Friday, October 20, 2017
You know how this movie was being advertised as an epic disaster movie that seemed like it was made 20 years too late? Yeah, put that on hold. For as much Geostorming as this movie promised, there's not very much Geostorming at all. The movie is a dark, serious, whodunit political thriller for most of the run time with some major storms thrown in as an afterthought, most of which you already saw in all the trailers. Thought you signed up for a self-aware, fun, disaster movie where you could sit back and shove popcorn in your face for two hours? Well, put that popcorn down and take a nap for the first hour of the movie. We get teased for a brief few moments with a frozen Afghanistan city followed by some sort of fiery, volcanic earthquake in Hong Kong. Outside that, we have to wait for the storms and I started to get bored as heck. Most of the movie is I think was trying to make some sort of painfully horrible political statement that you absolutely don't want when you go into a disaster movie and a whole ton of family drama between our two main characters in the movie, who are brothers, that I just didn't care about it. For some reason the writers and directors thought that the world wanted a super serious drama with lots of politics and I found that baffling.
OK, I get it movie. All politicians are evil, crazy idiots who can't be trusted. Can we drop it? No. We're not going to. Instead, after the fiasco where Gerard Butler gets fired, we jump into the future even more, making me completely lose track of what year we're in, and we get a whodunit thriller because apparently someone has inserted some sort of virus into our space station thing that is causing it to malfunction and create these huge storms. If they don't figure out who is doing this and how to stop them, the world is going to experience a Geostorm, a super huge mega storm where natural disasters everywhere combine together and destroy the world. You know, the title of the movie. So three years after this younger brother ruined his older brother's life, they are forced to go back to him to help them stop this thing. In order to save the world, he accepts. So he goes up to outer space while the younger brother handles things down on earth and after much investigation, they have determined that their prime suspect is the President of the United States. Who, get this, is a democrat. Oh, so now we're saying that the democrats specifically are all evil and going to destroy the world? Holy cow. I'm not even a democrat and that infuriates me.
Are we ready for the storms, yet? Because I thought I signed up for a movie where I got to watch the world get destroyed by natural disasters. Not a long, boring, drawn out political thriller where democrats are portrayed as evil human beings. I wanted my storms! Which, in thinking about, seems like insensitive timing anyways. With how much damage various earthquakes, hurricanes and fires have already done to our world, is this really a movie that we needed right now? But whatever. If we ignore that point, we didn't get those storms anyways. Not on the level that I thought I would. Eventually after all this nonsense, the storms started. I'm normally not an advocate of pulling out your phones during a movie, but when these storms started, I just had to know what time it was. My showtime was 1:00. The movie is 1 hour, 49 minutes long. It was 2:25 when the storms started. Granted, we had 15-20 minutes of trailers beforehand, but even with that it means we were at least at the halfway point through the movie before we started to get what we thought we were going to get. But even with the storms starting, we only got like a total of 15 minutes of storms scattered throughout the second half of the movie as we focused more on wrapping up our political thriller.
Again, there's a lot of movies in theaters right now. There's holdovers from the last several weeks that deserve to be seen. Five new options this weekend. Oscar-bait films that are starting to surface. There's a lot for you to see. And that's not even mentioning what appears to be a very fun holiday season in November and December with movies such as "Thor: Ragnorok," "Justice League" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" heading our way. There's no reason for you to ever waste your time with "Geostorm." I write movie reviews. That's what I do. And often I'll purposely try to see movies like this so that you can be informed as to what not to see. I consider it taking one for the team so that you don't have to. Had this been a self-aware, lighthearted, fun disaster movie, I may have been able to recommend it as a guilty pleasure like I did "San Andreas," but this movie tries to be so serious and dramatic that it ruins all that potential. No one cares about overdone drama in a disaster movie. It's not fun. And it's certainly not fun watching an in-your-face political thriller about how evil the democratic party is. Due to good acting and serviceable technical aspects to the movie, I'm not going to give this a horrible score, but I'm certainly not going positive. "Geostorm" gets a 5/10.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
After having heard of this movie for the first time a month ago and watching it for the first time a week ago, I even more recently learned that "The Night of the Hunter" is based on the book of the same name, which in turn is based on the life of one Harry Powers, a serial killer who was hanged in 1932 for the murder of a woman and her three kids. Powers lured women to him via Lonely Hearts ads (the old-fashioned version of dating sites?), claiming he was looking for love, but instead had a goal to kill them for their money. Thankfully he was caught, convicted and put to death before too many people fell victim to him, because apparently he got 10-20 letters per day based on his ads and had written love letters to many of them with the intention of killing them for their money. This gives you a bit of an idea of what you're in for if you decide to put in "The Night of the Hunter," although not really because, while the movie is based on the life of Powers, "loosely based" might be the proper terminology. The fictional version of this story that is told in this movie is a lot more toned down than the real life version as I'm guessing that director Charles Laughton wanted to make a movie that people of his time would actually watch.
