Movie Review: The ‘BURBS

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the burbsUniversal Pictures
1989
R

“I hate cul-de-sacs. there’s only one way out, and the people are kind of weird.”

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog ‘o mine, the movies of Joe Dante featured in as some of my favorites growing up in the 1980s–Gremlins, Explorers, Inner Space and Gremlins: The New Batch. But, it wasn’t until now when I finally got around to watching 1989’s The ‘Burbs. I Caught bits and pieces on broadcast television, but never got to sit down and watch The ‘Burbs from beginning to end. Finally, thanks to Amazon Prime streaming–where I seem to be catching up on my misappropriated youth–I recently got a chance to do just that.

To the disappointment of his wife Carol, Ray decides to spend a relaxing week at home, and soon gets into troubles with his neighbors–a hefty busybody, a freaked-out ex-soldier, and a spacey teenager–as they observe the strange happenings next door at the Klopek’s bizarre residence. When the nighborhood grouch suddenly disappears, the men are convinced the ramshackle house hides some hideous clues. Armed with assault rifles, high-powered binoculars and a shovel, they decide to see for themselves exactly what is going on in the Klopek place.

Overall, The ‘Burbs turned out to be a rather entertaining dark comedy romp that I probably would have maybe kind-of liked had I watched this when it first was released; since I watched it now, in my mid-40s, the wackiness involving the paranoia of the neighbors versus the reality of the situation, I can appreciate things a bit more, mostly due to my own paranoid wackiness that is my own existence. Of course, I happen to live in one of those kind of houses the neighbors probably think something fishy is happening inside. I tend to encourage this kind of thing, but that’s just me.

Anyway, Tom Hanks is awesome as usual (hard to believe his next two movies would be Turner & Hooch and Joe Vs. The Volcano…or maybe that was just the natural progression), as is the rest of the cast, which includes the late, great Carrie Fischer, a still-bankable Corey Feldman, and cameos by Dante regulars Dick “W-W-I-I” Miller and Robert “Please state the nature of the medical emergency” Ricardo.

The ‘Burbs is gleefully morbid, a true classic dark comedy, and I can’t believe I waited this long to check it out. Recommended.

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Movie Review: COLOSSAL

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colossalNeon
2016
R

“Hi. She’s the monster, I’m the robot.”

Well, now, this was a pleasant surprise. Once in a while I do tend to come across a movie that, from both the title and the descriptor, I expect it to go one way and fit neatly within the confines of my genre place-settings…but then, upon watching it, you end up with something completely different all together. Such was my experience with the movie Colossal.

The story itself involves an unemployed New York socialite named Gloria who, after a messy break-up with her boyfriend, movies back to her hometown in New England. There, she rekindles a friendship with a childhood friend and starts working at his bar. Soon, though, news reports from Seoul, South Korea begin coming in about a giant monster that causes terror and destruction every night that coincides at 8:30am Eastern Standard Time in New England. The very same time that Gloria would find herself walking across the town park. It doesn’t take long for Gloria to realize that she is somehow the cause of this colossal beast manifesting, and begins to try and make things right. Only, her childhood friend’s dark side begins to manifest itself as well, and now it’s both a figurative and literal battle for Gloria to break free of the madness that has become her life.

Yeah, that synopsis doesn’t really do the movie justice, does it? That doesn’t take into consideration that, as the movie unfolds, you realize the Giant Rampaging Monster aspect is really more incidental as a background metaphor for the darker drama that is playing out in the foreground. Gloria is a damaged and deeply flawed alcoholic who’s running away from her insecurities. Her childhood friend–his name is Oscar, by the way–comes off as nice and sympathetic at first, but little by little his manipulative and abusive personality manifests itself.

Colossal is my first Nacho Vigalondo movie. Looking into this director’s information, it seems he’s known for taking generally accepted genre types and turning them on its ear. After watching Colossal, I would have to agree that yes, he seems very good at it. Colossal was not what I was expecting, and this is in a good way. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: AMERICAN PSYCHO

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american psychoLionsgate
2000
R

Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my god, it even has a watermark!

 

Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street yuppie obsessed with success, status and style. His co-workers, like Paul Allen, are just as obsessed with success, status and style. However, there’s one thing that sets Patrick apart from his co-workers. He is also a psychotic killer who rapes, murders and dismembers both strangers and acquaintances without provocation or purpose. With Detective Donald Kimball on his tail, Bateman seems to be leading himself into a spiraling downfall of insanity and defeat…and all the while, he’s still able to throw a few Huey Lewis and the News facts your way.

