Film Review: Inherent Vice (2014)

Release Date: October 4th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Joanna Newsom, Hong Chau, Eric Roberts

Ghoulardi Film Company, Warner Bros., IAC Films, 148 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it’s dark and lonely work, but somebody’s gotta do it, right?” – Petunia Leeway

I had really high hopes for this film.

It’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who everyone, even their pets, loves. It stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and a superb supporting cast. And, well, it’s a neo-noir set in the early ’70s that looked damn cool from the trailers.

Sadly, this was duller than an unsharpened pencil.

I kind of hate that I didn’t dig this but it was really hard for me not to nod off through almost every really long, drawn out scene. Frankly, the film didn’t even need to be two hours, let alone 148 minutes.

Visually, the film is stunning. Every scene and every shot looks pristine and perfect. But that’s not enough to carry a movie. I can see cinematography of the highest caliber in television commercials and music videos.

The thing is, the narrative needs to be as exciting as the visual allure. It needs to capture you, hold on and at least try to leave you breathless until the final frame.

I watched this movie and was so disinterested in it that I couldn’t remember what the film was about, where it needed to go or why Phoenix was investigating things. I felt like my mind was as numb and disoriented as the majority of the characters in the picture.

If you like movies solely for visuals and great soundtracks, than this may be your bag.

It wasn’t mine though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: mind numbing drugs and a case of cheap whiskey while watching a Hypercolor t-shirt cook in the microwave.

Film Review: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Also known as: Child’s Play 5, Son of Chucky, Bride of Chucky 2 (working titles)
Release Date: November 12th, 2004
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Billy Boyd, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, John Waters

Rogue Pictures, David Kirschner Productions, Castel Film Romania, 87 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Christ! Enough about your mother! I killed that bitch twenty years ago and she still won’t shut up!” – Chucky

Whenever this movie comes up in conversation, everyone I talk to seems to hate it. Granted, when it came out, the trailer didn’t make me want to see it and I put it off for nearly ten years. However, once I did give the film a chance, I liked it near the same level that I liked its predecessor: Bride of Chucky.

I understand why this entry into the long running movie series gets a lot of hate but I think that is because people try to view it in the same way that they looked at the original trilogy of films, as a serious slasher with some colorful and funny one-liners from the killer doll.

The big difference is that this needs to be viewed as a comedy. Sure, a dark, twisted, fucked up comedy but this takes the increase in comedy from Bride of Chucky and magnifies it a lot more. Now I understand why that would upset some hardcore slasher purists but this is really the 1966 Batman of the franchise and I mean that as lovingly as possible.

Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly are absolutely dynamite in this. It honestly feels like Dourif was ad-libbing the whole thing. I know that’s not really possible, unless he was controlling Chucky’s animatronics while voice acting but this has a similar feel to it as improv comedy. Plus, Chucky’s never been funnier and the jokes are just constant.

The real star of the film is Billy Boyd, though. He plays the offspring of Chuck and Tiff and isn’t sure about his/her gender, his/her life and his/her place in all of the madness that surrounds his/her parents. I guess a lot of people disliked this character severely and he/she’s sort of been pushed out of the film series since this picture but I’d still like to see him/her reappear or at least get a mention as to what his/her whereabouts are.

After typing that politically correct paragraph, I came to the realization that Don Mancini and the Child’s Play franchise were more socially progressive than Twitter by at least a decade.

Anyway, I still prefer the original three films to anything that came after but this reinvents the franchise quite a bit and honestly, it needed some reinvention. While Bride of Chucky accomplished that already, Seed of Chucky pushed the bar further.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: Night Nurse (1931)

Release Date: July 16th, 1931 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: William A. Wellman
Written by: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Charles Kenyon
Based on: Night Nurse by Dora Macy
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable

Warner Bros., 72 Minutes

Review:

“The successful nurse is one who keeps her mouth shut.” – Dr. Milton A. Ranger

I wanted to watch and review Night Nurse during Noirvember. Not because it is really film-noir but because it is one of many films that laid the groundwork for the cinematic style. Plus, it stars a very young Barbara Stanwyck, who would go on to become one of noir’s greatest femme fatales, thirteen years later in Double Indemnity.

This is a pre-Code film, which means that it didn’t have its hands tied by the political forces that would come to censor Hollywood for decades. Because of that, this feels grittier and more genuine than the glossed over, wholesome, pristine looking, classic Hollywood feel that would come to stifle the art of filmmaking for a very long time.

I wouldn’t quite call this film exploitation but just from the fact that it features scenes with Stanwyck in her lingerie and in bed, automatically gives it an edginess that you don’t normally find in old movies.

The story is about a young nurse who starts taking care of some kids at a private residence, only to discover that someone is trying to slowly kill them. The plot makes me wonder if M. Night Shyamalan borrowed the idea for the Mischa Barton character in The Sixth Sense.

The film has mystery, twists and turns and it really is a crime story at its core. Basically, it has a lot of the elements that would go on to define the film-noir genre a decade later.

