Category Archives: Suspense

Green Room or Boring “Trapped Horror Movie” with Patrick Stewart

Green Room Poster

This is going to be a really awkward movie review for me.  First of all, it’s going to be quick.  I really don’t want to spend much time talking about this film.  And then I don’t want to waste your time reading about this film.  So, let’s get this over with, shall we?

Green Room is a “Trapped Horror Film”, (think the first Purge film, REC, The Shining, The Cube, etc.)  Now, The Shining is a good example of a “Trapped Horror Film”.  The trapping is done by the weather and the malevolence of the Stanley Hotel.  The film then adds to the terror by having one of the trapped become the main feature of violence and antagonism.  Another excellent example is John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).  Again, a trapped environment with the tension so high that it hangs the cast by their underwear.

Literally the first image I found after Googling "Underwear"...something about that sounds wrong.
Literally the first image I found after Googling “Underwear”…something about that sounds wrong.

Now comes Green Room.  If you haven’t heard of it (I would not be surprised), then just understand it’s a sub-standard version of any sort of closed location horror film.  I just didn’t have a lot of love for the way this film was handled.

Created and written by a relative rookie indie film director, Jeremy Saulnier, who seems to be limited to writing some awkward dialogue and having possibly the most washed out color design in film I’ve seen recently.  On top of that, the creation of a film to showcase how a bunch of heroin producing Neo-Nazi’s enjoy their pastime is hardly something I look forward to in general.  It seems live punk-metal music is their true passion…oh, and hating all races, that’s a close second.

And I was sure it was all about hats and mustaches.
And I was sure it was all about hats and mustaches.

Anyway, the only thing I can really establish was the movie was filmed well.  That does show Saulnier’s talent.  Most of his film credits come from that of a cinematographer.  He does seem to have a knack for extreme closeups and every actor savors it when it’s their moment to shine.  The only real veterans in the film are Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots, who reunite again since the campy Colin Farrell vampire remake Fright Night.

Oh, there was another reason this film was created: giving Patrick Stewart the chance to be a bad guy.  And the British Knight does a great job at being hateful and frightening. It’s entertaining to see the Enterprise captain calmly tell individuals to kill a no-name band and send attack dogs to maul people mercilessly.

Ah, that’s also a point that I could not stand in this film.  I’m sure there is a reason why I felt this way, but I just cannot get past a film that depicts graphic use of animals for horrific gains.  Of course the dogs were not hurt in the making of the film, but even having them “act” like they were killing people put a thorn in my head that I couldn’t remove with an entire lobotomy.

Honestly, not only was this film poorly made, completely meh on the actors, and just a complete silly mess of a story, but it just made me sick to my stomach.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Unless your absolute favorite movies are Human Centipede, Hostel, or House of a 1000 Corpses, then skip this movie.  There is hardly any Patrick Stewart and what he does looks so unnatural that it’ll take you out of the film.  Is it even possible to want to spit on a film?


First Annual Oscar Clobber or The First time we rant about the Academy Awards

I honestly had a real plan for this article.  It was going to be a week long event in which we had guest writers discussing things like #OscarsSoWhite, how terrible the panel is due to ridiculous rules, eligibility, and voting, but I just can’t seem to care enough about the award show to make a real effort at posting something profound.

Seriously, I just Googled "Apathy" and this was the first image that came up...
Seriously, I just Googled “Apathy” and this was the first image that came up…

In lieu of an article about how awful the Oscars have become (and pretty much always have been), I’m going to go over some of the major categories and see if we can find something of interest somewhere among them to talk about.


Academy Award for Best Actress

First off, I really don’t like the fact that we still distinguish between “Actresses” and “Actors” via gender.  They are all actors and should be treated as such.  In my opinion, we should really put Jennifer Lawrence (nominated this year for the movie Joy) up against Eddie Redmayne (nominated for his (her?) performance in The Danish Girl) or Matt Damon (nominated for The Martian).  If you’ve seen Joy, you know it’s no where near the caliber of her past performances (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, etc.), but it’s still a well put together movie and for her part, she does everything right and again, showcases an immense amount of talent.

"Don't put metal in the SCIENCE OVEN!" Still my favorite line of that movie and quite possibly 2014.
“Don’t put metal in the SCIENCE OVEN!” Still my favorite line of that movie and quite possibly 2014.

Anyway, there are other actors (yes, screw the word Actress) that are nominated as well, here is a quick round up:

  • Cate Blanchett, in Carol Aird, as Carol
  • Brie Larson, in Room, as Joy “Ma” Newsome
  • Jennifer Lawrence, in Joy, as Joy Mangano
  • Charlotte Rampling, in 45 Years, as Kate Mercer
  • Saoirse Ronan, in Brooklyn, as Eilis Lacey

IWTMM’s Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Of course it has to be Jennifer Lawrence.  Everyone loves her (she is really seemingly charming by all accounts) and if the panel even recognized any other actor’s name in that pile, then I would be surprised.  Just give her another one, let her trip on the stairs or her dress *cue laughter* and a “surprised” winning speech.

IWTMM’s “Who Should Have Won”: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Seriously, you’ve likely seen Mad Max: Fury Road, the other nominations, not too likely.  If you have (or even if you haven’t), Charlize Theron kicks so much ass in two hours than all the “Action Stars” of the 80’s combined.  I totally think she should go all Kanye West on the Winner.

"I'm gonna let you finish, but first, I want to shoot a few idiots in the crowd." -Charlize Theron
“I’m gonna let you finish, but first, I want to shoot a few idiots in the crowd.” -Charlize Theron

Academy Award for Best Actor

 I believe they add, “in a Leading Role” to this title, but I don’t really care (that’s going to be a theme during this whole article).  Let’s take a look at our powder-white nominees:

  • Bryan Cranston, in Trumbo, as Dalton Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, in The Martian, as Mark Watney
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, in The Revenant, as Hugh Glass
  • Michael Fassbender, in Steve Jobs, as Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, in The Danish Girl, as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

IWTMM’s Prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo has been passed over for this award in four separate years.  They skipped a year between nominating him so it didn’t look too suspicious, but I believe DiCaprio has been thoroughly snubbed.  It likely doesn’t make any difference to him.  Did you see what he got to do in The Wolf of Wall Street?

