2017

[Movie Review] You’re Gonna Want to Play ‘Gerald’s Game’

We as horror fans are lucky to have Mike Flanagan. The man is making concepts that have no right work, do so in spectacular fashion. From murderous mirrors, or a killer stalking a deaf victim all the way to making the original Ouija suck a little less–now if only someone would help Before I Wake finally see the light of day. 

Now, we’ve got Gerald’s Game. A movie that, in large part, takes place in a single location. Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her hubby Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) decide to take a trip to their lake house and in an effort to spice if their marriage Gerald handcuffs Jessie to the bed. However, when Gerald’s role playing fantasy goes awry he suffers a heart attack and dies before he can uncuff Jessie. Left in an impossible situation she is forced to confront her traumatic past while searching for any clue that help her escape the cuffs. 

How fitting for the latest Netflix Original to come out in 2017 just a month after we experienced a total solar eclipse. A similar event plays a pivotal role in Jessie’s psychological journey. The tole of emotional wounds coming to a head as she sits on the bed waiting for her death or for help to arrive. As her mind begins to crack she envisions versions of herself and her husband moving freely throughout as part of her internal thought process–both taunting her and trying help her thing logically in her predicament. 

Gerald’s Game unfolds as a dramatic psychological thriller. Part drama about a married couple’s struggles at keeping the romance alive due to hidden desires and other deeper emotional scars and part survival thriller. Gugino crushes both aspects of her character–a woman who’s dodged childhood trauma her hold life and one driven to survive when forced to examine her actions that lead her to being handcuffed to that bed. Greenwood too, compliments Gugino as a force of masculinity with complicated ties to Jessie’s deep seeded troubles. In the end the film also delivers just enough cringeworthy violence and bone chilling sound effects to gratify genre fans looking for the cherry-on-top. 

Like any minimalist thriller the struggle is keeping the audience riveted–Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard spin some incredible sequences of psychological barbs between characters. Combined with Flanagan’s visual prowess to stage a scene for maximum creep factor to provide some stiff competition to Pennywise and The Losers Club for best King adaptation of 2017. 

Widely considered one of many unfilmable King novels, Flanagan makes it look like a walk in the park. Gerald’s Game is taught, suspenseful and magnificently performed–but a shame that the vast majority of the populism will only be able to experience it on the small screen. 

Rating: A

Beer Recommendation: None at this time. Sorry, you kinky pervs. 

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[Movie Review] mother! Puts the Exclamation Point in WTF!

Movie nerds bristle with excitement at the idea of a new year and a new movie from visionary director, Darren Aronofsky. Blake Swan made so many swoon at the filmmaker’s artistic prowess and delivered a gold statue at the feet of Natalie Portman. Oh, what marvelous treasures must be waiting for us with the allignment of such a bold innovative voice and stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. The film opens and like a George R.R. Martin like twist the fans and critics alike are lining up to take turns diving a dagger into Aronofsky’s divisive vision.

I never do this, but to truly dig below the surface of mother! I feel it’s important to delve into some context of why people are so split–why some might worship Aronofsky’s artistic expression while others might take their ticket stub and use it as some part of a voodoo ritual that culminates in the director’s untimely demise. Before we venture into those treacherous waters let me say this–mother! is a work of art. An interpretive painting that disgusts you, but strangely you feel compelled to keep starring and marvel at its audacity. Pretentious as that sounds, it’s a cinematic voice that should be encouraged even if it’s not something mainstream audiences have the stomach for. I encourage moviegoers to take the plunge into Aronofsky’s troubling psyche, but be forewarned that when you come out on the other side, remember…it was your choice to actually do so.  (more…)

[Movie Review] IT Redefines the Hollywood Horror Formula

Don’t get swept up in thinking nostalgia is what lends to your percepted fond memories of the original 90’s IT mini-series. It’s pretty bad. Apart from Tim Curry’s always steady and reliable acting chops the mini-series is borderline unwatchable. Luckily, a fondness for the original is not a prerequisite for digging deep into MAMA director, Andy Muschietti’s delightful adaptation.

