Movie Review: BUMBLEBEE

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bumblebeeParamount Pictures

“They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?”

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

At this point in the game, I’m pretty sure the world is experiencing a bit of Michael Bay Burnout with the licensed properties he’s been making movies of. I haven’t even gotten to posting my thoughts on the last entry in the Transformers franchise, and here I am pounding out a review of the solo outing of the fan favorite Autobot Bumblebee. Why am I doing this one first rather than going the OCD route and reviewing The Last Knight first, I imagine you asking? Simple.

Bumblebee is actually a good Transformers movie. I know, I know; I’m just as surprised as you are.

To say my expectations was low going into watching Bumblebee would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even going to watch this in the theater originally; I was going to wait for the VOD rental, and take my time getting around to actually watching it. You know, just like I’ve done with every Transformers movie since the first one assaulted our senses back in 2007. But, as it just so happens, I recently had some time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, and this being the middle of January, Bumblebee was the only movie playing that I had any interest in killing said time with. So, I went in not expecting much beyond big booms, shallow stories and even skimpier characterizations. And, what I got was…well, better than I expected.

First off, I’m not saying that Bumblebee is a mind-blowing game changer in the Transformers franchise. It’s still what you would call a big, shiny special effects heavy sci-fi action fantasy based on a toy line from the 1980s aimed at kids and the kids’ parents who grew up in that magical era. But, there are mitigating factors that makes Bumblebee arguably the best of the bunch:

1) Michael Bay’s name is nowhere in the list of making this movie. I’m not saying that Bay should stop making movies. I am suggesting that perhaps he should let others handle the properties like this. Stick to original stuff, let others play with these. As such…

2) The lead actress was not obviously just there for objectified eye candy. As a matter of fact, this is the third movie I’ve seen staring Hailee Steinfeld, and so far she’s 3/3 knocking her roles out of the proverbial ball park. As a matter of fact, none of the female characters are what you would call objectified. There is a bit at the beginning where a guy takes off his shirt due to Hailee’s character Charlie accidentally dumping lemonade on him, but I don’t know if that was intentionally meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal or not. But then again…

4) The characters don’t annoy me. That alone is a tremendous improvement from the previous movies. Even John Cena was rather good in his role of military agent that happened to be the only one to point out that the robots they’re trusting are called Decepticons, for crying out loud. I never thought I would find myself agreeing with Cena, but here we are. And finally,

5) Bumblebee is a yellow Volkswagon Beetle, LIKE HE ALWAYS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. Seriously, it took all these movies to get him right? I know, I know, product contract with Chevy and all that; but at least now we got to see the Autobot like his original toy depicted him as in his vehicle form. Sure, way at the end he (SPOILER) changes to the Camero form we first meet him as in the first movie, but for the majority of the time we can revel in the original.

Really, I found myself enjoying Bumblebee far more that I was expecting, nostalgia glasses or not. the soundtrack of 80s hits was enough to bring me back (caveat: the song “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock was used; the movie is set in 1987, while that song and the album it’s on weren’t released until late 1988…end of nerd rant), and while I’m not going to say which scene it’s in, let’s just say that the song “You’ve Got The Touch” from the Transformers animated movie was finally used here. The action scenes were really good, and most importantly, I came out of this never thinking that my intelligence was insulted in any way.

Here’s hoping that Bumblebee is an indication of how any future forays into the Transformers movie universe are going to be. Recommended.


Movie Review: The EVANGELIST

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ITN Distribution

At seven years old, Bill Horton watched in horror as a serial killer murdered his mother. Known as The Evangelist, he places a bible next to her body and quotes scripture as he leaves Bill alone and destroyed. Thirty years later, Bill has grown up and appears to be a model citizen, spending his days cleaning his house and baking. He has, however, picked up the mantle of The Evangelist, killing those who he finds wicked and evil and leaving a bible by their bodies. Bill only opens up to Dr. Laura Cooper, a psychiatrist, who discovers Bill’s dark secret. She contacts young Detective Edward Legros who is working on the case with his cynical, veteran partner, Detective John Vance. But what Vance knows about the original Evangelist will lead to a bloody showdown.

Here we are with another low-budget horror move from the stream, this one featuring the tried and true serial killer who uses Christian religious imagry. Eh, the whole “crazy killer spouting randomly eisageted scripture” thing is an easy type.