American Psycho is one of those movies that I’ve seen a few times prior, but haven’t gotten around to pounding out a review of, mainly because it also happens to be one of those movies that defies being lumped into just one category. Certainly, one would stick this in the general horror genre, maybe even in the psychological thriller sub-category. You might even be forgiven for thinking this is just another slasher flick, going by the title and movie poster art alone. But, first impressions going into American Psycho are deceiving.

On the surface level, yes, American Psycho certainly is a kind of slasher horror movie, about a wealthy New York investment banker in the later part of the 1980s with a taste for pop music and elaborate business cards who begins offing people, possibly due to the stress of his lifestyle. But, the way he goes about his homicidal tendencies falls squarely in the “Black Comedy” style that will have you laughing and shaking your head at the utter absurdity of it all. But then, subtly at first but then rather evident as the story unfolds, reality itself seems to be breaking down right before your eyes, taking a serious Aronofsky style mind-bending psychological twist.

It’s because of these aspects, and also the great acting by Christian Bale and the 80s setting that has made American Psycho stick in my head all this time. And I’ve watched it several times, mainly because I’m still trying to figure that ending out. Yeah, I know I had it explained to me, but I keep thinking I’m missing some kind of subtle nuance to give me that “Oh, right, I gotcha”. Also, naked Christian Bale wielding a chainsaw. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Overall, American Psycho is twisted, will mess with your head, and make you wonder what you just watched by the end. All the while, you can’t not keep watching. Recommended.

Movie Review: BAD KIDS GO TO HELL

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Movie Review BAD KIDS GO TO HELLPhase 4 Films
2012
R

“Like a massive gravity sinkhole, he deforms every positive thought he encounters before sucking it into a vortex from Hell.”

On a stormy Saturday afternoon, six students from Crestview Academy begin to meet horrible fates as they serve out their detentions. Is a fellow student to blame, or perhaps Crestview’s alleged ghosts are behind the terrible acts?

Giving credit where credit is due, I only learned about Bad Kids Go To Hell by way of this movie’s sequel, Bad Kids Of Crestview Academy. I was browsing the Upcoming Rental Releases on the Family Video website (I usually go there to see what’s coming up, then use that to see if I can rent the streaming video on Amazon or Google Plus or whatnot). I came across the sequel title, did a bit of research, realized it was a sequel, and then checked out the original one first to watch, because OCD.

Useless fact: Bad Kids Go To Hell is based on a “best selling” graphic novel that I’ve never heard of (no surprise there, as I had forsaken all comics since that “One More Day” abomination that Marvel did with Spider-Man), and was seemingly released nationwide in December of 2012 to presumably every other theater except for any in Eastern Nebraska, because I don’t recall any of the theaters in Omaha or Lincoln getting this. But, I digress.

Having watched Bad Kids Go To Hell (for some odd reason, I presumed it was British in origin…it is not…sadly), I must admit that I was surprisingly entertained. It’s kind of a mash-up with The Breakfast Club (including Judd Nelson as the school’s headmaster) and a Scooby-Doo mystery, with a lot more murder and mayhem.

After an opening that starts things off at the end of the movie, we then flash back to a few hours earlier in the day, where a bunch of stereotypes kids from mostly affluent society are gathered together in the library for weekend detention. We learn that the library itself was recently remodeled, and is rumored to be haunted. The stereotypes kids begin doing that “bonding” thing that most movies aping John Hughes movies from the 80s do, and then try to bust out of the library, only to find the going rather…tough. Then the stereotypes kids start dying off in horrible ways, paranoia begins mounting as they try to figure out who’s doing the killing, and the mystery as to whether or not the ghost of the Native American whose land was stolen and the school is currently standing on is causing all the weird things happening. Spoilers: it isn’t, but the twist reveal behind everything will make you appreciate the work the culprits put in for everything. Then final confrontation wackiness ensues, and then we’re back to where we started, and the poor kid is carted off to an insane asylum while it looks like everything has to do with a (local) government conspiracy with the janitor of the school. The end.

Overall, Bad Kids Go To Hell was amusingly good for what it is. And that is a dark comedy thriller that has a tongue in cheek delivery while borrowing generously from other tropes, which results in something that doesn’t really pretend to be original, but gives us some fun times. Definitely worth a rental, here.

Movie Review: DARK REEL

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2-5 - Movie Review: DARK REELLionsgate Home Entertainment
2008
R

Murder, mystery and mayhem as B movie fan, Adam Waltz, wins Walk on Role in a film Featuring Scream Queen, Cassie Blue. Thinking his luck had changed for the better he steps into chaos with a killer loose and no one on the production safe. Adams role gets bigger with the murder of an actress, studio chief’s low-budget thriller becomes big with the new publicity… Everyone is a suspect. Who is the killer? Why are they doing this? and who is next?

