The Ridiculous Joys of Mystery Science Theater 3000

On April 14, 2017 something happened. After 18 years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned to effectively grace our screens, simultaneously enhancing and ruining the moviegoing experience for all. 

     The series has always followed some poor dude up in space being forced to watch shitty movies, usually of the horror and sci-fi genre, by some crazy scientist in the name of… well science. Said dude is joined by robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Croooow. (Its just Crow). The opening song literally sings to you the whole premise of the show, so I don’t know why I just did that. 

     Anyhoo, this show is the definition of cult series, because not everyone will like. Most don’t, but once you experience it and embrace it, so much fun can be had. 

     I had written before about the sheer joy and lunacy of the Midnight Movie, and it’s now available on Netflix. This show, along with Monstervision, were the Midnight Movie shows for me (they never aired at midnight). 

     Watching the first episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was hit with the realization that my love of unbelievably shitty films steams from this series. With the ungodly amount of bad films I’ve seen over the years, the show gave me a tool that has endured me to survive: the gift of laughter. 

     I had never seen a show where characters talked back to the screen, making witty asides that would make Oscar Wilde green with envy. Nothing can top a well delivered joke in line with the films being watched. There was never a show like this before, and I’ll be damned if there was ever a show like it since. It’s truly a unique creature, built from television and cinema. 

     Even with the show’s move to Netflix, its the same thing as before! Believe me this is such a great thing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 changed the way an entire generation watched and experienced films, the unsightly horrors from the voids of space. I’m just giddy. 

     I’m hoping a new generation will now pick up the series and have its imagination fucked with, much like mine was. And while I’ve been lamenting this whole “Reboot” fever, I’m not gonna say a bad word about this trend. Reboot All in the Family, I don’t give a fuck, I got Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

     The world isn’t such a bad place after all. 

T2: Trainspotting (2017) Review

     It’s incredible how 20 years went by in a wink. How we all reach a point in our lives, and wonder where the hell it all went. 

     T2: Trainspotting is a shockingly stunning follow-up to the original, catching up with the core group consisting of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) twenty years after Renton stole 16,000 pounds from his “so called mates”.

     This leads to not just Renton to confront his past actions, but the others as well, some in jail, some running hustles, others attempting suicide, just the usual stuff. 

     Much like the original film, the film is light on plot, but man is it heavy on the characters. This is a great thing, actually, its downright refreshing. One of the few films in years where I didn’t see the actors on screen but the characters I’ve known and loved for two decades. 

     I finally got to see my friends again. 

     I need to put these doubts to rest, something I lost hope in ever writing; A sequel that actually treats its audience with respect. 

     The first thing I was worried about was that this film was going to negate/undo the growth and catharsis of the original, shitting on the iconography that I held so dear. 

     It didn’t. My God, it actually works as a companion piece to the original. Can you a imagine, a follow-up twenty years later and it’s not a cash grab? It’s actually about something? 

     As someone who grew up watching Trainspotting the themes of regret, anger, and worthlessness hits close to the heart. That you can only run for so long before you have to stop and face it. It resonates so deeply, even I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it. 

     I can’t believe that director Danny Boyle had a film like this in him. He manages to avoid the pratfalls associated with going back to the well and made an original work that isn’t a retread of his glory days. He didn’t make the same movie twice, he gave this entry its own voice with an energy that I was sure wouldn’t even come close to the original. 

     There have been so many films, so many filmmakers who have tried and failed spectacularly to recapture the iconography of their past, or the churning out of retro properties from long ago youth, that I almost wanted to laugh at how Danny Boyle made a movie about the yearning for the past. And how terribly sad such an endeavor is. 

     It’s always about the future, it’s always about having hope. Its about choosing life. 

     

How Logan (2017) is the Unforgiven (1992) of the Comic Book Film Genre

     It truly is the end of an era. Even though there has been a steady flux of superhero movies since 1989, the true boom of the genre kicked off with 2000s X-Men. With that came Hugh Jackman’s instantly iconic performance as Wolverine/Logan, a role so synonymous with the franchise that he gets shoehorned in every chance they get. 

