Sunday, May 16, 2021

Quick Review: Knives Out (2019)

 Another List on the 'You Need to See This Movie' one is checked off.  Let's do this before Netflix pumps out 2 more...

The patriarch of a family (Christopher Plummer) is dead.  

Was it murder?
Suicide?

The Police and Benoit Blanc are on the case!
The family is full of people who act suspicious and have lots of motive.

Is it the angry one?  The upset one?  The subtly-angry one?
The will reading takes a turn that they don't like, leading to some more death.

Only one knife out so far though, for those keeping track.
Can Mr. Blanc solve the case as more clues begin to appear and suspects get even more suspicious?
Will the killer be caught?  Who is it?

To find out, stream the Film.
A fun ride with some good twists and turns.  Its one of those ones where I was pretty sure I had figured it out by the middle.  Even so, the execution of everything works.  A little line here is paid off, as is one at a different point.  It feels like one of those mysteries that you could watch again to spot all of the little clues throughout.  Many of these have a tendency to cheat by outright just not giving you a clue or two that you would need to solve the case.  Thankfully, they pretty much play fair here.  There's some that are omitted, but only partially and it is really just for a bit.  I have one critique here or there, but otherwise it is fine.  They give you enough likeable people to make it manageable with all of the bad.  One of them- a kid- is apparently Rian's 'response' to the so-called trolls who hated The Last Jedi.  While I was never a troll (I don't think) and I didn't hate it (it was disappointing though), this feels a bit petty, no?  I guess if you don't know it, the kid is just a jerk.  The Film is enjoyable and has lots of little details, even if one bit of casting doesn't hold up to Basic Math...

A good Film that plays like a classic Mystery, with a few tweaks here and there.  Keep Rian doing this and off of Star Wars now.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

'90s Trash?: Split Second (1992)

 It is way longer than a second- -5 Stars!  Seriously though, this is Split Second, a 1992 Film with a Title so vague it could be about a number of things.  Is it about Time Travel?  How about a Time Loop?  Maybe some Indie Drama about a Couple torn apart by a split second choice gone awry?  Did I accidentally watch a Mumblecore Film?  Nope- it is a Rutger Hauer Vehicle.  This one is all kinds of weird.  Where do I start?  Well, it is a semi-Post Apocalyptic Action Film with clear Sci-Fi Elements, but also strong Horror ones too.  The Plot involves London, Hauer as a grizzled and grimy Police Officer and a strange Serial Killer on the loose.  Nobody believes him about what is really happening.  Will an unlikely new Partner make things work out great...or implode?  To find out, read on...

In a slightly-flooded-but-mostly-fine London, Hauer is a Detective who sure is grizzled and unconventional.

A woman is killed in a Night Club while he's nearby and a bloody message is left for him!
His coworkers don't believe him, still blaming him for the disappearance/death of his Partner.

Hey look- Pete Posthelwaite!
With him continuing to be aggressive and pushing the case, his Captain (who shockingly doesn't like him) assigns him a new partner.

Naturally, said Partner is buttoned-up, well-read and British.

It's the kind of crazy, mismatched stuff you get in the dark future of 2008!
As they work the case, the Partner learns about how a killer has been stalking the City and had a personal connection to Hauer.

How does it keep disappearing so suddenly?  Who (or what) is it?
Complicating matter is the widow of Hauer's Partner (Kim Catrall)?

She quickly becomes a target, since, you know, female agency hadn't been invented yet.

Also note her haircut, which tells you that she just came from Star Trek VI to film this.
Can he get the right combination of guns, guts and help to stop the killer?

Will the reveal of the killer's origins and secret make sense?
Can Hauer stop the creature?  Can his partnership (and his partner!) survive?

Will they do it all in a Split Second?

