Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Runtime: 104 minutes

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye

From: Touchstone Pictures

I could have sworn I had watched and reviewed this here before; I did a search and saw I was mistaken, so here we go:

As I am sure many 7 year olds did in the summer of 1988, I went and saw this movie on the big screen; in this case it was with my mom and two sisters. I enjoyed it at the time, but it wasn't until later in life that I fully appreciated the movie. After all, it should come as no surprise that as a 7 year old, I had never seen a film noir, let alone something like Chinatown. As an adult I can now acknowledge such things and how clever this movie is.

I imagine most are familiar with the plot of how it's 1947 Hollywood and the universe is where humans exist alongside the cartoon world, and the story is totally noir with hardboiled down on his luck detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) taking what he thinks is an easy job where he has to take some pictures for a studio head turns out to be much more, a conspiracy involving an evil judge and a sexpot woman is unwittingly involved... and what an interesting character Jessica is: many are overcome with desire by merely looking at her and yet among all the men she could marry, she chose one who made her laugh.

The film is great in how it works both for kids and adults. I appreciate the adult story involving such serious drama as Valiant being haunted by his brother's death along with the things that would be appealing to younger folk, such as all the humor and finding it easy to believe that this world exists and you never doubt the idea of humanity co-inhabiting with the cartoon world. I've heard about all the effort it took to make fantasy a reality; as it's not a CGI creation that makes it a hell of a lot more impressive.

As a kid I watched plenty of old cartoons so of course I loved seeing the plentiful amount of different classic characters from a wide variety of different studios and I'll admit, it's still awesome seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse (or Donald and Daffy Duck) interact with each other. By the way, the old urban legend of Donald calling Daffy an awful racial slur... it's bollocks.

I am thankful that as an adult I can rate this movie so highly and enjoy its unique story and also believe every second of it, and note that when he did it (even in some terrible movies I saw a long time ago) Christopher Lloyd could play an unforgettable villain. If you haven't seen this in ages or even if ::gasp:: you have never watched this at all, I say this is a problem you need to rectify.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Amityville: The Awakening

Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Runtime: 87 minutes

Directed by: Franck Khalfoun

Starring: Bella Thorne, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mckenna Grace, Cameron Monaghan, Kurtwood Smith

From: The “wonderful” people at The Weinstein Company

This... this is really bad. I give many details as to why: 

Would you believe that McG's The Babysitter (as available on Netflix Instant) wasn't the only Bella Thorne movie to be released online late last week? This is so “good” that it was put on Google Play... for free. Only because of that did I see this film that sat on the shelf for several years. No matter how bad it was, the way the brothers Weinstein treated that (and many other films) is pretty gross, although what was made public about Harvey recently-and it's now news that apparently his brother Bob did similar behavior-that is a hill of beans in comparison to the humongous problem that exists in Hollywood... and many segments of society, to be honest. I just presume it's in general gone on for decades and hopefully this means that at least there will be attempts to stop such repugnant behavior and gross sexism.

But let me get back to discussing why this is so bad. The story is so ridiculous and full of logical fallacies. Thorne is an angsty teen who happens to move into the alleged haunted house on 108 Ocean Avenue (as it's known now; it used to be 112 Ocean Avenue) with her mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh!), younger sister and twin brother, who is in a vegetative state due to an accident, and if you actually want to watch this film (which I wouldn't recommend doing), wait until you hear the circumstances behind it. Thorne and Leigh don't get along and it's just not enjoyable to watch. Let me mention some bullet points that are comprised of examples:

* This is not terrifying. At all. Even worse, the lame tropes that litter far too many horror films in these modern times are included. There's a random old pop song, stupid jump scares that don't actually scare you, a young kid talking to a malevolent spirit they did not realize was putting on a facade of being friendly, etc.

* The film is meta. That is not good in this case. The original Jay Anson book (which is how the whole business of presenting a goofy story that people still believe is true, even though in all probability it is not) is namedropped, along with he 1979 James Brolin/Margot Kidder movie; they exist in this universe. Alright. Regrettably for them, we are shown some footage from The Amityville Horror film (because the movie is watched in the house!) and all it did was make me want to watch that again instead. As goofy as that was, at least it was wildly entertaining between the over the top moments (many of which were in the book) and Rod Steiger devouring the scenery due to him being out of control with his performance.

* There's a minor character named Terrence who goes to the same school as Thorne's character. What an obnoxious A-hole he is. He acts like a Men's Rights Activist and probably watches Rick & Morty as he feels like he's Rick.

* This movie had the temerity to say the Ryan Reynolds Amityville Horror “blows” because it's a remake. Yep... I imagine it's not great but in comparison...

* They try to explain why you had events in the house 40 years ago but nothing happens again until now. It's goofy and the characters laugh at it like it's a dumb suggestion; only, nothing else is ever suggested, so am I to presume this is the canon explanation?

