Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Quick Reviews: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Swing and a miss!  Why anyone thought that re-doing a Classic and adding so many problems was a good idea is anyone's guess at this point...
In some future, we make Robots with Human Brains...because Science.  This leads to the creation of Major (name omitted for most of the Film).

In case they had any Studio concerns about the Casting, they almost mock it by literally having her character be white-washed right at the beginning of the Film.
A short time later, she is now working for the government as part of their desire to replicate visuals from the 1995 Anime, but with a different context.  Oh and stopping bad guys too.
Robo-geishas!  Instead of being like the Japanese Film of the same name, they actually get controlled by *Not* The Puppet Master to kill Scientists.

Did the Full Moon Series really sully the name that bad since 1995?
This Deus Ex Character has a connection to *The Major* and is behind all the bad stuff.  Is he justified when the truth comes out?

No.  He's Michael Pitt, so...always evil.
Can she get to the truth?  Can she handle the truth?  Did you just do a Jack Nicholson impersonation when you read that?  I know that I did.
More importantly, can Takeshi Kitano get paid enough to speak English?

To find out the answer to those questions, watch the Film (if you insist).
Not that good.  Can I get past the whitewashing of the Story?  Can I get past how European the whole thing feels (with Johanson, Pitt, Pilou Asbaek and a British Director in Rupert Sanders)?  To note, they do have 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano in it, which does help matters.  On the flip-side, they highlighted the Casting of Rila Fukushima...and then had her not actually appear in the Film.  Yes, they pattern the Geishas on her face, but...no.  They also cast a Chinese Actor as 'Togusa' and based the City on Hong Kong, so...I'm just all sorts of confused.  Getting past the whole aesthetic issues of Casting and Setting, the Film is just...kind of dull.  It's Action Scenes aren't shot that well and the best parts are just loose recreations of the 1995 Anime.  Why don't I just watch that again?  They only thing they add to the Story is unnecessary back-story and amalgamations of Characters from different Stories in the Universe.  In other words, it is a Remake...with new elements, mixed-up elements and a desire to make you think of the Original too.  Confusing!  It's honestly not worth the attention.  Japan should just handle this one next time.  Lastly, let me clear this up- even though they are extemporaneous, the Original Suit did have nipples...
It looks neat (if busy), but feels pretty hollow.  For a Film who's message involves looking beyond the exterior, that is a highly-ironic flaw!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Creepy Rigatoni: Channel Zero, No-End House- Finale

No, I didn't forget to do this- I intentionally put this one off.  I didn't want this to end.

Considering that there's a new Season coming next Year, I can finally cover the last Episode of this Season/Story...
Margot and Jules are true BFFs.  They are separated by a magical House that seems to create its own reality and appear at will once a year.
When the House reappears, can Jules make it in AND out with Margot?  Will it fight back?
Has Margot been in the House too long?  Does she remember her old life anymore?
No matter what happens- which I won't SPOIL- this is the end of this Story.  So long...
 A good exit for this Story.  As always, this is about slower, more subtle horror than normal.  The biggest moment is the part I teased with Jules in the weird egg-sac thing.  Since everything is so subdued, this one feels all the more impactful.  The subtle stuff continues to be quite good too, like seeing the dynamic between Margot and 'her Dad.'  Seeing them interact when you know how the whole way he 'eats' works is nice and dark.  The biggest draw here is the Margot and Jules dynamic.  You really feel for both of them and it totally draws you in.  You want them to succeed.  You want them to survive.  If you're a fan of this kind of stuff by now (like It Follows), you really should check out this Season.  In many ways, it is similar to Candle Cove.  At the same time, it is also quite different.  Here's hoping for this freaky in Season 3...
Next time, we return when the Show does.  In the meantime, read all my other crap.  See you then...

VHS For the Win: Doctor Phibes Rises Again

While looking of Pictures to go with a recent segment on Phibes, I found a bunch of bad-ass/strange Posters/Box Art for it (and the Sequel).

After playing with one a bit, I figured that I'd share it...
I'd rent that!  I wouldn't even need to know the Story!

This also has nothing to do with anything in the Film, but...oh well.

Here's the original source picture...
No need to improve that much on this insanity.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Back in 'Black': Black Mirror- San Junipero

After a too long absence, I return to Black Mirror.  Is it a coincidence that I'm doing so before the Premiere of Season 4?

Obviously not.

