Sunday, September 17, 2017

Annabelle: Creation - Review

A nun and a small group of orphaned girls find residence at the remote home of a former toymaker only to get tangled up by the ghost of his late daughter and the dark forces seemingly coming from a creepy doll. All of that plus a ton of crappy jump scares in the prequel to a reviled spinoff of THE CONJURING, featuring the most overrated modern horror "icon" of our time. ANNABELLE: CREATION might just be another lame, average hauntfest for many viewers, the type that will tide you over one lazy night, but I frankly could not stand any of it. The script has a gardens of whiskers on it and is chock-full of useless padding, plot holes and sheer dumb character behavior. For example, the film has a cast of six girls but only four of them have anything to do: the two not-really-mean teenagers and the central duo. Meanwhile, the middle two tweens, one of whom is the token black character, just stand around when they aren't talking about boys. The story also never explains why the girls refuse to close doors during scary scenarios, never even try to physically destroy the evil doll, or why in the hell the closest that was supposed to contain the evil spirit still has a working lock on it and is not barricaded from outside interference. The major frights are all so unbelievable telegraphed and they of course end with a sudden boo. The only emotion that these supposed shocks can barely draw out of the viewer is pure sheer laughter; whether it was the opening car accident, the chair ejection or the swapping of black puke, I couldn't stop mocking these poorly produced spooks. I can't even give any praise to anyone in the acting department, as all of the young female actors go through the motions. I felt particularly bad for Talitha Bateman, who could have broken out from this picture as the polio-stricken and ill-fated main protagonist but she's not very great in the first half and she's absolutely not scary in the slightest during the second half. However, the ingénues are all Oscar caliber performers compared to dramatic heavyweights Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto, who just sleepwalk throughout the entire movie. That goes double for Otto since she legitimately spends the majority of her time on screen laying in bed with a dumb tin mask on the left side of her face. And to top it all off, this prequel to a spinoff sets up another separate spinoff to the CONJURING franchise thanks to a stupid insert scene in the beginning and a stinger at the end. Actually, I can end this review with one good thing to say about it: at least director David F. Sandberg did a marginally better job here then when he made LIGHTS OUT.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

It (2017) - Review

The summer of 1989 should be one of the best times to have as a kid, particularly with what's playing in movie theaters, but for the kids of Darby, Maine, it was 90 days to stay alive. Pre-teen Bill Denbrough and his fellow six outsiders try to uncover the mystery behind the overwhelming cases of kids disappearing and why they themselves all seem to experience separate frightening encounters with a deadly clown. IT is an effective horror show that will satisfy Stephen King fans for the most part and keep some viewers up all night due to its terrifying frights and disturbing content. Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues that prevent it from totally being a new classic, most notably some very questionable revisions to King's text and material that seemingly was cut from this theatrical release. Updating the timeframe of the scenario from the late 50s to the late 80s is a bold and winning element, as it allows the film to a give out a sharp critique of the still resonating nostalgia of the times and deliver a swift stab at the then clean image of movie kids such as the ones in E.T. and THE GOONIES. But what really doesn't work by the three credited screenwriters, including Cary Fukunaga, are the changes given to some of the main characters. Bev, the sole female in the group, gets the blunt of the misjudgments, as the abuse by her alcoholic father is even more extreme, she's constantly slut-shamed throughout the town, and her innate ability to be a sharpshooter with a weapon is excised so she can later be a damsel in distress. Ben also gets it bad, as the overweight kid is now no longer the third main protagonist, has no real backstory or no parents either, and oddly siphons off Mike's job as the group's resident historian. These and more slights will certainly piss off the King fanatics but the makers at least try to make it all work in their original way despite the bad taste. However, I can not really forgive the amount of times the film tries to shortcut through the proceedings. The movie changes gears constantly in terms of its speed of storytelling, slowly letting the characters develop one minute and then on a dime we've suddenly taken a jump and at the next series of scares. Scenes and proper transitions seem to missing outright; the most egregious example is when the band just quickly gets back together before the final battle, forgoing how all of the previous bad blood between the kids was resolved. The fact that a director's cut has recently been announced for home video outright tells you this theatrical cut is riddled with gapping holes.

Despite these glaring faults in the story department, director Andy Muschietti and his crew still craft a genuinely engaging dark fairy tale. Not a total surprise given it is coming from the same mind behind MAMA. Muschietti once again shows how great he is at getting great performances out of child actors and putting them through the ringer with some hellish CGI nightmares chasing after them. Make no mistake, he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the violence and child peril but he thankfully does skip out on including the book's most infamous moment. He does however trip up again when it comes to the climax; he simply lets bad shaky cam and confusing editing overcome the artistic palette. The entire cast of child actors are pretty fantastic and surely will cause everyone to have their personal favorite. Jaeden Lieberher and newcomer Sophia Lillis were very endearing as Bill and Bev respectively but I pull for Jack Dylan Grazer as the real showstopper, speeding through his humorously overdone lines and nervously fidgeting around as the hypochondriac Eddie. As for Bill Skarsgård playing the titular character, aka Pennywise the Dancing Clown, I thought his take was overall fine. Similar to how Tim Curry's legendary performance of Pennywise was based on 50s culture, namely what if Bozo the Clown was mixed with a Catskills comic, Skarsgård's version relishes the sinister flamboyance of Freddy Krueger and the severe grotesque nature of 80s monster movies. Much props also go to Benjamin Wallfisch's hauntingly creepy score, particularly during the rain-soaked prologue. IT is a perfect horror movie pick for the season but those seeking a little more substance to the overall picture will have to wait longer to see if the eventual director's cut delivers the goods.


Friday, September 15, 2017

The Belko Experiment - Review

The All-American staff at an isolated corporate office in the middle of Colombia suddenly find themselves on edge when they are locked inside the building and a mysterious voice over the intercom forcibly asks them to kill each other as he sees fit. Refusal to do so will result in a major headache for everyone via the remote detonation of hidden explosives in the skulls of all the employees. THE BELKO EXPERIMENT is a pretty damn amazing twist on BATTLE ROYALE, courtesy of horror director Greg McLean and writer-producer James Gunn. McLean expertly executes a palate of striking visual designs and wisely knows when to ratchet up the tension or when to show the bloodshed. Gunn's script brims with unconventional flourishes, such as its willingness to dispense shades of grey to the main conflict, and makes great use of switching between drama and comedy. The two work in tandem to craft a colorful cavalcade of characters that you can keep track of and feel for, even if they suddenly decide to keep a butcher knife in the belt. Everyone in the cast is perfectly suited but Tony Goldwyn absolutely steals the show as the company's COO who's equipped with Special Forces training and a conflicted mindset on who deserves to be left alive. But now let's now address the elephant in the room: the movie can accurately be labeled as this generation's POLTERGEIST or the next CABIN IN THE WOODS. Despite the very bloody efforts McLean accomplishes with the picture, any viewer will see it more as Gunn being the sole auteur. The cast is littered with many actors who've often appeared in Gunn's films, including his own brother in a major supporting role, and his unique voice in the writing often dominates the visuals. It also doesn't help that John Gallagher Jr. as the main male protagonist has a scraggly beard and the same mixture of heroic and goofy mannerisms as Chris Pratt. However, the biggest issue against the film is that it oozes out all of its satirical juices by the halfway point, right when the terror becomes too real and the bodies begin to fall faster. The makers try to bandage it all up in time for a final battle amid a PowerPoint presentation but it's too little too late. The hits just keep coming after that though because the ending is just rotten, especially the concluding sting that stupidly sets up Blumhouse's version of CATCHING FIRE. Be sure to give this demented cult feature a gander, especially if you're sick of re-watching OFFICE SPACE for the umpteenth time.


