Film Review: Halloween (2018)

Release Date: September 8th, 2018 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle

Miramax, Blumhouse Productions, Trancas International Films, Rough House Pictures, Universal Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a reason we’re supposed to be afraid of this night.” – Hawkins

Well, the highly anticipated Halloween is here.

This film is a direct sequel to the first movie and thus, ignores everything that came after the original film. So no hospital movie, no Michael hunting little Jamie, no Paul Rudd fighting a weirdo cult, no LL Cool J as a poor security guard and no Busta Rhymes karate moves. Most importantly though, none of that white trash Rob Zombie crap. Although, I did like Malcolm McDowell.

I guess the coolest thing about this isn’t bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter (in some capacity), it’s actually getting Nick Castle back to play the Shape, as he was the original Michael Myers. Side note: did you know that the Shape a.k.a. Michael Myers directed The Last Starfighter?

Anyway, jumping right in, I thought that the first half hour or so of the movie was slow. All of that could have been condensed down to ten minutes, really. This is a slasher film and doesn’t need to give us giant spoonfuls of exposition. Just give us the quick rundown of where the story is and go for it.

After that first half hour, things really pick up but I felt that the middle act of the picture almost went too fast. Michael starts killing and he kills a lot. However, once you get to the big finale at the Strode house in the woods, it slows to a crawl again.

I get that this final act was an attempt at building tension, which it does do well, but as Laurie carefully moved through her house looking for Michael, I was just sitting in my chair thinking, “Hurry it up, already.” I mean, if she was so prepared for Michael coming for her, she should of lived in a one room cabin and not a maze full of mannequins and junk store trinkets.

As far as the kills go, it was a mixed bag. Too many kills happen off screen, which I hate in a slasher film. Commit to the f’n bit and show it! Show it all! What’s more baffling is that the kills that they do show are pretty brutal. So why give us a mixture of violent kills and off screen kills? Were the filmmakers teetering on making this PG-13?

One thing about this movie that really got me into it though was the use of John Carpenter’s music. He did the score for this one and kept it very traditional and tapped into the themes of the original. However, as the film rolls on, those famous tunes start to evolve and Carpenter did some really neat stuff musically. I’ll probably buy this film’s score on vinyl if I come across it at my local record shop.

Another positive is the psychology of this film. I don’t mean to spoil anything but this starts out like a typical Halloween film once Michael gets free but eventually you come to see that the hunter is actually the hunted. Laurie Strode wanted him outside again so that she could finally kill him and finally close this long, dark chapter of her life. Laurie becomes a badass and spends decades preparing for this night in an effort to deal with her PTSD. It’s ruined her life, her marriages, her family and she just wants to put this MFer to bed, once and for all.

However, even though I prefer this movie to H2O, I preferred the other version of Laurie Strode better. Also, that film had that great iconic moment where Laurie and Michael come face to face through a small window. That really was a great moment and gave that film more meaning than it should have had. This new film didn’t have that sort of confrontation, which would’ve actually done more to build tension than Laurie slowly walking through a dark house with a shotgun. Having Laurie and Michael look into each others eyes is something that needed to happen, it froze me in my seat when I saw that in H2O. Nothing about this Halloween came close to having that effect on me.

In the end, I was really happy with the movie. It hits the right notes, most of the time. It was also a great homage to the original film and a few other horror classics. We haven’t had a good slasher film in quite awhile and this at least satisfied the part of me that’s been yearning for a real throwback to my favorite era and subgenre of horror.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Halloween 124 and 5.

Film Review: Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018)

Also known as: Gojira: Kessen Kidō Zōshoku Toshi (original Japanese title), Godzilla Part 2: City on the Edge of Battle (full title)
Release Date: May 18th, 2018 (Japan)
Directed by: Kōbun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Written by: Gen Urobuchi
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuki Kaji, Junichi Suwabe

Toho, 100 Minutes

Review:

My review of the previous film in this trilogy had this paragraph:

Well, I’m going to be blunt: this was terrible. It’s slow, it’s boring, everyone in it is extremely unlikable and it has a giant plot hole large enough to suck Godzilla in.

Well, not much has changed with the second movie.

But I will start this by saying that this film is a wee bit better. I at least found it to be less boring, even though it was more drawn out than it needed to be. But I liked the talky science bits in this chapter better than the first. Also, the main character was less annoying than he was in the previous movie.

