Movie Review: The CLEANSE

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the cleanseVertical Entertainment
2016
R

Hey, do you remember Darlene’s boyfriend/husband from the original run of the television series Rosanne? You know, the kind-of whiny, passive-aggressive guy with the weird hair? Yeah, I may be dating myself somewhat. Let me try that again: Hey, do you know that guy from the Big Bang Theory? I don’t know if he’s dating or married to anyone on the show, as I don’t watch it. But, the guy with the hair? And used to be on Rosanne? The actor’s name is Johnny Galecki, if that helps. Yeah, that guy. He happens to star in this movie here, The Cleanse.

Like a lot of horror-esque movies that are not exactly on the beaten path, I learned of The Cleanse by way of the Who Goes There? podcast (one of the few horror podcasts worth your attention, you should check them out), which recently featured an episode talking about this movie. It piqued my interest enough to check it out myself. Also, I used the phrase “horror-esque” earlier, because this is really more of a comedy fantasy drama that has a bit of horror in it. Meaning, it’s a gender-bending movie that is essentially the first full-length movie made by writer/director Bobby Miller.

So, what we have with The Cleanse is a story about a man (Galecki) who can’t seem to get out of a downward spiral his life took after getting stood up at the altar and losing his job. He comes across a late-night television ad for a retreat that promises to help those who are chosen to participate. After being chosen (of course he would, otherwise this would be a very short, very pointless movie), he arrives at the resort, along with the other three that were picked, where they all drink four jars each of some kind of cleansing liquid tailor-made just for them. After drinking these, three of the four vomit up odd slug-like critters that remind me of that catapiller-dog thing from House 2, which manage to be both horrible and adorably cute at the same time. They’re told that the creatures are the physical manifestations of all the toxic emotions and anxiety that has built up over the course of their lives, and part of the cleanse is putting the creatures to death by their own hands. The problem is, it seems that everyone who had–for lack of a better word–given birth to these things have bonded with them, so going through with the final phase of the cleanse is a bit harder than it sounds. Which, considering these things are growing and developing a kind of nasty bitey-bitey thing, might be a problem very soon.

Overall, I found The Cleanse to be an interesting mish-mash of sorts, blending together the aforementioned genres into something that works more as a dramady if collaborated with David Cronenberg. The movie isn’t bad, but then again you don’t get a lot of reason to care about the characters enough to really get invested in the story. Galecki seems to have one defining character trait in his acting: milquetoast, and his character in this movie does nothing to change that. The boyfriend/girlfriend couple are totally wasted, two-dimensional characters that seemed superfluous to the overall story. They could have been cut all together, and it would have taken nothing away from the story. As you can probably guess, the two big names on this — Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt — are underutilized, but great when they get their miniscule screentime.

The Cleanse, when all is said and done, is just meh. It feels half-baked, but it does have its moments. The critter effects were just darned cute. But, if you’re wanting a less cerebral, less graphic type of horror blend like The Cure For Wellness, The Cleanse may be just for you.

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Movie Review: DEADPOOL 2

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deadpool 220th Century Fox
2018
R

“You remind me of my wife.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I said you remind me…”
“No, I’m sorry that you said that while making heavy eye contact and applying lip balm.”

Whelp, I’m gonna call it. 2018 is the year for Marvel flicks. Whether the Disney movies, or the ones that are still owned by other studios, Marvel has been knocking ’em out of the park, there. Of course, one of the more highly anticipated Marvel movies this year was the sequel to 2016’s Deadpool, the surprise hit R-rated superhero movie that pretty much broke the mold when it came to the genre.

To say Deadpool 2 had a lot to live up to would be an hilarious understatement. The possibility for a sophomore slump was pretty strong. While the teaser trailers and online promos promised more of the same (and then some), and the plot utilizing not only X-Men fan-favorite Cable, but X-Force as well to up the ante, I was still a bit cautious when I finally sat myself down in my theater seat with the rest of the exalted geeks. The memory of the awesomeness of the first Deadpool movie alone was fueling my anticipation. Will Deadpool 2 be just as awesome? Or will it pratfall harder than the Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Probably not, but weirder disappointments have happened.

