Film Review: Black Hole (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Internet)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Rupert Sanders, Milo Ross
Based on: Black Hole by Charles Burns
Cast: Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, Nate Mooney

11 Minutes

Review:

This was a short film done by Rupert Sanders, who later directed Snow White and the Huntsman and the live action Ghost In the Shell. This was made as a sort of demo to show how he would adapt Charles Burns’ cult classic comic book, Black Hole.

Sanders released this on his website in 2007 but it didn’t even seem to pick up much steam or to be distributed around the web until 2010 or so. I didn’t know of its existence and I was a pretty big fan of the comic.

It’s not a very good adaptation and this only reflects a very small portion of what the story is. It crams a lot of things into a small space but it also does that so subtly that this feels more like a David Lynch mindfuck sequence than something with any sort of narrative or point.

The cinematography is school book Fincher, which everyone and their mother was employing at the time.

The body horror elements feel very Cronenberg and being that I already named three iconic directors, you can probably see that this sort of just borrows from several more accomplished talents and lacks a voice of its own.

I’m not try to shit on what Rupert Sanders did here but I’ve got to call it like I see it and as a fan of the original work, this doesn’t even hit the right notes, tonally or aesthetically.

All that being said, I don’t even know if I want a legitimate live action adaptation of this story. It works wonderful for the original medium that it was intended and I’m kind of sick of everything needing to be adapted into a live action film in order to somehow be legitimized within the framework modern culture.

I’d rather directors come up with new ideas for the medium of film. This is not a new idea nor is it a new approach to filmmaking. Everything here is borrowed and just because you have four really good ingredients, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have a really good casserole.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: late ’90s to early ’00s teen horror.

Film Review: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Also known as: Blood of the Werewolf (working title), El monstruo adolescente (Argentina)
Release Date: June 19th, 1957
Directed by: Gene Fowler Jr.
Written by: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
Music by: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Michael Landon, Whit Bissell, Yvonne Lime

Sunset Productions, American International Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not for man to interfere in the ways of God.” – Det. Sgt. Donovan

I saw this movie when it first aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the ’90s. I guess, at the time, I never realized that Michael Landon was the star of this. It’s kind of cool thinking of the star of Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven as a teenage werewolf but it made revisiting this film a bit more enjoyable.

This is a bad movie but it’s also fairly amusing. I loved the cheesy ’50s teen dancing bits and this film felt like it had some heart, despite being made cheaply, quickly and without much concern about actual filmmaking craftsmanship.

For what this picture is, I actually liked the werewolf makeup and Landon looked like a legit snarling beast man.

I love werewolf pictures and this is far from the best of them but it is a better film than more contemporary werewolf pictures by B-level studios. Hell, when I think about it, there aren’t many werewolf films I care about in modern cinema.

This was a fun film and MST3K episode to revisit. It came with good riffs and it wasn’t a film that was so bad that it was a drudge to get through and could only be saved by the humorous flourishes of Mike and the ‘Bots.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and any low budget werewolf movie from the ’40s through ’50s.

Comic Review: Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special

Published: April 26th, 2017
Written by: Brian Maruca, Jim Rugg
Art by: Jim Rugg

Image Comics, 43 Pages

Review:

I’ve been aware of the Street Angel comic for a few years but I wasn’t too familiar with Jim Rugg until seeing him on Cartoonist Kayfabe alongside Ed Piskor (and sometimes Tom Scioli). Since then, I’ve come to admire his style and his opinion on comics, especially his recommendations.

This is the first Street Angel title I picked up and it was a lot of fun. It’s an easy, quick read at 43 pages.

I thought that the story was cute and energetic and I loved the art style, overall.

The plot deals with middle schooler Jesse Sanchez, who goes to the worst school in the worst ghetto of Angel City. She’s a homeless skateboarder and a badass martial artist. She fights all types of villains but here, she deals with a male bully in a fight after school.

None of the comic books share any actual continuity, from what I understand, but that’s fine, as each story is self-contained and works well on its own and doesn’t require any knowledge from other Street Angel tales.

Ultimately, this was a cool comic. If I’m being honest, I wish it were a bit longer or that the story somehow carried on in another release, as it ends in a place where you want to see what develops next between Jesse and the bully due to the result of their fight.

There are a lot of ongoing comics that don’t have enough meat and potatoes to justify them carrying on past a single arc. This, however, could benefit from that, as I like the characters and want to get to know them more intimately.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Street Angel comics, as well as Jim Rugg’s other work.