This film series is taking its cues from the Shin Godzilla mythos, as Godzilla continues to evolve and adapt to whatever they throw at him. Also, there are different creatures and things in the wilderness that are biological products of Godzilla and his weird and random evolutions. To be honest, even though this opens up a lot of interesting exploration and ideas it also seems like a cheap and poorly crafted trick to throw curveballs and to lazily write through situations. “Oh, we’ve got Godzilla now!” “No! He is evolving to combat and withstand X, Y and Z!!! Damn him!!!”

The heroes seem to have an advantage here in that the remains of Mechagodzilla from millennia ago have grown and evolved in its own way to what they lamely refer to as “Mechagodzilla City”. Sorry but “Mecha City” would’ve been fine, guys. I was annoyed throughout the movie whenever a character had to refer to the city with that mouthful of unnecessary syllables. But being that there is still one more movie in this series, it should go without saying that the city isn’t as advantageous as the heroes had hoped.

Anyway, the animation style is the same. I am starting to dislike it less or I’ve just grown used to the combination of hand drawn animation mixed with CGI animation. It still looks odd to me in places and I will always prefer hand drawn animation but it does seem a bit more refined here.

I’m a massive Godzilla fan, as regular readers of this website should already now. This anime film series just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. But if the third one also improves a wee bit, that one may be somewhat palatable.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The other parts of this trilogy, as well as Netflix’s Knights of Sedonia.

Film Review: Venom (2018)

Also known as: Antidote (fake working title)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Regency Village Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Based on: Venom by David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, Woody Harrelson (cameo), Ron Cephas Jones

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!” – Venom

If I’m being completely honest, my hopes for this film weren’t too high. However, my minimal expectations were exceeded in a lot of ways.

I guess the acting prowess of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed can go a log way as all three were pretty damn good in this. Hardy really takes the cake though and even if his Eddie Brock differs a lot from the comic book version, I still liked this interpretation of the character. I kind off miss the blonde boxy buzz cut but that’d probably look silly in 2018… or just too f’n badass!

Anyway, this film had to create its own story, as they didn’t have Spider-Man at their disposal to tell the story the right way. Plus, even though this is put out by the same studio that owns the Spider-Man film rights, it’s not really clear if this even exists in the same universe. There are no signs to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe; none that I saw, anyway.

I liked this film’s plot though and the way that Venom comes to be, worked for me. I wasn’t too keen on Riot being the big bad of the movie but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do being that this was a self-contained movie that doesn’t seem to bleed over into the larger Spider-Man world. Plus, this takes place in San Francisco, as opposed to New York City, which could also have been a way to distance it from Spidey (and his friends and allies), at least for now. There are other symbiotes in this that aren’t just Riot, however. But he’s the only one that actually matters to the larger story.

My one big complaint about the film is the pacing. The first half hour moves at a crawl but once things get going, it really gets going. But then it moves almost too fast. From what I understand, there was a lot of footage cut from this movie. It was initially being made to have an R rating but very late in production, they decided to go with a PG-13 rating. There are moments where it seems as if something violent was lobbed off and it created some bad, choppy edits. Also, it feels as if some key narrative moments were worked out of the plot, after the film was fully shot. Like I said, it starts at a slower pace and then speeds up very quickly and it just feels like there are some time jumps and key things missing. Maybe this can be rectified with an R rated cut or an extended edition once this hits the streaming market.

I thought that the action sequences were a mixed bag. The first big one, which sees Brock on a motorcycle trying to evade big SUVs through the late night streets of San Francisco was superbly done, even if it threw a tiny bit of cheese at you. The final battle between Venom and Riot on the launching pad wasn’t so good. I mean, I’ve seen much worse in comic book movie finales but it was just a CGI shit festival and hard to differentiate between the two aliens. Couldn’t Riot have been a different color than dark grey? In the comic books, symbiotes have lots of color variations. Also, it would have helped if Venom had his iconic emblem on his chest and back.

One thing that stood out for me was the score. Often times it was subtle and atmospheric and then in big action scenes it would become a nice punctuation to the over the top adrenaline rush. The score during the motorcycle chase was stellar and it reminded me of the blockbuster scores of the ’80s to mid-’90s.

Venom is far from perfect but it’s got a lot more going for it than against it. Most importantly, it has my favorite mid-credits scene out of any of these comic book movies. It was chilling, generated the right kind of emotion in me and it made me want the follow up now, as opposed to three years down the road. If you’ve read the earliest Venom stories back when they were new, you’ll probably feel the same sense of awe when you get to this moment at the end of the film.