This makes for an interesting conversation. A dark, gruesome, bloody thriller is probably not something that audiences would gravitate towards in 1955. Even Hitchcock had to restrain himself in order to get the rating of approved that was necessary for films back then to actually make money. I'll talk about that more on a later date when I review a certain Hitchcock film. But 2017 is much different than 1955 in terms of content that a director is capable of making. I feel many of Hitchcock's films would be much more intense if he had lived in today's world with his same mind. Perhaps Charles Laughton would've elected to go darker and scarier if he also were around today to make this movie? With that in mind, what if we hired a director today who excels at dark, crime thrillers to return to this material and give it a more realistic, darker feel to it? Put that thought on hold for a bit, because I'm going to come back to it. As far now, we have to talk about this movie, which surrounds the fictional character named, not Harry Powers, but Harry Powell. Guess what he does? Yup. He goes around killing women for their money. At least that's his goal in this movie. And he's learned of $10,000 that he's absolutely dead set on owning.
The interesting thing that I found about this movie is that the setup of the film is not really dark or scary in terms of the tone and feel. It almost starts off as quite the opposite, that being light and happy. Which then catches you off guard when you hear what this guy is actually saying and the dread sets in without the movie even having to pound that dread in with music, lighting or camera work. If this guy hadn't admitted to being a serial killer, perhaps he would've even been a character worth caring about. The thing is, while we as an audience know his secret right off the bat, no one around him knows the secret, which makes you scream inside your head as this happy, lovable preacher starts introducing himself to everyone and eventually marrying this girl. I was genuinely terrified, yet I fully understood why everyone else made the decision to put their complete faith in this man. I mean, a happy, lovable minister is always someone worth trusting, right? I was on the edge of my seat for most of the first third of the movie as this creep moves his way into this family's life. The horrific anticipation of knowing something awful is about to happen is a rather suspenseful feeling, which is perfect for this time of year. We all love being scared at Halloween.
You'll note, though, that I said I was on the edge of my seat for most of the first third of the movie. I don't want to give too much away in case there are others reading this who, like me last week, haven't actually seen this movie. But the movie is essentially a three act story. I don't know what the time proportions are, but there are definitely three distinct parts. The first part of this film is what I have been describing to you. This is the horror of knowing that something awful is going to happen as this man gets closer and closer to achieving his goal. But for me personally, the movie didn't quite hit the levels of fear that I thought it was building to. There's definitely an overhanging sense of dread in the second and third parts of the movie, but I found myself a lot less interested in what was actually happening. I wanted the movie to unleash all of its terror and dread on me, but I felt like the director either made the choice to purposely hold back or didn't quite have the creative liberty at the time to do so. Thus we are left with a movie that, while still satisfying enough in the end, did come off as a bit cartoonish if you will. Certain aspects of the movie wouldn't have transpired the way they did, I didn't think. And they absolutely didn't when you look at the real story of Harry Powers.
Maybe it's because "Gone Girl" was the first movie I came up with when seeking comparisons to "The Night of the Hunter," but when I was contemplating the proper director for my remake, David Fincher was the name that seemed perfect. In addition to "Gone Girl," he's also made movies like "Se7en" and "Zodiac" that proves he has the thriller genre down pat. I believe that he would do "The Night of the Hunter" complete justice with his version. He could give it the modern grit and tone to please today's audiences while still being faithful to the original film. I also came up with a cast that I would love to see, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Harry Powell, Armie Hammer and Michelle Williams as our original couple Ben and Willa Harper, with Jaeden Lieberher and McKenna Grace as the two kids. I feel this is a cast that would deliver absolute power to these roles, especially with Fincher directing them. I don't have my exact script hammered out in my head, but it would be dark and intense. Perhaps we could even go back to the original source material by telling the true story of Harry Powers. Or maybe a combination of the real story and the fictional version. I don't know. Maybe you hate me right now for suggesting this, but I think it could work.
The point of all this is, while I honestly did enjoy myself in "The Night of the Hunter," I think the intensity was turned down quite a bit from what it could've been, perhaps due to restrictions based on what 1955 audiences could handle. While it's very true that I'm not an expert on classic cinema from this age, thus making me not the most qualified person to review this movie, thrillers are my thing. It's my favorite genre. When I compare "The Night of the Hunter" to other thrillers that I've seen, I didn't get quite the thrill out of it that I was expecting or hoping for. The first act was solid, but it got a bit cartoonish at times, wandered around through the second act and perhaps went on a little further than it needed to in the third act in terms of the story (not the run time of the movie). Perhaps it's unfair to compare it to modern-day thrillers like "Gone Girl" or "Nightcrawler." But I think a comparison to Hitchcock's films are absolutely on the table. Movies like "Psycho," "Rear Window," "Vertigo" and "The Birds" are a lot more refined, intense, terrifying and boundary-pushing. Even with that said, "The Night of the Hunter" is still a solid film and might even be perfect if you like your thrillers a bit more toned down. My grade for it is still an 8/10 despite what I've said.
