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cloverfield paradoxNetflix

“What are you talking about, arm?”

For the past couple of years, we’ve been teased the third entry in the unorthodox yet rather interesting Cloverfield movie series. I’ve known that the movie was originally titled The God Particle, and was reworked by J. J. Abrams into an up-to-now unnamed Cloverfield sequel. I was rather excited for it. Also, we were supposed to get it last year in the theaters. But, due to continual tweaking, the movie’s release was delayed more than once, until finally word came that Paramount was going to drop this off with Netflix, to be released on the streaming site. Not that was a bad sign as to the quality of the movie was going to be; but the┬ádelays and then the studio not seeming to want anything to do with it…well, I was starting to have doubts that this was going to be worth my time.

Finally, the new Cloverfield movie was released. On Netflix, immediately after the Superb Owl*, now with an actual official title: The Cloverfield Paradox. Since I don’t have a Netflix subscription, it took me a few days longer to get to watch The Cloverfield Paradox, so I got to take in the waves of negative reviews that this movie got in the meantime. Lovely. So at this point, this was either the worst movie ever made, or perhaps we just live in a time where everyone wants to hate everything now. Fortunately, masses of negative reviews have never stopped me before (sometimes, they even enhance my desire to watch something), and I finally got a chance to take in the third entry in the Cloverfield series.

Here there be spoilers beyond, be ye warned. Yar.

So, what The Cloverfield Paradox is about, we’re given a glimpse of a future where our fossil fuels have all but dried up, and humanity is facing an energy crisis complete with massive gas shortages and regular blackouts to conserve what little energy we have left. In an effort to create a cleaner, more sustainable energy source for all, the world space agencies prepare the testing of what is known as the Shepherd, kind of a particle accelerator aboard the orbiting Cloverfield Station, that is supposed to do just that. Though, frankly, I don’t know exactly how that works, but what do I know of science, really? Anyway, after two years of attempts, they finally manage to get it to work…which results in a massive surge that, when the smoke clears, leaves the scientists on board to realize that, somehow, they’ve misplaced the Earth. That’s never good. Also, a critical component in making eveything work properly is also missing. And there’s a mysterious woman who appears in the wall of the station, that no one has seen before, but she insists on being a crew member. And it just gets weirder from their, folks, as crew members begin to go a bit on the insane side of things, objects that have gone missing begin to be found in the oddest of places, and it seems the ship may be trying to kill them. Or eat them, at least with one guy. Then they find the Earth on the other side of the Sun, and realize soon thereafter that they’re all in a parallel universe, where Germany is once again up to their old warmongering tricks, and that universe’s Cloverfield Station crashed into the ocean and killed everyone except that lady that appeared on what I’m going to call the Cloverfield Prime station for clarification purposes. Stupid string theory. Anyway, after some near misses with death, they manage to hatch a plan to get back to their Prime Universe, but then Alternate Universe lady sabotages things for her own plans, but then she’s thwarted, and Prime Cloverfield Station makes it back to their universe, where they fire up the Shepherd and the two surviving scientists hop a pod and head back to Earth…only things there haven’t really been the same since they first disappeared. The end.

As far as the movie goes, I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox. In this instance, I think Paramount was right in letting Netflix handle the distribution, as this doesn’t feel quite as fully baked as the first two movies were, and had I saw this in the theater, I would have probably been a bit more persnickity about it. As a movie itself, The Cloverfield Paradox goes down the same path as movies like Event Horizon, Life and Sunshine have done before, while you can tell the bits that tie things into the Cloverfield movie universe were kind of shoehorned in haphazardly. As it stands, The Cloverfield Paradox feels like a rather elaborate and high-budget pilot for a sci-fi anthology television show, rather than a fully formed Cloverfield movie. Which is to say, it isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not up to par with the other two. If you have Netflix, it’s very much worth the watch. If you don’t, The Cloverfield Paradox won’t be the movie that will convince you to sign up for Netflix. But, if you have a friend with Netflix, it’s worth checking out.

[*= basically, my way of avoiding lawsuits with the NFL for usage of a copyrighted phrase]


Movie Review: TERMINATOR 3: Rise Of The Machines

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t3Warner Bros. Pictures

“I feel the weight of the world bearing down on me. A future I don’t want. So I keep running as fast as I can…anywhere. Nowhere.”

