Monday, December 31, 2018

Lost in Translation Double Feature- Terror Train

Yes, I skip out on reviewing a new Film on New Year's Eve.  I never made a resolution to stop doing that, so why not?

In all seriousness, I already covered the best one long ago- Terror Train.

To reminisce, let's see how it was marketed in Japan...
Random shots!  A train!  The bluest night in History!

Already, let's do this en francais then...
Better, although we can't get past the 'Shot of Star's Face Randomly Pasted Next to Title Image' cliché, can we?

Here are the originals...
This one was just washed out as hell and in dire need of some color...
While this one was just kind of washed out (a little) and boring without contrast.

Enjoy 2019, folks!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Quick Reviews: Bird Box

Netflix drops a Horror Film on Christmas- why not?  I saw it that day- why not?  How is it?
In a Cold Open, Bullock is taking two kids down a river while they must wear blindfolds.  Huh?
In a Flashback, we see a pregnant Bullock- apparently without a partner- before a freak event occurs leading to the self-inflicted deaths of many.

It's hard *not* to see The Happening here, even if this may or may not have been written first.
Bullock ends up at a House with a bunch of random people (e.c. Night of the Living Dead) as they try to figure out the cause and survive.

Birds apparently react to the 'force'/creature(s?), hence the Title.
Back in the Present, the trip gets rougher as they near the Rapids.  They can either look (and die) or not look (and possibly die).
Can she make it to Shelter?  Can anyone else?

Does this constant jumping from past-to-present help the narrative instead of just SPOILing most of the Plot?  To find out, watch the Film.
A good, but somewhat-disappointing affair.  This should be great.  An Oscar-winning Actress in a showcase role.  A story about mankind trying to survive extinction.  The problem- well, there are many.  For one thing, the format here didn't work for me.  They should have told the tale from beginning to end.  Alternately, we could have just gotten the first part- in the House- as a longer feature with more content.  Alternately, we could have gotten just the latter part with more content.  What we ended up with was just a weird mix of the two.  Little is gained from the flashbacks as a whole that couldn't be gained in other ways.  Likewise, starting with the River and then going to the House gives much of the mystery away.  It kills all of the build-up, since you don't see any of them in that part.  It doesn't *mean* that they are dead per se- they just don't matter.  Here's my simple (and too late) pitch: make this a Mini-Series/Event Series.  You want your Cold Open?  Fine, but make it more vague.  Spend the time you need at the House in Part 1.  Spend the time you need outside of it in Part 2.  Done!  There are good moments, good bits of acting and the thing doesn't look cheap.  It just feels...familiar when it should be ground-breaking.  And yes, the comparisons are easy to see, especially when you run similar images one after another...
A decent enough Film with some unique, inspired moments.  The problem- the format is all wrong and there's not enough unique content.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Top 10 BEST Films of 2018 (That I Reviewed)

As always, great-to-good Films that I didn't cover don't make the List.  Sorry if your favorite is missing and/or I didn't see it.

Honorable Mentions: Batman- Ninja, Tag, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, Tales from the Hood 2, The Death of Superman (2018), Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (I didn't review it, but it's good).
Hey, I liked DC stuff this Year- just not Theatrically.

10. The Happytime Murders: I'm in the minority on this- granted. The Film was funny, had some deep moments and makes the most of a weird premise. I'm okay if everyone doesn't like it though.

9. Constantine- City of Demons: A surprise success from, all of places, the CW Seed. It doesn't get the attention that Hulu, Netflix or Amazon gets, but they made one good, surprising Cartoon this Year. They go dark here. They get creative here. They go a little deep here too. Seriously- the CW Seed!

8. Ant-Man and the Wasp: The one MCU Film that wasn't appreciated much this Year. There's always one- it just happens to be Ant-Man again! Following in the wake of the surprise hit that was Black Panther (see above) and the titanic success that was Infinity War (also above), this one snuck in under the radar. It's not seen as a 'big hit' (with a gross of nearly $700 million). That said, it is fun, creative and tells a self-contained story. When it connects bigger next Year, let's see what happens...

7. Ghost Stories: A good export. This Film was recommended by many people was good. All 3 Stories are strong in their own way and the Framing Device is creative. They do more than just set them up. The only reason it ranks so low is due to my issues with the Ending. It doesn't ruin the Film for me- it just lowers its spot.

6. Mandy: It's all Greek to me. This one was recommended by all sorts of people. To my surprise, it delivered. While it takes a while to get started, when the Film reaches the 2nd Act, it is pure bonkers! It's the closest thing I'll ever experience to an Acid Trip.