Free Fire - Review

An arms deal between the IRA and a South African gunrunner goes south due to a dispute between their cronies, thus setting off a relentless fire fight amid a derelict warehouse. FREE FIRE is a disappointing chore to sit through despite having hot shot British genre director Ben Wheatley at the helm and the promise of a nonstop gun battle. The vast majority of the film is literally just the gun battle, where everyone has unlimited bullets until the script says so, are constantly limbing and/or wiggling on the ground due to the heavy amount of flesh wounds, and speak nothing but the same lame jabs at each other. The great cast of actors this film possesses all are just wasted because their characters are just stock gangsters in 70s garb and you never care who lives or dies. That's including American outcast Brie Larson, whose character would have been better suited being scribbled out of the script entirely due to her lack of impact on the plot save for the stupidly predictable ending. Wheatley tries to liven up the violent festivities with some nice little duels between rivals but they are spoiled by the generally hectic and confusing editing, the garishly grim lighting, and the "Wright wannabe" pop soundtrack. Don't let the talented troupe and the consistent sounds of pistol fire fool you into enjoying this completely. You're better off playing with a bucket of green and tan army men than watching this action flick a second time.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hounds of Love - Review

Angsty Australian teen Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) sneaks out of her mother's house for a late night party only to end up in the perverse clutches of John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth), a dysfunctional couple that perform their sadistic and murderous deeds within the suburbs. HOUNDS OF LOVE can be artfully gripping and very tense at times but it ultimately ends up being just another brutal thriller to throw on the pile. First-time writer-director Ben Young tries to spruce up the picture with some super-slow-mo dolly shots, adjusting the mise en scene enough to pop out from the deliberate fluorescent lighting, and adding some choice pop songs on the soundtrack yet it sadly doesn't mean a whole lot when the story is so cookie-cutter. Just right now while you're reading this, you've already figure out how it will all end, who will be left soaking in their own blood and who will be left standing. One of the very few original plot elements this way-too-long nail-biter offers up is a montage set to a Cat Stevens song that ends up being one big cruel joke on the audience. The film thinks it's expertly touching upon themes such as a woman's identity in a complicated relationship and the psychological warfare between unstable partners but it barely explores them beyond the surface level. For example, we often see the delicate breakfast preparations Evelyn accomplishes for John, making his toast extra buttery and put in a straight line, only for it not to matter in the slightest because nobody ever eats in this movie. The acting is all around just fine with the exceptional of Booth, who gets to sink her teeth a little more as the demented put-upon lover to a volatile sexual predator. It may not be a game changer but HOUNDS OF LOVE just sneaks by as a well-made creeper. Just be prepared for some extreme material and an abundance of scatological terror.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn - Review

Poison Ivy and Floronic Man (who?) have teamed up in order to create and unleash a deadly virus that would cause the entire world to became one giant garden utopia. Batman and Nightwing are on the case but they need the help of reformed criminal Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, for some reason. BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN could have been a fun ride with its titled costumed antiheroes punching and chuckling about were it not for its awful script, annoying fan service, and its absolute refusal to justify its existence beside continuing DC's gravy train of Batman-themed cheaply animated films for the home video market. The film surprisingly reveals itself in it opening stages to be set within the landmark DC Animated Universe, as the world and the characters retain their designs from the polarizing but still highly acclaimed The New Batman Adventures. Unfortunately, screenwriters Bruce Timm and Jim Krieg then stomp on the goodwill of nostalgia and bring forth a glorified television script stretched out to 70 minutes that's so rancid that it makes you wish you were watching a feature-length adaptation of "I've Got Batman in My Basement" or "Critters". Batman, Nightwing, and Harley not only fart around Gotham acting like total idiots instead of foiling the barebones evil plot, they literally fart around; at one of the most infamous points in the film, Harley proceeds to hotbox the Batmobile thanks to some nasty buffalo wings and Batman's refusal to make a pit stop. When the film isn't padding itself out with a useless subplot with unknown comic book figure Sarge Steel, an extended dancing sequence, and two full-length musical numbers, it proceeds to lovingly exploit the sexual features of Harley. This isn't a total surprise for the character as her more promiscuous side has always been hinted at or outright pointed out in the original animated series but wow, the makers just love to shamelessly showcase as many shots of her panties and butt that they can get away with while holding on to that PG-13 rating. However, the gravest offense this movie brings is its catastrophic finale. The film concludes with a very slow reveal of a potential deus ex machina, proceeds to painfully expose it to be a total farce, has one of the heroes come up with a simple solution to all their problems and then boom, straight to credits. No joke. I'm not kidding around when I say that this probably is the worst movie ending of 2017.

Despite all my misgivings at its putrid script and my downright hatred for its pathetic denouncement to the picture, I still had some very minor enjoyment with BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN. Most of the pleasure comes from Melissa Rauch, who does a pretty damn fine job as Harley. She received much scorn from hardcore fanatics when she, not Arleen Sorkin, was announced as playing the popular female supervillain for this film, further exasperated by the fact that Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester were reprising their roles as Batman and Nightwing respectively. Once you see and hear the comedic antics and dramatic moments she pulls off here, it's safe to say that Rauch certainly proved herself as a formidable voice for the cute but deadly jester. Though the comedic script is mostly a shaggy dog, I did at least like some of the jokes, namely the always reliable Batman reaction shots. I also got a kick out of the return of the phenomenal relationship between Harley and her b.f.f. Poison Ivy, which is given a nice twist when the fists coming flying in the last act. And finally, there's absolutely no Joker at all in the picture! Thank the gods that Bruce Timm and the DC Animation crew didn't drag him out for a cheap pop. Your mileage may vary on its chaotic humor, crappy storytelling, and gratuitous titillation but at least BATMAN AND HARLEY QUINN has a few good things to keep it from being the next KILLING JOKE.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Emoji Movie - Review

Hidden within a nobody teen's totally-not-a-iPhone lies a living universe of apps, including the world of Messages, here nicknamed Textopolis, where the denizens consist entirely of sentient emoji icons. Gene, who's the newly assigned embodiment of the expression "meh", goes on the run from anti-virus robots after being labeled a "malfunction" by his superiors and must find a way outside his app to reset his soul and stop being different. THE EMOJI MOVIE is Sony's evil machination to pour down a belittling swill of rampant product placement, corporate interest and 100-proof utter nonsense down the throats of kids. Realizing that they need a story to sucker in children beside all the bright colors and dancing scenes, Sony Pictures Animation, director Tony Leondis and his co-writers Eric Siegel and Mike White just copied and pasted the script from WRECK-IT RALPH and scribbled some new things over it including "insert internet meme here". I'm dead serious when I say it's just WRECK-IT RALPH again but done bad because it includes the following: a goofy male main protagonist who wants to be more than just his programming, a character designated as a "glitch" whose existence could theoretically wipe out a world, a female punky outsider, a literal secret princess, an extended sequence at a candy-covered world, a party area where the "good" people hang out at, and a villainous authority figure who smiles a lot but barks out evil orders. When they aren't cribbing from Disney, the makers filled out the open pages in the script with whatever corporate sponsorship that they were able to secure. Why tell a compelling narrative of any kind when you can get some extra advertising money by shoehorning in Candy Crush, Just Dance, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox? Unfortunately for them, no amount of dirty ole green stuff can clog up the massive plot holes they left bare. The Grand Canyon of these inconsistencies is that the main characters say that they need to jump through several apps in order to reach their ultimate destination except it's been very well established that they can just run around the apps on the phone's wallpaper and make the trip ten times shorter!

I really want to rail further against the absolutely horrendous plot including how the makers don't know how cell phones work, how they developed a romantic subplot only to then drop it in a catastrophic fashion or the dystopian hellscape they created where the real world consists entirely of everyone speaking to each other through emojis not texts but let's move on to the film's other detriments. The movie is flat out unfunny. All of the humor is groan worthy at best and whenever a joke falls on his face the makers just toss in an ill-advised movie reference. The most torturous running gag even for little kiddies is when Gene's meh parents, voiced by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge, go on the search for their son and have every conversation with each other play out in a lifeless tone. Speaking of the cast, they are utterly wasted by the tripe beings they lent their voices to. I don't know who got it worst: Anna Faris as one of the worst written female leads in a modern animated film or Sir Patrick Stewart forcibly spewing out poop puns as the poop emoji? The lone stinker in the bunch however is the otherwise talented James Corden as Hi-5, who's naturally the high five emoji. A character that could have been written out of the movie and nothing would change beside the lack of fat jokes, Hi-5 further becomes a burden to the picture thanks to Corden's obnoxious delivery and unceasing dialogue. THE EMOJI MOVIE is about as soulless as you can get with an animated feature. Not since FOODFIGHT! has there been this big of a corporate infused mess. But hey, at least there are no food Nazis and rampant sexual themes in this one, save for a internet porn joke.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Review