To find out, stream the Film on Prime and, you know, other places too probably.
A weird mix of Genres and Tone.  To say that this Movie is confusing is a real understatement.  Is it a Horror Film?  Kind of.  Is it a Sci-Fi Film?  Yes.  Is it an Action Film?  Yes.  Does it contain weird comedic moments and tonal shifts?  Also yes.  The whole thing is fun, but it sure is uneven.  One minute, he's sad.  Another minute, he's angry.  Now he's cracking jokes.  Pick a general Tone and personality, would you?  The Plot is decent, but again, uneven.  The person/creature/thing can clearly take out anyone at any time...but just doesn't.  There are times when I don't really know if it *really* wants to achieve its goal.  They later clarify how it has to do things a certain way...but I'm still not sold.  They do a good job building up the threat, mind you.  Hauer is good here and Alastair Duncan as the Partner is good too.  He changes the most here, going from straight-laced to free-form over the course of the Film.  Weirdly enough, I'm playing Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and he's one of the Leads- what timing.  The killer- who I think you know is a creature by now- looks good and they build up to his/its reveal nicely.  It is worth noting that the Film implies that London is flooding, but never actually can show it.  Oh well.  Split Second is a fun, but confusing mix of Genres and Tone.  If that sounds good to you, you're golden.

Next time, I jump back to the '70s for a more hard Sci-Fi Film.  It has an All-Star Cast (of 3 people), a Planet and a number- the hat trick!  Stay tuned...

Mondo Trivia: Mothra (1961)

 A while back, I did a bit of a deep dive/compare-contrast between both versions of the rarest Godzilla Film out there (Godzilla Returns/Godzilla 1985).

Well, Mothra has an alternate Japanese Cut as well.

The difference- it is only 10 minutes longer (and obviously in Japanese).

So with the knowledge that the cuts are only minor cuts, you might be surprised to see *what* they cut out for the US Release.

To set the Scene, Mothra is attacking a New York City stand-in (Newkirk City) to retrieve the tiny twins and the residents are naturally concerned...

This is where the majority of the noticeable cutting begins as the US Cut is missing some big chunks here.

Specifically, we don't see a pair of Priests say that we need to pray to God for help against Mothra.
Yep.

Were you expecting something else?
I know I sure was!

Later on, the Heroes arrive and get briefed on things.

They too reach a similar conclusion...
This is followed by some serious praying, not to mention our Comedic Lead doing the Sign of the Cross.
...so why did they cut this?

I guess they must have figured that Religion had no place in a Film like Mothra.  
I can't find any evidence as to their motives, mind you, so I can only infer from what I see.

If anyone has the reason, I'm all ears.

Either way, this is...not what I expected to see!


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Streaming Standard: Marvel's Inhumans

With so many Streaming Platforms these days, there are hidden gems to be found.

Is this failed attempt at expanding the MCU on TV one of them?

Let's find out...

Up on the Moon, the Royal Family of the Inhumans- people that once lived on Earth and get powers from Terrigen Stones- rule.
However, there is tension within the community, which is amplified by Maximus.

He's the Brother of Black Bolt (the King) and he's different from all other Inhumans.

The power he gained- being fully human!
Oh and they have Lockjaw, a giant, teleporting Dog.

Sorry to bury the lead.
The group are usurped by Maximus and his cohorts, ending up in exile in Hawaii.

I guess if you have left over Staff from all of your other Hawaii-based Shows, you might as well throw the Inhumans in there too.
The middle of the Show is them having their own individual adventures- conveniently meeting a version of 'Human actually friendly?!?'- until they can meet up again.

Can they settle things up on the Moon or is the Game of Thrones guy going to meet another bad end?

To find out, stream the Show on Disney +.  You can even project it on your wall to emulate the IMAX experience that the Pilot got.
Too many expectations to live up to here, I think.  At this point (and still now), the MCU was arguably 'too big to fail.'  Some people were waiting for a 'failure' to happen.  People thought Ant-Man would bomb- it didn't.  Guardians of the Galaxy- quite successful.  As such, it became a bit easier to see this attempt and go 'finally- it happened!'  Don't get me wrong- Inhumans isn't some amazing human endeavor to be celebrated above all   It has the same 'stretch everything out' formula as these kinds of Shows do.  Not every Plot is as interesting as the others.  The Acting ranges from good to so-so.  The Special Effects are decent.  Since it is a TV Show, they find ways to use the expensive effects sparingly.  If you watch the Show in one straight binge, I don't know if it works.  If you watch it episodically, however, it does build slowly and steadily towards the finish.  The final product isn't mind-blowing.  Mind you, this whole thing was done due to Marvel trying to market stuff other than Mutants, since Fox still owned the X-Men Franchise.  As a replacement (both in Comics and TV), it is a mixed bag.  Open your mind and set your expectations accordingly and you just might enjoy this one.  At the very least, one Actor made the jump to something a bit more successful...

