Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top 5 Surprises and Best Films Of 2019

Since I don't watch as many current Films for the site, I needed to mix this up a bit.

As such, here's a combination of two Lists.  It's a BOGO.

Honorable Mentions: The insanity of The Umbrella Academy (Surprise), Justice League vs. The Fatal Five (Best), Godzilla- King of the Monsters (Best), the Return of Creepshow is great! (Surprise), Batman- Hush (Best), Twilight Zone delivers (Surprise), Old Thriller Episodes are fun (Surprise).

Surprise #5: The insanity of Doom Patrol: While I made it very clear in my weekly Reviews that the pacing was glacial, the moment to moment insanity was quite good.  They managed to squeeze a ton of crazy crap into around a dozen Episodes.

Just do it more succinctly for Season 2, fellas!

Best #5: The Dead Don't Die: A curious Film, that's for sure!

The Film was an interesting mix of surreal and severely-underplayed.  It is at times dryer than the Gobi Desert and then crazier than someone who think that they should walk through the Gobi Desert.  It doesn't quite deliver in every regard, which is why it sits here.

Surprise #4: Seven (1979) is boring: Andy Sidaris Films are pretty easy to figure out...
You get good-looking women.
You get good-looking men.
Lots of explosions.
Lots of shooting.

Sadly, his first *major* Film wastes half the runtime on setup and then crams all the action in at the end.  He clearly learned over the years, even if the Films weren't good.  They certainly never got this boring!

Best #4: Captain Marvel: I've had the bag of this Film with me for work every day since July, so I'd better like it!

This Origin Film plays with conventions a bit, even if it mostly gets to the same place in the end. It was clearly fun to make, especially for Sam Jackson. Kudos, Marvel- ignore the haters.

Surprise #3: Stranger Things Season Three delivers: I know many people didn't like Season 2. Alright.

For me, I was happily surprised when everything about Season 3 really clicked. It didn't disappoint.
Good surprise!

Best #3: Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: As an '80s kid (kind of), this is a big one for me.

The recent Comics are good and the Film Adaptation is quite good too. It manages to do the Fan Service, while also keeping a good Plot moving. It delivers through and through.

Surprise #2: Titans didn't change one bit: And now a bad surprise.

While I have not yet finished Season 2 (can you blame me?!?), I can say that I'm disappointed that nothing seems to have been learned here. They continue to do everything wrong like before here.

Meanwhile, we only get one Season of Swamp Thing, which was actually good.

Best #2: Spider-Man- Far From Home: It is arguably quite hard to nail it on the first MCU Sequel.

Think about it- Iron Man 2 is a mixed bag, while Thor: The Dark World is a 'meh' to even its Star. This one isn't *quite* as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but that's a high bar to clear. It was fun, intense, creative and quite good. Thanks for saving the series from Sony, Tom.
Surprise #1: Batman- Hush changes quite a bit: In contrast to the previous surprise, this one is big.

So Hush is arguably the biggest Batman Miniseries in recent memory, possibly ever. Adapting it for Animation was a big deal. To that end, they...completely changed the core story. It feels weird to complain about them not being obvious, but, well, the revision makes little sense. Weird call, guys.

Best #1: Avengers- Endgame: Yes, I'm a Marvel mark. Label me if you like.

The Film was massive in scale, but also had so many personal moments that paid off for longtime fans. It has great Acting. It has great effects. It was a cathartic release for 11 Years of Films.

Could it be anything else with me?

There- I'm not always negative in these.

Now I can *actually* be negative for the next 2.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Top 10 Film Disappointments of 2019!

A quick reminder- I can only include what I reviewed.  If something worse existed that I didn't review, it's not here.

Let's begin the 'Ugh's and 'Aw, come on!'s of the year that was 2019...

10. Reign of the Supermen: So bear with me on this one...

This is the 2nd part of the story and a loose adaptation of the '90s Story Arc.  The idea that it is set in the New 52/Convergence Timeline add some new elements.  Unfortunately, the Film defaults to one thing: Darkseid.  It's an unnecessary development that just reminds me that DC (and Geoff Johns) like to reuse some Characters/Ideas too much.