Suffice to say, Deadpool 2 did not disappoint. Was it as good as, or better than, the first Deadpool? We’ll get to that. But first, the Obligatory Rundown (there may be spoilers, so keep that in mind while I write from the hip, here):

We begin with Deadpool blowing himself up. We then are treated to a flashback to explain why he decided to off himself at the beginning of his own movie (hint: It involves the sudden death of a loved one that even the movie’s opening credits couldn’t believe just happened). But, since he’s Deadpool and has a crazy insane healing factor, his bits and pieces are…rescued? by Colossus, and he’s pieced back together in the X-Men Mansion. Colossus convinces Deadpool to finally join up with the X-Men, and is taken with him and Negasonic Teenage Wowthisisthelongestsuperheronameever to an incident involving a young mutant with fireball powers outside of another mutant hospital being run by a “doctor” who tortures young mutants to “cure” them. After deciding that the PG-13 route wasn’t for him, Deadpool manages to get himself and the young firestarter thrown into what is called the “icebox”, where some of the most dangerous mutants are imprisoned, their powers nullified by a special collar. This means that Deadpool’s healing factor is no longer a thing, and his cancer is coming back full force. But, due to a sudden surprise infiltration by a time-traveling super soldier named Cable, Deadpool gets his collar off and escapes, leaving the younger boy in there being hunted by Cable. Convicted to protect the boy, Deadpool forms a team of his own — X-Force — and during the transport of all the Icebox prisoners to a new location, most of the team is massacred by accident, save for the spunky young Domino, who stops Cable from killing the boy, but ends up releasing the Juggernaut in the process. The boy and Juggernaut head out to deal some pain to the guy who tortured him, which leads to Deadpool teaming up with Cable to try and talk him out of it without killing the boy. Things go boom. I’m just going to leave it there.

I’ll just come out and say it: Deadpool 2 was awesome. Though one could argue that the story beats in Deadpool 2 would be the anti-Logan from a couple of years ago, what with the protecting a child from a killer threat with some robotic implants, that still doesn’t distract from the fact that this movie maintains the quality of hilarity and action of the first one, gleefully subverting tropes, deftly dealing with the drama and seriousness with brazenly juvenile style. The movie starts off with a literal bang, and keeps that tone and pace up throughout, not so much breaking the fourth wall as demolishing it completely, with the jokes and action equally rapid-fire. The interaction between him and Cable is fantastic, and I kind of wish there was more between them. Domino was an interesting character herself; I’m not familiar with the source character, as I’m not what you would call an X-Men fan in that media. Of course, the best part of the movie is the mid-credit scene that you need to stay for. It’s the best one of all the Marvel movie mid-credit scenes going. Trust me, this will make you beyond giddy.

So, what I’m trying to say is, Deadpool 2 is awesome. I already said that once (see: Previous Paragraph), but it’s worth repeating as many times as possible. If you liked the first Deadpool, you’re gonna like Deadpool 2. That’s all. Go catch it while it’s in the theaters.

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: BIG TOP PEE WEE

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big top pee weeParamount
1988
PG

“I call it…the hot dog tree, because…it’s a hot dog tree.”

 

The sequel to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure has a different distributor studio (Paramount), a different director (Randal Kleiser), and a different dynamic than the first movie. As a matter of fact, “sequel” seems the wrong word to use. Perhaps “follow-up”, or “second movie starring Pee Wee Herman” would make better sense. After all, Big Top Pee Wee is an all together different, original story that references nothing of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. So let’s go with that.

When Big Top Pee Wee was first released, I didn’t get the chance to catch it on the big screen at first. I did manage to catch it as a weekend matinee summer special showing during the summer of 1989, but I missed the last 10 minutes or so, because whoever set the projector timer was a bit short on the length. Soon thereafter, though, we just bought the VHS copy to own, so that was remedied. Anyway…

After a Hard Day’s Night-inspired dream sequence, we meet Pee Wee Herman, farmer and agricultural science genius, constantly coming up with innovative and rather odd ways to revolutionize the science of farming. He’s the eccentric genius who lives on a farm with his talking pig outside of a rural community full of uptight old people who disdains his audacious attempts at making things fun. He’s in a relationship with the town’s schoolteacher, one that doesn’t exactly melt the chrome off of your bumper, if you catch my drift, here. Still, he carries on, making the most of the rut he’s dealt…until one day, the circus literally blows into town after a bad storm. The circus folk tries to make the best out of a bad situation, but after being kicked out of the town for daring to bring their fun show in, they shack up at Pee-Wee’s farm to regroup. Meanwhile, Pee Wee falls smitten for the trapeze artist, which doesn’t sit well with his fiance’, as the townsfolk continue to be stuck-up jerks to the circus people. Then Pee Wee comes up with a way to bring back the childlike exuberance and sense of wonder — by turning them all back into children. That way, the circus can finally perform and everyone ends up happy. The end.

