Movie Review: HELLRAISER: Judgment

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hellraiser judgmentLionsgate
2018
NR

“This new millennium hurtles forward. Faith is lost. Mankind have become a vacuum without morality. So many souls seeking new and darker experiences. Degradation upon degradation, sin after sin.”

So, at this point in the game, should anyone who has been a fan of the Hellraiser movies even care at this point? The track record since going the direct-to-video rout back in 2000 with the release of Hellraiser: Inferno hasn’t been that great. There’s been maybe a couple of decent ones, but so far they’re underwhelming at best. Then Hellraiser: Revelations fell with such a loud splat, I figured that was it. Even if they did make another Hellraiser movie, it would just be going through the motions.

Then news of another Hellraiser movie started circulating. At first, there was talk of a reboot, but then that fell through. So, we got yet another direct-to-video original movie sequel, subtitled Judgment. And so, because I can’t not watch the sequel, it was with a resigned sigh that I pressed play and settled down, expectations at an all-time low.

So, how was Hellraiser: Judgment? Surprisingly decent, actually.

After a brief yet rather memorable bit featuring a new kind of Cenobite called The Auditor, we follow a couple of detectives following a case involving a grizzly serial killer dubbed the Preceptor. The detectives are brothers, Sean and David, who are joined up with a third detective, Christine to help with the investigation into The Preceptor, who apparently bases his murders on the Ten Commandments. Following up a lead that takes him to the house from the first part of the movie, Sean finds himself being questioned by The Auditor, who then leaves him to be judged by the Stygian Inquisition, when an angel intervenes to have him released. Sean escapes this Hell dimension with one of the iconic puzzle boxes, and after getting David, they both go back to the house to find that nothing is amiss, certainly no portal to hell or anything. That night Sean is tormented by nightmarish visions of the Cenobites and goes back to drinking. Later, Sean and Christine discover the cell phone of one of the Preceptor’s victims, which lead them to his hideout, where it’s learned that Sean is actually The Perceptor, when he incapacitates Christine, then abducts his brother and his wife. Seems the two were conducting an affair behind Sean’s back, so he makes the two open the Lament Configuration box, summoning the Cenobites to take them. Pinhead shows up and let’s Sean know that he’s basically screwed despite his attempts at bargaining with his brother and wife’s souls; the Auditor tries to take Sean back because he was judged guilty for his sins, but then the angel comes back to say “NAY” to that noise, because Sean is apparently part of heaven’s plan to instill fear into sinners. Then Pinhead rips apart the angel with his chains n’ hooks, to which he’s then banished from hell to walk the earth as a mortal man. Wait then to the end credits for an hilarious scene featuring The Auditor and a couple of Mormon missionaries. The end.

To begin, yes, I admit that Hellraiser: Judgment is another re-purposed script to get a quick movie out before losing the rights to the franchise. One might be jaded enough to say that Hellraiser: Revelations is more of an original Hellraiser movie than this one because of that. However, despite its many flaws sporting the Hellraiser re-purposing, Judgment was far more watchable than was the previous movie. I found The Auditor to be enjoyable as a character, and I wouldn’t mind having him incorporated in future stories. Pinhead, however, seems once again to be wasted potential. I miss Doug Bradley, really, and while Paul T. Taylor was passable, he lacks the charisma that made the character so legendary, even when he was regulated to showing up near the end to do his job in the later films. I also couldn’t help but feel Pinhead’s fate was cribbed from the second Prophecy movie and Gabriel’s fate.

While the mystery surrounding the serial killer was standard and predictable, still it worked on a certain level, with the best parts involving the house and The Auditor. Making this into more of a House Of Mystery type adaptation instead of a Hellraiser movie might have been a better bet. But, if you can look past the shoehorning of the story into a Hellraiser flick, Judgment was still a far better movie than some of the previous in the series. Worth a look, at least.

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Pointless Brain Droppings (May 17, 2018)

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negasonic teenage warheadNegasonic Teenage Warhead.

She of the two Deadpool movies. She’s also in the comic books, I’m told. Interesting character. One question that nags me, though:

What is she going to be called when she turns 20?

She wouldn’t technically be a Teenage Warhead any longer. Would it be Negasonic Warhead? Or just streamline it to just Warhead? I’d go for the latter, actually.

In hindsight, choosing to use the word “Teenage” in the name may have been a bit shortsighted. Like with New Kids On The Block, or Backstreet Boys. Sooner or later, they’re all going to have to give up and admit to the passage of time rendering those edgy monikers null and void.

