Movies+Beer: BRIGHTBURN

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Brian, Andrea and James Classic took in a showing of the Superhero Horror flick Brightburn, then went to Sean O’Casey’s to talk about it…

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Movie Review: WINCHESTER

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winchesterLionsgate / CBS Films
2018
PG-13

I’m a mother. A fighter. A protector. And I am not afraid.

On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters.

To answer your unasked question: Yes, I am familiar with the Winchester House. You really can’t be an enthusiast of spooky legends and folklore and not know something about the house that ghosts built. I’ve never visited the place myself (as I rarely travel farther than a few states away from my neck of the woods); I do have a couple of friends who did tour the house during their honeymoon. They say it was…expansive.

It’s from this legendary house where we get the premise of the movie Winchester. Clearly, going into this, the notion that this was “based on actual events” is secondary to the horror flick this wants to be. Whether you believe in haunting and vengeful spirits or not, I find that going into these kind of flicks as straight-up fiction lends to a far more enjoyable watching experience.

As a movie itself, Winchester works well as a rather enjoyable slow-burning Gothic ghost story. Something like a classic Castle-style throwback, with lots of dark and spooky atmosphere, some decent jump scares (fortunately, the movie doesn’t rely on them like a lot of haunting movies out nowadays), very good visuals and some rather good acting from the cast.

Overall, I think Winchester is one of the better “true haunting” type horror movies to come out in these modern times. Far better than any of the long list of The Haunting Of… movies that always populate my video streaming suggestions. This works best as a late-night viewing, with all the lights off and preferably on a dark and stormy night, with a big bowl of popcorn. Recommended.

Movie Review: UNSANE

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unsaneFingerprint Releasing / 20th Century Fox
2018
R

“My job is to access and interpret data to produce analytical results. I did that job. Taking your frustration out on me will not alter the results. You’re quite within your rights to take your business to another bank. Another analyst may interpret the data more to your liking. But they’d be doing a bad job.”

Usually, whenever I hear about a movie with a gimmick selling point like “shot entirely on the director’s cell phone!”, I think it’s some young upstart that’s trying to squeeze the most out of whatever resources their budget would allow. It’s a novel way to try and get one’s foot in the door, for sure. However, in the case of Unsane, this is a case of a well-established director deciding to experiment. This director in question happens to be Steven Soderbergh, director of such notable films as Sex, Lies & Videotape, the Ocean’s 11 remake and its sequels, Erin Brockovich, The Hunger Games, and a bunch of other flicks you may have heard of. As a matter of fact, the previous year Logan Lucky was getting a bit of a buzz when Unsane was released to theaters.

In Unsane, we follow an office worker named Sawyer who is trying to build a new life for herself trying to escape a stalker. As a result, she has some unfortunate PTSD issues when she tries to get back into dating; however, while visiting with a counselor at the Highland Creek Behavioral Center, she inadvertently signs a release form that voluntarily commits her to a 24-hour observational stay. Of course, no one there takes her claims of being not crazy seriously, and after a physical altercation with one of the inmates as well as a staff member, her stay is lengthened to seven days. Over the course of the week, she keeps trying to convince everyone that she’s not really crazy, while claiming that her stalker is now one of the nurses on the ward. Is she slowly going insane, or is there really a stalker after her, manipulating things? SPOILERS: The answer is yes.

As a movie, Unsane is a pretty decent psychological chiller, that’s very well acted with a fairly engaging story. The decision to go with filming this entirely on an iPhone 7 actually contributes to the claustrophobic and maddening atmosphere of Sawyer’s decent into psychological breakdown. Of course, like a lot of movies with a premise like this, the story loses a bit of steam in the final act when it decides to go the “She was never insane all along!” route. That’s not to say that it ruined the movie; I’m just more of a fan of the ambiguous “are they mad, or was this real?” type of resolution in horror thriller movies.

Overall, Unsane is a pretty good slow-burn psychological thriller. Really, they could have just downplayed the whole “shot on an iPhone” aspect, or even left it out of the promotional bits all together, because really, it may have been more of a disservice to the perception of quality. That was kind of the reason why I passed on watching this in the theaters back when it was out. However, I do recommend giving Unsane a watch some time.

Movies+Beer: JOHN WICK 3

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Join with Exalted Geeks Brian, Jacob, James Classic and some other guy as they discuss the newest John Wick movie…does it hold up to the other movies? Plus, Brian has some words about this season of Game Of Thrones, and a bit on the upcoming movies on the docket…

Movie Review: The SAND (Blood Sand)

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sand, theMonarch Home Video
2015
TV-14

“This is worse than the woman with the horseshoe crab up her ass.”