The description blurb and cover art looked promising, so I popped The Evangelist on, to see how bad this could get.

You wanna wager a guess at just how bad this movie is? Well, lemme tell you…

As it turns out, The Evangelist is one of those low-budget independent movies that is barely over an hour long, but feels much, much longer when watching it. That’s right, folks. The Evangelist has the ability to bend space and time. Scientists need to get on this to see about harnessing this power for good instead of evil.

But, I digress.

The acting in this movie is of the kind that will cause you to face palm multiple times and groan. At least, that’s what I did, I don’t know what kind of involuntary reactions anybody else gets when viewing movies of this caliber. As an example, early on in the movie, the Red Herring Bad Guy is shown taking a pan of cookies that were obviously store-bought, then proclaim, “Good enough to eat.” Well…yeah, I hope so. Otherwise, you just baked a bunch of chocolate chip coasters, there. The characters are more over-the-top stereotypes than characters, the acting is sub-par, and it’s obvious that this was all filmed in one guy’s house, which is made all the more apparent in the scenes that are supposed to be located at a police station, but is clearly a redressed living room. The hallways still had family pictures hanging in there, for crying out loud. The ending…well, I’m not really all that surprised at how hackneyed the “twist” at the end was. If anything, it’s the appropriate amount of predictable the rest of the plot was.

Speaking of predictable, you could probably see my “Overall” summary of The Evangelist coming from a mile away. And if you guessed “The only thing good about The Evangelist is the movie poster artwork”, then you’re right on the money. Good on you, mate.Yeah, not even the short running time could lessen the pain of watching this movie. Pass this thing up…or, as the young people like to say, left-swipe this. That’s what young people say nowadays, right?

Movie Review: The DARKEST MINDS

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darkest minds20th Century Fox

When teens mysteriously develop powerful new abilities, they are declared a threat by the government and detained. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, one of the most powerful young people anyone has encountered, escapes her camp and joins a group of runaway teens seeking a safe haven. Soon this newfound family realizes that, in a world in which the adults in power have betrayed them, running is not enough and thy must wage a resistance, using their collective power to take back control of their future.

So, back in April of 2018, we were supposed to have an X-Men spinoff movie, one that wasn’t necessarily tied into th franchise proper, but promised to be more of a horror movie with its story of mutant children being terrorized by the normies. I couldn’t wait to see this movie. But then, news came that the studio decided to pull that movie and push it for over a year later, because…reasons. Whatever, no X-Men horror movie. So, instead of that movie, that same year we got a movie that has nothing to do with the X-Men franchise, but is totally an X-Men story: The Darkest Minds.

Or, more to the point, X-Men Lite. If you want to be kind of jaded about it. For a more, shall we say, optimistic spin, this would be X-Men for th modern YA crowd. Meaning, we have a story here that requires very little investment in thinking about, stock characters we’ve seen before in other YA sci-fi action movies like this, plot beats you could see coming from low space orbit…but, despite all that, I did find myself enjoying this on a certain level.

Keeping in mind that I probably wasn’t the target demographic The Darkest Minds was aiming for, I realize that this could have been far more worse than what we ended up with. The Darkest Minds is a decent movie; it did keep my attention, the effects were pretty good, and the way it was shot was gorgeous.

Overall, The Darkest Minds is what it is: A movie about teenagers with powers going up against adults who misunderstand and fear them. There might be a hamfisted metaphor there, I think. Anyway, not a bad way to kill some time on a rainy afternoon. One and done viewing, for me.


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reality bitesUniversal

“At the beep, please leve your name, number, and a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man’s existential dilemma, and we’ll get back to you.”

A small circle of friends suffering from post-collegiate blues must confront the hard truth about life, love and the pursuit of gainful employment. As they struggle to map out survival guides for the future, the Gen-X quartet soon begins to realize that reality isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Ah, the 1990s. The decade of pretentiousness, covered with a shellac of false altruism. The time of the late 20th Century where cynicism became a fashion accessory, and everyone became willfully ignorant of their own rank hypocrisy. And the music sucked, too.

That is to say, there’s not a lot about the 1990s that hold fond memories for me. Maybe the first two years or so–’90 thru ’92–but that was when the decade was young and still shaking off the hangover from the ’80s. Otherwise, regardless of being part of the so-called “Generation X” that the news media foisted upon our age group, I still scratch my head whenever I hear someone claim that the ’90s was the greatest decade of the 20th Century. There were some bright spots, certainly, but overall, no thanks.

