Category Archives: Film

Night of the Living Deb

I’m not sure how I waited so long to start paying for Shudder.

This is not to say that Night of the Living Deb was some kind of revelation. It really was, just as you would guess from the title, mostly a cheap knockoff of Shaun of the Dead. There’s this cute redhead total spazz[1] out on the town for the night, right? And she meets an engaged hottie in the midst of a break-up, and wakes up the next morning with no real memory of what happened, only now she’s in his house, and it’s super awkward, but also, oops, the zombie apocalypse happened overnight.

The biggest problem, I think, is that every actor who was not one of the two leads was at best phoning it in and more commonly just really bad. Also, the plot took a while to find legs enough to differentiate itself from Shaun beyond the “but with a lady!” twist that is I’m sure what got the investors (and lawyers!) on board. But by the beginning of act three, I actively enjoyed it instead of benignly tolerating, mostly because of Maria Thayer as Deb, who deserves a better career than she apparently has; I guess America gave away the spazzy redhead slot to Ellie Kemper before she knew there was only one such slot available to compete for.

[1] Which is to say, my type. I think this probably helped my overall opinion.

Aquaman

For once, my long delay in seeing a big event movie did not work against me! This is because, as nearly as I can tell, nobody else has actually seen Aquaman yet, so being a month late still gets me first out the gate. Exciting!

And a little sad, because this is probably second best of the, what, six now? DC movies that have come out. If you had asked me to predict that I would consider Aquaman a quality movie, after having considered him lamest of the lame all throughout childhood, well, that is not a prediction I would have made.

I mean, am I claiming it’s a great work of art? I am not. But it’s big, it’s bright, it’s flashy, it has an overstuffed with drama plot full of monologuing villains, lost heirs, fate of the world stakes, an (okay, this is more of a negative) overly-forced romance subplot… in short, it’s everything you want out of a comic book movie. Notably, it is not dark or grim or overwrought or in love with its visual or emotional sense of deep, unfixable misery. Y’know, not unlike the other really good DC movie.

So, yes, I did genuinely enjoy it. But even if I hadn’t, I would have probably rated it the second best DC movie regardless. Because now there’s a much smaller chance that Marvel will make a movie about the goddamned Sub-Mariner[1]. A victory for us all!

[1] Maybe that’s why I found myself actually liking Arthur Curry. Because Namor is a lot closer in tenor and attitude to King Orm than to Aquaman.

Ocean’s Eight

The majority of plane trips beget a second plane trip, wherein you return to where you left from in the first place. As such, I watched a second movie on the way back from Chicago, and it was Ocean’s Eight. Pleasingly, this was a sequel to the Clooney Danny Ocean movies, rather than a remake. It picks up a few years after Gravity left off, with Danny Ocean dead saving his sister from a space walk gone horribly wrong and Sandra Bullock being released from prison (one presumes for an illegal landing?) with the perfect plan to steal a really expensive necklace at the annual Met gala, which is I guess an exclusive museum thing (fundraiser?) in New York that also happens in real life.

I think just to prove she can, Sandra (almost certainly not the character’s actual name) Ocean has decided to make her crew all ladies, and I cannot help thinking that was also the motive of whoever made this movie. Which is fine, because it was every bit as good as any of the previous sequels[1][2], and aside from saying she wants an all lady crew at the beginning of the movie, it’s never really brought up again[3].

After all the characters and marks are established, it’s, you know, a heist movie. I like them. You maybe incorrectly do not? It’s cool, tastes vary as they say. More importantly, it’s not a bad heist movie, so there you are.

[1] I maintain that the Ocean’s Eleven remake (I never saw the original with Sinatra and whoever) is in a class by itself.
[2] And let’s be honest, probably significantly better than 12
[3] I do not at all mind when movies are trying to make A Point, and I mind even less when it’s a point I agree with. I will, however, always mind when the movie is actually chanting to a drumbeat, “Look at this Point I’m Making.”

Tag (2018)

At the end of December, I had a new experience! I have now watched a movie on an airplane. Benefit of not flying Spirit, I suppose.

I remember thinking the previews for Tag looked, well, good isn’t the right word, but entertaining and/or funny. Plus, I like tag. Too bad I didn’t do what they did, I might be more accustomed to necessary cardio. So anyway, there’s this group of friends who, as kids, played an essentially non-stop game of tag. And now as adults, they set aside one month of the year to continue the tradition. This, I think, covers all of (or possibly a little more than that) the “based on a true story” aspects of the film.