A decent Show, honestly, that kind of got the shaft.  I'm not going to say that you need to track it down right now, but give it a chance. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Lost in Translation?: Dead & Buried (1981)

 As I'm already in the mood to talk about the Film some more, I might as well cover this.

Dead & Buried got a couple of Japanese Posters and this sure is one of them...

I love these kinds of Posters, in case you didn't know.

The random, collage nature of it all has a real 'Pop Art' vibe to it.

Mind you, nothing tops that Andy Warhol-inspired Army of Darkness Poster, but this is still great.

I'd also note a mild SPOILER on there, but it has no context...so I'm cool.

This is the original...

Same basic piece, but definitely not as bright or dark where it needs to be.  I try to help out when I can.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

'80s Class: Dead & Buried (1981)

 After over a decade, I had to go back and dig this one up.  This is Dead & Buried, a 1981 Film that I think needs some more attention.  How often do you hear about this one?  How often do you see it on Lists of 'Horror Films You Missed' or 'Horror Films You Need to See?'  Almost never- at least in my experience.  Let's take a step towards fixing that.  The Plot involves a strange town that likes to kill strangers.  Why?  What is their ultimate goal?  It comes from Director Gary Sherman, who has a good-sized Resume, but never seemed to quite break out.  He brought us Poltergeist III, which is certainly the eeriest of the three (for all of the wrong reasons).  A big name here (as seen on the Poster) is Dan O'Bannon, who hopefully needs no introduction.  Its other main Writer (2 for the Story, 2 for Screenplay and one for the original Novel) is Ronald Shusett, who also worked on Alien, as well as Total Recall, King Kong Lives, Freejack and, no joke, Above the Law.  Due to guild rules, he's co-credited on every Alien-related Film/project, so his IMDB Page looks really busy!  I don't want to give too much away just yet.  In fact, the reason I avoided reviewing it then was to not give the Plot away.  I can write without major SPOILERS now (plus the Film is 12 years older now), so let's dig right in... 

A Photographer is visiting a small New England Town called Potter's Grove and meets a friendly (and horny) face.

What could go wrong?
The local residents attack him!

They beat him, tie him with a net and burn him alive!
This is the first of many strange incidents that draws the attention of the Sheriff.

I do wonder why he only seems to notice it now...but that is explained later.
The man survives, but one of the townspeople puts a stop to him talking.

Well, I guess that's the end of him...
Also this is *definitely* better than the version in Samurai Cop and *slightly* better than the one in Black Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Town continues to go after any strangers that might show up, be they hitchhikers or visiting families.

What is motivating this?!?
The Town Mortician seems to be up to something, given how insistent he is on always working on every body that show up.

Then again, he was Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka, so he can't be evil...right?
Well, I wont SPOIL the ending for you, as it is too good.

The non-SPOILER version- don't believe everything you see...or even what you remember.  The End.
This is still really damn good.  How do people not talk about this Film that much?  Granted- it's not some obscure rarity per se.  It just got a 4K Release, so it is doing better than stuff like Elves.  Even so, is it ever compared to others from this period as far as quality?  Not that I've seen, so I'm counting this.  If you want to know what a hidden gem of a Horror Film looks like, look no further.  Big time Writer, strong premise, but otherwise less than well-known Film.  Without SPOILing things too much, the Film has some great twists and turns.  They all feel earned too, so it isn't just a twist for the sake of it.  When all is said and done, the whole thing makes (morbid) sense.  It could have easily thrown in one too many twists/turns or done one that didn't tie to the Film.  The Setting is nice and the tone of the Film amps up slowly to dread.  Given the nature of it, this is probably a love it or hate it kind of Film.  Do you like the turns and where it goes?  Do you hate them?  Regardless, it is all well done and a credit to all involved.  So many times I'm afraid to rewatch a Film after a long time in case it doesn't hold up.  With quality Writing, strong Acting and make-up work by Stan Winston, this was never going to be like that.