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his fellow gang of galaxy-saving misfits find themselves being the prime target of several parties. A gold-skinned, genetically perfect race known as The Sovereign want their heads after Rocket steal the space batteries that he and the crew were hired to protect; Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his rebellious Ravagers subsequently become The Sovereign's personal goon squad to bring the Guardians to their scheduled execution; Nebula still wants to best Gamora in combat and scrub her sister from existence; and a bearded man named Ego (Kurt Russell) arrives to spend some quality time with his supposed lost son Star-Lord. Though not a planet-jumping adventure flick like its previous entry, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is an intriguing yet slow-moving sequel that spends more time with a heady discussion on the concept of god and its parallels to the relationship between a father and son. This will greatly disappoint those coming into it looking for more big CGI battles to munch popcorn to and for any advancement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Writer-director James Gunn does include these elements along with his standard rowdy humor and pop culture mentions but they are all substandard this time around. The violence is chiefly and stupidly directed for 3D purposes, thus making it practically useless to view its full potential in the future, and the wild slapstick does bring some hearty laughs but it doesn't feel as fresh as it once was. For example, Drax's unstoppable fit of laughter was one of the best jokes in the first film and here it's repeated nearly nonstop during the first half. The actors are all still great and each are given a moment to shine but the real standouts are Karen Gillan as a more fleshed out Nebula and Pom Klementieff as the wonderfully naive servant Mantis. The production design is absolutely gorgeous, from the new costumes to the warped out spaceships to the breathtaking CGI vistas and buildings that reside on Ego's personal planet. The pop song laden soundtrack once again compliments the visuals significantly, particularly the use of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" and a special song by Cat Stevens at the very end. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 may be seen as a disappointment by Marvel fans for its lack of Thanos and talk of Infinity Gems but its true sequel approach allow us to enjoy a fun movie about theology and what makes a family and deepens our love for these quirky characters. It wants to be THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of its franchise and it does so for better or worse.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

My Tops of 2017 - April

GET OUT wasn't just an amazing horror film or a comedy film, it was a masterpiece.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was satisfying at best but will evaporate from the public consciousness, the same fate all Disney live-action remakes share.

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS was a fun popcorn flick with some cool action sequences that nearly fell up due to Vin Diesel's acting and egotism.

● Overall Film Count: 7 ●

So yeah, about me going out to see more movies this month...

The drive-ins did finally open mid-month but I was either rained out or didn't have the strong urge to venture out. Regardless, I at least got to see the two heavy-hitters of the season and what will sure to be either my top film in the entire year or in my top five. Plus, I still haven't seen a straight up stinker yet!

Best Films of 2017

1. Get Out

2. The Lego Batman Movie

3. Logan

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Fate of the Furious - Review

DSS agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the Furious gang have a tall order this time around: they must work alongside their former foe Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in order to take down Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has gone rogue and teaming up with the cyberterrorist "Cipher" (Charlize Theron). Most viewers will use the old adage that THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS shows that the franchise is running on fumes but I feel that it just squeaks by as serviceable action entertainment. Make no mistake though, there's a lot of issues brought forth by the makers that make the running time of two and a quarter hours a slow ride. The film kicks off with a beautiful yet way too long prologue in Cuba simply so they can have the requisite street racing sequence the franchise is forever tethered to feature in each and every installment. This part ends with the grave decision to show Dom getting blackmailed by "Cipher" in person, thus immediately ruining the entire tension of the picture. The rest of the story then becomes a confusing juggling act fueled by the egotism of the film's lead star/producer. The good guys are often pushed to the side and treated as total losers, due to being constantly outsmarted by that super strong Dom and his magnificent brain and driving skills. Meanwhile, everything with Dom is spelled thoroughly out, from the early reveal of why he pulled a heel turn to what he has planned to take down the baddies. That latter element not only robs whatever tension the pic has left but will cause you to immediately think about all the other giant plot holes littered within the script. These unanswered questions include: how is "Cipher"'s plane forever flying in the air? How could Dom make some outside contact despite being under heavy surveillance? And finally, the big one, why is "Cipher" going to great lengths having Dom steal a bunch of things just to steal something that is easy to hack and literally out in the open and in the middle of nowhere?

F. Gary Gray should have been a great pick for this film due to his previous experience with car heist flicks with the 2003 remake of THE ITALIAN JOB and his recent critical success with STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Unfortunately, he slips and falls mightily in this endeavor. The mammoth amount of CGI work ruins any vision he had in mind and he has a terrible rampant habit of slow-mo shots in order to benefit the 3D patrons that are now and forever nonexistent. Worst, the climatic finale involves everyone literally driving in a straight line and yet there's no grasp on where everyone is, how many evil trucks are left, and where's the finishing line. Funny enough for this car movie, the best action sequences are the hand-to-hand ones, namely a prison riot chase between Johnson and Statham and an amazing and hilarious gunfight with the latter actor against an army of goons at the end of the film. These two moments do suffer from a little too much shaky cam but the testosterone is overflowing and the violence is sensational. The majority of the actors seem to be on auto-pilot, save for Johnson and Statham who have a rich buddy cop camaraderie between them. Diesel, on the other hand, is far too grumpy and boring to take serious this time around, save for one scene where he actually remembers to act. However, everyone's Stella Adler compared to Scott Eastwood; the film tries to openly mock his shortcomings by having the characters nickname him "Nobody" in order to curb audience rejection but he really sucks out all of the charisma in every group scene.

I'm only giving THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS a slight pass because the overall enjoyment factor is still slightly above average. I was not a fan of the mediocre script and direction, Diesel's insecurities on full display, the terrible trap music that floods the soundtrack, the entire act in New York City, or the flagrant sequel setup ripped straight up from a saturday morning cartoon. Seriously, it's so blatant, I was expecting voiceover legend Frank Welker to be ADR-ed in, scream vengeance and have his evil cat bellow out a meow. Nevertheless, I could still find excitement in the car chases, the pro wrestling fights and again, that Statham showcase at the conclusion that is sure to rank up as one of the best moments in the entire franchise. Hopefully Diesel will find some humor in his life and learn to play with others, letting his fellow actors look strong in the expected next two films. If not, the fate of this series is surely doomed.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) - Review

A tale as old as time repeats itself as Disney continues its strong willed campaign to earn more money off their old properties with a modern live-action take of the beloved 1991 animated classic. As much as I really wanted for this remake to succeed with ease, making all of the previous Disney reimaginings to be the rough drafts they were, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST sadly doesn't excel beyond being just a serviceable distraction. The story stays close to the Disney version for the most part but screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos put some effort into updating the text. They spackle some of the glaring plot holes of the original film, bring more characterization to the characters and the townsfolk, and even have time to go straight to the source material and include the original conflict of the fairy tale with Belle's father taking a rose from the Beast's garden. Despite all of these welcoming new spins and turns to the story, the two writers instead create a whole new set of problems for the audience to swallow. Belle comes off as a total hipster, believing she's a "fearless" independent woman who likes to read yet she often changes her mind on the whim and is as vapid and shallow as the "little" people in her little town. Belle and the Beast now have even more tragic backstories that are eye-rolling at best, with the lame search for what happened to the heroine's mother oddly being a crucial subplot. The possible fate of the Beast's servants is now more horrific and disturbing, greatly overshadowing the fate of their master to remain a beast forever. But the most detrimental addition is the fact that the central romance is not something created organically but due to some divine intervention. I would like to continue ranting about more odds and ends in the story, such as how Belle's farm is strangely within the town, the very stupid new magical item bequeathed by the Enchantress, or the totally tubular version of Chip who skateboards on a saucer, but you get the point that this screenplay is even more flawed than what was presented back in 1991.