9. Brightburn: This is a case of me wanting to be wrong.

I jokingly referred to the kid as Slipknot Superman.  He's angry, tiny and powerful.  I was hoping to be wrong about one-note this was.  I was right.

8. Shazam: It's not bad.  It's just not great.  I was hoping for the latter.

It only ranks at this point because I had more hopes for it.

7. Men in Black- International: The Film is alright, but nothing more.  It needed to be a bigger success and a bigger story to revive the franchise.

As it is, it exists as a decent-to-good side Film like The Bourne Legacy.

6. Replicas: Yeah, it's best to focus on John Wick.

This odd little Sci-Fi Film features Keanu Reeves, but was on nobody's radar.  A weird morality play that is part I, Robot and part 6 other things, the Movie is a curious one.  It's not good- just curious.

5. Cold Pursuit: I already saw this- just better.

This English Language Remake comes to us from the same Director.  It changes a few things- like the location and the ethnicity of the bad guys- but is otherwise so similar to be pretty pointless.  Stick to the original.

4. Star Wars- Rise of the Skywalker: It's not real bad. It's not real good. It is, however, on track to be one of the biggest Films of 2019.

With that in mind, I'll just say that it feels like a follow-up to a Film (or Films) that doesn't exist. It's...an odd bird.

3. Iron Sky- The Coming Race: After all this time, I was just hoping for more.

The Story is interesting, but quickly diverges into insanity involving Lizard People, Space Travel and the like. It also abandons the Story from the previous Film so quickly in the Opening that it feels super-jarring. Like the previous Film listed, this feels like them turning you towards a different door than the obvious one and going 'No, this way now. That way doesn't exist!'

2. Dark Phoenix: I mean, this is obvious, right?

Fox had one last chance to end this Series on a high note.  Oh right- Logan already did that.
Oh well, make another one, muck up the Plot beyond belief and completely reshoot the 3rd Act to make it feel more complete.

It's not enough.

1. Hellboy: A rare case of too much creative freedom.

Del Toro's Hellboy Films follow the Comics and use little bits from them to accent things. This time, they let Creator Mike Mignola use about 42 different Stories to compile a big, strange mess of a Plot. It seems to jump from story to story without much of a link.

It's not the Worst Film of 2019 like so many people want to say, but...it's a big disappointment for me. Like other Films here, I wanted the Critics to be wrong. They aren't.
2019 Films didn't always live up to my hopes. They can't all be Endgame.

Sorry if your disappointing Film isn't here- oh well.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Quick Reviews: Shazam (2019)

As Marvel made Captain Marvel a smash hit, DC tried to do the same with theirs.  Would there's do as well?
Oddly, the Film focuses first on the origin story of its Villain, using a flashback to set up his conflict and later anger.
Billy Batson here is an orphan who just wants to find his Mom.  What he actually finds is...
The busiest Comic Book Movie Actor at the moment- Djimon Honsou.

He plays the Wizard Shazam here, but was also a Fishman in Aquaman and reprised his role from GotG in Captain Marvel!  Yep, he was in BOTH Captain Marvel Films!
Now imbued with great power due to his being pure of heart, Billy...proceeds to exploit his new position.

I guess Shazam really was desperate, to be fair...
Unfortunately for him, Dr. Sivana gets powers (as SPOILed by every Trailer) and a very familiar-looking battle ensues.

"Hey Steve, I have these unused Story Boards from Man of Steel in my desk.  Want to use them?"
"Hell yeah!"
Can the power of unity and family save the day?  Will Shazam become a better person?  Did this do well-enough to get a proper Sequel?

