king kong

[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-

Raw – Coming out of the film festivals the press on this was touting how extreme it was and how it was causing audience members to faint or throw up. When the credits rolled I had one question: What kind of p****** were attending these screenings? I can’t fathom anyone watching this and feeling sick. The sound design is effective, but never to the point that I felt even the slightest bit nauseous. The film looks great, the central performance is quite good and the themes are intriguing…but color me disappointed that this is apparently what gets people worked up these days. Rating: C+

The Blackcoat’s Daughter – I have watched this film at least 4 times now. Each viewing has made it grow on me a little more each time. You’ll want to have been a fan of moody slow burns such as It Follows and The Witch for this one to be in your wheelhouse and if it is you’re in for a treat. Oz Perkins has a knack for creating an uneasy tone and depth to story without over explaining and hammering themes down your throat. Horror fans should quickly familiarize themselves with Perkins…that’s the moral of the story. Rating: B+ (inching ever so close to an A-)

The Devil’s Candy – When The Loved Ones FINALLY came out there was little that would convince me that Sean Byrne wasn’t going to be a horror breakout filmmaker and that his next film wouldn’t be my favorite one of the year. Get Out is going to make it tough for anything else to take that title this year, but even then I still don’t think The Devil’s Candy could pull it off. That being said, it is still pretty great. Byrne’s sophomore flick is tense and totally metal, but could have benefited from a more energetic sense of momentum. Rating: B+

Detour – If you don’t know the name Christopher Smith no one–including me–would blame you. If you haven’t seen any of the movies he’s made, shame on you. The director’s name is so plain that remembering it is understandable, but if you’ve seen and love his movies like I do you’d remember. Detour is just another road of twisty mind games to add to the road map of his career that’s also well worth your time–even if I don’t enjoy the acting chops of Tyr Sheridan. Rating: B+

The Girl With All the Gifts – Those clamorong for a The Last of Us film should know that you kind of already have one–and this is it. The storyline is not the same, but the film has so many aspects that mirror the game that it’s sort of surreal. The emotional resonance is lacking, but the thrills and mythology are more than enough to draw you to this one. It seems as if the creative team involved envisioned something even more ambitious, but budget constraints hold it back at times. Rating: B+

XX – The anthology genre over the years has been cluttered with some singularly focused male visions so it was about time we got some fresh female voices a space to shine. Sure, the final product ends up being about as mixed as most other anthologies, but there is some serious talent on display in each segment in some way shape or form and XX should definitely at the very least be on your radar when it’s released on DVD/Bluray May 23rd. Rating: C+

John Wick: Chapter 2 – The fist installment of the John Wick saga came out of nowhere with its weird comic book hitman universe. The sequel just stacks on the crazy around every corner with some clever set pieces and a sh*tload of headshots. If you don’t walk out ready for Chapter 3 then maybe you just really really hate dumb stylish fun. Rating: B+

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – The Resident Evil franchise hasn’t been my thing for quite some time now. Each new film seems less connected to the actual video game than the next and instead opts to force in characters and foes from the game with little to no context. The Final Chapter is more of the same and the best part about it–assuming the title is a promise–is that it’s the last time we’ll have to endure any of it. Rating: D- 

A Dark Song – There are a lot of reasons why I don’t practice in the occult. A Dark Song just added one more pretty big reason–it’s friggin hard. Another reason on top of that–it takes a really long friggin time. A brooding character driven horror film that really swings for the fences during the finale which is as divisive as it is emotionally resonant. This is one that most will love or furiously hate. Somehow I was just on the outskirts of love. Rating: B

The Void – As a movie watcher I gravitate toward the horror genre. It’s a world I feel like I know and am comfortable in–in spite of having quite a few gaps in knowledge in the classics. When it comes to horror I’m a sucker for some crazy gore and awesome practical effects, both of which The Void has in spades. However, that’s about all it has. There’s a solid creepy villain near the end, the cult figures are cool looking and the idea is solid. Yet, there’s something lacking in the overall plot and the characters just feel flat. Still, you should probably check it out–at least once–when it hits Netflix this July (2017). Rating: C

Small Crimes – Speaking of Netflix, how about all the original content they’ve been churning out this year? Crazy right? When you tell me the director of Cheap Thrills has a sequel that came out via Netflix I couldn’t hit play fast enough. When it was all said and done, I probably could have waited a little bit and not rearranged my whole schedule to watch it. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually quite good. Not as good as Cheap Thrills though. The dark humor and sudden bursts of violence would make this a perfect middle movie for a Netflix Triple feature of Shimmer Lake (scroll down for that ‘review’), Small Crimes and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (which is fantastic and there might be a ‘review’ below but as of writing this I haven’t added it to the backlog). Rating: B

