Film Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Release Date: September 24th, 1986 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: John McNaughton
Written by: Richard Fire, John McNaughton
Music by: Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones, Robert McNaughton
Cast: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Maljack Productions, Greycat Films, 83 Minutes, 75 Minutes (TV edit)

Review:

“How about those Bears?” – Store Clerk, “Fuck the Bears.” – Henry

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a brutal f’n movie. However, it’s also very slow and drawn out more than it needs to be. Now I get the old school suspense thriller style of building up tension but it’s not effective here and it makes 75 percent of this movie pretty damn boring.

I get that this movie has its fans but I’m really not one of them.

Now this film does have three distinct positives.

One, the acting is superb. Michael Rooker is more chilling than ever and since I’m a big fan of Rooker, I do like this film as far as his performance goes. He went to some really dark places here but what’s most interesting about it, is that he showed how capable of an actor he was even in his younger years.

Two, I like the cinematography and how this film was shot. The lighting was done well, the shot framing was better than one would anticipate and overall, the visual aesthetic enhanced the tone of the story, greatly.

Three, the score is unsettling but interesting in a way that also enhanced the film and its effect.

Sadly, the pacing just undoes a lot of the good.

Additionally, this is an extremely violent picture and while I don’t have a problem with gore, when there’s a real purpose for it, this film seems to use it just to push the bar and maybe that’s because the rest of the picture is so dull. The film does seem like it’s trying too hard to be shocking in those scenes.

I’m not sure if this was trying to pass itself off as high art but it’s definitely not high art. It’s not necessarily a proto-Silence of the Lambs, as much as it just feels like a gore riddled Manhunter.

But for fans of Rooker, it is worth a watch for sure.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs.

TV Review: The Walking Dead (2010- )

Original Run: October 31st, 2010 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, David Morrissey, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Michael Cudlitz, Emily Kinney, Chad L. Coleman, Lennie James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Robin Lord Taylor, Alexandra Breckenridge, Austin Amelio, Khary Payton, Tom Payne, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh, Corey Hawkins, Audrey Marie Anderson, Denise Crosby

Idiot Box Productions, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 115 Episodes (so far), 42-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Do I even need to review The Walking Dead, at this point? Everyone in the world has seen it by now, right? Everyone already has their own opinion of it, yes?

Well, there are a lot of people that quit years ago and it seems like the ratings have been going down the last couple of seasons. Granted, it is still AMC’s biggest show and rakes in higher numbers than nearly anything else on cable but it’s been on for eight friggin’ seasons, which is a whole hell of a lot in this day and age where decent shows get cancelled all the time.

It’s hard to review the show for the fact that it has been on for so long and that it hasn’t been very consistent from season to season. But at least the show mixes it up and tries new things, reinventing itself every 2-3 seasons. The gist of it is really the same but it’s done a decent job of evolving with the timeline in which the show is set.

However, it sort of ignores some of the real world threats that would be happening in a post-apocalyptic United States. Things that a simple comedy like The Last Man On Earth was smart enough to explore. Things like explosions at unattended nuclear power plants, spewing really bad shit into the air.

I have stuck with this show through thick and thin because as cheesy as it sounds, you grow to know these characters as if they were real people and you care about their story, especially if you’ve toughed it out through the good and bad points of the show.

There have been moments during this show’s run that I thought about giving it up but there isn’t much else to do on a Sunday night and their eight episode half seasons are pretty quick to get through. If this show had 23 episodes a year like most programs, I couldn’t stay committed to it. Plus, there was that part of me that was just waiting for the war with Negan to start. That war wasn’t what I had hoped it would be but I was satisfied with how it wrapped up and am interested in what’s to come in the upcoming season, as there are a lot of changes and a time jump happening.

For the most part, The Walking Dead has been a good show. Sometimes it feels as if it has already ran its course but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to walk away from it like some others have. But that could change with Rick, the main character, leaving the show soon.

In the end, The Walking Dead isn’t a show about zombies, it’s a show about exploring human nature and that’s more interesting than the undead.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Fear the Walking DeadDeadwood and Hell On Wheels.

Film Review: Slither (2006)

Release Date: March 31st, 2006
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Tania Saulnier, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Jenna Fischer, Frank Welker (voice)

Gold Circle Films, Strike Entertainment, Brightlight Pictures, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to a mutated Grant] He looks likes something that fell off my dick during the war.” – Tourneur

Slither is a movie that came out in 2006 and felt like something from a bygone era. It’s better than the vast majority of terrible PG-13 horror pictures from the ’00s and beyond and gives you something that feels like it is straight out of the ’70s and ’80s in how it channels elements of Night of the CreepsThe ThingShivers and From Beyond.

