Month: October 2018

Review: Jason X (Garrett’s View)

True story: I saw this in the theater with Carson back in 2002. After the first victim of Jason meets their demise, a guy right in front of us yelled “KICK ASS! JASON. IS. BACK.” To this day, hundreds of movie theater experiences later, I’ve never seen or heard anyone more excited in a theater than that guy at that moment. Though it was a completely ridiculous moment, I should probably thank that guy for forging such a strong memory in my mind that everything else about the movie just evaporated once the credits rolled. I had no recollection of:

The ridiculous premise that had Jason Voorhees being cryogenically frozen because he was able to heal himself like Wolverine.

The low-budget film set that looked like it was leased from that miserable Kevin Sorbo television show Andromeda.

The wardrobe that in no way tries to be futuristic and just assumes that everyone in the year 2455 dresses exactly as they would have at the 2002 MTV VMA show.

One of the most absurd kills you will ever see in a horror movie — and it involves a sleeping bag.

Embarrassing CGI effects that are somehow WORSE than the aforementioned miserable Kevin Sorbo television show Andromeda.

The premise of Jason X is simply Jason in space. That’s all it took to get this greenlit with a budget only slightly bigger than the first SEVEN Friday the 13th movies combined! It’s hard to believe that much money was spent on this film. It is awful and not worthy of a viewing. Not even in a group of friends. It’s not funny bad. It’s just bad. I can only assume Kevin Sorbo got super rich off of this.

Episode 64: Bad Times at the El Royale

Garrett and Carson expect a good time when they check in to Bad Times at the El Royale.

Review: Halloween (2018) (Carson’s View)

Michael Myers is back once again. But not like he has been back before. He is back for the first time… again. Confused yet? This installment of Halloween is the 11th movie in the Halloween franchise. However, you are supposed to forget all of those other movies except for the original when watching this 2018 version.

This is not the first time this franchise has pulled the “forget all that other stuff” move. Halloween II is a direct sequel to the original and that is the first time you get Michael Myers’ return. Halloween III treats the first two as if they were only movies the actors were watching before their story about witchcraft began. Then Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers hit theaters and you get a sequel to the original two movies (now ignoring the 3rd). After two more installments we get the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween: H20. In H20, we are supposed to forget everything that happened in movies 3-6. And now only I, II and H20 were canon at this point. Halloween: Resurrection follows up H20.

In 2007, Rob Zombie reboots the entire series and starts over with the movie Halloween. He makes a sequel to that movie in 2009 called, get this, Halloween II. This finally brings us to the 2018 version. Which is called only Halloween for some reason. Jamie Lee Curtis is back again, but none of her backstory that we learned in Halloween II (the first Halloween II) that ties her bloodline to Michael Myers comes with her. So forget all that. The best part about all of this is that Nick Castle, who hasn’t played Michael Myers since the original movie, is back. So if you are only following Nick Castle’s Michael Myers’ career, then the chronology makes perfect sense.

Here is the good news. This is a Halloween movie and none of the above matters in the slightest. Michael Myers is a psychotic murderer who wears a mask and hunts teenagers. That is really all you need to know to enjoy this movie. There is nothing new here. Everything pretty much moves along exactly how you would expect. I will say though, that it is great to hear the revamped theme as Michael increases his body count.

Review: First Man (Carson’s View)

First Man is the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Director Damien Chazelle is reunited with Ryan Gosling in this very-not-like-La La Land biopic. Chazelle has to be commended for his willingness to tackle remarkably different styles and genres each time he takes his place behind the camera. Unfortunately, First Man falls short of showcasing the talent of this young director.

First Man brings to the big screen what it feels like to be crammed into a rocket and shot into space. The film keeps space travel small and gives the perspective of how Neil must have felt.  Chazelle attempts to create tension and suspense each trip into space, although that is a difficult task with such a well-known story.  We all know Neil does get to the moon and that Neil comes home safely. The missions Armstrong completed for NASA are represented well on screen, however, they monopolized much of the runtime that could have been used to further explore Neil the man.

The hope for First Man was that we would get to know Neil Armstrong. We already know what he did.  The unexplored territory is to tell the story about the man behind one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Not enough time was devoted to his life outside of space exploration. Neil’s relationship with his children is more confusing than impactful. Claire Foy does a wonderful job as Janet Armstrong with limited screen time. She is simply underused which further emphasizes what First Man is missing.

One of Chazelle’s strengths in Whiplash and La La Land was his ability invoke emotion from the audience. First Man, on the contrary, reads more like a documentary. It tells us what happened as opposed to investing us into the lives of the Armstrongs.

 

Review: The Night Comes For Us (Garrett’s View)

Hyperviolent. Hyperactive. Hyperbolic.

Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes For Us is a visceral mashup of martial arts and gore that is the clear answer to the question “What if The Raid movies had as much blood as the Crazy 88 fight from Kill Bill?” It is frenetic in its pacing only taking breaks to give bits of a story that relies heavily on existing action movie tropes. But you don’t watch a film like this for its plot. You watch it in order to gawk at the action, laugh at the gore, and turn to the person next to you and say “holy $%*#!”

The comparisons to Gareth Evans’ The Raid franchise are unavoidable. Tjahjanto directs his action scenes in a manner that lands somewhere between being a complete Evans knockoff and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Furthering the comparisons are the faces that anyone familiar with The Raid films will recognize. This film stars Joe Taslim (The Raid: Redemption), Iko Uwais (Both Raid films), and several other actors that appeared in The Raid 2: Berandal. Either of these alone would be enough to see the resemblance between the films, but when put together, it gives the impression that anyone still holding out hope for The Raid 3 probably just got the closest film you will ever get to that.

For all of the similarities though, The Night Comes For Us is simply not on the same level as either of The Raid films. Gareth Evans proved to have an almost incomparable eye for the ability to combine cinematography with the kinetic brutality of martial arts. Both Raid films reshaped an entire genre from a filmmaking standpoint. By comparison, Tjahjanto’s choreography feels slower and less fluid. It tries to mask this by distracting the audience with ultra-brutality and, for the most part, it works. But this sleight of hand doesn’t help build any tension despite a seemingly non-stop string of fights. The Raid was a violent action film, but it was grounded. By contrast, The Night Comes For Us is so aggressively exaggerated that it is hard to tell when any of the characters are in danger.

Anyone that watches The Night Comes For Us will most likely not put a lot of stock in its flaws — and rightfully so. It is an action movie masquerading as a gore-fest. Or perhaps it is a gore-fest masquerading as an action movie. Either way, it is an insane, should-be-X-rated bloodbath of epic proportions that basks in its own absurdity and dares you to watch without looking away or getting squeamish.

Review: Halloween (2018) (Garrett’s View)

Describing Halloween (2018) is far more complicated than the actual movie is. It is a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic with which it shares the same title. It ignores the 7 other sequels including the 2007 Rob Zombie reboot of the same name as well its sequel. If you’re keeping score at home, this means that there are now 11 Halloween movies, 3 actually named Halloween and only 1, the original, that needs to be seen before this latest installment. While that may sound messy and confusing, this film is actually anything but. It feels content leaning backward comfortably on the sturdy frame of the original via a plethora of callbacks and homages. It does this at the expense — though not entirely — of forging ahead to carve new ground as sequels are required to do. This unique blend of reboot and sequel (somewhat reminiscent of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2) is managed well enough by director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride that the audience can enjoy moments of nostalgia while still getting a renewed horror film experience.

As a whole, the plot unfolds as expected. 40 years after the original Halloween murders, Michael Myers escapes and terrorizes his old neighborhood once again. With that in mind, the filmmakers rely on what initially made Michael Myers and Halloween (‘78) iconic and embrace those. There is a sense of dread that arises from eschewing jump scares in favor of drawn-out moments of tension. A true feeling of horror that comes from letting the audience see the terror that’s about to unfold on the screen while the characters being hunted remain oblivious. It’s not a coincidence that the two best-filmed scenes in the movie (the long take from the trailer and the motion sensors scene) are the ones that most wholly embrace these concepts.

Halloween is not without its flaws though. While Jamie Lee Curtis is very good in this victim-turned-prepper take on Laurie Strode that will undoubtedly be compared to Sarah Connor in T2, the rest of the cast is in limbo. They are stuck somewhere between existing only to be killed or to give us nuggets of info to move the plot along. Worse, some characters are given weight to the story but are dropped midway through with no real explanation as to why. Essentially, everyone besides Laurie and Michael Myers is expendable. Pockets of humor pop up along the way which sometimes works to great effect, but often times unnecessarily breaks the buildup of tension. And as a film that wants the audience to think that Laurie and Michael are ensnared in some horrific psycho-symbiotic relationship fueling each other’s existence and meaning, the ending doesn’t evoke a breathe-easy feeling of catharsis that you want for both Laurie and yourself.

The standout of this film is unquestionably the score. John Carpenter has masterfully updated his iconic theme in a way that maintains the simple eeriness of the piano and synth combo but adds a layer of guttural pulses and guitar wails that feel as big and imposing as The Shape himself. Listening to the score, you can virtually FEEL the way the movie plays out without ever seeing anything on the screen. A true sign of greatness for any piece of movie music.

Halloween (2018) does not break any new ground and it is totally comfortable with that fact. It honors its roots while resetting the franchise and taking a few small steps in a new, positive direction. It’s clear that David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and Jamie Lee Curtis all embraced the film and relished the opportunity to finally do the original justice. While not perfect, it is a fun, solid horror film with the simplicity of its predecessor and an updated touch of modern filmmaking.

Episode 63: First Man

Garrett and Carson argue over whether First Man is one small step or one giant leap.

Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (Carson’s View)

Bad Times at the El Royale had a tremendous start. I was fully invested from the moment I saw the original trailer. The first half of the movie did not disappoint. I was engaged. Surprised. Excited. My mind was reeling trying to figure out all the possible directions that this movie could go, and I couldn’t wait to find out. Then I watched the second half.

I do not know if the second half of the movie was bad or if I was just disappointed. Disappointed that the movie I had played out in my head wasn’t even close to what ended up on screen. To give a proper full review on Bad Times, I would most likely need to give it a second viewing. That way I could review it for what it is, and not for what it isn’t. So, I will give it an “improper review” instead.

My main issue with Bad Times at the El Royale is the wasted potential. I loved the set up. Seven strangers at a hotel all with a secret in their back pockets. Interesting characters: A priest, a vacuum salesman, a hippie, a singer, a hotel manager, a young girl, and Thor. Each were cast perfectly for their role. They were all introduced in a way that left you wanting to know more about them, and at the same time doubting what you already know.

At the halfway point, so much happens all at once. Then it screeches to a slow, drawn out, pretty basic second half. Feels like a lot like the TV series LOST, where someone had a great idea for an engaging set up, but has no idea how to tie it all together or wrap it up. Bad Times also leaves you with a ton of unanswered questions that you can’t help but wonder if that was intentional or just bad story telling.

My expectations were simply far too high going into Bad Times and were only escalated by the intro. Had “Trailer-Guy” not done his job so perfectly in the teaser trailer, I believe I could have left the theater pleasantly surprised. Instead, I left with only the disgruntled thoughts of what could have been.

 

 

Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (Garrett’s View)

That trailer… good God, that trailer. The initial teaser for Bad Times at the El Royale is one of the best teasers in recent memory. It perfectly whets the appetite with a mix of gorgeous visuals, mid-century music, and morsels of plot that spark a multitude of questions. Each seeming to have an infinite number of possible answers. Despite its greatness though, this trailer may best serve as an example of how trailers can be a double-edged sword. As the gestation period between the teaser and release rolls on, the mind wanders and gives birth to hype and excitement. But those quickly solidify into expectations that can hang over the head of the of the film like the proverbial sword.

Watching this film, it felt as though director/writer Drew Goddard had several distinct ideas that on their own were very interesting. The seven strangers who each have a hidden duality and all converge upon a hotel that also has its own dark secrets is a fantastic premise. The comparisons to Tarantino are well-deserved, but where Bad Times stumbles (unlike Tarantino films) is in its attempt to bring those strangers — and the hotel — together in an exciting manner. Characters in Tarantino movies may be long-winded, but typically what they’re saying is quirkily memorable and reveals something about the character or film that furthers both. Characters in Bad Times like to talk a lot, but it’s nowhere near fun and tends to be bland exposition designed to explain themselves and drag out the time in between something interesting happening. To steal a metaphor from the film itself, it’s as though the characters in each of their rooms are exciting and filled with possibilities. But when they leave their rooms and begin to interact with each other, the sense of wonder about them dissipates and the path that’s chosen for each rarely seems to be the most exciting.

While Bad Times isn’t exactly a “slow burn”, it certainly leans heavily on setup with an unspoken promise that a big payoff is coming. The first half of the movie succeeds at setup and uncovering even more questions than the trailer posed. But as the film progresses through the second act and into the third, it never picks up the pace. This seems like a side effect of sticking strictly to the idea of seven strangers with no unifying force between them or around them. Until the third act, there is nothing driving them together or apart and by the time that force is introduced, it feels too late. The random nature of these interactions could still have worked if the film had built any kind of momentum. But momentum is tough to produce when the parts you want to see more of are over too quickly and the pieces that feel like filler drag on for too long. Outside of knowing that the film has to end, there is nothing to indicate that any storylines are coming to a head. It’s as though the film got on a highway midway through and instead of continuing to speed up, decided to set the cruise control at 35 mph until the credits rolled.

The one standout piece of this film is the acting. Every member of the cast carries their own weight as well as the baggage the film heaps on them. Jeff Bridges gives his best performance in quite some time. Newcomer Cynthia Erivo is the surprise star and can act about as well as she sings — that is to say, incredibly. Jon Hamm is arguably the most entertaining. Dakota Johnson and Lewis Pullman provide solid support in their roles which take a bit of a backseat to others. Cailee Spainey isn’t given much to work with and while Chris Hemsworth’s role seeme ripe for a complete breakout performance, something about the film seemed to hold him back from going that extra, crazy mile.

It’s hard to separate the quality of the film from the possibilities of what it could have been. Only time and a second viewing will help get to the bottom of that. But there’s no doubt that Bad Times at the El Royale has all of the right ingredients to be a crazy, sinister version of Clue or a noir-influenced take on The Hateful Eight. But as of now, it feels like someone sold a spec trailer and then struggled with how to turn it into a feature-length film.

Episode 62: A Star is Born

Garrett and Carson go stargazing with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born.