And now, here we are, over a decade since the last Terminator movie, and we’re treated to the second sequel in the Terminator franchise. Was Rise Of The Machines really necessary? I really don’t think so…but again, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

So, then, the big machine apocalypse that was scheduled originally for 1997 wa a no-show thanks to the events of T2: Judgment Day. John Connor has become a vagrant, staying under the grid and generally running from an unseen future he doesn’t want to be a part of. Also, sometime between 1997 and now, he got some plastic surgery done, as he looks nothing like he did in T2. Anyway, due to a plot device deployed into the space/time continuum (the “Timey-Whimey” Effect), it seems that Skynet and Judgment Day weren’t wiped out of existence at all, but merely postponed to 2004. How is that scientifically possible, you ask? Silly human, trying to employ logic to the plot. You’ll just sprain something doing that, it’s best not to think too hard about it. So this time around, Skynet sends back a shiny new T-X model Terminator, one that takes the liquid morphine awesomeness of the T-1000, and joins it up with working mechanics so that it can form working weapons beyond just stabby-stabby things. Also, it can inject nanobots and reprogram other machines, like the Borg…only not the Borg. So, the T-X is sent back and, unable to locate the whereabouts of John Connor, begins to kill the future members of the Human Resistance. Meanwhile, John Connor is caught stealing drugs from a veterinary clinic by someone from his past, and then both are visited by a very familiar looking cyborg sent from the future to protect both Connor and the vet who, it turns out, is the future Mrs. Connor…and it was she who sent back the T-850 model with Ah-nuld’s face. Also, in a mind-blowing coincidence, it happens to be the father of the future Mrs. Connor that has built the current iteration of Skynet and is planning on activating the system. So then it’s a race to get to the facility to stop Skynet from going online and kicking off Judgment Day 2.0. Do they make it in time to stop the machine apocalypse from happening? Does the movie’s subtitle tell you anything?

Despite my initial thoughts on why this movie really was unnecessary, I still saw it the weekend it came out. Certainly, it wasn’t of the same caliber of the first two movies, but it had its moments, really. You could tell that James Cameron was not involved with this one, with the way it was executed. The levity that made T2 a great ride was attempted, but somehow came short; although I get the feeling there was some tongue-in-cheek referencing of the scenes from T2, like say how the T-850 got his clothes after showing up from the future. I have to say that I did laugh at the star-shaped sunglasses. The best moments, as always, were the knock-down, drag-out brawls between the two Terminators. That’s par for the course, now. Overall, thought, the story is underwhelming, a bit of a retread from the past story, and is really more of an amusing distraction rather than a mind-blowing sci-fi action flick.

Overall, Terminator 3 isn’t bad, it’s just kind of lackluster. Worth a rental, really.


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american psycho 2Lionsgate

“I think I’ve identified this person as a textbook sociopath.”
“That seems to be the per-requisite for getting into college in the first place.”

There exists some sequels that, when watched, you get the sense that it started life as something else entirely. But then, it was tweaked somewhere during production to tie it into another, more successful movie. The reason as to why may vary, and sometimes the reworking is successful. Other times, it seems glowingly obvious. Like with American Psycho 2.

If you’ve ever seen the original American Psycho, there are two things evident: 1) This was a movie that wasn’t exactly begging for a sequel. I mean, it was pretty much one-and-done, there. And 2) American Psycho, despite the title, was not a slasher flick. Well, it was, but it wasn’t. Just watch that movie, you’ll get what I’m saying, there.

Which brings us to this sequel. American Psycho 2 is not only a straight slasher flick, but also stars absolutely no one from the first movie, and the only tie in with the original is a flashback from the main character as a little girl witnessing Jason Bateman’s death…which makes absolutely no sense, given the context of the first movie (again, go watch that one instead).

