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.

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Movie Review: The AWAKENING

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the awakeningCohen Media Group
2011
R

“It’s never darker than when we close our eyes, and yet we keep them shut. Why is that?”

The year is 1921, and author Florence Cathcart is a famous debunker of supernatural tomfoolery and the bane of charlatans in England. She’s contacted by a teacher from a boys’ boarding school, where there have been sightings of a ghost of a young boy at the school, which may have contributed to the death of one of the living boys. He wants her to investigate, to which she initially refuses…but, then she gets all soft-hearted because she, too, was an orphan once, and all that. So, she arrives at the school, and sets up her various equipment she uses to prove whether or not there’s a haunting. Doing her best detective work, she deduces the real culprit in the death of the young boy…and it’s not a ghost. Surprise, surprise. But, even though her job is done and she’s about to leave, something happens that causes Florence to question her sanity and remain at the school a bit longer during the holiday break. She’s beginning to see things, things that may tie back to her past. And also question whether or not there really is a ghost that wanders the halls of the school.

Overall, I found The Awakening to be an interesting old school style Gothic ghost story that has the same slow-burning feel of The Others and The Woman In Black, has a very creepy atmosphere and heavy bit of tension, and unravels as a pretty good supernatural mystery. Rebecca Hall is mesmerizing as the skeptic with a sad past, and I may have developed a bit of a fanboy crush. It tends to happen. I do admit that the way the story unraveled was a bit on the predictable side, adhering to the early 20th Century ghost story formula, but that’s kind of par for the course. The Awakening was a good movie, a decent way to kill a rainy Autumn afternoon (for effect).

Movie Review: INSIDIOUS: Chapter 2

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insidious chapter 2Blumhouse Productions
2013
PG-13

“In my line of work things tend to happen when it gets dark.”

I have to admit, I was a bit slow on the uptake to watch the sequel to one of the better horror flicks to come out in the 21st Century. I was kind of on a strictly limited budget at the time, which was mostly focused on the marriage that ultimately never happened. Obviously I spaced out on this and the third entry in James Wan’s Insidious franchise. But, with the upcoming fourth entry coming up in January 2018, I figured now would be a good time to play catch-up.

After a bit of a flashback to a young Josh Lambert getting an exorcism by a young Elise Rainer, Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up right when the first movie ended, with the younger son of Josh’s family saved from The Further, but resulting in the death of Elise. After a police investigation, the family moves in with Josh’s mother, hoping to try and put the events from the previous movie behind them. Soon, though, the bad dreams begin coming back, Josh’s wife Renai keeps hearing the piano playing by itself and begins to see a mysterious woman in white going after the baby, and Josh seems to be…not himself as of late. Meanwhile, Specs and Tucker–Elise’s assistance from the first film–stumble upon the videotape of Josh’s exorcism from the flashback in the beginning, and they, along with Elise’s long-time friend Carl, begin piecing together the truth: Josh wasn’t the one who came back from The Further, but the spirit of a deceased serial killer called The Bride in Black. Also, the real Josh has been trying to send messages to his loved ones from The Further. Soon, there’s a showdown between the possessed Josh in the real world, as well as the spirits in The Further. Do they succeed in putting things back to where it once was? Will the movie end with another booga-booga-booga shock take? Does Jason Voorhees love his hockey mask / machete fashion combo?

When I decided to watch Insidious Chapter 2, it was the first night of my annual self-imposed seclusion trip, wherein I spend an extended weekend in my aunt and uncle’s camper out by their pond. It was storming, lots of lightning, thunder, howling winds and torrents of rain beating down on my cozy dwelling. In other words, the ambiance was perfect for watching horror movies. And the whole thing helped in the amplification of my enjoyment of Insidious Chapter 2 greatly. Because, otherwise, and I’m rather sad for saying this, but I don’t think that Chapter 2 would have been as effective a horror movie as the first one was. Mind you, the story is a good one, the atmosphere builds up the tension nicely, and the effects were very good. Overall, a well-made ghost story with serious teeth. That doesn’t stop the nagging feeling that I’ve been there, done that already. Still, very much worth a rental some night. In the same kind of weather conditions I managed to watch this in. Trust me, it works.

Movie Review: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2

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paranormal activity 2Paramount Pictures
2010
R

When the first Paranormal Activity movie was released, it made gobs of monies. Inevitably, a sequel was eminent. And so, one did get released in 2010, cleverly titled Paranormal Activity 2. Except, it wasn’t a sequel so much as a parallel companion piece to the first Paranormal Activity movie. Well, except for the very last part, which does take place after the events of the first movie.