Which brings me to this review of the movie Reality Bites. I had originally watched this movie in the second-run theater, back in 1994, when the ticket price there was $1.50, and a small bag of popcorn ran about $5. After watching it, I was rather ambivalent as to whether I liked it or not. Essentially, my thought process was along the lines of, “Well, it was a movie, by golly.”

Revisiting Reality Bites twenty-five years after the fact, I still find myself rather unmoved with the movie. At best, Reality Bites is essentially a long episode of Friends without the wit or humor and interesting characters. The irony being that Friends debuted a few months later that same year. At worst, this is an uninteresting dramady that tries a bit too hard to be smart, relying on the kind of insipid bumper sticker philosophies that was rampant in that decade. Not that things have changed much nowadays, mind you.

Overall, Reality Bites is the perfect encapsulation of everything I despised about the ’90s. I’m sure there are those who disagree. I’m sure you look on this decade–and this movie–with fondness. You might want to have those nostalgia cataracts removed from your memory, there.

Movie Review: STARCRASH

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starcrashNew World Pictures

“For the space of three minutes, every molecule on this planet will be immobilized. But after the third minute, the green ray loses its power. Time will flow once more and everything will explode.”

In the deep space of the Second Galaxy the best navigator and pilot of the entire interstellar system–Stella Star and Akton–are arrested for smuggling, despite thrusting themselves into hyperspace. Stella escapes only to learn that she and her companion have been chosen by the Emperor of the First Circle to find his son who has been savagely attacked by Zarth Arn. the most important enemy of peace, Arn, is a despot belonging to the League of the Obscure People. Together with Thor, a ‘greenish’ policeman and Elias, a robot, Stella Star and Akton set off on their mission. Stella and the Robot are stranded and left to die on a frozen sphere by Thor, the policeman, who has revealed himself as a traitor in the pay of Zarth Arn. Just in time and thanks to Akton’s fantastic powers Thor is eliminated and the two rescued. Later, the group is attacked by the Troglodytes who’kill’ the robot, Elias. A handsome young man rescues our heroes who now realize that they have accidentally found the entrance to Arn’s fortress. The young man turns out to be Simon, the Emperor’s son. Zarth Arn arrive and Akton sacrifices his life in a laser-sword confrontation with the “Golems”, Arn’s miniature robots. The group escape and plan the final end of Zarth Arn. this requires a stellar clash and using the Fourth Dimension the flying city of the Emperor is hurled against the citadel of Zarth Arn to bring the final dazzling victory.

This movie. This movie, right here. In the list of space fantasy / space westerns / space operas that were produced in the wake of the massive success that was Star Wars back in 1977, Starcrash was one of the more elusive titles for me, and probably one of the more enticing, simply by the fact that it co-stared a young soon-to-be 80s icon / singing sensation (in Germany) David Hasselhoff. The idea of The Hoff wielding a lightsaber laser sword was enough for me to try and track down this turkey. And, as luck would have it, Starcrash became one of the movies available for streaming on my service. We truly do live in a golden age, people.

For obvious reasons, the first thing to come to mind here would be Star Wars Rip-Off. And the similarities to the story are rather uncanny; although, the director had gone on record in interviews stating that development for his movie happened long before the release of Star Wars. Okay, sure. Why not? I mean, it’s not like anybody else tried to capitalize on the film (*cough* Disney’s The Black Hole *cough*). But, let’s not focus on that. What’s the movie like? Hoo, boy…

Starcrash is what one would call a glorious mess. If it is, in fact, a Star Wars knock-off, it’s like someone tried to copy the Mona Lisa using crayons. And not the good Crayola crayons, either; Rose Art or whatever they sell at the Everything’s A Buck stores. The story is rooted squarely within the pulp tradition, having an earnest cheeseball quality not unlike the Flash Gordon serials of yesteryear. Everything about this movie is gloriously cheesy, from the sets, costumes and effects, to the acting quality, to the very way that I found myself muttering “that’s not how space science works” more times than I’m comfortable admitting.

In other words, Starcrash is a gloriously cheesy space western fantasy that needs to be seen to be believed. Again, the inclusion of The Hoff is worth the figurative price of admission alone. An enthusiastic recommendation for Bad Movie Night.

