Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Most Horrorble Time of the Year!

A few of you have actually been here during prior Octobers. If you have, then you know that this is when I forsake all of the cinematic universe with the exception of the horror genre. And I go hard for 31 straight days. It all starts at midnight tonight. If you want to know exactly how long, keep an eye on the countdown above.

As usual, we'll kick things off with a horror classic. Don't worry, it's not all ancient stuff, though. We'll hit some more current fare, too. We'll also try to hit horror from every angle. We'll hit some haunted houses, run from some slashers, twist our mind psychologically, and we'll even get to have a few laughs. We'll throw in a list or two. This year, we've added a few new ingredients to our witch's brew to switch things up a bit. The Thursday Movie Picks that have become a popular feature around here, all have a horror slant to them. We're also hosting the Slasher Cast-a-thon, where bloggers get to create the cast for their very own slasher flick. Details to come this weekend.

I hope you'll join me every day this month. If you do, leave your two cents in the comments section. If you're lucky, you'll come across a movie that will have looking like the couple pictured above.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Equalizer

Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
2014. Rated R, 131 minutes.
Denzel Washington
Marton Csokas
Chloe Grace Moretz
David Harbour
Johnny Skourtis
Melissa Leo
Bill Pullman
Haley Bennett
Alex Veadov
Vladimir Kulich

At Home Depot...er...HomeMart, where he works, Rober McCall (Washington) is the star employee. His bosses and co-workers all look up to him and he'll do anything he can to help out each and every one of them. He is also a man deeply mired in the routines of his life. He has to have everything a certain way. A bit of an insomniac, he finds himself at the local diner at 2 AM every morning. He sits in the same booth, sets up his silverware the way he likes and gets a cup of hot water for the tea bag that he brings from home. He also talks to Elaina (Moretz), the young girl who is always seated at the counter. She also happens to be a hooker. The night she's not there, Robert becomes very worried. When he finds out she's in the hospital after being badly beaten by her pimp, he takes matters into his own hands.

The early parts of the movie are spent developing Mr. McCall's character. We get to see what makes him tick. During this time, Denzel Washington owns the screen, completely selling us on what type of guy McCall is. The first few scenes establish him as definitely having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, it's subsequent scenes during which the point is driven home. It's not necessarily in the acting out of the routines, but in his subtle reactions when those routines are broken. More importantly, we come to realize how much he cares for those around him. This is most ably demonstrated through his conversations with Elaina and his interactions with Ralphie (Skourtis), one of his co-workers down at HomeMart. Washington's supporting cast helps him out just enough, too. Marton Csokas gives us a solidly detestable villain. In her brief screen time, Chloe Grace Moretz also does very well.

Once the movie transitions into our hero taking care of business, it becomes a very different affair. This part of the movie is loaded with action of the brutally violent sort. Mr. McCall makes use of things such as corkscrews, power drills, nail guns, and more. It's to the point where my wife expressed wariness of ever visiting a Home Depot ever again. Speaking of Home Depot, or Lowe's for that matter, how is it they didn't drop a few bucks to get their name on this? This would have functioned as the best commercial either company has ever had. Just imagine the logo of one of those stores being visible as Denzel Washington strolls away from an explosion in slow motion. By the way, I know such scenes are cliche, but the one in this movie might be the best one ever filmed. And I'm not exaggerating one bit. I generally roll my eyes when these happen in other action flicks. I even started to when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was about to happen in this one. However, this one was so deliciously overboard that I couldn't help but love it. The action as a whole has this effect. Yes, it's over the top, but it is also done with a twisted sense of humor that comes across really well. Honestly, though, it makes the best use of this when the action happens off-screen. We'll see our hero immediately after he's done something heinous to a bad guy which we didn't get to see. It's usually funny enough that we don't mind missing out on what he actually did.