     Its been known for a while that this was to be the man’s final portrayal of the character, and as soon as I saw the opening shot, I knew that to be the case. 

     That this was going to be the comic book film version of Unforgiven. 

     I’ll cut to the chance in saying that what these two movies have in common the most is about eras coming to an end, and old heroes have no place in the world anymore. 

     Both films deal primarily with an ageing protagonist at the end of his “career” both have one close friend, and both are thrown into the last job by a young hothead. Hell, I was astonished that Logan even dealt with the stories of his exploits becoming books, and the stuff of legends. 

     While Logan deals with a specific character as its focal point, Unforgiven had its own original character but with the weight and history of its actor, Clint Eastwood. He made a name for himself playing as The Man with No Name; someone who had no past, no future, no heart. Even though the character has a name, William Munny, deep down fans of the western saw this as what became of the Man with No Name. 

     Unforgiven marked the end of an era where a most popular genre (the western) had long past it’s popularity, and the film acts like a eulogy. Where the lines between good and evil don’t exist anymore (or possibly never did), where morality became an old wives tale. 

     While superhero films are not going to come to an end anytime soon, but they sure are on a decline in terms of quality. A lot of troupes are being rehashed in new window dressing, and people have taken notice. 

     Logan is a film that is predicting its own genre’s future; a barron wasteland of regret amd missed opportunities. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of The Wolverine is at last where it should always have been: a monster filled with rage, and mourning. 

     Thinking back on the film, I recognize that this movie makes the end of an era; the current crop of superhero movies would never have been possible without X-Men. 

     As much as I lament that this is the end, but I do truly hope that this is the beginning of something new. Logan is without a doubt, a drama. Yeah there’s action in the flick, but the movie took its time to reflect, to build, to give its characters personality. It makes sense to have Wolverine be the gruffed hero at the end of his journey. He was the one with the most mysterious past, the one who was always more of an icon than a full blooded character. 

      The Western ascetic is no accident. The parallels between Logan and Unforgiven are undeniable, and both serve as the final word on their icons: One was the Man with No Name. The other was Logan. 

Blumhouse Productions has Lost their Fucking Minds on the New Halloween Movie…

     Alright this isn’t new news; I seriously needed a couple of weeks to process this. I’ll try to articulate this as best as I can. 

     I already wrote about how Miramax lost the rights to the Halloween franchise because it shouldn’t take you over half a fucking decade to release an installment, and they deserved to lose their cash cow. Assholes. 

     Well, it was announced awhile back that John Carpenter was going to return as a producer and maybe composer. Blow me, just make the damn movie. 

     The last idea that was thrown around was having The Shape about to be executed for his rampage back in ’78, with the kid of one of the investigators being trapped in the prison. It’s a good idea that got tossed before I could even get excited. 

     I’m just having Myers withdrawals. 

     It was announced that David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) is going to direct and co-write the script with Danny McBride. 

     Danny McBride. 

     Danny Mc-fucking-Bride.

      Yes. This fucking guy. Kenny Powers himself is going to write the new Halloween movie. 

     Let that sink in. 

     I’m just… What the fuck…? Oh, so we’re clear, I’m not upset that he’s doing the movie. I’m all for actors and writers doing something out of their comfort zone; I’m losing my shit because this needs to happen! This:

     Its fucking crazy! And McBride knows some dark shit, as a lot of comedians do, so I want to see these guys tackle the Shape like they got something to prove. Imagine that: a Halloween flick made by passionate filmmakers? Don’t let me down fuckers, make this shit happen! I don’t give a shit if the movie sucks, I just want to see how this will turn out! Blumhouse has killed it recently with Split and Get Out so make the movie already, Fuck! 

Get Out (2017) Review 

     Ever since I was in my early teens, and I caught a showing of Night of the Living Dead on tv, I was floored. The flick is terrifying, but what stands out the most is that the main character of Ben is black man. In a film made in 1968. Well, to be more accurate, what stands out is that Ben survives the night, only to be shot in the head by a posse with checking if he was undead first. It was sad, and left me in shock. 