Monday, October 16, 2017
If you're like me from two weeks ago and you haven't been exposed to "Young Frankenstein," allow me to give you a quick taste of what you're in for. This is a movie directed by the great Mel Brooks and stars Willy Wonka himself (Gene Wilder) as Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein from our original "Frankenstein" story. Frederick Frankenstein hates his heritage so much that he gets angry when someone brings it up and he even prefers to pronounce his last name the German way instead of the traditional English way in order to separate himself from his grandfather. He'd prefer to be famous based on his own merits and not because of the cynical and crazy history of his grandfather. Despite this hatred, he ends up being dragged into his grandfather's work, anyways, when he's informed that he has inherited his family's estate in Transylvania. Curiosity gets the better of him and he checks the estate out and, with the help of the hunchback Igor and the beautiful assistant Inga, he discovers his grandfather's secret lab and can't help himself. The three of them work together to create another monster from the remains of others, which leads to practically everything going horribly wrong in perhaps the most hilarious way possible.
But now is not the time for that. Now is the time for "Young Frankenstein," the movie that came long after those and does not take itself seriously at all. This is not a movie designed to make you think on all the deep mysteries of life. Even though I don't find the "Frankenstein" movies scary, per se, "Young Frankenstein" isn't even a horror movie. It's a straight-up comedy that's meant as a "Frankenstein" parody movie. Even though I personally prefer my original "Frankenstein" movies, when it comes to a light-hearted comedic telling of a classic story, it doesn't get a whole lot better as alot of this humor is quite on point. Much of this is shouldered by Gene Wilder, who absolutely owns this role as Frederick Frankenstein. I haven't been exposed to Gene Wilder as much as I would like to, but I've always adored him as Willy Wonka in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" from 1971. That exposure alone was enough for me to be sad about his passing last summer. It was fun seeing him in something else as I watched "Young Frankenstein" and I was super impressed as he went all in with this role, embracing both sides of this complex character of Frederick Frankenstein. The other actors in this movie did well, too. But I honestly don't think this movie would've gone anywhere had it not been for the brilliant performance of Gene Wilder.
As far as the comedy itself, I will admit that not all of it worked for me. I think that's the case with comedy in general, which is why it's such a hard genre to pull off. Not everyone is going to laugh at the same jokes, especially in this case if they are less familiar with the source material that this movie is parodying. If you're less familiar with "Frankenstein," I'd suggest you watch that first instead of this, because otherwise the comedy might go right over your head. But even with the knowledge of "Frankenstein," not all of this worked for me. I'd hesitate to use the word "raunchy" to describe this movie, but there is quite a bit of sexual humor scattered throughout that I think would put this movie at a PG-13 in today's standards, thus making it not quite the Halloween movie for the whole family to enjoy. Specifically there's an ongoing gag about the size of the monster's you-know-what that was kinda chuckle-worthy the first time they used it, but completely unfunny every other time, but yet they kept going. I will admit that I did laugh when Gene Wilder exclaimed his amazement at the size of the knockers on the door in which Inga responded with a "thank you." That was a cleverly timed joke, even though it does fit under the same category as the other.
I definitely think there is a strong place in this world for Halloween movies like this. Halloween is a fun time of year, but it's understandable that some people are not on board for the scary, horror side of Halloween. As such, it's good to have a wide selection of light-hearted, Halloween humor to enjoy. Even though I prefer the dramatic, serious side of "Frankenstein" more than this, I would still give this my strong recommendation, especially if you are one that prefers the lighter side of Halloween. It's not as deep and powerful as other "Frankenstein" movies. And it does dive more into the sexual humor than it needed to. I think this would've worked best as a movie the whole family can enjoy as opposed to it being targeted more towards the adult audience, but this is still a fun movie to enjoy that is propelled by Gene Wilder owning the role of Frederick Frankenstein, but supporting roles from the likes of Marty Feldman (Igor), Teri Garr (Inga), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blucher) and Peter Boyle (the monster) certainly have to be given credit as well. It was a good team effort all around, thus we also have to give a lot of credit to Mel Brooks for being the director at the helm of the project. I think a fair grade for "Young Frankenstein" from me is a solid 8/10.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
In the movie, Jessica Rothe plays a college sorority girl named Tree Gelbman. She wakes up one day in the dorm room of a guy named Carter Davis, played by Isreal Broussard, having not remembered what happened the previous evening. She puts on her shirt, leaves the room, and heads off to class, making sure to be rude and arrogant to everyone in her path, roommates included. Because, you know, that's how we have to have her in this type of movie. We have to watch her learn to be nice to the world. Except she does kind of have an excuse. Today is her birthday, which is not a very happy day for her due to certain family issues. But after living a somewhat normal day for her, she ends up all by herself in a dark part of town where she comes across an individual dressed in black with a baby-face mask, that's apparently the school mascot. That person kills her and then she wakes up back in the dorm room of Carter Davis. And what do you know. It's the same day again. At the end of each ensuing day, the crazy person with the baby face mask is waiting for her to kill her again. Why trap her in a time loop instead of kill her for good? I don't know. The movie doesn't really answer that question. This is the type of movie where certain things you just have to accept.