This is also a comedy, however, but not an outright comedy. It’s just a good mixture of humor and drama to give a pretty balanced picture that doesn’t get lost in its dark subject matter. It gives it a strange tone to a degree but this came out in a time where sound in film had only existed for a handful of years and filmmakers were still experimenting with the medium in a fairly primitive way, especially in regards to narrative style and pacing.

Now that does not make this a bad picture, in fact, it’s entertaining, moves pretty swiftly for a film of its time and it is certainly better than the norm in 1931.

Stanwyck’s performance is superb and it is also cool seeing Clark Gable in the movie, just before he became a Hollywood megastar.

There are other pre-Code films that Barbara Stanwyck was in. Based off of this one, I’ll probably check out some of the others in the near future.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other early Barbara Stanwyck films, as well as other pre-Code dramas.

Film Review: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Also known as: Child’s Play 4, Chucky, Chucky and His Bride (working titles)
Release Date: October 16th, 1998
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy

David Kirschner Productions, Midwinter Productions Inc., Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“My mother always said love was supposed set you free. But that’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time. Now it’s payback time.” – Tiffany

Initially, I didn’t know what to make of this movie when it came out in 1998.

Over time, I grew to love it though, as I mostly see it as a black comedy, which is how it’s really intended to be seen. It’s not so much a parody of the Child’s Play movies, as it is a true vehicle to just let Brad Dourif’s Chucky be unrestrained from trying to make a more serious slasher film.

Bride of Chucky goes beyond horror accented by comical one-liners and evolves the franchise into something more in-line with its star character’s personality. Overall, it’s less scary and less terrifying but it makes up for that in its coolness. And it really does get nuts in the best way possible.

Now with that being said, I don’t like it as much as the original three films but it is more energetic and more fun, overall. Without, I feel as if it has more replay value than most of the movies in the series.

I love the inclusion of Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany, Chuck’s actual bride who also becomes a killer doll. And of course, this leads to the sequel Seed of Chucky, which focuses on the offspring of the killer dolls. Most people seem to hate that movie but I kind of love it too for what it is but I’ll get into that when I review it, specifically.

Ronny Yu did a fine job of giving life and energy to Don Mancini’s script and frankly, I thought he was a wise choice. I also love his Freddy Vs. Jason, even though some people think it sucks. But fuck those people, as Yu understands how to turn these slasher franchises into something beyond the norm, which was kind of needed in the time that he made this film and FvJ.

The best part about this (and its sequel) is the chemistry between Tilly and Dourif. It’s f’n spectacular. Where I originally wasn’t keen on the concept before seeing the film, Tilly won me over almost immediately and proved she was a perfect choice for the role. And she has since become nearly as iconic as Chucky.

Bride of Chucky is an enthralling entry into a series that didn’t have much left in the tank. It reinvented what a Child’s Play movie could be and it left the door open for more, which allowed the Dourif era to flourish for three more films.

Despite my distaste for the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, I’m glad that the Dourif version of Chucky still isn’t dead, as there is a television show in-development, which will continue to build off of this movie and all the ones before and after it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

Also known as: The Banana Splits (working title)
Release Date: July 17th, 2019 (San Diego Comic-Con)
Directed by: Danishka Esterhazy
Written by: Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas
Based on: Aaa by Hanna-Barbera Productions, Sid and Marty Krofft
Music by: Patrick Stump
Cast: Dani Kind, Steve Lund, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Sara Canning, Eric Bauza

Blue Ice Pictures, Blue Ribbon Content, Warner Bros., 89 Minutes

Review:

“Hey kids, put on your happiest faces, because The Banana Splits Show is about to begin.” – Drooper

When I heard that a movie was being made as a horror styled reboot of a Hanna-Barbera and Sid and Marty Krofft creation, I was one part intrigued and one part worried that it would be some shitty try hard edgy boi bullshit.

Well, this was the latter. Except it was directed by a female so I guess it was some shitty try hard edgy gurl bullshit.

This was something I wanted to like and it’s not a complete train wreck but it’s far from good, way too formulaic and pretty derivative, even if the idea initially comes off as fairly original. But I’ve heard some say that this rips off the video game series Five Nights at Freddy’s. I haven’t played those games but from what I know of them, that statement doesn’t just seem like a hollow one.

As dumb as this movie is, which is fine – I love dumb horror, I still can’t wrap my head around these Banana Splits characters being actual robots. Especially, since they were created in 1969 within the continuity established by this film. We didn’t even have personal computing back then. So maybe they’ve been upgraded a lot since 1969 and eventually were given some form of A.I. but it’s still a baffling concept even in an absurd movie.

But suspending disbelief as much as I can, this is really just Chopping Mall in a much crappier setting, as the majority of the film takes place on massive sound stages that are mostly empty despite a few small sets that look worse than booths I’ve seen at local church fundraisers.

