Movie Review: FIGHT CLUB

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fight club
20th Century Fox
1999
R

“Now, a question of etiquette. As I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?”

  • A ticking time-bomb insomniac and a slippery soap salesman channel primal male aggression into a shocking new form of therapy. Their concept catches on, with underground fight clubs forming in every town, until a sensuous eccentric gets in the way and ignites an out-of-control spiral toward oblivion.

I’m afraid that there’s nothing I can say in this review of the movie Fight Club that hasn’t already been articulated before, and far better. By now, I believe the significance of the cultural zeitgeist that was Fight Club is apparent…as well as the utter misunderstanding of the point of the movie all together, but that’s getting ahead of myself again.

The final months of 1999 leading into the 2000s was kind of a heady time. We had the lingering phantom threat of the Y2K apocalypse, movies like The 6th Sense, The Blair Witch Project, and The Matrix were revolutionizing the way we watched movies, and the internet was starting to become much more ubiquitous. I was really embracing the Gothic subculture and delving more into the existential ramifications of my own faith, slowly making the journey out of the shiny plastic veneer that is Evangelical Christianity in America.

What does this have to do with Fight Club, you may ask? Good question. All I can say that, when I first watched this at a second-run theater in Omaha with a friend of mine who had already seen it before me and was insisting that I take in a showing with her, my mind was immediately blown by pretty much everything: From the opening credits featuring a zoom-out effect from the inner microscopic view of the protagonist’s brain, out to the gun sticking in Ed Norton’s mouth, to the way everything unfolded in the narration, the anarchic nihilism and strong psychological implications–not to mention a heavy dose of Unreliable Narrator messing with my brain like a drunken kitten–and I emerged from the theater wanting more. Of course, this led to heading to one of the many Village Inn spots and talking about it for hours over food and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Fight Club is another one of the movies in my Top Ten Favorite non-Horror list, something that I’ve revisited many times, and still get something out of even after all the viewings. I could go on for reams of pages of virtual paper, picking this movie apart and trying (and failing miserably) to explain why this movie has had such an impact on me. Again, other much better articulated articles and posts have already done that for me. I kind of understand why this movie has been taken completely the wrong way by the masses. Sometimes you have to embrace the darkness to fully understand the light better. I read that on a t-shirt, somewhere, I think. Anyway, highly recommended.

Book Review: AMISH ZOMBIES FROM SPACE (Peril in Plain Space #2)

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amish zombies from space
Kerry Nietz
Freeheads Publishing
2015

If it wasn’t for the roaming bands of dead, it might not be such a bad place.

  • First, vampires in space. And now…zombies. Really? Jebediah and the others are trying to get over the horrors they faced in deep space, and now this. It’s been five years, and the Amish colony on Miller’s Resolve has finally gotten settled. Jeb and Sarah have a son. Elder Samuel is happy not being in charge. Darly has a private practice. And Greels is out of jail at last. But when a mysterious ship from space arrives on Resolve, it unleashes a horde of undead that might spell the end of the survivors and their dreams of peace. Will the specters of the past save them, or seal their fate?

Of course there’s a sequel to the surprisingly awesome book Amish Vampires in Space. Of course it would involve zombies this go-around. And, of course I would immediately read this one after experiencing the first book. I would have been disappointed in myself if I hadn’t. So let’s get to this, shall we?

Just as the back cover blurb states, it’s been five years since the wackiness on The Raven transpired. The surviving Amish have settled and flourished on a new planet called Miller’s Reserve, one with a sun that won’t be so keen on going supernova any time soon. Jebediah and Sarah have moved on from the Amish community they helped to save; Jeb shaved his beard and Sarah lost the bonnet, and both run a joint handmade furniture shop and bakery in the city of another planet, while their five-year-old son Issac is way into monster hero videos. Seal and Singer are now married, and flyin’ around the galaxy in their own private ship and discussing possibly starting a family of their own. Doctor Darly has her own private practice, as well as a bit of an unhealthy dependency on her virtual assistant. And then there’s Greels, who didn’t fare very well after the events in the first book; he’s just getting released from jail, he discovers that his severance pay and any evidence he ever worked for the Guild have been wiped out of existence, and he only has $200 to his name. Meanwhile, back on Miller’s Reserve, a ship with a bunch of annoying tourists shows up and insists on checking out the quaint Amish way of life for themselves. Only, they may have a secret ulterior motive about visiting and disrupting the good folks, and it may or may not have something to do with another strange ship that has just crash landed nearby the community, bearing some very gruesome cargo. Soon, the community is overrun by the undead corpses of the Amish and their animals. Also, Greels has just kidnapped Issac and taken him on a space-trip in a stolen Guild cargo shuttle to a mysterious base on the edge of uncharted space, a place that may have a clue to what went on in the last book, and also to help defeat the zombies that have overrun Miller’s Resolve.

