Movie Review: BRIGHT

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“This is like a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.”

In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and faeries have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Two police officers, one a human, the other an orc, embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy everything.

When discussing with my friends movies of the past that are remembered fondly, but would agree could probably do with an updated redux, one that always springs to mind is Alien Nation. One of my many favorites from my youth, it’s a buddy cop sci-fi flick in which a human cop and a space alien cop who find themselves caught in the midst of shenanigans between other humans and the space alien refugees who are acclimating to human society. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy-handed with the social commentary, but I love it, and think it should be redone, especially in this political climate.

The reason why I bring this up is because I was getting some serious Alien Nation vibes while watching the Netflix original movie bright. I hate to say this, but Bright may be the closest we’ll get to a modern retelling of Alien Nation (sorry, District 9). And this one doesn’t even have space aliens.

Pause for a moment…is it bad that I feel the need to specify space aliens, and not just say “aliens”? I digress…

Bright takes place in a modern society where the folklore creatures of old have always existed, and dwell side-by-side with humans, giving rise to a different kind of class struggle, but still similar: the Elves are the rich upper-class, the Orcs are the lower class, while the humans are somewhere in the middle. And since the social commentary is about as subtle as a wrecking ball with the word “SUBTLE” spray painted on it, the regular prejudices between species abound.

So, anyhoo, the story of Bright involves a couple of LAPD cops–one human that’s just got back from leave after being shot by an orc while on duty, and the other an orc rookie–who come across an Elvin Bright and a magic wand. A “Bright” is essentially any being–human, orc and elf alike–that can wield magic and, most importantly, can hold a magic wand without being immediately atomized in the process. Now, the two cops who don’t really like each other to begin with have to survive the night protecting the elf and the wand from crooked cops, gang bangers, orc gang bangers, renegade elf cultists and the Magic Feds. Wackiness.

So far, since its release, Bright has been getting some divisive reviews, from those who praise it as a great gritty urban fantasy movie, and those who deride it as the worst movie to ever be released in 2017, if ever. I have yet to stumble across a review speculating that perhaps Brightis threatening The Lord Of The Rings as the most ambitious fantasy movie of the 21st Century, but then again the group of online reviewers and vloggers of movies is kind of limited. Anyway, let me throw in my paltry two cents on Bright.

I rather enjoyed Bright. Sure, it comes off as if someone just took two random genres and smooshed them together — “What if, like, Training Day or Lethal Weapon had, like, orcs and elves and other fantasy creatures?” — but for what it is, it’s a well-made multi-genre smooshing. Yes, the story follows the same beats as the other police drama thrillers that David Ayer has made — S.W.A.T., Street Kings, the aforementioned Training Day — and Will Smith once again plays Will Smith as a fill-in-the-blank. And did I mention the not-so-subtle social commentary? But, despite all this, the movie works on a level that I don’t think anyone was expecting. The dynamic between the main characters Ward and Jakoby works, as they don’t really like each other, but find themselves in a situation where they have to have each other’s backs. Mind you, the story is rather predictable, but at no point did things get stale along the way. Admittedly, at first I thought this was another adaptation of a comic book series, as the premise does seem custom-made for one. But no, this was an original script (in a matter of speaking). By far, my favorite character is the orc Jakoby, who refuses to succumb to stereotypes and try to do some good in a world that doesn’t seem to care for his type.

Overall, though the flaws are evident, I would recommend checking out Bright. You may like it, you may not, but it’s definitely not the worst thing ever to come out of 2017.


Movie Review: The APE

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ape, theMonogram Pictures

“I don’t like things I can’t understand.”

The Ape is one of those old-timey B-Movies that were included on the 50 Horror Movies pack I picked up a little over a decade ago, and am still working my way through. These were comprised mostly of Public Domain films, which I dig on, because of both my love of kitschy cheese movies from the past, and sometimes you stumble upon a charming classic in the process.

The Ape falls under the former category, here.

Released in 1940 and staring Boris Karloff as a kindly yet a bit excentric doctor of medicine, The Ape clocks in at just over an hour in length. Technically not movie length, but just right for what it is.

