and he’s off to kill some titty women. 

The only other important details….well, maybe not ‘important’ but at least give us some inkling of the life ending asbestos plot fibers…are the waitresses are having a party at Holly’s house and then murdered one by one. There is one survivor but I won’t spoil it for you.


FUCK ME…..

I mean, when I find movies to review for CHC, I don’t expect great. I hardly expect good. But I do expect to be entertained. And kids, this is NOT the film for that. I’ve never seen a W.A.V.E. production before but from what I’ve been told, and from the title sequences alone, I can sus out what they like to bring to the table. Mostly bondage and strangling. And nips.

Let’s get all the bad out of the way first. Needless to say, but I will, all the terrible things in this flick are below (this is by no means a complete list):

·         Acting

·         Directing

·         Writing

·         Character development

·         Casting

·         Production

·         Cinematography

·         Set design

·         Green Screen

·         Special Effects

·         Sound

·         Lighting

·         Music

·         Entertainment value

 

I mean, you know it’s super low budget when two actresses are used to play two different sets of twins (Holly and Polly, Angel and Sage) and one actor plays two characters (Chick the bartender and Stripper Santa). I guess it’s a good use of the $3400 budget but…they really couldn’t find three other people to act the parts – and I use that term, act, VERY loosely.

This film could also have been better as a short. There was AT LEAST 30-40 minutes of padding time filled with inane chatter between the girls at the party, Santa Chuck prepping for murder or dragging out a final kill (if he had fabric scissors, it could have gone faster), victim struggling and whimpering, the whole ‘movie within a movie’ time waste at the start, the wet t-shirt competition, the bobbing for apples scene, etc.

Jesus take the wheel.

Believe it or not, I did appreciate a couple things. While the special effects are total crap, I do prefer practical over CGI. And there was quite a bit of it, in the opening movie clip and the main film itself. There was obvious green screen shit going on but I do like a good skin chew or flow of blood.

And yes, many scenes were padded and dragged out. But to be honest, and maybe they didn’t do this on purpose, strangling someone takes time. It’s not five-seconds of wham, bam, slam, you’re dead. I don’t expect complete realism in my movies all the time but when the rest of the flick is so fucking terrible, it’s refreshing to see this small aspect represented.

Funnily enough, two of the scenes where Chuck strangles someone are both with the actress, Debbie D. As Sage, Chuck garottes her, and as Angel, he manually strangles her. It takes a while for both of them to die. She’s convincingly believable.

But that’s about all I can praise in this shitastic shitshow. I have no intention of ever watching another W.A.V.E. Productions film. But if you’re into terrible awkward acting, wet titties, and bondage, then boy do I have the movie for you.

¼ hatchet (out of 5)

 




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December 9, 2022

FanCam: The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special (2002)

The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special is lifted right from the one-shot comic of the same name. With a budget of around 3K, director Scott Lebrecht was the first to bring the Main Man to the big screen! The eight-minute short film was for Lebrecht's USC film school project and there is a LOT of love dumped into it. Love dumping like Santa in a North Pole prostitute. Yep, this one isn't for the kiddies. The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special is a favorite comic of mine and is one of the funny books largely responsible for what I do today. It is irreverent, violent and quite funny. And surprisingly, so is Lebrecht's short film!

Movie Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night Series Review: Part 5

Sweet baby Jesus we've finally come to the end! I think I'm gonna be off Christmas for years to come...

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker wraps up this series with a story about a toy maker and his penchant for killer toys. Joe Petto and his son, Pino, run Petto’s Toy Shop in town. 
His name is Joe Petto. I’m not sure if you caught that. JOE PETTO is the toy maker. Are you. Fucking. Kidding me? Pino is the kid. PINO. Have you picked up on the clever writing here??? I’m pretty sure with this subterfuge you’ll NEVER guess the ending.

Anyway…

Derek, a young boy who witnesses his father’s murder at the hands of a toy meant for him, shuts down and stops talking. 2 weeks later, he’s still freaked out but his mom, Sarah, really can’t live like this anymore. She needs to get their lives back in order.