Film Review: Thoroughbreds (2017)

Also known as: Thoroughbred (festival title)
Release Date: January 21st, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cory Finley
Written by: Cory Finley
Music by: Erik Friedlander
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift

June Pictures, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“You cannot hesitate. The only thing worse than being incompetent, or being unkind, or being evil, is being indecisive.” – Amanda

I’ve been wanting to see this for about two years, after reading about it following its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. It was said to be “smart”, “quirky”, “unpredictable” and a mashup between American Psycho and Heathers.

It really isn’t any of those things, unfortunately. Okay, maybe it has a small dose of Heathers mixed in but it certainly doesn’t come close to the darkness one experiences in watching American Psycho.

I also didn’t find it to be “smart”, “quirky” or “unpredictable”.

I don’t want to take a big shit on this film, as I did moderately enjoy it and bits were amusing. Plus, I thought Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin’s performances were terrific.

I just couldn’t buy into Olivia Cooke’s Amanda with her emotionless, dead pan delivery. I get that this is what her character is supposed to be but she doesn’t truly commit to the bit. You see, even though she isn’t supposed to care about anything, she is still conveniently driven by things in a way that seems to betray her own character.

Cooke’s Amanda was the apathetic angsty teen that acts overly depressed and always talks about it, probably for attention at first but somewhere along the line has bought into her own bullshit. I’ve dealt with major depression my entire life and people who act like her are typically attention seekers, even if they are legitimately broken. But I don’t think she was intended to be portrayed that way, I feel as if the director/writer actually bought into her bullshit too. But I guess that really just makes it his own bullshit.

Amanda is not quirky. She also isn’t smart. And as far as the plot goes, it isn’t unpredictable, it is actually very predictable. From the get-go, you know there is going to be a dark twist of some sort by the end and you also know that the stepfather will die somehow. But when that twist comes, it’s not all that shocking or surprising, it just limps its way into the narrative and all the ultraviolence that should come with something that’s compared to American Psycho, happens off screen.

I’m not saying that gore was necessary for this film to work but this was tame when compared to the things that modern critics have associated it with.

The big scene where the shit hits the fan is comprised of a still longshot that lasts a few minutes, as Amanda is passed out on the couch and you hear a loud, violent commotion upstairs. It’s a trope that’s been overused by indie filmmaking darlings for decades and its mostly lost its effectiveness. Or maybe I’ve just watched too many movies over the years.

But the point is that there is nothing new here and the promised shocks and surprises limp into the plot like a rat stuck to a glue trap.

Thoroughbreds isn’t a terrible motion picture but it is an underwhelming and disappointing one. It’s only real saving grace was the performances by two of its top three stars.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Heathers and Jawbreaker.

Film Review: Back to the Future, Part III (1990)

Also known as: Three (fake working title)
Release Date: May 25th, 1990
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea, James Tolkan, Jeffrey Weissman, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, Donovan Scott

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Listen up, Eastwood! I aim to shoot somebody today and I’d prefer it’d be you. But if you’re just too damn yella, I guess it’ll just have to be your blacksmith friend.” – Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen

The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the greatest trilogies in cinematic history. It’s damn near perfect and the films are still just as enjoyable now, as they were thirty years ago.

Each one is a tad bit weaker than the previous but since the first one is an absolute masterpiece, the sequels are still better than 95 percent of all the movies ever made.

Part III is my least favorite chapter in the trilogy but it is still one of the best popcorn movies a film fan could ask for.

This takes the Back to the Future formula and throws it into the Old West. I like that they did this and it opens up the series for some fresh takes on some of its tropes but I also feel like the western twist maybe wasn’t strong enough on its own to carry the whole film. What I liked most about the second film, the one I find to be the most entertaining, is that it jumped around and showed us a variety of different times and alternate timelines.

Also, I feel like going further back in time to the Old West might have worked better in the second film. Like maybe they could have flip-flopped the second and third pictures. Which also could have given us the wonderful Mary Steenburgen in two movies instead of just this one where she was actually a bit underutilized. Sure, you’d have to rework some narrative details.

I am going off on some tangents and most people will probably disagree with my take but in the end, this was still a superb motion picture and one of the best from its era.

While it is still exciting it is a bit bogged down by the scenery and is the slowest of the three films, which also adds to my thoughts on it not being the best choice for the final chapter. This feels more like a second act and when it ends, it ends quite abruptly.