Next up, I cover a Rutger Hauer Film.  This one has a pretty random and bonkers premise, so I'm all in!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Holiday Flix: Starfighters (Luchadores de las Estrellas)

 Instead of doing a Star Wars thing and a Cinco De Mayo thing, here's both!  This is Starfighters, a 1992 Action Film from California...by way of Mexico.  It was shot in the former, but made by people from the latter.  Clear enough?  It features a handful of Luchadores, as well as a gringo who was working in the area at the time.  The Plot- as you can imagine- has a Sci-Fi twist to it.  A strange Alien comes to Earth- with 3 minis- to drink some blood and gain some power.  I apologize if I don't go deep enough into the Plot for you, but here's the thing- no Subtitles.  My Spanish is very, very lacking, but I could pick up enough to follow the basics.  The Film is obscure enough that I couldn't even find Subtitles online for it, so thems the breaks.  As per the usual, there's lots of actual Wrestling in here.  Will it give the rare example of having both actual Wrestling and good non-wrestling Action Scenes?  Para averiguarlo, sigue leyendo...

A ship crashes, well, somewhere and some little Aliens come out.  They are accompanied by a larger one as well.

Said Aliens are played by famous Minis, most notably Mascarita Sagrada (who was featured heavily on Lucha Underground and in '90s WWF)
This seems to affect a lady Luchador- played by Co-Writer/General Manger/Costume Designer/Theme Song Writer Gloria Mayo- but she convinces her friend that it is all tranquilo with her.
The Aliens go to a Club to get what they are after- blood!

So, if you can follow, our Villain is an Alien...who's a Vampire...and a Wrestler...who dresses/acts like a Terminator.

As a bonus, he's played by Tyler Mane, most famous for playing Sabretooth and Michael Meyers (in the Remakes).
Since our Film is all about Wrestlers, we get the first of THREE Matches here.  The world of Mondo Bizarro Cinema and Let's Go to the Ring aren't that far apart sometimes.

At least a later match features Blue Demon Jr (also on Lucha Underground) and a guy named Satanico.
The Aliens continue to abduct women for their blood (Necessito Sangre, cries our villain) and...to use random religious imagery.

This is from 1992, so they beat ECW to this by 4 years.
The lead Alien really wants our Heroine for some reason (does it matter that much?) and he brought along a fog machine!
He chases her to the Ring for a battle that- naturally- includes irish whips and a giant swing.

Hey look- an Empty Arena Match!
After another match, some more Action and some so-so Plot, our Heroes defeat the little Aliens (who are transformed into big ones) and Nitron the Space Vampire here with an electric line and a small pool.
Our Heroine is still confused about all of this as she walks outside with the others...whereupon a different Spaceship shines a light on her, transforms her into a new outfit and takes her away.

In the aftermath, they sequel bait Masters of the Universe-style with Nitron.  The End.
It's all pretty damn silly.  Would this have been a much better Film if I spoke fluent Spanish?  I mean, think about what happens.  Three Wrestlers have to deal with 3 little Aliens and a Space Vampire.  It isn't Citizen Kane.  Hell, it isn't even Citizen Toxie!  It is all just silly fun here.  Like most of these Wrestling Movies from Mexico, it has lots of action, lots of dubious acting and some silly stuff across the board.  I missed alot of the little moments from the Plot I'm sure, but this whole thing still works.  The matches themselves are decent, but you only get the action from the hard camera.  My best guess is that the Film Cameras for this were *extra* cameras and just went where there was room.  Otherwise, why else would you set it so far away, never zoom in and never change angles?  The big hook here is Nitron (aka Mane).  He's dubbed quite noticeably here and just generally looks menacing in a kind of silly way.  They have him do the usual 'wrestling big man' stuff here while the trio bump off of him/around him.  It's clear that they want him to look and act like The Terminator here.  Sorry, the only wrestling Teminator is Road Warrior Animal's Brother Joe (as seen in the AWA Episode of Let's Go to the Ring!).  Well, him or Arnold himself in that one WWE 2K game.  If you like silly stuff and speak Spanish, you might enjoy this for the throwback that it is.  If you don't, well, why are you watching Starfighters?  In closing, it is funny how the little things will sometimes make you laugh.  For me, in a Film full of cheesy effects, Minis and Aliens, this guy commando rolling out of the car while he's supposed to be knocked out just makes me laugh...

Next up, I just re-watched a Film I last saw in 2009.  Time to dig it up for a proper Review.  Stay tuned...