Um, it’s been 2 weeks. I think it’s okay to mourn a little longer but whatever…

December 1, 2022

Static Age #23: Dead of Night (1972)

Dead of Night (1972) DVD cover


This Static Age’s spotlight goes to BBC’s classic horror series Dead of Night (1972). Unfortunately only three episodes survive out of the seven that were made, but these are now available from BFI on Region 2 [PAL] DVD that comes with an informative 28-page booklet featuring short essays on the series, each available episode, and several key creative personnel. ‘The Exorcism’ is the stronger episode and is about two couples in their mid-30s who upon hanging out in a secluded villa, strange incidents occur. ‘Return Flight’ is about an airplane pilot (Peter Barkworth) that encounters the ghost of a World War II bomber. In ‘A Woman Sobbing’ a housewife (Anna Massey) is hearing a woman crying in the attic, but is it hallucinations caused by paranoia or is the house in desperate need of an exorcism?

 

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…

 

Into the Dark - Season 2

Executive produced by Jason Blum and made available on Hulu, the 2nd (and final) season of Into the Dark (2018 – 2021) consists of another 12 feature-length, most of them second-rate when compared to Blumhouse’s theatrical output, but very entertaining nevertheless. ‘Uncanny Annie’ is set during the Halloween celebrations and is about a group of students playing a board game that is about to turn deadly. When re-enactors are invited at a family dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving in ‘Pilgrim’, things go south with religious lunacy! ‘A Nasty Piece of Work’ is about to highly paid employees and competitors (Kyle Howard and Dustin Milligan) that get invited to their boss’ (Julian Sands) mansion and are prepared to do anything in order to get a bonus or a raise. ‘Midnight Kiss’ is modern giallo about a black-gloved and masked serial killer that is targeting a group of gay friends; but could the assailant be one of them? ‘My Valentine’ is about the battle of two pop stars, featuring music video aesthetics that pop out of the screen, but come with very little substance in what resembles a musical for the social media generation. ‘Crawlers’ is set during the St. Patrick’s day and night celebration, when an alien invasion takes place featuring green-blooded human-shaped impostor aliens! The titular demonic toy returns in the highly entertaining ‘Pooka Lives!’. The nightmarish ‘Delivered’ is about young pregnant woman Valerie (Natalie Paul) who gets abducted by psycho woman Jenny (Tina Majorino) who is about to claim her baby. In ‘Good Boy’, struggling 39-year-old journalist Maggie (Judy Greer) is desperate to become a mom but her dating life (mostly generated by an app) does not go so well, so she gets a dog that ends up not being man’s best friend exactly. ‘The Current Occupant’ is asking, what is more likely, the president of the U.S.A. to be hospitalized against his will in a psychiatric ward against his will as a part of large conspiracy or that a mental patient believes he’s going to save the world? ‘Tentacles’ is an utterly boring episode concerning the love story between photographer Sam Anselm (Casey Deidrick) and the mysterious Tara (the gorgeous Dana Drori, offering some nudity) that turns dark once secrets of the doll’s past are revealed incrementally. In ‘Blood Moon’ single mother Esme Rawls (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and her son Luna (Yonas Kibreab) move to a small town in order to make a fresh start, but there is something mysterious about them.

 

The Sandman - Season 1

Based on the same-titled DC Comic’s graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, Netflix’s The Sandman (2022 – present) is about the Goth-styled Dream (Tom Sturridge) who upon escaping the eternal prison of a magus is now ready to reclaim his kingdom. As fairytale-like as it is to be expected from shows based on Gaiman’s works, this dark fantasy delivers and we can’t wait for more.

 

The 3rd (and final season) of the ill-fated and weak Scream (2015 – 2019) is bringing more ghostface against teenagers action to the table as expected, as well as Tony Todd in a desperate attempt to elevate this to something better than a pop aesthetics-obsessed standard slasher, but doesn’t succeed too much. Most of the slashing action takes place in the ‘hood and the college, and is featuring amateur acting and awful dialogue that delivers sentences that make no grammatical sense aiming to sound ‘hip’; atrocious at most levels, this should be avoided at all costs and should also be removed from Wes Craven’s filmography who supposedly ‘executive produced’ it. It is silly fun, but it is mostly silly and very little fun.

 

Slasher - Season 4

In the 4th season of Shudder’s Slasher (2016 – present) dying businessman Spencer (legendary director David Cronenberg, giving a much-needed credibility to the proceedings) sets up a series of games for his family, the winner of which will inherit his fortune. Filled with splatter scenes you could only see in theaters a few years ago, this is an enjoyable addition to the long list of recent television horrors.