If ever there was a quote directly from this movie that encapsulates perfectly the kind of watching experience The Sand was, I would be hard pressed to find anything more on-the-nose than that one. Which is uttered by one Jamie Kennedy, who seemed equally annoyed as he was mystified that he is in this movie. And he was in Son Of The Mask. But, I digress.

I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve viewed a movie of this…caliber. I’ve gone through dry spells where I didn’t really want to watch cheesy B-grade movies, more out of apathy than any kind of shift of taste. The Sand (aka “Blood Sand”, because having multiple working titles is an indication of quality) was one that was, believe it or not, recommended to me by a lovely couple at my church who watched this and immediately thought of me. I’m assuming, actually, but this is something that I would go for. Unfortunately, I was still kinda going through a low ebb in my manic depression, and while I stuck it on my watchlist, I kept coming up with excuses not to watch The Sand. Or do much of anything other than sit and stare at the darkness surrounding me. Such is the nature of depression and all.

Before we begin with this antacid flashback, I want to throw in here that, with a bit of research to the background of this movie, it appears that, besides Blood Sand, there was also some early versions using Killer Beach as the title of the movie. Lovely. Probably would have went with that one, personally, but here we are.

*sigh* Let’s just get the rundown out of the way; I’m already spending too much time dwelling on this flick…

After a raging party on a secluded beach (the flashback of which is shown in Smartphone Video Vision), eight of the remaining partygoers wake up the next morning to find out that if they step on the sand, tendrils whip out and drag them under, eating anything delicious and meaty: Birds, hotdogs, humans. These eight were spared initially because they happened to pass out during the party on things that kept them from touching the sand itself: a picnic table, a convertible car, the lifeguard tower, a garbage can. It’s a situation worthy of inclusion in a Stephen King short story collection. Anyway, after a handful of the survivors, and a persnickety beach patrol guy that’s played by the aforementioned Jamie Kennedy (the only actual acting talent in this whole thing) get eaten by whatever it is that’s lurking in the sand, things are starting to look bleak…and whatever that thing is under the sand seems to be getting bigger…

As modern B-movies go, I have to admit that The Sand wasn’t as painful as I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong; this is a movie that is firmly in the Hilarious For All The Wrong Reasons style of horror flick. The opening scenes do a fairly decent job setting up the plot of the movie, and I understand when we’re dealing with a low budget movie like this, keeping things in one location is one of the ways to keep within the budget.

The problem here is that there’s not enough plot to propel The Sand to a full-length running time. The premise lends itself to a good tight 30- to 45-minute short film; to pad this one out, there’s a lot of arbitrary “tension” scenes, usually involving playing a rousing game of The Floor Is Lava (and just as exciting as watching a game like that in real life), and oh, there’s also a love triangle subplot that is shoehorned in so badly that it grinds the momentum of the plot itself to a halt to remind the viewers that these are people you should totes care for, instead of being a cast of chowderheaded dudebro alpha males and whipped-cream-for-brains scantily clad females that you’ll be rooting to die horribly pretty much from the get-go. Really, the only two salvageable characters here are Jamie Kennedy’s character (of course), because he voices the frustration of the viewers as a surrogate, and the token fat guy who spends the majority of the run time stuck in a garbage can with a dick drawn on his face. I can relate to his pain. Also, he has the best final line before being eaten by the sand monster thing.

Overall, while I don’t hate myself for having watched The Sand (I did get a lot of laughs from this, after all), this VOD offering falls short of the So Bad It’s Good status that affords a recommendation for all to watch more than once. A good once-over for a nice goofy Midnight Flick night, but really that’s all there is to this movie.

Movie Review: The DIRT

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dirt, theNetflix
2019
TV-MA

“We wanna knock people on their asses and we gotta give them a show. I’m talking like on stage or in clubs. The fans, they’re ding for some anarchy. So let’s give it to them.”

This seems to be the era of the biopic; we’ve already had the Queen / Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and there’s going to be one for Elton John starring that kid that was in the Kingsmen movie (probably part of the deal Elton made for being in the second Kingsmen movie…?). Of course, for those of us who grew up in the 80s instead of the 70s, the long-gestating movie-fied version of Motley Crue’s tell-all memoir book The Dirt was the one that many an old metalhead was waiting for. Finally, then, the movie was made, and released…on Netflix.

Yeah, despite evidence to the contrary, I still have this stigma about movies being released to a streaming service directly, rather than to the theaters. I know, that shouldn’t be an indication of the quality of the movie itself; however, it’s hard to not equate Direct To Streaming with Direct To Video (or DVD), and there are many bad movies released directly to that format. It doesn’t stop me from watching them, mind you.