Confused yet? Let me explain…

Paranormal Activity focuses on Kristi, the sister of the main character from the first movie, and her family. After a burglary occurs at their home, an elaborate security camera system is installed, and thus introduced our method of “found footage” in this installment. All kinds of weird stuff gets captured by the cameras, which leads to Kristi believing the house is haunted. Of course, her husband disagrees, while her stepdaughter begins investigating paranormal goings on–activities of some sort–and the infant son Hunter finds himself with a friend no one else can see. The dog gets attacked, Kristi gets possessed, and her husband decides to exorcise the demon by sending it to Kristi’s sister, Katie from the first movie, because he’s kind of a jerk. Yeah, that works out well. And in case you’re wondering what happened after the end of the first movie, Paranormal Activity 2 lets you in on that bit of information.

As I mentioned, Paranormal Activity 2 doesn’t stick to the general conventions of a traditional sequel. It does answer a few questions raised by the first movie. Admittedly, much of the tension comes by watching intently, waiting for something to happen, not willing to blink lest even a small clue may be missed. Otherwise, it’s pretty much your standard found footage boo-scare flick that didn’t resonate with me as much as the first film. And that’s not saying much, really. It did manage to flesh out the overall story. Otherwise, meh.

Book Review: PSYCHOSPHERE

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brian lumley psychosphereBrian Lumley
Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
1984

A machine, Psychomech, granted Richard Garrison great and terrible mental powers–strength enough to restore his dead love and vanquish his enemies. Through Psychomech, too, Garrison learned of the Psychosphere, another plane where mental powers ruled supreme–and where Garrison was sole tenant. Now a new mind has entered the Psychosphere, a mind twisted and evil and bent on controling the Earth. Richard Garrison must discover the owner of that mind–and destroy it!

The second book in Lumley’s Psychomech trilogy, continuing with the goings on with former Army Corporal turned demigod Richard Garrison, his zombie wife and the dog who loves him.

I had to pause for a few minutes to take in what I just wrote, there. Anyway, the plot of this book…

Ever since the events in Psychomech, Richard Garrison has been rendered, not really a full-on god, but at least powerful enough to give Gozer a run for his/her/it’s money, with two other consciences dwelling within his…head? Is that right? Anyway, with all of this PHENOMINAL COSMIC POWER!, he spends his free time gambling and making enemies with the mob. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess. There is a problem, though–Garrison is slowly leaking the power he has, mostly due to wrecking the Psychomech pretty badly in the previous novel, and the other two consciences are coming out to play more often than not. Also, Vicki is beginning to think that she no longer loves Garrison like she thought. Oh, and there’s an obese albino hermaphrodite psychic in an underground fortress attempting to take over the world in there, somewhere.

Psychospere was…interesting. It starts off as a pretty intriguing thriller, then gets weird as the story progresses. This may be due to the obese albino hermaphrodite psychic character. I just like writing all of that out. This character is about as powerful as (apologies for mixing geek references, here) Professor Xavier, if not moreso, and really has a thing for hedonistic orgies that would make Caligula blush. Like with the first book, the parts that seemed to drag more in the story were the parts where Garrison is in his head reality, dreamstate kinda place (the psychospere? it’s never really explained fully what that titular thing is), dragging around the remains of the psychomech and slowly losing power. The big ending conflict was decent, and the way Garrison resets everything was interesting. Overall, I would say Psychospere, like the first entry in the trilogy, was a bit overlong but interesting enough to finish. Is that considered damning with faint praise? I could never get a grasp on that concept…

Movie Review: The MUMMY (2017)

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mummy, the 2017Universal Pictures
2017
PG-13

“Whatever’s in there has been safely hidden for two thousand years. This isn’t a tomb, it’s a prison.”

Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.

It seems Universal doesn’t know quite what to do with their stable of Classic Monsters. There’s been some rather disappointing attempts at bringing the gang back together since the 21st Century moved, with lackluster results. Mind you, some of them are serviceable action movies, but none of them have been particularly memorable. And now, Universal wants to do that grands-scope shared universe thing with its own characters, and call it the Dark Universe. And this remake of The Mummy is their way of kicking things off.

The Mummy is an icon, no doubt about it. One of the Big Three, with Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. Sorry, but Wolfman comes up a very close fourth. I knew about the Mummy for decades before watching my first Mummy movie. And that particular movie was the 1999 Brenden Frazier romp that still gets a viewing from me at least once a year. Then I watched the 1932 Boris Karloff classic. And now that I’ve seen the 2017 redux of The Mummy, I can now say I was good only having watched the previous incarnations.

The 2017 The Mummy stars Tom Cruise as an opportunistic Sergeant who, after some wackiness, stumbles upon the ancient tomb of an Egyptian mummy. Which is odd, because this was hundreds of miles from Egypt, where these kind of things are normally found. So, with the help of a persnickety scientist, the casket is exhumed and is being flown back to London, when one of the people flying along with becomes a zombie, and the plane crashes, killing Sergeant Cruise in the process. The End. Wait, no…Tom Cruise lives! Praise Xenu! Okay, okay, low-hanging fruit. Sorry. Also, no one seems all that perturbed that a corpse is back living again. Huh. Anyway, he’s taken to one Dr. Jekyll, who is the head of a high-tech and clandestine Monster Squad, and is informed that he’s now undead and is gonna be used to finish what the mummy started all those thousands of years ago. Hint: it involves a dagger with a shiny ruby and whole lot of discomfort. Now it’s a race against time to try and stop this ancient undead she-mummy and find a way to get Cruise back to not so much living impaired so he can not be killed by Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego because otherwise he’s gonna become The Mummy and unleash all sorts of evil upon the world. In the meantime, we’re all struggling to find a reason to care about this movie.