Once again, Kerry Nietz manages to take the concept of a bunch of future Amish settlers on a planet in far-off space being overrun by zombies, and make it seem rather plausible. Sure, this book takes the more scientific route when explaining the source of what made the zombies, as well as shines some more scientific light as to the origins of the vampires that plagued everyone in the last book. But, this being birthed from a sci-fi writer, I would have been disappointed if it didn’t.

And just like in the previous book, Amish Zombies from Space manages to blend the sci-fi with the horror, action and drama in a rather cinematic way, to which you can vividly picture it all in your head. And really, the book does manage to do something different from the standard way this could have ended. And thus, I would once again mark this book as Recommended, especially if you’ve already read the first book.

Movie Review: The TRUMAN SHOW

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The Truman Show movie poster
Paramount
1998
PG

“Somebody help me, I’m being spontaneous!”

  • Truman Burbank is a man whose life is a nonstop TV show. Truman doesn’t realize that his quaint hometown is a giant studio set run by visionary producer/director/creator, that folks living ans working there are Hollywood actors, that even his incessantly bubbly wife is a contract player. Gradually, Truman gets wise. And what he does about his discovery will have you laughing, crying and cheering like few film stories ever have.

Looking at Jim Carrey’s filmography list on Wikipedia, it looks like 1998’s The Truman Show was perhaps his first staring role in a movie that wasn’t a wacky comedy or a superhero franchise. Considering the previous film he was in at the time was the woefully underrated The Cable Guy bombed pretty hard in the theaters and made a considerable amount of his fan base go, “wha…huh?”, you would think he would have played it safe and went back to the tried-and-true formula. Instead, his follow-u to The Cable Guy was the dramady The Truman Show.

The concept of a reality show where we derived entertainment by watching someone’s life being filmed constantly is nothing new. There was the 1973 PBS series An American Family, showing a nuclear family going through a divorce in 12 episodes. A UK version called The Family aired in 1974. Of course, the most famous ones would have been Cops and MTV’s The Real World. Which is to say, back when The Truman Show was released, reality television like this wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now.

Even then, the stars of those reality shows are very much aware their entire lives are being broadcast. The concept with The Truman Show has the titular character’s entire life–from the moment of birth–being broadcast for all to see, when everyone he has ever known in his life–his family, friends, coworkers, the citizens in the town he has lived in all of his life–merely actors in the grand ongoing televised saga that is Truman’s life. Even the town of Seahaven Island is an enormous Hollywood set, with technological special effects to simulate day-to-day existence within Truman’s simulated reality. Then one day, a spotlight falls from the sky. From there, it’s a domino effect that leads to the Mother of all Existential Crisis-es as Truman slowly discovers the truth of his *ahem* reality.

I have to admit that The Truman Show is a rather thought-provoking movie. It is one of those rare movies that seems to fire on all cylinders, and manages to offer many things to chew on. A pointed commentary on American television culture, an exploration of existentialism, a lighthearted science fiction fantasy that may have taken its inspiration from a 1980s Twilight Zone episode. There’s a psychological syndrome named after the movie, not to mention the fact that you could argue that The Truman Show was eerily prophetic in nature, due to the explosion of reality television in the Aughts.

But, is The Truman Show a good movie? I would say, yes. Yes, it is. I would say that it’s probably one of my favorite Top Ten non-Horror movies of all time. You talk about a list that’s in constant quantum flux. But, yeah, if you haven’t seen The Truman Show as of yet, do yourself a favor and give it a watch. And try not to get too paranoid the next time you’re brushing your teeth in the morning.

Movie Review: LOGAN LUCKY

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logan lucky
Universal Pictures
2017
PG-13

“As a warden, I can approve buying a copy of A Dance With Dragons for the prison library to go up on the Game Of Thrones shelf. Now, the only problem is that The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring have yet to be published so these aren’t available. Well, I can’t do anything about what I can’t control.”

  • Hoping to reverse a “curse” that’s hung over his family for generations, Jimmy Logan hatches a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. He convinces his bartender brother Clyde and hairdresser sister Mellie to help him pull everything off–but first they have to break the bomb-maker Joe Bang out of jail in broad daylight. Academy Award winner Hilary Swank plays a no-nonsense FBI agent determined to bring the Logans to justice and keep them from racing away with the loot in this high-speed caper from Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh.