What’s left is Ed Helms and the guy from The New Girl and Hannibal Buress (I don’t know who he is) and (somehow) Jon Hamm on a quest to finally tag Hawkeye from the Avengers, who has never been tagged in the entire span of time they have been playing, for what I think are pretty obvious reasons. He’s definitely playing in the wrong league here, is all I’m saying. On the other hand, it’s nice to know what he was up to while absent from Infinity War.

There are a couple of subplots, but the meat of it is watching grown-ass men playing a ridiculously over the top kid game. If that doesn’t work for you, this won’t either. As for me: it was a better way to spend a flight than I’ve spent most of mine, so.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

True confessions time: as of yesterday afternoon, I was four reviews behind. I have got to stop with this! But anyway, I tell you that mainly so you don’t think it took me until mid-January to see the latest Spider-Man movie (non-MCU).

Well, fuller disclosure still, I originally didn’t plan to see it at all, since animated plus non-MCU made me think it was a Sony kid movie instead of a serious comics movie[1]. But then early reviews were generally positive with a non-kiddy slant, and so there I was.

Into the Spider-Verse tells the origin story of Miles Morales, who you will remember from too many of my reviews to link to of Ultimate Spider-Man, after that time when Peter Parker got killed. Bendis did a good thing when he provided the Marvel Ultimate universe with a replacement Spider-Man, not just because Peter Parker had been the most important character in that continuity and the hole was painful, but especially because he provided someone who matched modern New York’s demographics. Not only does it embrace a broader audience, but it frees up a new story space, instead of just ending up with a clone[2] of the original.

I guess I jumped rather far afield. Anyway, the movie tells Miles’ origin story by way of Dumbo, while also introducing a concept I am decades from reading in print, about all the various earths where all kinds of other various people were bitten by radioactive (or genetically modified, or whatever) spiders, resulting in all kinds of new and bizarre Spider-People. This maybe sounds silly, but the Kingpin[3] and his crew are collectively such a powerful threat that the cross-dimensional team-up actually feels necessary.

Also: the little things they did with panel composition and lettering and the spider-sense were… a friend of mine said that he walked out of this movie with the knowledge that he had not previously seen a comic book movie, he had only seen movies about comic books. It really shows that the people who made this love not only the stories, but the medium as a whole. I really very much hope there’s a Miles sequel forthcoming. He deserves one, and so do we.

[1] I, uh, look. Shut up.
[2] It is important, comics being what they are, that I point out I mean clone in a metaphorical sense. Although a literal clone would be just as pointless.
[3] Oh, right. Kingpin is the big bad. He’s so much more effective here than he is in Netflix’s Daredevil. It’s not that Vincent D’Onofrio does a bad job, it’s that the Kingpin is a larger than life figure who translates to live action far less well than most other supervillains have done.

You Might Be the Killer

So, let’s say you run a summer camp, and let’s say it’s been a really bad night at the summer camp, with teen counselors dropping like flies, and someone is about to try to burn you out of the cabin you’ve bolted yourself into. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and call your friend who works at the video store and get some calming, helpful advice!

This is the premise of an apparently off-the-cuff Twitter conversation between a guy who sometimes writes Star Wars books and another guy who I forget what. Which I think makes You Might Be the Killer[1] the first movie developed on Twitter? That by itself was enough to make me want to watch it. I had been a little sad about the spoilery nature of having read the conversation, but it turns out to cover not much more than the premise, which is kind of summed up in the title in the first place. I’m pleased to report they found room to maneuver, is what I’m saying.

But then they put it on Shudder, and I have a subscription to that! ….which was probably about a year overdue, if I’m being honest with myself, so thanks Joe Bob for forcing my hand last summer. Anyway, it’s a slasher comedy starring Fran Kranz (from The Cabin in the Woods) and Allyson Hannigan (from all kinds of things at this point, don’t act like you don’t know), and while it’s not quite the genius that I wanted it to be, it’s still pretty damn fun.

[1] I may have exaggerated about the calming effect of the previously mentioned forthcoming advice.

Halloween (2018)

Let’s be frank: there was very little chance of me not liking a Halloween sequel starring Jamie Lee Curtis. While I think Alien is the best horror movie ever made, I think that Halloween II is the best horror movie sequel ever made. And the original is in the top five anyway, probably number two.

Biases: acknowledged!

Given all that, I am of course a little disappointed that Halloween II got jettisoned from the canon. I understand why they did it, and I even approve. I think I’m willing to pretend that the one disputed fact is in line with these movies but that the events in the hospital are still canon. Because, it was so good.

Okay, enough about other movies. I appreciated a lot about what was going on here. They used the same font for the credits, of course the same music / composer, once again the only credit for Michael Myers was The Shape, there was even a dollhouse that I’ll swear was modeled on the original Myers home. What I’m saying is I appreciate attention to detail, and the moreso for the forty years gone since the original premiered.