 

American Crime Story - Season 3

The 3rd season of the based-on-true-events crime series American Crime Story (2016 – present) tells the story of the Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) and Monica Lewinski (Beanie Feldstein) scandal that shook the political 1990s turmoil. Amazingly well-done and with a clear sense of aesthetic identity (all seasons have the same pace and tone despite telling entirely different stories), this series is a winner; although I couldn’t help but thinking that Americans seem to be very frustrated when it comes to sex.

 

Based on the 1990s sex tape scandal that shook the American celebrity foundation and changed forever the way superstars would manage their careers as well as the nature of pornography, hulu’s miniseries Pam & Tommy (2022) with Lily James and Sebastian Stan in the titular roles is fun (the comedic moments work perfectly) and interesting.

 

Westworld - Season 3

The 3rd season of Westworld (2016 – present) is continuing the journey of several humans and robots, the conjunction of the stories of both will interfere with the future of the projected matrix that they co-habit. Technophobic or visionary, whichever way you see it the series has gotten tired and outstayed their welcome. The more complicated the screenplay becomes the more boring the show becomes; it has the occasional interesting hook, but it isn’t enough. It is the sort of thing that would apply only to computer engineers, but that is a very limited audience. The scarce action scenes are occasionally outstanding, but not enough to save the day.

 

Following the death of the first two seasons’ protagonist, the 3rd (and final) season of Lethal Weapon (2016 – 2019) pairs old cop Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) with ex-C.I.A. and current copper Wesley Cole (Seann William Scott) for another round of police action (albeit this time a little more contained at a run of a mere 15 episodes). Roger struggles with thoughts of retirement while Wesley tries to make up for his past that is filled with guilt, and both will employ a series of unorthodox and spectacular methods of crime fighting. More problematic than usual because this aired in recent years when the glorification of police excesses is wrong to say the least, this is strangely entertaining as long as you don’t take it seriously.

 

The Irregulars - Season 1

The sole season of limited series The Irregulars (2021) – all eight episodes of which are readily available on Netflix – is set in the deep underground side of Victorian times London, amidst poverty, seedy pubs, and even prostitution, as we witness the story of a gang of juvenile delinquents that perform dirty deeds for Doctor Watson (Royce Pierreson) and Sherlock Holmes (Henry-Lloyd Hughes). Not grounded in reality at all, and with a very heavy-handed fantasy flavor in it, this is visually interesting most of the times, but rarely entertaining enough.

 

Based on the ‘Lonely Boy’ autobiography by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, the miniseries Pistol (2022) are about the birth, rise, and fall of the legendary U.K. band that came like a storm as a result of the unique characters that formed it and surrounded it, as well as the sociopolitical climate. Although punk rock did not begin with Sex Pistols, nor did it end with them, their importance to that subculture’s landscape is immeasurable. Written and created by Craig Pearce, and directed by Danny Boyle, these 6 episodes opt for the full screen format and occasionally employ archival footage in order to project a better picture of the era.

 

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities

The 1st season of the anthology series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022) has the titular creator/director introducing the standalone episodes in Alfred Hitchcock manner, and all 8 of them have a special ‘Eerie’ comics-styled air and moralist angle about them that is both nostalgic and awesome; plus, all of them are directed by some of the genre’s current top directors. ‘Lot 36’ is about the discovery of four rare black magic books in a recently auctioned storage lot. Vincenzo Natali’s ‘Graveyard Rats’ tackles the subject of grave robbing and the deadly consequences that may come with it. David Prior’s visceral masterpiece ‘The Autopsy’ spends so much time in the morgue that you’ll forget you’re watching something made for the small screen and it will be stomached only by members of the audience who are familiar with extreme visuals. ‘The Outside’ is a macabre masterepice about an outcast woman that will do anything to fit in with the popular crowd of her work environment, even if what it’d take would be using a dangerous and possibly deadly lotion. Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, ‘Pickman’s Model’ is about an art student (Ben Barnes) who meets a very skilled colleague (Crispin Glover) whose paintings may be of demonic qualities. ‘Dreams in the Witch House’ is also based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and is about a mysterious drug that may be able to bring back the dead, but the real terror is an anthropomorphic rat creature. Directed by Panos Cosmatos, ‘The Viewing’ is a cosmic horror masterpiece about an eccentric rich man that hosts an exclusive party for four peculiar guests. Starring Andrew Lincoln, ‘The Murmuring’ is about a middle-aged couple that mourns the death of their child by reclosing themselves in an old house in which the previous tenants might have died tragically. Like Alfred Hithcock before him, del Toro’s television is better than his films, and frankly I cannot wait for the next season.