Pandering aside, let me start with the most famous one from the first Netflix Season....
A young woman makes a big, bold move- go into San Junipero and interact with other people.
Her awkward charm gets the attention of a girl in the Bar and they form a surprising bond.
Every week, she keeps coming back.  What is going on between them?
The Episode/Film takes a big turn that, well, I won't SPOIL

All I can say is...wow.  It is clear why this won the Emmy.
So worth the wait.  There was some concern when the Series went from being purely British to being produced for Netflix.  Would it keep the same deep tone?  Would it keep up the quality?  Thankfully, the answer seems to be 'yes.'  San Junipero is an understandably-well-regarded Film/Episode.  It looks amazing.  The Writing is good.  The whole thing is shot very well.  The whole thing is quite well acted.  It is hard to talk about this one without SPOILing the second half of it.  Things start to get weird and then you know why.  I can say that it really worked for me.  It gets sad.  It gets happy.  The critical acclaim is well-deserved and it is definitely a must-see.  This is coming from a guy who still hasn't watched a single Episode of Orange is the New Black or House of Cards, so I know a thing or two about must-watch.
Next time, another Episode of Black Mirror with critical acclaim.  Just...no bees.  See you then...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Immediate Response: Justice League (2017)

After being burned by Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I was wary of this sudden Film.  Was I right to wait or should I have seen this sooner?

Let's see...
The Good
- Wonder Woman, as always, is the best part of this DC Film.
- Superman's obvious (but non-promoted) return delivers in a nice (if obvious) way.
- Speaking of Superman, he's friendly, dressed brightly and actually smiles (in his tiny role).
- While not entirely-earned, the Film's epic scope works for the most part.
- Joss Whedon's contribution means that the Film is more fun than it was going to be under Snyder.
- The Franchise's 180 to being about 'hope' and 'light' is welcome- transparent as it is.

The Bad
- In one Film, they have to introduce The Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, Steppenwolf, Mera and the Mother Boxes.  Damn!
- The Parademons looks neat for one Scene, but quickly become yet another disposable CG Army.
- The two-for-one special of ripping off Spider-Man: Homecoming's intro AND Superman's CG upper lip.  I mean...wow.
- The obvious Reshoot moments that they fail to hide (like having Bruce just finishing shaving his new beard in the span of a Scene Change).  Case in point: Batman's quip in a suddenly-empty space.
- The Cinematographer is so in love with shooting Gal Gadot's ass that I feel like I objectified her by proxy.  Fast & Furious 5 was more subtle than you!
- The awkward mish-mash of Snyder's 'life is pain!' Story/Setting with Whedon's love for banter doesn't work as well as it should.
- While he should be big, Cyborg is basically just a walking Plot Device.  Sorry, Ray.  Oh and his CG is spotty.
- While I liked Momoa as Aquaman, he's basically just Drax, right?  Yeah, he is.
- Is it too much to ask that we be rid of Jesse Eisenber's Luthor?

In summary, Justice League has good moments.  It is arguably the second-best DCEU Film (low bar, admittedly).  It would just be so much better if any of this was built-up properly.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Quick Reviews: Kingsman- The Golden Circle

Another Film that didn't exactly 'wow' Audiences in America, but made a tidy profit overseas.  The fact that it barely beat It in Week 3(!) to be #1 and barely-stayed on top in Week 4 says it all...
The Kingsman are back to...immediately-open with an Action Scene.  While over-the-top, it is fun and does set up the Plot later.
This is Poppy.  She's an evil Drug Lord, Billionaire and (apparently) Robotics Expert.  She has an evil (if ridiculous plan) that I won't SPOIL.
Since the Trailers gave it all away anyhow, I can tell you that everything gets blown to hell!

Mind you, this Film is built upon Retcons, so who knows if the consequences will carry over to the next Film anyhow.
With no resources, our Heroes go to America and meet The Statesman.  They're here for the inevitable spin-off (and to help save the World).
The Film has a few surprises, even if they don't always pan out logically.  Again- no SPOILERS.
Can they stop Poppy?  Can they save the World again?  Can they bloat the Runtime to over 2 hours for no reason?