Anyway, being a fan of the 80s iteration of the ultimate sleazy glam metal mo-fos to come out of the Sunset Strip–yeah, they lost me when they canned Vince back in 1992, and never really got me back when they came back to their senses after that self-titled album–I was interested in watching this movie. I’ve read bits of the book itself, but I don’t own it. Though, being a voracious reader of all of the rock and metal mags back in the 80s, I knew my Motley Crue history…or, at least the history that the media portrayed. So, the question was, is The Dirt going to dive into the dark, seedy underbelly of the band’s history and unearth things that even the hardest of hardcore Motley Crue fans didn’t know? Or is this going to be more of a self-serving edited down history that glosses over a lot of things and presenting hardly anything anyone already knew?

The answer is, “Yes.”

Just like with Bohemian Rhapsody, we’re talking about a band that had been around for over three decades before calling it a career. This isn’t like The Doors, where the band itself was only together for a handful of years before the singer died and no one cared about the band carrying on anymore after that. Anyone expecting an exhaustive documentary-style biopic…well, I don’t think anyone was actually expecting that kind of movie.

The movie glosses over some things, and leaves some things out entirely, and plays a bit loose with some facts, in the interest of time and streamlining things for the viewer. And I’m okay with that. I was expecting that, actually. And the movie itself realizes this, and lampshades some things directly explaining how things are different here than what really happened; there’s a scene where the band’s soon-to-be manager “Doc” McGhee shows up at the band’s apartment during an after-show party to introduce himself, and Mick Mars turns to the camera and starts explaining that McGhee never really went to their apartment, but they cut out the actual guy because of reasons. That was rather brilliant, really, I kind of wish they did that in Bohemian Rhapsody. It would have explained some of the editing choices.

The Dirt doesn’t flinch away from portraying the overtly decadent side of things. Within the first five minutes, the movie earns its TV-MA rating (which is the equivalent to “R”), with enough nudity, drug use and sexual debauchery to make you wonder if you stumbled upon a remake of Caligula by mistake. The actors, while not exactly replicas of the band members they’re portraying, retain the exact spirit of the band, with Machine Gun Kelly being the best Tommy Lee clone going. Who’da thunk that a rapper would play a metal drummer so affably? Though, it makes sense, given Tommy’s foray into rap back in the 90s, there.

Long story short, The Dirt was far more entertaining than it should have been. I found myself chuckling at the era that I grew up in and embraced as a pimply, overweight Midwest teenager who didn’t look all that flattering in spandex and hair spray, but that didn’t stop me darn it. And in case you’re about to do a Google search, no. No pictures exist of me like that. So don’t waste your time. Do I recommend watching The Dirt? Yes. Yes I do. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go throw on Shout At The Devil and Dr. Feelgood, in that order.

Movie Review: CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

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city of the living deadMedusa Distribution
1980
NR

“The city of the dead. The living dead. A cursed city where the gates of hell have been opened.”

The Seven Gates of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter and a psychic race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive–with the horrors of the living dead!

I will have to double-check, but I’m pretty sure this is my first experience watching a Lucio Fulci movie. I know, I call myself a horror aficionado, and I haven’t been experienced with any of the Italian masters that everyone keeps recommending me to watch. Well, City Of The Living Dead has been sitting on my external hard drive for a number of years now, and here I am finally getting around to watching the first in a very loose unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And my initial reaction would be…”huh.”

Let me clarify: City Of The Living Dead has something of a reputation as a legendary movie that’s full of really insane and gory moments, where even those who haven’t seen this yet know of its existence as almost an urban legend. You know the type of movie, where it’s hyped up so much in your head, by the time you get around to watching it, it kind of doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, here; City Of The Living Dead certainly earns its reputation as a completely nuts and insane zombie flick, heavy on the gore and violence effects. Where the movie excels greatly is the establishment of atmosphere, with the settings and pace, and especially the music score. Also, the zombies are less the shambling Romero style undead, and have more of a Lovecraft feel to their menace. However, where the movie falls short is the plot. I realize that, when it comes to Italian horror movies like this, it’s mostly all about the atmosphere and visceral horror than the story itself. I get movies like that. However, City Of The Living Dead really could have benefited from a good tightening of the plot itself, keeping certain points from being forgotten about and especially giving it an ending that didn’t feel like it just ran out of gas and stopped, leaving you thinking, “Wha…huh?”

Overall, I would say that City Of The Living Dead is one of the required viewing type horror movies for anyone serious about the genre. The caveat being that, this isn’t really an undisputed masterpiece, rather an excellent movie that is also rather frustrating to watch. Highly recommended, regardless.

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