Besides, life really does begin at 30, guys. This whole “teenage” thing was what you would call overrated.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK

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when a stranger calls backUniversal Television
1993
NR

“I am not the reflection of anything. I am not an illusion. I am the truth. I’m invisible. Unknowable. You people are the real illusionists. You people are the real illusionists.”

Back in 1979, a very mediocre horror movie called When A Stranger Calls was released, to a chorus of yawns. I presume. I’ve never really watched the original When A Stranger Calls, but if it’s anything like the needless 2006 remake, then the possibility of me watching the original is very slim. Regardless, in 1993, a television movie sequel to the first When A Stranger Calls was broadcast. And I recently watched it. Why? Well, it was on Amazon Video. Also, I was morbidly curious. Also, it was a Rifftrax presentation. So, at least this would take some of the edge off of what was promising to be a rather dull 90-or-so minutes.

And boy howdy was this a massively dull movie to sit through. But first, let’s recap this thing, shall we?

So, we’re introduced to Julia, a teenager that’s babysitting for a couple one night, when a stranger knocks on the door stating his car is broken down and asks to come inside to use the phone. Instead of letting the guy in, she agrees to call the auto club for him, only to discover that the phone was dead. Instead of telling him that, she lies and tells him they’re on the way. Of course, he doesn’t buy it, and there’s a stilted back-and-forth that goes on for several minutes too long, before it’s revealed that the guy has been in the house the entire time and was throwing his voice to make it sound like he was outside. The kids are now missing, and the babysitter escapes, and now needs intensive therapy one would presume. Flash forward five years, and Julia is now a really reclusive college student who still has issues from the incident. Weird things start happening to her at her apartment, leading Julia to think that the stalker is back and messing with her again. Fortunately, the woman from the first film is now a counselor at the college she attends, and she takes an interest in her situation, offering to help. She then contacts the detective that helped her in the first film. He’s a bit skeptical about this, but agrees to help, while the counselor buys Julia a gun for protection. Except that Julia decides to shoot herself in the head instead, putting herself in a coma. The stalker is tracked down performing a ventriloquist act at a club; he gets away, and then finally shows up at the counselor’s apartment for a confrontation that ends with her getting shot by the stalker, then the stalker getting shot by the detective. Then Julia comes out of her coma and the end.

Overall, When A Stranger Calls Back feels longer than what it really is, mainly to the rather slow pace and dull story execution going on, as well as the wooden acting from the cast. No surprise that it was produced for television instead of a theatrical run. All these years later, and I’m pretty sure no one was demanding a follow-up to the original movie. I could be wrong, but given the time frame, someone was grabbing at straws for content to fill a slot. Okay, so technically it was broadcast on Showtime, which is more of a basic cable channel; let’s face it, though, a made-for-television slasher film is going to not be up to snuff. No pun intended, there. Pity, as I actually adore Carol Kane, as well as Charles Durning, both of which were in the first film.

When A Stranger Calls Back, let this movie go straight to voice mail. I hate myself now for that pun.

Movie Review: CHRISTIAN MINGLE The Movie

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christian mingleCapitol Christian Distribution
2014
PG

Oh, don’t look so incredulous. We live in a world where major motion pictures have been made for board games and those emoji characters on your smart phone. So really, the idea to make a movie based around a specialized dating website was going to happen sooner or later. Only, the fact that there was one made based on a popular Christian dating site, and as a light hearted faith-based rom-com was enough to pique my morbid curiosity, and thus the reason for my reviewing this*.

Christian Mingle stars that other Party Of Five costar that isn’t Nev Campbell or Jennifer Love Hewit — Lacey Chabert — as an ad executive named Gwyneth that is good at her job, but is woefully unsuccessful in finding that special someone that makes her heart go pitter-pat. Deciding to take maters into her own hands, she signs up on the dating website Christian Mingle. Problem is, she hasn’t been to church for years, and has lapsed in her Christian upbringing. But, that’s okay, as she purchases some items to help her fake it: The Bible for Dummies and Christianity for Dummies. And yes, these are actually available for purchase at your local bookstore. Presuming everyone knows what a bookstore is in this day and age. Anyway, she meets a guy named Paul, and after a couple of slightly awkward yet successful dates, Paul takes Gwyneth to a Bible study and finally to church to meet his parents, where, during after church lunch at a place named Steak & Cake**, Paul reveals that he’s traveling to Mexico with his family’s construction company to repair a church in Mexico. She accompanies them, and during the trip it’s discovered that she really isn’t a Christian, and thus Paul breaks up with her for the deception. Ironically, after returning back to the States, this helps to kickstart her own genuine Christian faith, and in the process, begins to learn what is truly important in this world. Although, regardless, she still gets the guy in the end, so, boo on that.