Anyway, The Ape tells the tale of a medical doctor who is working on a way to cure a local town lady’s polio and get her to walk again. The formula he’s working on calls for spinal fluid to work; of course, everyone in town thinks the doctor is strange and ostracizes him, so there aren’t any willing donors around to help. However, an ape escapes from the nearby circus, and begins a reign of terror in the town. Soon, the ape breaks into the doctor’s laboratory, and in the ensuing fight is killed by the doctor, who then decides to skin the ape and use it as a disguise to essentially murder townspeople to harvest their sweet, sweet spinal fluid to cure the young lady. It goes about as well as you would expect.

Accordingly, The Ape was loosely base on a play made in 1924, in that the only element kept from the play was the disguising as an ape part. Otherwise, the rest of the plot was a product of the writer’s imagination. As a movie in and of itself, really the only thing keeping me from regulating The Ape to a “pass on this” verdict is Boris Karloff, who was an actor who could lend gravitas to an Elementary School play. The drama behind the townsfolk not liking the doctor seems like a forced issue, as it’s never really established why he’s disliked to begin with, beyond the standard “small town yokel” stereotyping. Fortunately, it’s only an hour long, and not too much of a slog to sit through. Definitely watch this if you’re something of a Karloff enthusiast, otherwise this is more of something you’d find on an obscure cable channel some weekend afternoon after a nap.

Movie Review: MAYHEM

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mayhemRLJE Films

Mayhem is the latest movie directed by one Joe Lynch, the guy behind Knights Of Badassdom, one of my favorite genre comedies going, I’m also told his directorial debut Wrong Turn 2 was pretty good as well, but I have yet to watch that series.

Mayhem is something like a mix of The Belko Experiment, 28 Days Later, and The Purge. This is the tale of a corporate suit who is having a rather bad day: He discovers he’s being framed for a bad deal, he’s been fired, his coffee mug has been stolen…oh, and the entire building has been put into lockdown due to everyone inside being infected by a virus that effectively blocks all inhibitions and makes the infected not able to control their emotional urges. It’s like the worst part of puberty, only amplified by a factor of 100. There’s also a loophole where those infected couldn’t be prosecuted for the violence they did due to not being able to control themselves. So, the corporate suit decides to use this opportunity to make his way upstairs to air his grievances to the Top Brass of the company–along with his client, a hammer and a nail gun. Bloody ultra-violence ensues.

Mayhem is basically your standard ultra-violent survival horror with a thick veneer of satire that works maybe 65-to-70% of the time. As a means of being a commentary on the soulless evil corporations, it’s pretty heavy handed. But, at least it’s somewhat entertaining, as the caricatures are rather over-the-top and exaggerated. Or, at least I can presume, as I’ve never really been ensconced in that kind of situation before. The two main characters are interesting enough; I especially glommed on Samara Weaving, as I recognized her as Bee from the way-better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be flick The Babysitter, and here she plays a take-no-crap-from-anyone homeowner trying to get help to keep her house, who also happens to be a Metalhead. It’s about time we got some positive female representation in movies. One of the best interchanges between her and the other main guy–played by Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead, apparently…I really don’t watch the show, so I didn’t realize until I looked things up on IMDB–have a brief discussion about music tastes. Anyway, the editing is of the fast-paced kinetic style, which is befitting a survival horror comedy such as this.

Overall, I enjoyed Mayhem for what it is. I’m not generally a fan of the over-the-top violent movies like this, and if something like that makes you squeamish, I would definitely steer clear of this. For fans of movies like this, though, it’s not a bad rental to kill some time.


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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: FEVER LAKE

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fever lakeETD Distribution Company

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It takes a special kind of “talent” to ruin a slasher movie. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of bad slashers that fall more under the So Bad It’s Good banner (Sleepaway Camp, Silent Night Deadly Night 2, pretty much anything after Friday The 13th Part 6), but to make a slasher that is dull, boring and utterly forgettable as Fever Lake? That is a whole new kind of special.

Directed by one Ralph E. Portillo, who has directed a whole bunch of movies I’ve never heard of, and released in 1996, Fever Lake stars one of the Two Coreys from the 80s–Corey Haim–and co-stars Mario Lopez (aka Slater from Saved By The Bell, or alternately That One Host from Extra), and B-movie legend Bo Hopkins…plus a bunch of other actors. Haim and Lopez play a couple of 30-something college kids who head out to a small rented house near a lakeside community with some other 30-something college kids for a holiday of shenanigans and whatnot. Only, the lake itself has an evil spirit, one that bubbles out and causes EVIL! Only, we don’t really see it so much as we’re constantly told about it by the whitest Native American stereotype you’ll ever come across. So, when one of the locals is killed by a wolf that magically is never seen in the same frame as she is, the locals get…mildly irritated at the existence of that house the college kids are staying in. Meanwhile, nothing really happens outside of some continued warnings by Dances With Stereotypes, until about the last 20 minutes or so, when the killings start happening in the house. Then the “twist” that everyone saw coming within ten minutes of this movie starting underwhelms you, and the movie ends. And you’re left lamenting the time spent that you will never, ever get back again.