Monday, May 3, 2021

Rare Flix: Addams Family Reunion (1998)

 A VHS rarity that might have been better left in the crypt.  This is Addams Family Reunion, a 1998 TV Movie that was supposed to be the start of something big.  Coming off of the heels of the 2 Films, this one was the Pilot for a new Show.  Remember The New Addams Family?  No?  It ran for 65 Episodes.  It ran for about 2 years.  Still no?  I can't help you then.  This is right in the middle of the time when the VHS (and later DVD) Market was rife with this kind of thing.  The VHS I own- this only exists on VHS btw- has Trailers at the front of it for Richie Rich's Christmas Wish and Dennis The Menace Strikes Again.  Oy vey!  The big thing here- almost all of the Cast of the original Films is gone.  Obviously, one is going to be missing (Raul Julia), but the rest comes down to them just plain turning this down.  I can't blame them.  We get Tim Curry and Daryll Hannah as the new Leads, which is certainly a good start.  Let's see if they can do more than that as we hop back to 1998 for...

In the Cold Open, we see a terrified Mailman chased, traumatized and eventually eaten (off-screen) by the monster in the Addams Family's Mailbox (or it is the Mailbox).

Nothing says Warner Bros Family Entertainment like that!
Gomez (Curry) is excited to get the Unabridged Addams Family Lineage delivered and with it an invitation to a big Family Reunion.

An Addams Family Reunion- roll those credits!
Gomez's Grandparents (Kevin McCarthy and Estelle Harris) show up and they are acting strange.

To clarify, they are acting like normal, cliché old people.

They apparently tried to get John Astin for the role, but he turned it down.  He would, however, play the role twice on the TV Show.
They go to the Reunion, but there was a mix-up.

The Addams Family here is a bunch of WASPs, led by Ed Begley Jr (who wants to kill his Dad- Ray Walston).

He gets into a competitive relationship with Gomez, which is Subplot A.
On top of that, Pugsley falls for his Daughter, while Wednesday has a tempestuous conflict with the daughter.

Do we need more Subplots?

Alright, Lurch has a thing for another WASPy lady AND the real Addams Family ends up at the iconic House with Grandma and Thing.
Meanwhile, Fester makes a dog that transforms into a dubious CGI Monster that runs amok.

Somehow, that ends up with Thing being caught by a Dog Catcher (Clint Howard)!
The tension between the two Fathers leads to a big fight during a Gala in the Grandfather's honor.

Somehow, this ends up in The Addams Family being arrested, which somehow overshadows the fact that Pugsley and Wednesday WERE CAUGHT GRAVEROBBING and buried Lurch in the body's place (to let him sleep).
They are rescued by the Grandfather and they put Begley Jr in the Electric Shock Chair (which he used on a happy Fester) at the 'mercy' of his Patients.

How...funny and not at all dark.
The clan returns home together (facing no repercussions, I guess) and leave the Grandparents with the WASP Family (minus a presumably dead Begley Jr).

However, then Pugsley bemoans the loss of the massive firework he was given at the beginning by Great-Grandpa (and left at the WASP's House)...and then a massive explosion.

So...um, The End (for everyone there)?
A cumbersome mess of a Film with a few high spots within it.  To start off with the positive, Tim Curry does well as Gomez.  Apparently the Director wanted to pull back on the 'Latin Lothario' aspect of the Character made famous by Julia.  Even so, this performance is good...so it's a shame that he's not on the subsequent Show.  In fact, nobody but the Actress that played Wednesday is- weird.  Other Actors- like Hannah and Begley Jr- get moments to shine, although the former is too understated here and the latter is too over-the-top at times.  In fact, that's one of the big factors- the Film is often very over-the-top, since it plays for a frenetic, kid audience.  Mind you, the same Film features grave-robbing, people being eaten by monsters, women being chased by different monsters and a man likely being killed by electro-shock therapy.  Mixed messaging, no?  The other big problem here is that the Film is made up of too many Subplots, leading to the Film being a bit scattershot and nothing quite developing.  It jumps from Scene to Scene so often that I couldn't be bothered to care about the sixth Sub Plot more than the fourth one.  This is probably another thing that comes from the newer, younger Demographic for this thing.  It is worth noting that Barry Sonnefeld had nothing to do with this one and, instead, they had a new name.  This might explain it all...

Next up, I go back and reexamine a Film I last watched in 2009.  Will it hold up to my increased scrutiny or need to be Buried again.  Stay tuned...