But I love the tone of the film and it still captures the amazing Back to the Future spirit. It also probably would have played better, at least for me, if they kept making these and just didn’t cap it off at three films like every other movie franchise of its time. They could’ve given us two more of these pictures, had they made them shortly after this one and frankly, I’m pretty sure they would have maintained the same quality had they utilized the same creative team.

Back to the Future, Part III is the weakest of the three but the bronze medal winner in the strongman championships is still stronger than just about everyone else in the world.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.

Film Review: Back to the Future, Part II (1989)

Also known as: Paradox (fake working title)
Release Date: November 20th, 1989 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jeffrey Weissman, Charles Fleischer, Jason Scott Lee, Elijah Wood, Joe Flaherty, Marc McClure (uncredited), Crispin Glover (archive footage)

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“The almanac. Son of a bitch stole my idea! He must have been listening when I… it’s my fault! The whole thing is my fault. If I hadn’t bought that damn book, none of this would have ever happened.” – Marty McFly

Back to the Future is pretty much a perfect film. Back to the Future, Part II isn’t perfect but it’s so damn good, it’s hard to see the flaws unless you really look for them and then, they’re mostly narrative issues that can be dismissed if you look at this with a Doctor Who “timey wimey” sentiment.

This chapter in the classic and awesome film series sees our heroes go to the future, return to an alternate present and then take a trip back to the past where we saw them in the first film. Part II takes you to more places than the other two films combined but it works really well for the middle act of this three act trilogy. It also does the best job of showing the consequences that can arise from disrupting the timeline.

I think that this has the most layered plot and with that, tells a more complicated story. I remember some people back in 1989 saying it was kind of hard to follow but these were also people significantly older than me. As a ten year-old, I thought it all made sense and I still do. Granted, there are some other paradoxes that this would have created and the film just conveniently ignores them but if it were to follow science to a T it would have broke the movie.

The cast is still solid in this film but Crispin Glover is sorely missed. I really wish he had returned to this just because I think it would have made the story better. While he appears in archive footage and another actor stands in for him and wears a mask of his face, this all lead to a major lawsuit that forced Hollywood to change how they use the likeness of non-contracted actors.

While I can’t say that this is better than the first movie, it is my favorite to revisit just for all the things it throws at you. It’s certainly the most entertaining overall and it sort of embraces the absurdity of its subject matter without overdoing it. It’s mostly a comedy but it is balanced well with its more dramatic moments. There is an underlying darkness in this chapter that the other two movies don’t have and I think it gives it a bit of an edginess lacking in the other two. Not that they needed to be edgy but that element works well here.

Back to the Future, Part II is how you do a sequel. It upped the ante, was more creative than its predecessor and enriched its universe, giving it more depth while developing its characters further.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.

Film Review: Back to the Future (1985)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1985
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, George DiCenzo, Frances Lee McCain, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jason Hervey, Maia Brewton, Courtney Gains, Huey Lewis (cameo)

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.” – Dr. Emmett Brown

Back to the Future is a classic, which makes it kind of hard to review. It’s a film I’ve put off reviewing for awhile because I can’t really come up with anything other than paragraphs of praise. It’s perfect.

Do I need to run through all the regular tidbits about it having a great story, script, director, cast, composer, cinematographer, special effects department and everything else under the sun?

I’m reviewing this right after I reviewed RoboCop, which I also gave a 10 out of 10. But don’t take that score lightly, it is really hard for me to give out 10s but this film certainly deserves it and maybe even a score slightly beyond that. The only other movie from my childhood that can really compete for this as the best film from that era is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While the Roger Eberts, Gene Siskels and Pauline Kaels have their Citizen KaneVertigo and Seven Samurai, I have Raiders of the Lost ArkEmpire Strikes Back and Back to the Future. These are my generation’s classics and even though they are much more modern, their greatness can’t be denied. Well, unless you’re completely devoid of taste.

This film was a perfect storm, even if it had some major production issues early on. But those issues led to this and it’s hard to imagine that a film with a slightly different cast would have been as good as this ended up being.

If you haven’t seen this film already, I don’t understand what you’ve been doing with all of your time on this planet. If you have seen it and don’t like it, we probably won’t be friends.

This is, hands down, one of the absolute best films of the 1980s, regardless of genre or style. There are other movies that one can refer to as “perfect” but how many are actually this fun?

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.