Bill Condon's direction is often quite beautifully extravagant, particularly the many crane shots and the scenes that greatly utilize the widescreen format. But the real beauty lies within the production design, which is just a magnificent achievement in terms of scope and detail. Unfortunately, both of these beauties are hampered often by the sheer dumb decision to color correct the film and make everything look dark grey, dark blue, and dark orange. The editing leaves a lot to be desired; this remake is 45 minutes longer than the original, causing the story to flow like maple syrup from the tap, and is heavily beset with a ton of terrible transitions and fade-to-blacks. The cast is filled with talents yet they are very hit or miss. Emma Watson is somewhat miscast and doesn't have a great singing voice, Dan Stevens' turn as a more flippant Beast is fine but layered behind CGI and an altered voice, the actors behind the servants are either underused or way too shrill, and Luke Evans and Josh Gad as Gaston and Le Fou respectively steal the show with their more nuanced and devilish cartoon figures. Of course, the real star of the film has to be the legendary score by Alan Menken and the songs he co-wrote with the late great Howard Ashman. Sadly, to accompany the new story changes, Ashman's legendary lyrics in nearly all of the songs have been crossed out and replaced by ones supplied by the dastardly Tim Rice. Once your ears hit upon these alterations first with "Belle", your enthusiasm for the music instantly drains and remain stagnant through the rest of the feature. As for the new incorporated songs that are solely here in order to earn Best Song Oscar nominations next year, they are all goofily overblown and lack a real soul. I will say though that I did like Céline Dion version of "How Does A Moment Last Forever", which plays over the imaginative first set of ending credits. And the less said about Ariana Grande and John Legend's take on the pop version of the title track, or hell even Emma Thompson's movie version, the better.

It would have been a tall, tall order for the 2017 version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to top the 1991 animated film, which is so beloved in this reviewer's heart that it basically has ownership of my right ventricle. Unfortunately, it misses wildly but not to the point of being a total failure or even as bad as Disney's THE JUNGLE BOOK last year. It's a must-see for art and design fanatics, an one-and-done watch for the hardcore Disneyheads, and something to burn a Saturday on for the general public and bored kids. If you somehow think I'm way too hard on it, at least I didn't say that I would rather watch the infamous animated direct-to-video sequels than this live-action remake again. Those ones were really bad at the time and continue to be terrible drecks, no matter how many times Disney tries to re-release them. This film, on the other hand, will have its time and place but will eventually be an afterthought as all will want to curl up with the original evermore.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Charlie Murphy - RIP

Charlie Murphy has died from leukemia. He was 57 years old.

The older brother of comedy legend Eddie Murphy, Charlie seemed destined to remain in the shadow and in the entourage of his much more successful younger brother. He was often regulated to bit roles during the 80's and 90's, only able to have a brief moment in the sun when he got to play the antagonist in the cult comedy CB4. He also helped his brother create the genuinely awful story and screenplay for Vampire In Brooklyn.

His fortunes quickly changed in the mid-2000s when he participated on the super successful Chappelle's Show. He became well known on the show for "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories", a series of sketches where he stood in front of a green screen and rattled off goofy tales of him hobnobbing with other celebrities during the 80s. Murphy and Dave Chapelle would then reenact the events to humorous effect. The most famous iteration of this segment of course had to be his violent spats one night with funk superstar Rick James, whose real-life self would pop up to repeat to the audience that, "cocaine's hell of a drug."

His work on Chappelle's Show allowed him to kick start a successful stand-up comedy career. His acting gigs greatly expanded and he was often put to great use doing voiceover work, most notably his recurring role as idiotic rich white boy Ed Wuncler III in The Boondocks.

He will be missed.

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Tops of 2017 - March

LOGAN allowed the X-Men franchise to get darker and depressing, thanks to James Mangold's exceptional vision of a gritty modern western in the disguise of a superhero flick.

● Overall Film Count: 4 ●

Oh boy, this was a wasted month for me. I skipped out on several chances and right when I was ready for the drive-ins to open, a horrible winter storm bares down on us. I really need to hike up my britches next month.

Despite some minor mixed feelings, I'm confident enough to put Logan on the Best list. Who knows, maybe it will later beat Lego Batman as a better superhero movie in my opinion.

Best Films of 2017

1. The Lego Batman Movie

2. Logan

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Logan - Review

It's 2029 and the mutant population is near extinct due to a series of unspecified calamities and a nil birth rate. James "Logan" Howlett (Hugh Jackman) is barely scrapping by between the U.S.-Mexico border and slowly dying from the adamantium grafted on to his skeleton and his degenerative healing factor. But he finds a better purpose to live out his last days when a woman pays him a considerable sum to chauffeur and protect a special little girl (Dafne Keen) from a pack of mechanically enhanced mercenaries and the evil medical corporation that funds them. LOGAN is a delightfully disturbing western in the disguise of a superhero blockbuster. It's overflowing with blood and butchery while also crafting a nice tale of redemption and fatherhood. Those of you who are a bit trepidatious about missing out on the two previous X-MEN movies or having a lack of knowledge with the Wolverine character, do not panic. The film is practically an Elseworlds story, meaning it has no real baggage or continuity with the franchise, and anyone can understand the personal history of Logan within the first ten minutes thanks to James Mangold's direction. However, though it is an original piece within the world of superhero movies and an anti-example of the Hollywood proliferation of safe, PG-13 approved works, it's not really super mind-blowing once you have the context of pop culture. Upon first glance of the plot, you'll instantly recall CHILDREN OF MEN and for those who are more savvy with video games, the sight of a bearded, broken down violent man and his guardianship of brunette girl across a dark American landscape will just make you want to play "The Last of Us" again. The script also has some further major issues, such as how it violently hammers down one of its themes with the inclusion of the film SHANE and how two brutal major character deaths have some limp weight due to them being included within a savage display of vulgar force. Nevertheless, these setbacks can not overcome the considerable acting skills of Jackman and Patrick Stewart in a return supporting turn as Charles Xavier, nor it can defeat Mangold's ambitious scope of a world where the lack of mutants has led humankind to resume poisoning itself further into oblivion. Plus, I just love the fact that X-23 is now on the big screen, handled with considerable care and given a nice feral performance by newcomer Keen.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Fire Pro Wrestling World Announced!

My prayers have been answered again! After a week of high anticipation, wrestling video game fans got to rejoice yesterday at the announcement of Fire Pro Wrestling World. The game will be coming to PC and PS4 later in the year but will first arrive on Steam Early Access in the 2nd quarter of 2017 in order to fix out the kinks.

The last time Fire Pro fans received a proper installment in the cult wrestling video game franchise was way back in 2005 with the release of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, then considered the proper swan song for the series. Since then, the franchise has lay dormant save for two very less-than-stellar spinoffs: a bland 2011 mobile game only made available in Japan and the infamous Xbox 360 digital game in 2012 where the beautifully made sprite work was replaced by Microsoft's Avatars.

For those that need some context, the Fire Pro Wrestling games are known for their amazing 2D animation, large cast of characters based off real Japanese and American wrestlers, early integration of hardcore and MMA matches, and a grappling and A.I. system that helps recreate real match psychology. To give you an example of how innovative the series has been, popular wrestling maneuvers such as the Styles Clash and the Canadian Destroyer were animated and featured in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns way, way before there were included in WWE and TNA video games. Most general video game fans will be well aware of the wrestling game series due to the popularity of video game creator Suda51 (Goichi Suda), who got his start in the gaming business via this series and who infamously directed the dark and depressing story mode of Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special.

The hype for Fire Pro Wrestling World first started a week ago on February 23, when Spike Chunsoft created a Twitter account and posted a tweet with a YouTube link and a screenshot of two wrestlers and a referee standing in certain noteworthy positions. The Twitter account was named "GDC 3/2", referring to the presentation that Spike Chunsoft would be having at the Game Developers Conference the following Thursday.

The world got to see what exactly Spike Chunsoft has planned for Fire Pro Wrestling World thanks to them uploading the official promotion video yesterday night. The art style will be nearly exact to what was present in Fire Pro Wrestling Returns and that cage and hardcore matches will return. However, as hinted by the grapplers in the video, potential intellectual property issues has led to the removal of wrestler clones.

Henry Gilbert on Twitter had more to reveal about what was said at the presentation. The game will start off with 30 original wrestlers, leaving the rest of the roster to be crafted or shared by the online community. Online multiplayer will be present for the first time (if you don't count the Xbox 360 game) and will be 4 player only at the start; the developers wish to implement the option for 6 man matches. Edit mode returns but is updated so you can have up to nine layers for every part and you can finally have a clear look at the front and backside of the create-a-wrestler. Given the 12 year gap in games, a ton of new wrestling moves will added, with the first reveal being Kenny Omega's finishing maneuver One-Winged Angel, though of course it will be renamed due to obvious reasons.