I can just see all the tears spewing from his gold-lined tear ducts...
I can just see all the tears spewing from his gold-lined tear ducts…

I mean, come on, you think Leo cares?  Does he want to win, probably, it’s seemingly a big deal to these Hollywood types.  But if a little gold statue is more important than the millions he rakes in for almost every film he does, then I really think the “art” in film is moot.

I think this is a bit more up everyone's alley...
I think this is a bit more up everyone’s alley…

Academy Award for Best….

You know what, I really don’t give a crap.  The Oscars are horrible.  The monologue is obnoxious and no matter who wins, someone is going to be upset.  I don’t even have enough apathy to finish this article.

IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Director: Adam McKay for The Big Short

IWTMM’s Prediction for Best Picture: The Big Short

Seriously, I don’t care.  The Big Short was a phenomenal movie with excellent actors, a horrifying reality, and was honestly both entertaining and filmed very well.  It’s on the “Unicorn List”.  It’s both entertaining and “Critically” acclaimed.  So, for my money, it’s going to come out the winner, but I really don’t care.  The whole thing is just a big Hollywood circlejer…….

We apologize for the inconvience as us at I Watch Too Many Movies attempt to appeal to all audiences, thus the ending of the review has been closed and censored.
We apologize for the inconvenience as us at I Watch Too Many Movies attempt to appeal to all audiences, thus the ending of the review has been closed and censored.

…..and that’s all I have to say about that.  At least I get to see Zootopia next weekend.


The Hateful Eight or Samuel L. Jackson steals the show…again


Warning, the following review will indeed be a review of a Quentin Tarantino movie, we cannot do our job without being slightly profane.  Rest assured that no racial slurs will be used, but if you’re offended by gratuitous violence and language, you wouldn’t see this movie anyway, let alone read a review.  Now, on with the show, er, review:

Now I will get into detail about the film and showcase some of its best features as well as a few failings, but first I want to give you a little bit of history regarding the “70MM” presentation you might have heard about for this film.  If you’re not interested, just skip to the picture of the film strips.

Yes, I said history, I promise you'll survive.
Yes, I said history, I promise you’ll survive.

As you’ve likely seen, The Hateful Eight is being shown in this fancy “70MM Ultra Panavision” at select locations.  Most of you will likely not get this opportunity as it requires a theater to rent, borrow, sell their souls for a projector that can handle it, and it’s being shown as a  special “Roadshow Event”.

I threw a lot at you there.  Let me break it down just a little bit in more detail.  I’ll get to the film comparisons soon, and I won’t get too technical here, just take my word for it, it’s an extremely panoramic film that  not only gives excellent detail, but can make landscapes absolutely breathtaking (there were quite a few examples in The Hateful Eight). What really makes this exciting is that this is the first movie filmed in 70MM and shown since 1966.

Yes, it WAS the same year that Adam West's Batman did "The Batusi"
Yes, it WAS the same year that Adam West’s Batman did “The Batusi”.  It’s not like China first synthesized Insulin to save diabetic peoples’ lives, the Batusi had way more of a cultural impact.

I also mentioned the special “Roadshow Event” earlier.  Basically, when TV was first invented, everyone went nuts for this home entertainment miracle and thus stopped spending money at the theaters.

I have a 1080p 55" Sony with great audio and as you can see, I buck the trend.
I have a 1080p 55″ Sony with great audio and as you can see, I clearly buck the trend.

So, what was poor disenfranchised Hollywood to do when their adoring (paying) customers stayed home and watched Batman, the first episode of Star Trek, and The Andy Griffith Show instead of dressing up all fancy like, shelling out the nickles and dimes (or *gasp* a dollar) on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,  El Dorado, or even Batman: The Movie.

As much as I love Batman, I just can't blame everyone for skipping this one...
As much as I love Batman, I just can’t blame everyone for skipping this one…

Anyway, the answer from Hollywood was to make going to theaters an “experience” again.  This came in the format of an old tactic called a “Roadshow Event”.  The premise was simple, limit the supply (the movie release) and people would rush to see a “Special Screening” of Ben-Hur (1959) or It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)- and oh, I made sure that I had the correct amount of “Mads” in the title there.  Genius idea, but without the best distribution methods, no Drones for Lyndon B. Johnson to deliver things…that we know about.

This is where the “Roadshow” portion came about.  They would bring the projector, a full panoramic (and sometimes curved screen, which you might say they were ahead of the…oh forget it, you would probably lynch me for making that joke about modern Curved TVs), and the film from area to area to show the film.  It made for those “Special Events” and got the attention of people again.  While 1966 was the final year a 70MM film was made, Hollywood did okay by reviving an old gimmick with new technology that would last well into the 1980’s:

Oh, and then Avatar (2009) came out and the theater chains found out they could charge a premium...
Oh, and then Avatar (2009) came out and the theater chains found out they could charge a premium for the same gimmick with just fancy new tech…and glasses

Bit of history on the “Roadshow Events” and now just a quick showcase of 70MM film in general.  I’ll do it quick and I won’t have you all do any math.  The 70MM film format had a ratio of 2.76:1 (that means the screen is 2.76 times as wide as it is tall). Compared, most movies today are projected in either 1.85:1 (35MM) or 2.35:1 “anamorphic widescreen” format. High-Def screens feature a 16:9 ratio, which is close enough to 1.85:1, and besides, only nerds like me appreciate.  As I said earlier, this is done to give amazing landscapes, epic scale of set pieces, and almost turning the film into a “play-like quality”.  Just take a quick look below to see comparisons of the different types of film.  I tossed in a true IMAX comparison just for fun.