Free Fire – After High Rise my stock in Ben Wheatley took a mild dive. Kill List is still a work of bleak art so no one can take that away. Then Free Fire happened. Holy cow, you guys. This movie is a blast. It’s also mostly kind of a one trick pony. It’s a good trick, but the circumstances at which all the mayhem goes down is pretty petty and ultimately uninspired. That doesn’t change the fact that watching things escalate and turn to sh*t wasn’t some of the funnest nonsense I’ve seen this year. Rating: B+

Colossal – I go to the movies to have a good time. Sometimes I go to be moved. Sometimes I go to learn a little about myself. Rarely do I get all three. Colossal isn’t the most profound movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the most unique. I got some chuckles, it has some moving realizations and it more than once made me think about my own actions and words with some reverence. For that it is well worth your time and money, even if it is a little weird for its own good. Rating: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – I was tempted to just link to my review of the first movie and call it a day. Volume 2 is very much just a repackaged version of the original, but with a few more gadgets and upgrades attached. There’s sequences that I could have easily done without near the middle, but the end is enough to tweak everyone with a soft heart in the feels. Also, because it was so much like the original I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t as fresh and surprising. Rating: B

Wonder Woman – Right in front street, Wonder Woman is hands down the best DC movie of the new batch–aka since the Nolan Batman movies. The bad news is that the bar was not very high–even I could limbo under that rotten stick. However, even that is undermining what WW accomplishes. The action is good, Gal Gadot is great as is her chemistry with Chris Pine on screen. The finale is dogsh*t. It’s so bad and unoriginal that it made me wonder if everything before it had tricked me. I don’t think that’s the case so in the end I think what we got was a genuine attempt at righting the ship at DC even if it forgot to drop some of its dead weight. Rating: B

It Comes at Night – Whenever someone asks me about this movie I always say simply this: good movie, sh*t marketing. Except to call out specifics of the marketing could spoil part of the movie for some, even if it would serve to align their expectations. It Comes at Night is a depressing movie. It’s misery porn at its most basic levels. The performances are great, the idea is solid and the director seems to know that less is more when it comes to making us scared and feeling dirty. However, the film shows us so little and tells us nothing that would make enduring the misery all that profound. Rating: C+

Rough Night – Have you seen Very Bad Things? Well, it’s that, but with a cast of women. The case could be argued that Rough Night is considerably less dark than VBT, but let’s face it, were taking about a comedy with a murder at its center. Once there’s a dead body it is tough to pick back up the funny and lets just say the cast tries very hard to do so with mixed to mediocre results. By mixed I mean mixed decent jokes that are still to easy to be considered that clever. All in all you’re money is best spent grabbing a bag of dick straws and having your own party at home. Rating: D

Shimmer Lake – Shimmer Lake, another in the growing line of Netflix Originals, is a weird little flick that for those patient enough to stick it out should feel at least a minicam of appreciation. For those like me, you’ll get a kick out of it. The film is a botched robbery told in reverse and if you are invested enough to not ask why it’s being told in reverse then you, like me, won’t feel like you guessed what was going on from the beginning. It’s certainly not perfect, but I found myself laughing and impressed by a first time filmmakers grasp on reverse storytelling from beginning to end. Rating: B

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – I know, I’m not a fan of long bizarre titles either. But once you watch this movie you probably couldn’t think of a more appropriate title either. Fantastic performances end to end and a near perfect yarn of normal people in over their heads in a mostly realistic scenario. Macon Blair wow’ed everyone his performance in Blue Ruin, might as well let him do it with his directing chops as well. Rating: A

47 Meters Down – You can thank The Shallows for giving hope to the possible theatrical success of this one. Saved last minute from a direct-to-DVD release at zero hour this Mandy Moore vehicle’s most redeeming aspects come in the form of those who have a fear of being trapped underwater with sharks in nearly pitch black conditions. Bad CGI sharks and questionable twists hinder the movie’s ability to be all that effective, making it similarly pulpy when compared to The Shallows. Rating: C+

Top 10 Modern Creature Features

To celebrate the release of SUPER 8 it felt fitting to take a look back at some of my favorite creature features. For the list I considered everything from nature gone wild, mythical creatures, aliens and straightforward monster movies; I didn’t want to leave any species untouched. So hopefully I’ve been able to put together a wide selection of blood thirsty creatures of the cinema variety. The one theme I tried to stick close to was picking movies that are relatively recent without dipping into the well of older flicks, so keep that in mind if you have a beloved black and white creature feature you’re livid I haven’t included or any older film you felt deserved some love.