Fever Lake is such a tame slasher movie that you can be forgiven for initially thinking this was made by one of those family oriented cable channels in an effort to be edgy for the Halloween season. The problem is, this is one of those PG-13 type of “horror” movies…only, the PG-13 rating would be too strong for this, really. The aforementioned scene where the local is attacked by the wolf, it’s very apparent that they shot the scenes with the wolf separate, while shooting separately the reactions of the local, and then tried to splice the two bits of footage together, and failed miserably. The acting is 90s era sitcom level at best. Mostly filler and not much else, Fever Lake is just dull. I cannot recommend watching this, even as a bad movie night.

Movie Review: SUNSHINE

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sunshineFox Searchlight Pictures

“At the end of time, a moment will come when just one man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here…but stardust.”

It is the year 2057, the sun is dying and mankind faces extinction. Earth’s last hope rests with a courageous crew of eight men and women on a mission to ignite the fading star with a massive nuclear weapon. Deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission begins to unravel and they find themselves fighting not only for their lives, but for the future of us all.

When it comes down to it, I would say that, when it comes to science fiction, I really don’t have a set preference of style. Like anything else genre-wise, it depends on whatever mood strikes me. I can enjoy some good hard sci-fi just as much as a space opera; hybrid stuff like western/sci-fi or even horror set in SPAAAAAAAAACE!, mainstream or mind-bending obscure…I trust you get the idea, here. I loves me some sci-fi.

When it comes to the cinematic science fiction, there are times when you come across a movie that starts off rather strongly, and maintains that strength for the first two thirds…and then suddenly turns into another movie altogether, more often than not at the expense of having the movie end disappointingly. It’s not a bad movie, it just could have been a great movie had it continued with the original story.

Such is the movie Sunshine.

It’s the future, and the sun is dying out, resulting in the Earth being a bit dimmer and a lot more chilly in the summer months. In an effort to give our own personal star a much-needed booster, we sent out a ship named Icarus I, but something happened that resulted in losing contact with the ship and the mission failing. So, Icarus II heads out, with the same mission of kickstarting the sun, hopefully without being distracted by something shiny. Well, more distractedly shiny than the sun. I mean, is there anything more shiny to get distracted by? Cursed Daystar. Anyway, the mission is going as planned, as the various members of the expedition are doing their relative science-y stuff and having the occasional spat that comes with being stuck in a confined area for a long amount of time. Roommates do that. Around the time they’re passing by Mercury, though, they start getting a signal from what turns out to be the Icarus I. There’s a disagreement as to whether to push on with the mission, or to stop by the wreck of the Icarus I and see if they could get that payload as a backup in case the one they’ve got to get the sun going somehow fails. They decide to press on (that was the civil way of saying it), but then a great mishap involving the sun shield happens, resulting in them docking with Icarus I anyway. Once inside, they discover that the entire mainframe of the ship was sabotaged by the crew themselves, having been driven mad by the sun. They discover the remains of the crew, all burned up together when they dropped the protection from the sun’s radiation. Seems they all decided that the sun dying was supposed to happen, and this was the result. Bad news, yes…but then it turns out someone is sabotaging the Icarus II. Someone who really shouldn’t still be alive. Then it turns into a slasher movie, resulting in what you would expect would happen. Fight against the odds, big tense self-sacrifice moment, The End.

The big issue I have with Sunshine is the part when, after they dock with the Icarus I (why would you name a space ship Icarus? Are they not familiar with the actual myth story? It doesn’t end well, you would think they would know that, all that book learnin’ and stuff), the movie suddenly turns into that confusing third act of Event Horizon. It’s not even a very good emulation of that third act; we go from a pretty tense hard science fiction movie, then into what is basically your standard slasher, only the villain has no logical reason to exist. Mainly because they shouldn’t have survived being crispified by the sun and left floating around for several years without oxygen by the time Icarus II showed up. My brain is hurting right now trying to figure out the logistics of this just writing the review.