This also really brought James Gunn into the mainstream, after starting his career at Troma Entertainment. Oddly enough, I revisited this movie on the same night that all this weird James Gunn stuff exploded on social media. But I’m not going to let that sway my opinion of his directorial abilities or this film.

Gunn did a solid job creating this unique and gruesome world that he gave us here for 95 minutes. This film is terrifying, horrifying and yet, pretty f’n funny and entertaining. I can see why this lead to him getting more gigs like his anti-superhero flick Super and his hiring by Disney and Marvel to helm the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy film series.

If you are into the old school horror films that I mentioned a few paragraphs back, as well as darker humor, than there is no reason why this movie wouldn’t be for you. Gunn does a great job balancing his brand of pure unadulterated dread and humor.

I also love that this cast Nathan Fillion and gave him a real platform to show his talents outside of Firefly and Serenity. Additionally, Elizabeth Banks was really sweet and lovable in this and Michael Rooker nailed his role, as well. We even get to see a small part for Jenna Fischer, as she was just becoming known as Pam Beesly on the American version of The Office.

The special effects on this film were pretty good for the scant budget and Gunn, using what he learned about being frugal at Troma, was able to craft something that looked much better than the sum of its financial parts.

This is twelve years old now but it has aged really well. It still feels like a throwback to a better era of horror and certainly doesn’t feel like a horror movie from 2006.

To be completely honest, this is a film that I was hoping Gunn would build off of for either a sequel or something else set in the same universe. Now that he has been fired by Disney, maybe he can go back to making films that are closer to this one and where he has more creative control.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet, The Thing (1982), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The FacultyThe StuffFrom Beyond and Shivers.

Film Review: The Replacement Killers (1998)

Release Date: February 6th, 1998
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Ken Sanzel
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Jürgen Prochnow, Danny Trejo, Clifton Collins Jr.

Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, WCG Entertainment Productions, Columbia Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Hostage etiquette: kidnapper pays the incidentals.” – Meg Coburn

I haven’t seen this since it was in theaters twenty years ago. I liked it back in the day, especially because it gave American audiences a look at the great Chow Yun-fat, a guy I loved in several Hong Kong gangster films. Plus, back in the late ’90s, I was crushing hard on Mira Sorvino. I probably still am, truth be told.

This is a pretty fast paced film with a fairly short running time. But that’s good, as it doesn’t really let up once it gets going, which is almost immediately.

The story follows John Lee, a hitman hired by a Chinese mob boss to kill the young child of a police officer who killed the boss’ criminal son. Lee has the young kid in his crosshairs but decides not to murder the child. In doing so, he is marked by the mob boss for betrayal all while replacement killers are hired to kill Lee and finish his mission. Fearing for his own family’s safety, Lee goes to Meg, a master at forging passports. All Lee wants is to get back to China to protect his loved ones. While at Meg’s place, he gets her caught up in his drama and she is then pulled along for the ride. They have to try and survive and also do everything they can to prevent the cop’s kid from being killed.

This film was made early in Antoine Fuqua’s career. He did a good job with it, as it matches the tone and intensity of a lot of those Hong Kong gangster films that Chow was in, especially the ones directed by John Woo.

In addition to Chow Yun-fat and Mira Sorvino, we are also treated to the talents of Michael Rooker, who excels in action movies. Rooker plays the cop and the father of the kid who is the mob boss’ target. While he gives the heroes some difficulty, initially, he changes his tune when he realizes their situation and sees them risk their lives for his kid.

This isn’t close to being the best Chow Yun-fat movie out there but it is still pretty damn enjoyable and a great English language vehicle to help make the guy a household name in the English speaking markets.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Release Date: April 10th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, David Hasselhoff, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Rosenbaum, Seth Green, Miley Cyrus (uncredited)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 136 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been greatly anticipating this since the first one came out three years ago. I’ve wanted to see this more than any other Marvel movie.

Unexpectedly, the first Guardians of the Galaxy gave me the experience I had hoped to get with The Phantom Menace in 1999 but found myself gravely disappointed. Guardians truly felt like the real spiritual successor to the original Star Wars trilogy.