To find out the answer, watch the Film.  It's now on HBO, so it's even easier to see.
A curious, interesting Film.  In parts, it plays out like a fairly route Superhero Film.  Hero has trouble, gains powers, gains more troubles and then solves his problems.  Beneath that surface, we have a Film that actually puts the Villain's initial plight into perspective first.  Granted- it's another 'Villain is a dark, mirror image of the Hero' thing.  Granted- he's somewhat relatable...until all of the murder.  There are some interesting ideas that sort of hover around the story, but aren't exactly addressed.  The arc of our Hero is kind of an odd one too.  He goes from closed off to getting the powers...and kind of becoming a jerk.  It takes a little too long for my taste.  The little bits- again- that happen are sometimes interesting, but just not enough.  They stand out as little highlights, but also in contrast to how cliché the whole thing can be.  When the Film tries to be different, it's nice.  It's a shame that it just defaults to the norm so much.  Shazam has some good moments and an overall good message.  It just doesn't do that much to be unique and has some odd issues with Tone.  Hopefully it looks better as time goes by than this shot...
Considering the clout of hero, the Film is kind of confusing.  It can't quite nail the 'fantasy fulfillment' tone, nor does it quite hit 'family friendly' or 'serious.'

Saturday, December 28, 2019

*Mostly* Immediate Response: Star Wars- The Rise of Skywalker

So I saw this on Christmas Day.  I just needed some time to actually write this up and, well, to get my thoughts together.

I'll do my best to avoid SPOILERS...
The Good
- A big, action spectacle.  The money spent here shows.
- New Characters shine and *some* old ones get a last chance to shine.
- The Film feels epic, with lots of twists and turns.
- It does everything to scratch that nostalgia itch with music, characters, visuals, etc.

That said...

The Bad
- The Story hinges so much on nostalgia.  That's not good for the closing Chapter of a Series.
- The Plot (no SPOILERS) is a complete 180, suddenly focusing on something not built up at all.
That's what happens when one guy creates a story, a second guy rewrites it and the original writer comes back to ignore all of that.
- Some Characters- like Rose- lose all agency and importance.  Screw you- enough people don't like that last Film.
- So much of the Film is just based on 'we will just say stuff happened,' which is not good writing.  This is the final Chapter...of some other Series.

I'm really, really torn on this one...

It's not a bad Film if you see it in a vacuum.
It's not a good Film if you think of it as the final part of this Trilogy.

Do I sound like a 'Toxic Star Wars Fan' if I don't like it?

Friday, December 27, 2019

4,100th Post Celebration: Watchmen (2019) vs. Watchmen (2009)

I always try to do something a little bit different for these.  It has to either be bigger or just odder.
In this case, it's a bit of both, maybe.

2019 brought us a really interesting TV Show that was a follow-up to Watchmen.
The logical question- how does it stack up to the Film Version?

Let me join in on the nerd debate, I guess!
Right off the bat, here are the differences...

- The 2009 Film is a direct Adaptation of the Comic Book.
- The 2019 Show is a follow-up to that Story, complete with changes and revisions.
- The former sticks strongly to the Comic beat for beat, changing little.
- The 2019 Show uses the same World, but builds a brand new story out of its foundation.
- The 2009 Film features all of the classic Characters.
- The 2019 Film does not, using new Characters in conjunction with key returning Characters.

All good?
Pros for Watchmen (2009):
- Strong visual style.
- Good action.
- Good story (not original, but you know).
Pros for Watchmen (2019):
- Strong visual style.
- Visceral action (with real consequences).
- A good (new) story.
Cons for Watchmen (2009):
- Nothing unique, since it's a straight adaptation.
- Content was cut (from the main release).