Fire Pro Wrestling World director Tomoyuki Matsumoto told Gilbert of his intense passion for the series, as he has been doing presentations for the game for over five years. It wasn't until the international success of Danganronpa and Zero Escape for Spike to finally give him a chance at making a new entry. Additionally, just to make the Spike Chunsoft presentation even more phenomenal for video game fans, the company also surprisingly revealed that 428: Shibuya Scramble will finally come over to the States thru PS4 and PC as well.

I may not write a lot of video game reviews and articles on this site as I initially tried to do but I just had to express my adoration for this announcement and nerd the hell out at the return of Fire Pro.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Tops of 2017 - February

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 brought us more Keanu Reeves, more headshots, and more info on the bizarre world of assassins. Too bad it couldn't bring more intelligence to Wick himself or remove the blatant sequel bait.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE thankfully gave us not only another great Batman movie but another entertaining love letter to the weird world of the Caped Crusader.

● Overall Film Count: 3 ●

This is the second time where my adventures to the movie theaters in February brought me some solid works, including one film that made it on to my Best Films list. Unfortunately, despite my adoration for it, I believe that Lego Batman will be lower down on the list or even off the Top 20 depending on the rest of the year's output.

March is usually the start of drive-in movie season so if the weird weather whiplashes start to subside significantly, I'll be able to watch more movies.

Best Films of 2017

1. The Lego Batman Movie

Monday, February 27, 2017

Reaction To The 2017 Oscars

What the hell just happened?

Screw the routine, let's start with what happened at the end: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are ready to read the winner of Best Picture, Beatty goofily stretches out the suspense, before finally letting Dunaway read off that La La Land. The film's producers are doing their speeches all the while what appeared to be the Oscar show runners running around in the background, looking for the envelope. Jordan Horowitz announces that there's was a mistake and says that Moonlight really won. He keeps repeating that it isn't a joke before showing on camera the evidence.

"Warren! What did you do?!" Beatty then steps up and says that he opened the envelope and saw Emma Stone for La La Land, meaning he received the Best Actress in a Lead Role for the accountants. In other words, he's not the next Steve Harvey.

I'm very glad that Moonlight got the surprise upset but this awards controversy overshadowed its accomplishment of being the first Best Picture winner with a queer lead character. But man, it would have been so bad if the opposite happened; the backlash against La La Land would have been far greater if that transpired.

Due to the epic failure at the end, I'm once again back at my usual average of 16-8. Just great.

As for the ceremony overall, it was alright but way too long. Further plagued down by repetitive anti-Trump remarks and "stand united" declarations. The flat theme of the show was "Inspiration", which was shown via three unnecessary segments where Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, and Javier Bardem talk about their favorite films. Because that draws in the new viewers: Bardem praising Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County.

Jimmy Kimmel started off painfully dull and became awful by the end. His opening monologue had him speaking way too fast, killing the timing of each and every joke, and his material was so softball. It was so bad that he literally retold the same joke about Elle and Captain Fantastic: congrads, Viggo and Isabella, but no one saw your movie. He ran his comedic feud with Matt Damon further into the ground save for his "Inspiration" clip where he mocked We Bought a Zoo. Referring The Great Wall as that "Chinese ponytail movie" also was a pointed observation.

Oh wow, that's a pretty bad tan job there, Alicia Vikander.

Suicide Squad. Oscar winning movie.

The gladhands were the student Oscar winners. They were fine save for the rude bearded guy who was aggressively pushing the make-up winners.

That Rolex commercial with the ill-timed appearance of Bill Paxton from Titanic. Ouch. The commercial itself was pretty good though, basically a truncated version of The Clock.

Lin-Manuel Miranda produced a Hamiliton-like intro before the performance of "How Far I'll Go", just to remind you that Hamiliton exists and everyone can't get enough of it.

Auli'i Cravalho was doing a great job on stage and then that ocean flag waver hit bopped her in the head.

During the ad breaks, Wal-Mart premiered its newest marketing gimmick: having Marc Forster, Antoine Fuqua, and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg produce a commercial around some random items on a receipt. All ended up being pretty damn bad. Fuqua ripped off Spielberg movies to tell a lame tale of a kid gifting a baby video monitor to an alien spacecraft, who gifts him a bunch of emojis. Forster had a nonsensical one with post-apocalyptic kid ravagers and little pigs. And finally, Rogen & Goldberg's ad was better produced, faking an one shot take of different musical stylings, but clearly showed they didn't give two licks trying to write a story.

So the gifted food to the stars segment this year was candy being air dropped from the ceiling while set to "Ride of the Valkyries". And of course, Kimmel made it so unfunny and repetitive.

Taraji P. Henson was a having a barrel of a time bequeathing the best reaction shots during the evening.

The theme to S.W.A.T.? That's a television show!

Honorary Oscar winner Jackie Chan brought a nice date to the show: a clothed teddy bear.

"My hear was broken!" So glad I don't have to rewatch that clip ever again.

Viola Davis won and gave the best award speech of the night.

Sting's "The Empty Chair" performance was so short and unmemorable, they had to have that "challenge authority with journalism" quote to draw up real applause.

Gael García Bernal remarks about the U.S.-Mexico Wall proposal and then just coldly introduces the nominees to Best Animated Film. Smooth.

It took nearly two hours until La La Land won something, starting first with Best Production Design.

My god, the tour bus gag. Absolute torture. All of the tourists entered into the Dolby Theater holding their phones in front of them. Screw Gary from Chicago, I hated that guy. Yeah, just take Mahershala Ali's well earned Oscar out of his hands and give him your camera so he can do the forced upon selfie, you loser!

The Oscars orchestra played "Nowhere Fast" from Streets of Fire!!! Hell freaking yes!!!

Was the "Movies Around The World" montage really necessary? It was just a bunch of random interviews with foreign people, one of whom said that their absolute favorite American movie was Suicide Squad.

Hey guys, isn't Back To The Future the absolute best? Here's Seth Rogen coming out of the DeLorean with Michael J. Fox while wearing the self-lacing Nike shoes. Not as cool as when the pro wrestling tag team The Time Splitters did it.

Hacksaw Ridge for Best Editing? The movie lambasted for how slow the first half is?

Kimmel's "Circle of Life" gag with Sunny Pawar was so damn awkward and possibly a bit racist.

I don't know what was going on during that teaser for Bright, a Netflix Original Film starring Will Smith, but it looked cool so, yay!!! Get that reference, if you can!

Speaking of Netflix, they finally won their first Oscar for distributing The White Helmets. Eat that Amazon!

Oh god, now its time for Mean Tweets.

John Legend performing both nominated songs from La La Land, neither of which were sung by his character in the film, gave me bad flashbacks to that one Oscars when Beyonce sang three of nominated songs, included the one with the French kid choir.

Justin Schwartz wins Best Score, says he will not bore the million of viewers with a bunch of names, only to contradict himself immediately when he wins Best Score.

A lot of people were Farina'd during the "In Memoriam" segment. The one I noticed right away was Miguel Ferrer. Further omissions include Alexis Arquette, Jon Polito, Robert Vaughn, and Garry Shandling.

We Hate Movies accurately predicted it: John Hurt's clip would be him as Garrick Ollivander from Harry Potter.

Spoilers abound in the movie clips, as per usual with the Oscars, but the reveal for Casey Affleck's stigma in Manchester By The Sea was particularly bad.

And then you know what happened.

Lion and Hell Or High Water were this year's total shut-outs.

A bunch of nice accomplishments throughout the show only to be ruined by a failed finale and a dreadful host.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton - RIP

Absolutely ruining Hollywood's biggest night and actively crushing the hearts of everyone, it was shockingly announced that actor Bill Paxton has died from surgery complications. He was 61 years old.

Paxton got his start in Hollywood alternating between acting and directing. His biggest claim to fame in the early stages of his career was starring and directing the music video for Barnes & Barnes' "Fish Heads", which later would have a special airing on Saturday Night Live.

His fortunes would soon change in 1984 with the release of two films. In the rock-n-roll action musical Streets of Fire, he played Clyde, the resident bartender and close friend to Michael Paré's Tom Cody. It was the first meaty role for him and helped establish one of Paxton's go-to character types: the macho show-off who would buckle on pressure and/or be too laughable to take serious. This type would applied to his more memorable 1984 role as the leader of a group of punks who pick a fight with a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. This would be the first time Paxton would work with director James Cameron and help lead to a lasting friendship between the two.

