Franchise Fever: MCU Part 1

Hello, Weirdos! I decided to take a break from the Director Selective Series and switch things up with a new series called Franchise Fever . Similar in idea to DSS, but the focus will be on specific franchises. With Avengers: Infinity War around the corner, the first entry in this series is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 18 films in order of release. Let's get started!

First up is Iron Man:

Director: Jon Favreau

What's Weird: For starters, Terrance Howard as Rhodey. Also, Tony had a Wii.

What’s Cool: Tony listening to Suicidal Tendencies. And the birth of this massive, history making franchise.

What Holds: The CGI looked great. Sure, there were noticeable parts, but mostly it looked legit for being over 10 years old.

What’s Weak: The villain was bland. He was basically who Tony would have become had he never been abducted. Also, I kept asking myself what was the point of Pepper? I felt like Jarvis could do everything she could. She was like Vanna White–nice to look at, but kinda pointless.

Where’s Stan: Stan Lee popped up on the red carpet disguised as Hugh Hefner. 

After The Credits: Nick Fury broke into Tony’s house to name drop the Avengers.

Final Thoughts: Iron Man was solid. The story was grounded, and Tony’s redemption was genuine and earned. He didn't suddenly become the greatest guy. He went from a money hungry narcissist to a globally conscience narcissist. His ideals changed without losing who he was at his core. 

Next is The Incredible Hulk

Director: Louis Leterrier

What’s Weird: Well initially, Edward Norton as Bruce Banner since he got the boot after this. Tim Roth’s accent.  Oh and Martin Starr popped up. A case could be made that he was in college and became a teacher in  New York.

What’s Cool: The opening was great. When Banner first turned it was dark and creepy, and we only got a tease of the Hulk. Had a monster movie feel. Built my anticipation. In fact, the entire movie resembled a Universal monster movie, but with Mavel wrapped around it. There was a scientist, a brooding creature, a woman in love with the monster, and several characters dealt with the duality of human and monster.

What Holds: Marvel before Disney. As with Iron Man, this film felt grounded with character (at least the first half). The performances were good throughout. When Betty first screamed for her dad at the college her emotion was palpable.

What’s Weak: Same as with Iron Man, the showdown was a CG hero fighting a CG villain who was a bigger version of him. Also some of the writing. I wasn’t a fan of the unsubtle name drops of Hulk and Abomination. Abomination all around didn’t do much for me.

Where’s Stan: He showed up as a guy drinking a soda which had Banner’s blood

After The Credits: Nothing

Final Thoughts: In recent years this film became Mavel’s stepchild. I’m not sure why. Maybe because they disregarded most of it. Betty, Abomination, and Mr. Blue never show up again, but Ross and Martin Star do. Hulk/Banner had substance and depth, which made them relatable and likesble. Hulk/Banner became more of a prop than a character in later films. But the movie got bogged down by the typical, epic ,city destroying battle in the end.

In Comparison: Less at stake than Iron Man, and less character development–there was basically none. A decent companion which began to push the franchise into its patterns.

Next Iron Man 2:

Director: Jon Favreau

What’s Weird: Tony had this high tech, transparent, mult-device integrated hologram system, that he didn't mainstream. But that seemed like a solid and safe pivot for the company if they weren't doing weapons anymore. Even if it were only a phone, or in the medical field. 

What’s Cool: The first glimps of Supers fighting together with Iron Man and War Machine.  

What Holds: Rockwell as a vindictive wannabe Stark

What’s Weak: Villains again. This time Iron Man fought two bigger Iron Men in another battle destroying a city.

Where’s Stan: He popped up briefly in the crowd at the Stark Expo in the beginning.  

After The Credits: Agent Coulsen arrived in New Mexico and saw Thor’s hammer.

Final Thoughts: Light on story, but furthered Tony Stark's character development established in Iron Man. This film was fine.

In Comparison: It didn't hold up. Felt like a less successful rehash of Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.

Last this week is Thor:

Director: Kenneth Branagh

What's Weird: Stellan Skarsgard wasn't a villain. Thor's eyebrows.

What's Cool: Asgard looked fantastic.

What Holds: Branagh's Shakespearean background helped bring Asgard to life. Loki as a villain. He was the first villain in the first 4 movies worth talking about. He was so good the studios kept him around.

What's Weak: At this point things were getting formulaic. Character, something bad happened to him, there was a love interest, redemption, big battle with CG monster, hero seemingly in dire danger, and the hero prevailed.

Where's Stan: Drove a pick-up truck attempted to pull Thor's hammer out of a crater.

After The Credits: Selvig went to an underground SHEILD facility to see the Tesseract and Loki stopped by.

Final Thoughts: As with the last two films Thor was fine. Nothing new, but entertaining enough. Mostly for Avengers set-up.

In Comparison: On par with Iron Man 2. Thor's redemption didn't feel earned. He went to Earth and chilled with a woman then got hit by his brother and suddenly he was redeemed. Felt contrived.

More Franchise Fever: MCU coming soon. And if you haven't  already, check out the poem Zora 1937Keep on Creepin'.

The Oscars! / Final Anderson Thoughts

Hello, Weirdos. I’d like to invite you to check out my new review for Annihilation. Recently, the Academy Awards Ceremony aired. We had a viewing party where we dressed up, ate nominee named food & drinks, and played Oscar themed games. The biggest game of the night is the Oscar Challenge , where we guess who the winner will be in each category. Whomever gets the most correct receives an Oscar-esq trophy we’ve titled the Emmeline Sacheen Gaynor Award   (after Brooke Shields’ character that won her the first Razzie, Sacheen Littlefeather-the woman who gave Brando’s speech, and Janet Gaynor-first best actress winner, respectively) . Below are pictures from our event followed by my thoughts on the final films of Wes Anderson. 

 

We played a textless/minimalist poster game, a bad plot description game, and of course the ballot game. It was a blast.  Here is what I thought of the end of the Anderson movies: 

  • Moonrise Kingdom: A fantastic film filled with humor and melancholy throughout. Anderson hits all his conventions with this one: yellow tint, children acting as adults and the reverse, a love triangle, eccentricity, the pans, the zooms, etc. and it all works. This film is also whimsical. What it does best is balances and mixes comedy and tragedy. Anderson doesn’t say which is which, leading to it often becoming both. It is sad, but also warming. Underneath the surface there is deep rooted tragedy. It can be seen in Mr. Bishop thought, but specially when he is in bed talking to his wife; you can see it in Sam when he’s alone in the boat; and you can see it with Suzy when she’s having a bath. Anderson does ask you to suspend your disbelief but it’s easy to do because the picture is so damn inviting. 
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: Another great movie from Anderson. Budapest hits the same beats as his other films. Anderson asks us to suspend our disbelief more for this picture. Full of quirkiness, and at times, a bit indulgent. There is a dark humor throughout. Anderson doesn't stray from using dialogue as other films might. For example, with the current climate people might shy from using "faggot" in a script, but Anderson goes for it. It doesn't come off as offensive. I think it makes the scene feel authentic, because people do speak that way, and it isn't meant to be derogatory toward homosexuals. There's a small scene with Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum that is slightly scary—especially for an Anderson film. It reminded me of that short from a few years ago about a Wes Anderson horror film called The Midnight Coterie of Sinister IntrudersBudapest doesn't have the as much heart to it as Moonrise, but it is an entertaining, well crafted picture.

That is it for Wes Anderson. Thanks for checking out this installment of the Director Selective Series. Look for an update when Isle is Dogs comes out later this month. If you have suggestions for a new director please comment below. Keep on Creepin’ .