Seriously, how many different Cuts did they release?  Six?
Cons for Watchmen (2019):
- Loose narrative structure can make it hard to follow.
- Characters drop in and out of the story.
- Original story sure is weird.  Too weird for many (just not me).
A damn tough call for me to make.  I defend Zack Snyder's Film here more than, well, most of his work.  When you make a Film bad enough that a Studio fires you, you've done something wrong!  His Superhero Films sure have been controversial since this one.  I defend the Film here because it is a strong, stylistic adaptation of the most famous Maxi-Series of all time.  It works.  Having seen it in Theaters and owning the Extended Director's Cut, I stand by it.  As far as the HBO Show goes, it gets massive points for creativity.  It follows up Watchmen with an original Story and builds brand new, interesting characters around it.  It takes a while to form (see my Cons), but rewards you for watching the whole thing.  It doesn't 'feel like Watchmen' at first, but gets there soon enough.  I think the issues of mystery revealing and pacing are forgivable when it all ties together.  It is probably just me, but I think the Show will eventually stand the test of time more.  Let's find out in 10 years.  By then, we also might find out definitively what happened to Night Owl too...
As a fan of both, I try to be impartial.  One is a solid Adaptation, while another is something more creative.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Yuletide TV Horror: Home For the Holidays (1972)

Are you ready to get festive? Are you ready to get in the spirit? Well, too bad! This Film is actually about arguing, murder and more arguing. I guess it really is a Christmas Film for some people! This is Home for the Holidays, a 1972 TV Movie. For some reason, this came on a five-movie pack with 3 way-more-modern Films like Shadows and A Lure. I guess it was cheap and they had a copy! I wasn't expecting this, but let's roll with it. The Film was produced by Aaron Spelling, which is a sentence that I've probably never written here before. It was later featured on TV in 1974 as a special, but I'm counting the actual year it first aired- fight me! The Film is about a group of Sisters who come to see their dying Father as Christmas approaches. However, he tells them a big secret that will change everything. Will they band together to help him? Will they just bicker non-stop? Will I eventually talk about the Cast? To find out, read on...

Four sisters of various ages come home on Christmas Eve. Amongst them you have Sally Field on the far left and Jessica Walter third from the left.

Wait- Field was in Spider-Man 1-3 and Walter was the Villain in Doctor Strange('s TV Movie). MCU Pre-union?
Dad tells them that his new wife is poisoning him and that he's going to die. Some believe him, but others don't.
The (clearly) eldest Sister tries to rally them together, not believing any prostration that the wife makes about being innocent in all of this.
As time goes by, Walter starts to get a little bit weird. She clearly has emotional problems, as well as substance abuse problems that are aggravated by the stress.

This would explain why she started to stalk Clint Eastwood.
They hatch a plan to get one Sister out to warn the authorities about, um, their suspicion. Unfortunately, a masked killer with a pitchfork strikes first!

I don't want to downplay being stabbed by a pitchfork, but would you die instantly like she does?
More death occurs as it appears that Walter killed herself. Of course, nobody here believes that, right?

I guess that also explains why she was credited under Special Appearance by, huh?
After some padding and a chase in the Woods, Field is confronted by the truth: her Eldest Sister was the killer, She'd gone bonkers.
Thinking that field was dead after an earlier attack, the Sister goes to see her body...only to find out she's alive.

Thanks for inspiring the end of Scream 4, Movie.
As the Sister rants and is taken away, we get one more reaction face for the road. Merry Christmas- your family is mostly-dead and your Sister is responsible!

Think about that next time you get socks, Billy! The End.
A dour, dramatic affair. The whole thing plays out like a serious Drama. Well, it is a '70s TV Movie- what did I expect? The Acting is interesting here, ranging for good to wow-that-is-too-much. I just go back to my description from The Amityville Horror- Mega Acting. The people in that Film tend to have 'Acting-gasms' during the big scenes. As you can see from the pics, that's still true here. It's like 'Okay, we all see you.' If you want to be classier, you can also call it Acting for the Back Row- thanks, Shakespeare! The Film itself is not super-interesting at face value. Does it at least feel like Christmas? Well, there are no decorations and no snow. Supposedly, they just couldn't afford fake snow and didn't shoot in the Winter (to be ready for release in time). As such, they just sprayed the whole Film down with water- sometimes directly from a single hose. It's raining- a Christmas miracle! I guess there was alot of that in Silent Night, Bloody Night too. Is the Film interesting from an historical perspective? Kind of. You get Sally Field and Jessica Walter playing siblings, so that's kind of neat. The Film is alright, but barely feels like a Holiday Horror/Thriller Film. As such, we'll see one more reaction face from a different Film that will help things out...
Next time, I have another milestone to celebrate. How the hell am I going to do that?!? Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Crazy Youth: The Time That Carmen Sandiego Celebrated Christmas!

