TV Review: Good Omens (2019- )

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Neil Gaiman
Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Based on: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Sam Taylor Buck, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand (voice), Nick Offerman, Mireille Enos, Brian Cox (voice), David Morrissey, Johnny Vegas, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

Narrativia, The Blank Corporation, Amazon Studios, BBC Studios, 6 Episodes (so far), 51-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

When I first saw that Michael Sheen and David Tennant were in a show together, I knew I’d have to watch it. There was absolutely no doubt about that.

Then once I put it on and the episodes started rolling, I was really excited to see and hear Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Frances McDormand, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Brian Cox, David Morrissey and Benedict Cumberbatch. We also got Mireille Enos in maybe her coolest role of all-time.

Needless to say, this six episode television show, which I hope lives on beyond one very short season, is chock full of immense talent. And that includes the cast members that are lesser known. Everyone on this show carries their weight and no one drags ass.

This was created by Neil Gaiman, based off of a novel he wrote almost thirty years ago with Terry Pratchett. I’ve never read the book but I might have to check it out now, based off of how cool this show is.

Now Good Omens isn’t perfect but I also don’t care that it’s not. It’s engaging, very, very human and it challenges its own subject matter, giving its audience hope for something more than the simple doom and gloom of an eventual biblical Armageddon. However, I’m an atheist but I know that most people aren’t and that some of what’s featured on this show is very real to them.

Sure, this is comedic, dramatic and fantastical but it exposes some of the very things that I’ve always questioned about the Christian mythos. As I was brought up very religiously, I had questions and doubts that I never felt got satisfactory answers and I was never really allowed to even have doubts or question the authority that dictated these things to me. So I’m glad that this show puts it all out there.

The production is stellar, the show looks great, its well acted, well written, has great pacing and good direction.

My only real concern is that I hope it can maintain its quality if this goes on for longer. But I also feel that it needs too. The story of this season is concluded within the six episodes but it opens the doors to a lot of new things going forward.

But since this seems to be a big hit for Amazon and the BBC, I’m pretty sure we’ll get new episodes of Good Omens for at least a few more years.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: What We Do In the Shadows, American Gods and Lucifer.

Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Also known as: Jumanji 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: December 5th, 2017 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner
Based on: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Colin Hanks, Rhys Darby, Missi Pyle, Marin Hinkle, Marc Evan Jackson

Columbia Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Radar Pictures, 119 Minutes

Review:

“Why am I wearing this outfit in a jungle? Tiny, little shorts and a leather halter top. I mean, what is this?” – Ruby Roundhouse

I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it but it delivered on what it was trying to do, which was being a funny, over the top, action-adventure movie.

The cast was pretty good.

I always like Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan, Jack Black is usually enjoyable in most things and Kevin Hart can be grating at times but he does well here, as he isn’t the focal point of the film.

Additionally, I really liked seeing Rhys Darby and Bobby Cannavale in this. I’ve loved Darby since Flight of the Conchords and Cannavale really impressed me when he joined the cast of Mr. Robot.

This is a sequel to the original Robin Williams starring Jumanji but it takes the concept and kind of modernizes it by making it a video game instead of a board game. Here, four teens are sucked into the game and they have to play out the game in a real-life simulation as their avatars, all of which are very different from their real personalities.

It’s a fun, cute movie where the teens are challenged by their situation, their avatars’ roles and having to work together to survive and free themselves from the game. It’s a good coming of age story, even if its pretty predictable and embraces some tropes and cliches.

I thought that the action was solid, the CGI effects were top notch and the environment was rich, lush and beautiful. This had a real Uncharted feel to it, which I think was the intent of the filmmakers, who went the video game route with the story and even put up an Uncharted 4 poster in one of the teen’s bedrooms.

I guess there is a sequel to this coming out in the near future. I’d probably go see it. I’m not sure what they can do to keep the concept fresh but this new take on it worked fine for this chapter in what appears to be a real franchise now.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Jumanji and Zathura.

Film Review: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

Release Date: July 20th, 2018 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Written by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Music by: Joe Kraemer
Cast: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin FitzGerald, Sean Bridgers, Ron Livingston, Larry Miller, Ellar Coltrane, Rizwan Manji

Epic Pictures, Title Media, 98 Minutes

Review:

“An American Myth” – tagline

Sam Elliott is one of those guys that when you see him, you think to yourself, “This is the most badass guy on all of planet Earth.” Well, this film does nothing to dispel that thought.

This was also one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Well, as far as modern motion pictures go.

