Movie Review: DEADPOOL

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deadpool20th Century Fox

I’m gonna do to your face what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late 90s!

Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

Finally. Finally finally finally. After having our collective intelegence insulted with the mishandling of the Merc with a Mouth (actually, technically “Wade Wilson”, not really “Deadpool”, but still) in the cinematic wet fart that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and what constituted as several years of wishy-washy commitment issues from the studios, we long-time Deadpool fans finally have a movie that not only gets the character right, but goes well beyond our expectations on what a good, proper Deadpool movie would be. And considering that this was delivered by the Fox studios (the ones who gave us those wonderful Fantastic 4 movies, among others), I’m fully expecting to see pigs flying in the near future.

You see, I’m in a rather awkward position; I want to go on about the film, about how good it is and all that, but…I also don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who (for some reason I cannot fathom at the moment) hasn’t seen the film yet. So, assuming you haven’t seen it yet, lemme try and shove you off of that fence you’ve been straddling:

For one thing, you’ll be laughing within the first few seconds of the movie. The very opening credits had me and the rest of the theater howling at the way it sets up the irreverent and subversive nature of the movie. And the entire movie is chock full of this kind of funny stuff: the writing is fantastic, the actors’ delivery is impeccable, and there’s so much that I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to watch this again, just to catch whatever I may have missed this one time. Unlike a lot of other comic book-based movies, I’m actually well acquainted with the Deadpool comics (Joe Kelly’s run being my favorite), and I’m proud to say that this Deadpool movie stays very true to that character. Ryan Reynolds is spot-on, and while there are a few tweaks made with the movie version, overall this was a very well-made origin story for the Merc with a Mouth.

I’m going to have to stop there. You have no idea how much I want to go on about this movie. But, I shan’t. I will say, though, that Deadpool well earns that “R” rating, and is not for the squeamish and/or easily offended. Buuuut, if you were familiar with Deadpool, you’d probably know this. That said, Deadpool is awesome, and you really should see it. I’m very picky about which movies I’ll see in the theaters, and it’s rare that I’ll want to see a movie in the theater again after that. Deadpool is a movie I want to see again in the theater. That should tell you something.

Movie Review: MISERY

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2-12 - Movie Review: MISERYColumbia Pictures

God came to me last night and told me your purpose for being here. I am going to help you write a new book.

Paul Sheldon barely remembers the blinding blizzard that sent his car spinning off the road into a near fatal accident. Nor does he remember being nursed back from unconsciousness. All he does remember is waking up to the worst nightmare of his life. Rescued from the accident by his self-confessed number one fan, Paul Sheldon learns that Annie lives vicariously through is novels based on the character Misery Chastain. Grateful to Annie for saving his life, Paul allows her to be the first to read his new manuscript. From that point on it becomes increasingly clear that Annie has trouble distinguishing fact from fiction and Paul comes to the harrowing realization that he might never leave the home of Annie Wilkes alive.

I was a pretty big Stephen King fan growing up. Got into his novels in Junior High when I chose to read Cujo for a book report, and found myself hooked on Mr. King’s twisted nightmares. All through High School I devoured any and every King novel I could get my grubby mits on. So when the mass paperback edition of Misery came out the summer of 1988, you know I was over it. And on the cusp of my 17th birthday, I watched the movie adaptation on the big screen.

I still remember that wintery afternoon in the Omaha multiplex. Misery was – and still is – not only a good adaptation of the book, but as a movie it still holds up as a very tense and spine-tingling thriller about a writer and what happens when he runs across one of his biggest fans.

The story does remain pretty close to the source material, with maybe the biggest difference being one scene that was probably more effective than what happened in the book. James Caan was a good choice as the author Paul Sheldon, but the breakout here is Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, the unbalanced fan of his historical romances who won’t abide by dirty mouths or the death of her favorite fictional character, which happened to be named Misery.

Even after all this time, over twenty-five years since watching this in the Omaha theater in the middle of a snowy winter afternoon (you talk about ambiance), Misery still holds up as a tense, well-executed psychological thriller that’ll stick with you long after the end credits roll. Recommended watching, this is.

Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)

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2-10 - Book Review: Dresden Files 8 - Proven GuiltyJim Butcher

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But, war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

Book number 8 in the Dresden Files series. It was released the year after the previous novel (as most of these were), but since I was loaned all fifteen (at the time), and had the chance to binge-read them (to my young readers: “Binge Reading” is like “Binge Watching”, only with these things called “books” instead of “television shows”), I have to keep in mind that the events here take place almost a year after Dead Beat. And last time, things were topped off with a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. What surprises does this one hold?

Things kick off with Harry Dresden–who is now a fully appointed Warden of the White Counsel of Wizards (irony)–attending the trial and execution of a sixteen-year-old boy for going over to the dark side of wizardry. He’s then tasked with finding out why the Summer and Winter courts of the Fae haven’t attacked the Red Court vampires, and also to check out a spike in black magic usage in Chicago. Harry then finds himself investigating strange attacks at a local horror movie convention, which turns out to be perpetrated by supernatural predators called phobophages, and when he manages to get them to turn on the person who summoned them, discovers that it was the oldest daughter of Michael Carpenter–Molly Carpenter, who is kidnapped into the Nevernever. Meanwhile, turns out the Winter Queen is acting rather odd, which is making everyone on both sides of the Fae nervous, and so Harry has no choice but to storm the Winter stronghold to rescue Molly and try not to bring the entirety of the Winter Fae upon him. He succeeds in one part. Try and guess which one.

Well, now, this one was interesting. First of all, the whole “fears coming to life” thing happening at a horror convention…sure, why not? So far, this is the only book where them phobophages appear; the concept of the creatures is rather intriguing, and it seems was an original concept by Butcher for the purpose of this story. But man, this is something I’d like to explore a bit, maybe flesh out in a short story or something. Anyway, interesting development with Molly, and quite a bit of deeper development with Charity Carpenter beyond Strong Willed Mother Who Doesn’t Like Harry. And not only does it seem that the whole Warden gig is permanent, but there’s a grander conspiracy going on than meets the eye. Such is the nature of conspiracies, one would presume.

So, overall, the series continues to be an intriguing one, willing to take some risks with the ongoing development of the overarching mythos and characters, while trying something new with old concepts.

Movie Review: FROM HELL

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from hell20th Century Fox

“Laudanum is a derivative opium. Apart from doctors and addicts, not many would be able to detect it. How long have you been chasing the dragon, Inspector?”

It is 1888 in London, and the unfortunate poor lead horrifying lives in the city’s deadliest slum, Whitechapel. Harassed by gangs and forced to walk the streets for a living, Mary Kelly and her small group of companions trudge on through this daily misery, their only consolation being that things can’t get any worse. Yet things somehow do when their friend Ann is kidnapped and they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon follwoed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Polly, and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one. Sinister even by Whitechapel standards, the murder grabs the attention of Inspector Fred Abberline, a brilliant yet troubled man whose police work is often aided by his psychic abilities. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love…

In the first couple of years into the 21st Century, there seemed to have been a bit of a mini-explosion of neo-Gothic style horror movies hitting the theater. I don’t know whether it was deliberate; what I do know is, from between the years 1999 through about 2001 or so, the styles and feel, if not the actual settings, hearkened back to the Hammer and William Castle style of Gothic movies and such. From Hell happened to be one of those movies.

Little bit of back story: From Hell was originally a serial that ran between the years 1989 and 1996, by uber-writer Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell, that speculated on the identity of Jack the Ripper. You might have heard of him? Anyway, the original serial was collected in 1999 in a massive trade paperback. And in 2001, the Hughes Brothers team of movie magic makers presumably saw the title in a bookstore, scanned over the back cover descript, and decided to make a movie “loosely based” on this funnybook serial. Seriously, I remember reading an interview with the directors, where they pretty much said they gave approximately no f-bombs as to whether or not the comic fans find their movie to be faithful or not. I have yet to actually read that collected book; from my understanding, though, given the complexities of the finished product, any kind of adaptation would have been nigh-impossible. And, even if they did do a fantastic job in making it exactly like the source material, Alan Moore would have hated it anyway. Tis the Bearded One’s nature.