 

Marvel’s television special Werewolf by Night (2022) tells the story of the titular monstrous superhero and does so by employing the aesthetics of the old Hollywood horrors, relying mostly in black and white cinematography (red is the only color you see, and only the epilogue is in full color) along with some fan-service qualities that include superbly choreographed action sequences and stunning gore set-pieces. Possibly the best thing you can now stream on Disney+.

 

Written and directed by James Gunn, Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) follow Mantis (the stunning Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) on a mission to planet Earth in order to claim Kevin Bacon and bring him as a Christmas present to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Sweet and touching, and with a rocking soundtrack to bone, this is the perfect holiday special and should be missed by none who has access too Disney+.

 

And now, please allow me a word on some recent mainstream film releases…

 

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) promotional art

Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), directed by Taika Waititi, has the titular hero (Chris Hemsworth, looking like a rock star) build bridges with his ex-girlfriend and lady Thor herself (Natalie Portman, looking as gorgeous as ever) in order to fight the Gorr, the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who as his name reveals is set out to destroy all gods. Made the same way these things are (featuring the standard cinematography, editing, CGI, etc.) but with all actors hamming it up in order to generate comedy, this is a weak entry in the long string of recent superhero movies, but Guns N’ Roses is constantly blasting in the soundtrack appropriately enough and manages somehow to save the day.

 

Samaritan (2022) poster

Since Sylvester Stallone failed to get the call from either Marvel or DC (and he’s better off without them, in my opinion) he produced (as Balboa Productions, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) director Julius Avery’s Samaritan (2022) – now available for streaming on Amazon Prime – in which he plays an aged superhero teaching a young kid (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) a life lesson or two, while anticipating the rise of a local villain (Pilou Asbaek). Well-done action-fest in the realm of a Gotham-like setting, this is possibly the first movie I see in which the CGI fires don’t suck.

 

Directed by Luca Rea (who also wrote it, with Steve Della Casa) Django & Django (2021) is a documentary on legendary Italian director Sergio Corbucci (who as readers of this blog know had great success in genres such as westerns and peplum) is not as informative as the many good books on the spaghetti westerns that were published in recent years (it is running for a mere 77 minutes and plays better as a nostalgic homage) but it is absolutely entertaining, thanks to its talking heads (Quentin Tarantino, Franco Nero, and Reggero Deodato) and archival footage.

 

Nope (2022) promotional art

Written, produced, and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Jordan Peele, Nope (2022) is about a small group of people that are employed in the trenches of the film industry and that are about to capture Oprah-level footage of alien activity in their secluded ranch. At 130 minutes this is much too long and with a first half that drags a lot, but the finale is rewarding, and the sci-fi/western mash is so good and original that makes the whole thing for a very entertaining experience.

 

Directed by Kevin McDonagh, Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (2015) is a documentary on the making and releasing of the two titular 1980s horror classics, and it is good to see all these talking heads intermixed with footage from the films and behind-the-scenes material, but there is not much added here that fans didn’t already know and there’s zero artistry involved as well, resulting in something as plain as a TV news episode, albeit one that lasts for much longer.

 

Halloween Ends (2022) wraps the Blumhouse-backed and David Gordon Green-directed sequel trilogy on a high note, as it is a crescendo of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis, who also executive producer) vs. Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) violent antics, concluding their long history of violence. This time though another killer (Rohan Campbell) is also introduced, and while you may think you know where this’d go, it takes a left turn and surprises everyone. Masterful in all departments, from delivering the thrills and suspense, to actually being scary and intelligent at the same time, this is the best entry this franchise has seen in many years. John Carpenter served as one of the composers and executive producers.

 

DC’s Black Adam (2022), directed by Jaume Collet-Serra is about the titular superhero (Dwayne Johnson) who is resurrected and is lured to saving his people. Bombastic and featuring enhanced CGI fights every few minutes, this light adventure is raising some questions about good and evil, and even imperialism, but in childish manner. It is not groundbreaking by any means, but a very welcome addition to the long list of recent superhero films.


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November 1, 2022

A Binge too Far #27: A duo of Scott Derrickson's Cursed Films (2015 & 2021)

Frame from The Black Phone (2021) featuring Ethan Hawke

 

I don’t understand people that find it special watching horror films on Halloween. I watch horror films throughout the entire year, and I try to celebrate Halloween by dressing up or scaring people as much too. But to keep up with the trends, and since yesterday was Halloween, please check out my brief thoughts on two Scott Derrickson horror outings.