5. Deadpool 2: It's less of a shock this time, but still good. Nobody expected what we got from the first Film. This Film couldn't surprise people (much) again, so they just made a Film that was good. They got the balance of serious to crass better & made all of their Meta Jokes pay off. And no, I don't need to see the PG-13 Recut.
4. Hereditary: The last one to make the list, but it quickly shot up to this spot with ease. This Film is dark. This Film is well-acted. This Film is weird! When all is said and done, things seem to line up. Some people don't like how it lines up- that's fine. I was on-board with it, especially since the Director made the build-up worth it. I'm glad I made the time for this.

3. Isle of Dogs: Yes, I watch stuff other than Comic Book Films. This Stop-Motion Film got some flack for Casting, but I still liked it a lot. It's a good Story with a good Cast and it's presented in an interesting way- what else do you need?

2. Black Panther: How did this end up so good?!? When you hire a good Director, a good Cast and try to make a good Movie, good things happen. Who'd have thunk it?!? Here's hoping the Sequel delivers!

1. Avengers- Infinity War: 10 years of build-up pays off. It should be no surprise to see this make my #1 Film of the Year. It manages to deliver in ways that didn't seem possible. Everyone shines in some way. Thanos is deeper than expected. It's amazing to see an audience in shocked silence.
My 10 List is not everyone's- no biggie.  It's mine and I own it.

DCE-Hulu: Titans- 'Jason Todd'

After skipping the Show for the Holidays, I need to hurry up to...oh right, Season 1 is over.  No rush then...
We get some Flashbacks to Dick's childhood and the events that followed his parents' death.  We learn more about his Circus Friends, because pathos.
In the Present, Dick is introduced to the titular Todd, the new Robin.  He's surprised to see that he's been replaced so quickly.
In Flashbacks, we see slightly-younger Dick confront the Mob Boss who killed his Family and leave him to die.  What a hero!

In the Present, people from his past are now dead and the Son of said Boss is to blame.  Pathos!
Can he 'save himself' and his old friend with Todd by his side?  Will we get more than a token appearance of the rest of the Titans?

To find out the answer to the first question (it's a 'no' to the 2nd), watch the Episode.
Not a bad Episode, but an awkwardly-placed one.  We just got a big Episode uniting the group.  Next Episode...Robin goes off by himself, giving us a token appearance by the rest.  What a weird idea!  Is that what I have to look forward to as a pattern?  Will Episode 8 be about Beast Boy hanging out with his Parents?  Will Episode 10 be about Raven chilling out in Azarath?  Getting past this issue, let me talk about the actual Episode.  I like the interaction between Dick and Jason.  I like the brief bit he has with the other Titans too.  The Action was well-staged.  The overall Plot was alright, but hinged upon a lot of 'show don't tell.'  Show us the Dad being killed...and then just tell us the rest.  Lame.  The final showdown is nice, but just feels weird after getting the whole Team together last time.  Consistency would be nice.  As always, I appreciate them leaning more into the idea that Dick's love of violence is bad- I just wish they hadn't started that way in the first place.  As a side Episode, it's fine.  Again, I just can't get past the push-pull of the Season so far.  Make a Team Show or don't!  On the plus side, I got to see another wrestling finisher used in a 'real fight'- this time, it's the Backcracker/Backstabber...
Next time, we get back to the actual Plot.  Based on the Teaser, we also get torture- yea.  See you then...

Friday, December 28, 2018

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: The Blood on Satan's Claw

After a long 2018, I need to clean out some stuff that I haven't watched and/or posted.  I did this one a while ago, but never got around to it.

Everything is better in Italian, right?  Here's proof...
I don't even need to know the Plot- I'm sold!

The fire.  The shadow.  The framing of it all- gold.

Here's the original...
Like many of these, it was just a bit of clean up (from folds in the poster) and touch up (both darkening and brightening up parts).

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Quick Reviews: Hereditary (2018)

After massive critical praise and divisive audience reactions, how is this Movie?  Will it be the next mother! or something that's actually good?  Let's see...
After the death of her Mother, our Heroine is trying to make the most of life.
The problem- her family history of mental illness, the divide between her and her son and her Husband's concern over her own mental health.  Also that Daughter is creepy AF.
Just to point out a creepy little coincidence- this Actress is playing her first Film role here.  She came off of doing a Charlie Brown Play on Broadway.

Good grief- that's a strange transition.
Personal tragedy strikes as our Heroine continues to try and make it.  Seeing weird things in her Miniatures probably isn't helping.
A woman who also dealt with grief approaches her with a crazy idea- a séance.

And no, the fact that her head in both shots lined up was not intentional.
After the séance, things only get crazier and more extreme.  Who lives?  Who dies?  Can you explain the ending?