While this might not be as good as most of the movies in the MCU, it is more fun than most of them and to me, that’s really important.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the harder edged Marvel movies as of late: Logan, the Deadpool films and I’m assuming the upcoming New Mutants movie.

Film Review: Slice (2018)

Also known as: Kingfisher (working title)
Release Date: September 11th, 2018 (Internet)
Directed by: Austin Vesely
Written by: Austin Vesely
Music by: Nathan Matthew David, Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Chance Bennett, Zazie Beetz, Chris Parnell, Paul Scheer, Rae Gray, Joe Keery, Hannibal Buress

Frëhand, N2ition Cinema, A24, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Looks like I’m going on a wolf hunt tonight.” – Astrid

I was pretty hyped for this movie when I first saw a trailer for it. It looked low budget and cheesy but it also looked really creative and fun and I’m really liking Zazie Beetz after seeing her in Deadpool 2. Plus, this has Joe Keery in it and he’s my favorite person from Stranger Things.

But sadly, it was a big disappointment.

The film is a comedy horror story but if the comedy doesn’t work, you’ve got one big dud of a movie. Just nothing in this was all that funny and most attempts at trying to be funny where all pretty cringe worthy. It felt like a really stale CBS sitcom without the laugh track.

I mean, sure, it was bloodier than a CBS show with some decent slasher moments but this was poorly written grade school humor that was beneath the talents of most of the people in it. Paul Scheer can be great or he can be terrible but it’s based off of the material he’s given. And really, the same goes for Chris Parnell, whose scenes with the witches were like the worst shit that Saturday Night Live has pumped out in the modern era.

I really wanted to like this because on paper, this very much should have been my cup of tea. Instead, it was a luke warm cup of piss.

Some of the effects were good but it certainly doesn’t live up to the basic standard of what CGI should be in 2018.

Chance Bennett was really the high point of the film but by the time he takes the reins, in the second half, this cat turd was already dried up and ready to be scooped into a bag.

I guess I now know why this got a one night theater run on only a few screens.

If you have to see this, wait till it’s streaming free somewhere. I want my $5 back.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Summer of ’84, Blood Fest and Arizona.

TV Review: Maniac (2018- )

Original Run: September 21st, 2018 – current
Created by: Patrick Somerville
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Patrick Somerville, various
Based on: Maniac by Espen PA Lervaag, Håakon Bast Mossige, Kjetil Indregard, Ole Marius Araldsen
Music by: Dan Romer
Cast: Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux, Sonoya Mizuno, Gabriel Byrne, Sally Field, Julia Garner, Hank Azaria, Selenis Leyva

Parliament of Owls, Rubicon TV, Anonymous Content, Paramount Television, Netflix, 10 Episodes (so far), 26-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I had no idea what this show was and I hadn’t heard anything about it before it dropped. That being said, I was glad that I went into this blindly. All I knew is that it was sci-fi, had Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and was directed by a guy who did True Detective, a show I still haven’t seen but have heard nothing but great things about.

Also, this is a miniseries. So I’m not sure if it’s a one-off or if it will return for new seasons with a whole new cast similar to Fukunaga’s True Detective or a lot of other recent television shows on various premium and cable networks.

The story is hard to summarize but in a nutshell this is about two people who undergo some controversial and dangerous drug trial. The pills and the almost otherworldly tech sends them into a strong dream state where they play out the lives of other people. The first story seems grounded in reality, even if it’s a bit nuts, and then each tale gets more and more fantastical. Ultimately, it all serves to help cure them of their personal and emotional demons. The two main characters, played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, develop a strong connection as they become directly involved in each other’s road to emotional recovery.

The show started out really strong, it lost me a bit going into the second half but then it recovered nicely in the last two episodes where everything came together in a great way.

This was a really cool experiment and this was exceptionally well crafted but I don’t know if it’s something I would want to revisit in a second season. I guess that depends on the cast and what the premise would be.

I loved the hybrid of retro and futuristic styles. In a lot of ways, this resembles an ’80s cinematic representation of the future.

I guess the high point for me was Sally Field. I liked seeing her play two very contrasting roles and she nailed both exceptionally well but at the same time, it’s Sally f’n Field.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Netflix shows: Black MirrorAltered Carbon and The OA.

Film Review: Mandy (2018)

Release Date: January 19th, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos, Aaron Stewart-Ahn
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouere, Sam Louwyck, Hayley Saywell

SpectreVision, Umedia, Legion M, XYZ Films, RLJE Films, 121 Minutes

Review:

“You are a vicious snowflake.” – Red Miller

Everyone is raving about Mandy. Most of the comments I’ve seen have painted this as a modern surreal horror masterpiece. Well, it’s definitely not a masterpiece but it was a serious mindfuck and pretty enjoyable.