To find out, watch the Film...
It's not bad- but it just feels too familiar.  Let's run down the Check List, shall we? Opening Action Scene that directly ties to the main Plot?  Check.  Kingsman battle eccentric Billionaire?  Check.  Kingsman have to trick a woman into leading them to the Villain?  Check.  Henchman with at least one missing limb that is now a bit of a cyborg?  Check.  Villain's plan based on theoretically-good thing, but done in a terrible way?  Big check.  Over-stylized Action Scenes that defy reality?  Big, big check there.  Granted- there are some differences AND this Plot does build upon the last one.  That said, it does so with some pretty ridiculous Retcons.  The way they explain people being in this one that have no right to be is pretty ludicrous every time it is done.  Another thing they do that it is a bit much is giving their Celebrity Guest Star (playing himself) way too much Screen Time for what should be a Cameo.  That leads to the biggest thing- self-indulgence making the Film too long.  Seeing Poppy initiate a new member- fine.  Only seeing that guy again later to unceremoniously-kill him off- less fine.  There's pretty much no point to this or many other things.  If you loved the first one (like I sort of did), this will not disappoint you too much.  If you thought the Original was way too silly and violent, this one is arguably more so.  This one is mostly just more of the same, only dialed up to 11.
The first one really stands out for its visual style and absurdity.  The Sequels ups the ante...but is that too much?  Maybe.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Doubly-Confusing Cover Art: Black Christmas (1974)

Just like with Halloween, I have a few of these.  I need to space them out.

What better way to begin December than with the most random one of all...
...what Film did they think that this was?

You get 5 points for creativity, but lose 4 of them for it having nothing to do with anything.  Yes, it is an ornament, but...still...wow.

The Film is often called Silent Night, Evil Night in America as well.  Confusing, no?

Here's the original Version...

That message sure is better with the festive colors, right? 

Ho ho ho- more to come...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Quick Reviews: The Mummy (2017)

Another day, another Film that disappointed financially this year.  Is this the start of something big or the cinematic equivalent of signaling for a Home Run and striking out?  Let's see...
In Iraq, a mysterious sarcophagus is unearthed by two Soldiers- including Cruise- and an Anthropologist.  They don't have time to investigate it before transport.

Oh wait- the Film *actually* begins with a Flashback to Knights Templar, a bit with Dr. Jekyll finding the bodies in the present and THEN the long backstory for the titular Mummy.

Pacing!
En route, all hell breaks loose.  Cruise's body becomes an infected killer and a murder of crows strikes the plane, causing it to crash.

Cruise saves the Scientist (after being a world-class jerk) and is seemingly-killed.
However, he suddenly turns up alive in the Morgue.  He's been chosen by the Mummy to be her 'beloved' and she's keeping him alive for the Ceremony.

Now let's stop everything after an Action Set Piece to set up the other Films...
We learn about another secret organization, its enigmatic leader- Crowe as Jekyll- and see Easter Eggs for the other planned Films.  More than just an aside, however, as the 2nd Act is all here AND Hyde is featured heavily in Action Set Piece #7.

For all the outrage over Episode 7 of Stranger Things this Season, at least that was set up AND is far less of a silly introduction for something later.
Using a mind-controlling spider (why not?), she escapes and attacks London.  Cue Trailer moments AND Requisite Tom Cruise Running.
Can The Mummy get her wish?  Will she gain a lover and ultimate power?  Will this have a satisfying ending if nothing else comes of the Dark Universe?

To find out, watch the Film (like you didn't in Theaters).
It was better with Brendan Fraser.  Whatever happened to that guy, anyhow?  The Mummy is not a terrible Film.  It is not a particularly-good Film either.  The whole thing mostly just riffs on the Cliché stuff and falls flat.  The moments that are different- like a female Mummy- are undercut by the shallow, soulless nature of it all.  Anything particularly interesting just is or feels unoriginal.  Man transformed against his will and haunted by his dead friend- American Werewolf in London.  Smart Lady Scientist and gruff Action Guy fight Mummy- The Mummy (1999).  Giant Set Piece Action bit in/around London- The Mummy Returns.  Creature captured and escapes his bonds in a lab- Dracula II: Ascension.  Big plane stunt with Tom Cruise- Mission Impossible 5.  Tom Cruise appears shirtless at least once to prove that he works out- all Films with Tom Cruise post-2000.  Magical enemy summons undead army- countless Films.  Here's a minor gripe: the Film can't seem to grasp the difference between a Mummy and just a corpse.  Why can The Mummy revive and control Knights Templar Skeletons?  If they are just saying that she has magical powers from Set, then...I still have issues.  That leads to a bigger issue- is this Film trying to be Horror or Action?  For example, The Mummy drains the life out of people, leaving them withered husks that she then commands.  Horrific...but mostly just used to create Disposable CG Army Trope.  They also try to work in humor related to the bodies being brittle- confusing.  What is the tone of this one?  Why does it just treat Mummies (not counting the main one) like Zombies?  The whole thing just feels kind of empty and is stalled by Series Set-Up that may not matter.  One last bit of irony- Tom Cruise was often touted as  Iron Man in the many promised Film Adaptations in the '90s.  It ultimately went to Robert Downey Jr, who launched the MCU with Iron Man.  This Series' Iron Man...appears to be a non-starter.  Sorry, Tom.
It isn't a terrible Film...but it is no Tent Pole Film/Franchise Starter.  Pick a Genre and do it right, not whatever this all was.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Quick Reviews: The Dark Tower (2017)