* MUSIC BY ROB. This is an actual credit. The homeboy's full name is Robin Coudert-who has worked in the genre before-and honestly, how can I take him seriously if he just calls himself Rob?

* I could go on and on but you're better off watching or rewatching the 1979 movie; at least that way you can enjoy the epic combination of James Brolin's hair and beard. There is at least EIGHTEEN movies with Amityville in their name; I know that some have to be even worse than this... after all, some have dealt with haunted objects from the house ending up many hundreds of miles away, including dollhouses and clocks. There is plenty of recent horror you can find streaming somewhere which is more worth your time than this drivel.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Honeymoon

Honeymoon (2014)

Runtime: 87 minutes

Directed by: Leigh Janiak

Starring: Most of this movie is just Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway

From: Fewlas Entertainment

You know, this is a horror movie on Netflix Instant actually worth watching; see why below: 

I figured it was time for me to watch some more modern horror during this spooky season so I went with a flick I heard praise for a few years ago but never got around to watching until now. This is one of those films that takes its time, but I am not saying that in a pejorative way; it's not dreadfully dull and boring like some recent horror movies... I won't name names...

Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) are indeed a couple that just got married. They have their honeymoon at a cabin owned by Bea's parents. They are an average couple of average means. They act like typical newlyweds, meaning that yes, “sex” is a part of the equation, and frequently. Most of the movie is just those two characters. One night she wanders aimlessly in the woods and that's when things change... the time spent before that was important as not only did you get to know the two, but you see how differently they act to each other after that fateful night.

I don't want to say much else as the probably cliché phrase “going in cold” does apply here. Besides, the movie can be interpreted several different ways, and how you like this may depend on how well you think this succeeded at delivering a certain message. Me, I say that the movie was successful at being ambiguous and the story read literally works in large part due to not only the filmmaking craft but also the performances of Leslie and Treadaway. I appreciated how it wasn't a standard horror movie, although there are still some gross moments. I now know why it got some strong praise at the time; it can currently be streamed on Netflix Instant and I am sure it's better than a lot of the dreck you can find in the horror section on that service.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

Runtime: 100 minutes

Directed by: Rob Hedden

Starring: Jensen Daggett, Kane Hodder, Scott Reeves, Sharlene Martin, Peter Mark Richman

From: Paramount

Oh, what a silly piece of crap this is. See me explain this below: 

As yesterday was Friday the 13th and I've watched/reviewed the first 7 in this franchise, this was the logical choice for me. Paramount's meddling, the film having a pitiful low budget and the MPAA rearing its ugly head again really hampered this movie and yet I can still say it is OK, even if part of the equation is me laughing AT it.

I am sure everyone knows by now how Jason ends up on a “cruise ship” that looks like a tanker ship full of oil or gasoline and not only is the NYC stuff reserved for the third act, it's mainly Vancouver and only a small fraction was actually filmed in The Big Apple. The movie is stump dumb and pretty inept; I could go on and on about flubs and logic errors, but I say a lot of the blame goes with Paramount for slashing the budget at the last minute; what a thing to do for a franchise that made them money.

I'll say that the cast and crew did try, and Jensen Daggett was likable as the lead girl, Rennie. The way the ending turned out was a little baffling, including how Jason looked... either he suffered a lot of water damage at the bottom of Crystal Lake or they decided to (and I'm borrowing a phrase here) make him look like a Muppet. Maybe they had some of the “top dollar toot” cocaine that the bitchy trampy Tamara was using. While the kills were unfortunately neutered because of the MPAA being melonheads at the time, there still were memorable moments-such as the ultimate fate of Julius-and some stereotypical yet still enjoyable characters. Thus, I can say this was OK and this being different helps, although the idea of Jason in New York City could have been pretty awesome. At least Metropolis's The Darkest Side of the Night was quite the late 80's tune.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Foreigner

The Foreigner (2017)

54% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 59 reviews)

Runtime: 114 minutes

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael McElhatton, Dermot Crowley, Charlie Murphy (no, not that one; this is actually an Irish actress)

From: STX and many other companies, most of them Chinese

As an aside, maybe I should be more careful in where and when I see a film. Once again, the crowd at a theatrical experience I was at wasn't great, and thus I wanted to break the noses of several people but in actuality I just stared them down as I walked out of the auditorium at the movie's end.

Anyhow, last night I saw this movie's premiere. I was interested; as the movie's marketing stressed, Jackie Chan would be appearing in a film getting a wide release in the United States for the first time in a long while; in fact, if you discount a movie I always will presume is atrocious (the Karate Kid remake) it's been almost a solid decade. Plus, judging by the trailers he was doing some acts you'd expect from a villain. I realize he was mad because Pierce Brosnan was not giving him help he thought he'd be able to give in the wake of Jackie's daughter dying in a London bombing attack but it was still a surprise as at least in the past 40 years he has turned down roles-including those in Hollywood films-where he'd be the villain as he only wanted to be seen as the hero in China.