The story is mostly about an older man reflecting back on his life and thinking about the things he should’ve done and how some decisions have weighed heavily on his soul. In some regard, it reminds me of another recent Sam Elliott film, The Hero, as well as one of Harry Dean Stanton’s last, Lucky.

Unlike those films, though, this movie includes the death of Adolf Hitler and Bigfoot.

However, those two events that are actually given away in the film’s title aren’t a big part of the story. Well, they are, as far as how they effect the man’s life but they are just two really cool sequences that serve as a backdrop for the film’s human drama.

Sam Elliott is one hell of an actor and this film is him at his best. But Elliott never disappoints, so I feel as if that should go without saying. But it’s not just Elliott that puts in a superb performance, the same can be said about Aidan Turner, who plays the younger version of the character, as well as Larry Miller, who I wish I could see in more dramatic roles. I mostly associate Miller with comedic performances but the guy has got chops.

Additionally, even with minimal screen time, Ron Livingston livens things up once he shows up. I have loved Livingston ever since Office Space but I feel like he’s such an underutilized actor. Like Larry Miller, it’s always nice to see Livingston’s more serious side.

When researching this film, I noticed that the ratings aren’t high for it and I guess I get that. The title might imply that this is some strange, quirky, time traveling, action adventure. It’s definitely not that, it’s something much better, actually. But character studies and dramas about old men processing a lifetime full of regret doesn’t put modern asses in seats.

But fuck those modern asses.

This is a very touching and personal film with a neat, amusing and interesting premise.

Plus it has a monster in it and I really like the unconventional approach this film took with its Sasquatch.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Sam Elliott starring The Hero, as well as Lucky with Harry Dean Stanton.

Documentary Review: Road to Wasteland (2017)

Release Date: June 24th, 2017 (France – TV)
Directed by: Sébastien Antoine, Vivien Floris
Written by: Sébastien Antoine, Vivien Floris

AB Productions, 53 Minutes

Review:

I’m glad that I watched this documentary simply for the fact that it made me aware of this subculture within Mad Max fandom, as well as the annual Wasteland event that sees these people come together to show off their Mad Max inspired vehicles.

This was a pretty straightforward documentary with typical talking head interviews but everyone had a good story, a cool vehicle and expressed their love of this weekend festival with convincing passion.

No one here seemed like they were overselling or that they weren’t genuinely in love with this event. It’s the kind of the passion that rubs off and makes you want to experience it as well.

This was only 53 minutes, as it was made for television but this could have been longer and been just as interesting.

I’ve seen about a billion documentaries about different types of fandom and they are all pretty much the same. But few are this cool.

If you are a fan of the Mad Max films or even a part of some subculture born out of that, you’ll probably find great enjoyment in this.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about specific fandoms.

Film Review: The Ranger (2018)

Release Date: March 12th, 2018 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jenn Wexler
Written by: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Music by: Wade MacNeil, Andrew Gordon Macpherson
Cast: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez

Hood River Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, 77 Minutes

Review:

“I kept your secret. I protected you.” – The Ranger

I really wanted to like this film and I did find it fairly enjoyable but there is nothing new here and it’s pretty mundane and weak, as far as slasher movies go.

The story is about some punk teens on the run, following a drug bust at a concert that was capped off by one of them stabbing a cop. The teens make their way to a cabin in the woods that once belonged to the uncle of one of the girls in the group.

However, the mountain where the cabin sits is under the watchful eye of a psychotic park ranger that has a past with that same teen girl. When she was a child, she did something bad and he took her in, protected her from the law and tried to train her to be more like him: a predatory wolf, living off the land and surviving by any means necessary.

So it doesn’t take long before these cliche punk teens disrespect authority, throw the word “fascist” around and start fucking up the woods, drawing the ire of the park ranger.

One problem I have with the movie is the characters. Except for the proverbial final girl, everyone here is completely unlikable. Plus, they all just kind of fit played out archetypes and their punk schtick feels forced. They’re not real punk rock, they’re like the punk that Target tries to sell on t-shirts to 12 year-old girls in Wisconsin. If you are looking for something in the same vein as the punk rock teens of The Return of the Living Dead, these kids aren’t them.

I do like the main girl though and the park ranger is pretty awesome. I just wish he had a bit more backstory. Maybe they’ll tap into that if there’s ever a sequel to this but I don’t think that very many people even know about this movie. I didn’t until Shudder suggested it within the app.

Also, this film has a bit of gore and blood but it implies gore more than it actually shows it. A lot of the kills are weak and maybe that’s because they didn’t have the budget to sever teenagers from limb to limb but some of these moments could have been done much better with practical effects and for not a lot of money.

