Friday, September 22, 2023

Streaming Standard: Fast X (2023)

 My love-hate relationship with the silliest Franchise since Sharknado ended continues.

With it Streaming now, I'm revving up my engine for...

Did you know that Dom cares about Family?
He does.

Well, he is still on about it, even while they still pretend that Brian (Paul Walker) is still alive and always just away.
Speaking of family, our Villain here is Dante Reyes, the retconned Son of the Villain in Fast V.

He uses his vague influence, power and forces to completely overwhelm Cipher (Charlize Theron)- the villain who somehow manipulated the events of Fast VI-IX (even before she was Cast).

Screw you, that's how!
He sets up an elaborate plan (that would put The Dark Knight's Joker to shame) that involves unleashing a rolling bomb in Rome, framing our Heroes for it.

Why don't their government connections (as literal agents of the government) help them?

Well, the Boss (Kurt Russell) is nowhere to be seen.  He's 'in the wind.'

Is he going to stop the Secret Invasion next?
His 5,038-part plan is all about causing 'suffering' to Dom and those around him.

This plays out with everyone being separated.  So, try to follow all of these Plots at the same time (between Car Chases) ...

1) Lettie trying to escape from a Black Site Prison.
2) Dom trying to find out what Dante is up to.
3) Han, Roman, Tej and Ramsay try to get out of Rome
4) Jakob (Dom's Brother and the last Film's Villain) escapes with Dom's on 'Little B'
5) Mr. Nobody's Daughter Tess (Brie Larson) is intermingling with all of these Plots

Throw in random asides with Dante and you have...wait- is this Fast & Furious: Infinity War?!?
Can Dom overcome the odds?
Can the Film keep handing Ex Machinas to its Villain?
Can anyone stop the combined power of TWO Aquaman Actors working together (see Stinger)?

To find out, stream the Film now.
It is big.  It is ambitious.  It is expensive.
It is really, really dumb.

The Plot is a whole bunch of 'we said show' and 'he can just do that.'  It is so self-serious and so overly dramatic about everything.  It thinks that it can throw in random lines mocking itself (e.g., 'They do things that defy physics') and then just keep doing them.

That's not to say that it is all bad.  If you can turn your brain off, the spectacle can be fun.  
John Cena as Jakob finally gets to show more personality as well, leading to him being the best part of the Film.  He'll be missed in Fast XI- no question.

Momoa as Dante is a big gain here, even if he is all over the place.  He's a walking Ex Machina and so ludicrous that it is hard to take him seriously, even as he is threatening everyone.  He's the most fun part of the Film besides Cena, but he also stands out/sticks out in equal measure.

The biggest problem is just that they have so much going on, so many random Cameos (we really needed Pete Davidson?!?) and so little focus that it is genuinely confusing.

For instance, Letty breaking out happens over the course of half of the Film and yet days seem to pass as well.  They also seem to forget things- like the fact that they BLEW UP the Submarine that Cipher uses at the end.

That's not the biggest Plot Hole in that bit, mind you.

For some big, epic Film, some things are just teased with zero payoff.  Due to- presumably- his Schedule Filming The Meg 2 and Expendables 4, Statham appears way too late in the Film to matter and then is just gone (not killed- simply not shown or mentioned).

This really is a make-or-break moment for the Series.  Will people be invested in this bloated, but also half-finished Story to return for the next Film.  The last 2 Films have failed to break the Billion Dollar mark, so we'll see.

As for me, I'm just wondering how I keep connecting things back to Smallville...

A ridiculous Film for anyone not invested in the Franchise.  Momoa is a highlight, at least, in this super-long, super-dumb Film though.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Tubi Thursday: Wolves (2014)

 With all this talk of Jason Momoa and his DC future, why not look at a Film with him in it?

It has more DC connections than this, but I'll get to that later.

A young man- Lucas Till- is briefly our Narrator as we learn that he has some control issues, including attacking an asshole Football Player and getting too excited with his girl...and slashing her.

He awakens from a daze to find his Parents mauled and himself covered in blood, so he flees!
Not so SPOILER Alert- he's a Werewolf.

After meeting a stranger (That Guy Actor John Pyper-Ferguson), he goes to Lupine Valley.  I guess We're Werewolves, You Moron is too long to put on a Map, eh?

In a second Bar, he's watched by...Jason Momoa.
He's the big bad wolf (although that Title was taken by a 2006 Film) who runs the place.

We learn that he's one of the few Pure Blood Werewolves out there, who came over here on the Mayflower.

Werewolves vs Pilgrims?  That's a Film that needs to be made!
He decides that he needs to maintain the line and have a kid with Angelina, another Pure Blood.  The problem- she's in love with our Hero.

Oh, and it turns out that Momoa is his Dad!

