Monday, January 14, 2019

Resolutions

I am not a resolutioner but I feel the need to do something here, in public, to hold myself responsible for this little blog.  I started it all the way back in 2007 and while I have never been particularly prolific here (Octobers notwithstanding), I hate the way it has dwindled away since we gave up television and, thus, my television show recapping.  I haven't been reading much and I've mostly been watching Netflix television - Supernatural, Maniac (which I want to like but find a little boring), 3% (I liked S1 but S2 got ... a little boring), rewatching Jessica Jones and The Punisher and The Defenders because that's the mood I've been in.

So my promise/resolution is that I will watch at least one movie a month that is new to me and that I will review here.  I'd like to think that I'll do more like two or three, but let's start small and see how it goes.

But I'm going to finish S2 of JJ first.  Let's just be honest here.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dumplin'

Y'all, I know I've been incommunicado (persona non grata?) around here lately.  There's been holiday stuff to get done and I have been in a Jessica Jones / The Punisher re-watch mood lately.  I've also watched S1 of 3% (Netflix, in Portuguese with English subtitles), a vaguely Hunger Games-ish dystopian science fiction show about poor Brazilians competing against one another to win a spot in a Utopian-community on an island off-shore.  I devoured the first season but have stalled out on S2 for the moment.  I also read and very much enjoyed The Library at Mount Char (recommended by a work friend who said, "It's weird.  I thought of you."): a violent fantasy pitting very special orphans against each other (and their adoptive father, who may be God) for control of the world.

But the real reason I'm making sure to post tonight is this.  Do yourself a favor.  Watch this video - which has glamorous drag queens (including one of my favorites, BenDeLaCreme) lip-sync to a remix of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," to advertise Netflix's Dumplin' - and then get over to Netflix and watch Dumplin'.  The chunky daughter of a former beauty queen enters a local pageant with several friends and misfits, first intending on taking it down/making a point, but instead embracing a Dolly-ism: "Figure out who you are and then do it on purpose."  Touching on (but not belaboring) friendship, loyalty, healthy body image and confidence, this little movie is very funny, real, honest and touching.  Plus drag queens!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mini movie review: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Another gorgeous, creeping and creepy horror film from Oz Perkins - auteur of I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House - The Blackcoat's Daughter is all atmosphere with a little bit of stabbing.  To paraphrase an online review I read, you can't call it a slow burn because that makes you think it's all leading to something big.  TBD doesn't lead to anything big (except that little bit of stabbing) but the journey is the point, I think.

At an isolated upstate New York Catholic girls' school, almost everyone has taken off for the break.  Only Kat, an awkward freshman (Kiernan Shipka), and upperclassman Rose (Lucy Boynton) are still there, their parents not having shown up to pick them up yet.  Rose fears she may be pregnant and uses the extra time to tell her boyfriend about it; Kat is weird even before the rumors of Satan-worshiping nuns start floating around and when we learn that her parents have died in a car crash on their way to the school, well, that's just not good for anyone.  In a separate but connected storyline, Joan (Emma Roberts) is an obviously disturbed and/or abused young woman who gets picked up by good samaritans at the bus station.

I don't want to go into the plot any further because, well, there's just not that much more.  The acting is all very good; the cinematography shows the stark bleakness of the school's interiors and exteriors.  There is some violence (little bit of stabbing) and some blood, but most everything happens out of frame.  What I didn't expect was the accumulation of dread: I was sincerely creeped out by the end of this movie - without being actually scared or grossed out - and had to watch an episode of Supernatural afterwards so I could be sure to fall asleep.

The Blackcoat's Daughter is good for people who like their Satan-worshiping/demonic possessions on the sophisticated, atmospheric and stylish-yet-creepy side.  Recommended.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #22 Wolfcop

It is because of my abiding love for werewolf movies that we end this year's Scarelicious October Movie series with the truly ridiculous Canadian C-movie: Wolfcop.  It's pretty much all there, right in the title.

Deputy Lou Garou (see what they did there?  "Loup-garou" is French for werewolf) is a hard-drinking waste of space, a poor excuse for a cop in small town Woodhaven.  Not that the bar is set particularly high: the Woodhaven populace seems to consist of thugs, drunks, drug dealers and hunters.  When investigating a disturbance call one night, Lou is knocked unconscious and wakes up back in his own bed with heightened senses, a pentagram carved into his chest and facial hair that sprouts faster than he can shave it.  His initial transformation comes that night and since it happens while he's taking a leak in a bar bathroom, he transforms penis first, which is not anything I ever thought I'd see.  Soon enough he is making the rounds in wolf-guise, stopping liquor store robberies and busting up meth labs.  Lou is a better cop as a werewolf than he ever was as a regular guy.

This movie is not good.  It is pretty much incoherent and stupid; there's some "plot" about a sinister cabal turning people into werewolves and sacrificing them for "reasons," but the only - and I mean ONLY - reason to watch Wolfcop is for the practical effects.  While Wolf-Lou's fully-transformed facial make-up is not great, the transformations are pretty good, especially given the low, low, low, low budget.  The gory fight scenes are good too, with Wolf-Lou pulling off arms, legs and faces.