Uncle NecRo Watches: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

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happy death day 2u banner

Uncle NecRo is joined by Brian from the Will Code For Beer pubcast in watching the sequel to Happy Death Day, HAPPY DEATH DAY 2 U. Did he loath it as much as the first one? Did the movie actually pull off the impossible and made him like it? It’s…complicated. Let’s just say that, this is the first Uncle NecRo Watches that made him get a beer for the pubcast…



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wonderful land of ozChildhood Productions

Okay, so…show of hands: How many people reading this has tortured yourselves with the Yuletide schlock classic Santa & The Ice Cream Bunny? Huh. Well, either you’ve never heard of that cinematic atrocity, or you’re too ashamed to admit that you secretly watch it every year along with your family, despite their collective protests. Or, is that just me? I may need help. Anyway…

Depending on which cut you’ve seen (admit it), you’re familiar with either the “Jack & The Giant Beanstalk” or “Thumbilina” segments. Both ultra-low budget fare, featuring paper mache’ sets, equally paper-thin acting and musical numbers that will haunt your nightmares for all the wrong reasons. These were directed by one Barry Mahon, a director known for not only badly made childrens’ movies (like the bafflingly horrible Santa’s Christmas Elf Named Calvin), but also more adult exploitation flicks.

The Wonderful Land Of Oz, Mahon’s adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel The Marvelous Land of Oz, is a faithful–if not ultra low-budget–adaptation. Or so I’m told. I haven’t read the source material, and I’m only familiar with the classic 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz as far as movie adaptations go. And now this one. I have only myself to blame for that.

Anyway, after an opening musical sequence that tries to go for whimsy, but thanks to a badly constructed purple cow (among other things) ends up traumatizing anyone in visual range, we meet a young boy named Tip, who’s busy constructing a pumpkin-headed scarecrow in which to scare his guardian, the wicked witch Mombi. This backfires, as Mombi instead brings the pumpkin headed guy (named Jack Pumpkinhead, who sadly never ever sings about Halloweentown) to life, and then threatens to turn Tip into a garden statue…in the morning. You can’t be turning children into statues without a good night’s rest, apparently. While Mombi is slumbering, Tip runs away with Jack Pumpkinhead in tow, off to the Emerald City to speak with its ruler to get help. Of course, this being a sequel to the first book/movie, the head guy in charge of Emerald City is now the Scarecrow, while the Tin Man is off ruling his own kingdom. What happened to the Lion, you may ask? Pshaw, he doesn’t appear in this movie, so that’s of no importance to the plot. Anyhoo, along the way to Oz, he gets captured by an all-female army that’s marching to Oz to overthrow the Scarecrow and rule Emerald City as they see fit. Once there, while the Army of Revolt confuses the City Guards with logic, Tip manages to escape to warn the Scarecrow of the impending invasion, something which the Scarecrow is kind of okay with, really. Turns out, ruling a city is totally exhausting and stuff. So, the Scarecrow, Peter “Abomination Against Nature” Pumpkinhead and Tip escape to the Tin Man’s realm, where they decide they want to take back Emerald City from a bunch of girrrrrls, and thus return to find that not everything is going as planned for the leader of the rebellion. Then, Glenda the good Witch Fairy stops by with some Deus Ex Machina by way of revealing that the true heir to the Emerald City is a girl that has been under the “care” of Mombi. And when confronting Mombi to the whereabouts of the girl, she reveals that, to keep the girl safe from those seeking her out, she turned her into a boy…a boy she named Tip. Yeah. Didn’t see that one coming [/sarcasm]. Anyway, they return to the Emerald City, with Tip now back to his…er, her original form of a girl, and she’s left in charge of the city with some characters helping her in her education. Oh, and there’s a humanoid bug character that will haunt your nightmares as well in this.

Watching The Wonderful Land Of Oz is like being forced to watch an Elementary school play that was slapped together and directed by a teacher who clearly had delusions of adequacy in putting on a production. Ah, but the ultra-cheep sets and costumes, as well as the cringe-worthy acting is nothing compared to the musical numbers. Gads, those will haunt your nightmares.

Word has it that the director wanted to get Judy Garland to do the narration for this. Probably best that she didn’t get involved in this thing. If you happen upon the Wonderful Land Of Oz, pass on by like the devil is at your heels.

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