Annihilation Review

Annihilation.jpg

Science based films tend to do either one of two things: bog the viewer down with overly complicated science to the point of confusion and boredom; or they coddle the audience so much it almost becomes an insult to the viewer's intelligence. Finding a balance between the two is key to a successful science fiction flick. Alex Garland's latest film, Annihilation, is able to find that balance. Albeit the writing is not perfect, Garland presents a film with solid direction, a great performance from its lead and supporting cast, and fascinating effects.

Across the board the acting is great. Standouts include Portman, Isaac, Leigh and Rodriguez. Rodriguez starts by being charismatic team player who is tough but vulnerable. As the team makes their way through the Shimmer she slowly begins to become paranoid. Without spoiling, there is a scene where her paranoia comes to a head and PW brings the intensity. She is fierce and because of the context it becomes easy for the audience to understand her reasoning. This scene is one of the best of the film in terms of this character and action. Another supporting role worth mentioning is Leigh. Her character is static but with little to no backstory, but it works. From the start she is in it for herself (either her job, or personal reasons). Leigh's nothing to lose portrayal of Dr. Ventress is enigmatic—audiences never know her exact motive, which lends itself to the unknown of the Shimmer. Isaac, who is somewhere between supporting and a lead, has a presence throughout the movie even when not on screen. He plays his role with stoicism. He ranges from the loving, hurt husband to the curious, focused soldier seamlessly. At the head of the picture is Portman and she is able to carry this film through her performance. When the movie starts Potman’s character appears drained as a grieving widow. As the film progresses Portman channels her guilt and grief to become the strong soldier she once was. She is troubled throughout which viewers only understand through flashbacks. The relationship between Portman and Issac feels genuine. The moment they are in bed together feels vuyeristic as the viewer sees the intimate moment. Potman’s character motivation is  it always clear, but that has more to do with the writing than it does her performance.

Garland's directing is done well. The shots and performances all work. His writing on the other hand is not as tight. The ending felt rushed. As soon as the characters get to their destination shit hits then fan then it is over just as quickly. And although Leigh gave a great performance, her character never gets enough of an arc. She gets hints of intrigue, but it does not fully develop. While watching this movie, it is easy to see how it can have numerous interpretations. As a viewer things do not always need to be completely explained (in fact there were some greatly appreciated subtleties), but it does need to make some sense. The parts which do not add up are difficult to discuss without spoiling it. Just know there are parts of the ending that (even in a high concept film) do not come together all the way. Part of the writing Gardland is successful in is the way he is able to draw the viewer in. He takes something terrifying and makes it inviting in a way that is chilling. The Shimmer is gorgeous and mysterious, and he makes audiences want to know more. Aiding in the allure of the Shimmer is the way it looks.

Graphically, Annihilation is mesmerizing. There is so much detail. A couple standout scenes are when Portman is looking out the window of military facility—in the reflection the Shimmer area is faintly visible. Another graphic element worth mentioning is the eyes. There are several shots of eyes close-up and they often have something going on within them—a reflection, shifting colors, etcetera, and each one looks brilliant. Aside from the visual effects, there are also great gore effects. Again, difficult to discuss without spoiling, but there are two scenes which are cringeworthy in the best way. The first is when a characters stomach is cut open, and nothing is left out. The other is when a character gets a body part torn off by the terrifying mutant bear known as Homerton on set. Both take place during the second act, and it is that act which gives the film horror elements.

What is Annihilation actually about? On the surface, the Shimmer and what is inside. Underneath it is about self-reflection and looking beyond the surface. It talks about humanity's self-destructive nature, and how that may or may not be a bad thing. What Annihilation does is lets the audience think. So often a movie will spoon feed viewers all the answers or dumb things down to get concepts across. Annihilation says what is going on and gives onlookers a chance to dissect it and piece it together for themselves. Yes, there are parts that could use more clarification, but the end result is something fresh, beautiful and at time ambiguous. With the solid performances, strong direction, and  stunningly eerie effects Annihilation is a film people will be analyzing for years.

Further Viewing: Ex Machina — Another interesting take on sci-fi from Garland, staring Oscar Issac.

DSS: Wes Anderson Part 4

Hello, Weirdos. Next Sunday is the Oscars! Keep an eye out for coverage on that the following Monday along with a new director, and my thoughts on the final films of Wes Anderson, which are: 

Both of these I’ve seen relatively recently, but I enjoyed them. A revisit will be nice.  

Here are my thoughts on last weeks pictures: 

  • The Darjeeling Limited: As stated last week, I have only watched bits of this one up to now. After watching it as a whole I think it’s great. Some similarities include the same color tone, a list (this time around it is less invasive), that sort of twangy music Anderson uses, and zooms & pans. Throughout the month I have mentioned adults acting like children and the opposite. Darjeeling seems to break that trend. The Whitman brothers often do childish things, but as adults grieving and dealing with loss, not adults mimicing children. The acting all around feels genuine—as though we are seeing something private we aren’t  meant to be seeing. Darjeeling is similar to The Royal Tenenbaums  in tone because of its heart and palpable emotion. I have an idea about the feathers and how each one represents the brother who carries it, but I have to sit on that a while. It was cool to see Schwartzman return. And I dig the call back to Bottle Rocket when Wilson has the bandage over his nose. Derjeeling is now one of my favorites of Anderson’s. 
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox: My biggest question during this movie is, who is it for? Yes, it is animated which lends itself to being for children, but the themes and the context are adult. Where most animated films are aimed at children with bits thrown in for adults, Anderson's film feels like an adult film with bits thrown in for children. This isn't a criticism, I enjoy the movie, it's an observation. Starting with Darjeeling and continuing through Moonrise Kingdom (and possibly Budapest, but I don't remember currently), I've noticed Anderson's movies are getting yellow. Other similarities are the long pans across sets, and a stationary downward shot of hands (or paws) manipulating items. Noah Baumbach again cowrote Fox with Anderson. Parts did reminds me of Life Aquatic, the beanies for one (although not red), and the Ash character in particular reminded me of Zissou with his mostly deadpan performance. I'm a big fan of stop motion, and this films was visually stunning. Can't wait to see Isle of Dogs.

Thanks for checking out this installment of the Director Selective Series: Wes Anderson. I hope you enjoyed it. Share your thoughts below, and follow me on Instagram at words_for_weirdos. Be on the prowl for more content as the week continues. Keep on Creepin'.

DSS: Wes Anderson Part 3

Hello, Weirdos. Two announcements before we dive into Part 3: 1. There is a new poem available called Maxine in the Writings section. Please give that a read; 2. Isle of Dogs is getting positive early reviews. This week we have two more films to look at, and they are:

I’m starting to see a transition to more playful movies from Anderson, and I’m wondering if Fox is the big turning point. I’ve only seen bits of Darjeeling. Needless to say I’m looking forward to that. Next week I’ll share my thoughts on those two, but for now here are my thoughts on last week's pictures. 

  • The Royal Tenenbaums: Wow. I remember liking this movie as a kid, but I doubt I fully understood it. Now, watching it as an adult, I love it. So much heart in all the characters. Some of the continuing commonalities are: pastel colors; lists; children acting like adults (they're all successful geniuses at a young age); adults acting like children (perhaps making up for the adolescence they lost); a shot of a person in the window of a large wall; an unconventional love triangle (two in this one with the parents & the new suitor, and between Eli, Margot, and Richie); and plays. Anderson's style is in full swing here. Some other things I noticed are connections to Jacques Cousteau, which I didn't realize was the foundation for Life Aquatic until watching later this week, but is has come up on multiple occasions. There are a couple other things I know come up in later movies, but I'll wait until I get there to share those. Tenenbaums is my favorite so far, and possible overall. It's quirky, clever, but also emotional to its core.
  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou: I've heard several people mention this film throughout the years. When I watched it this week I felt a little pressure to love it. I did not. I liked and enjoyed it, but it didn't have the same punch for me as Tenenbaums. This marks Anderson's first collaboration with writer Noah Baumbach, and first film not cowritten with Owen Wilson. I felt like something was lost. It felt empty, until the end when we get to feel Zissou's emotion as he finally deals with his losses. Other than that everyone is just sort of there—kind of flat and bland.  Murray does great as the ambitious "prick" Zissou. It was also cool to see the beginnings of Anderson's interest in animation, this time helmed by Henry Selick. I would watch Life Aquatic again, but it was definitely more middling for me than anything else.