Because of that, there's a few ways you can look at this movie. You can take it super seriously and complain at all the logical fallacies present in the movie. Why is she in a time loop? I don't know. Why doesn't she use one of her lives to de-mask the killer to figure out who he/she is? I don't know. When the mystery is revealed, does it make sense when you think back on the rest of the movie? Probably not. Is it kinda silly that it follows the "Groundhog Day" formula to a t, with a "Groundhog Day" reference thrown in there? Yeah. But here's the thing I'd say to you if you did take that route with this movie. The movie itself doesn't take itself seriously at all, so it's a bit unfair for you to do so. This is a very self-aware movie that simply decides to have a ton of fun with a silly premise, thus I think it can be enjoyed if you try to sit back, relax and just have fun. That's exactly what I did and it was a very enjoyable ride. I imagine the writers had a lot of fun writing this screenplay. I imagine the director had fun bringing it to life. And I definitely know that the lead actors had a ton of fun in their roles. Jessica Rothe completely owns this role by going all in on whatever she was told to do, thus she ends up carrying this whole movie on her back and you can't help but like her.
My biggest gripe that I had while watching the movie is that it seemed like it was going to end a specific way and I don't think I would've been happy with that specific ending. I don't want to dive into specifics with this, but right when I started to grumble and complain at how they decided to wrap this up, they turned the corner slightly and went a bit of a different direction and that direction was enough to please me. Is this a movie that I plan on owning and watching every Halloween for the rest of my life. No. When you compare it to "Groundhog Day" and "Edge of Tomorrow," it doesn't get very close to that. I don't know if I even have a huge desire to watch it a second time, but if I have family or friends that are curious enough to check it out, I'll happily sit down and enjoy the movie with them. It's a fun, enjoyable ride as long as you don't take it too seriously. If you are wanting dark, scary and serious, go watch "IT." If you want fun and enjoyable, then check out "Happy Death Day." If you are poor or have no time to head out to the theaters this Halloween, then don't be too upset that you missed this. Find it on Netflix or rent it at Redbox sometime. That's perfectly acceptable. You're not missing "the movie of 2017." My grade for "Happy Death Day" is an 8/10.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
I don't want to spend too much time on "Blade Runner" itself because I'd rather focus most of this review on the original, but nevertheless I think I am at a bit of a disadvantage at having not seen "Blade Runner" until 2017. It's a bit of a slow, though-provoking film that dives deep into the themes of human vs. technology. I think a lot of humanity is scared of technology getting too advanced, thus in Hollywood we see almost every movie about artificial intelligence going completely awry with the robots we've created overtaking us and ruling the earth. In fact, I can't really think of a movie off the top of my head that portrays artificial intelligence as a positive thing. It's almost always negative. And that's what "Blade Runner" is all about. Humans created these artificial intelligence that this universe has called replicas, but things went so bad that they've become illegal on this planet. Now there are certain people working as blade runners whose job is to hunt down and "retire" the replicas that are on the earth. Harrison Ford is one of said blade runners and the movie is about him hunting down and killing four specific replicas. But he falls in love with one of them while hunting the others down and then there are questions about if he himself is actually a replica.
You can tell by watching "Blade Runner 2049" that Villeneuve has mad respect for the original film because he has taken that original film and delivered a proper sequel that does justice to this movie that so many love. They could've taken this franchise and updated it for modern audiences. They could've turned it into a giant action franchise or used this movie to set up a whole bunch of other sequels, but that's not what happened. Villeneuve has made a "Blade Runner" sequel that takes what "Blade Runner" set up and builds on it. While the first movie was set in 2019, this movie is set 30 years after that, in the year 2049, and feels like a natural progression. The technology from the first movie has expanded and progressed while the universe we're in is bigger, better and more beautiful than ever before. Like, seriously, if nothing else, this movie is worth seeing just for the visual effects and cinematography. And just like the original, the soundtrack is quite mesmerizing. The movie is nearly three hours long, but for me I was so caught up in this world that I was totally fine with the length of the film. Yeah, sure, it probably could've been 20 minutes shorter, but I never got bored or restless due to how beautiful and mesmerizing this movie is.
I don't know how much I want to give away about the story itself because I mostly avoided all the trailers. I didn't want to know anything about a sequel to a film that I hadn't yet seen. When I finally saw the first movie, I essentially went straight into this sequel without catching myself up on the trailers. But the basics of this plot center around Ryan Gosling. Because replica technology is advanced, they've seemingly figured out how to work with replicas as Ryan Gosling himself is a replica and a blade runner. And that's not something that's revealed at the end of the movie. That's known from the very beginning. Ryan Gosling's job as a blade runner is to retire some of the older models that were more dysfunctional and less obedient than himself. In the midst of this, he runs into a certain breakthrough that sets up a whole bunch of questions and eventually leads Gosling to Harrison Ford's character of Rick Deckard. But make no mistake, this is Ryan Gosling's movie. Not Harrison Ford's. But when Harrison Ford does turn up about halfway through the movie, he does an excellent job at picking up where he left off. He doesn't act like Harrison Ford or Han Solo. You see him on screen and you know he is Rick Deckard, which I find impressive.