Apparently 99% of Cartoon Shows have a Christmas Episode.  If you doubt my Math, consider that this Show has one!
If you aren't from my Generation, here's some info you need to know...

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was a PC Game designed to teach kids Art, History and the like.  They tracked down a famous thief who targeted every random landmark/object you could think of.
So this became a Cartoon Show (which I barely remember) about a Spy Agency (of all Teens) trying to catch the Thief.

As part of that, they would address 'The Player' and we would see a kid playing the PC Game.  Carmen would interact with them, making the 4th Wall more of a suggestion than anything!
That's the basic premise.  Since we're here and you (hopefully) can read, we're going to discuss the Christmas Episode 'Seems Like Old Times.'

It's odd.
Carmen fails at a robbery, but reveals that it was a trick to steal 'The Chief,' who is an A.I. Program.
Carmen used to be part of the Spy Agency and she wants to work with him on good terms to feel like, well, you know.

Thankfully, the theft of his memory makes him forget the past however many years and do just that.
Our heroes then feed clues to Carmen to set traps...which she goes to willingly.  It's a weird dynamic.

Throughout, you learn that Italian Kids replaced Santa with a Witch and other random facts.

She manages to steal the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree...but that was a trap.
She escapes said trap, however, and the Agents see gifts for them, so...it was a double-trap?!?

I don't know- you tell me.  The End.
A weird, but interesting one.  The whole idea is just odd.  Carmen fakes failing a robbery to kidnap the Chief A.I. to...work with it?  She wants to relive old times on Christmas- sure.  The whole dynamic feels odd here, perhaps intentionally so.  The Authorities are sending clues to a Robber telling them what to try and steal.  She knows that they'll be there and still does it anyhow.  It all wraps up neatly, unless you think about it.  Sure- Carmen Sandiego probably has multiple lairs.  Even so, there must be TONS of evidence in this one, right?  Plus, a bunch of her henchmen are now in custody and are sure to 'squeal' on her.  How does she go on like nothing happened?  There are still 9 more Episodes of this Show!  Why would she plan this elaborate plan turned trick turned double-trick just to...give dolls of herself to the Agents?  It all makes so little sense.  That said, it is kind of fun.  Just embrace the insanity.  For instance,  this is mostly an excuse to info dump a bunch of strange History facts about Christmas.  The one about a Witch giving gifts to Children in Italy is, naturally, my favorite.  Is this the Sequel to The VVitch that we've been hoping for?  The whole run of this Show is on Tubi (my free go-to for alot of stuff these days), so check it out.  Now I just wonder if the Revival Series has a Christmas Episode...
A strange, but informative Episode.  Making a Holiday Episode about people chasing a master thief- who'd have thunk it?!?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Lost in Translation?: Death Ship (1980)

As I noted in the Review, the Poster for Death Ship is more famous than the actual Film.

Does that same thing hold true for the Japanese Poster?

Well, let's find out...

So much to unpack here though...

Giant bloody lady- nice to see you.
George Kennedy's face on a boat- looking good.
Man dangling like a puppet from a string attached to nothing- how are you?