     Jordan Peele’s Get Out is evocative of the social commentary that Night of the Living Dead had. Some overt, like the opening, some more subtle, like the attire worn at the party, but its influence is all over the picture. 

     Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous to meet his girlfriend, Rose’s (Allison Williams), parents because they don’t know he’s black. But not to worry, Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford) are those cool white liberals that are so understanding. Even if there is something off about them…

     As Ipreviously mentioned, I love a horror film with some social commentary, and a big deal has been made about Get Out’s message on interracial matters, but that shouldn’t be the first thing to look at. Competency, and skill as a horror film should be looked at first, and done well, or no matter how powerful your statement is, it will falter. 

     Jordan Peele knows his horror films, Jesus Christ. 

     Peele knows that a horror film’s success or failure depends entirely on its pacing and editing. John Carpenter’s Halloween being the prime example. Peele is aware of when to hold back, when to drop hints, and to actually have likeable sympathetic characters. It’s like a foreplay before the big climax. 

     Luckily, the performances serve the material so well; Keener and Whitford know exactly the right balance between sweet and creepy. Right out of the gate, you know something is wrong, but they’re so nice (perfect metaphor for race). Kaluuya’s performance as Chris hits his beats perfectly. He is the conduit for us, the audience, and its been such a long time that I felt scared for a character in a horror movie, much less one that I was actually rooting for. Trust me, that’s all too rare. 

     I’m so happy to see a filmmaker make a film that is evocative of the horror films of the 60s and 70s, one’s were filmmakers put their fears on screen for us to experience. And Get Out is one hell of an experience. 

Starman (1984): The Most Underrated Love Story Ever. (Spoilers)

     On this Valentine’s Day, I was thinking of some romantic movies to basically cry over (I keeps it real). Strangely though one movie has randomly come up time and time again among my male friends: John Carpenter’s Starman. 
     Never heard of it? 

      First, sit in the corner and think about your life choices

      Secondly, be prepared to happy cry your ass off, because it’ll give you hope in love. 

      Thirdly, it’s a science fiction flick, so it’s alright for men to cry. If you don’t, you must have the darkest of souls, and need professional help. 

     The premise is pretty straightforward: An alien has crashed on earth and needs to get home. He comes across a widow (Karen Allen) who’s grieving over the death of her husband (Jeff “The Dude” Bridges). The “Starman” takes her late husband’s form from a hair strand. After losing her shit, she reluctantly drives him to the rendezvous point. 

     And obviously she starts to fall in love with him, but that’s not makes this movie special. There’s way too many reasons. 

     Jeff Bridges is clearly, one of the greatest actors who has ever lived. I’m not kidding. I may be in the minority, but this role is the best performance he has ever given. With his clipped speech, and awkward, jerky movements, I thought this was a real story about an alien (I was not a bright child). The man gives a balancing act of weird, but gentle, comical, but without condescension.

      I have never been more in love with Karen Allen in my life because of this movie. Its her character arch that the whole movie hinges on. yeah its predictable that she’ll fall in love with the Starman, but my god its so organic, so effortless, that you accept its formula, and move on. How does she make being strongly vulnerable so easy? You feel sorry for her, sure, but you don’t pity her at all. I admire her. And the train scene…

     I’ll try not to cry, but the train scene (too late) is so beautiful. Karen Allen’s character, Jenny Hayden, cannot have children and explains it to the Starman. On the train, stowing away, they make love. 

     Then he tells her he gave her a baby. That it would be both her husband’s baby, but also his baby.

     Jesus Christ. 

     He tells her he will be a teacher, and if she didn’t want it, he will stop it. The genuine emotions in this scene are so masterful. He tells her happily, she is just overwhelmed. 

     The music in this scene, by Jack Nitzsche, is going to break you in tears. Especially the final scene where he has to say goodbye to her. Where she finally gets to say goodbye to a form of her husband. I mean, man, she gets to have a baby now. Trust me on this, the music will get you. 