Yet for better or for worse, this is definitely a "Blade Runner" sequel. It's a slow-moving, sci-fi, mystery film that takes its time to set everything up so that things feel natural and unforced. If you thought the themes of technology vs. humanity, and the often gray area between the two were phenomenal and thought-provoking in the first movie, just wait until you see what themes this movie has to add to that. It takes that line and blurs it even more. But I don't know, I still think I've seen these themes done much better in other movies. The first half of this movie played out a lot like the movie "Her," the movie starring Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with the advanced version of Siri, voiced by Scarlett Johannson. But I think "Her" is more powerful and resonating than "Blade Runner 2049." In terms of the blurred line between humanity and artificial intelligence, the movie "Ex Machina" dove into that in a fantastically gripping fashion that will stick with me for a lot longer than "Blade Runner 2049" will with its various versions of the replicas. But yet I still have mad respect for this film that Denis Villeneuve has so carefully crafted and put together. It may not be my exact cup of tea, but I will recommend it to anyone who loved the original and I will give the movie a 9/10.
Friday, October 13, 2017
While I have been very well aware of Jason since I was in Elementary School, I had not actually seen his movie before, so last night watching it was my very first time. That makes this perspective quite a bit different than when I review "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," because those two I have had many, many years of reflecting on. But I think it's kinda fun to have a fresh perspective on some classic movies, eliminating every bit of nostalgia that can sometimes cloud our vision of certain movies. On that note, I do think it's interesting that, unlike it's 1978 slasher predecessor "Halloween" of which this movie was definitely inspired by, "Friday the 13th" was not received well initially. It did make plenty of profit, earning $39.7 million on a $550,000 budget, which was pretty decent for a horror movie in the 80's, and justified them making approximately 700,000 sequels. OK, 12 to be exact. But eight of those were in the 80's as we almost had one per year for the entire decade (they missed 1983 and 1987). But no, despite this, critics didn't like this movie and it took some time for this to be seen as a cult classic. Honestly I can see why. Sure, one can have some nostalgia for the popular character's origins, but this is definitely the lesser of the three classic slashers.
But that's where context comes in. I enjoy horror movies, but I'm not expert enough to know where every horror cliche began. Is it possible that "Friday the 13th" helped create these horror cliches? Jason's thing is that he guards or haunts this lake area because of what happened to him as a kid. I thought to myself that maybe people learned to like Jason so much that other horror movies tried to replicate this, turning it into a cliche. Did people walk out of theaters in 1980 complaining that they had seen this premise a thousand times before? I honestly don't know. Even if so, I'd be willing to bet that this popularity of this franchise and this character bolstered that, so I'm willing to give that more of a pass. Then we have to know that this was made in a time period where people loved their slasher films. You didn't need to come up with anything crazy, epic or super unique. If you made an effectively intense slasher film with some sort of serial killer walking around killing people, a lot of people ate that up. If a movie does a good job of pandering to its audience, I think that's something at least worth respecting even if the movie itself doesn't quite hold up to what we may expect from a horror film in 2017. Movies evolve and change over time and that's perfectly OK.
That said, I have to be honest with my personal opinion. This movie has very little depth to it and it has a cast of characters that I really don't care too much for. I think perhaps the most important part of making a successful slasher horror film is having a cast of characters that the audience cares about. If you honestly feel for your characters and you want them to make it out of this experience alive, then it adds to the intensity of the situation if suddenly their life is in jeopardy and you honestly have no idea if they are going to make it to the next scene. I never experienced that in this movie. We had a group of like 6-8 of these camp counselors and I never developed a strong attachment to any of them. We had two of them separate from the group to go make love in the other room and instantly I knew they had about five minutes of movie time left to live. Sure enough, once the girl gets up, boy gets stabbed from beneath the bed, followed shortly by the girl getting an ax to her head in the bathroom. Well that was lovely. Now let's move onto the next deaths. No real emotion. No intensity during the scenes. I wasn't even super scared. It just felt like a movie void of any emotion or plot as we just watched these kids get killed one by one in this cabin in the woods.
I say that most of the characters in this movie weren't worth caring about and most of that does have to do with bad acting, that could be attributed to bad directing and/or writing. But when Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees shows up, she owns every scene she is in. She is extremely menacing as this psychotic killer mother and when she was trying her hardest to kill this final remaining girl, those sequences were really intense. I even kinda cared about this girl, whose name was Alice, and I did find it rewarding when she overcame and decapitated Mrs. Voorhees. She won. She overcame the challenges presented to her and made it out alive. I think that's something that is important in a horror movie, having a protagonist we care about overcoming the evil placed before them. This also sets up for some revenge plots in the next movie. Jason is upset at Alice for killing his mother, giving him solid motivation instead of being a villain that goes around and kills for no apparent reason. Speaking of Jason, he does show up in this movie for a brief moment. Here we are at the end of the movie with Alice floating over the lake after victory and Jason jumps out of the water and gets her. Dream sequence or no, that made me jump like 10 feet. I was not expecting that.