Apparently, Logan Lucky was the movie that convinced Steven Soderbergh to come out of retirement and back making movies. It was a four-year retirement, it seems, since 2013. That was longer than Ozzy Ozbourne’s original “retirement” in 1992 or thereabouts. Anyway, the man behind the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven and its two following sequels brought us another heist movie, this one set at a NASCAR racing event and featuring Magic Mike, Kylo Ren and Blond James Bond affecting southern drawls as the leads.

I watched this movie one night with a gaggle of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, not really expecting to enjoy this very much. While the heist caper movie type is amusing and makes for a good way to kill 90 or so minutes, Logan Lucky seemed to have enough things that I wasn’t exactly a fan of: namely, NASCAR racing culture, thick southern drawls, and country music. And this was probably the first movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in that wasn’t a Star Wars movie at this time. And it was more out of morbid curiosity to see if Daniel Craig could pull off an American southern accent that I sat through this.

Concerning my thoughts on Logan Lucky, I will quote what one of the other Exalted Geeks said after the movie ended: “I don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.” Which, in this case, is a praise on the quality of the film itself.

Soderbergh’s style of filmmaking tends to inject a healthy dose of avant gard into the general mainstream premise. In this case, he noted that Logan Lucky was going to be something of an “anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie”, in that nobody dresses nicely, has nice stuff, has no money or technology to pull off the heist, but they do so anyway.

No, what makes Logan Lucky different from your standard heist movie is the amount of care spent with making the characters memorable. The cast shines and gels fantastically, giving each character a good tangible existence, rather than staying with mere archetypes in a Sims game. Also, this is the movie that made me realize that Daniel Craig was much more than just a British guy who played the blond James Bond. Very good performance from him, here. I found myself rather engaged with these character; a quirky bunch, yes, but they had heart and soul infused in them. The only one that seemed a bit out of the ordinary was Hillary Swank’s FBI character. Bit stiff, there. Which, of course, made me root for the (technically) criminals to actually pull off the heist itself.

Overall: Logan Lucky turned out to be far more engaging than I was expecting. There was the standard heist movie formula here, yes, but there was enough quirky character development as to not make the heist itself the main focus. Which is what kind of burned me out on the Oceans movies. Recommended.

Movie Review: LOQUEESHA

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loqueeshaIndie Rights / Amazon Prime Video
2019
NR

Back in the mid-90s, during the first season of sketch comedy show MadTV, there was a sketch entitled “That’s My White Mama”. It was played as a sitcom that featured Artie Lange being possessed by the ghost of an African American woman that he accidentally killed in an automobile accident, so now he dressed and acts like the typical sitcom sassy black woman and hijinks ensue. It’s about as cringe-inducing as it sounds. You take that sketch, take away the supernatural possession angle, and bond it with the script for the Dolly Parton movie Straight Talk, along with a dash of the 80s blackface “comedy” Soul Man, and you’ve more or less have this dumpster fire that is Loqueesha.

I don’t just throw around the epitaph of “dumpster fire” lightly. And it’s not like I went into this movie not thinking this wasn’t going to be a bad movie. I just had no idea at what level we were looking at. And it’s not just the premise of a white man pretending to be a black woman and being successful at it. I’ll get to that in a moment, though.

I would have not known this movie even existed, if it weren’t for a Trailer Reaction video made by Brad “The Cinema Snob” Jones on YouTube. Apparently, the trailer itself caused quite a bit of a controversial stir, and although it secured a theatrical release date, that studio decided to drop the movie all together once the angry social media blitzstorm began hitting the fan. So, it was dropped off directly onto Amazon’s Prime Video streaming, where I’m surprised it hasn’t been pulled already. But, again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Point is, after watching that trailer reaction, I was far too morbidly curious to check out Loqueesha to just pass up the opportunity to watch it when I discovered its release on Prime Video. Thanks, Mr. Jones.

The rundown of this flick is, there’s a guy named Joe who is a bartender that has a talent of despising sage advice to the patrons who wander into said bar. He’s constantly told that he should use his advice-giving talent to make oodles of money, but being the humble guy that he is, he always downplays that idea, content with being a simple barkeep. Until, that is, one day he’s told by his ex-wife that his son is brilliant and is transferring to a private school for really smart kids, and he has to come up with the money to keep up with the higher tuition. So, he tries to get a job as a radio talk show host, only nobody wants plain ol’ vanilla Joe. So he then makes a demo reel of him pretending to be a sassy black woman named Loqueesha, and that’s what gets him hired to do a show…as Loqueesha. Only, no one–except for his producer–knows that Loqueesha isn’t real. Or a white guy. So then, wackiness ensues as he tries to balance his secret with his sudden fame, all the while dishing out the sassiest and sagest advice to a growing listenership as only Loqueesha can. Is he able to maintain this facade? No…as the person they hired to appear as Loqueesha in public appearances and billboards attempts to blackmail him, he quits, the show tanks with the other Loqueesha, and he comes back after coming clean with his listenership, then gets an additional show as his real self while still doing Loqueesha.