Mostly, I liked the heart of the movie, this unstoppable collision between Laurie Strode and the boogeyman. It reminded me of Aliens in that way, now that I think about it. So, y’know, good company. And there’s a bit of style in taking the exact name of the movie that you are a sequel of. Halloween, and its sequel, Halloween. I dig it.

Follow

I ate too much yesterday. As a result, I watched a movie last night despite exhaustion, because I was too full to go to sleep. (I mean, to do so comfortably.) Unrelatedly, I finally got Shudder working again on my Roku. The intersection of these facts is that I watched a semi-random movie called Follow. It had an interesting enough plot description and was 78 minutes long, which was just about right for my needs.

There’s this bartender and his girlfriend who live together, and there’s also a girl at work who is way into the bartender, and an annoying guy at work who is an antagonist to the bartender. And, apropos of almost nothing, a weird neighbor teen who sings Christmas carols a lot. (Also, it’s the holiday season, which will be important in a moment.) Having established all this, plus some character beats about how the girlfriend is a bit morbid, we cut right to the point, which is where the intriguing description comes in. She has an early Christmas present for the bartender, one that he is not quite sure what to make of. Before he has a decisive reaction one way or the other, he blacks out and wakes up the next morning to learn that everything about his life has taken a hard swerve to the left.

Everything else (so, the remaining 70 minutes or so) is… well, I took it as a character study. Push a person in an unexpected direction, and then watch and see where they end up. And it worked pretty well for that. Another way to read it is as a study of madness and unreliable narration. At least, if you knew for sure what was going on for the first half of the movie, you’re more confident than I was! It’s tense, it’s spooky, it’s way dark, and… it’s pretty okay? The problem with a character study is you have to really accept the character. I understood him a little bit, but I’m not sure I liked him enough.

The Predator

I’ve been distracted lately.

Like, sometimes I’ll be too busy to post reviews in a timely fashion. But this isn’t that. I went to see The Predator, and I liked it quite a lot. Army Ranger (or some other special forces guy) and a group of military misfits vs., you know, the predator. Right? Lots of in jokes from previous movies (at least, from the original one), a cool autistic kid (which sounds implausible, but yeah, this may be the best use of a child in an action movie), a 90% valuable use of a token female scientist, plus lots of blood and explosions.

To be clear, my standards are not very high. The movie is what it is, but this was a solid example of its type.

My point is this: I liked the movie, but I still just forgot to write a review until I was thinking about watching a movie today. “Wait, I can’t do that until I’m not behind!” I guess I’m just glad I remembered at all?

Popcorn is also a fine example of what it is, ie, empty calories that taste pretty okay in context, but it’s not like you’ll be telling someone in a week or so how great the popcorn you had last week was. Which is maybe what I actually thought about the movie? But I’m sticking with “I’ve been distracted.” Because I have, even if the other explanation is pretty valid too.

Justice League

You may recall that Wonder Woman was a solid movie, and that it gave me the impetus to watch the other DC movies I had skipped in the meantime, which, I mean, they were not abominations upon the face of the earth, but neither did they exactly inspire any more confidence in the DC train than the previews upon the basis of which I had originally decided not to bother.

Still, now that I’ve watched the whole series, might as well watch Justice League, right? And it was fine. Better than anything besides Wonder Woman, and it had some pretty sweet musical cues at key heroic moments, but… well, it’s like this. You know how DC missed the whole point of what Marvel was doing when they decided that one movie was enough of a lead in to their team-up movie?[1] By the same token, they missed the point exponentially moreso when their existential threat to the planet from space was introduced as the plot of an entire movie without ever having mentioned him before.

Plus, I mean, Steppenwolf? That’s a band.

But I still like the Flash, and like I said, it was mostly pretty good. It would just be better if I didn’t have ten years of Marvel to compare against, and if I weren’t snickering every time they mentioned the guy who is here to destroy Earth without also pointing out that he was born to be wild.

[1] And okay, technically that’s not how it went, they made like four movies total before Justice League. But Man of Steel[2] was just another Superman remake when it came out, and I honestly think it’s more coincidence than design that allowed Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad[3] to fall between Dawn of Justice and this one. Which ultimately means I’m shaping the facts to suit my narrative, but I’m not lying when I say it felt this way.
[2] Somehow, I didn’t review Man of Steel. That was an oversight.
[3] Also, let’s be honest, even though Suicide Squad is in the same continuity, it does not build toward anything here. It’s like a spin-off.