Overall, "Friday the 13th" is a movie that is definitely worth respecting if you are a fan of the horror genre because it did help pave the way to bolster this slasher flicks. And it also gave us the iconic horror villain Jason Voorhees. Yet when compared to the other two movies, "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" that I'll get into later this month, this definitely doesn't hold a candle to those. I give it respect from being a product of its time that successfully delivered the type of film that people liked back in the 80's. And perhaps the horror cliches weren't as big of cliches when the movie was released. But as is, this is a movie that's void of plot for the majority of the run time and doesn't really have any characters worth caring about. When we have a slasher horror filled with characters being killed that leave no lasting emotional weight when they're gone, then that's a significant problem. But Mrs. Voorhees being revealed as the villain surprised me and when she was on screen, the movie was pretty great, so that redeemed the film somewhat. And that final jump scare. Man. If I were ranking individual jump scares in movies, that has to be towards the top of the list and almost made the whole movie worth it. Thus my final grade for "Friday the 13th" is a 7/10.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
October 6th - 8th-
Coming in second place was the even more disappointing debut of The Mountain Between Us, which tallied just $10.6 million as it suffered from mixed to poor reviews from critics with its 44 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers who survive a plane crash in the high Uintas and have to learn to trust each other so that both of them can survive. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by Charles Martin and is the type of movie that Fox was probably hoping would be an awards contender. Having Idris Elba and Kate Winslet in the lead roles is a great start for that. They also premiered the movie at TIFF last month before giving it a wide release this past weekend. Given that October is the month where awards season starts to kick into full gear, Fox played all of their cards right. The problem here is that having a quality movie on your hands is the most important factor here and mixed reviews won't cut it. Thus this ends up being the type of film that shot for the stars, but instead fell flat on its face.
Coming in at the tail end of this past weekend's wide releases was My Little Pony: The Movie, which ended up in fourth place at the box office with $8.9 million, just behind the $9.9 million that "IT" made in third place and barely ahead of the $8.7 million of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" in fifth place. While $8.9 million might not seem like much, this is actually an improvement for Lionsgate when it comes to their attempts to distribute animated films. Lionsgate most recently saw "Rock Dog" open to $3.7 million, "The Wild Life" open to $3.3 million and "Norm of the North" open to $6.8 million. "My Little Pony" obviously had its built in audience that it was targeting, which mostly includes young girls. But also includes plenty of older girls as well as a section of fandom called "bronies," which are adult males who love "My Little Pony." In order to please its fans, "My Little Pony: The Movie" brought back a lot of the original voice cast and characters from the TV show while adding a whole host of new characters to attempt to bring in more audiences. Its $8.9 million is a decent opening for a movie adaptation like this, so no tears shed here.
October 13th - 15th-
Hoping to challenge "Happy Death Day" for that top spot will be Jackie Chan's The Foreigner. This will be the latest in a string of R-rated action films that have dominated the box office of late. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" ruled for three weeks starting in late August. "American Assassin" was the runner up during the second weekend of "IT," then "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" ruled for two weeks in late September. In fact, if we throw genre aside, if "The Foreigner" can manage to pull the upset, this will be the 10th straight weekend where an R-rated movie has been No. 1. The big draw for "The Foreigner" will be lead star Jackie Chan back in an American action movie doing his popular fighting style once again. Now Jackie Chan hasn't really left the film industry. In the last 5-10 years he's done quite a few handful of live action films, but most of them have been Chinese films that didn't cross over to America. This is probably because he's able to have more freedom to do things his way over in China as opposed to here in the United States. The premise is very much like "Taken" in that it's a revenge film after someone killed his daughter. Early reviews are positive, though, meaning this could have breakout potential if it connects with general audiences as well.
In around 1,200 theaters, Annapurna will be releasing the very relevant drama Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Director and write Angela Robinson must be very happy that "Wonder Woman" was such a smash hit this summer, because now this biopic of the creator of "Wonder Woman" has the potential to make a lot more money than it otherwise may have. William Moulton Marston, who went by the pen name Charles Marston, had a polyamorous relationship with his wife and his mistress, with all three of them being very happy with the situation, despite that not exactly being accepted in the day. This movie tells the story of their relationship, how it inspired the "Wonder Woman" comics and how those comics were very controversial at the time. Those who loved "Wonder Woman" this summer may very well be curious as to the story behind her creation, if Annapurna plays their cards right, which they didn't with the movie "Detroit," back in August. In a very crowded month, this could either become a sleeper hit or it could get lost.
The final wide release of the weekend is the latest biopic that Chadwick Boseman will be starring in and that is Marshall. Boseman gained popularity by playing Jackie Robinson in "42" in 2013 as well as James Brown in "Get on Up" in 2014. Those breakout roles led him to be cast as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After being introduced in "Captain America: Civil War," Black Panther will be getting his movie this February. Thus Chadwick Boseman definitely has the star power to help propel this forward as "Marshall" will see him play the role of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Open Roads Films will be hoping for some positive reviews on this one so that they can give it a good Oscar push. Those reviews will be critical here as Open Roads has also made the decision to scale back the theater count. Initially scheduled for a wider release, they have decided to instead play this in just over 800 theaters, thus playing the word of mouth game to hopefully push it forward through a crowded marketplace.
October 20th - 22nd-
The next three movies have the potential to all be neck and neck, so at this point it's hard to predict which one will rise to the top, but lately the movie that has been trending upwards is The Snowman. No, this is not your typical happy snowman that sits in your front yard and it's certainly not a Frosty the Snowman movie, this is a movie about a serial killer whose signature includes leaving a snowman at every murder scene. It's based off the book of the same name by Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø. The movie stars Michael Fassbender as the detective hunting down this serial killer and co-stars Rebecca Fergusen, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons and others. With this being a thriller released in October, "The Snowman" hopes to be this year's "Gone Girl" while hoping to avoid becoming the next "The Girl on the Train." That being in terms of quality, of course. "The Snowman" would love to make similar money as either film, but perhaps a more realistic comparison financially might be 2007's "Zodiac," which opened to $13.4 million while ending with $33.1 million total.