And there's a hot chick with big boobs having sex with a werewolf in a jail cell.  She lit candles.  It was something.

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That's all for this year, folks! Hope you found something here you want to see (not Wolfcop).  We'll do it again in 2019 for the Tenth one!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #21 Hush

Home invasion flicks are not really my thing but, as previously mentioned, good (for me) horror movie streaming options are limited, so why not try Hush?  And it's only 82 minutes so that's a plus.

Writer Maddie lives alone in a lovely house in the middle of the woods.  She is deaf and mute from a childhood illness but totally self-sufficient and her nice neighbors, Sarah and John, walk over now and again to check on her.  One night, as Maddie is cleaning up after dinner, she fails to notice a screaming, crying Sarah pounding on her door, trying to get away from a masked man who then guts her, right there on Maddie's porch.  After dispatching his prey, the killer is fascinated that Maddie has shown no sign of hearing him.  He can't stand not having her attention so he sneaks into her house, steals her cell phone and alerts her to his presence by sending her photos of herself while she is on her computer, struggling with the seven possible endings to her latest draft novel.  When he goes out of the house to cut her power and wifi and slash her car tires, she locks him out.  Then begins the cat and mouse game, as he stalks and torments her - both of them know he could break a window and get into the house at any time.  Plus, she can't make a run for it because he has a crossbow, giving him a range advantage.

Hush seems to unfold real-time once the killer makes himself known to Maddie.  Even so, 82 minutes seemed to drag a bit, although there isn't any lull in the action once it gets going.  The ending is seriously telegraphed right from the first act - so totally obvious that even I picked up on it, and I'm usually oblivious to such things.  This is a straightforward horror movie: a little suspenseful with no cheap jump scares (for which I was grateful), with brutal violence combated by some serious girl power (nevertheless, Maddie persisted).  It isn't really scary and the outcome is obvious but you could certainly do worse.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #20 Life After Beth

Life After Beth is a horror(ish)-comedy(ish) with a stacked cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hinds, Paul Reiser, Anna Kendrick, Adam Pally and "Jerry" from Park and Rec.  Granted, several of these folks are really only making cameos but still, impressive showing from this odd little film.

Zach (DeHaan) is bereft after his girlfriend Beth (Plaza) dies from snakebite during a solo hike in the California hillside.  His family are blithe idiots so he ends up finding some consolation with Beth's parents, smoking dope and playing chess with her dad Maury (O'Reilly) and going through Beth's things with her mom (Shannon).  One day, things get a little weird in the neighborhood, with a dude running scared down the middle of the street and a long-lost mailman showing up not really all there mentally.  Zach doesn't think too much of it until he gets to Beth's house: Maury won't let him in and then Zach catches a glimpse of Beth, alive(ish) and well(ish).  Her parents believe it was a miracle but Zach thinks she may be a zombie.

Of course Beth is a zombie, although it takes a little time for the zombification to really kick in.  At first she is forgetful and a little vague, but still basically herself, and Zach can't help but love being around her again.  Then she starts to deteriorate, with episodes of extreme rage, strength and panic, and a weird love of smooth jazz which comforts her.  Then she eats a neighbor.  The zombie apocalypse comes quickly, y'all.

Life After Beth is supposed to be a horror-comedy, ostensibly along the same lines of my beloved Shaun of the Dead because: zombies.  But it is not really scary or gory - any zombie kills happen off-screen - and it isn't as funny as SotD or, say, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.  It just doesn't go quite far enough in either direction.  That being said, the smooth jazz gag is hilarious and Aubrey Plaza must have had a blast with this character.  The reviews were not especially good but I thought it was okay.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #19 The Ritual

For the record, Netflix has a crap selection of horror movies available for streaming.  Their DVD offerings are somewhat better but I have had a hell of a time coming up with decent movies in between DVD deliveries.  Which is how I ended up with The Ritual, available as a Netflix original.

After the death of one of their friends in a liquor store hold-up gone wrong, four British dudes embark on a hiking trip in northern Sweden.  This is something their dead friend wanted to do and they do it to honor him, holding a little ceremony at a mountaintop to remember him.  [Note: this is not the titular ritual, IMHO.]  Shortly thereafter, one of the dudes hurts his knee and then a storm moves in.  To try to limit the misery (the hurt dude is a wicked complainer), they decide to leave the established trail and take a "shortcut" through a forest.  [Note: don't do this if you are in a horror movie.]  With the weather deteriorating, they take refuge in an abandoned cabin which has a fucking freaky headless effigy with antlers for hands up in the attic.  They stay anyway and are all awoken in the middle of the night by bad dreams; in addition, one dude has claw marks on his chest and one is found naked in the attic, kneeling before that effigy. 