The film’s visual tone is presented through a poor man’s bronze-y Fincher like filter without any real effort at cinematography or good lighting. It’s not an ugly film but it’s certainly not an appealing one to look at.

There is a decent amount of violence and gore but it’s done in the cheapest way possible with quick cuts and gory reveals after an offscreen act of violence and a splatter of blood.

Additionally, none of the characters are likable. The mom is okay by the end of the film but I would’ve been fine with everyone dying and the Splits leaving the studio to murder the rest of the world. But whatever, that means I probably would’ve had a sequel to watch and I don’t think that this movie deserves one.

Ultimately, this just feels like some studio exec proclaimed proudly, “Hey, you guys remember The Banana Splits? Yeah? Well, we’re bringing them back as killer robots!” And then the exec was applauded because he surrounds himself with yes-men that actually hope he fails so that they can take his job.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: a trip to Chuck E. Cheese with bad drugs.

Comic Review: The Orville: The Word of Avis

Published: September 11th, 2019 – October 16th, 2019
Written by: David A. Goodman
Art by: David Cabeza, Michael Atiyeh
Based on: The Orville by Seth MacFarlane

Dark Horse, 44 Pages

Review:

I was pretty happy with the first story arc for The Orville comic book series.

Now this one is the second tale and I thought that it was pretty consistent with the first in tone and delivery.

The comic series gets what the show is and it does a fine job of bringing it into a new medium, which hopefully helps this franchise reach out to new fans, as it’d be a shame if The Orville was just a short-lived television show.

This story revolves around the ex-lover of LaMarr and how she and some of her colleagues are trying to use the Orville to sneak into Krill territory due to their newfound religious beliefs.

Like the first arc, this is told over two issues but it has the pacing and feel of a full one hour episode of the show. Honestly, these feel like lost episodes and since they take place between other events we’ve already seen play out in live action, these stories just come together with the larger narrative pretty well.

Eventually, I’d like to see bigger stories and maybe even big events told within the comic book format but The Orville in this form is off to a pretty solid start.

These comics actually remind me of what it was like when I was a kid in the ’80s reading the best Star Trek comic books. Frankly, that’s all I really wanted this to be and it hits those notes for me.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: I’m sure future story arcs for The Orville. Also, IDW’s Star Trek comics.

Film Review: Fear of a Black Hat (1993)

Also known as: The Trial of N.W.H. (working title)
Release Date: January 24th, 1993 (Sundance)
Directed by: Rusty Cundieff
Written by: Rusty Cundieff
Music by: Jim Manzie, Larry Robinson, N.W.H.
Cast: Rusty Cundieff, Larry B. Scott, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Kasi Lemmons, Faizon Love, Deezer D, Kurt Loder, Lance Crouther, Monique Gabrielle (uncredited)

Incorporated Television Company (ITC), Oakwood Productions, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 88 Minutes

Review:

“The black man was the first sensitive man, long before Alan Alda.” – Tone Def

Fear of a Black Hat was a pretty critically acclaimed film when it came out but unfortunately, it bombed at the box office. But it also didn’t get into a lot of theaters.

I think part of the problem was that the story was very, very similar to Chris Rock’s CB4. And while CB4 beat Fear of a Black Hat to mainstream theaters, Fear was actually made first and was on the festival circuit when Rock’s comedy film hit cinemas.

Looking at the timeline, it’s actually possible that Chris Rock lifted the idea for his film from this one. But whether or not there was thievery involved or it’s just a crazy coincidence, I enjoy both movies and for very different reasons.

That being said, this is the better film of the two. The humor is smarter, I like the authentic documentary style of this one and this movie had more original music created for it, all of which was pretty fantastic even if this was parody.

It’s written and directed by Rusty Cundieff, who also starred as one of the three rappers in the film. He had success later with Tales From the Hood but he also worked on Chappelle’s Show and acted in the films Hollywood Shuffle and School Daze.

Cundieff is a witty writer though and he also had a knack for picking the right actors to star alongside him. Specifically, the other rappers, played by the underrated Larry B. Scott and Mark Christopher Lawrence. I also really enjoyed Kasi Lemmons as the documentary filmmaker that was chronicling the lives of the main characters.

The story is that this is a documentary about a notorious gangsta rap group that are an obvious parody of N.W.A. The film deconstructs what was the rap industry at the time and it’s honestly, a pretty brilliant critique on it. I feel like this hits more points than CB4, which is more of a standard comedy film. Both movies are fun but this one seems to cover more ground and is written in a way that just seems like it was better thought out. Plus, this feels more genuine and real. And I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking Chris Rock’s CB4, it’s just hard to talk about either film without comparing them and discussing, the strengths and weaknesses between them.

Fear of a Black Hat is certainly much more indie feeling and less polished but that is also why it feels more realistic and better in tune with the industry it was examining.

At the end of the day, if you’re going to watch one of these two films, you might as well check out both.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the film that possibly borrowed a lot from this one: CB4.