Not without its own issues (but we’ll get to that) the latest IT pulls from the classic Stephen King novel of the same name in which a handful of bullied youths that make up The Losers Club must band together to fight an ancient evil residing in their quaint town of Derry. Iconically, the evil takes the form of many of the character’s deepest fears, but it’s hands down favorite apprearance is a f***** up clown by the name of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). This adaptation finds Pennywise’s design that if a Victorian era clown with fiendishly evil facial expressions, but played interestingly enough by Skarsgård–alternating from over-the-top giggles to a guttural sinister tone that’s as inconsistent as it is unsettling at times.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Dunkirk’ is 2017’s Most Pummeling Onslaught of Cinematic Skill

The sights and sounds of war. That’s what Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is all about. Forget character and forget telling individual stories–this movie wants to put the audience on the front lines of land, air and sea to deliver an experience. Make no mistake, Dunkirk is one of the most incredible and unique cinematic experiences you’re likely to experience–and while there are a number of prolific filmmakers, few operate with such technical skill quite like Nolan.

The film tells the story of British forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk simultaneously awaiting rescue and intermittent air attacks at the hands of Nazi forces. Nolan’s focus is that of human resolve and wordless heroism. It is true, there are few characters you can attach yourself too, but that’s not the point. Dunkirk is a film you simply live as an audience member. In the grips of war, the British forces are constantly being bombed from the air as they await military boats to take them home–said boats are themselves under attack, so the soldiers are in a harrowing fight for survival. Dunkirk’s entirety pulls the audience from those breathless sequences to show intercutting sequences of a civilian boat headed to the beach to help save soldiers and the air forces en route to pick off the enemy planes attacking the boats.  (more…)

[Movie Review] A Warm and Welcome Homecoming for Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

spidermanhome_posterWith great power, comes great responsibility, John Watts. It’s one thing to have Spidey somewhat back in the hands of Marvel Studios, it’s a whole other thing to deliver a portrayal of Peter Parker’s alter ego that can wipe the slate clean from sins passed. Watts has come from ultra low budget horror, Clown, to helming what is hands down the greatest Spider-Man film to date.

Sam Raimi and Marc Webb both tried and–to certain degrees–failed to deliver crowd pleasing adventures for everyone’s favorite web-slinger. While these were not the first efforts to bring the character to the screen in one way or another, of the most modern attempts it would seem the third time (third iteration anyway) was the charm. Tom Holland’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War gave legions of fans hope for the impending reboot as it certainly appeared that finally the tone and personality of Peter Parker and his arachnid alias had been captured. Spider-Man: Homecoming extends that and more with nearly the entire high school setting.  (more…)

[Mega Movie Review] Catching Up on 2017

13886469_1267046413328617_7042198926381498825_nBusy time of year folks, so apologies to anyone who actually looks forward to my latest reviews. I didn’t want everything I’ve seen to fall by the wayside, so here are some brief thoughts on everything I’ve seen so far in 2017 but haven’t had time to sit down and put full write ups on. Sit back relax and “enjoy” some candid hot takes on these 2017 releases!

Kong: Skull Island – Come for the star studded cast then shove them aside for the awesome creature fights. Kong is visually impressive, but it lacks humanity in a pretty comical way. The characters very much feel like empty shells taking us from one place to another to be bait for the eventual breathtaking spectacle of the Kong fights. In spite of the lack of characters to hang your hat on this was still a pretty tremendous and crowd pleasing theater experience. Rating: B+

Gifted – Sort of let this one get lost in the shuffle. This is a very understated film. There was almost no marketing push and it just sort of appeared in theaters with little to no fanfare. If its still out there though, get out and see it. I could have used a little more closure for some of the relationships and perhaps a little more emotion out of Chris Evans’ character, but this has been the most affective dramas so far this year that also happens to have a pretty delightful sense of humor. Rating: A- (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Logan’ Infuses Heart and Violence into a Potent Cocktail

logan_poster-tgofWhile superhero fatigue still has me in its icy grip, along comes Logan to warm that chill–at least temporarily. Perhaps it’s the, at times, overwhelming violence or the emotional vulnerability of being a new dad that makes the arc Wolverine’s final chapter that much more effective. Whatever way you look at it, Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as the claw wielding potty-mouth is a fitting and emotional bow that might rely a little too much on its R rating and hero cliches.