There's LOTS to unpack there, no?
Can he fight off Momoa and his crew (who aren't full Werewolves, since Suits are expensive)?
Can he find true love?
Did everyone forget about that Stranger?

To find out, stream the Film now.
This one is pretty darn good, even if the Pacing and Setup is weird.

Basically, we get our Hero narrating a rush through the key parts of his life...and then he stops narrating and none of that really matters in the long run.  Oh well.

The Plot itself is good, introducing Characters at a good clip and setting things in motion nicely.  It does a nice job of actually making the payoff worth the wait too.  The Characters are fairly fleshed out, well, other than 'I'm a Drunk' Sister that is.

The big draws are Momoa and the Werewolf Suits.  Both look nice.  Weirdly, this Film got attention for the former last year when its Star appeared 'out of shape' (read: just fine) one day.  The Director referred to a conversation they had before Shooting where Jason asked if he 'needed abs and shit.'

With his bad ass presence and even more bad ass suit (see above), the answer is no.  Both look good here.  Besides, Lucas Till has the 'abs' covered in the prerequisite Beefcake Shot.  He was an X-Men after all...even if it was Havok.

Speaking of X-Men, the Writer-Director is the main Screenwriter for X-Men and X-2.  He also co-wrote Watchmen (weirdly enough, also with Stephen McHattie in it).  He also might know a thing or two about Action Films with guys in big, rubber suits...

A fun Film with some nice depth to it.  Hayter has not Directed a Film since, but they sure did leave things open for a Sequel...

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Remake This?: Willard (2003)

 Well, it still wasn't the most controversial Horror Remake from 2003.  I'll get to that one later.

This is Willard, specifically the Remake made 29 years after the Original.  See my take on that Film here.

This one comes to us from Glen Morgan, a man most known for Producing, Writing and- later- Directing for The X-Files.  This is one of two Films he's made so far- both are Remakes.  
Mind you, the Producers- so, him- claim that this is less of a Remake of the Film and more of a 'reworking of the original concept.'

Look- that's true of John Carpenter's The Thing, but I don't quite see it here.  Other than changing a few things here and there (plus one big thing), it is just a Remake.

Anchored by Crispin Glover aka Letterman's favorite Guest, it sure is going to be weird.  Will it be good though?  To find out, read on ...

After THREE MINUTES OF CREDITS, we get to see Willard buying pest control items at the request of his Mother, who was widowed when his Dad (presented via Painting) committed suicide.
His Boss- R. Lee Ermey- disrespects him at work, in spite of the fact that his late Father co-founded the Company with him.

The fact that Willard only has what would be considered an 'entry level' job speaks to that.
He finds a white rat in one of the traps and befriends it, naming it Socrates (since it is so smart).

He also names a large rat Ben and feeds them all in secret in the basement.
More beratement and abuse comes for his Boss (to be fair, he is Ermey- that's kind of his thing) and he's even docked a week's pay for being late too much!

Do you get the symbolism?  It is pretty subtle...
He uses Ben and the army to break in and slash/bite out the tires of his Boss' car.

He also nearly kills a dog, but this Film would never actually kill another animal...until a few Scenes later.
Willard finds that Ben won't obey him, and he can't stand that.

He has some trust issues...with his rats.

Ben just does whatever he wants, and Socrates tries to keep the peace.
Willard is fired and also finds out that his Parents owed lots of money to, well, everyone.  He's going to lose the House!

He tries to kill himself with the same pocket knife his Dad used (they kept it AND didn't clean off the blood?!?!?) but Socrates stops him.

Oh shit- that rat is two days away from retirement, isn't he?!?
Yep.  He's found at work and killed by Ermey, not knowing the Willard connection (of course).

This pushes Willard over the edge and he sics his rats on him, watching them kill him as he is behind the same caged door from earlier.
Things take a turn when he tries to kill off all of the rats, since they can tie him to the murder.  That or he feels bad...but, nah.

Like in the Original, this, of course backfires.

Unlike in the Original, however, he survives and kills Ben.  No Sequel for you, buddy!
(Just ignore the Alternate- read: better- Ending where he dies)
A good Film, even if it is often style over substance at times.  The Film looks really unique, a blend of Old-World Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, I suppose.

The Plot is nothing too complicated.  It really relies upon you connecting with and caring about Willard.  Glover really disappears into the role, so kudos for that.  He really feels like a fully realized a Plot that it mostly bullet points.

For instance, the Boss never gets too much depth, and we only get hints of the intrigue around him.  How did he steal the company?  How did he drive Dad to suicide?  Is he just genuinely an asshole?

That said, the Film really thrives with the use of practical effects.  They use real rats for 99% of it (it seems) and the Movie benefits from it.  Given when it was made, it could easily have looked silly and cheap for modern viewers with dated CGI.