It’s almost two movies though, perfectly split down the middle and broken into two solid hours.

The first half of the film is romantic, sweet and then very fucked up and disturbing. It tells the story of Red and Mandy, shows their love for one another but also brings in the evil Jeremiah Sand and his cult. Sand has an obsession with Mandy, after seeing her walking through the woods.

The second half of the film deals with Red, having watched his woman burn alive due to the actions of Sands’ cult, walk into the mouth of hell for a one man revenge killing spree. And as enchanting and mesmerizing as the first half of the film was, this is where shit really hits the fan and it’s a balls to the wall blood feast.

What makes the film so surreal is the mixture of it’s bizarre plot and evil characters along with the use of color, lighting and overall cinematography. This mixture of narrative and visuals makes this feel like early David Lynch meets recent Nicholas Winding Refn. It’s a pretty interesting marriage of styles but at the same time, that alone can’t carry a film and this thing is more drawn out than it needs to be.

There isn’t as much action as the trailer might imply but the action is pretty good where it occurs. This is a bloody film and it really hits a raw nerve in several places. But one could make an argument that this is style over substance. I won’t necessarily say that but I will point to the fact that the things I found most interesting weren’t really expanded on or fleshed out enough, in my opinion. I definitely felt like I needed to know more about Sand and his minions.

The film’s score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, this was his final film, was a perfect compliment to the film’s visual and dark allure. Jóhannsson’s work here magnified the effect of key scenes.

This is definitely a memorable film that I know I will watch again in the future but it isn’t so compelling that I’ll fire it up again anytime soon. I do, however, wish that I could have seen this on the big screen.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow.

TV Review: Black Lightning (2018- )

Original Run: January 16th, 2018 – present
Developed by: Salim Akil
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Kurt Farquhar
Cast: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar

Akil Productions, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 13 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what I thought about Black Lightning over the first couple of episodes but as the first season rolled on, I grew to like it.

It’s a CW show, so it is guaranteed to come with a certain level of cheesiness. However, this isn’t bogged down by the cheesy nonsense like The FlashSupergirlLegends of Tomorrow and sometimes Arrow is.

While the show does have some romance and it focuses on a family dynamic, it doesn’t beat you over the head with love dovey sentiment, it feels genuine and the love shared between characters is more organic than what we’ve seen from the other CW superhero shows. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get cheesy, as it continues into the future.

I really like Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce a.k.a. Black Lightning. It’s like he was born for the role and he plays both the man and the hero, exceptionally well. I’m also a massive fan of Krondon’s Tobias Whale, as the character is fleshed out better than his comic book counterpart, who I always just saw as a poor man’s Kingpin.

The one person I absolutely love on this though is James Remar. He plays Black Lightning’s mentor and partner, even if there is a lot of tension that develops between the two. Ultimately, he is a part of the family and he is there to fight the good fight when the chips are down. I loved Remar when I was a kid because I liked him in The Warriors and then I went on to have a different appreciation for him when he played Dexter’s ghost dad on Dexter. Remar is one of those guys that is a clutch hitter but doesn’t always find himself on a good team. I think he’s found a nice roster spot on the Black Lightning team.

One thing that makes this story work so well, is that it feels smaller in scale. While Freeland is a city that’s come under siege due to powerful gangs, the world this is set in doesn’t feel as grandiose as the other CW superhero shows. It feels more like it all takes place in a smaller area, sort of closed off from anything beyond its borders, as the problems in Freeland are just too serious and real. This could totally fit in with the Arrowverse without needing to acknowledge it, which probably will happen in the future, as both Cress Williams and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell want to crossover. My two cents: I’d sneak Deathstroke onto the show to introduce the larger world. We don’t need aliens and shit.

It’s hard to tell where Black Lightning plans to go beyond season one but I hope that the producers build off of what was established in just the first 13 episodes and don’t sort of fall into the same traps when the other CW shows ran on beyond their rookie years.

Also, this did a good job of not being too political. It dealt with social issues well and didn’t beat you over the head with it like the comic book medium tends to do. Well, the big bad white villain in the show had to say, “Make America great again!” twice in the season finale but hopefully that’s it for the sociopolitical cringe.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: All the current DC Comics shows on the CW.