Movies+Beer Pubcast: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

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detective pikachu

James is joined by Brian, Andrea, Jacob, Everett and Sarah to discuss the live-action Pokemon movie, Detective Pikachu. Was it good? Was it merely fan wankery? Do the Exalted Geeks go down several rabbit trails during the discussion of the movie? Listen in and find out…

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Movies+Beer: SHAZAM!

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shazam

Bit late getting this uploaded; I’m joined by Brian, Andrea and New Guy to discuss the other Captain Marvel movie to come out this year…

Movie Review: The HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

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The House With A Clock In Its Walls movie posterUniversal Pictures
2018
PG

“Be a dear. Fetch a knife and stab me in the ears.”

Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious `tick tock’ noise. He soon learns that Uncle Jonathan and his feisty neighbor, Mrs Zimmerman, are powerful practitioners of the magic arts. When Lewis accidentally awakens the dead, the town’s sleepy facade suddenly springs to life, revealing a secret and dangerous world of witches, warlocks and deadly curses.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls was a young adult Gothic mystery that was written by John Bellairs and published in 1973. I’ve never read anything by John Bellairs. I even went through his bibliography to make sure I didn’t inadvertently read one of his novels in grade school and just didn’t remember doing so. I was a voracious reader, even back then, and gravitated towards mysteries with a solid spooky supernatural feel to them. Weird as a kid, weird as an adult. But, no, I hadn’t read any of his fiction, which is odd, as they would have been right up my alley.

Anyway, The House with a Clock in Its Walls was the first in a series of books staring protagonist character Lewis Barnavelt, and proved to be a hit with the readers. It was adapted once before as one of three segments in the television anthology Once Upon A Midnight Scary, which was hosted by none other than Vincent Price back in 1979. Then, it was adapted into a full-length feature film in 2018 staring Jack Black.

The first thing I want to point out about this adaptation is that, this is directed by Eli Roth. Yes, that same Eli Roth who gave us the movies Cabin Fever and the Hostel series. He also did the cannibal horror film The Green Inferno, helmed the Death Wish remake, and stared in Inglorious Basterds. I’m not criticizing his movie choices; I’m merely pointing out that Eli Roth’s name isn’t exactly in the Top Five of names that pop up when we’re discussing family friendly fantasy films.

Also, I didn’t mean to use alliteration like that. Totally unintentional.

Second, did we really need to use the lettering style in the title to be a rip-off of the Harry Potter film series titles? Derivative, smacks of desperation, shows a lack of confidence on the studio’s part for letting this movie stand on its own. Ultimately, a pointless gripe. Moving on…

As a movie, I believe that Eli Roth has a bright future with young adult family dark fantasy films, if The House With A Clock In Its Walls is any indication. This movie is right up there with personal favorites like the Addams Family movies and the classic Tim Burton flicks. Jack Black is his usual fantastic self here, playing the roll as the eccentric warlock uncle Jonathan Barnavelt kind of subdued to his normal manic style. He plays off well with Cate Blanchett’s Florence Zimmerman character, the longtime neighbor and friend who is constantly trading barbs with Jonathan. Owen Vaccaro is also rather good as the child character of Lewis Barnavelt, the nephew that is brought into the world of magic, starts to learn magic himself, and then resurrects the dead to impress his friends. As you do.

It’s dark, it’s whimsical, it has some great visuals as well as a good Gothic atmosphere, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the story. The House With A Clock In Its Walls is a great movie, thumbs up all the way. Check it out if you haven’t done so already. Recommended.

Movie Review: PRISONERS OF THE LOST UNIVERSE

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prisoners of the lost universeDimension Films
1983
NR

“I think you should know, I can’t stand hights, they give me a headache.”

Three people are transported into a parallel universe. There they find that they must use modern technology, but medieval weapons, in order to save the citizenry from a murderous warlord.

You might have noticed, but coming across and watching obscure low-budget sci-fi and horror movies is kind of what I do. It give my dark, lonely nights meaning. A reason to continue to live, if you will. My theory is that, by witnessing these train wrecks, the very act of existence doesn’t seem so bleak. I’m an optimistic nihilist. And if your head just didn’t blow up from that conceptual paradox, let’s discuss the early 80s scienc fiction fantasy movie Prisoners Of The Lost Universe, shall we?

Prisoners Of The Lost Universe is a sight to behold. And by that, I mean it’s a cheep-looking visual cheeseball that seem to may have spent the majority of its overall budget on getting the original Captain Apollo from Battlestar Galactica as the lead. I say “may have”; the original Battlestar Galactica wasn’t exactly a special effects extravaganza, but compared to this movie, that makes the show seem like Star Wars.

The cheese levels on Prisoners Of The Lost Universe rivals that of Star Crash, only this one lacks both David Hasselhoff and a sassy robot sidekick with a bizarrely specific southern accent. It’s interesting in a trainwreck kind of way, but still gets tedious long before the end credits roll. I wouldn’t necessarily say “pass” on this one; mileage may vary, but for me, it’s a case of one-and-done.

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.

Movie Review: The BERMUDA TRIANGLE

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bermuda triangle, theSunn Classic Pictures
1978
NR

The passengers and crew of a boat on a summer cruise in the Caribbean stray near the famed Bermuda Triangle, and mysterious things start happening.