Picking up in 2029 where mutant residency has since passed, Logan spends his days driving a limo for drunk brides and frat boys chanting ‘Merica near the US/Mexico border. South of the border Logan lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart with his most powerful portrayal as Professor X to date) suffering dementia and the occasional population crippling seizure. With his health steadily declining and his body unwilling to heal like it used to Logan begrudgingly accepts to transport a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers strikingly similar to his own, North across the Canadian border and hopefully to safety away from the research facility tracking her down. (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Get Out’ is an Enthralling Exploration of Social Fear Through Liberal Racism

getout_tgofposterJordan Peele, a name synonymous with clever biting commentary on social issues, has stepped into the cinematic ring and delivered a one-two punch that’s more potent than anything audiences have seen in a wide release horror flick in quite some time. Get Out leans a little bit more studio than recent critical darlings such as The Witch or It Follows, but has a punch all its own that rivals some of the best genre films of all time.

Whether or not Peele’s debut feature will stand the test of time is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine something this sharp and witty to get pushed back in the annals of cinema history. No, it’s not just possible, but likely that Get Out is going to be talked about amongst critics and audiences alike for the foreseeable future. Exploring the simple yet all too real awkwardness of an African-American male meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents and the weird stuff going on within the grounds of the family’s sizable estate. From scene one, Peele sets an uneasy yet humorous stage with an intro that features a black male waltzing in a suburban neighborhood at night before befalling something a little spooky. The racial factor is of course not lost on an audience of any race or gender, but is in fact a fear I’m sure we’ve all had walking late at night in unfamiliar territory–the possibility of being stalked by someone with less than noble intentions.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is Heavy on Cheese and Light on Kink

fiftyshadesdarker_postertgofLet’s be honest with one another–the Fifty Shades series is an easy target for snarky critics. There’s not much of a challenge in sitting down and pinpointing every illogical turn the movie takes and every laughable line of dialogue uttered by actors who seem as tickled about what they are saying as we are hearing it. It’s hard to take a breath, collect oneself and approach a movie like Fifty Shades Darker and pick out why you should see it–and trust me, no one involved has made it easy.

For every one thing good you can say about James Foley’s film there are a handful more pushing into the spotlight to ruining it for the rest of us. Yet we march on–Fifty Shades Darker picks up shortly after the first film as Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) continues to creepily pine for the plain Jane, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). After a half-hearted attempt to brush him off, Anastasia agrees to meet with Christian to renegotiate the terms of their “arrangement”. As they embark on their new relationship Christian’s past and Anastasia’s vanilla sex appeal proves to be a little more complicated than they anticipated.  (more…)

[Movie Review] ‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ is the Hilarious and Heartfelt Hero We Deserve

In 2016 we saw Batman twice in theaters and for most of us, we left those two encounters less than enthusiastic. With Warner Bros. flailing wildly in need of a hit, in steps some tiny plastic toys to save the day. Even with as good as The LEGO Batman Movie is, it also amplifies how inept Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were at the most fundamental level–being entertaining. In a way, the latest in the Batman universe acts as a sincere apology for the aforementioned disappointments.

To be fair The LEGO Batman Movie has the benefit of irreverent humor that leans heavily in meta territory. The film exists in a world where Gotham City and its citizens are kind of tired of Batman’s shenanigans. Years of fighting bad guys and yet crime rates are as high as ever. Even Batman’s greatest enemy, Joker, has decided that he must concoct a new scheme to get the Caped Crusader in touch with his emotions. With the help of a recently adopted orphan, Dick Grayson, and the city’s new commissioner, Barbara Gordon, Batman embarks on a mission to save his tarnished reputation and the city.  (more…)