Next up we have a movie in a similar situation as the aforementioned "The Mountain Between Us," but will be hoping for better results and that is Only the Brave. Unlike "The Mountain Between Us," this is a survival movie that's based on a true story, whereas "The Mountain Between Us" is fictional. "Only the Brave" tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who sacrificed their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona in June 2013. At the time, the fire was the deadliest U.S. wildfire since 1991 and the deadliest for U.S. firefighters since 1933. It's the sixth deadliest firefighter disaster in U.S. history and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona. The movie is directed by Joseph Kosinski, director of "Tron Legacy" and "Oblivion," and stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly and Taylor Kitsch. Again, the success of this type of movie is dependent on reviews. Strong reviews could mean Oscar buzz and/or strong box office. Negative reviews could mean the movie is forgotten after a few weeks. With this specific event fresh on the minds of many, proper execution of the story will be necessary to please audiences, much like Peter Berg has had with "Deepwater Horizon" and "Patriot's Day."
While "The Snowman" is trending upwards and "Only the Brave" will await critical reviews, a movie trending the wrong direction this weekend is Geostorm, which looks like a disaster movie taken straight out of the 90's with special effects from 2017. The 90's loved their big, silly disaster movies that may have made no sense, but audiences have seemingly grown out of that phase, with a lot of recent disaster movies being completely rejected by audiences. The most notable recent example was that of "Independence Day: Resurgence," which may have been more accepted had it come out two or three years after the original was released in 1996, but was probably 15-18 years too late by coming out in 2016. Same story here for "Geostorm"? The plot is the monster of all disaster movies with the satellites designed to control the global climate having gone completely skiwampus, causing crazy national disasters to happen across the globe. In addition to audiences having overgrown this genre, it might be possible that this movie has poor timing with a lot of actual natural disasters devastating millions across the globe this year. The movie is directed by Dean Devil, producer of "Independence Day" and stars Gerard Butler, Ed Harris and Abbie Cornish.
The final movie of the month is the latest Christian film from Pure Flix, that of Same Kind of Different as Me. Pure Flix recently delivered "A Question of Faith" into 661 theaters on the final weekend of September to decent results of $1.03 million in opening weekend, a decent total for a smaller Christian film. If the theater count is the same for "Same Kind of Different as Me," that's probably a good range to look at. Or it could play like Pure Flix's "A Case for Christ," which opened to $3.97 million in 1,174 theaters this past April on its way to $14.7 million total. "Same Kind of Different as Me" stars Greg Kinnear from "Heaven is for Real" as a man who is struggling with his marriage and is forced by his wife, played by Renee Zellwegger, to befriend a homeless man, played by Djimon Hounsou. The story will presumably be teaching the principle that if you are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God. This type of Christian movie about the power of service could go over quite well with Christian audiences, but a breakout performance on the lines of "The Shack" ($57.3 million) or "Miracles from Heaven" ($61.7 million) is probably not in the cards.
October 27th - 29th-
The next movie sees George Clooney return to the directing chair with his latest film Suburbicon. Clooney has quite the decorated history with the Oscars in all sorts of categories, having been nominated as an actor, producer, writer and director, winning an acting nomination for "Syriana" as well as a best picture for "Argo" as a producer. As a director, he's had various levels of success. "Good Night, and Good Luck" got six Oscar nominations, including best picture, while "The Ides of March" was also given high critical praise. But other movies, such as his latest 2014 film, "The Monuments Men," were a completely different story. Written by the Coen Brothers and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac, "Suburbicon" was supposed to be Clooney's return to form as a director, but reviews out of Venice and TIFF were shockingly bad as the movie currently sits at a 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 49 reviews counted. Many have cited too much tonal inconsistencies with this movie being a dark comedy about a supposedly peaceful community hiding a very violent underbelly. Clooney probably hopes that general audiences react better than the festival crowds, otherwise this might be dead on arrival and disappear quickly.
The final significant release of the weekend is the war drama Thank You for Your Service. This is the second appearance this month by Miles Teller in a movie based on a true story, with the first being "Only the Brave." The movie is directed by Jason Hall in his directorial debut following his Oscar nomination as the writer of "American Sniper." It's based on the book of the same name by David Finkel and tells the story of soldiers from Iraq who are trying to reintegrate back into society, but are having troubles doing so due to PTSD and other issues. This movie doesn't have a whole lot of buzz heading into its release and didn't make any festival rounds, so it has a big uphill battle to fight in order to gain recognition, but if it can manage to stand out of the crowd with how many war films have tackled similar subjects, then this could be a sleeper. But at the moment it's not looking super positive.