There. I just saved you the trouble of having to watch this movie to find out what happens. You’re welcome.

Look, I’m not even going to touch the obvious elephant in the room with this movie. I’m all for edgy social commentary satires…when they’re done right. Or at least competently. All I’m going to say is that Loqueesha attempts to make a statement but falls flat on its face after a few steps in.That would be bad enough; however, things are complicated even more when you factor in that the guy behind all of this–Jeremy Saville–not only wrote the script, but directed and starred as the lead protagonist Joe. Taking the Tommy Wiseau route to making a movie rarely bodes well for the quality to begin with; on Loqueesha, it’s evident that Saville considers himself far more talented and funny than he really is.

The jokes just aren’t funny, the editing is hacky, the acting on the level of an early-90s TGIF sitcom (Full House level, maybe the first season of Family Matters, before Urkel took over), and the effects uses had the quality of someone just learning Adobe Acrobat. When the movie did illicit a laugh out of me, it was from laughing at the movie, not with it. Like when the actor playing the “live appearance Loqueesha” said to Joe, “I guess you’re a better black woman than I am.” I would have loved to have been on set the day that scene was filmed, just to see what happened after that line was read. And how many takes they had to do. I would have never made it with a straight face, personally, had I been in her shoes.

Overall, Loqueesha is just a bad movie on so many levels. I can’t even recommend this as a So-Bad-It’s-Good level. Pass on this one…

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: TOYS

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Toys movie poster20th Century Fox
1992
PG-13

“Oh, yeah! I love jokes. I love all kinds of jokes. But, you knwo what I don’t like? I don’t like people trying to kill me, hurting my family and my friens, and destroying the whole world as I know it. That just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Robin Williams stars as Leslie Zevo, a fun-loving adult who must save his late father’s toy factory from his evil uncle, a war-loving general who builds weapons disguised as toys. Aided by his sister and girlfriend, Leslie sets out to thwart his uncle and restore joy and innocence to their special world.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, Robin Williams proved himself as more than just a comedian in the acting department. He did have dramatic roles early on in his career, but he really didn’t hit his stride until the later part of the 80s onward, in my not-so-humble opinion. I had caught his turn in Dead Poets Society, then caught one of the more underrated Peter Pan adaptations released, Hook, and then his blowup voice work in Aladdin. When the movie Toys was released in late 1992, I held off of watching it in the theater like the afore-mentioned movies. Mainly because I had just transitioned from High School Student to Welcome To The Real World schlub that very year, and wasn’t really seeing a lot of movies in the theater at the time. Not unless it involved a date. Which I did once in a while. Ah, memories.

Anyway, I ended up renting Toys the summer after it was first released, from the small-town gas station that happened to have a small selection of VHS tapes for renting, and watched it at my grandparent’s place. It was…something.

I don’t think I was ready for what Toys ended up being. I don’t think anybody was, really. Even with his award-winning dramatic performances, the name Robin Williams attatched to a movie makes one think of a comedy. Maybe not always a wacky laugh-a-minute kind of comedy, but comedy none-the-less. Even with his dramatic rolls, Williams always had that kind of quirkiness that was uniquely his. The same can be said for his roll in Toys, but this may be an instance where his unique quirkiness couldn’t salvage the hot mess that this movie is.

The best way to describe Toys is a surreal stream of conscience. It tries to go for a whimsical undertone, but it doesn’t really work as well as Tim Burton or Barry Sonnenfield had done previous. Maybe they were trying to go for a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, only with a toy factory and half the charm. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a movie that costarred rapper L. L. Cool J. (that honor goes to the Michael J. Fox / James Woods dud The Hard Way…which I now realize I’ll have to drudge up from my memory banks to do a review of one of these days); here, he plays the adopted son of the evil brother of the owner of the toy factory. He is…adequate. As is everyone, really, if you want to put a fine point on it. If there was one aspect of Toys that I can point to that I liked, that would be Joan Cusack’s character. Mainly because I’m morbidly drawn to weird characters like the one she played here.

Overall, I don’t consider Toys to be a bad movie. It’s just weird and off-putting in not a very good way. I came away from this movie a bit more confused and depressed than I think the movie was trying to go for. It’s worth checking out, just out of curiosity. But beyond that, I don’t see watching this again any time soon.

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