Things actually get worse: they start arguing and shouting amongst themselves, the complainer insists that they follow a path they find instead of keeping to the compass bearings and they are being stalked by a creature that is apparently fond of hanging disembowled elk in the trees.  Fun!  Things get even worse as people start getting picked off and/or kidnapped by Swedish hillbillies as sacrifices for their "old god," a Jotunn.

I won't go into any more details than that because The Ritual ... isn't terrible.  But it is much slighter than it should be.  Like The Descent, it has a bunch of friends out in the wilderness, dealing with supernatural forces the likes of which they could not conceive.  Unlike The Descent (a vastly superior movie in all ways), the four protagonists are unlikable and largely indistinguishable.  All they do is shout and swear at one another, make bad decisions and never actually talk about anything - and as a result, I really didn't care at all when the blood started flowing.

The monster is the best part: never seen completely clearly, it is a great design - like a giant gnu with an anthropomorphized spider crab where its head should be - and quite scary.  It had enough weight that I think it was mostly a practical effect too, which I love.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #18 Scream 4

What is there to say about 2011's Scream 4 (or, Scre4m, if you must)?  It's bloodier and not nearly as clever as the very clever first installment, and is truly not at all scary.  There are jump scares here and there but at this point, entirely unoriginal and, to me, a let down from the dream team of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven.  Maybe that's the point: all the characters are all in on the joke, big horror fans themselves who know that horror movie sequels continue with diminishing returns.  But what would have been wonderful would have been if yes, all the characters acknowledged that ... and then this fourth Scream movie turned out to be amazing, to put a lie to it all.

Scream 4, as the third sequel, is governed by the rules of modern horror remakes - per the meta-commentary of the movie's high school Cinema Club: patterned after the structure of the original but with more extreme kills, plus throwing the rules of the original out the window.  I guess they did that?  SPOILERS Certainly we had a female villain, and excellent Final Girl Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell, returning the role once again).  But it sure felt like more of the same, all over again.  Props to Hayden Panettiere who is pretty funny as horror movie fan Kirby.

Also, this is two horror movies in a row about fame-obsessed teenagers as slashers.  Fear for the future, my friends.

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Also?  LOL with Adam Brody up there on the poster: I don't think he even had three lines before getting offed.  Put Neve Campbell up front where she belongs!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #17 Tragedy Girls

I had high hopes for Tragedy Girls, despite not remembering hearing about it at all when it was released.

Two high school girls, Sadie (played by Brianna Hildebrand, more widely known as Negasonic Teenaged Warhead from the Deadpool movies) and McKayla, capture Lowell Orson Leemon, a serial killer (played by Kevin Durand) to help them up their social media profile.  "We're about to graduate and go to college and we still haven't started our first killing spree," they explain to their furious captive.  They need help too, because each murder they do gets reported as an accident or running away and isn't getting the high profile press they're desperate for.  Charismatic and narcissistic BFFs, the fame-hungry girls get their friendship tested when Sadie gets together with Jordan, the local sheriff's put-upon son who helps them edit videos for their website.  Sadie pulls away from McKayla, who takes it badly.  Being a little psycho (at least more overtly so than Sadie), McKayla teams up with Lowell Leemon and the shit hits the fan at prom, of course.

Tragedy Girls is a lightweight slasher-esque movie that badly wants to be satire, skewering both today's youth and their thirst for likes/re-tweets/mentions/etc., as well as the traditional girls' roles in horror movies.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't go far enough to truly be satire but I did find it entertaining enough.  Slightly gory, not scary.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ninth Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series: #16 Devour

In which I am led astray by my Jensen Ackles crush ... I solely picked Devour because he was in it - baby-faced too, at age 27.  I knew it was going to be bad - it had to be bad.  And it was, starting with the terrible music at the opening credits.

Young Jake (JA) is a nice young man/student/computer nerd who has been having waking nightmares for a while.  For his birthday, his friend Conrad signs him up for a secret video game where the game calls you and gives you tasks to do.  (Note: it's really not a video game, despite the EVIL VIDEO GAME!! promos; you sign up online and then get phone calls that mess with your head.  Not actually a video game.)  Conrad and Jake's one-time hook-up Dakota (Dominique Swain) sign up too and before you know it, (1) Conrad has shot two kids in his dorm and then killed himself, and (2) Dakota butchers a professor who won't stop coming on to her and then kills herself.  Jake starts investigating what's going on, hooks up with Shannyn Sossamon, nurse/Tarot afficionado, and soon enough he's tracking down devil-worshippers because WTF is going on with this movie. 

I dozed off for a moment and woke up a little lost but I don't think it matters because all of a sudden it turns out Jake is adopted (did we know this?) and SPOILER not only is he Shannyn Sossamon's character's lover but also her son because she is a demon.  And then Jake gets hauled off to jail for killing everyone.

My notes:  THAT WAS RIDICULOUS AND ALSO TERRIBLE.  I mean, a little gross but not scary and pretty incoherent.  And it's like the writers started doing an evil video game movie, then decided halfway through to switch to demonic possession but didn't bother to go back to fix the first bit.  Not at all recommended.  And WTF is with capitalizing the V in "devour?"  I'm not doing that.

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