That is it this week week, Weirdos. Is anyone else getting excited about Isle of Dogs? I should have a new review coming shortly—don't miss it! And check back next week for Part 4 of the Director Selective Series: Wes Anderson. Thanks for reading. Keep on Creepin'.

DSS: Wes Anderson Part 2

Hello, Weirdos. I had to take a small break due to some unforeseen and foreseen circumstances (I won’t bore you with the details). Either way, I’m back and ready to deliver more content. 

This week continues the Director Selective Series: Wes Anderson with a look at...

I’m looking foward to Life Aquatic since it's one of Anderson’s I’ve not seen. And I’m curious to see how I feel after revisiting Tenenbaums for the first time in at least ten years. Keep an eye out for my thoughts on those next week. In the mean time, my thoughts on Bottle Rocket and Rushmore are below. 

  • Bottle Rocket: Coincidentally, earlier this week a podcast I listen to (Movie Crush) had an episode regarding this movie. I listened to the podcast before ever having seen the movie. The host and his guest talked about how great the movie is, which got me more interested than I was. I'm familiar with most of Anderson's work, but not this, so to see the beginning was rad. Bottle Rocket isn't nearly as quirky as Anderson's pictures eventually become, but you can see how it starts. There are quick rotating shots, eccentric characters, an early version of a Wes Anderson list, and people acting an age other than their own. Dignan especially acts like a child. Anthony and Bob attempt to act like adults at some point. I'm glad it took me so long to see this because I enjoyed seeing Anderson characteristics beginning to bloom. Overall I enjoyed the film. I thought the ending was surprising, and the comradery felt realistic. Plus the movie is filled with subtle humor. 
  • Rushmore: This feels like a leap from Bottle Rocket toward the stylistic Wes Anderson we know now. Rushmore is also full of people acting outside their age—adults acting like children and children acting like adults, or what they think an adult is like. Rushmore pulls you in and makes you want to attend this school. Some patterns I'm starting to notice are: swimming pool scenes; delusions of grandeur; and unconventional love stories. And am I alone in wanting to see one of Max's plays in its entirety? Schwartzman and Murray give great performances in this as Max and Herman Blume, respectively. Rushmore is a fun, weird, sometimes sad, and overthetop coming of age story for a young man and an old man. 

All right, Weirdos, feel free to share your thoughts on any of the films mentioned. If you haven't  yet, check out my review for The Cloverfield Paradox and expect a new poem coming shortly. Keep on Creepin'.

The Cloverfield Paradox Review

The Cloverfield Paradox Poster.jpg

When Cloverfield  came out in 2008, it was surrounded by a mysterious online marketing campaign. Abrams and Reeves took advantage of the rising popularity of found footage films, but did not tell a ghost story. Instead they opened a new doorway for the genre by making a creature feature. Eight years later 10 Cloverfield Lane was dropped into fans' laps and took the franchise inward with claustrophobia, paranoia, and a fear of how monsterous people can be. Immediately following the success of Lane, rumors started floating about a third movie titled, The God Particle. Earlier this week, without warning or advertisment, that third film was released to Netflix, titled The Cloverfield Paradox. Now, Cloverfield is the name of a space station filled with scientists attempting to collide particles to create energy for Earth, which is running out. While it falls into space Horror tropes and asks more questions than it answers, The Cloverfield Paradox manages to be a decent film through effects and quick pacing. 

NOTE: Spoilers will be made for all three films when necessary.  

Throughout this film, nods were made to the other films. Blatant ones included numerous depictions of the Kelvin and Slusho companies, part of the film took place in an underground shelter, and a larger version of the original monster. Less obvious connections include Donal Logue's character (Mark Stambler) having the same last name as John Goodman’s character from Lane; Stambler mentioning creatures from the sea; the newscaster being played by Suzanne Cryer (the same actress who comes to the shelter infected in Lane); and something from space falling into the ocean, which could potentially awaken something from the depths. Undoubtably there were more Easter eggs woven throughout. A few were worth mentioning because not only were they fun callbacks to the other films, but they also aided in foreshadowing and establishing a connection early on between all three films. That being said, the ending (the biggest connection to the original) still felt tacked on, which was one of the flaws in Paradox.

Yes, Stambler mentioned the possibility of sea creatures, but that was it as far as the monster connection went—until the end. The final jump scare with the massive-sized Clover monster did not feel earned. It felt like the filmmakers wanted a direct connection to Cloverfield, so they added the monster last minute for shock and awe. At one point Michael did see a shadow of something, but that, partnered with him witnessing explosions, was intentionally misleading the audience to think it could be the aliens from Lane. It felt like a disservice to fans. After Cloverfield was released, there were talks of a sequel where the original monster was a baby, and part two would focus on the mother, presumably massive. Paradox revisited this idea but in a lazy, dissatisfying way.

Further dissatisfying was the humor. Normally, Chis O’dowd is great, and his performance in this film was fine. The problem was that the humor itself was out of place. Paradox had a heavy subject, so it was understandable that they wanted to dampen the tone with comedy. Unfortunately the comedic lines were contrived and mismatched from the rest of the tone, making the movie feel disjointed in that aspect. Comedy has become a staple in these grand, heavy-themed movies. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not. But filmmakers need to find the distinction between helping and hurting. Another tired space movie trap Paradox fell into was the sacrifice. Nearly every space movie involves someone intentionally sacrificing themselves for the rest of the team. Audiences knew it was coming, so it needed to have an emotional punch to make it worthwhile. Since the pacing was quick, there was not enough character development with the sacrificing character to make the death impactful. It was that pacing, however, which gave this picture redemption.

As stated, the pacing was Paradox's saving grace. There was approximately 5 minutes of set-up before this thing took off. After that there was one thing after another, and most of what was happening was interesting. When events were not developing on the Cloverfield space station, the movie cut to Earth and showed what was going on there, which was shrouded in mystery. Pacing might have been a curse in the sense that outside of Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), there was no time for character development. Also, Kiel almost immediately imprisoning Schmidt happened too quickly, but at least there was some set-up for that. Movies such as this tend to slow and drag during the second act, but here it does not—leaving viewers to care about the character they were supposed to, without boredom. Something interesting, entertaining, or creepy was happening in every shot. And those shots were gorgeous, as was the entire movie. One shot in particular that stuck out was the first shot of Earth from space. Earth was upside-down, and as it rotated toward the camera with city lights glaring down below, the sun slowly crept from behind the horizon. As the sun appeared the space station came into view showing its scale and complexity. Gorgeous. There was also a scene with freezing water, which was a cool idea and executed well. Practical effects were well done—the station was believable. The acting was good, nothing nearly as captivating as in Lane, but mostly because the actors never get a chance to shine. So the cast becomes wasted.

