Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

     I  thought that by the 4th sequel to a 15 year old franchise would make you want to question your life choices. Considering that the last one, On Stranger Tides, was a bland, uninspired affair. Maybe it’s the fact that my bar was lowered in every respect, it was delightful that Dead Men Tell No Tales is easily the best of the sequels. 

     The adventure this time around involves Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who has made it his mission to break his father’s curse. The only way to do it is to find the trident of Poseidon. And yep, only Captain Jack Sparrow can find it along with a woman named Carina (Kaya Scodelario), and of course, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). And what tale wouldn’t be complete without some unbridled vengeance against Sparrow, by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem)?

     Every Pirates movie features some young punk on some quest for something (Davey Jones’s Locker, a coin, pussy) but this time around its something fans of the series are actually invested in: the freedom of Will Turner). It almost felt like all the previous movies were just a build up to this one. When referencing the legends told about Jack, we know these tales because we saw fucking saw them ourselves. It just added to the experience instead of making up some bullshit adventure, involving some bullshit character, for some bullshit reason. This time we actually give a shit. 

     Bardem’s Salazar is a foe worthy of his vengeance, and the first villain that actually creeped me out. A charming rogue with a clear and relatable motive. And the humor is actually funny this time around (who knew humor had to be funny to work), with Depp’s Sparrow actually coming off as inspired, rather than picking up a pay check. His would be execution scene pretty much set the tone that this movie is going to be silly. Really fucking silly. 

     Even looking back on it now, and the others, I realized that Dead Men Tell No Tales is going to be the installment that I’m genuinely going to watch more and more. Seriously, who knew that it took 4 more films for the series to get great again. I know, because I seen it! 

Alien: Covenant (2017) Review

     I am probably one of the few people on earth that actually liked Prometheus back when it was first released. Yeah, it’s got a lot of logistical problems, but the mixture of horror/sci-fi and the question of our mortality was damn intriguing. It had a unique point of view that set it apart from the other films in the Alien series. 

     Alien: Covenant? It’s just old hat by now. 

     We know the plot to most of the Alien flicks by now: It starts with a transmission and the crew of the Covenant, which is a colonial ship, follows the source to a planet which may be inhabitable for its people. So the crew lead by Oram (Billy Curdup) decide to investigate and come across David (Michael Fassbender) and yeah, it’s not gonna end up pretty. 

     As far as acting and visuals go, the film is pretty tip top. Katherine Waterson’s Daniels joins the ranks of strong women the franchise is known for. I can see how difficult it can be to act vulnerable while also kicking ass. Fassbender’s duel roles as David and the Covenant’s Walter shows that the man just owns every role he plays. Shit, even Danny McBride (yes, that guy) manages to convey a sincere level of vulnerability that made me care. 

     But the problem isn’t the acting or the wonderfully disgusting visuals, but the rehashing of old troupes and ideas already used in previous installments. There’s a section of the film that expands on the Engineers that was pretty kick ass but it was done with as soon as it was introduced. It was clear to me that director Ridley Scott had some ideas to expand on the themes of Prometheus but clearly he wanted to give fans more of what they wanted, which was the xenomorphs. 

     The fans were wrong. Fucking wrong. 

     Since this is pretty much a fan service flick, fans will enjoy it. I’m just pissed that we could’ve gotten something different, a little unique to set it apart from the other flicks. Instead, it’s just Alien: Redux. 

Twin Peaks (2017) Review: Episodes 1-2

     “I’ll see you in 25 years”– Laura Palmer. 

     That line. Jesus. I’m still reeling from this premiere. The short of it is that this is pure David Lynch: its not what I expected, while at the same time being exactly what I expected. 

     If that doesn’t describe what David Lynch is (or co creater Mark Frost), I don’t know what does.

     To attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I’ll just rundown some bare bones elements. Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still in the Black Lodge as predicted by Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) 25 years ago. Now it appears that there is an opportunity to escape. Meanwhile, there’s a new mystery that seems to have popped up with a high school principal played by Matthew Lillard embroiled in a murder plot involving his possible mistress. I don’t know, I don’t trust anything laid out in front of me. 

     So getting that out of the way, David Lynch wasn’t fucking around when he said that he wanted each episode to be a movie in its own right. It pretty much is though. 

     What really gets me to be honest, is that all of the events in the Black Lodge feel like continuations of the original series, while the new storylines, as it were, have a wholly different feel from before. Lynch was wise enough to see that the soap opera satire that helped to define the original, was no longer relevant in today’s era. 

     With network restrictions a thing of the past, this series goes into the surrealistic imagery with an abundance of reckless abandon. Nothing seems to be held back, well, for the moment at least. As soon as I heard the eerie talk from the Other Place, I knew we were back home. 

     I have always attempted to make the point that it isn’t coherency that makes David Lynch projects special, but the emotions evoked from the incoherent images. There is an epicness in scope; with Twin Peaks itself getting a little short changed at the mement in these two episodes. 