70MM Comparison
Visual aids, the best thing since sliced bacon
IMAX Comparison
It looks like IMAX is compensating for something…

History lesson is over, let’s talk about all the filthy, gory, disturbing, racist and other offensive non-sense Tarantino loves to showcase in all of his films.

As I said in the title, Samuel L. Jackson really steals the show here.  His character not only progresses much of the story forward, and is the most clever.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Samuel L. Jackson and every Tarantino film, but I think it’s time they take a break from each other.  If you were to look at Tarantino’s IMDB page, you would see seventeen director credits.  All but eight of them, are TV shows, guest directing gigs, etc.  The meat of his directing career, the eight true films, starting with Reservoir Dogs (1992) and leading up to The Hateful Eight, Samuel L. Jackson appears in six of those eight films.

I mean, there is no cardinal sin here since both Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are both insanely talented, and they haven’t gotten to the level of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.  The latter two’s collaborations are getting worse and worse as the years go by.  I don’t want the same phenomenon to happen to Jackson and Tarantino.  And like I said, Jackson steals the show.  He’s the one the audience is rooting for and he can do no wrong.  In fact, in this performance, I believe he leaves a little on the table even though his dialogue is crisp and well delivered, it just feels that he’s playing “Samuel L. Jackson” and not the character in the film.

Everyone else has their assigned duties.  Kurt Russel pokes his head out from whatever hole he was in and punches a woman in the face so many times that I wanted to call the cops for assault and battery.  You’ve got other normal Tarantino actors: Michael Madsen and Tim Roth who put on great performances.  I really appreciate Roth who has one of the most prolonged but easily hilarious scenes I’ve seen.  You have to pay attention, but it’s there and it is glorious.  The others involved deliver the script to mount as much tension as possible before we have the “Tarantino Battle Minute”.

I name this particular sequence the “Tarantino Battle Minute” because it happens in every one of his films.  First, there is a seriously long discussion/dialogue featuring one person to a medium sized group.  This is Tarantino’s specialty.  No other writer/director ever produces such authentic dialogue.  It’s natural and in some situations, like half the scenes in Inglorious Basterds, it builds the tension to a serious boiling point.  That’s the second part, the “Tarantino Battle Minute”.  After all the conversations, there is a lightning quick amount of carnage.

Heads are blown off, people disemboweled, simultaneous murders, limbs ripped apart or off, testicles shredded, eyes stepped on, and in one case, the top of someone’s head is cleanly sliced off.  All this will occur in a matter of moments. The longest example is from Kill Bill: Vol. 1 when The Bride destroys the gang known as “The Crazy 88”.  But suffice it to say, the “Tarantino Battle Minute” usually ends up looking like this afterwards:

Actual dialogue: “YOU DIDN’T MENTION KNEECAPPING.” – Django Unchained (2012).  I suppose I didn’t mention “kneecapping” up there…

You know these are in the movie.  They’re bloody fantastic (I mean that in the most serious and every way possible).  But, that brings me to a moment of hesitation in The Hateful Eight, I essentially knew what was going to happen the entire time and that’s kind of a bummer.  I know a lot of other films follow a director’s style and exact same formula, but that doesn’t make it any better.  What I can, and will say, is that even though I knew it was coming, it still showcased some of the most ridiculous and gratuitous violence with guns I’ve ever seen.  I say guns because The Bride murders with a blade.

Now some things I can dote on are the cinematography and set design.  I saw the film in its 70MM format, so your experience may vary, but what I felt was true immersion with the landscape and the characters.  It’s something that 3D tries to do all the time, but can’t quite get it right. You immediately see why Tarantino resurrected a decades old film format: not only “just because he could”, but he wanted the audience in that cabin and wanted us to be able to see every detail around us.

That’s really the last thing I can say about the film: the set was perfect. You have eight people in a one-room shack with no where to hide.  The outhouse is indeed outside, along with the stables.  The door has to be nailed shut due to it being broken.  And with all the decorations, tables, bed, bar, fireplace, and eight strangers, it gets extremely claustrophobic and paranoia, even in the audience, looms everywhere.  Tarantino could not have constructed a more perfectly tense location for the characters to interact.

I said "Characters" not Deadpool
I said “Characters” not just Deadpool

I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t warn against the coarse language throughout the entire film.  I cannot imagine any of our readers offended by the slurs and curses, but I have to at least say something.  And it really does add to the dialogue.  The film takes place in the Post Civil War time and listening to the transition and moderate to no acceptance of anything or anyone was fascinating.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

The Hateful Eight is a Quentin Tarantino film.  Everything he does in every other movie he has done is present in this feature.  I can’t imagine this would be your first Tarantino film, so if you like what he’s done before, you’re going to like this movie.  I will say I’m getting tired of Samuel L. Jackson stealing every scene he’s in, but that’s a minor complaint.  Still it kept a little enjoyment from me, not much, but I wasn’t as invested in the character as I usually would have been.  Finally, if you live somewhere that has the 70MM Roadshow, see that version, you’ll be treating yourself.


Spotlight or How Confirmation Bias Works


So this has been a tough one.  In general, a movie review, not to mention the reviewer, has to separate the subject matter of the film from the performances of the actors and the general tone, look, and feel of the movie.  Spotlight was difficult because, as I’ll mention later, this made me really sick to my stomach and broke my heart.  Well, I’ll go ahead and define a few things and then do my best keep it light and to give a review this film based on the entertainment value and not the wretched subject matter.

First things first.  I want everyone to know the difference between “Inspired by a True Story/Events” and “Based on a True Story”.  Anything that is “Inspired by” a person, place, or event typically leans more on the fictitious side.  The screenwriter(s) or director might have gotten something right from the truth, but that could be something as simple as the names of the people involved, but most take a lot of liberties with the story.  While Argo was “Inspired by True Events” Ben Affleck largely downplayed how the Canadians did most of the work and the whole tense end sequence was pure fiction.