Paradox attempted to answer the question of whether these three films are connected. But it left more questions in its wake, such as: what dimension are the people in now? And what about the aliens from Lane? Where was the connection there? My biggest question was what was this movie's point? Cloverfield was a response to 9/11 much as Godzilla was a response to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a look at how inhumane humans can be in a modern society, and what it would take to make us come together. Maybe The Cloverfield Paradox was attempting to be a commentary on human consumption and the future of sustainability, but if so that point was not fleshed out enough to be as impactful as the messages its predecessors delivered. And that was a problem. Those themes were part of what made the previous two great, and if nothing else, at least they were connected by that. Fans of the franchise will enjoy combing through and finding the treasures hidden within, but will be dissatisfied with the arcing theme (or lack thereof). General audiences will probably find it entertaining enough, but will be left wondering what the point was in the end. Hopefully the fourth installment, which is supposedly slated for theaters and currently titled Overlord, will boost the franchise back to the caliber it once was.

Further Viewing: Life — A space movie with a similar aesthetic.
Sunshine — A space movie with a similar premise.

DSS: Wes Anderson Part 1

Hello, Weirdos. This month the Director Selective Series will focus on the directorial filmography of Wes Anderson. Anderson started by making short films with future frequent collaborator Owen Wilson. Typically, his films feature a pastel color pallette, long pans, and quirky characters. March of this year he will release his second animated feature, Isle of Dogs. Outside of Isle of Dogs, Anderson has eight movies, so for the month of January I'll be looking at two a week.

Here are the first two:

I've never seen Bottle Rocket, but I have seen Rushmore. It will be cool to see Anderson's evolution from the beginning.

Here are my thoughts on the final installment from Director Selective Series: David Fincher:

  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: I've never read the book, nor have I seen the original movie, so this film was self-contained for me the first time I watched it. This movie has one of the best trailers I've ever seen. The teaser draws you in, piques interest, and gives little to nothing away. Plus it has a great song. Until Lisbeth and Mikael get together, the film feels disjointed. We get one or the other, and it isn't clear where the solo Lisbeth storyline is going. Luckily, Mara's performance is enough to keep you interested because she is intense and believable (that tattoo scene is gnarly). The performances across the board hold up. My only other complaint is the ending feels tacked on without a satisfiable amount of explanation. Seems like something that may be explored with sequels. Fincher uses the yellow and blue tones throughout, which aids to the cool atmosphere created by the landscape.
  • Gone Girl: This was my second viewing of this picture. The first time I watched it I remembered thinking it was a bit slow. Now that I’m used to that in movies, especially with Fincher, I thought Gone Girl was well-paced. Gone Girl starts like a typical murder mystery thriller, but where most stop after the reveal, Gone Girl keeps going. There isn’t a quick montage of how it happened. Instead the how is half the story. It reminded me of The Game because you don’t really known who to cheer for. Fincher likes his tortured anti-heroes. Gone Girl is a tension-building nail biter. 
  •  

That is it for Fincher. If I had to do again, I would. Fincher has a way of making you feel like you’re there with crisp, clean shots and haunting atmospheres. It is cold and drab, but always worth the journey. I’m excited to see what he does next. 

Got a new poem in the works. Expect that soon. And expect more films from Wes Anderson in the weeks to come. Keep on Creepin’

Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 4

Hello, Weirdos and Happy Holidays. This is the final installment of David Fincher’s directorial filmography. Two more films to go, and they are:

I’ve seen both of these, but not for a few years. I look forward to seeing how they hold up for me. 

These are the thoughts on the two pictures from Part 3

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Fincher takes his love of colored tones and uses them to demonstrate the difference in time. The cold blue is reserved for the present. Yellow is used for the past. As the past catches up, the color slowly shifts to match. Button reminds me of Forrest Gump mixed with Boyhood. It is the story of a life from beginning to end. Fincher toys with the idea of time and how we perceive it. A bulk of the movie is spent with Benjamin as an old man aging into his midlife, then his adolescence. The film skims over Benjamin as a child, hardly giving audiences any time after his teenaged years. It is like life: Childhood goes by in the blink of an eye, and most of our time is spent becoming an adult and growing old. The film is character driven; there isn't much plot. For me, the biggest problem is the graphics used on old man Benjamin. The CGI resembles The Polar Express, and falls into the uncanny valley, which is unsettling. Other than that, the film is gorgeous, especially the cinematography. Nothing feels wasted. Yes, the film is long, but every scene has a purpose.
  • The Social Network: Sorkin and Fincher knock this one out. They take a story that could have easily been boring and transform it into a visual treat full of quick-witted dialogue. Fincher makes you feel like you're there, and Sorkin makes you believe the characters are real. It is a good example of using what’s current to draw people in, as with Steve Jobs and Straight Outta Compton. The writing and direction aren’t the only stars. The performances from Eisenberg and Garfield as the leads deserve recognition. Each play a pivotal role and pair well with each other as monotone nerd and enthusiastic, handsome financier, respectively. Music is also worth mentioning. Reznor and Ross amplify the film by adding bits of digital sounds into their score. They also take old ideas and present them in new ways, which parallels Facebook itself. As with his last film, and even more true here, Fincher wastes nothing.

Next week I’ll have a new director to comb through, and my thoughts on these final two films. Suggestions are always welcomed as are thoughts on any of the movies I’ve been watching. Keep On Creepin’.

Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 3

Hello, Weirdos. A new review is available for Creep 2. Check that out if you're interested. Fincher has four movies left in his directorial filmography, which I'll split evenly for the next two weeks.

Here are the films for this week followed by my thoughts from last week:

I've never seen Benjamin Button, but both these films did well on the award front, so it should be a solid week.

As mentioned, here are thoughts on last week:

  • Fight Club: Fincher continues what he started with The Game: the long slow burn. Fight Club has a lot of talking and set up. Characters make grand revelations throughout ("Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?"), which is derived from the source material, but it feels preachy in parts. The acting is great. Pitt is hilarious, intimidating, and makes it easy to believe all the shit he spouts. Norton pairs well, being calm, collected, and able to let out the fury in spurts to give the viewer breadcrumbs of Tyler within him. It is easy to see where Mr. Robot got their inspiration from, especially with Rami Malek. Fincher pulls back on the yellow tones in favor of a blue tint for this picture. Fincher and Uhls (the film's writer) manipulate Palahniuk's source material to make it work for film by using visual elements and dialogue to give the audience the pieces to put the mystery together.
  • Panic Room: Filled with blue tint throughout, Panic Room is a dreary, cold thriller and an example of Murphy’s Law. Fincher has some fun with this film. There are gorgeous long shots from the top floor to the first, four stories below. There are shots going between close objects, into others, and traveling through nooks and crannies. All fun to watch. The plot is simple: crooks break into a house, the occupants hide in a panic room, and they have a back and forth. The characters are static aside from Meg Altman, played by Jodie Foster. Meg starts as a weak damsel in distress, but when the “prince” comes and fails, it’s up to her to become strong and defeat the monsters invading her home. Foster and Fincher’s film techniques are the best parts of this movie. 
  • Zodiac: Another long, slow burn, this time with a star studded cast and a true crime story. In Fincher style this film is flooded with warm yellows and cold blues. It is interesting to watch something like this with Fincher’s new show Mindhunter being released because of the similar subject matter. Also, maybe it's because I live in the state, but I found it terrifying to think about. There was a guy going around killing people, and sending notes to the police, yet still not getting caught. In that regard the movie was effective for me. All the characters and acting are top notch. Fincher is able to take a story with a known ending and make the journey entertaining enough to be worth the trek.

Feel free to share your thoughts on these films. Other opinions are always welcomed. On the prowl for the next director to dive into. If you have any suggestions let me know. Watch out for Part 4 coming next week. Keep on Creepin'.