Here's the original...
Yeah, the usual.  Brighter.  Sharper.  All that jazz.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Cult Flix: Death Ship

Does a famous Poster a good Movie make?  Let's find out, shall we?  This is Death Ship, a 1980 Horror Film with a Poster more famous than it.  I personally found it years ago while looking for random Film Posters/Box Art, but never actually watched it until yesterday.  It's gotten less rare over time- even getting a Blu-Ray Release, but it's still pretty obscure.  Strangely, that release uses *different* box art!  What is the Film?  Well, despite the Title, it's not a Carnival Cruise Lines Documentary.  No, instead, it is about people trapped on an evil ship.  Basically, just picture the House from The Amityville Horror as a Boat?  Wait- The Amityville Houseboat- nobody steal that!  The events that lead to the scenario are a bit odd too.  Once on the boat, things get all sorts of freaky...eventually.  The Film has some 'curious' pacing, but I'll get to that.  To find out if this is worth the watch (free on Tubi FYI), read on...
 The first several minutes set up the situation: people are on a Cruise Ship and there's some tension.
Most of it involves the Captain- George Kennedy- being on his last trip and the new Captain- Richard Crenna- taking over.

Before this can turn into Even More Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, a strange boat crashes into the ship and it sinks, save for a handful of people.
The group slowly gets on board the creepy, rusty ship.  I mean it when I say 'slowly' too.

They spend ages dragging Kennedy- found floating in the water- up a ladder, which tips over.  They spend end my formative years dragging him and themselves up ropes.
The boat seems to be controlling itself, which it takes them forever to notice.

Before that happens, it grabs the Ship's Comic- a young Saul Rubinek!- and dumps him in the Ocean.  I guess he drowns, but only since he clearly lets go of the ship moments earlier.

If only the ship had life boats...
The ship lets them wander around, but also does some more nefarious things.  It knocks out one of the men- in slow motion, to further pad the runtime- and it seems to 'talk' to an unconscious Kennedy.
One of the women seems to get covered in freaky sores/legions and gets choked by Kennedy.  He's now up and about, but he's definitely off.

To clear things up, they were doused in oil, which is why his outfit is gray.  Also symbolism.
Afterwards, he seems to be fully-possessed by the ship and changes into the uniform of its Captain!

Well, at least he wasn't a Nazi...
As it turns out, the ship was run by Nazis!  It was apparently an 'interrogation vessel,' which is a thing?!?

They find gold teeth and lots of Nazi paraphernalia.  Are you sure it's not just Richard Spencer's Boat?
The body count eventually picks up as the ship and Captain team up on a few notable ones.

In one case, a shower starts spraying blood until the woman passes out.  The Captain tosses her overboard and I guess water = instant death.

The last man besides Crenna left freaks out big time as a reel-to-reel projector starts playing Nazi Film Reels.  He charges at the screen, but is now abruptly outside and falls into a pit full of bodies and water, drowning seconds later.
A big, silly climax involving Crenna fighting Kennedy- badly- and him not able to pursue them takes place.  The titular ship 'sees' another boat and abandons the life raft for it.  Kennedy falls into the gears, joining the crew full of Ghost Nazis.

The Film ends with Crenna escaping with his family and then that boat attack.  I think it's supposed to be two separate incidents, but the Editing doesn't make that clear.  The End?
An interesting Film- at least in spurts.  The Film was made by a long-time Director of British TV/TV Movies and this is his only Horror Film.  It's a weird one to do as a one-off, that's for sure!  The problem with the Film is the pacing.  I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating.  They give you long stretches of stuff that is supposedly-interesting, but really isn't.  Do I need to see them climb that rope in real time?  Do I need what feels like 10 minutes of people freaking out as Nazi Film Reels play?  The big moments do work pretty well- you just need patience for them to come.  The Ship as a set is a good one.  It looks old, rusty and unsafe.  It's a wonder that anyone would go 'yeah, this is better than our debris.'  The whole premise is all sorts of crazy.  What makes the Film pretty enjoyable is that it is taken so seriously, even as it get sillier and sillier.  Death Ship is a bit of a slog at times, but delivers good (or silly) moments throughout.  Incidentally, if you ever wondered what this Film's Poster would look like from a different angle, here you go...
Next up, I start to get festive as Christmas approaches.  What fresh insanity have I been saving up?  Stay tuned...