Sorry my beloved, even with your perfectly sculpted beard and ‘Devil May Care’ haircut, you totally didn’t give the brave Canucks enough credit you hoser.

Now we get to things “Based on a True Story/Event”.  This typically swings completely the other way than “Inspired By” films.  Most of the material is not fictionalized, but sometimes names, places, length of time the event occurred in, etc.  One of the best examples is 127 Hours. If you’ve seen that film, then you know you can go ahead and ask the crazy bastard who actually sawed his arm off and then went back for more adventuring.

Why couldn't
Why couldn’t it have really been James Franco?

Now that we have cleared up some common misconceptions, let me tell you where Spotlight falls in this spectrum.  When you go back up and look at the movie poster at the beginning of the review, you’ll see the following phrase: “The true story behind the scandal that shook the world.”  Notice there are no “Inspired By” or even “Based On” in that byline.  Spotlight goes one above the other movies we’ve talked about. This is a true story.  The director, Tom McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer both have the unenviable job of bringing this tale of molestation, corruption, and investigation to the silver screen.  Now that we know that this is pretty much biographical, let’s dig into the film.

Seriously, not going to pull any punches, so if words like molestation or Catholicism are triggers for you, go read Manchicken’s hate for the worst movie this year, it’ll be better.

Again, trying to separate the subject matter from the film, that’s the goal but unfortunately Spotlight really focuses on two things that bug the hell out of me: child molestation and organized religion.  Last week on Wednesday Wars we celebrated Veterans, and I was explicit in that most of the post was satire.  I didn’t bring my personal bias or thoughts about war and soldiers in general.  However, in this case, I will not hid my thoughts on the matter.  Like I said in the title, I believe most (if not all) organized religions are crooked and have no place in the modern world. On top of that, and here is where my confirmation bias comes into play, I have absolutely no trouble with believing that the Catholic church is a sordid and dangerous institution.  That’s about all I’m going to say on the subject matter.

Francis, I totally dig you in general, but you've GOT to get your house in order
Francis, my man,  I totally dig you in general, you’re good people but you’ve GOT to get your house in order dude.

Spotlight is an investigative team from the Boston Globe who take on large cases and brought to light an absolutely abhorrent story of Catholic priests molesting young boys and girls in the city of Boston. Their 2002 article then spurred a look at the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal’s.  Tom McCarthy, the director, has spent more time in front of the camera than behind it, but you can easily feel the tension in his style. This is something he cares about.  Every single frame depicts a horrifying look into one of the oldest institutions in the World and McCarthy makes sure you feel that disgust.  Whether it’s from the decidedly grey tint to the cinematography or the extremely heated dialogue written, it’s very apparent that something is seriously wrong here.  He absolutely excels at making you feel uncomfortable, as you should, and for a film to elicit emotions like that is really what it’s all about.  Of course we love the light-hearted comedies and action films, but sometimes, when you see a film like Spotlight, you’re reminded why the moving pictures are there at all: they exist to move you.

While the discomfort in the theater was absolutely palpable in the air, the ante was upped even from there with the unbelievable cast they put together.  I’ll list the major people here, but everyone involved in this production, especially the actors portraying the victims, were involved in a way that you don’t see everyday.  It’s as if they understood the gravity of the subject matter and that their acting and every word of dialog would somehow stop this sort of abuse by supposedly trusted individuals.  As I said, let me toss out the main cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.  I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever written the names of such talent in one review.

The three that I really want to showcase (just couldn’t use the word “Spotlight” there) are Ruffalo, Keaton, and Tucci.  First off, it’s really good to see Michael Keaton taking meaty roles recently.  Last year’s critical darling, Birdman, was the first time I saw his acting chops really get challenged since the ’89 Batman.

There really was
There really was some spectacular acting in this film.  Seriously, go back and watch it.

Anyway, Keaton succeeds as the editor of the Spotlight team by not only being their bosses, but he really digs into the trenches with them on this story.  I sincerely hope the real Walter Robinson treated his employees the way Keaton gelled with the rest of the cast.

Stanley Tucci usually plays the creepiest of characters, have you seen The Lovely Bones?  If not, and you’re a parent, I recommend you don’t.  You’ll be convinced Tucci is outside of your house every night.  As if one Boogeyman wasn’t enough, Hollywood had to cast Tucci in roles that he’s way too good at.  However, in Spotlight, he portrays the attorney that is attempting to bring the criminals to justice.  Yes, these people are the worst kind of criminals.  And this is going to be really controversial, but at least murderers end their victims’ lives.  Anyone who has been molested, raped, physically abused, etc. can attest that at some point you feel you’d rather be dead than live the life laid out in front of you. So, Tucci brings in victims, discusses cases, and the whole time I don’t know how he doesn’t throw up.

In my opinion, the true star of the film is Mark Ruffalo.  I love him as The Hulk, but this was a much different role.

Yeah, I felt like screaming too

Ruffalo very much represents the audience in this film.  Not only does he have some of the toughest scenes (many with Tucci), but he handles most of the legwork of the film.  The sheer anger and disgust that is put on display with not only his words, but his mannerisms.  There are several shots he is in that his face clearly depicts what I hope everyone who watches this film feels: revulsion.  I would have never believed he was capable of this range, but he pulls it off, and again, maybe it’s due to how important the investigation that the real Spotlight team did.

There is no good way to end this review.  We all know what happened and the fallout.  Much of it was covered up as best as it could be by the church, but the World was made aware of a serious systemic problem in their ranks.  I didn’t do a good job of separating myself from the subject matter and the film, but hopefully what you read conveyed my own anger and revulsion to this issue.  That’s something that just can’t be taken lightly.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Everyone involved in making this movie did two things: they made it entertaining and they made you feel disgust and anger.  This film will move you.  It’s opening in wide release today, so I recommend you go take a look.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can get past the truly horrific nature at the core of this film, you’ll find actors who care a great deal, a good investigative story, and writing/dialogue that should, and will, make you sick.  For me, it confirmed my beliefs.  Will it do the same for you, or will it challenge them?