Creep 2 Review

As a subgenre, found-footage films saturated the market in the early 2000s. Low budget, high profit left audiences a slew of junk to sift through, only to find few hidden gems. One of those gems was 2014's Creep, which breathed new life into the subgenre by being original, claustrophobic, and well, creepy. This year brought the follow-up with Creep 2. Again, this picture stars Mark Duplass as the big bad wolf (this time named Aaron), and is directed by Patrick Brice. Both Brice and Duplass wrote the film, as they did with part 1. Creep 2 succeeds because it is familiar to its predecessor in format, but different enough to keep the viewer interested until the final cut to black.

What is familiar? The basic story is similar to the first. Aaron hires a videographer to come to his home and film him. Aaron is still Aaron. He is a funny, charismatic, eccentric weirdo, but, aside from the creepiness, likable. He draws the viewer in with his quirks. 

This time around, however, Aaron is open about what he is. Viewers are not seeing his process at its peak. They are seeing an artist struggle with his craft. If Creep is about friendship and loneliness, Creep 2 is about art and inspiration, which becomes a darkly hilarious juxtaposition when paired through the lense of murder. Because the theme is different the movie feels different, so it never feels like a rehash even though it shares the same premis. 

Creep 2 follows the sequel format: everything is amped up—bigger, bolder, bloodier, and more elaborate. This stays true with the performances as well. Duplass is able to be creepier and funnier. Without spoiling anything, there is a scene where Aaron and Sara (Desiree Akhavana) are playing pool, and Aaron says an otherwise terrifying line, but with a huge smile. It encapsulates the character in one shot. Akhavan is stellar, too. When she meets Aaron and he reveals his hobby, it is easy for the viewer to ask, “Why the hell aren’t you leaving!?” Then she explains why and it becomes an intimate character moment and an example of how tight the writing is. Yes, Sara makes questionable choices, but if she leaves she might get murdered. If she stays she might get murdered. If she runs the risk of getting murdered either way she might as well dive in. Sara's confident, fearless attitude pairs well with Aaron's creepy, funny demeanor.

As mentioned, the writing is tight—as is the directing. There are few, if any, scenes that do not hold their weight. Every bit of dialogue and every shot have substance. Part of what makes Creep 2 work is it trades in scares for awkward character development. Brice and Duplass take instances of inaction and shapes them into absurd, uncomfortable character moments, as in the scene when Aaron exposes himself physically to Sara. This scene could have easily been a write off. Instead Brice and Duplass elevate it by having Sara volunteer to do the same. A shot that begins leaning toward shock and smut, becomes a scene demonstrating Sara's drive and Aaron's vulnerability. Even when the jump scares do not work, there is a reason.

Creep 2 is to Creep what Scream 2 is to Scream: a wilder, badder experience, which plays on the audience's expectations of established material. Viewers never know exactly where it is going, but when it ends there is definite anticipation for Creep 3. With lack of scares, Creep 2 it is not a scary movie; it is an unnerving comedic plunge into the mind of a killer. Never stale, and never a dull moment, this film presents something familiar and revamps it through solid acting, precise directing, and bleak humor, only to cap it off with a true moment of panic.

Further Viewing: Creep - to see the origin and development.
The Blair Witch Project – for groundwork of the found footage subgenre.
Scream 2 – for another sequel that boosts the original. 

Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 2

Hello, Weirdos. If you have not checked out Within Range in the Silva Series of Pictures & Poetry, please do.  

This week continues the comb through of David Fincher’s directorial filmography with:

Great line-up this week. I’m particularly interested in revisiting Panic Room.  

Proceeding are thoughts on Part 1 of Fincher’s films:

  • Alien 3: After minor deliberation I decided to watch the Assembly Cut of Alien 3 . This cut, although Fincher wasn’t directly involved, is said to be closer to his vision than the Theatrical Cut. Alien 3  is not awful, but it isn’t great either. It's okay. In comparison to the first two it doesn’t hold up. It isn’t scary enough to compete with Scott’s and isn't intense enough to compete with Cameron’s. All the character relationships Cameron built are destroyed, although themes of motherhood continue over. What this movie does have is gore. Loads of it. Giving it a more savage feel than its predecessors. The xenomorph becomes an animalistic predator and less of an intelligent being. And the CGI doesn’t hold up. Fincher’s first foray into film presents weak graphics, scares, and action, but plants a seed of something new for the director. Much like the queen inside Ripely.
  • Se7en: Endings are a powerful thing. When Se7en is the topic, the ending is a bulk of the conversation. The ending is fantastic, and one of the all time best conclusions. With thrillers often is the case that catching the villain is the finale, but with this picture the detectives do not catch the villain. Giving the audience something fresh. What makes the ending strong is the rest of the film. Take away the ending, and Se7en holds up. The characters themselves are not anything special (a deadpan villain, a detective a week away from retirement, fresh blood trying to make a name for himself), but the performances and development make them memorable. The dinner between Somerset (Freeman), Mills (Pitt), and his wife Tracy (Paltrow) is genuine and the heart of this dreary movie. Through the escalating violence and grotesqueness of John Doe's (Spacey) murders, audiences become intrigued, intertwined, and curious about what is coming. Fincher uses the anonymous downtrodden city to play against the protagonists, demonstrating why Somerset is ready to leave and what the future holds for Mills. Se7en is one hell of a second film.
  • The Game: Fincher's third film is a thriller about a wealthy man (played by Micheal Douglas) who gets sucked into a borderless role-playing game by his brother (Sean Penn). Audiences never know who is in on the game and who is not. Douglas and Penn give in to their roles—both bringing a fierceness to their characters, showing the tension between the brothers and the love that tension brings with it. Parts are farfetched because of the extremity of the game itself, but most of what happens is plausible. Mystery and tension are present throughout, and since Douglas' Nicholas Van Orton is kind of a dick, it becomes easy to care less about his character's well being and root for his comeuppance. That is where this film struggles. You do not care about Van Orton. You like seeing him struggle. He becomes the antagonist while the game entity becomes the hero, which keeps audiences at arm's length. Another enjoyable element is the mirroring of the childhood flashbacks to the present day. During a home movie reel, viewers see Van Orton get pushed into a pool as a child and struggle to get out, leading us to believe he is not a strong swimmer and possibly has a fear of bodies of water. This adds to the intensity of fear when Van Orton is later plunged into the bay during the game. Parts do drag occasionally, but this thriller packs enough to keep audiences guessing until the last twist.

Please share your thoughts below. The Game is typically middling with people, so I'd love to hear different perspectives. The Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 3 will be available next week. And a full review for Creep 2 is on the way. Keep on Creepin'.

Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 1

Hello, Weirdos. As the Sam Raimi installment comes to a close (thoughts on Part 5 below), the Director Selective Series continues this month with the directorial filmography of David Fincher. Fincher began as a music video director. During this time he worked with artists such as Rick Springfield, Madonna, and Nine Inch Nails. Eventually he landed at the helm of Alien 3. From there his film career escalated. His style is cold and drab, often with a yellow tint. Of directing he said, "As a director, film is about how you dole out the information so that the audience stays with you when they're supposed to stay with you, behind you when they're supposed to stay behind you, and ahead of you when they're supposed to stay ahead of you." Using those ideals Fincher has directed iconic films and continues to create noteworthy content as executive producer of House of Cards and Mindhunter. This week I will be looking at Fincher's first three films, which are:

On first watch of Alien 3, years ago, I found it forgettable. However, recently I watched a review from Chris Stuckman and one of his buddies making a case for the film in a positive light. I have a renewed interest in seeing it again. Se7en is a classic, and I'm looking forward to The Game because I do not remember it.