So, the story of American Psycho 2 has a criminology student — played by Mila Kunis — studying under a professor played by William Shatner. Take a minute or two to take that in: This is a sequel that stars the annoying girlfriend from That 70s Show, and William freakin’ Shatner. Anyway, seems the student was traumatized at a young age after she killed Jason Bateman, while he was assaulting her babysitter. Now, she has aspirations for the FBI, and with her professor a former FBI agent, she wants to become his teaching assistant, figuring that would help her chances. Only, the competition for that coveted position is pretty fierce. So, she decides to eliminate the competition the traditional way — by literally killing them. You don’t know how hard it was for me to keep from letting loose with multiple puns at this point. Anyway, wackiness ensues, yadda yadda yadda, then the movie ends. And you’re left lamenting such a waste of your time.

It is quite evident that American Psycho 2 is no sequel. Lionsgate just saw how successful the original movie was, and dusted off an unrelated script to awkwardly shoehorn the weakest tie-in for a quick cash grab. As a movie in and of itself, there’s nothing remarkable about American Psycho 2. It’s you’re standard slasher thriller that tries to be more of a dark comedy with a bit of social commentary, but everything is just “meh”. It’s a forgettable misfire that you can skip entirely. Instead, as I’m mentioned earlier, just watch the original American Psycho. You’ll be all the better for it.

Movie Review: INSIDIOUS: Chapter 3

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insidious chapter 3Blumhouse Production

“Loving someone is just delayed pain, isn’t it?”

Third entry in the Insidious horror franchise, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a prequel. Which means, if you were hoping for a resolution to Elsie’s sudden look of pants-wetting terror before cutting to the end credits, you’re gonna have to wait longer.

Instead, we’re given a story that takes place some time before the events of the first Insidious movie, focusing on Elsie Rainier, who happens to be retired from the whole spiritism thing, and the teenage girl who drags her kicking and screaming back into the ghostbusting business by–you guessed it–getting possessed by a rather nasty demon whose shtick is to lure victims into the Further to feed off their life force. There’s a political joke in there, somewhere.

Here, we find Elise having been retired from speaking with the dead for approximately a year now, since the tragic death of her husband. She’s a bit reluctant to jump right back due to what she perceives as a dark evil presence in the spirit realm that was to kill her. Which is why, when a teenage girl named Quinn stops by wanting to enlist her help in contacting her deceased mother, Elise flat out refuses, and warns Quinn not to try to contract her mother as well. Obviously the kid doesn’t listen–otherwise this would be a rather short movie–and soon she finds herself being stalked by a creepy, shadowy figure in a hospital gown who haunts her when she is recovering from a car accident, and eventually gets possessed by said entity. Elise tries to help free the girl, but freaks out again. But then she enlists the help of a couple of web vlogger demonologists names Specs and Tucker (you may have heard of them) to go back in and inspire Quinn to kick the demon’s butt. Wackiness ensues.

As sequels go, I’m not sure if anyone was clamoring for the origin story of how Elise Rainier got into the exorcism business, but we certainly got one. By now, if you’ve been following the Insidious movies, you know what to expect: some effective use of atmospheric lighting and photography, creepy effects that keeps things in the shadows, and a story that builds the tension steadily to the payoff. Not to mention jump scares, but that’s par for the course. As a matter of fact, at first I was going to deem this entry into the Insidious series as Jump Scares: The Movie. But, after chewing it over a bit, the movie proved itself better than that. I can’t say that this is as good as the first one, or even the second one; as an origin story, though, it’s serviceable. You get a look into Rainier’s past, her particular fears of doing this, and also how she met her two assistants from the other movies. There are also the requisite clues sprinkled in that tie into the other movies, but that’s pretty much par for the course by now.

Overall, Insidious Chapter 3 is a good entry into the series. Not the best, but certainly far better than a lot of other movies that have been coming out recently. Good for a rental, I would say.