Paxton's profile expanded greatly in the next two years, first starring off as Chet Donnelly, the obnoxious older brother of Ilan Mitchell-Smith in the popular sci-fi comedy Weird Science. But it was his new buddy James Cameron who gave his most famous role of all time as Private Hudson in the sci-fi action blockbuster Aliens. A space marine dripping in arrogance who would later find himself way over his head once he takes a walk through the dark corridors of LV-426, Hudson proved to be the top fan favorite of the movie. Paxton did a phenomenal job as the cocky and beleaguered grunt thanks mostly to his quote-friendly dialogue. His most memorable line, "Game Over, man. Game over!", was improvised by Paxton and would be later re-quoted and parodied in the years to come.

His very next role allowed Paxton to give another great performance. In Kathryn Bigelow's modern horror western Near Dark, Paxton was cast as Severen, the wild card and second-in-command of a group of nomadic vampires. Severen is the darkest character Paxton would ever play, as evident by the twisted bar scene where he horrifically murders several patrons. For the next couple of years, Paxton would be largely drifting along in Hollywood due to a series of less-than-stellar feature films. He would pull out his popular cocky routine again in supporting roles for Navy SEALs and Predator 2 but he couldn't singlehandedly salvage the entire production.

His return to form would come in 1992 from a little film that was going to be sent straight to video but was given a theatrical release thanks to advance word of mouth and the growing indie movement. One False Move had Paxton play a small town Chief of Police who get wrapped up into the major investigation and chase for three violent killers, one of whom happens to be a former lover.

Paxton then embarked on a series of memorable supporting roles in major Hollywood blockbusters. First up was Tombstone where he played Morgan Earp, the tragic younger brother to Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp. James Cameron came a-calling again and gave Paxton the role of Simon, a sleazy car salesman with a penchant for lying and pissing his pants at danger, in the comedic action-fest True Lies. Ron Howard then gave him a potential Oscar-nominated role as Fred Haise, the third doomed NASA astronaut in Apollo 13. Paxton was able to put the brakes on his streak of supporting roles for a bit in 1996 and got to star as reckless storm chaser Bill "The Extreme" Harding in the disaster feature Twister. And finally, to put a special pin on his run of blockbusters, he played treasure-seeking oceanographer Brock Lovett in the absolute biggest film of the 90's, James Cameron's Titanic.

Following the success of Titanic, Paxton gave a strong lead performance in A Simple Plan, the neo noir directed by Sam Raimi about a trio of friends who find a cache of money and slowly start to distrust each other. Unfortunately, the film was spurned by audiences and Paxton was overshadowed come Oscar time by his co-star Billy Bob Thornton. The next set of years had Paxton again appearing in several blockbuster hopefuls such as Mighty Joe Young and Vertical Limit but his resources weren't well utilized. Paxton had to take matters into his own hands and in 2001, he directed and starred in Frailty. The dark thriller saw Paxton play a deeply disturbed father of two boys who believes that God tells him to kill several people who are demons in disguise. Paxton's acting and directing skills were hailed by critics at the time and the film has since become a cult gem.

After another spell of supporting roles in forgettable movies and stepping in the director's chair again for The Greatest Game Ever Played, Paxton finally achieved significant critical acclaim with his lead performance in the HBO drama series Big Love. For five seasons, he played Bill Henrickson, a practicing polygamist who must balance out his marriage to three women and the children he breeds with each of them. Since the show's conclusion in 2011, Paxton has once again been popping up in supporting roles for movies. His most memorable year in recent times was in 2014, when he had three roles: baseball pitching coach Tom House in Million Dollar Arm, the comedically cruel Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow, and the unsavory freelance photojournalist Joe Loder in Nightcrawler.

Bill Paxton was one of my favorite players in Hollywood. I vividly remember re-reading a great magazine piece about him around the time of Twister, which helped opened my eyes about his extensive work and how largely unsung his career is. He was one of the guys that when you saw his name pop up in the credits, you would get instantly excite because you knew he would always bring his A-game. He was James Cameron's lucky charm and a supporting player who often stole the show away from the leads.

He will sorely be missed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 Oscars Predictions

As always, these are my predictions to win, not who or what movie I wish would win.

Best Picture: La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck - Manchester By The Sea

Best Actress: Emma Stone - La La Land

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis - Fences

Best Director: Damien Chazelle - La La Land

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan - Manchester By The Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney - Moonlight

Best Animated Film: Zootopia

Best Foreign Film: The Salesman

Best Documentary Film: O.J.: Made in America

Best Documentary (Short Subject): The White Helmets

Best Animated Short Film: Borrowed Time

Best Live Action Short Film: Enemies Within

Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz - La La Land

Best Original Song: "City of Stars" - La La Land

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren - La La Land

Best Film Editing: Tom Cross - La La Land

Best Production Design: Jess Gonchor and Nancy Haigh - Hail, Caesar!

Best Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine - Jackie

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo - Star Trek Beyond

Best Sound Editing: Sylvain Bellemare - Arrival

Best Sound Mixing: David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Visual Effects: The Jungle Book

I am so unhyped about this year's Oscars. Everyone already knows La La Land is going to win so there's no suspense to be had, nor is there a sliver of a chance of Moonlight coming out of the shadows to steal Best Picture. Plus, the ceremony will be filled with a lot of political speeches and sick burns against Trump, so the viewing audience will be even more smaller than the previous year. Then you have the extended "in memoriam" segment that's is sure to depress the hell out of you. And finally, Jimmy Kimmel as the host. Ugh!

So I have La La Land winning seven of their 14 nominations. It almost was eight because their is a pretty high chance that Ryan Gosling could win. The prominence of Casey Affleck during the awards season led to previous allegations against the actor to spring up "unexpectedly" and the SAGs responded in kind by spurning him for Best Actor.

It would be pretty cool if Taylor Sheridan nabbed Best Screenplay but it will be Kenneth Lonergan's only chance at getting a golden man.

The lack of Elle means it's open season for Best Foreign Language Film. Unfortunately for Toni Erdmann, not only will it be snubbed for the Palme d'Or but for this one as well, as The Salesman is the likely winner. But hey, maybe the American remake with the returning Jack Nicholson will have a better chance.

Best Documentary is a tricky one, as three of the five nominees involve harsh examinations of the African American experience. They could cancel each other out but O.J.: Made In America is too ambitious to fail.

Similar to the feature length award, the Best Short Documentary has two films that focus on Syrian crisis. I'm crossing my fingers that Joe's Violin doesn't win because it is yet another Holocaust movie, and the Academy just can't get enough of Holocaust movies (see last year's win of Son of Saul).

Piper is Pixar's only chance this year but I think the anti-Pixar animated short Borrowed Time will snuff it out. Pearl is the dark horse however due to its musical story of a father and daughter on a road trip.

Man, it would be hilarious if Suicide Squad won an Oscar. Honestly though, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Nelson did a great job on that film.

I really, really wish that Kubo and the Two Strings or Doctor Strange would win Best Visual Effects. The work put into those movies still blow my mind. Sadly, that stupid Sin City wannabe will easily nab it.

See you on Monday with my reactions to the awards and the ceremony itself.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Top 15 Worst Razzie Nominations and Winners

Tomorrow, the night before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have their big gala at the Dolby Theatre, the Golden Raspberry Awards get to have their moment to shine. This "professional" organization, created by John J. B. Wilson and Mo Murphy in 1981, "honors" the fine men and women who brought forth the worst films imaginable. Because of these annual festivities, we have the darker elements of pop culture forever on display, in order to show future generations the stupidity people had to sit through in theaters. Unfortunately, like many award shows, there is debate to what was included and even won. This is my view on the failures of the Razzies.

I previously covered some of my harsh attitudes towards the Razzies way back in 2013 with just a simple top ten list. I have always wanted to give the list a fresh new update, retaining my previous remarks while peppering in some other lowlights, so it is now expanded to 15 entries where the Razzies were the ones that screwed up.

Once again, in order to make it on to this list, I have to have a really strong dislike for what the Razzies have done and are willing to defend it. For example, the attack on Sly Stallone and his two films in 1985, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV, can be debatable due to the individual merits and sheer dumb intentions of those films. And, as always, I need to have actually seen the films.