Here are my final thoughts on the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 5:

  • Spider-Man 3: Of all the Spider-Man movies, 3 is often the least favorite. It is clear why. The first two are great. Part 3 gets bogged down by too many storylines that are so detached from one another. The film focuses on one at a time, resulting in the others being forgotten while they are away. Sandman is a forgettable villain and if removed makes the story tighter. Instead they should have focused on Peter's relationship with Harry and given Topher Grace more time to develop as Venom. Topher is fine as Brock, and when Venom is strictly Venom it works. But when it is Venom's body with Topher's head and unnecessary sharp teeth, it falls apart. Topher is not villainous enough even with the Venom exaggerating his characteristics. A question I had was why when Harry gets hit on the head does he become a lovable dope? I get the amnesia bit (he got hit hard), but then his personality changes. He becomes a Harry that was not in the last 2. Harry was always kind of a jerk, so the goofball angle did not work for me. It is as though the filmmakers wanted audiences to like him so when he dies it becomes more emotional. Then there is the strange jazz dance number sequence. It does mirror a similar scene from Spider-Man 2 when Peter gives up crime fighting and is briefly care free. This scene is heavily exaggerated. Honestly, I enjoy it. I see what Raimi was attempting. The symbiote exaggerates the host, and the audience experiences that through exaggerated scenes. But I understand it does not work with the film, nor does it work with the Spider-Man world Raimi created in the two previous films. There are parts that I like about this movie. The effects look good, the relationship with Peter and Harry is intriguing, and Venom is badass. Spider-Man 3, although visually satisfying and further developing its main cast of original characters, lacks the tightness and focus of its predecessors.
  • Drag Me to Hell: In 2009 when this movie was released, I was an usher at a movie theater. My task for that day was to stand in the theater showing Drag Me to Hell at the edge of the stairs to ensure the underaged movie goers were behaving. My first and only experience with this film had been peripherally, and I was not a fan. On a focused second watch I think it is great. Drag Me to Hell is weird (the plot is an old gypsy woman cursing a loan officer). Also, it is creepy and disgusting with different fluids projecting out of people—some cringe-worthy effects. Parts are laughable and campy. That’s part of Raimi’s style. The practical effects look great. The scene with the goat is super silly but worked for me. I kept asking myself, who let him make this? He got away with it. The ending is fantastic, unexpected, and uncommon. The performances are good—nothing mind-blowing, but nothing terrible. Evil Dead references abound. My biggest problem with it is the computer effects. They don’t look great, particularly the flying eyeballs. I wish they would have gone all practical. Understandably, people dislike this picture because it is strange, goofy, and over-the-top, but those are the things that make it great. A long-awaited return to Horror from Sam Raimi.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful: As the film opens, audiences are given a tight ratio sepia scene combined with modern 3D effects—a culmination of old and new. Juxtaposition of old and new carries throughout the picture. Once audiences land in Oz the ration grows, and the vibrancy of the land is revealed. Although the world is gorgeous, it lacks defining stylistic characteristics that are present in 2010's Alice in Wonderland. Where Burton's Wonderland feels unlike any other world, Raimi's Oz falls short. Raimi combined practical sets with computer effects, which grounds the fantastical elements of the film. Disney got the rights to the story because L. Frank Baum's Oz work is in the public domain, but they could not obtain the rights to the film The Wizard of Oz. Disney could not use Dorothy or ruby slippers, and the Wicked Witch could not have a mole; they even had to make her a different shade of green. With so many limitations, it is difficult to imagine what this film could have been. Instead there needs to be a separation from the original film. Viewers cannot think of it as a prequel, but rather as a stand alone feature. Then it works better. All the performances worked, except Franco's. Maybe Raimi was going for this, but Franco's performance seemed phoned in with the exception of a couple scenes. Even when yelling or filled with excitement it comes off as flat. There are bits of Raimi sprinkled throughout: Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, object POV, the evil witches resemble watered down characters from the Evil Dead series, and according to IMDb, even the Oldsmobile makes an appearance stripped down as a wagon. Oz the Great and Powerful is a visual treat, but it attempts to be lighthearted and dark without satisfying either element.

Feel free to share your thoughts on current Sam Raimi and on early Fincher. Look out for Part 2 of the Fincher Series coming next week. And if you have not already Listened to the Christmas Special for Black Star you should. Keep on Creepin'.

Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 5

Hello, Weirdos. Hope you all had a decent Thanksgiving, if that’s something you partake in. During this Series, I fell in-love with the Evil Dead series all over again, so over the long weekend I got an Evil Dead tattoo (pictured below). Part 5 is the final installment of the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi . Next month I will view the directorial filmography of a new director. Until then here are the last 3 from Sam Raimi:

I have seen all of these before, but none of them for several years. I'm looking forward to see if I still enjoy them, and to see a return to Horror for Sam Raimi.

Here are my thoughts on the films from Part 3 and Part 4 of the Sam Raimi Series: 

  •  The Quick and the Dead: A first time watch for me. I've not seen many westerns. The plot is thin—a duel competition and one woman's quest for revenge. Other than a bit of Sharon Stone's back back story there isn't much character development. Not enough to be invested in anyone, or the plight of the townspeople. Also, this film, and maybe it's because I've seen too many movies, is predictable. You know who is going to die and when. Sharon Stone overacts in emotional parts, but Gene Hackman is charismatic and villainous. Nothing overtly screams Sam Raimi aside from maybe DiCaprio's slick dialogue. Overall, The Quick and the Dead is enjoyable to watch and never boring, but nothing to write home about either.
  • A Simple Plan: I went into this film completely blind. If anyone has ever asked, "what if Sam Raimi directed Fargo?" this film would be the answer to that question. It is also one of those films where things continuously go wrong such as Don't Breath or Cellular. Paxton is fantastic. He's mumbling, he's bumbling, he's the good guy turned criminal. As the film progresses we get to see him slowly shift gears, but in the end he holds tight to his moral compass. Thornton shines in this role. He plays Paxton's dimwitted brother. There were times I forgot I was watching Thornton because he embodies this role. Thornton is the Lenny to Paxton's George. Which is another thing I noticed about this picture; it has strong Of Mice and Men undertones. Almost a modern retelling. An engaging film with twits and turns that takes you down and never brings you back up.
  • For Love of the Game: Another of Raimi’s movies unfamiliar to me. I knew it was about baseball only because the poster from last weeks post. This genre, sports, is another I’m unfamiliar with. For Love of the Game is essentially two stories, interwoven, revolving around Billy Chapel played by Kevin Costner. One story is about the romantic relationship between Chapel and Jane Aubrey, played by Kelly Preston. The other story is of a washed up pitcher. Metaphorically things are straightforward. Game equals parts of the their relationship. When Chapel starts the game strong, the relationship is strong. When Chapel struggles, the relationship struggles. And so on. There are a few cheesy inspirational moments, but not enough to bog the film down. Impressively, Raimi is able to make both stories work, and make each inticing enough to get the audience excited and emotionally invested. 
  • The Gift: Directed by Raimi and penned by Billy Bob Thornton, The Gift is a thriller about a psychic dealing with the murder or a fellow townsmember. Kate Blanchett plays Annie Wilson and her performance is fine. Fine is a fair descriptor for nearly all the performances. Greg Kinnear is his typical nice-guy self. Hillary Swank could have been anyone. Keanu was decent playing an angry redneck as opposed to his usual hero figure. Giovanni Ribisi displayed the most emotion. Some of the imagery is cool, specifically when Annie sees a body floating in her tree. Anyone who has watched a procedural cop show could predict the ending of this conventional thriller. 
  • Spider-Man: Is Spider-Man campy? Yes. Are there cheesey lines? Yes. But does it all work? Yes. The supporting characters play their parts well. JK Simmons IS Jameson. Maguire is a solid Peter. He isn’t as quick witted or funny as Spidey as in later iterations. Instead he’s on the corny side, but plays the bubbling nerdy boy next door perfectly. There is a scene where Spider-Man is as good as destroyed by the Goblin. Maguire displays intense emotion showing through his face and body language that he is struggling to keep going. As he begins to shake the audience sees a ferocity take him over. Dafoe is fantastic as the schizophrenic Green Goblin. Dafoe plays it cool, creepy, and terrifying. Green Goblin, as a character, meshes well with Raimi's style. Practical effects are used whenever possible. The computer effects that are used are dated, but the editing is seamless making the effects unnoticeable. Spider-Man feels like a comic book movie in the best way. It is fun, it is exciting, and it is well balanced being grounded and fantastic. David Kopek's writing is on point. Spider-Man isn't given powers and then instantly a great hero. First thing he does is try to make some money. Then he kicks some ass of someone who isn't a bad guy, and lets a thief run right past him. Through intelligent writing choices like this the audience is able to see the growth of the main character. It is also good to see some familiar faces including Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi,  and the Oldsmobile.
  • Spider-Man 2: Spider-Man 2 continues the growth of Parker as a man and hero as he goes through a midlife identity crisis. There are at least three callbacks to the Evil Dead series. During the surgery scene when the doctors are attempting to remove the mechanical arms from Otto there is a man wielding a chainsaw, the camera fixed on a flying object, and sweeping POV shot from the villains perspective. This scene is horrific and reminiscent of the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park with the raptors. That's what makes the octopus arms work so well—they're a sentient, animalistic extension of Otto. Part 2 hits similar beats as its predecessor: Peter struggles with responsibility and his love for MJ, Peter learns how to use his abilities after losing them briefly, and the city has mixed feelings toward him only to help him triumph in the finale. Spider-Man 2 is as good as 1. It lacks a freshness, but without all the origin and set up part 2 allows audiences to swing into the thick of things leaving room for developing characters and more web-slinging thrills.