Overall, Big Top Pee Wee still retains the patented whimsical surreal and absurdist humor, and the story is pretty good, with everyone working well and bringing things together. However, I have to admit that the absence of Tim Burton’s influence is noticeable. However, that certainly hasn’t kept this from being on my frequently watched collection, along with Pee Wee’s first movie. I still throw Big Top Pee Wee on from time to time, and get lost in the whimsy and the memories of a different time.

Great, now I’m sounding like the sentimental middle-age weirdo I am.

Movie Review: BATMAN & ROBIN

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batman & robinWarner Bros.
1997
PG-13

“What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”

So, here we are, at what is universally thought of as not only the worst Batman movie, but maybe the worst superhero movie ever made. I personally disagree with the later assertion (Catwoman? Barb Wire? Freakin’ Superman IV, anyone?); as to the previous — that this is the worst Batman movie — yes. I whole-heartedly agree that Batman & Robin is a rank pile of bat-guano. Pun intended.

Again, I watched Batman & Robin the weekend it was released. I went with my brother-from-a-different-mother Scott. We’re both aficionados of bad, cheesy movies; watching Batman & Robin was nearly our undoing. That’s right, people. I deliberately watch movies like Manborg, and this was the movie that nearly broke me back in 1997.

Here’s the rundown: Batman (now played by George Clooney) and Robin (still played by Chris O’Donnell, but sporting a costume more in keeping with Nightwing) go up against the nefarious Mr. Freeze, who’s stealing the diamonds from the Gotham natural history museum to help power up his suit needed to keep him alive. Meanwhile, at a Wayne Enterprises lab in Brazil (wow, his corporation can be found anywhere), a Dr. Isley is helping to develop the Venom drug under Dr. Woodrue (hey, shout-out to the Swamp Thing, nifty), which leads into the creation of the hulking Bane. Then Dr. Woodrue tries to kill Dr. Isley, which only results in turning her into Poison Ivy and destroying everyone and everything in the lab, except for Bane, who is essentially her muscle, escaping to Gotham to wreak havoc on Wayne Enterprises. Meanwhile meanwhile, back at stately Wayne Mannor, Alfred Pennyworth’s niece, Barbara Wilson, surprise visits. Both Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze crash a charity event attended by the Dynamic Duo, Robin starts getting all angsty with Batman, Alfred is dying from the same affliction that Mr. Freeze has, and Barbara stumbles upon the Batcave and becomes a nipple-less Batgirl. They all team up and defeat Poison Ivy, then head out to stop Mr. Freeze from freezing Gotham and making horrendous ice-based puns. They arrive at the spot a bit too late, is attacked by Bane, where Robin and Batgirl take him out, while Batman stops Mr. Freeze with hope for finding a cure for his wife. Also, a few punches. Gotham is de-iced, Alfred is cured (because of course he would be), and we end on the silhouettes of the three heroes running away from this awful movie. The end.

Batman & Robin is a glorious train wreck that is still talked about 20 years after the fact. It’s easily the worst superhero / comic book movie to have been released in 1997, and that was the year that the live-action Spawn movie was released. The camp is turn up to past 11, with every opportunity for puns exploited to full effect. If you groaned at the idea of Bat Shark Repellent from the 1966 Batman movie, you’re going to love things like the Bat Credit Card, pop-out ice skates in the boots, the numerous ice-based puns and one-liners that Arnold Schwarzenegger chews up and spits out at an 87% efficiency rating. To say nothing of the head-scratching decisions this movie decided to go with. Batgirl is now Alfred’s niece, and not the daughter of Commissioner Gordon? Bane is a meat-headed, non-articulate muscle regulated to Poison Ivy’s bodyguard, instead of the criminal mastermind who broke Batman in the comics? The Nightwing costume for Robin? George Clooney? Truly, Batman & Robin is the worst Batman movie ever made…

…and yet, I can’t not watch it whenever I stumble upon it. It’s horrible, yes, but it’s gloriously horrible. For the same reason I love the 1960s Adam West Batman series, I will watch Batman & Robin just to glory in the campy badness. Really, to quote a better Batman movie, Batman & Robin may not have been the Batman movie we wanted, but (for 1997) it was definitely the Batman movie we deserved for the time. Recommended to watch at least once.