Spectre or The Bond Movie that was a Bond Movie but not like Recent Bond Movies…Bond


Bond, James Bond.   Over 24 movies, we’ve heard this phrase uttered a million times by a million actors (giver or take a million) and it never gets old.  When a Bond film is announced and then hypes its way to release, there is a certain air of mystery and excitement.  Who is the villain and what is their master plan?  What new gadgets does Bond get this time? How many STD’s has he contracted since the last film?

"Seriously 007, Gonorrhea is no joke" -M
“Seriously 007, Gonorrhea is no joke” -Q

Since 2006’s Casino Royale, the Bond reboot if you will, both the quality of the action and storytelling of the films has increased and changed dramatically.  In general, the tone of the films have deviated from the typical action film with repetitious plot points to an adventure film that happens to have James Bond in it.  It is much the same way that The Dark Knight was a gangster/mob film that happened to have characters dressed as a Bat and a Clown.  It is also no coincidence that these films were released so close together as in the mid-to-late 2000’s, writing good films came first and then adding all the traditional troupess (superhero powers, spies, and bulletproof protagonists) was a large part of the film-making industry.  Iron Man is another great example of this sort of style. The movie was first about the morality of arms dealing and terrorism, then eventually included a man in a supersuit.  And as we all know, this method was extremely successful as all of the films mentioned above went on to either complete series or start an epic universe.

This would not have happened in any other age of filmmaking
This would not have occurred in any other age of film-making

In Spectre, the James Bond franchise reemerges as what audiences think of as the “typical Bond film”.  While its really the culmination of the story arc started in Casino Royale, it is very different from the films that proceed it. Casino Royale and Skyfall both gave the Bond films a much needed change of pace and style.  They still had witty dialogue, gadgets, attractive women, sex and excitement, but gone were the “over-the-top” set pieces and world destroying plans.  In short, those Bond films were much more subtle and personal.  You can really tell the difference between them by just knowing the villain’s motives and ultimate goals. Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre from Casino Royale was there to win a poker tournament to pay off other villains.  And Javier Bardem’s Silva in Skyfall just wanted to exact revenge against Dame Judi Dench’s M and MI6 for him being spurned by the agency and his “Mother”.  This is a far cry from the last “traditional Bond film”, Die Another Day, which included an ice castle hotel, North Korean face transplants, and a giant sun focusing laser in space.

It's the
It’s the space laser one, that’s what doesn’t belong. Also Halle Berry, but that a whole other story

What made Casino Royale and Skyfall so special was Daniel Craig’s performance and tearing away all the familiar and expected Bond behavior. Daniel Craig’s Bond is vulnerable, he can be hurt, he makes mistakes and he’s all the more entertaining for it.  Now don’t get me wrong, all the actors proceeding him had their merits, especially Connery who brought Bond to life, but none of them have been put through the ringer like Craig’s Bond.  And with Spectre, you’re going to get a lot more of that, but as we’ve come to expect, Craig pulls it off effortlessly and showcases why he was the perfect choice for James Bond in the first place.  Now, there is already a large discussion on whether or not he should return to the role for a fifth time as 007.  I believe he wrapped up a good storyline in Spectre and should only return if it is absolutely necessary to the film’s story that Craig be the face of Bond.  I’d honestly rather a fresh new face portray the most well known spy, but my choice is pretty controversial:

Just seems right to me, but I'd be fine with anyone on this list
Seems like a perfect, bold, and unique fit to me, but I’d be fine with anyone on this list

Back to Spectre.  With a brilliant character, excellent track record, and all the hype in the world (at least what’s not being used for The Force Awakens), it really puzzles me why Director Sam Mendes decided to return the series to its typical troupess.  The action was completely over-the-top, which while still enjoyable but felt out of place from the other films with Craig’s Bond. Even the elaborate torture machine has been reintroduced.  SPECTRE as villainous organization is way more “World Dominating Illuminati”-Type than what we’ve seen in a while.   The film makes it seem as if they’ve been behind every criminal activity from terrorism to mismatching hot dogs with hot dog buns.

I KNEW it had to be a Conspiracy
I KNEW it had to be a Conspiracy by a shadow organization

At any rate, Spectre is very entertaining but lacks the subtle nuances of the more recent Bond films.  Now don’t discount the film just because it eschews from what Craig has done with 007, but remember that the James Bond series was highly enjoyable with all the troupess in place. One of these famous troupess are the unique, diabolical, and just plain cool villains.

Christoph Waltz was universally regarded as absolutely terrifying in Inglourious Basterds as Colonel Hans Landa.  Then everyone cheered for him passionately as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained.  It’s also worth noting that he won Oscars (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role) for both performances.  So, bringing him on as the newest and most diabolical of all the new Bond villains was nothing short of a perfect casting decision.  He commands all of the attention in almost every scene he is in like a Kardashian on TMZ.

This is what a
This is what a Kardashian is, right?

Now I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say, if you know your Bond lore, you know who heads up SPECTRE.  If not, go back and watch 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and you’ll get it.  Sadly Sam Mendes takes a page from J.J. Abrams’ playbook and chooses to hide details that any Bond fan will easily see.  This robs any drama from any possible surprise revelations and just confuses anyone who hasn’t been following the franchise since the early 1960’s.