I really don’t want to sound like I’m just jumping onto the Hate Train with this review. I really wanted this to succeed. I wanted this to be good, and somehow work even though the inclusion of Tom Cruise stretched my suspension of disbelief quite a bit. I’ll get to that reason in a moment. In short, although it seemed a bit derivative and bandwagon-jumping on Universal’s part, I was actually excited about the prospect of the Dark Universe they were trying to create. You know, despite the fact that Dracula Untold was technically supposed to be that launching pad for that.

I also should point out that, as it’s been pointed out by many already, Universal more or less invented the whole “shared universe” thing that they’re now trying to crib from Marvel. They were always pairing up their Classic Monsters back in the day, and everyone ate it up. So it’s a bit puzzling how Universal keeps misstepping now. But, I digress.

As a movie itself, The Mummy is…meh. There’s no other way to describe it, really. It’s not a bad movie, it’s very action-heavy and keeps my attention throughout, yes. But, it’s clear they were trying to shoehorn everything in with trying to launch the universe, and forgot to focus on the story and characters themselves. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it until my dying breath, Tom Cruise just isn’t convincing as an action star. Also, I don’t know if it’s his ego, or the scriptwriters think they can get away with writing Cruise’s character as far younger than what the actor’s age really is (admittedly, he can get away with it better than, say, Russel Crowe, who at one point calls Cruise’s character a “young man” when Cruise is actually two years older than Crowe), but the fact that he’s a 50-something man playing 20-something characters is starting to wear a bit thin. The story itself seems to be all over the place, and the pacing is fairly kinetic. The major point of contention I have, though, is the characterizations, and the fact that some scenes seem all-too ripped off from other movies. Like, say, American Werewolf In London. That one is pretty blatant, as I picked that one out immediately.

You get the sense that maybe the makers of this film decided to re-purpose 1999’s The Mummy in rebooting the franchise. There are some interesting takes on the titular Mummy, such as making it a princess instead of the priest Imhotep, but overall I can’t shake the feeling that they tried to grab the pulp adventure fun of Brendan Fraser’s version and instead kind of ended up with the Batman V. Superman of the Classic Monsters movies. Okay, so maybe more Suicide Squad than Batman V. Superman, as there were parts I kind of liked in the movie, whereas Batman V. Superman is just awful straight through. It’s not unwatchable, but you’ll come out of it feeling a bit disappointed, and remembering the snacks you were consuming while watching this more than remembering the actual movie when it’s over.

Movie Review: ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES!

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attack of the killer tomatoesNAI Entertainment
1978
PG

“We have convince the little housewife out there that the tomato that ate the family pet is not dangerous!”

 

For years, I’ve been seeking out this particular no-budget ultra cheese fest that is Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes!. Ever since spying the old VHS cover at the local Applause Video store back in the 1980s, and repeatedly being denied a rental by the parents (despite the PG rating). Yeah, I had an interesting childhood, there. Anyway, that title stuck in my head for years, kept fresh–no pun intended–with spinoff sequels and a short-lived cartoon series. I even watched the first sequel, Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, a few years ago on Netflix. But it was the original ultra low-budget horror/sci-fi/comedy/musical from 1978 that was my holy grail, the one I wanted to watch, simply out of sheer morbid curiosity. Finally, it was recently that I was able to watch this elusive flick by way of Amazon streaming. So, I giddily settled down and prepared for the worst.

I have to admit, even I was barely prepared for what transpired. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes! is a level of bad that will leave you wide-eyed and jaw-agape with trying to decipher what just happened.

The story involves a sudden uprising of attacks made by tomatoes. It’s right there in the title. As the American government tries to calm down a panicking citizenry, a team of specialists is put together to stop the tomato uprising. The plot thins as they try to infiltrate the tomato hordes, and uncover a conspiracy behind everything that’s happening. There’s also a news reporter hounding the crack team. Nothing seems to stop these tomatoes…nothing, except a certain hit pop song that is so terrible, even the sheet music will cause them to give up and die.

Watching this movie was almost a spiritual experience. Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is a bad movie. And it knows that, and gives zero cares anyway. The acting is bad, the jokes are cringe-worthy, the songs even more so, and the editing and story will confuse you more often than not. When the end credits roll, you will be left with more questions than you came in with, along with a strange tingly sensation that is the signal that your brain gave up partway through and started playing Minecraft over in the corner while you inexplicably continued to watch it to the end. In short, Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is so bad, everyone needs to watch it. Behold, the epitome of so-bad-its-good cinema. Throw it on some night with friends, along with various tomato-themed items for the full effect. You’re welcome.

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