I know that was a long one, Weirdos, but thanks for reading. Next weeks thoughts will be accompanied by a new director as the Director Selective Series continues. If there is a director you'd like me to comb through please leave a comment suggesting one below. Keep on Creepin'.

Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 3 & Part 4

Hello, Weirdos. Due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to complete Part 2 as scheduled. To make up for lost time I will combine Part 3 & Part 4. Here are the movies for Parts 3 & 4 of the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi:

I’ve seen all the Spider-Man movies. But the first 4 films are completely new to me. The first 3 in particular don’t seem like typical Sam Raimi movies. I’ll be looking forward to see how those compare.

Here is what I thought about the films from last week:

  • Evil Dead 2:  Some debate circles this movie about whether it is a sequel or a remake. I say sequel and here is why. From my understanding, Raimi wanted to do a sort of “last time on The Evil Dead ” at the beginning of this film to show audiences where things left off, but couldn’t get the rights to show clips of part 1. Instead of scrapping that idea, Raimi decided to show a slightly altered version of the first film’s events in the first 8 minutes of this one. Either way, this movie is great. It takes everything that’s good about part one and makes them better. It’s creepier, it’s wilder (headless, naked, chainsaw wielding girlfriend anyone?), and more realistic with the effects. 
  • Darkman: A part of me used to wonder why the director of The Evil Dead trilogy was given the Spider-Man trilogy. Then, 10 minutes into Darkman that became clear. Darkman definitely had a comic book feel to it, especially Batman . Danny Elfman’s score aids to that feel. Classic hero origin story—something tragic happens, hero seeks out the wrongdoers, and the villains pay. Darkman, however, is more of an antihero. Where most heros fight for justice, Darkman is only after revenge. Neeson is able to balance the calm and collected scientist, with the deranged masked vigilante seamlessly. Also, his makeup looks fantastic. It’s disgusting and realistic. This eras Harvy Dent. The plot is straight forward. No surprises there. There are scenes when Darkman becomes enraged. During these scenes there are rapid flashbacks which are horrific and lend themselves to Raimi’s signature campy style. 
  • Army of Darkness: I’d like to start by mentioning that I have this on Blu-ray (“Screwhead Edition”) and it looks amazing. Apparently Raimi has a knack for making the final installment of a trilogy…eccentric. There isn’t much horror present in this one. This movie is weird and hilarious. Full of slapstick that was present in his earlier work. Bruce Campbell is in top form here—spouting off great onelines, promoting S-Mart throughout (“Shop smart…”), and kicking ass in multiple roles. There are classic Evil Dead elements–the book, deadites, and camera chasing through the woods–and there are signature Raimi moves–flying along from a fixed perspective with an object, and a cameo by Ted Raimi. With a fun story, good acting and directing, and great effects Army of Darkness isn't the scariest of the franchise, but possibly the most well crafted of the series. 

How do you feel about the movies from Part 2? Are you familiar with the films from Parts 3 & 4? I'd love to hear other's thoughts. Also, I'm still on the prowl for the next director to select, and I would appreciate any suggestions. With the holiday coming up I will do my best to keep everything on schedule. That being said, keep an eye out for a new poem coming in the middle of the week. And Keep on Creepin'.

A Ghost Story Review

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At least once a year a film comes along and begs audiences to feel something. In 2012 there was The Perks of Being A Wallflower, from writer/director Stephen Chbosky, which begged the viewer to feel happy and sad simultaneously with friendship and tragedy. In 2015 audience were left to feel the struggles of loss and what it means to grow up in the elegantly crafted The Little Prince. This year, the movie that is baring its heart and soul is David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. Lowery is able to take an otherwise silly childhood image, and by use of precisely lengthened shots, mold it into an emotion filled story which leaves the viewer questioning what it means to exist. 

Literally and figuratively this movie goes through cycles. From a focus standpoint it starts off looking at M (Rooney Mara) and C (Casey Affleck) as a couple. Audiences get to see the dynamic of their relationship through otherwise meaningless conversations demonstrating their comfortability and intimacy. Focus shifts to M, and the viewer gets to see her pain through the editing and long shots (more on that shortly). Through those shots the audience sees her grieving and gets to grieve with her. The editing helps establish the passage of time by showing M walk out the front door and is instantly back in the house heading out the front door. This cycle happens several times successively and demonstrates that M is dealing with the situation and moving on. After M, the film focuses on C who is now a sheet ghost (not a spoiler—it is what the movie is about). Viewers are shown his perspective and what it means to occupy space, and the attachments people have to spaces. This is achieved through C staying in the house for decades as the space transforms, as does he—becoming angrier, dirtier, and complacent. Without spoiling anything there will not be an explanation about how the films cycles through the focus at this point, but it does, and it is gorgeously crafted. 

Back to the shots mentioned earlier. To start, this picture is shot in a unique ratio: 1.33:1 with rounded corners. Immediately this ratio gives the film a home-movie look and feel, which also adds to the feeling of intimacy throughout. A point that cannot be emphasized enough is that this film is top notch visual story telling. Lowery begins the film with long drawn-out scenes. For example, there is a scene in which M is eating a pie that lasts for several minutes. This establishes that the viewer is experiencing this moment and this sadness with M. It is unsettling, it is uncomfortable, and it is heartbreaking. Lowery continues to utilize long takes through the beginning of the film. As the movie progresses and time begins to speed up so does the length of the shots. Toward the end of the film there are cuts and flashbacks in rapid succession in comparison to the start of the movie to demonstrate the apex is coming.