With the sequel, a lot of critics and fans seem to be knocking it already. Some have said its “more of the same”. Well, when the first one came out it was really unique. Should the sequel not follow the same formula and style? Was the formula and style only good for one picture? Of course it is going to be similar in style and tone. All the other Marvel movies are a lot more similar to each other than the Guardians films are to the rest of them.

I’ve seen people say that this one isn’t as good as the first. Well, the first film took everyone off guard and surprised audiences. That leaves any film to follow at a disadvantage. One, you can’t surprise them in the same way twice. Two, because of lacking the ability to surprise twice, audiences won’t leave the theater feeling the same sort of awe they did the first time.

To be honest, I like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 more than its predecessor. No, it didn’t leave me in awe in the same way but I didn’t expect it to. It just enriched the mythos and built on the characters that I loved in the first movie. It gave me more meat to sink my teeth into. It also greatly expands Marvel’s cosmic universe, introducing new aliens, new threats, new worlds, new characters and new ideas.

Comic book movies are supposed to be fun, at the end of the day. Even the dark and brooding characters need to put a smile on your face. Got that DC?

Point being, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 puts a big smile on your face. I feel it does this better than the first. The first was the introduction to the universe of Guardians. This gives us something familiar and lived in but the camaraderie of the characters, their family dynamic, their comedic timing, it all just works and flows better in this movie. Plus, the group expands and everyone that comes into the fold is a pretty great and unique character, one of them new, two of them already being in the first picture.

James Gunn’s work on this feels a lot more refined. Marvel probably gave him a lot more freedom this time and he was obviously a lot more comfortable, already having one of these films under his belt.

As good as the art direction and cinematography were in the first film, in Vol. 2 they really up the ante. Visually, this thing is stunning and beautiful. While the first film is amazing to look at, everything in this one is more pristine.

The cast additions, mainly Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, were brilliant.

Russell was perfect as Quill’s father Ego, the Celestial being that is literally a living planet. When I saw that Russell was cast as Ego, I wondered if he would be Ego, The Living Planet from the comics but I was not disappointed.

Stallone plays Stakar, who is Starhawk in the comics. His role is more of a slightly extended cameo but it is to set up something bigger in the future, as Marvel and James Gunn have big plans for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe.

Another cast addition was Pom Klementieff as Mantis. She was great in the role and is a welcomed new character. There seems to be a link (possibly romantic) between her and Dave Bautista’s Drax, which will probably develop into something more in the third film.

Speaking of which, Drax was just on point in this film from beginning to end. I’d love to see Bautista get more work, as he is the only professional wrestler, other than The Rock, to enter into the acting world and be successful at it.

The relationship between sisters Gamora and Nebula evolves in this chapter and we get to see some closure to their rivalry and a reminder of their hatred for their father Thanos.

Rocket and Groot are even more fantastic in this. Rocket gets more lines and gets to be a lot more bad ass. I thought the Baby Groot thing would become tiresome but Gunn doesn’t hit the audience over the head with it too much. This version of the character was well-balanced between cute and still being cool. Let Baby Groot forever be the template for characters studios think they need to appeal to kids without driving adults friggin’ bonkers.

Star-Lord’s story is focused on his relationship with Ego, his biological father, and Yondu, the man who actually raised him. There’s some serious emotional stuff here, especially in how Yondu has an interesting story arc and he feels the need to save his surrogate son from his real father. In fact, Yondu is the best thing about the movie and he actually gets an amazing sequence that sees him take on his entire mutinous gang of thugs.

The Sovereign, a major threat that is introduced in this film but meant to carry over into the next, were well designed and looked gorgeous on screen. Their world was cool, their style and personalities were quite unique and they end their story in this chapter, on the verge of unleashing a really famous and powerful Marvel cosmic character on the Guardians. We’ll have to wait till part three for that.

We also get a look at another famous cosmic race in the part where Stan Lee has his cameo. If you were a fan of the What If…? comics, you’ll probably be smiling from ear-to-ear.

In regards to characters, I did miss Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz of the Nova Corps. I also missed Lee Pace, even though Ronan died in the first. But that just adds to the ongoing Marvel villain problem, where they are just all one-shot throwaway baddies. I also would have liked to have seen Benecio del Toro’s The Collector. But hey, we do get a Howard the Duck cameo again. And Pac-Man is in the film… just wait and see.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes all the good stuff from the first and improves and builds upon it. I would have liked more space-faring than what we got but the story and the building of relationships and making characters richer, was probably a better use of time. Regardless, there isn’t a moment where the picture isn’t exciting and doesn’t have you on your toes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this strong branch of the Marvel tree meshes with the Avengers when the two groups come together in the third Avengers film next summer. There were several Earth scenes in this film to keep audiences grounded in that reality, reminding them that this isn’t in a galaxy far away and long ago.