The Ranger had a neat premise and two characters good enough to anchor it. However, it falls short of my low expectations and is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other films currently streaming on Shudder: Revenge, Monster Party, Boar and What Keeps You Alive.

Film Review: Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2018 (Internet)
Directed by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Deron Johnson
Cast: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, John Gulager

Dimension Films, Puzzle Box Pictures, Lionsgate Films, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Please. Let’s save ourselves the time and you the considerable pain by answering the questions honestly. Clearly this is a place where the rules of your world do not apply. And obviously, I’m a man for whom pain is nothing more than a common currency. [pulls out a straight razor] I will spend some on you… if you like.” – The Auditor

After the last Hellraiser film, which came out in 2011, I declared this franchise dead. Granted, it felt dead long before that, as most of the later sequels were pretty awful. However, the 2011 movie was one of the worst films I’ve ever had to suffer through. It’s like Pinhead wanted me to finally experience pain on an epic level.

So I didn’t anticipate this film wowing me in any way and it definitely doesn’t but this is one of the better sequels in that it gets back to basics and at least feels more like the first few movies in the series, as opposed to all the straight-to-video sequels that were just re-purposed scripts made to fit within the Hellraiser brand.

Gary J. Tunnicliffe wrote and directed this and even stars in it as the Auditor. Sadly, Pinhead is not Doug Bradley but the new actor was infinitely better than the guy who played him in the previous abomination. Also, this has a brief cameo by Heather Langenkamp and she’s the only known actor in the entire picture.

That being said, the film isn’t well acted but it’s passable for what this is. And it’s also not bad in anyway that detracts from the film.

The plot here is interesting, adds a lot of new stuff to the mythos that respects what came before it and it opened the doors for new stories and possibilities for future installments.

Sadly, I don’t think there will be any sort of expansion on this film, as they’ve announced a Hellraiser reboot by David S. Goyer, who is hit or miss but mostly miss.

In the end, this one wasn’t a total waste of time, it is a nice homage to the better parts of the Hellraiser franchise and it doesn’t try to rehash what we’ve already seen or assault us with surprise curveballs that feel like they shouldn’t even be within this once great film series.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the nine previous Hellraiser films.

TV Review: Swamp Thing (2019)

Original Run: May 31st, 2019 – current
Created by: Gary Dauberman, Mark Verheiden
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: various
Based on: Swamp Thing by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Crystal Reed, Virginia Madsen, Andy Bean, Derek Mears, Henderson Wade, Maria Sten, Jeryl Prescott, Jennifer Beals, Will Patton, Kevin Durand, Ian Ziering

Big Shoe Productions, Atomic Monster Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 10 Episodes, 52-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

At the time of this writing, only two episodes have aired and the show has already been cancelled. Honestly, that’s kind of infuriating, as this is a damn good show from just the small sample size I’ve seen, thus far.

Where Titans got off to a pretty rough start, between Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, it looks like the DC Universe streaming service has quickly righted the ship and is making some damn good television.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that the service is in serious trouble and it is close to coming to an end, as it isn’t selling enough subscriptions and this solid show, only the service’s third, had its production closed down early, midway through its tenth out of the planned fifteen episodes. Additionally, it was then cancelled just after the pilot aired. Then DC Universe claimed it had something to do with North Carolina taxes, the State of North Carolina said that wasn’t true and then someone who worked on this show said that Warner Bros. (DC’s parent company) was sold to AT&T and they didn’t have faith in Swamp Thing.

Whatever the reason, DC Universe has been managed like a bastard child and everything surrounding it seems like a big corporate clusterfuck.

So I was really looking forward to this show, as I love the character and have fond memories of the Swamp Thing movies of the ’80s, as well as the old television show that used to air on the USA Network, back when I was in middle school.

Additionally, this show assembled a solid cast with Crystal Reed, who I thought was stellar as Sofia Falcone on Gotham, as well as Derek Mears as Swamp Thing, Virginia Madsen, Will Patton and Jennifer Beals. Also, a nice surprise in episode two is the addition of Ian Ziering, as the man that becomes another DC hero, Blue Devil.

What really makes this show work is that it commits itself to being straight horror, at least in these earliest episodes. We have some scenes that are very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing and it is actually quite glorious and impressive.

The show also is very dramatic but thus far, it’s all pretty good, the story is compelling and I’m already invested in the lives of the main characters. So much so, that it’s kind of depressing that I will only ever see ten episodes.

It’s hard to do a proper, thorough review and I usually wait until a new show has at least given us a full season but maybe if more people express their excitement and enthusiasm over this show, more people will give it a shot and maybe, just maybe, Warner Bros. could find a way to save it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other DC Universe shows: Doom Patrol and Titans.