Last month I covered the movie All I See is You, but it managed to avoid release and moved into the last week of this month instead. I don't have any idea if Open Roads is committed to this date either, or how many theaters they are planning for this one, but this is the thriller directed by Marc Forster ("Word War Z," "Quantum of Solace") where a woman played by Blake Lively receives her sight and learns that her husband, played by Jason Clarke, is not quite the man she thought he was. For a few more details, head over to my September preview.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
When I announced my intentions of doing this on my facebook page last month, I asked for requests as to what Halloween-themed movies people would want to see me review so I can get a good combination of movies I want to review with movies that others want to see me review. When I did that, I was surprised to see that the first and most popular request was this little 1966 Charlie Brown TV special. It's not really a movie, as its only a 25 minute long TV special, and there's not much to it. Just Charlie Brown and company doing Halloween things. But OK. I'll talk about Charlie Brown. Because we all love Charlie Brown, right? One of the great things about Charlie Brown is how relatable he is to so many people. He's very ordinary and plain. He has a lot of ambition and desire, but it seems like he fails at everything he does, thus his self-confidence is super low, which is not helped by the fact that he has people like Lucy giving him non-stop insults. I think that's often how a lot of us see ourselves. We look at everyone else around us and see how amazing, attractive and successful they all are while looking ourselves and seeing how plain and ordinary we are. Thus it's easy to have low self-confidence. I'm just me, right? There's nothing special about me.
I think that's why we all love Charlie Brown and why we're willing to sit down and watch TV specials or read comic strips that aren't necessarily elaborate or deep. We love these characters. We relate with them. We have fun watching them. Thus when we have a TV special that's been playing on TV every year for the last 51 years, we're all willing to sit down and watch it again, even though we've seen it so many times. Which, by the way, ABC will be playing it on Thursday, October 19, so mark your calendars! Or just go ask one of your friends if you can borrow it, because a lot of people own it. Or search for it on YouTube, because it's there as well. Yes, I've watched it plenty of times, but as I sat down last night to re-watch it in preparation for this review, I wanted to specifically know what set this 25-minute TV special apart from everything else Peanuts related. If there exists a person on Earth that has never seen this special, what would they take from this that would cause them to remember it? If you have a young child that has not been exposed to anything Peanuts related, could you choose to sit them down and show them this and have them instantly converted to Peanuts because of something spectacular that this did? Or is this something elevated by nostalgia?
Keeping those questions in mind, I watched this. Then I spent the night and morning pondering about it. Then I watched it again. Perhaps those critical lenses is the wrong way to watch this, but holiday-themed nostalgia is a real powerful thing. There's a lot of movies out there that hit theaters for the first time and are duds because the quality isn't super high. But because they gain a cult following due to the holiday theme, they become classics where anyone who says anything bad will be burnt at the stake. I personally try to resist and figure out which holiday movies are worth watching because they are genuinely good movies and which ones are nostalgia-boosted movies. After careful evaluation, I have determined that "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" rides that line pretty well. This is a perfectly harmless bit of 25-minute entertainment, full of Peanuts characters doing exactly what you want Peanuts characters to be doing, thus it's really hard to watch this without coming away with a big smile on your face. And if you want to put yourself into the Halloween mood, watching these characters hunting down and carving pumpkins, putting on costumes, going trick-or-treating and spending time at a Halloween party is definitely going to put you into the mood.
You might be angry at me for looking at this special with such harsh critical lenses, but so be it. However, in doing so, I did pick up on one other potentially interesting aspect that I don't know if I caught before. In between all the Peanuts gags, there is a thru story here and that has to do with Linus and the Great Pumpkin. The Great Pumpkin is an attempted folklore that hasn't really made it into our culture like Santa, the Easter Bunny or Cupid has. But in this instance, Linus believes in the Great Pumpkin and decides to valiantly sit in his pumpkin patch at night waiting for it to come. He even gets Sally to sit with him. The subtle brilliance of this is that the Great Pumpkin never comes and he ends up wasting his time when he could've been with his friends. I think there's a lot of cartoons or shows that would have Santa, the Easter Bunny or the Great Pumpkin show up to please kids and audiences. But this chooses not to. I can see a lot of various ways that this can be interpreted thematically if you make it a discussion point among friends, the biggest one in my mind being that the show is telling us that it's most important to spend time with family and friends on holidays instead of focusing too much on fictional folklore that often flood our holiday seasons.
That last bit I find super interesting, especially when I attempt to critically analyze it and figure out what it means. There's also quite a bit of subtlety like that thrown in the smaller moments that may have been overlooked by myself and possibly some of you out there reading this that I think makes this genius. But even with that, I don't know if this specific Peanuts special has quite as much to say as many other Peanuts specials, comic strips and movies have. But does it need to? Perhaps not. I think for most people, the fun of this special is sitting down and watching our beloved characters celebrating Halloween in a very classic Peanuts way. Nostalgia and tradition definitely play a big role in this and I don't think that has to be a bad thing. Since this has been playing every year on TV since it premiered in 1966, a lot of people out there have fond memories of watching this with family and friends, so continuing that tradition will bring back those memories and thus make you happy. That's the best thing about holidays, right? Traditions. Memories. Family. But from my own critical lens, this isn't necessarily the Peanuts special that I would claim as a flawless masterpiece that I have to watch every Halloween. Thus my grade for "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is an 8/10.