Movie Review: CULT OF CHUCKY

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cult of chuckyUniversal 1440 Entertainment

“Okay, let me explain something to you. I am a vintage, mass-marketed children’s toy from the Eighties, standing right in front of you, holding a very sharp scalpel.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”

Hey, remember the ending of Curse Of Chucky? Presuming you watched Curse Of Chucky. I realize it’s awfully presumptuous of me to just assume you come into this pointless review of yet another sequel in the Child’s Play franchise having watched at least the previous entry. In case you haven’t let me enlighten you: The paraplegic daughter from Curse Of Chucky–Nica…her name is Nica–was found guilty of the murders in that previous movie by way of insanity, and was confined to one of those high-security asylums for the criminally insane. Of which I’m presuming was not named Arkham. Which would be pretty awesome if it was. Anyway…

Well, here we are now, four years after the events in Curse Of Chucky, where we find Nica having a breakthrough of sorts in her intense therapy, and being transferred to a medium security psychiatric hospital. Here we meet the colorful kill fodder for the movie: a tough but fair nurse, another nurse that doesn’t really do much, a guy with multiple identity disorder, a woman who believes she’s dead and is now a ghost haunting the hospital, a rather angry lady who burned her house down, and a lady who committed infanticide with her own son. And also the psychiatrist who is the epitome of creeper. The psychiatrist comes upon the brilliant idea of incorporating a Good Guy doll to the therapy group (really, how easy is it to get ahold of one of those allegedly “vintage” dolls? Is there an entire warehouse full of these unsold atrocities, and some guy with an eBay account?) as a bit of therapy technique. Ah, yes, the ol’ keep them from sleeping due to traumatic nightmares technique. Works every time. Of course, this backfires when the bodies start piling up (again), but of course no one believes it’s the doll. This is a psychiatric ward, after all. Next thing you know, more Chuckies show up and join in the fun, and blood-soaked wackiness does ensue.

Of course, I left out a bit more of that synopsis. Don’t want to spoil all of the surprises. Suffice to say, once again the whole stigma of being a direct-to-video release has been obliterated by the quality of the film itself. Like with Curse Of Chucky, director Don Mancini wasn’t going to let that stop him from crafting another entertaining horror flick with heavy black comedy elements.

Bottom line is that Cult Of Chucky was far more fun than it should have been, and I couldn’t be any more pleased with this entry in the franchise. The scene where the three Chuckies are arguing about who was going to kill series original Andy is worth the price of the rental alone. Cult Of Chucky is another great entry in the series, and should definitely be watched as a double feature with the previous Curse Of Chucky for full effect.


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curse of chuckyUniversal Home Entertainment

“Twenty five years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone. The Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know, Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing. So to speak.”

I have to give credit where credit is due. Of all the classic horror franchises to have come out of the 1980s, it has been the Child’s Play series that have been the most consistent with knocking ’em out of the park. Sure, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street and Hellraiser franchises may have more movies under their belt (so far), but when it comes to hits versus duds, there’s really only been one dud for the Child’s Play series (that would be Child’s Play 3, aka Chucky Goes To Military School). Even when the series said “screw it” and started leaning toward black comedy when horror movies were becoming more self-aware and meta during the 1990s with Bride Of Chucky, they’ve at least have been far more entertaining than they should really be. Sure, Seed Of Chucky was a little more goofy, but entertainingly so.

Anyway, Curse Of Chucky is the first continuation of the Child’s Play franchise since the aforementioned Seed Of Chucky. There was talk for a while of doing a reboot of the first one, but I for one am glad they decided to go with a direct-to-video sequel that looses none of the previous movies cannon (if you can call it that), but forges ahead with its own story that manages to retain the entertainment, but also goes back to basics, kind of.

The story takes place at a remote old Victorian house, where a reclusive mother lives with her wheelchair bound college-age daughter. She’s very overprotective of her, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since birth due to a trauma while in utero. One day, they receive a mysterious package delivery containing a Good Guy doll, something neither of them recall ordering. Later that night, there’s a scream, and the daughter discovers her mother’s body lying in a pool of her own blood, dead of an apparent “suicide”. Seen, the sister of the daughter and her family come over to help bury their mother…and also try to convice her to sell the house because the sister is a horrible human being. The sister’s young daughter finds the Good Guy doll and bonds with it. Of course, faster than you can say, “Chucky did it”, the bodies begin to pile up, and no one can believe that an inanimate doll is perpetrating these murders. Soon, Chucky plays his cards, and reveals himself as the killer. But, of course, who would believe a doll committed all of them murders? No one, that’s who.