Anyway, as a movie, From Hell is a slow burning Victorian Gothic mystery, searching for the identity of Jack the Ripper, and possibly uncovering more than the detectives were bargaining for. The story takes its times, weaves back and forth, and finally leaving you with more questions than answers, really. Heather Graham was a surprising choice, given that I didn’t really buy her as one of the prostitutes on Whitechapel (she had to be the cleanest 19th Century whore going), while Johnny Depp was…well, he was at his Depp-iest, kind of a nifty precursor to his star turn as Captain Jack Sparrow to come. The visuals were great, nice and dark and atmospheric, and set the tone perfectly for the time period. However, what could have been really good only turned out to be just good. I never really thought that it was going to be a mind-blower, but still felt a bit underwhelmed when the end credits rolled. Otherwise, overall, From Hell is a good period mystery thriller, and worth checking out some night.

Book Review: DEAD BEAT (The Dresden Files)

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2-9 - Book Review: Dresden Files 7 - Dead BeatJim Butcher

Paranormal investigations are Harry Dresden’s business, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world of wizards and monsters that exist alongside everyday life. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don’t believe in magic, the Special Investigations department of the Chicago PD knows better. Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and Harry’s good friend. So when a killer vampire threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry does her bidding, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler (whatever that is) and all the power that comes with it. Now Harry is in a race against time—and six merciless necromancers—to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead…

The seventh book in the Dresden Files series, and…gads, let me just go ahead and get the descript out of the way, here…

Here we are, a year or so after the events of the previous novel, a couple days before Halloween night, and the Black Court vampire Marva that made things toasty for Harry Dresden only one book ago has decided to blackmail him into finding a book called The Word of Kemmier within 3 days, or his cop buddy Murphy with be set up for the murder of one of Mavra’s minions. Since you just can’t find a copy of The Word of Kemmier on Amazon, and knowing that his supernatural equivalent of Wikipedia–Bob the Skull–used to belong to the necromancer who wrote it, he starts there. It doesn’t go well. Actually, scratch that–it goes as well as you could expect for Harry Dresden. Bob has a split personality, medical examiner and polka enthusiast Waldo Butters gets attacked by another necromancer, learns of another book everyone’s after, and it ends up there are actually three sets of necromancers looking to use both books to turn one of them into a minor god. And to stop this, Harry not only needs to help of the other wizard Wardens, Butters, his vampire half-brother Thomas, but also a reanimated Tyrannosaurus Rex. I’ll just leave it at that.

Okay, sure, the last book had flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas. Dead Beat raises the absurd-cool factor by way of a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. I believe the meme goes thusly: Your Argument Is Invalid. Outside of that, holy crap what a story–a bunch of necromancers wanting to become gods, Evil Bob, the summoning of the Elfking (the master of the Wild Hunt and not someone you’d want to cross, let along try and summon); all this and Harry might be losing it a bit in the head. And, he’s also made a Warden. Not exactly a good day, there. Though, I would suspect riding a freakin’ zombie T-Rex makes up for everything.

Why are you not reading this series? Read it now.

Book Review: BLOOD RITES (The Dresden Files)

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2-8 - Book Review: Dresden Files 6 - Blood RitesJim Butcher

For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Like fleeing a burning building full of enraged demon-monkeys, for instance. Or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister curse, but it’s the women around him who are dying, in increasingly spectacular ways. Harry’s doubly frustrated because he got involved with this bizarre mystery only as a favor to Thomas, his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out, until his investigation leads him straight to Thomas’s oversexed vampire family. Harry’s about to discover that Thomas’s family tree has been hiding a shocking secret: a revelation that will change Harry’s life forever.