     The funny thing is, I completely forgot about how the US military is after them because alien? It makes some important points about the savagery of humanity  (especially the deer scene), but its the love story at its core that makes me weep. 

     And still to this day, my father bitches about how a sequel was never made. Seriously, every person who’s seen it wants to know what happened to the baby. I kid you not, Jeff Bridges said this even in an interview for Tron: Legacy. 

     For this Valentine’s Day, this movie will bring couples together. Even the most cynical. You won’t regret it. 

Why the Ending to Trainspotting was Perfect 

     With the recent release of T2: Trainspotting in the U.K. I got to thinking again about how much I’m both excited, and terrified, about the prospect of a sequel, especially 20 years later. 

     Full disclosure: I read the sequel novel, Porno about 10 years ago, and to say I was not impressed is to put it really mild. God, that book was terrible and a waste of a follow-up. So when I heard that not only was there going to be a movie, but that if anything, it was going to barely reference the novel, I felt relief. 

     But there was something still eating away at me; I still didn’t really want a sequel to one of my favorite films of all time. I loved the characters, yes even Begbie, and I did want to know what happened. But still…

     Of course the easy answer was that the ending to Trainspotting was just the perfect note to end the film on. 

     Renton is a character that goes through the perfect arc for himself. In the opening, Renton dismisses the idea of “Choose Life” and conform to the foundations of society. Well, because of the heroin. 

     Let me get to the point: The ending is such a satisfying conclusion because of the fact that Renton was put through such hell during the film. I mean the second half obviously, when he kicked his habit and actually started living a life for himself. 

     Then Begbie and Sick Boy show up and mess it all up for him. 

     Renton was in a real tight spot, and finally had enough to the point that he straight up stole 16,000 pounds. Any one of us could only wish we had that kind of reckless courage. 

     But what brought tears of joy when I saw the film the first time was this line:

         “So why’d I do it? I could offer a million answers, all false. The truth is that I’m a bad person. But that’s going to change…”

     To fully recognize that you’re a “bad person” when you so clearly are, is such an overwhelming positive realization, that you can help but smile, at least, at such self discovery. I applauded in my room, and I was so content. 

     I’m not gonna lie, I always caught myself wondering what happened to the guys; what became of them. I especially thought of Renton and hoped that he chose life, and settled down to a blissful life. That was the beauty of the ending: the possibility of hope to a character that more than earned his happiness. 

     That sums up why, ultimately, I am worried about T2: Trainspotting. The ambiguity will be gone, and I will find out what happened to them. I guess I don’t want the ending negated because the filmmakers couldn’t think of a decent fucking story. I hope that isn’t the case, but there’s only one way to find out. 

The Saw is Family: My Twisted Journey Through the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Series

     After spending the beginning of the year dealing with a death in the family, I found myself thinking about what it means to have a family. Being the eccentric guy I am, I started watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. In horror, there is no family tighter than the Sawyers. Its been hard for me to articulate the path I’ve been on emotionally, so I turned to the one horror film franchise that was meant to bring out the raw emotions I’ve bottled up, but then I soon discovered that this series has destroyed then reaffirmed my faith in the horror genre. Just like one wonders why God gives us things only to take them away. Just like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series.

     I was probably about 12 years old when I first saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and its reputation scared the shit out of me. It was known as the most disgusting, horrifying film ever made; people throwing up in the aisles when it was first released. So after months of working up the courage to see it, I rented from the video store and had my little puke bucket (in case I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Be prepared). I really couldn’t have grasped what I was in for. The movie wasn’t ecen close to being disgusting; it was just mind numbingly disturbing on almost every conceivable level.

     I mean Jesus Christ.

     There are very few films that change you as a person, and holy fuck, this movie is one of them. The sheer rawness of its documentary style approach is enough to make anyone lose their fucking mind. So, where in the living hell do you go from here?

     Apparently here. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is quite a bit… different. While this movie was made to be morbidly comedic in nature, and from the director of the original to boot, I fucking hated the fuck out of this installment. I mean, shit, one film is this grim, disturbing, documentary style film, to a comic book style gore fest.