As this is brand new I won't spoil anything important, or who should be considered the heroes and villains in this movie. I'll just mention that while it's explained in the movie, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an important plot point. I am old enough to remember them but I imagine some of you have no idea. Basically, in the latter half of the 20th century there were extremely violent clashes over a segment of the population wishing Northern Ireland would not be a part of the United Kingdom and instead be united with the Republic of Ireland. In addition, Chan was in his early 60's when he made this movie so it's no surprise he doesn't do his astounding martial arts like he used to (or with such frequency); that said, what you do see is still entertaining, plus it's a nice change of pace for me to see him act and emote.

This isn't great and some aspects of the plot can certainly be questioned. Even then, I thought this was a good time; as I heard someone else mentioned, the style of this and even the musical score will remind you of a certain crime drama director. I understand this is based on an early 90's book (which explains the IRA elements) and that is also why Jackie is playing a Vietnamese man; he was a producer on this so he was OK with playing a different nationality. The story doesn't always mesh well together but I can still say I was entertained by this picture.

Bones

Bones (2001)

Runtime: 96 minutes

Directed by: Ernest Dickerson

Starring: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Clifton Powell, Ricky Harris, Michael T. Weiss

From: New Line Cinema

Yep, another movie I am revisiting for the first time in many years. Read what I thought of this below: 

As sometimes happen, the inspiration to see this random movie came from a messageboard discussion. In this particular case, some people were talking about this and I remarked that I watched it in full on VHS... soon after it came out but that was it and I honestly did not remember a damn thing about the movie besides it starring Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier. I was surprised when I saw the name of cult favorite Katharine Isabelle in the opening credits.

A fellow Letterboxd member described this as “a blaxploitation Hellraiser movie” and that did make me laugh. One plot element is definitely “borrowed” from the original Pinhead movie. Snoop Dogg is Jimmy Bones, who is a “numbers runner” (but he's also a drug dealer & it's basically played like he's a pimp, because of course) in 1979; he is murdered and his brownstone home becomes a tomb where his spirit is trapped. In 2001, a group of of young people (three of them are brothers and white step-sister) buy that place and (again, because of course) they want to turn it into a nightclub, even though the neighborhood is now a really bad, barren ghetto. There's also a black dog that's a manifestation of Bones. Not to spoil anything, but I'll just mention that Jimmy Bones does return, and his fashion sense is “cosplay of The Undertaker.”

I wish I could rate this at higher than average, but it takes awhile to get going, there are some dopey moments, some of the acting is not great and a character or two is annoying. Let's not even talk about how poorly much of the CGI has aged. It's regrettable as “urban horror” should always be more of a thing and the general idea of someone coming back to life looking for revenge on those that wronged him is clearly a good one, and that was the best part of this movie. The movie is flashy and it is pretty stylish; at times it's real colorful (almost as if it's a giallo) and there are interesting ideas present. I just wish the bones of the story (I know, I know) would have been more solid.

As is, it's an intriguing film which doesn't quite work but because of the presence of director Ernest Dickerson (who has directed good films and also various music videos) this is at least average which makes it better than many of the genre pictures you can find on services such as Netflix Instant and when you narrow it down to just “urban horror”, this might as well be The Exorcist in comparison to some of the travesties you find there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I Walked With A Zombie

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Runtime: A lean mean 69 minutes

Directed by: Jacques Tournier

Starring: James Ellison, Frances Dee, Tom Conway, Edith Barrett, 

From: RKO

Thank heavens this lived up to the hype I heard about beforehand. Read some details below:

Last night this played on Turner Classic Movies. Last month I saw the original Cat People; I mentioned it on a messageboard and it was recommended to me that I see this one. Of course I was familiar with the film but this was my first viewing.
This movie isn't a “zombie picture” in a traditional sense; there is plenty of voodoo as a Canadian nurse travels to a fictitious Caribbean island to take care of a young woman who is in a catatonic state. Throughout the short 69 minute runtime, there are plenty of chilling moments, bits that I will never forget. I dare not divulge many of the secrets for those wanting to see this in the future (as there's a lot to unpack), except that there's a bug-eyed man you see a few times, and there's a haunting image I'll never forget; the same goes for how this ends.
This is a low-budget affair but they made the most with the money and it is easy to believe they are actually in the Caribbean. Like in Cat People, light and shadow are used perfectly. The history of the region and how the white European man colonized the area and treated the poor natives is one of the plot points; I mention that as an example of how this isn't just “another low-budget horror flick” from a long time ago, and its highly lofted reputation is deserved.