10. The Troll Hunter – Probably the most recent of the films on the list and currently available on demand and in a limited theatrical release is THE TROLL HUNTER. The film takes the found footage style and throws in some troll mythology and is both tense and interesting. There are some slower moments where the film loses a little of its momentum, but the troll designs are pretty fantastic and the CGI is impressive.

9. Rogue – I’m not sure how many people out there remember a little movie a while back called LAKE PLACID. I remember enjoying it at a younger age and thinking the idea of a giant crocodile or alligator was pretty intimidating and then I found ROGUE. This film was released under the Dimension Extreme label a few years back and was pleasantly surprised. ROGUE even proved that there was a time that Sam Worthington could act, but the star is mood and tension as well as the gigantic and brutal crocodile. It isn’t quite as action packed as some might expect but ROGUE is still an impressive representation of nature gone wild.

8. Splice – There is a specific moment in SPLICE that people often retreat to as the moment they absolutely hated the film. This moment while I don’t champion, is also something that ads an interesting dynamic to the film, both as a character study and in central conflict in the film. SPLICE is a slow and moody creature feature that abandons the deliberate pace in the finale with more audience friendly mayhem and yet another divisive twist to close out the events. Vincenzo Natali has a knack for an interesting story and his direction in SPLICE is admirably bold for making some of the choices he makes.

7. Feast – Director John Gulager will be delivering his vision of blood thirsty piranhas when PIRANHA 3DD is released but until then we can continue to watch his creature feature of FEAST. It took me a while to check this one out, but when I did I was not disappointed. Equal parts over-the-top violence and goofy humor the film has some pretty gag inducing effects and laugh out loud moments as well. Feel free to check out the vastly inferior sequels of SLOPPY SECONDS and THE HAPPY FINISH as well but don’t expect the same enjoyment that the first FEAST dishes out.

6. Piranha 3D – PIRANHA worked well in theaters in 3D but it worked just as well in 2D when it was released on DVD. Alexander Aja orchestrated one extremely brutal 12 minute symphony of mayhem during the beach massacre towards the end of the film that was worth the ticket price or DVD purchase. Not only that but I’m sure there’s a fair share of dudes that are still suffering from a stiff wrist watching the underwater ballet between Riley Steele and Kelly Brook. Bottom line is that PIRANHA was nothing but pure popcorn fun and I can’t wait for more piranha mayhem in 3DD.

5. Splinter – A lot of times some of my favorite movies are ones I had no awareness of and either came out of nowhere or I stumbled upon while scoping the web. SPLINTER is a film I’d seen talked about in several outlets and decided to give it a shot and not only was I surprised, but I was blown away at how inventive and riveting it was. The idea behind the creature was relatively simple but executed in a pretty interesting way and the performances were also very good. Some of my favorite settings in movies are single location films because they provide a feeling of isolation and SPLINTER does just that with its gas station setting. Director Toby Wilkins for me is one to watch and probably the only reason I might check out a few episodes of the Teen Wolf TV series on MTV.

4. The Descent – For the majority of the film people would be confused why I would call this a creature feature. Barely any creature shows up for quite some time, in fact the creatures only assist in the already unbearable claustrophobic setting. The descent is a nightmare for people who have problems even watching people in confined spaces and it’s also so effective and memorable because of the tight spaces within the caves the women in the film are climbing through. When the creatures finally show up we’re thrust into an even worse nightmare where the women not only have to battle darkness and tight spaces but monsters than can navigate it with ease. Neil Marshall’s THE DESCENT is a monster movie all horror fans should become acquainted with at some time or another.

3. The Mist – Frank Darabont really knocked it out of the park with THE MIST. I love claustrophobic settings and a bunch of people trapped in a grocery store with creatures from another world creates a pretty tense tone. The CGI is a little shaky here and there but the creature designs are pretty great and pile the intensely dark and depressing ending then THE MIST makes for a very unforgettable experience.

2. Cloverfield – I will always remember the first time I saw CLOVERFIELD. The anticipation I had up until the first reel was almost unbearable with the ad campaign and the secrecy behind blurring or obscuring the creature shots from trailers and clips had me at mercy. I don’t have the hatred for shaky cam that others have and watching CLOVERFIELD on opening night was an incredible experience. The movie is fast and furious, the creature design was fantastic, sound design was brilliant and the integration of the special effects was unforgettable. CLOVERFIELD is a film that takes minimal time commitment because it’s just barely over an hour long so it’s always a film in my regular DVD rotation.

1. King Kong – The classic movie monster King Kong redone for the modern day was a film I completely adored when it was released. My one complaint is the length, but I found the visual effects especially in the finale when Kong is battling the planes are stunning. Peter Jackson’s KING KONG is great through and through as an adventure, romance and drama and even with the bloated runtime I can watch this film over and over.