As we approach the end of the Year, I might as well look back at some of the biggest hits.  Until then, here's this...
Welcome to No Context Theater.  There are multiple Earths, Rat Men, a Man in Black and a machine that somehow uses the energy of children's positivity to shoot lasers at a giant Tower that does...something.

No, I won't read all 8 Books first!
On Keystone Earth (again- I don't know why it is called that and I won't read your damn books first!), a kid sees visions of all of that.
The Man in Black, meanwhile, wants to destroy everything, since...um...reasons.  He can also just tell you to die, apparently.

Too bad he didn't try 'Go see this new Franchise' on the Audiences...
Our Hero is targeted for his 'Shine' and flees to another Earth.  Instead of meeting Nazi Green Arrow, he meets The Gunslinger.

To complete Hero Template #43, he lost his father and doesn't feel like a hero anymore.
The pair wander for a bit to fill out the not-even-90-minute Runtime, occasionally-referencing other King material in a vague enough fashion to not actually own the Film Rights.

Oh and some Action too.
Can the Gunslinger and some kid with 'the Shine' save humanity?  Would a team of other King Heroes like Bill from Maximum Overdrive, Charlie from Firestarter and Carrie be more interesting?

On the plus side, the Blue Sky Portal is now a Red Sky Cloud.  To find out more, watch the Film.
I want to like it...I just don't know what it is.  The Dark Tower is a long-running Book Series.  The Dark Tower is an 85-minute Film that doesn't explain any of the important things that I need to know about the Film.  Call me dumb if you want.  Tell me that I should have read the Books.  I stand by this.  Who is the Gunslinger?  What drives The Man in Black?  What exactly is the Tower?  Why do kids good thoughts form lasers that can destroy it?  Why are we called Keystone Earth?  Why are there Rat Men?  Why does this kid have 'the Shine?'  Why is this an awkward, confusing mess of  an Action Film in lieu of being a love letter to Stephen King's works?  If you want to leave some mysteries, you achieved that goal!  If you wanted me to be invested in your Story, you failed hard.  I wanted to like this one.  I wanted everyone who said that it made no sense and wasn't engaging to just be wrong.  Sadly, they aren't.  At least they didn't remind me of a better Stephen King Film to watch...
A bit of a mess as it is too short to be a Franchise-starter and barely long enough to be a feature Film.  The cool moments are not enough for the lack of explanation for, well, anything.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

*****3,500th Post Celebration**** Fiction vs Fiction: The Abominable Dr. Phibes

It has been ages since I did one of these.  Oh well- it is my favorite Film ever as a Book!

Who will win in this battle of the greats?  Let's find out...
VS
What's the Same?
This is a bit of a tricky one, as you may have noticed that this Book is based on the Screenplay.  That was Co-Written by William Goldstein, the same guy who wrote the Book.

I'm still committed to this, so...

The Plot is still the same.  Phibes still kills a bunch of Doctors and his Clockwork Band is still great.

What's Different?
A big difference...in that there are many little ones.

Here's the big thing: the details.  The little details...but lots of them.

Here is one example...
In the Film, one Doctor is mentioned as being a target, the Police take him for security...and he's immediately-killed.

In the Book, you get a 3-4 page Backstory on him.  He loves pretending to be a rich Duke, hires a Prostitute to act it out and then falls in love with her.  He even runs up a debt renovating his place to look the right way....and then he gets pulled in by the Police and dies.
Which is better?
Your opinion may differ.  My opinion about yours will not.

For me, the Film moves at a better pace.  While I can appreciate the backstory and detail, I don't really need to know whether or not the guy killed in his Plane had a very smart and successful girlfriend.

Plus, the Film features the Art Direction and style of Robert Fuest.  A real winner.
Both are great.  Plus there's a third Phibes Story out there...
Given that I already own it, I probably should read it some day.

Next time, I plan to actually do this one a lot sooner.  How about the second/third Exorcist tale?  See you then...