To find out, watch the Film.
That...was something.  Film Debuts- whether they be actual Debuts or just in, say, North America- can be quite interesting.  Many people were blown away by The Babadook.  Same goes for The Witch or It Comes At Night.  You either impress or crash & burn for the most part- especially with a big Studio behind you.  In this case, Aster burns brightly.  Hereditary is not quite the Film it was sold as.  In his defense, the Director was not in charge of Marketing.  The Promos marketed the scares and freaky moments, especially those with the Daughter.  She wasn't in it as much as I expected- minor SPOILER, I guess- but she definitely 'maximized her minutes.'  When the Film gets down to the 3rd Act, it gets good.  Like Mandy, you just have to wait for the build-up to pay-off.  I can see why some people are divided about what the Plot actually boils down to- no SPOILER.  This is the case with most of the Movies like this- especially those I mentioned at the start of this Paragraph.  The difference between this and mother! is that it is engrossing.  That Movie was just silliness and noise masquerading as quality.  It's why it was on my Worst of the Year and this will likely be on my Best of the Year.  For me, Toni Colette is the real Winner here, showing that she can elevate the material and make you feel for her in a Horror Film as you would in some weepy Drama.  I recommend this Film, but, like Mandy, it may shock you...
Unquestionably a well-made Film with lots of surprises.  You're going to either love it or hate- either way it sticks with you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

*Almost* Immediate Response: Holmes & Watson (2018)

I saw this on Christmas Day, but was too busy to post about it until now.  Consider it your late gift from me...
The Good
- Ferrell and Reilly are a great duo and clearly like playing off of each other.
- The Film has some very good moments- usually just plain silly- and makes the most of many of the Scenes.
- It manages to be a bit of a Parody of the RDJ Films, without being so much of a Parody that it suffers from any lack of knowledge of said Films.
- Braun Strowman has a small part, but really shines.  The same goes for Steve Coogan.

The Bad
- The Film can be really hit or miss.  It really dives deep into 'cringe humor,' which isn't my favorite.
- Half of the Reviews I saw complained about a bit they did on Trump.  If that 'pushes your buttons,' you've been warned.
- The Plot is barely-there, so it is more about silly bits than Story.

The Film is definitely not as good as it could or should be.  I still had fun with it, but you definitely have to take the good with the bad.

Will it be a Film that grows on me with later viewings?  Maybe.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Holiday Flix: Dial Code For Santa/Game Over/36-15 Code Pere Noel

Happy Holidays and Merry murders!  This is 36-15 Code Pere Noel, a 1989 French Film set on Christmas.  It has more Titles than Subplots though.  It was given the generic Title of Game Over when it came to America.  It also was called Dial Code for Santa, a more-informed, but also silly Title.  Why is it called this?  The whole Plot hinges upon the use of Minitel, a form of Dial-Up Internet used in France.  Our Hero uses it and it sets the Plot in motion.  I guess the alternate Title for Home Alone must have been 555 Pizza Delivery.  Speaking of that Film, is it a rip-off?  This Film came out in 1989 and features a kid trying to stop a crazed Santa in his House.  In 1990, we got that iconic Film with a kid setting traps to stop the Wet Bandits.  Are they 100% similar?  No.  Are they 60% similar?  Maybe.  It's been a moot point for Years as this Film got almost no play in America until 2018- better later than never!  This one features a crazed man who wants to do 2 things: kill people and become Santa.  Can he kill this poor kid?  Can this kid's Rambo-obsession (healthy, right?) save the day?  To find out, read on...
This is a crazy guy.  He just wants to be accepted.

He's also not Zach Galifianakis, before you ask.
This is a kid.  He loves Rambo, setting up traps and living with his Grandpa.
The latter is left alone on Christmas Eve while his Mother works at her Shop.  He has to keep an eye on Grandpa, who has Diabetes.
He still believes in Santa, using the titular Minitel Site to...accidentally reveal secrets to the crazy guy.  He snaps during the day, slapping a kid and finding out the kid's address to get revenge being crazy?
The kid, by the way, lives in this ridiculous Mansion that is a lovely Model...I mean, Castle.

Is his Mom secretly the Queen?!?
The kid decides to set up the House to catch Santa on Film.  He waits for him to arrive.

Unfortunately, it's the crazy guy instead and, well, I hope you weren't rooting for the Dog to survive.
He manages to hide his Grandpa in a hidden part of the House- which, of course, he has.  I'm beginning to think that this reality might be a tad exaggerated!
He gets 'geared up' like Rambo again and tries to keep the 'Santa' away until he can get help.  The tide turns many times, adding some nice realism.