Sixth book in the Dresden Files series, and this one probably has the greatest opening committed to the written page. And also a plot setup that could have turned into a Marx Brothers routine, but then…well, here’s my lil’ synopsis of the story…

After rescuing a bunch of puppies that were kidnapped by a bunch of flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas (which is, actually, not the weirdest thing I’ve had to write out loud), Harry discovers one of the puppies decided to stick around. And Harry Dresden doesn’t have time to return the stray bundle of furry cuteness, as his White Court vampire buddy Thomas Raith has hired Harry to investigate a series of bizarre deaths on the set of a porno shoot. It looks to be magic-based, which is bad enough; things get a bit more complicated, though, when another vampire from the White Court shows up as a replacement actress, and decides to kill both Harry and Thomas for being involved. But, then that’s put to the back-burner when an attack by Black Court vampires happens. Lord Raith tries to assassinate Harry with Death By Snu-Snu, but is saved by Thomas, who reveals a bit of Harry’s family line. Harry is framed for the murder of another actress at the shoot, but that doesn’t last too long as the perpetrator is not very bright. Then Harry, Murphy, the professional hitman acquaintance of theirs, and Harry’s wizard mentor take out a nest of Black Court vampires, while only getting a little bit french fried.

First of all, if I didn’t have you by “flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas”, then you’re reading the entirely wrong blog. Also, you probably wouldn’t be the kind of person I’d be personally associating with anyway, so chances are you’re not reading this blog to begin with. Second of all, this story was another one that happened to make me read through a bit faster than normal. Yeah, this is something that could have turned into shark-jumping slapstick-y wackiness (especially with one bit of plot twist that was spoiled in the previous paragraph); but instead, it furthered the overarching story involving the vampire courts, fleshed out quite a bit on the mythos that Butcher is building, and still maintained quite a bit of action with the customary twists and turns that marks a jolly good multi-layered mystery. Also, DRESDEN GETS A PUPPY! Mister’s not gonna be happy. In any case, another good romp thus far.

Movie Review: FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)

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2-8 - Movie Review: FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)Columbia Pictures

“Oh, call me anything you want. Only you’re the one failing trig, not me.”

What would you do if you realized that your charming next-door neighbor was actually a bloodthirsty vampire? This is the dilemma Charley must confront when he notices some rather strange occurrences on the block. His solution is to enlist the aid of Peter Vincent, a has-been horror film actor who now hosts “Fright Night”, a local TV show. Together, the duo set out to rid Charley of his coffin-dwelling neighbor – but their plans go awry when the suave bloodsucker realizes they’re on to him.

You know, come to think of it, 1985 was something of a banner year for horror movies. Especially for a young tweener as myself, with the kind of wild imagination custom-built for the bizarre, dark and creepy with a healthy dose of cheese and camp. Couldn’t watch a lot of horror movies that came out during that time due to my age and my parents having that annoying “concern” and “responsibility” thing going on. But, watching the commercials were just as entertaining. And Fright Night was definitely one of the memorable spots in between episodes of whatever sitcoms I was allowed to watch at the time.

It wasn’t until I was much older when I finally got around to watching the original 1985 post-modern vampire flick Fright Night, when I had the ability to get my own video rental card at the Applause Video store in Fremont, Nebraska back in the day. And I got to admit, the version I imagined this movie would be when I was a youngster was much more dynamic than the actual movie itself (my imagination being rather explosive, natch), but it still was rather fun to watch.

So, here we have a couple of 20 something-looking teenagers–Charley “That Guy From Herman’s Head” Brewster, Edward “Evil Ed” Thompson, and Amy “That Neighbor From Married With Children” Peterson–and the host of a local late night Creature Feature program–Peter “I’m Roddy Freakin’ McDowall” Vincent–have suspicions that Charley’s new neighbor may be a vampire. Well, more Charley than the other two, they just seem to be along for moral support for their possibly crazy friend. But then [SPOILERS] the neighbor really is a vampire! And he’s betting that it doesn’t matter, as everyone thinks Charley has been watching too many vampire flicks. And then his friends and family start getting turned into vamps. And so it’s up to Charley to take out that vampire and survive so he can get that obscure show on Fox that predated Inside Out by a couple of decades.

Okay, so I had a bit of fun with the story descript, but that’s only because the original Fright Night was just good, bloody fun (pun intended). It’s one of those cheesy 80s horror movies that manages to be fun on a level that also has some good, spooky atmospherics, kind of a neo-Gothic Hammer flick for the Regan era. Maybe not as genre defining as The Lost Boys were a couple of years later, but a fun post-modern vampire flick that needs to be watched, instead of that relatively decent remake from 2011. Recommended.

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