What's funny is that Ben is 'played' by a rat that is so big and rare (in the U.S.) that many people thought that it was animatronic.  Nope- all real, baby!

Willard is mostly a bipolar Morality Play about the man, but kind of suffers at the end when he doesn't, you know, learn a lesson.  At all.

On the plus side, Glover kills it!
So much emotion!
Next up, let me get to some non-Horror before October.  What's in the pile that needs some attention?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Shudder-day: Creepshow- 'Time Out and Things in Oakwood's Past.'

 After an unplanned absence from the Series, let's jump back in to finish up before we get the new Season.

To catch up, I'm doing both Segments for a change.

We begin with the Morality Play of...

A young man is gifted a strange piece of furniture by his Grandfather.

He can use it to step inside and get more time (time passes for him in there, but not out here).
It becomes an issue when he uses it all of the time and needs to rely on it.

Will something inevitably go wrong?

In the second tale, we get an animated look at a Town's secret.  
Should it be unearthed?
A young woman- the Mayor's Daughter- is behind the local story of a Time Capsule from 1821 being unearthed.

However, it also ties into the date when the Town's Residents disappeared all those decades ago.
She keeps looking into it as a the Local Reporter attempts to romance her.

She finds out what the secret of the Box is and, let's just say you don't want to be in Oakwood anytime soon!

To find out, stream the Segments now.
This is a great example of why I tended to do the Segments separately.  If you can find a throughline in these two, be my guest!

That said, I liked both Segments in their own right.  They are just very, very different.

'Time Out' is much less about direct Horror and intentionally more mundane.  Of course, things take a turn as the time manipulation is abused far too much.  You feel for the guy as it seems to be the only solution and you know that something bad is going to happen.

'Oakwood's Past' is an interesting foray into Animation- and not just to cut down on the expensive Shots like earlier Episodes.  I'm not a huge fan of the Animation Style, but I also don't hate it.  For what it is worth, they make full use of the fact that it is animated in the second half.

This is definitely the most disproportionately different Episode as far as Segments go, but still a solid one.  Let's see how the Finale goes next.

If there ever was a case for watching the Segments of Creepshow as individuals, this sure is it.  They are still good, of course.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Tubi Thursday: The First Power (1990)

 I joked about the Title yesterday.  I found it on Tubi today.  

Seems like fate to me!  This is...

A pair of Cops- led by Lou Diamond Phillips- are after a Satanic Serial Killer.

They stop him from killing a Cop and everything is going well.

Hell, they've already got a Crockett and Tubbs thing going on.
Despite a stranger telling him to not give the killer the death penalty, Phillips- in his limited capacity to decide such things- pushes for it anyways.

Why does the killer not seem bothered?
Just like in many of these similar Films, this is actually a blessing for the killer.

Now he's gained even more power, killing more victims- beginning with the Cop he didn't get to last time.

Phillips doesn't know this yet, but will have to team up with the redhead from Sleepaway Camp 3 to stop him all the same.
The killer keeps popping up as the truth is revealed.  He seeks The First Power- which is immortality.

In the Films highlight, he rips out a fan from the ceiling and uses it like a motor boat blade (which keeps running!) to block bullets.

I immediately love this Film.
As Phillips learns the truth, the killer gets even more aggressive and shows that he can possess people and leave bodies behind.

Denzel didn't do well on this case!

Can he turn to a 'higher power' to save the day?  To find out, stream this silly Film now.
A Film that tries really hard, takes itself seriously...and is just ridiculously silly.  It is the best kind of Film like this!

For context, we go from serious Scenes revealing the killer's twisted past to a homeless lady- possessed by the killer- flying through the window to beat up Lou Diamond Phillips!  Said killer is quite good at martial arts and gymnastics- must be good Trainers in Hell.

Side-note: seeing Phillips run around in a trench coat with a shotgun in one Scene was confusing, since this was the go-to move for Don 'The Dragon' Wilson.  You have to admit- they do look fairly similar, no?

This one hits all the usual beats- Satan, explosions, gun fights, big falls- and even doubles down on one.  Phillips' Partner is both his 'one black friend' and Partner, so he's totally screwed from the beginning!

Is this a good Film?  No.
Is this highly enjoyable in an over-the-top way?  Hell yes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean up my walls...
Again- this is a dumb, but quite enjoyable Film that has little in the way of surprises.  What it does have is Action, dumb stunts and a silly Plot (taken seriously) though.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Riffed Films: The Power (1984)

 A strange little Film that I finally got around to- thanks, RiffTrax!

This is The Power, a 1984 Horror Film that sure looks like it came out of the late '70s.  The Plot involves a strange object of great power and the people that want to control it.

Can anyone control The Power (TM) though?