Will he stop this creep or will this Euro-Horror have a, well, Euro-Horror Ending.  To find out, watch this recently-rediscovered Film.  The End.
A surprisingly-engaging Film with a strange premise.  What a lovely Christmas tale.  What other one has a dog's murder, a child being slashed with a blade, a dead Cop, dead neighbors and a child slapped by 'Santa?'  For all the controversy over Silent Night, Deadly Night, it's funny to see what Europe was doing around the same time.  They didn't go easy on their audiences!  This poor kid is wounded and traumatized for life.  His Mom is going to need lots of counseling.  The Grandpa...will be dead soon, so he's good.  In all seriousness, I like how much realism is in a Film with such a strange premise.  Yes, you must accept that the kid is really smart, has a hidden lair and can make fairly-advanced tech for 1989.  That said, they never forget that he's a kid.  Could you imagine if they did something dumb like, say, have him plan a murder?  The kid Actor is quite good too, which makes you a little sad that he transitioned out of Acting by 1995.  All of the Acting is pretty darn good here.  'Santa' displays the right amount of menace, while still having flashes of normal human emotions like fear.  At one point, the kid is shooting him with marbles and he covers up in a cowardly fashion- nice touch.  One critique- we see the kid set up a crossbow with darts, but there is no pay-off.  I didn't watch a cut-down version- I don't think- so what's up, Movie?  I'm glad that this is now being rediscovered as it is a near-Classic for the Season.  Just ignore a few typos in the Subtitles, won't you?
Next time, I continue to wrap up 2018 by getting to left over Films.  What will come up next?  Stay tuned...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Lost in Translation?: Silent Night, Deadly Night

It's that time of Year.

Were you Naughty or Nice?

If you were the former (and in Japan), this was your fate....
Kind of a creative design, to be honest.

It's not the most exciting Poster, but kudos for doing something a little bit different.
Minus 6 points for that Clipart Axe though.

Here's the original...
Don't be Naughty this Year or else!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

'80s Fun: My Science Project

Mine were never that great and always made at the last minute.  Thankfully, this Film is better.  This is My Science Project, a 1985 Film usually overshadowed by stuff like Wargames or Back to the Future.  Should it be though?  While it is an '80s Film that deals with advanced technology and time-travel (sort of), it's quite different.  There's really not much even to compare- other than the time it was released.  It does its own thing, which is good.  The Plot involves some teens, alien technology and wacky hijinks.  No Iranians.  No potential incest.  None of that.  Instead, we get some weird, weird stuff.  It is the second Film I watched this Week involving a Time-Space Warp- no joke!  To find out more about this possibly-underappreciated Film, read on...
Long long ago (even before 1985), we found Alien Technology and hid it away to study.
In 1985, our Hero is a would-be Mechanic and needs to get a good grade on his Science Project or Dennis Hopper will fail him.

Don't make him go all Blue Velvet on you!
All he wants to do is be a Mechanic.  What can he do?

Of course, get help from that smart girl (who also likes him a lot).
They go to a Junkyard to find some stuff, but literally fall into a great discovery- an alien orb!
They hook it up to a battery and show it off as their Science Project.

This is a make-up, since the Orb somehow sent them forward 2 hours in time when they first activated it!
Things don't go well, leading to the Teacher being zapped away and the only solution to saving Town being to blow up the Power Lines!
Back at School, a vengeful Nerd reactivates the Device, creating all sorts of chaos.

Amongst them, we get the guys fighting the Vietcong, a Cavemen and future Thugs.  Yes, that is clearly Michael Berryman there.
In a weird connection to later Back to the Future (the Ride), they battle a T-Rex.  
In the end, they manage to save all of reality and put the orb away.

As long as nobody else randomly-finds it, we're good.  The End.
A fun little adventure that only the 1980s seemed to bring us.  It is easy to see why people think of stuff like Wargames and Back to the Future in regards to this Film- at least on the surface.  Just describing the Plot, you might think that they are very alike.  Thankfully, the Film itself is more than just that.  The Orb gives them a pretty open-ended chance to do some fun stuff.  The 3rd Act especially made the most of it, giving them that Set Piece in the School.  The Effects are generally quite good here and the 'seams' only show a few times.  Almost more importantly, they are just creatively.  The Cro-Magnon, for instance, is a nice change from just doing the more common form of Caveman.  We also get '80s regular Al Leong playing a Vietcong and the aforementioned Michael Berryman.  The Plot works pretty well and the humor holds up too.  It's not going to blow you away like Future did, but it's a solid, fun adventure Film with some nice twists.  The most dated part about it though- Phone Booths.
Next time, another Film that I've put off too long.  Will it be '60s Class or '80s Trash?  Stay tuned...