His name is actually
His name is actually Thanos, but for marketing the film, we’ll call him Luke Skywalker

Coming into the film knowing Waltz will be brilliant pulls a lot of the stress from all the other actors.  Ralph Fiennes, with his decidedly attached nose, does his job as the new M by being cross with 007 most of the time, but he gets to kick some ass this time around, which is pretty awesome. The other two actors who I adored in Spectre are Ben Whishaw’s Q (sadly he’s no Desmond Llewelyn or John Cleese, but he brings his own charm and idiosyncrasies to the character of Q) and Dave Bautista as the main brawler villain in the film.  Bautista, wrestler turned actor, has been climbing the ranks and becoming one of my favorite people in Hollywood.  He absolutely delivers the strong, silent, and menacing big gun of the film.

I don't have a trigger
“How can I be a gun, I have no trigger or hold any ammunition?”

Anyway, Waltz and Bautista are the perfect villains for the traditional Bond style, and that’s really what Spectre is, just a return to the old Bond films which were mostly successful and beloved. I left the theater entertained, which is the whole purpose of movies, but not “wowed” by the film.  Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely see Spectre in theaters just for the sheer enjoyment of a Bond film and all that that implies, but just be ready to experience the Bond films of old, Aston Martin and all.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

You’re absolutely going to be entertained by Spectre.  From the stylish action, over-the-top set pieces, Craig’s perfect portrayal as Bond, and some of the coolest villains in recent memory, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it.  Just don’t go in expecting Casino Royale or Skyfall.

Also, I want this on the record that I went this whole review without making A SINGLE REFERENCE TO TENTACLES, so that should make my partner, TheManChicken happy.

I’ll leave everyone with a parting gift.  One iconic aspect of all Bond films that is always my favorite are the opening credits and the song that accompanies them.  While the official footage isn’t available yet, Sam Smith’s music video (they still make those?) is available, so enjoy “(The) Writing’s On The Wall” and then go see Spectre while it is in theaters.


Crimson Peak or The Horror Movie That was Not a Horror Movie


Guillermo del Toro is essentially the George R. R. Martin of film.  Not only are his films usually to die for, but they don’t come along all that often. His largest gap came between Pacific Rim (more on that later) and Hellboy 2 which was seven years.  I’ve only been reading Martin for the past few years, so I’ve had ample time to catch up with the A Song of Ice and Fire series and its respective show, Game of Thrones.  That doesn’t really give me any right to complain, but I want this story to be finished ASAP.  We don’t want any Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time Series) shenanigans occurring.

Crimson Peak comes after a mere two year gap from Pacific Rim, which is a good time between films I believe.  We were quite excited for this film if you recall.  This was the only true “Horror Movie” I felt that would be released this October.  I mean it had freaking Loki in it and the director of Pans Labyrinth!  How could this fail?  I’ll tell you how it did: it just wasn’t scary.  It wasn’t a horror film at all.

Now if it had
Now if it keeps people away from the 19th Century Architecture, as Jaws did with the beaches, then that will be an accomplishment

The film was shot beautifully and looks gorgeous on an IMAX screen, but there just was a lack of scares here.  Sure, there were plenty of terrifying looking ghosts with top of the line CGI, but they didn’t get beyond “creepy”.  All of that is fine.  I didn’t need to have my heart thumping in my chest at all times or watching for the next jump scare, but I was hoping for a little bit of goose-flesh.

The World Guillermo del Toro (GdT from here on out) presents is bleak, full of suspicious characters, motives and of course a wide-eyed female protagonist played by  Mia Wasikowska, who has been missing from major cinema since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  In both roles, she plays the intellectual type who is misunderstood by others.  I was happy that she didn’t fall into all of the classic horror movie tropes, but again, this wasn’t a horror film, so I don’t know how much credit I can give to her.

Lastly Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain act as brother and sister in this tale.  I’ve already sung the praises of Jessica Chastain for her role in The Martian, but Tom Hiddleston, that’s not fair to audiences.  GdT and Loki?  That’s just an audience trap.  Hell, I imagine most people went to see this film just because Mr. Hiddleston’s name was attached to the project.  It didn’t fool me as I know who I want:

If only all superheroes could be as dreamy...
Ben, will you ever know my true love for you?

Other than the actors gelling really well, Hiddleston with his charm, Chastain continuing to stretch her acting roles, along with Mia playing much the same part she did in Alice, there isn’t much meat on this film’s plot bones.  Perhaps I expected too much and it didn’t meet my expectations, but I left with a shrug.

Some grievous mistakes GdT made in this film: where were the Jaegers? Seriously, there is nothing that can’t be solved with a Rocket Fist to the face or a good slicing from a seemingly forgotten about sword.  If a ghost had taken down one of those bad boys, I sure as hell would have been more frightened.

While mentioning Pacific Rim and its glorious robot on monster action, I have to ask, where was Ron Perlman?  How could you not find a single roll or line for him to deliver?  I mean for goodness sake, you kept Charlie Hunnam as the “would be hero” but you couldn’t let Hellboy do what he does best and destroy the paranormal?  I just think the film would have been elevated had it contained Giant Steampunk Mechs and Gentleman Hellboy.

I knew they would exist
I knew this would exist on the internet, props to the artist

Don’t get me wrong, it was well written, directed, and acted, but there was just so much false advertising here that I only feel comfortable calling this film “spooky”.  When is the last time something “spooky” raised the hair on the back of your neck?  Yeah, First Grade when someone yelled “Boo” at you…

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

This is not a scary movie no matter how the advertisers attempted to spin it.  Sure, beautiful, creepy scenery, gore, talented actors and a usually superb director, but just nothing to rave about.  Either Netflix, Hulu, or Redbox will be your best bet on this one.  Lower your expectations and you might get something “creepy” instead of just “spooky”.

I'm just saying, he could have saved the film.
I’m just saying, he could have saved the film.