Before we jeer the jeerers, let's chip in some honorable mentions that I didn't seem fit to discuss more about:

* Betsy Palmer got the bad rap being nominated for Worst Supporting Actress for her shocking and risky turn in Friday the 13th.

* Mommie Dearest is pretty campy and laughable for some people to watch but the film and Faye Dunaway does not really earn the eternal scorn the Razzies has given it.

* The multiple nominations and Michael Cimino's win as Worst Director for Heaven's Gate were most likely earned due to the infamous theatrical cut and the general stigma the film had upon release but any film nerd or a simple glance at the Criterion Collection can tell you this is total horse hockey.

* "I Want Your Sex" by George Michael has no right being named the Worst Original Song of 1987.

* Die-hard fans of The Ramones may loathe the song but "Pet Sematary" from the movie of the same name isn't really bad at all. It's just another pop-punk ditty.

* I know that many people are pissed at George C. Scott's Worst Actor nomination for The Exorcist III, let alone that The Exorcist III is anywhere associated with bad movie awards.

* Nominating Danny Devito for Batman Returns? Are you kidding me?

* Still haven't gotten around to seeing it again but I still think Demi Moore's Worst Actress win for G.I. Jane was undeserving. Especially since Fran Descher was right there!

* Jim Carrey certainly wasn't one of the Worst New Stars of 1994 for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask.

* The Most Tiresome Tabloid Targets Award is kinda of a nice snapshot of pop culture in 2005 but has absolutely nothing to do with movies.

15. Body Hair and Body Parts Are Actors Too (1992)

I groan and loathe whenever the Razzies has a jokey nomination in the running for any of their awards. Probably the most egregious moment has to be at the 13th edition, when two dubious noms were entered into the Worst New Star category. The first one was Kevin Costner's crew cut in The Bodyguard. Remember how memorable that was? No? The second nomination was even more stupider than a bad hair job: Sharon Stone's "tribute" to Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver in Basic Instinct. How is that a joke at all? Thankfully, Pauly Shore took home the award but the history books will forever show how pitiful the Razzies can come with their nominations.

14. Robing Hood: Prince of Dweebs (Thieves): Worst Actor (Kevin Costner) (1991)

Yes, Costner didn't even try for a British accent in the movie but he was enjoyable as the renowned outlaw. The reason this is on this list is the sheer fact that Costner won the award largely for such a small excuse compared to his opponents: a shock humor misogynist in his own concert film (Andrew Dice Clay, Dice Rules), a failed attempt to forego action heroics for stilted comedy (Sylvester Stallone, Oscar), an unbearable walking experience of egotism (Bruce Willis, Hudson Hawk), and a graduate of Prince's Academy of Singers Who Can't Act (Vanilla Ice, Cool as Ice). Then, there's the other actors who were off the list but are more deserving to replace Costner, such as Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold (though he was included as Worst New Star) and Chevy Chase in Nothing But Trouble.

13. The Joe Eszterhas Worst-Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million Award (1996)

Every now and then, the Razzies create a new category either to skewer one of their repeated offenders or to mock Hollywood trends. The success of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was a mighty big thorn in their side, so they crafted a commemorative category for him, designed to include audience favorites that did well in the box office. How this was not brought back up during the Twilight years is anyone's guess. The problem with the category itself is that all of its nominations didn't really truly and absolutely stink in the story: Independence Day and the "winner" Twister were just exciting big-budget B-movies, A Time to Kill is pretty harrowing at times and has a famous if clumsy monologue, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame actually touches upon themes truly shocking to see in a Disney film. The last nominee, Mission: Impossible, I can kinda see fitting since the complicated multiple betrayals are still hard to understand but the film was still entertaining. Speaking of new categories...

12. The Razzie Redeemer Award (2014 - Ongoing)

Does anyone remember The Swan? Hailed as the absolute worst reality television series ever created, the show had a bunch of women get complete makeovers, including plastic surgery, in order to achieve the beautiful outer appearance they always dreamed of having. These same women then immediately compete in a beauty pageant so the show can determine who's the best ugly ducking turned swan. The Razzies proceeded to copy this model of faux good intentions when in 2014 they created the Razzie Redeemer Award. The newly crafted prize was designed to honor past Razzie nominees for their new worthwhile efforts but they still had to compete against each other just to be the real redeemer. Kristen Stewart, Keanu Reeves, Mike Myers, and Jennifer Aniston all helped produced acclaimed works that year but Ben Affleck seemed to do it that much better I guess because he got an Oscar. In the second iteration of the award, the Razzie committee continued the stupid structure but were already stretching at the seems, giving Elizabeth Banks a nomination for directing Pitch Perfect 2 simply because she was one of the 13 directors of the anthology film Movie 43. This year, the Razzies finally changed the award to what it should have been in the first place: a prize of accomplishment for just one single individual. But even with this new change, they still managed to screw it up royally. They are bequeathing the Razzie Redeemer to Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge due to him previously being nominated just one single time for his generally acclaimed supporting turn in the turgid action-fest The Expendables 3.

11. Who The Hell Is Angelyne? (1989)

During the 1980s, a large amount of billboards were erected all over Los Angeles, all bearing the image of a busty blonde and her unique name "Angelyne". She became famous solely because of this feat and proceeded to do nothing of any worth save for a couple of music video appearances. But in 1989, director Julien Temple and comedian Julie Brown wished to give her a nice cameo in the film Earth Girls Are Easy, an underrated sci-fi musical comedy that celebrates the L.A. scene and the MTV generation. Angelyne is barely in the film itself, on screen for just a little over a minute and only having five lines of dialogue. All she honestly does is drive her signature pink Corvette, reacts in horror as it gets damaged by Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans, and airheadily points out Michael McKean to the cops. The Razzie voters unfairly though her small appearance was so heinous to the picture that she was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress. This helped set the precedent for future non-celebrities appearing in movies getting easy nominations simply because the Razzie voters had a bone to grind.

10. Mac and Me: Worst New Star (Ronald McDonald) (1988)

Mac and Me is absolutely dreadful and certainly the true worst film of 1988 (sorry Cocktail). Unfortunately, the Razzies nearly proceeded to give the infamous kids movie a complete shutout. Director Stewart Raffill managed to snag Worst Director but it was a co-win with Blake Edwards for Sunset, which itself isn't very good but certainly not as bad as a E.T. rip-off filled to the brim with distressing amounts of product placement. The sole clean "victory" that the movie earned was for Worst New Star. However, the failed breakthrough performance wasn't for the obnoxious Jade Calegory or even the ugly alien Mac. It was for Ronald McDonald. Yes, that Ronald McDonald.

For those unaware, the biggest lowlight of Mac and Me is when it heads off to the craziest McDonalds of all time, where everyone is dancing non-stop. In this scene, Ronald pops in, does some little magic tricks, compliments the kid's oversized teddy bear (Mac in disguise) and immediately leaves. That's it. Twenty seconds of actual screen time! That's the awful performance that won the creepy yellow clown a Razzie. I frankly despise whenever the voting body hands out jokey wins with this being the prime example. Tami Erin and Don The Talking Horse were far more deserving for this award than for someone with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo. But hey, it could have been worst: the award could have gone to Jean-Claude Van Damme for his awesome job in Bloodsport.

9. Attacking the Action Heroes (1993)

Cliffhanger and Last Action Hero. One is a rip-roaring action film set in the mountains while the others mocks Hollywood conventions literally inside a Hollywood world. Of the two, I truly enjoy Cliffhanger far more though Last Action Hero has more depth in the thinking department. Even after reading all about the production problems, I still think the Schwarzenegger vehicle is a lot of fun. However, the Razzies always have to mock Stallone and Schwarzenegger whenever they can and handed out multiple nominations for these two films. I could argue against John Lithgow and Janine Turner getting bad notices or the attacks at their scripts but the very real problem lies in the Worst Picture category. These two action films were given prime slots over much more deserving fare: Cop and a Half, Son of the Pink Panther, the failed remake of Born Yesterday, and most especially, one of my most hated films of all time and winner of Worst Director, Boxing Helena.