     The fuck, dude?

      Now, going back to this, thinking that tasting the metallic barrel of a gun will release me from the massive shititude of this shittiness, I found myself enjoying the movie. I shit you not.

     What’s happened in the passing 20 years since I saw this movie? Simply put, the other Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. You could see the other movies as that bad, but I prefer to see them as that uninspired. Director Tobe Hooper has an apparent warped sense of humor, and wanted to make a sequel that enforces the humor that people missed in the original. Go ahead. Read that shit again. Apparently, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was supposed to have funny parts.

     Let that sink in.

     Here was the first of many installments to “fix” the series after the humorous part 2. And at the time I thought it was pretty good, but coming back for the purposes of this post, I found it quite bland to be honest.

     It’s crazy how films can change over time.

     There’s really nothing notable or memorable about the picture (except for a very young Viggo Mortensen). It plays out now like a formula, which I get since it worked the first time around and changing it fucked up the second one. I give them points for trying to recreate the terror of the first film, but it was never going to work and Tobe Hooper knew that.

     Now, there’s no terror, no fun to be had, and no one to give a fuck about (except for Leatherface the entire Sawyer clan has been pretty much replaced).

     It sucks pretty much that the movie is just that: underwhelming.

     Good lord, what a piece of shit. I saw this back when I was in junior high, when I still hadn’t developed any taste, and I still found this to be a colossal waste of time. I didn’t have anything to that day, and I still feel like a wasted it. Shit, I might’ve gotten laid that day! (Note: I wouldn’t).

     The only morbid curiosity that exists is the fact that Matthew McConaughey is hamming up the fucking screen, and it is a sight to behold. Even this early in his career the man had no inhibitions. The sad fact that he’s so much better than the movie deserves. 

     And I’d rather not discuss the shrieking Leatherface. No fan does. 

     This was the beginning of the end for me. I mean my childhood. Even though the Psycho remake came out in 1998, this was the start of the dark period in horror. All everyone ever spoke about was remake this, or reimagining that, instead of the movies themselves. 

     This remake shouldn’t exist. 

     There’s no joy to this. Not that the original was a romp in a field, but that movie felt like you just experienced something cathartic. This felt like someone telling you how awesome the original was, and then emphasizing the shit that wasn’t even in the movie in the first place. 

     Everything here felt generic; I can’t even tell you the names of the family members in this one, and that’s kind of a big deal. Just a smidge?

     So I started to lose faith in the genre of horror at this point, only a matter of time before I get pushed to the edge… Speaking of which…

     I had never in my life been more depressed at seeing a sorry excuse of a movie in my entire life. Just year after year of terrible horror films finally caused me to break. 

     When the final girl, played by Jordana Brewster, gets a chainsaw through the back I decided I’d had enough. I was thoroughly depressed at the lack of ingenuity, imagination, humor, thrills, basic craftsmanship of it all. 

     And for being a prequel the movie didn’t answer jackshit. The only thing I wanted answered was who the fuck thought this warranted being called a film?

     After nearly giving up on horror films because of this now tainted franchise, I was hanging out with the best friend and went and saw this. The good thing is I didn’t want to put a gun in my mouth after watching it. It’s all about life’s small victories. 

     As happy as I am that the remake timeline has been jettisoned, I do have one big gripe with this film: 

     How old is Alexandra Daddario’s character supposed to be? 

     The main hook of this entry is that it follows the events of the original film which was in 1973. This one takes place in 2012. Her character was found as a baby. Damn, she’s one hot 39 year old. Doesn’t look a day over 25. 

     Aside from that just being offensively annoying, I liked this one. Leatherface being more of an antihero is pretty cool, its nice and gory, and I can actually see what the fuck is happening in the frame thanks to proper lighting. 

     Or it could be the simple fact that I had fun watching this with my beat friend. Meh, to each their own. 

     Well, that brings me to the end of this journey. Its amazing how a series of films can shape you, and even chronicle your evolution as a human being. I started this franchise having nightmares about renting the damn thing; now I’m just, “They made another one?!”