The Walk or The Greatest Love Letter to the Twin Towers via Film

The Walk

I am not afraid of heights.  Roller coasters, skydiving (haven’t done it yet, but I will), and even tall buildings have not registered anything but exhilaration on my emotional spectra.  That’s why coming into The Walk in gorgeous IMAX 3D did not seem a daunting task at all.  I was wrong.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or JGL for the remainder of this review) has come a long way from being the you “kid” on the fantastic sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun”.  His filmography in the last five to ten years has been stellar.  I really would love to credit Christopher Nolan’s Inception for putting him on his serious acting career, but honestly, that honor belongs to Marc Webb’s brilliant (500) Days of Summer.  At any rate, this film would have not been near as powerful without him leading the cast.

Philippe Petit (JGL’s Character) was a French high-wire artist who gained fame in August 7th of 1974.  He garnered his fame due to his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  This was a 1,362 foot above the ground walk.  Now, without some sort of safety system, I would likely pass out the moment I took the first look over the edge.  Wire-walking is just not for me.  Gravity and I have just had such a long relationship that at this point, It would be more like us taking the step of marriage after the second date.  That’s just not something I could do.  He performed for 45 minutes, making eight passes along the wire. This was, how do you say…illegal in the City of New York.  Did I mention the 45 minute walk at 1,350 feet?  Anyway, all of his charges were dismissed in exchange for doing a performance in Central Park for children.

Children, helping people avoid jail time since 1974
Children, helping people avoid jail time since 1974

What really popped for me was the writing.   Robert Zemeckis has always been a good screenwriter but he excels in dialogue and this film is simply one of his best.  Of course we can’t compare it to the classics (Back to the Future Trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump),  but watching him add his dialog to a true story is something of a wonder.  He writes each and every one of these characters perfectly and JGL’s Philippe is just so full of energy and quickness that you would be hard pressed to not admire what both Zemeckis and JGL bring to life here.

Something I’m always enamored of in films is the narration.  Philippe narrates his own adventure and of course this was based on a true event, but we have no idea how much of the surrounding material is actually true.  It doesn’t matter though.  We’re guided on the adventure by Philippe (well, JGL anyway) and the way they keep it moving, it’s brilliant.  I’ve not seen such a well narrated film since Moulin Rouge.

Of course when you have an unreliable narrator, things can get weird
Of course when you have an unreliable narrator, things can get weird

Now this being based on true events, anybody can read Wikipedia and see how the event plays out, so they have to put the drama elsewhere.  And where they stick it is in the visuals.  I cannot say enough about how brilliant the 3D and cinematography are in this film.  Like I said at the beginning, I am not afraid of heights, but however they shot the scenes of his performance, I will never forget the drama and exhilaration I felt.  And 3D has become such a gimmick these days to inflate ticket prices, but when I say it is completely necessary to see this film in 3D, please believe me.  Find the largest screen with amazing audio and crisp 3D glasses and you will not be disappointed with the up-charge.  I find that AMC’s IMAX 3D experience to be suitable.

There were a few elements that didn’t ring quite true to me, but those were mainly the relationships between characters.  Of course this is an illegal undertaking and maybe it was just the 1970’s but the ease he is able to recruit others in his insane venture just doesn’t seem feasible.  I can barely get two people to go to lunch with me let alone a whole crew to pull off a caper with (although I do have an idea how we can kidnap the Pope from Italy, but it’ll take some peanut butter, duct tape, some non-Newtonian fluid, and this guy’s legs).

Maybe it was just me, but they did seem to drag the run time a bit and some of the actors that were added close to the climax had absolutely zero time to develop so I don’t know why they even bothered unless that’s how it really happened.  It didn’t do much to harm the film, but I would curse the editor here for not trimming enough fat.

What does go on to be tragic is that you can no longer view those beautiful towers that Philippe crossed on his wire.  We know of the event that changed the world and of course we will never forget, but as one of the characters said in the film, “You gave life to those towers”, I will say this film treated them with a tremendous amount of respect and love instead of just a set piece.  They were as much characters as anyone else in this film. Robert Zemeckis did what few are willing, respecting the past, showcasing that they existed before 2001 and that they were one of the wonders of the world.

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt puts on a terrific performance,Robert Zemeckis directs writes beautifully, and visually, the 3D is stunning.  While I will not spoil the dramatic final dialog of the film, but rest assured that you will be choked up and look upon a former staple of New York City in a new, more positive manner.


The Visit or Why I Will Never See My Grandparents Again

Earlier this year I was treated to a surprisingly good STD ad called It Follows.   Many people would suggest it was the greatest horror film in ages but I firmly disagree.  While it was a wonderfully creepy movie and excellent allegory for Herpes, I wasn’t horrified by what I saw.   I mean seriously, the characters didn’t even follow the rules!

Just had to get that out of my system since we didn’t have this site back in March.  I digress.  2015 has been a fairly anemic year for horror films, I really believe it’s because they just haven’t made much money and unlike superhero films, you can’t just toss a huge action sequence at the audience and then watch as their brains drool out each ear.  Nothing wrong with that as long as you stuff your mouth with enough popcorn, everything will be fine.  You need more substance in a horror film and that’s becoming harder and harder to come by these days because our world is full of more real life horrors than any ghost story can muster.

I will say, October will give us a few options: Goosebumps (family horror, could be funny), Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (they’re done with these after this, right?), and of course Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (likely to be brilliant but sadly lacking in giant robots).  I’d give Hollywood credit for releasing at least one actual horror film during this season, but as it’s their job to put out scary movies for Halloween, that’s like saying the Starbucks Barista just spelled your name correctly on your cup…after asking how to spell it.

That’s a lot of the reason why it surprised me when the second week of September debuted a found footage film about two kids meeting their grandparents for the first time.  The Visit did not have a lot of marketing.  In fact, I don’t believe it got into full swing until a few weeks ago.  Most of us just saw the underwhelming trailers and the crocheted movie poster.  Well, maybe it’s a stitched movie poster, but that’s not the point.  Still, someone is going to correct me…  I will applaud them for having the balls to actually list the director in both the trailer and the poster.  Something the marketing department from his last movie forgot

I know what you want to know.  Did M. Night Shyamalan actually  create a film that wasn’t ashamed of him?  The answer is a definitive….sorta.  What I will tell you is he set a creepy mood and let it grow over an hour and a half.  To be quite honest, this film just seemed simple, even by the numbers.  I believe that’s what was done well…nothing was overblown or took an extreme suspension of disbelief to enjoy.  Every actor maintained their personas, no inconsistencies with how they reacted to the various jump scares and hard tension.  The “monsters” of the film were eerie and more than a bit disturbing, but just enough doubt to keep things interesting.  Everything just clicked.