I have to admit, Curse Of Chucky was a far more entertaining horror movie than I initially gave credit for. I’m afraid that, despite many examples to the contrary, there’s still a stigma about straight-to-video release movies not being as good as theatrically released movies. Especially when we’re dealing with higher-numbered sequels. Here, though, long-time director of the Chucky movies Don Mancini decided not to go the cheep route, and has produced a theater release-quality film that holds up to the previous entries. It’s effective on both the horror and dark comedy, and manages some new spins on a well-worn concept by keeping things in the shadows for the majority of the time. In the end, Curse Of Chucky is what you would expect–a B horror movie that’s highly entertaining and unabashedly so. If you never liked the Child’s Play movies, Curse Of Chucky probably isn’t going to turn your opinion around. If, however, you’re a fan of the series, Curse Of Chucky is mighty satisfyin’ watchin’, indeed. Recommended.

Movie Review: INSIDIOUS: The Last Key

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insidious the last keyUniversal Pictures

So, then. Here we are, with the fourth movie in what became the Insidious franchise of supernatural horror movies. With this release, though, there are rumors that Insidious: The Last Key is going to serve as the last chapter in the series. If it is, it’s not a bad place to leave off, really.

Insidious: The Last Key (eschewing the “Chapter” subtitle with this one, seems an odd thing to do, but whatever) is the first Insidious movie that I not only watched in the theater, but on the same weekend it was released. Which, incidentally, was the first week in January, a month that’s usually reserved for Hollywood junk pile releases. However, the past couple of years have yielded a handful of gems within the bottom of the film barrel, so I didn’t really lower my expectations that far down. Although, there was the stigma of this being the fourth in the series, and traditionally with horror movie franchises like this, by the time it gets to the fourth installment, the quality normally is terrible. And while the Insidious movies were of a better quality than a lot of the horror movies being released this past decade, you could still tell a bit of a lessening quality where the story came in with each successive movie. So, I took in an Early Bird showing, where I didn’t have to pay too much, in case Insidious: The Last Key wasn’t that great.

The story revolves around long-time character Elise Rainier returning to her childhood home to deal with some ghosts from her past, both literal and figurative. After a flashback showing Elise’s traumatic childhood with an abusive father, we return to 2010 (when this is set…this is technically a sequel to the prequel that was the third movie), where she gets a phone call from someone who has bought the house she grew up in, a house that he just discovered is haunted by not only the tortured souls that died at the nearby penitentiary, but something else much more sinister, something that Elise inadvertently set loose as a child. She’s reluctant at first, but then agrees to travel back to her house, with her two assistants in tow. There, she must face down not only the evil in the house, but also the evil that dwells in regular non-possessed humans as well, and survive so she can go on to be in the first movie that takes place chronologically after this one. Hooray for non-linear movie sequels.

In terms of quality, Insidious: The Last Key still manages to maintain a higher standard with the execution. The very dark atmospherics mixed with the mystery of the story as it unfolds worked very well. Fortunately, this movie didn’t decide to just rely on jump scares; although there are some in there, they don’t overpower the scare ratio. No, that is handled nicely by the dark atmosphere and claustrophobic dread that saturates the film style. The story itself unfolds into a rather intriguing mystery that goes beyond the standard haunted house fare. There was a point midway where I thought maybe they were wrapping things up a bit earlier than normal. No, fortunately the mystery went deeper than the standard one here, resulting in a rather satisfying conclusion. And as always, the actors are great in this. I absolutely love Lin Shaye, and she caries the part very well. Her two associates…okay, sidekicks are adorable as the alleged comedy relief. The Big Bad in this worked the best when he/she/it kept to the shadows; the showdown at the end, though, while effective with the look, was maybe used too much. But, not enough to ruin things. Personally, I think that the metaphor to take away here is that, when you finally face your biggest fear, when it’s finally exposed to the light for all to see, it doesn’t seem as big and scary as your mind made it out to be. Then again, I seem to be overthinking a horror movie, here, so I digress.

Overall, Insidious: The Last Key was a pretty good horror flick. It wasn’t the best, no, but it also didn’t slough off as far as quality goes. So much so that, it probably didn’t deserve to be released in the first week of January. We could have waited for a more appropriate month, like say, I don’t know, just spitballing, here…October, maybe? They used to release horror movies in October. Anyway, it’s worth a matinee showing some afternoon, or a rental if you’re patient.

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