For what it is, Christian Mingle: The Movie is a harmless, light-hearted rom-com that leans less toward Christian propaganda and more toward an honest attempt to entertain. The result is corny, fluffy and quite a bit cheesy. But, there’s a kind of charm about this that would lead me to give it a repeat watch more than, say, any one of the God’s Not Dead movies, or anything Kirk Cameron has recently produced.

I do not regret watching Christian Mingle: The Movie. You may not regret watching it, either.

[* = Fun Fact: I actually made my youth group with this one evening. Because I love them. Imagine what I would do if I didn’t like them.]

[** = Another Fun Fact: There really is a Steak & Cake in existence. I helped fix their point of sale device one afternoon at work. They also serve more than just steak and cake. My mind was sufficiently blown.]

Movie Review: HUDSON HAWK

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hudson hawkTriStar Pictures
1991
R

“History, tradition, culture…are not concepts! These are trophies I keep in my den as paperweights! The chaos we will cause with this machine will be our final masterpiece!”

Whenever I come across the movie Hudson Hawk mentioned in an article or podcast or whatever and whatnot, it’s always referenced as one of the worst movies of Bruce Willis’ film career. Not the worst, as it’s not even close to the likes of The Whole Ten Yards or A Good Day To Die Hard. I haven’t heard anyone say anything good about Hudson Hawk.

I aim to change that. Because, I may be in the woeful minority, but I actually not only enjoyed Hudson Hawk when I watched it in the theaters when it was released back in 1991, but I continue to watch it more often than most other movies.

If, for some reason you haven’t checked this out due to the negative press, Hudson Hawk is about a former cat burglar who is just released from prison, and just wants to play it straight, stay out of the crime game, and most importantly get a decent cup of Cappuccino. Only, there are certain people from the Mayflower Industries corporation who want to utilize Hudson’s special skill set to steal three of the most highly secured ancient artifacts in the world: the maquette of the Sforza, the Da Vinci Codex, and a scale model of DaVinci’s helicopter design. Why? Because these three components hide the pieces to a device that turns lead into gold, and Mr. and Mrs. Mayflower want to make their own gold to crash the world’s economy. To help Hawk on his mission is his long-time partner in crime, Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina, along with several associates that are on the Mayflower Industries’ payroll — including Hawk’s parole officers, a minor mob ring and some candy-themed CIA agents. Also, there’s a snarky British butler named Alfred with a propensity for spring-loaded wrist blades. With the help of an undercover nun (which is a great band name), it’s a wacky series of misadventures trying to keep the Mayflowers from taking over the world while attempting to have that elusive Cappuccino.

Hudson Hawk, to me, is the perfect flawed guilty pleasure. I adore this movie. It’s all over the place, with the cheeky performances, the over-the-top scene chewing, the absurdist humor injected into the plot, the gleeful cheese that flies at you…darn it, I’m just going to say give this at least one look before deciding for yourself if Hudson Hawk really is as bad as everyone says. As for me, I believe I just talked myself into watching this movie again.

Movie Review: X2

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x220th Century Fox
2003
PG-13

“Logan, my tolerance for your smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here, and you’ll spend the rest of your days under the belief that you’re a six-year-old girl.”

Fascinating. All this time, and even though I’ve reviewed all the other X-Men movies that have come out, I’ve never did a proper review for the second movie in the franchise, X2: X-Men United. I don’t know what may have caused this glaring oversight; consider this my long-overdue rectification of that issue.