So, what do you get when you try and make a horror movie that’s part slasher and part supernatural mystery, peppering things with a tasty cast of genre familiars Lance Henriksen, Edward Ferlong, Tiffany Shepis, Tony Todd and Mercedes McNab and a tongue-in-cheek script? Either one of the more fun horror movies to hit DVD, or one of the more disjointed and messy horror movies to hit DVD. Fortunately, Dark Reel falls closer to the former than the later.

Dark Reel is a very well crafted independent horror flick that is a tongue-in-cheek slasher that features some chuckle-worthy black comedy along with some creative kills and makeup effects. The actors seemed to be having some fun with the roles, with Hendriksen being probably the hammiest of them all. Admittedly, the story itself isn’t anything new, but it’s the more enjoyable ones. And it’s good to see they didn’t go for the more obvious Horror Movie Plagued By Horror and went with a Pirate Movie being filmed instead.

Overall, Dark Reel is worth a watch some time. If anything, it’ll give you an idea of what Edward Ferlong has been up to recently. It’s kind of adorable, really.

Movie Review: CABIN IN THE WOODS

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cabin in the woodsLionsgate
2012
R

“Cleanse them.  Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin.  Bathe them in the crimson of…am I on speakerphone?”

A rambunctious group of five college friends steal away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin, only to be attacked by horrific supernatural creatures in a night of endless terror and bloodshed. Sound familiar? Just wait. As the teens begin to exhibit standard horror movie behavior, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling, every move the terrified kids make! With their efforts continually thwarted by the all powerful eye in the sky, do they have any chance of escape?

There are times when a movie is, instead of being released, is placed upon the shelf for one reason or another, delaying the release for months, or even years.  Usually the reason is the studio felt the resulting movie wasn’t up to their standards, or something like that. In the case of the Joss Whedon scripted and produced Cabin In The Woods, the reason it was shelved in 2009 had to do with MGM’s bankruptcy and – I can assume – nothing to do with the quality of the film itself.  Because, after being released finally, I can attest to the fact that Cabin In The Woods is perhaps one of the top 5 horror movie I’ve seen this decade.  Strong and brave words considering it’s only 2012, I know, but I stand by this proclamation.

Within the first five minutes, you can tell that The Cabin In The Woods is a Joss Whedon joint.  That he brought in his long-time Buffy and Angel collaborator Drew Goddard (who also was producer on the series Lost, you may have heard of it) as both co-writer and director only helped to make this movie much more awesome than it should have been.  And with some other, less-than-worthy director and/or writer, this movie would have been just another exercise in stupid, exploitative teen horror I’ve seen again and again and again.

Really, from the general description above, I would understand if that’s all you thought this movie was going to be.  If you’re not even remotely familiar with the works of Joss Whedon, or even his now-classic series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, yeah, I can see how you would think “Another teen slasher set in the woods flick”.  And yes, that’s what Cabin In The Woods is.  On the superficial surface.  But, true to Whedon’s style of having to deconstruct pretty much everything he gets his hands on (and at the same time, lovingly crafting a tribute to it), this movie goes beyond being just another slasher flick with pretty white kids and explores the genre’s themes in very creative and existential ways.  Without giving much away (as I wish for you to watch this movie yourselves, kiddies), let’s just say there’s more to this madness than meets the eyes.  Or the entrails.

The actors are all top-notch, and it’s notable that the future Thor – Chris Hemsworth – stars, making the delay of its release rather fortuitous really, as it helped buffer things when he became Mr. Instant Superstar with the release of The Avengers.  The script is very smart (I loved the subtle little jab at Asian Horror tropes at one point), the effects fantastic, the dialog superb, and there’s one particular cameo that made me geek all over the place.  Really, about the only negative I can say about Cabin In The Woods is that it seemed to suddenly explode all over the place, literally and figuratively, which seemed to be a bit much.  But, overall, my inner horror geek was greatly satisfied after watching Cabin In The Woods, and would gladly recommend anyone to check this out, and maybe even buy a copy on DVD, as I shall.  I’m a sucker for commentary tracks and stuff.

Shameless Free Pub Spotlight: HOW TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE IN STYLE

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As a favor to my friend Kari Sanders, I’m posting a link to this interesting Kickstarter her friend Michael Keith is doing. Essentially, he’s making an audio book of his novel How To Survive The Apocalypse In Style:

If that trips your fancy, check out the Kickstarter here, and maybe even hop over to his website here.

There…now I regret not negotiating any kind of publicity fee with Kari over this…

::END TRANSMISSION::