8. Brian De Palma: Nominated for Worst Director (1980, 1983)

Long mocked for being a Hitchcock plagiarist, Brian De Palma did rightly get his just desserts with multiple nominations, including Worst Director, for his work on the colossal, catastrophic adaptation of The Bonfire of the Vanities. However, the man was unfairly picked upon in the past. Though I can't defend his work on 1984's Body Double, since I still haven't seen it, he did do wonders with 1981's Dressed to Kill and especially in the now iconic Scarface, which was noteworthy among harsh critics in 1983 for its graphic violence.

7. The Supporting Actresses of Sci-Fi & Fantasy (1993, 1997)

Sandra Bullock, Milla Jovovich, and Uma Thurman all received proper justice for other films but some of their standout performances were unwisely given the raspberry treatment. Sandra Bullock broke through in Hollywood with her charming, deliberately dim-witted turn as a futuristic police officer in Demolition Man yet had to suffer dishonor at the 1993 Razzies. The same went for Jovovich and Thurman in 1997. Jovovich ran the gamut of crazy in The Fifth Element as the sexy and violent Leeloo while Thurman channeled Julie Newmar as the very campy Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin, often heralded by critics as the sole redeeming thing from that fiasco.

7. S.O.B.: Nominated for Worst Director, Worst Screenplay (1981)

Blake Edwards has had a very checkered career when it comes to his films and his choice of comedy. But attacking one of the funniest satires of the 1980's, the attitudes of New Hollywood, and his own personal and professional life? I call bull.

6. Annie Was a Supporting Player in Annie? (1982)

One of the things that really ticks me and everyone else off about movie awards is how some studios place their lead actors and actresses into the supporting categories in order to avoid competition and have a better chance at winning. One of the most recent cases of this duplicity is how Alicia Vikander played the female lead yet won several awards as Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl. The Razzies pulled off this stunt for their third ceremony when Aileen Quinn won Worst Supporting Actress for her work in Annie. In case you don't remember, Quinn played a red-haired moppet in the film. In case you still can't get it, she played Annie. Even if you weren't not enamored by her performance, how in the hell can the titled character be nominated as a supporting player?

The reason for this stretching of the rules is pretty easy. Back in 1983, the same year as the Hollywood take of Annie, an infamous movie called Butterfly came out, presenting to the world the "newest" star of the movie industry, Pia Zadora. Since she was a cinch for Worst Actress and Worst New Star, the Razzie committee decided to lob Alieen Quinn in the supporting category so they could have an easier chance to lambast her. The Razzies would continue using this pathetic strategy in the future, most notable in reverse when Peter O'Toole was somehow nominated for Worst Actor for his clearly drunk performance in Supergirl.

5. No Love For Electronica (1981, 1982, 1985)

The Worst Musical Score category fell be the wayside in 1985, after six years of largely unfair attacks at scores that often used synthesizers and created moody landscapes. I may let Giorgio Moroder's score for the re-edit version of Metropolis to continue be scorned at by some but I certainly can not give a pass to the nominations of Tangerine Dream for Thief, Vince DiCola for Rocky IV (which "won" in 1985), and most especially Ennio Morricone for The Thing. Yes, one of the most iconic horror and sci-fi scores of all time is considered trash by the Razzies.

4. The Blair Witch Project: Worst Actress (Heather Donahue) (1999)

A way too, too easy target for the Razzies, Heather Donahue's widely parodied performance as a lost and scared documentarian is and forever shall be one of the most famous in film's history. It helped usher the film and the found footage horror genre into serious discussion. When you take a look at Donahue's fellow Worst Actress contenders that year though, it seemed the Razzies had to bite the bullet, as the other nominees weren't truly memorable in their badness. However, Juliette Lewis' much maligned performance as a mentally challenged woman in The Other Sister would have been the ideal choice but the Razzie committee saw fit to have her nominated for Worst Supporting Actress. Gee, where did I hear that awards scenario before?

3. The Unfunny Sexual Humor of the Razzies (Various)

The Razzies have always had a strenuous relationship with the LGBT community when it comes to their form of comedy. They seemed to establish in the very first iteration of their awards that they had some moral high ground when they attacked Cruising and the still unreleased on video even today Windows for their homophobic content. Unfortunately, at the very same event, they also gave a Worst Supporting Actress nomination to Georg Stanford Brown for his drag performance in Stir Crazy. Onwards from this point, the Razzies have routinely yucked it up to themselves by including actors and actress in opposite gender categories whenever they acted in drag or even played a character who is disguising themselves. Brooke Shields, Dom DeLuise, Kurt Russell, John Candy, and Jane March all have either won or been nominated because of this approach. Now, you could make the case that these much publicized Razzie awards and nominations did help lead Hollywood to slowly move away from and/or refine drag humor. Even the Razzies themselves eventually gave up on their lame running joke: For the 1994 awards, Julia Sweeney was nominated as Worst Actress for It's Pat instead of say Worst Actor or some kind of new acting award like Worst Person, given the gag for that crappy SNL character. Unfortunately, the joke reared its ugly head into the limelight again when Jack and Jill swept the entire 32nd edition of the Razzies, netting Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress for Adam Sandler and David Spade respectively. This inappropriate revival continues to march on whenever they nominate Tyler Perry for his work as Madea.

But the most egregious sexual barbs to come from the Razzies have sprung up in recent times due to the usage of hurtful epithets. The Transformers franchise has been a favorite target for bad movie lovers and critics due to their bombastic, hard-to-see action theatrics, bad acting, bad direction, bad screenplays, and overall being a general plague to the senses. When the Razzies nominated the films, starting first with 2009's Revenge of the Fallen and up to 2014's Age of Extinction, they have referred to them in press releases and on their websites under the nickname "Trannies". Due to obvious reasons, this has earned them widespread criticism. Sadly, considering the fifth Transformers entry is coming out this year and expected to be a favorite, the Razzies may continue this campaign of hate speech.

2. The Shining: Worst Director and Worst Actress (Shelly Duvall) (1980)

I don't really need to describe why these two nominations for one of the most perennial horror films is sheer insanity. Just watch the film. I will mention that these came from the very first "ceremony" of the Razzies, when the committee was just John Wilson and a pile of his friends and their show was at his tiny living room alcove in Hollywood.

1. Razzies Go Political (2004, 2011, 2016)

For the 2004 awards, the Razzies nearly destroyed everything they ever accomplished, all to seek publicity in a tumultuous time in American history. For the first and last time, a film that was largely deemed top quality, successful with critics and audiences and even the winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, had multiple nominations. That film was Fahrenheit 9/11, the latest documentary from political provocateur Michael Moore. Just to spite the Bush administration, the Razzie committee had the film nominated for Worst Actor (George W. Bush), Worst Supporting Actor (Donald Rumsfeld), Worst Supporting Actress (Britney Spears and Condoleezza Rice), and Worst Screen Couple (Bush and either Rice or his pet goat). All of them, including the goat, would later win. There was much outcry for all of this, mostly accurate, from the left, the right, and anyone that had common sense. The fact that a high caliber documentary, regardless of your political attitudes, would get nominate for anything ruins the whole motive of the awards; bringing reality and personal/national pain into something specifically designed to lampoon narrative drivel and egocentric individuals is a giant culture clash. Then, there's the fact that these political targets won their "awards". What is particularly distressing, and shows how shallow they could get, is that the Razzies wanted to hit at Britney Spears one more time so her extremely brief (i.e. a soundbite) appearance in the doc somehow warranted an award. The Razzies quickly learned their lesson, going back to true blue movies in their nominations.

All until the 2011 awards, where Sarah Palin was nominated for Worst Actress for the documentary The Undefeated, despite the fact she doesn't appear in it as herself (only in voice-over and video clips), and had no part in the beyond terrible propaganda piece (her voice-over came from her audio-book readings of "Going Rogue", which the producers got the rights to). Once again, the Razzies gave no shit about their rules and just threw in a documentary into the acting categories just to be smartasses.

Which brings us to today, where the 2016 awards has multiple nominations for the political documentary Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party, including one for Worst Actor and Worst Actress. I can't really rail for or against this action since I didn't see the film, nor had the urge to spend money on it. However, judging solely by what critics had to say, this is an inverse of the Fahrenheit 9/11 debacle, since Hillary's America really, really stretches the term "documentary" and features director Dinesh D'Souza playing a dream version of himself. Nevertheless, mocking the idiots on all sides of Washington and cable television is one thing; mixing it with Bill Cosby riding an ostrich, Pia Zadora vanity movies, and the horribleness of Eddie Murphy is another.