At the time, X2 was described by director Bryan Singer as a darker, Empire Strikes Back style movie for the Merry Mutants. And yes…that is a very apt description of this movie. And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the X2 storyline, let me tell you…

After an opening where the President of the United States narrowly escapes an assassination attempt, Wolverine returns from the journey of discovery he went on at the end of the first movie back to the Xavier Institute to find Professor Xavier tracking a mutant with a very erratic movement pattern. Later, while the Professor and Cyclops are off visiting Magneto in his prison, and Storm and Jean Grey are out trying to find Nightcrawler (the mutant that tried to kill the President), a military scientist gets the go ahead to invade Xavier’s school for gifted students. Wolverine manages to get several of the kids to safety, and escapes with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro. Meanwhile, Xavier and Cyclops are captured, while Mystique helps Magnito escape his prison. The two then run into the other X-Men, and form an uneasy alliance to take down the military scientist that invaded the mansion. His name is Stryker, and turns out is the man who originally infused the adamantium to Wolvie’s skeleton. They find the location of Stryker’s underground base, where he is using Xavier to telepathically kill every mutant on the planet. They infiltrate the base, and manage to free the mutants being held there, as well as destroy the device that was going to kill all mutantkind, and Jean Grey dies using her powers to keep the burst dam from killing everyone before the X-Men’s jet can take off. Everyone is safe, but sad now, although Professor Xavier senses things are not over with Jean.

Overall, X2 is counted as the best of the first three X-Men films for good reason. The stakes were higher, not everyone gets out unscathed, the villains are cast in a more sympathetic light, and not everything is what you would call black and white, cut and dried, and what have you. When we get to the end, there’s a tremendous sense of loss, but also a glimmer of hope on the horizon. X2 is a very satisfying X-Men movie, as well as an action movie in general. I still watch this one frequently, at least once every year or so, and count this as one of the few sequels that was better than the movie that preceded it. Hindsight being what it is, obviously X2 was probably the last one that fans really liked, until the First Class prequel ten years later. Regardless, I can’t think of anyone who’s a fan of the X-Men movies who haven’t seen X2 yet; if this is the case, you owe it to yourself to rectify that. Recommended.

Music Review: SCARLET – Scarlet

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scarletSCARLET
Scarlet
FnA Records
2010

Hey, look. Just what we need. More obscure hair metal from the 1980s getting re-released in the second decade of the 21st Century. In this case, it’s the band Scarlet, a band that hailed from Florida in the mid-1980s, and recorded nine demo songs before calling it quits in 1988. The band and their demos remained obscure until FnA Records released all nine songs on CD in 2010. And since I’m a sucker for things like this, let’s review this thing, shall we?

The very first cut on this collection, “Right Reason”, more or less gives you an overall scope of what to expect, with a really good, driving hook and riff that’s on the upbeat hard rocking metal side of things, with vocals that go for melodic but are really in need of some vocal lessons to tune things up, with the lyrics going for the standard generic “rock for the Rock” cheese that seemed to be the standard for underground Christian hair metal bands from the 80s. Ah, memories. “Lisa” is one of those not-quite-power-ballad type songs that is mid-paced and heavy, with a melodic chorus and featuring a decent shredding guitar solo. “Stop Runnin'” has a decent mid-paced riff and a good solo, but doesn’t really go much of anywhere beyond that. Kind of a forgettable track. “We’re Gonna Rock” is another upbeat, anthemic rocker with the cheesy “rock for the Rock” lyrics going.

It was about this time, as I was settling down and bracing for five more cuts of the same, when “Armor” began with an acoustic opening, but then I was surprisingly caught off guard when some blistering, high-octane NWOBHM style HEAVY METAL ripped my face off with something actually good in this collection. Wow. Nicely done, album. Nicely done. The problem was, this actually raised my hopes that the band was merely getting warmed up, with some better cuts following. Alas, this wasn’t the case, as “I Declare War” is decent, with a driving heavy riff, but with the sound quality not being the best, like the source got a bit damaged between then and when it was transferred to CD. “Treasure” is more of a bluesy metal style, and it’s noticeable that they changed vocalists with this one. Still rather sub-par in the vocals department. “Beginning” decides to shed the whole “metal” thing and goes with a radio-friendly janglepop style that couldn’t end fast enough. But then, the CD ends with “Friends”, which thankfully isn’t a cover of the Michael W. Smith tune, but unfortunately is a !POWER BALLAD ALERT! that’s song by another vocalist entirely, this one more of the female persuasion, that’s just grating on my nerves, and features lyrics that sounds like an angsty 12-year-old wrote them attempting a free-form association thing.

Overall, Scarlet is really more of a curiosity than a must-have in terms of obscure 80s metal. The bright spots to this is definitely the guitar work, which shows some raw talent that I hope the guitarist kept up with after the demise of the group. Otherwise, the production is sub-par, and the vocalist(s) are just annoying. One and done with this one. Pass.

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