     In all purity, the emotions that this series got me to explore was fascination and fear. Lynch was never one to shy away from horror, and he makes me feel uneasy. I was truly sad though that Sheriff Truman wasn’t there, and that the Log Lady was so frail (The actress would pass away after filming her scenes). But more than anything I was sad about Coop. He never deserved to end up there. 

     As melancholic as I may make this sound, I am already in love with this Twin Peaks. The murder mystery set up feels right out of Lost Highway. Hell, the cinematography feels like a cross between Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. The sound design is pure Lynch, it felt like being right at home. And as always the choice of music is just sublime, with an 80s aesthetic, commonly used, even though it was a Lynchian trope dating back to Blue Velvet. 

     I can only truly recommend these episodes to fans of David Lynch, not just Twin Peaks. The show is much different now, a more unhinged beast of not giving a fuck. I have no god damn clue what the fuck is going on, or even where it’s going, and that is exactly what I wanted out of this revival. Mr. Lynch, Mr Frost, wecome back. 

     

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. 

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. 

Split (2017) Review

     Director M. Night Shyamalan has gotten a bit of a bum rap in the past decade or so. After hitting  such heights with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable the man couldn’t pull a good movie out of his ass even if he ate The Godfather frame by frame. 

     But after the pleasant surprise that was The Visit, I was hopeful that he could keep the train going and I’m happy to say that he seems to be on the right track. 

     After being abducted along with her two friends, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) comes to the realization that her abductor(s) is a man (James McAvoy) who suffers from multiple personality disorder. 23 to be exact; some helpful, like Hedwig, some not so much, like Ms. Patricia. While Casey does have to come to terms with her past, she has to figure out which personality is a friend, while another may emerge and cause chaos. 

     Shaymalan has always excelled as both a writer and director when his films deal with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Split almost plays like a chamber piece, one location, but not quite. The film is more intimate, nearly uncomfortably so. 

     Taking a cue from Hitchcock, there are some very uncomfortable themes at play, but Shaymalan doesn’t exploit it. I do wish this was explored just a bit more, but to do so would overshadow the story, and even the performances. 

     James McAvoy, its safe to say now, is the most underrated actor of his generation. The role(s) as presented are daunting for any actor to play, and McAvoy manages to pull it off. His performance, if it faltered, would have made the film come to a screeching halt. There were parts where I felt terror in his acting. Believe me, its a lot more difficult than can be credited. 

     Also the role of Dr. Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley, is the absolute perfect supporting performance to McAvoy. What should have a been an exposition role, Buckley managed to sell the concept of the story. There is such a quiet passion in the role, such dedication to her character that it makes the suspension of disbelief, well, believable. 

     Shaymalan is back in form here, proving that he needs to make more films on an intimate, human scale. Extravagance was never his strong suit, his characters were. While this may not be his best film, but it sure as hell beats everything he’s done in the past decade. And if you’re a fan of his early work, you owe it to yourself to see this one. Trust me on this.

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. 

Rocky Horror Picture Show (2016) Review

     The Rocky Horror Picture Show exists as a bit of an oddity; it started off as a stage show, made its way to the movies, and bombed horribly at the box office. It was thanks to the growing trend of Midnight Movies that breathed new life into the film, and much like the title character, it started to take on a life of its own. 

     This new version produced for television, just further cements the fact that some shit is just a product of its time; it was just a series of shit situations that ultimately lead to it being this insane cult phenomenon. You cannot replicate that kind of success, no matter how many virgin sacrifices you make. 

     On a dark and stormy night, Janet (Victoria Justice) and Brad (Ryan McCartan) seek shelter in a strange mansion run by the mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) where along with help from Riff Raft (Reeve Carney), and Magenta (Christina Milian) to create the ultimate specimen, Rocky Horror (Staz Nair). 

     I’ve made it no secret that no matter how many times I’ve watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show I still think it sucks. The music is catchy, and the original film performers really put their all into it, and that’s when it creates an odd charm that has endured for over four decades. 

     But Jesus Christ, this time felt like someone cashed in a fucking favor. 

     What it cames down to was the fact that all the actors, except Tim Curry in a cameo, played the script for laughs. I shit you not, I was waiting for just one actor to look at the camera and wink. I’m pretty forgiving towards actors, I’ll admit, but God damn it there’s no fucking excuse for blatant over acting and passing it off as comedy. I get this story is outlandish as fuck, but the joy is seeing the actors have fun, not like they’re being blackmailed by a producer. 

     In an interview I saw with the original director in a midnight movie documentary, he stated that he and the crew thought they were making a good movie with broad audience appeal, and that right there is why this new version is a waste of fucking time. Everyone seems to be in on the joke this time, and that comes off as condescending. A bad movie doesn’t know it’s a bad movie,but when it acts like one, you just want to punch it in the face. 

     Seriously, the original is a product of its time, and while I find it boring, it at least has its joy and originality to make it interesting. 

     Fuck this new version.