Personally, I’d rather just watch Guardians movies all day over the Avengers stuff but that’s because James Gunn keeps pumping out cinematic comic book masterpieces and those Avengers people just aren’t James Gunn.

 

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Release Date: July 21st, 2014 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Peter Serafinowicz, Seth Green

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 122 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I’ve been anticipating Guardians of the Galaxy since it was announced, as I knew it would be incredibly unique and very different from all the Marvel Avengers-related films. I was right.

Out of everything that Marvel has done, this right here, is the cream of the crop. Yes, that is a bold statement and yes, I raved about Captain America: The Winter Solider but this is the magnum opus out of all their films, which started with the first Iron Man in 2008.

Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) did an insanely amazing job with this film. I’d actually like to see him direct every Marvel picture going forward but that would probably drive anyone mad as we get two-to-three of these things per year now. Also, as great as this film is, that doesn’t mean that it can be replicated over and over again. And frankly, that’s probably why this is so good, because it stands above everything Marvel has done to this point and I don’t just mean Disney’s Marvel franchise, I am including Sony – who has Spider-Man, Fox – who has X-Men and the Fantastic Four, as well as Lion’s Gate – who had Daredevil and The Punisher.

The cast in this film is pretty great and they really feel like a solid unit. Chris Pratt (Parks & Recreation, Zero Dark Thirty) is bad ass and charismatic as the group’s leader Peter Quill a.k.a. Star Lord. Then you have the girl who seems to be in every sci-fi franchise now, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar) as Gamora. The only other human actor on the team is Drax the Destroyer, who is played by the wrestler Batista (The Man With the Iron Fists, Riddick) and contrary to what people think about wrestlers acting, Batista owns this role, is tough as shit, menacing and more often than not, hilarious. I’d rather watch a string of Drax movies than another one of those horrible Riddick films.

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hangover) voices the coolest character, Rocket. Rocket is a talking, fighting raccoon that was created in a lab. His sidekick is a humanoid tree named Groot, who is voiced by Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious, Riddick). Both of these characters came off extraordinarily well on screen. Truthfully, when first hearing about this film, I was most concerned with how they were going to pull of a talking raccoon and a humanoid tree. What they gave us was nothing short of exceptional. If you don’t fall in love with these two characters, you have no soul.

The cast also includes Lee Pace (Halt & Catch Fire, Pushing Daisies) as Ronan the Accuser, the film’s main antagonist. Pace had a very strong and powerful presence in this film. There is also Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Cliffhanger) who plays Yondu, a pirate and father figure to Peter Quill. Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Selfie) plays Nebula – Ronan’s right hand. Benecio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) plays the Collector, who we first saw in Thor: The Dark World. Josh Brolin (Goonies, No Country For Old Men) provided the voice and motion capture for the character of Thanos, who will become the biggest villain in Marvel’s film franchise; he was first glimpsed at in The Avengers. You also have Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou and an actor who doesn’t get as much recognition as he should, Peter Serafinowicz. There are also cameos from Lloyd Kaufman – the top dog at Troma, Stan Lee and Nathan Fillion. Rob Zombie even voices a computer.

Moving on, the visual style of this film was mesmerizing. It was colorful yet dark and each location our heroes visited felt entirely different and unique. The action was superb, the CGI effects were beautiful and well-developed and everything just flowed pretty seamlessly. The most powerful x-factor with this film however, was how it maintained a balance between lightheartedness and seriousness. Chris Pratt, with his experience on Parks & Recreation, was the perfect guy to pull this off and he exceeded my expectations. If he doesn’t become a huge star after this, something is wrong with the world. Luckily for us, we get to see him star in Jurassic World next summer, as well as the next Guardians of the Galaxy film in 2017 (one could also assume Avengers 3 in 2018).

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in a long time. I’ve seen better films, sure. However, this picture is a big overflowing barrel of fun and awesomeness. It is the space adventure I have always wanted since being let down again and again since Return of the Jedi blew my 4 year-old little mind. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy is what I wanted out of The Phantom Menace 15 years ago but never got.

Oh, and if you want to see the reboot of the title character of a little Marvel related movie that George Lucas produced in 1986, stay until the end of the credits.