Its Co-Writer/Co-Director - Stephen Carpenter- has a handful of interesting Films/Shows on his Resume ranging from The Kindred, Soul Survivors and the Grimm for NBC.  How have I never watched that Show?!?

The other Directed those Films with him and did that Bram Stoker Mummy Film from the '90s.

Is this a good Film in spite of RiffTrax tackling it?  To find out, read on...

A Professor lectures his Class about objects of power- as you do- and they leave after he's done...but a man stays behind.

He has one of said 'objects' and the power overwhelms him, throwing him against the wall and throw a flagpole!
Said object is.... about the least threatening thing you've ever seen.  I've got Funko Pops that are more terrifying than this thing.
Admittedly, it is CapWolf, but still.
The man meeting the Professor has a whole section where he goes to Mexico to try and control the thing.  As stated, of course, you can't control The Power.

That leads us to the, what, third Leads here so far.

We have a Local Reporter and her Brother, who break the story when...
Some College Kids find and get their hands on the Idol.

One of them proves that it can act like a big magnet...until it wrecks his home like a really big magnet.
More people do, well, the same thing and it keeps not going well.

Ultimately, the brother is corrupted by the Idol and tries to kill the students.

They narrowly defeat him, although not without losses.
For a final bit of wrap-up, the guy from the Mexico Scenes returned to see the Final Girl.
As you can see, the experience has maimed him.

For one last twist, he's killed when the Girl reveals that she too is possessed!  The End.
It is alright, but pretty forgettable.  Truth be told, I saw this a few weeks back and just didn't get around to reviewing it.  To quote Megadeth, 'looking back is just a bit fuzzy.'

That said, there are some good practical effects here and the general Mood of the Film is good.  The Premise is fine as well.

The execution, however, is not that exciting.  We get rushed into the Introduction and death of the first 'owner' and then a long sequence with the second.  After that, the Film begins proper...about 40 minutes in.

It is almost like they wanted to make a self-contained Anthology about this Idol/object and then chickened out halfway through.  That or they made a Film that was too short and added the Intro bits.

The fact that I can make indirect/possibly wrong comparisons to Curse of Bigfoot is not in this Film's favor.

The Power is a decent Horror Film- and I will get a Poor Bastard of Cinema out of it- but nothing special.  Maybe this Film that sounds like a Prequel will be better.
This came out in 1990.

Next up, I go back to plans with my first Remake in recent memory.  I have more coming for October, so this is just an aperitif really.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Tubi Thursday: The Thirsty Dead (1974)

 An obscure '70s Horror Film?  I need more.
It was shot in The Philippines?  So what?  Like 100 Films were!

It is the only Film Directed by 'Sharkey' from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?
Now I'm interested in watching...

A random Dancer from a Nightclub is kidnapped by strangers literally after hearing about the kidnappings of 7 women on the radio.  What timing!

Another woman- the actual Lead- is kidnapped next and ends up in the Jungle with the previously seen victim (below left), another blonde and a local woman named Betty (below right).
This was all done by a Cult...for reasons.

I'll get to them, but, first, that cape.
The Cult's main proctor- who looks like the Brady Bunch version of Doctor Strange- says that our Lead is the 'chosen one.'


Well, he made a painting that looks like her, so...
Laura here is told that the Cult is full of people who drink the blood of young women to stay young.  Ah, that old chestnut.

If she joins them, things will change...somehow...I guess.

She refuses, so we never actually find out what she is supposed to do for them.
They demonstrate by cutting the necks and drinking about 2 oz of blood.  

If the 'donors' don't give good blood, they are left to rot and decay.

It sure is a shock when Laura tries to escape with the others, eh?

To find out what happens to them, stream the Film now.
It is...not very interesting.  It sure sounds like it should and could be though.

4 Women kidnapped by a blood drinking Cult in the Jungle?  That sounds exciting.
The problem- not much actually happens.  As a result, everything is drawn out.

If they cut out the extended parts of them being led through the Sewer, the Jungle and later the opposite direction in the Jungle, you'd lose a good 10 minutes- easy.  Just think about the prolonged bits in the beginning of The Horrors of Spider Island for comparison.

Terry Becker (aka Sharkey) has a Co-Writer Credit here too, so hopefully that wasn't his work.  Kowalski would have written that, but not him.

This is a real cheapie Drive-In kind of Film.  If you could just stop paying much attention after the first 10-20 minutes to make out with your Girlfriend/Boyfriend, you don't miss much. 
Hell, the ladies escape TWO DIFFERENT TIMES during this one.

For fans of sleaze, there's no Nudity (just implied), some minor bits of 'freaky looking' people and a little bit of blood.  Otherwise, it is pretty by-the-numbers stuff.  While it is only 90 minutes, it sure feels quite a bit longer...

Fans of these kinds of Films will probably still like this.  It is familiar stuff, but, at the same time, it is familiar stuff, so...