Movie Review: The HITMAN’S BODYGUARD

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hitman's bodyguardLionsgate
2017
R

“You’ve got a speck of blood on your…everywhere.”

Action comedies. They’re a think, I’m told. I’ve even seen a few here and there, even going so far as enjoying a handful. And the beauty of watching action comedy movies nowadays, you have the option of not having to pay monies to watch it in the theater. Nope, wait a month or so, and you can just stream a rental for half that price. Which is to say, I watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

On the outset, The Hitman’s Bodyguard seemed like the perfect weekend popcorn flick. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in a buddy road trip movie? Sounds like a license to print money, there. And yet, I waited until it was available as a rental to watch. So then, what did I think of the movie?

Eh, it’s all right.

So, Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard employed by a European-based protection agency. After a high-level client dies under his watch, he’s been stuck doing low-level protection gigs in London. Meanwhile, a notorious hitman is being brought in to testify against a ruthless dictator at the International Criminal Court, bu the convoy is ambushed, and everyone except the hitman and the bodyguard’s ex-girlfriend Interpol agent are killed. Figuring there may be a mole in the mix, she rings up her ex to try and convince him to protect the hitman and get him to the courthouse in time to testify. Of course, the hitman and the bodyguard’s respective personalities clash, something that doesn’t help the situations where they’re either getting shot at and bombed, or when the hitman tries to escape his reluctant chaperone. Your standard road trip action tropes ensue, ending in your standard way.

Yeah, I would say the best thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is Samuel L. Jackson. That’s par for the course. You put Samuel L. Jackson in any movie, and we’re hard pressed to think of anybody else being the best part of said movie. And while I have nothing but massive respect for Ryan Reynolds’ brand of snarky dry sarcasm, he’s definitely outshined by Jackson’s portrayal of a hitman you can’t help but root for. Especially when he finally goes through his back story. As a matter of fact, Reynolds is probably the third memorable thing about this movie; ___ as Jackson’s rather feisty wife steals the show as well, I have to say. I want to see a movie about her and Jackson’s characters, actually. But, that’s probably not going to happen, so on with finishing things up here.

Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was far more entertaining than I thought it would be, albeit just as formulaic as I expected. Jackson is fantastic, Reynolds’s character worked best when verbally sparring with his ex, and…well, things go boom and there is a pretty good boat and motorcycle chase that was rather entertaining to watch. Beyond that, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is more of a rental than something to own outright.

Movie Review: PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE

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pee wee's big adventureWarner Bros.
1985
PG

“‘Let’s go’? Don’t you want to see the rest of the movie?”
“I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I lived it.”

It amazes me to think that there are generations of kids who will never know the mind-blowing madness that was Pee Wee Herman in his heyday of the 80s. His odd persona brought us absurd surrealist humor subversively disguised as children’s programming. The guy behind the character — Paul Rubens — has been doin that since 1980 as a stage show.

In 1985, Rubens teamed up with up-and-coming director of weird, Tim Burton, to make the first big screen adventure featuring the bow-tie and grey suit wearing manchild. The result was…well, let me tell you…

We begin with the standard day-in-the-life of one Pee Wee Herman, which is — as you may have guessed — not the same as your normal existence. His home is something that would be if Sesame Street was designed jointly by Rube Goldberg and a Japanese game show creator. Pee Wee’s most prized possession is his bicycle, a heavily modified bike that everyone in town thinks is the coolest thing ever…including one Francis Buxton, the spoiled rich neighbor who would do anything to own that bike. One morning, while out picking up some supplies at the mall, Pee Wee returns to find his bike had been stolen! After confronting Francis, who denies stealing the bike (but totally did), Pee Wee gets info from a psychic that the bike is in the basement of the Alamo (it totally isn’t, for obvious reasons), and thus Pee Wee embarks on a cross-country journey to get back his beloved bike. On the way, he meets an escaped fugitive from the law, the ghost of a trucker, a waitress with a dream (and her Bluto-sized boyfriend), a hobo, joins a biker gang, and finally ends up in Hollywood! The psychic may have been a bit off, there.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure remains a constant presence in my movie collection, having owned multiple formats through the years since first watching it in 1986. I absolutely loved the offbeat, whimsical absurdist humor when I was 13, and I still do now. Along with movies like The Addams Family, Gremlins and Ghostbusters, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is something I try and watch every year or so, along with sharing with others the grand whimsical madness of the movie. Greatly recommended for all to watch.

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