Ah, the Bermuda Triangle. A classic in the pantheon of supposedly haunted mystery spots on this big world of ours. You’ve heard the legends, of ships and aircraft disappearing mysteriously in this stretch of ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southern-most tip of Florida. Paranormal enthusiasts have tried to explain things as supernatural something-or-other, alien abductions, or Atlantians annoyed with us surface dwellers. Of course, pop culture has been rather helpful in spreading the mythology and pseudoscience; one of which is the topic of discussion in today’s review, the 1978 Italian/Mexican joint flick The Bermuda Triangle.

Also released under the titles The Secrets Of The Bermuda Triangle and Devil’s Triangle Of Bermuda, The Bermuda Triangle stars writer/director/actor John Huston, a man known throughout his career as the writer and director of genre classics, including the likes of The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, and The African Queen. The rest of the cast is…inconsequential, really.

The plot of The Bermuda Triangle itself, well…if you know your Twilight Zone, you can probably guess the plot, as well as the big twist ending. That part, I don’t mind. No, what makes this movie a chore to get through, it’s the bloody annoying and unlikable characters. Not the choppy editing, not the really bad English dubbing, not even the way it seems to take forever to get to the point. That’s all just rancid icing on this already rancid cake. No, from the get-go, the characters and their interactions and mannerisms make you want to punch them individually, every single time they come on screen. Especially that brat of a kid. To say nothing of the blatant misogyny of the lead character, always verbally ripping apart his wife in front of everybody at the drop of a hat. Then your intelligence is insulted by suggesting that the doll they find floating on the ocean is somehow causing all the weirdness and murder, which leads you to be rather glad that they’re all stuck in a hell of their own making, reliving their doomed voyage in a continuous loop with no hope of respite for all eternity.

What do you mean, “Spoilers”? I just saved you the pain of having to watch this yourself. From here on out, if you do watch The Bermuda Triangle, it’s on you. You’ve been warned. Stay away. Stay away.

Book Review: SHADOW WITCH: Horror of the Dark Forest

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shadow witchJ. Thorn / Dan Padavona
Amazon Digital Services LLC
2015

Thom Meeks lives with his family in Droman Meadows under the protection of the Kingdom of Mylan. An unusually long winter creates anxiety in the village and some believe it to be the return of an ominous force known as the Shadow. When a pack of dread wolves lays ruin to Droman Meadows, Thom escapes with his wife and four daughters. They set out on the Mylan Road in hopes of finding refuge in the capital, but dark forces emerging from the primeval forest will challenge them for their eternal souls.

Slowly going through the entire list of free-ish titles that I downloaded to my Kindle when I received my very first not very long ago. It came in handy during those daily IV sessions I went through back in the winter of 2018. One of the free books available to me was this one right here: Shadow Witch: Horror of the Dark Forest.

I know nothing of the two authors that collaborated on this novella: J. Thorn and Dan Padavona. Neither do I feel like doing any basic research on their bibliography just to pad things up for this review. But, I do have aplenty to say of Shadow Witch, after slogging through the book.

I do wish to explain, though, that since getting my first Kindle, after years of resisting doing so due to being an old-fashioned bibliophile, that I seem to be able to read faster than I normally do, simply because of the lack of strain and adjustable font size available. It’s rather a nice benefit. That said, it still took me three months to from start to finish to read this 189-page novella. This is mainly due to not being a big fan of the fantasy type stories that are set in Yo Olden Times, or some reasonable facsimile therein. Especially with stories that involve a lot of walking. And there’s a lot of walking in this book.

Oh my sweet Lemmy, I have never been so annoyed with a hero and his family like I was with Thom and his whiny little daughters. This is Thom: “Oh, no’s, I haz a secret that could make my family and friends not like me, boo hoo”. Spoilers: he’s actually a warrior with magic powers, and not a shepherd! And his twin middle daughters, for some reason, are always mocking and bullying their older sister for…reasons. That’s their one personality trait, and it’s just bloody annoying as all get out. Of course, the most interesting character in this story is the innkeeper, but unfortunately he isn’t the focus, which would have made for a much more interesting read. No, we get to see a guy with a bunch of werewolf monsters called “Dread Wolves” (which is a great name for a metal band) who are in the service of the evil Shadow Witch, they lay waste to the town Thom and his family live near, which causes Thom to lead his family to the Norther Kingdom for safety. After a couple of days of walking, the twin sisters manage to get themselves and their older sister lost inside the nearby dark and mystical forest, and then the whole thing becomes The Blair Witch Project by way of Game of Thrones for the second half of the book. There’s a lot of wandering and walking around, a lot of whining from Thom and the daughters (I’m surprised his wife never backhands him at any time), the titular Shadow Witch keeps popping up and demanding to know everyone’s names (so she can steal their life essence, or something), only it always turns out like this:
SHADOW WITCH: “Tell me your name!”
CHARACTER: “No!”
SHADOW WITCH: “You win this round!”
Of course, after enough time wandering around and getting lost and hallucinating stuff, the daughters give out their names, there’s a final showdown between Thom and the Shadow Witch, Thom embraces his dark past to defeat the Witch, and the whole thing ends with the older three daughters dead and the youngest daughter possessed by the Shadow Witch.

I’m sure this sets up a whole series of stories. Only, it took me so long to get through because I found the story dull. There’s a lot. Of. Walking. Even at less than 200 pages, I found myself unable to get past just a couple of chapters before putting this down to read something far more interesting. I do like how the book decided to end on a dower note, though.

Anyway, I haven’t checked to see if there’s any more of these written, nor will I continue on if there are. Pass.

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