Like I said, Shyamalan set the mood and let it crescendo to a disturbing finale.  There are several things in the last 20 minutes of the film that I’ll have to rinse my dreams with a hefty dose of Sandra Bullock to forget, but I bet there are a lot of you who were looking for that.  Or just want to dream of Sandra Bullock.  That’s okay too.

It’s an odd day when you see a film, especially a creepy one, enjoy it, and while reviewing it, fail to find anything really wrong with the movie.  Perhaps it was because I came in with low expectations and got a bit of substance, but there just wasn’t anything to hate here.  Unfortunately the same can be said conversely: there wasn’t really anything that will have any staying power either.

M. Night has told some fantastic stories.  Many of you still get chills while thinking of The Sixth Sense or Signs (if I never see a real cornfield, that’ll be fine with me), but have had your trust broken by almost anything else he’s done over the past fifteen years.  I can tell you this film seems like his mea culpa.  He desperately wants you to watch his films again, and if he has to go back to basics, he’ll do it.  I really think that’s why this film worked.  Shyamalan, you’ll be fine if you listen to me: “Go back to your roots, tell interesting stories before shoehorning a plot element where it doesn’t belong or attempting to shift any paradigms, oh, and don’t cast Jaden Smith in anything.  AN-Y-THING.”

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:

M. Night Shyamalan creeps every audience member out with tension that pops like an unexpected balloon explosion and will keep the hair on the back of your neck planted firmly in the “freaked out” position.  If you’re in desperate need of a few scares, you’ll find them here and while you might lose a little sleep over The Visit, you’re ultimately going to forget it.

The Gift or How to Film a Suspense Movie 101

When Alfred Hitchcock terrified audiences with “Psycho” in 1960, he did it with style and a twist that not many would have seen coming. Since then (and arguably before), audiences were treated to a general formula for suspense. It was either “Who dunnit?”; “Where is the monster?”, and “Oh my god why are you opening that door when you know the creepy guy with a [insert melee weapon of doom] is behind that noise you just heard?” Yeah, in my opinion, these sorts of films have gotten extremely stale. Some even label them as part of the horror genre. I guess that works, but you see the problem, suspense and drama has just sorta melted into the genre pool of slashers, shaky cam, or torture porn.

After seeing the decidedly creepy trailer WAY too many times (seriously, when you spend as much time as I do at the theater, you end up getting tired of the film before it even comes out), I wasn’t particularly interested, but I heard some good things and after a week of real life drama, I decided to relax in the safety zone of the dark theater. What waited for me in the digital format was something I hadn’t encountered in quite a while….an actual suspense movie.

First I have to talk about Joel Edgerton. He not only directs and stars in this film, he bloody wrote it too! That’s a lot to ask of one guy and with the myriad jobs he took on, I have to say I was impressed with him. If he keeps this up, we’ll have another Ben Affleck among us. Yes, I like Ben Affleck as Batman and yes, he is extremely talented and you’re just in denial. Enough of my Bat-Fleck crush….er, I mean fantasy, er, screw it, I love the guy. With my unhealthy obsession with Ben, it should let you know just how impressed I was with Edgerton.

Throughout the entire length of the film, there were plenty of jump scares, and more than one tense moment with the perfect crescendo with the sneaky accomplices called a symphony. This is where the movie excels. Every scare or tense sequence is filled with a brilliant score. Other than Edgerton’s creepy performance, I truly believe the score does more to unnerve the audience than any trap that Jigsaw could create. Again, hats off to Edgerton.

What really worried me was Jason Bateman. Not only could I not imagine George Bluth acting seriously, he just doesn’t have that “must see actor” vibe (unlike a certain “Armageddon” star). My fears were not really that justified as Bateman played his part as the “tough and successful guy” in every suspense film well enough. Of course I was always waiting for the tension to be broken by him calling for his son George Michael (seriously, they could have totally put Michael Sera in this film.). He hits his notes well and doesn’t embarrass himself. All the other actors play their respective roles well. The only other performance I want to mention is Rebecca Hall’s. She’s far from a scream queen, but with most moments of tension surrounded by her alone in the house, her performance is also a key portion of making the suspension work. Edgerton cast his actors well.

While I’m not going to spoil anything in this review, I was a little disappointed in both the run time and the ending. Usually you’re looking for some grandiose payoff for your time spent watching the movie, but as part of Edgerton’s suspenseful, he really leaves it disturbingly open. There is also a bit about the ending that just rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t say what it was, but it was no gift I’d receive and the only chink in Edgerton’s armor. His writing just wasn’t that compelling in the third act. Dialog was fine and creepy as all get out (yeah, Radiohead would be extremely proud), but I felt the ending fell flat. Don’t get me wrong, as with most suspense films, it doesn’t end well for anyone, but I didn’t come away with a sense of dread…just more of the need for a shower.

Maybe that’s your sort of deal. Who am I to judge, with all my man love for Mr. Affleck (my future last name if he ever reads a new movie review website from two dorky dudes and Virginia comes to its senses and allows our love to flourish). A guy can dream, right?

Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version: (by the way, this is my version of Too Long Didn’t Read [TL:DR])

The director, writer, producer and actor Joel Edgerton showcased his talent and I look forward to more of his work. Since this is his freshman dip in most of those roles, “The Gift” has some rough edges, but if you love suspense, give yourself a treat and see this movie when it is available via video.