Look, Sunshine was a good movie. A very good movie. Then not so much good movie. Do I think you should watch Sunshine? Yes, definitely. The first two thirds are great. Just understand about that third part. It’s not terrible, mind…just…well, you get the idea. Like finishing up the Mona Lisa with crayons.


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psychomechBrian Lumley

The terrorist bomb blast ‘introduced’ two very different men: multimillionaire Thomas Schroeder and British Army Corporal Richard Garrison. The industrialist welcomed the army man to his mountain retreat, endowed him with wealth, and introduced him to the one woman he would always love. Blinded in the inferno, Garrison at first though that Schroeder’s kindness sprang from gratitude and guilt. But when Schroeder revealed the unique mental abilities he and Garrison shared and his plan to cheat death, Garrison began to wonder about Schroeder’s true motivations. Was he Thomas Schroeder’s friend or the test subject for Schroeder’s dreams of reincarnation?

So, in my on-going quest to try and read everything that Brian Lumley has written that is not in some way tied in with his Necroscope series, I began this first book in what is known as the Psychomech Trilogy. And after reading the titular first novel, my first thought after closing the book was, “There are two more of these to get through.” It wasn’t that it was a tedious slog to get through, it’s just that Lumley does have a talent for turning what could be a 250 page story into 400+ pages. The man is big on purple prose and exposition, he is. And I typed out that last bit in a cheesy Cockney accent in my head.

Bit of a backstory here, before we proceed: I first came across the second book in this trilogy at a now-defunct small used book store over fifteen or so years ago. Since I have this kind of OCD about reading series books out of order, I decided to hold onto this one until I could find the other two. That was easier said than done, as I didn’t come across those in physical mass market paperback form until I spotted them both at (say it with me) Half Price Books. Goodie for me. Only, there was already a bit of a reading que, so getting around to actually reading them took another couple of years (yeah, I may have an addiction, here). But finally, I was able to get to them, and now, if you haven’t given up and moved on to something more exciting on the Internet, here is the first of the three.

Thomas Schroeder is a very rich and powerful German industrialist who is in Ireland at the beginning of the story on business with the IRA, who have kidnapped his wife. He manages to get the best of them, but then he learns of a bomb they planted in his hotel room, of which he’s saved from by the brave actions of one Corporal Richard Garrison of the Royal Military Police, which results in the loss of Corporal Garrison’s vision. Not to worry, as Schroeder feels rather indebted to him for saving not only his life, but also the lives of his wife and infant son, that he brings Garrison to his rather swanky digs in Germany, to try and help him see again. Of course, there’s more to Shroeder’s intentions than just that, and while Garrison doesn’t seem to mind, it is hard to get a bead on whether things are a bit more sinister or not. It involves ESP and a bit of the old advanced horoscope drowsing made all sciency and stuff. Meanwhile, in Plot B, there’s this former Nazi officer who once tried to build a machine to create supermen for Hitler during World War II. Of course, now that he’s in hiding under an assumed name and life, he’s once again trying to build the machine, along with a psychiatrist who’s employing the Nazi as a gardener, under the guise of building a psychiatric machine to help alleviate one’s fears, called the Psychomech. Mech-mech-mech. Anyway, Schroeder dies, leaving all of his wealth and land to Garrison, along with Schroeder’s life long companion and bodyguard, named Willy Koenig. Not too long after that, Garrison marries a woman who just so happens to be having an affair with the psychiatrist that has built Psychomech, and after a couple of years of marriage, decides to dissolve their marriage by way of an overdose on the Psychomech itself. Only, instead of killing him, Garrison turns into a god, resurrects his long-dead-of-cancer first love, and absorbs Willy Koening into his being, along with Thomas Schroeder. The end.

As mentioned previously, Lumley does do a lot of exposition, quite a bit of dialog in his stories. Fortunately, he’s good at it, otherwise this would have been a slog to get through. Instead, Psychomech was decent, engaging with some slow parts, yes, but overall really creating a good sci-fi yarn that wasn’t really what I was expecting. I didn’t go into excessive detail with the story recap, as there is a lot of scenes involving a subconscious dream state that, while I understand it’s there to establish what the Psychomech machine is all about, was probably the least favorite parts of the book for me. And the ending is one of those abrupt kinds that made me go, “Well, that happened” when it got to the last page.

The Psychomech trilogy is probably Lumley’s more obscure series of novels, and judging by this first book, I can see why. Worth a look-see.

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