Different length shots combined with the acting and the music create an atmosphere of eeriness and emptiness. Mara’s performance is realistic and grounded. She seems ready to move on from their house, because to her it is just a space. Affleck, who spends three quarters of the time under a sheet, is able to make his ghost emote. He uses long stares into corners and out windows to show his emptiness. He uses head turns and sweeping moments to show curiosity. He uses classic ghost motifs such as floating objects, flickering lights, and passing though walls to show anger and frustration. The sheet might seem silly at first, but as the movie progress it aids in creating a hollowness which is prevalent as the film continues. Music also assists in providing a tone to the picture. Daniel Hart’s composition is flooded with violin and captures the visual feel of the movie. Specifically the piece “The Secret In the Wall” is tear inducing even when listening to it on its own. Within the movie C is a musician and working on a song throughout. That song, “I Get Overwhelmed,” performed by Hart’s band Dark Rooms, fits to the visuals and the dynamic between C and M flawlessly, and is the perfect cap to this creative powerhouse.

As far as problems go there are not many. There is one lengthy exposition scene at a party which people might find too on the nose. But it also gives viewers context to what is going on in the rest of the film, so this could go either way. Another part people might find troublesome is the time frame. Again without spoiling anything, there is a time shift which is confusing and weird, although Lowry is able to reel it in and make sense of it in the climax. 

Outside of those couple parts this movie is a masterpiece. Lowery and Affleck are able to bring life to a blank, faceless figure. They take something so innate to childhood and growing up and transform it into an art piece worth experiencing recurrently. And that is what this movie is: an art piece. It is more than a collection of scenes. It is more than solid performances. It is more than elegantly composed music. It is a culmination of all those thing combined to deliver a movie that reminds people (present company included) why they love movies, and why people like Lowery love to make them.

Further Viewing: Other A24 films. 

Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 2

Hello, Weirdos. Here is Part 2 of the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi. The first week of November was fairly short, but I was able to squeeze in Raimi's first three feature films (thoughts on those below). Next for Raimi's directorial filmography are:

Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness I have seen previously, but will still rewatch. This will be my first time viewing Darkman, however. Should be a fun week.

Here is what I thought of last weeks Raimi films:

  • It's Murder!: This movie was difficult to find. I ended up watching a rough version that had an ad. for the site hosting come across the screen every 10 minutes or so. Outside of that, this movie was…eccentric. It had a straightforward plot: man died under mysterious circumstances, the death gets investigated, and the audience finds out whodunit. It is all the stuff surrounding those main events that makes this film zany. Honestly, I thought it was damn funny. The investigator is full of one-liners. In fact, almost everyone is full of one-liners, which gives the movie an Abbot & Costello and 3 Stooges vibe to it. For me, it was fun to see Sam Raimi elements before they were his signature style.
  • The Evil Dead: I watched The Evil Dead a few weeks ago as one of my Two Tone's Terror Tales bonuses. I had seen it before, but not for a few years. I can proudly say this movie holds up. As with It's Murder! the viewer gets to see the building blocks which eventually became what we love about Raimi—the over-the-top acting, the angled closeups, and the balance between campiness and horror, to name a few. Also, this film was disgusting. Coming in 11 years before Dead Alive, it was clear where Peter Jackson got inspiration. The special effects were great and added to the severity of the situation Ash and his cohorts were dealing with. Plus it looked gnarly, especially for the budget.
  • Crimewave: Considered a disaster by Raimi himself, this movie had elements of several genres including crime, horror, and comedy. None of these genres were fleshed out enough to give the movie a cohesive feel to it. One prevailing element is this picture felt like a live action cartoon with parts that reminded me of a higher budgeted It's Murder! Often the jokes hit, but not always. Crimewave, while wacky-fun, was a slightly worthwhile spoof that never quite knew what it was, and demonstrated the beginnings of both the Cohen Brothers and Director Sam Raimi as filmmakers.

What did you think of these movies? Looking forward to other opinions on early Raimi. Check back next week for thoughts on Part 2 and the next films for Part 3. Also, keep an eye out for a new Review in the middle of the week. Keep on Creepin'.

New Series - Director Selective Series

Hello, Weirdos. Thank you to everyone who followed along with Two Tone‘s 31 Terror Tales. We had a blast doing it, and hope you all did as well. Now that October is over, what’s next? A new series…

The Director Selective Series. Here’s how it’ll work. Each month a specific director will be chosen. Throughout the month I will watch that director’s filmography split up by week. At the end of each week I will write a bit about each film I watched for that week. 

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First up is director Sam Raimi. He has 15 movies in his filmography, so that’ll be approximately 3 a week. This week will be:

If you have any suggestions on directors please send them my way. Feel free to join me. And keep a look out for more content coming every week on the main page and on the others. Keep on Creepin’.

Two Tone's 31 Terror Tales Part 5: The Dream Child

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Hello, Weirdos. Here are the last three terror tales for the month. We're rounding out the end with Halloween staples. If you haven't seen these, you should.

Here are the picks for week 5:

29. Halloweentown
30. Trick 'r Treat
31. Halloween (1978)

Bonuses from Week 4: Raw, and The Voices.

Here is what we thought of the Week 4 movies:

Last Shift: AS: A claustrophobic film with a talented lead, this movie ramps up constantly with some intense horror set pieces, only to fizzle out a bit at the end.
AP: Although creepy in concept, this horror-by-the-numbers movie leads up to something, but does not deliver.

Them: AS: Tense from start to finish, this home invasion thriller offers believable performances and some truly horrifying moments.

AP: Aka Ils, this French home invasion film makes you feel unsettled and disturbed by what people are capable of doing.

The Howling: AS: The Wicker Man meets werewolves, The Howling takes the wacky secret cult town concept and adds impressively grotesque transformation effects.

AP: An enjoyable and classic werewolf tale, but feels like several stories mixed together without any of them fully fleshed out.

Salem's Lot: AS: If you can make it through this over-long King adaptation, Salem’s Lot offers a few genuinely creepy moments and a handful of fun vampire-flick homages.

AP: Another frightening film from Tobe Hooper. Salem's Lot has an eerie Nosferatu-esque lead villain and haunting children, but could do with some trimming down.

Hocus Pocus: AS: While Hocus Pocus isn’t winning any awards, it’s a fun and often hilarious Halloween classic for those of us who grew up with Disney Channel. And you can’t really beat Bette Midler’s over the top acting and performance of “I Put a Spell On You.”

AP: A Halloween-time must. With hangings, tons of virgin talk, and plenty of innuendo, it is fun for the whole family!

Stranger Things 2: AS: Stranger Things 2 looks to be an even eerier installment than the first, while maintaining the heartwarming moments we’ve all come to love from the talented young cast.

AP: I limited myself to 2 episodes, so it is difficult to say how part 2 is overall. Thus far things feel different in a good way—more mature. We get to see how characters are outside of everything being messed up, and the repercussions of what came before. 

Night of the Demons: AS: A big mess of overacting and strange ideas, Night of The Demons starts weird and stays weird, which only sometimes pays off with enjoyable moments of gore and prosthetics.

AP: This one is difficult to pin down. The characters are cheesy and overacted, and the first act is arid. However, there are gruesome effects and a nightmareish atmosphere that make the rest of this movie pleasurable.

There it is! Hope it was as fun for you as it was for us. Did you make it through all 31? Did you jump in here and there? Let us know down below. Happy Halloween! Keep on Creepin'.

Pumpkins and Gifts

Hello, Weirdos. Here are some images (click to enlarge) of pumpkins we carved this year, and gifts from our Halloween gift exchange. Keep on Creepin'.