 

Sinister 2 (2015) poster

Sinister 2
(2015)

 

Hot M.I.L.F. Courtney (ShannynSossamon) has taken her kids Dylan (Robert Daniel Sloan) and Zach (Dartanian Sloan) away from their abusive father and to a vacant farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, kindly provided by a friend. The meathead father (Lea Coco) has found the farm, but he is late, because before him Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone, who brings with him a Shaggy kind of quality of the Scooby Doo, Where are you! TV series [1969 – 1970]) arrived there and befriended the family, and manages to send the bad guy away, duo to a law technicality that the policemen he brought with him did not foresee. So & So is the only returning character from the first film [Sinister (2012)], in case you live under a rock; the character had worked in that film’s Ellison Oswalt case) and this time around he arrived at the aforementioned location with a mission to destroy it, because an antique ham radio (antiques are a theme here, as the female lead works in restoration of these things, although she’s only telling us so and we never see her in professional action) came to his attention (its original owner was the disappeared Professor Jonas from the first film) and its recordings of young kids’ voices connect it to the franchise’s main attraction demon Bughuul (stuntman Nicholas King, also returning from the first film, and getting closer to becoming a new Kane Hodder). If that is not enough, Dylan is also visited by a gang of ghost kids led by Milo (Lucas Jade Zumann) that share with him the projection of a few snuff movies on 8mm (these segments were actually shot on 16mm, but they pass for 8mm) accompanied with some vinyl music. How on earth young kids would know how to work with this technology now that their lives without physical media prevent them from even using a CD player is beyond logic, but then again, these are ghost kids. The snuff films themselves are quite interesting, one of them has a family eaten alive by crocodiles, another one has a family buried in the snow, another one has a family electrocuted, and two more are just featuring plain torture [old movies is another theme here, and we even get glimpses of Night Of The Living Dead (1968)]. This grotesque imagery may look shocking to young audiences today, but we grew up with Joe D'Amato’s Emanuelle In America (1977) and we do know better.

 

As you may have already guessed from the synopsis above, this is more of a family drama rather than a horror film, and it is a great one at that; it is a good movie, just not a scary one. The screenplay (penned again by returning writers C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson) is cleverly devised and convincing. One good example is when So & So tried to keep the family in the house, because tradition has the families dying after leaving the cursed houses, he did so by using a fake legal excuse in regards to the kids’ custody. It is a logical way to keep the family confined to the house (to build suspense and scares) and still look like you have a reasonable script on your hands. If you survive the boring start, you will be rewarded with some very interesting dreamy imagery too [courtesy of cinematographer Amy Vincent {Black Snake Moan (2006)}]. Other than that, the casting is pitch-perfect, but the moment of greatness came with the visually compelling end credits.

 

Shot in six weeks in Chicago, this was produced by Jason Blum and Scott Derrickson, on a $10 million budget and it grossed $52.9 million. It was directed by CiarĂ¡n Foy on the strength of Citadel (2012) in which he also had to work with kids.

 

The Black Phone (2021)

The Black Phone
(2021)

 

Set in 1978 Denver (and with plenty of references to the era’s drive-in horror hits), when a masked assailant called The Grabber (Ethan Hawke, in a career-defining role, even as he takes his mask of only for the finale) abducts young kids and leaves behind a trail of black balloons as his signature. His latest victim, Finney (Mason Thames) is locked in a seedy basement with the titular non-working black phone attached to a wall that will become a catalyst to the story. In the meanwhile, Finney’s sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) has dreams that may help the police with the investigation, much to the annoyance of their abusive father (Jeremy Davies) – a subplot that doesn’t add much to the proceedings.

 

Based on the same-titled short story by Joe Hill, and directed by the master of current horror Scott Derrickson (who also penned the screenplay, with C. Robert Cargill – the two of them also produced, with Jason Blum for Blumhouse Productions), this stunning motion picture creates an uncomfortable environment – not only due to the sensitive subject matter of the abduction of minors, but also to the violence among kids that it frequently depicts – and blends footage, reality, and expectations with such artistry that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the end result one of the finest horror films of the last ten years. Made on a modest $18 million budget (after its director departed a Marvel production), it premiered at the Fantastic Fest, before receiving a theatrical release from Universal Pictures, and it went on to gross a glorious $161 million, resulting in discussions of a sequel.


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