Happy New Years everyone. Thanks for reading. 

A New Era of Tim Burton Films: A Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review 

   

      I am officially too old. Some of my earliest memories of film watching came from the films of Tim Burton, and I’m not just talking Batman either; Pee-Wee, Beetlejuice, hell, even Ed Wood. 
     Over time directors evolve their style to include new themes or visions for the stories they want to tell. Burton though has a style so distinct that within seconds you can tell its one of his films. Shit, even the Danny Elfman score is a dead giveaway. 

     But the Tim Burton of my youth has been gone for quite sometime;I would pin it to Planet of the Apes probably. It didn’t look or feel like a Burton movie (and it sucked). I would honestly say that his 2012 Frankenweenie, and maybe Sweeney Todd are the closest he’s come back to his old turf, Sleepy Hollow being the last one where is just oozed Burton’s style. 

     Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is so shocking because on a visual level, this is the old Tim Burton but with a lot more CGI. He’s back to his old tropes: The outcast from society, the neglectful parents, the old mentor, the ruins of a forgotten home, and even the blonde female (think Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow). The story and plot don’t matter much, which is classic Burton. 

     I know I haven’t discussed the plot at all, because it really doesn’t fucking matter. The focus here is on the visuals, because that’s how Burton  expresses himself. Since the characters are distinct, its almost like Beetlejuice in all of it crazy images. I saw Samuel L. Jackson eat eye balls. I’ve seen it! Don’t  call me a liar!

     Overall, its actually a great film to get kids into horror without traumatizing them too badly, and for the generation that grew up with the films of Tim Burton its a great trip down memory lane. 

The Best Horror Film You’ve Never Seen: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

     I never understood the manic obsession that people have had with Elvis Presley. I recognize the man being a hell of a singer and entertainer, but this godly status status that he has obtained over the decades, just over my head. 

     So I guess I entered Bubba Ho-Tep with a bit of a smile. The story is a bit silly that some Elvis fans could see as disrespectful, but I found to be incredibly engaging. One of the most famous theories, that the film capitalizes on, is that Elvis (Bruce Campbell) didn’t actually die in 1977,but had switched places with an impersonator and is now in an old folks home in Texas. One of the residents is Jack (Ossie Davis) who claims to be JFK (the CIA dyed him black to cover up the truth). At the home, an evil, ancient mummy (Bob Ivy) is taking the souls of the residents, so its up to old Elvis and black JFK to stop it once and for all. 

     I know this plot sounds fucking absurd and silly, but holy shit does it work. There’s an unexpected pathos to the character of Elvis, which actually made me care about him. He actually wonders through this beautiful written narration that if his daughter knew he were still alive, would she come visit him? 

     The key to Bruce Campbell’s performance is that he doesn’t treat Elvis as a joke; he skillfully manages to weave a characterization that doesn’t even come close to parody. When the climatic battle occurs, I was genuinely worried that Jack and Elvis might not be able to get out alive; I started to wonder how many horror films have evoked that feeling in myself. 

     Director Don Cascarelli (Phantasm) found the delicate balancing act that evokes both laughs and a tear or two by his use of Brian Tyler’s oddly melancholy score. When one of the residents went out guns blazing facing off against the Bubba Ho-Tep, it was fucking sad. The characters actually mourned his death, isn’t it against the law to have characters in a horror movie actually give a shit that someone they knew died? Maybe they didn’t get that memo. 

     After first seeing this film, I finally got the joyous appeal of the King, how heroic and tortured the man was. I’m shocked to this day that more Elvis fans haven’t lauded the movie as the most respectful portrayal of their icon in film. That they finally get to see their hero in the way they have always seen him. 

     I’m a big advocate of films that are fearless in just taking a batshit crazy idea for a movie and just fucking go with it. The difference with Bubba Ho-Tep is that Coscarelli actually shows respect to his characters, and I’m pretty damn certain that after you see the flick, the bar for horror was unknowingly set quite high.