For those of us old enough to remember, and to care, the big question is how does it compare to the TV show that it was based on. I am old enough to remember. However, I must confess that I was never a fan of the show. I might have watched it a handful of times and really don't remember anything about it other than the star. This means that, sadly, I've no clue whether or not it does the show proud. I do know that it does the action genre proud. Once it gets going The Equalizer is insanely fun, provided you're not put off by all the blood and guts. The first act perfectly sets up the last two acts. It's a guy we like doing things we wish we could do for the people we care about. Admittedly, there are some late second act scenes that fill in some of our hero's back story, though not very much. The real point of these is to provide something that could be expanded on in sequels. Trust me, this movie clearly wants sequels. To be honest, though, it might be better as a standalone. In either case, it's Denzel showing us all that he can still carry a movie without a big name co-star and still be extremely compelling. That quality is what really makes this an excellent watch.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

Friday, September 26, 2014

Really Uncomfortable Movie Summaries, Vol. 1

Every now and again when a Friday rolls around, I get in a silly mood. Yup, this is one of those Fridays. What that means is we're going to boil down the plots of some well-known (and not-so-well-known) movies to their disturbing and/or hilarious core.

I can't say this is a completely original idea. A friend sent me the link to this post years ago on a site called postmodernbarney. It shows a bunch of movies doing exactly what I said we're going to do here. A few examples:

Batman: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
Beauty and the Beast: A peasant girl develops Stockholm Syndrome.
Blade: Obsessed loner stalks minority group.
Deep Throat: Medical anomaly earns woman new friends.
Deliverance: Tourists experience local hospitality.
Demolition Man: In a future where crime is completely eradicated, a black man steals and murders.
King Kong: Endangered animal stolen, shot.
Star Wars: A New Hope: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, kill thousands.
Taxi Driver: Modern dating proves challenging for working class man.

Those are just a few of many. But since I did say I was in a silly mood, I came up with some of my own. Oh, I'm calling it volume one because I think I might do this again. And away we go...

Quick warning first - I can't promise good taste from this point forward. And there might be spoilers.

Now you're ready.

American Hustle: Con-man and his girlfriend rip off the FBI.

Any Given Sunday: Drug addicts play football, expose themselves to female owner.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A former U.S. Soldier takes down a government agency.

District 9: Government relocates already quarantined immigrants.

Friday the 13th (original): Campers kill a mentally ill boy and his mentally ill mother.

In Bruges: A child murderer goes on vacation.

Her: Man masturbates while using his computer.

The Hobbit: Terrorist group plots to assassinate a head of state.

The Incredible Hulk: The U.S. Army exploits paranoid schizophrenics, forces them to fight each other.

Law Abiding Citizen: White vigilante targets minorities in positions of authority.

The Matrix: Religious extremists recruit a hacker to destroy the world's computers.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: A man of ambiguous sexuality tries to get his ship full of sea men back.

Saving Mr. Banks: Big corporation takes advantage of an artist in financial trouble.

Shallow Hal: Man reluctantly comes to the realization he's into plus sized women.

Sky High: Violence erupts at a school for children with special needs.

Spawn: A disgruntled employee battles the company snitch.

Underworld: Couple shunned due to their interracial relationship.

Up: Elderly man abducts a young boy.

The World's End: Alcoholic goes on a binge, becomes violent.

The Wrestler: Adrenaline junkie stalks both his estranged daughter and a stripper.

You are more than welcome to join in by posting some of your own really uncomfortable summaries in the comments section, or to tell me how bad mines suck. Either way, be creative.

Oh, and congratulate me. This is my 1,000th post!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday Movie Picks: Nautical Movies

Man, these Thursdays are ticking by pretty quickly, aren't they? We've arrived at yet another. That means it's time for me to give you my weekly suggestions based on a theme selected by our host this event, Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves. I have fun participating in this every week, but I'd love to get suggestions from you guys. You can take part by heading over to Wanderer's site and seeing what the theme is each week and taking it from there, following a very teeny tiny set of rules, of course. Those rules are basically pick three movies and either make them the best (or your favorite), the worst (or your most hated), or hidden gems.

This week's theme is Nautical Movies.

No, not Naughty Movies, you perv. Or, was that what I was thinking? Sigh. Never mind. Let's move on...

By nautical movies, I'm guessing we're talking about movies that happen to take place (largely) at sea. There are lots of them. One of my all time favorites in this area is Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot. Then there's one of my all-time favorite Steven Segal flicks, Under Siege. Not exactly the same caliber film as Das Boot, but dammit, it's fun. A handful of others spring to mind like Crimson Tide, Pirates of the Caribbean, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and so on. Some great choices, but if you've been following along these last few Thursdays, you'll know I like to sail uncharted waters as often as possible. Well, that means we're going after some hidden gems. In this case, they may not be hidden, but certainly less appreciated. And to top it all off, we're keeping this trio of movies very light. After all, by this time next Thursday I'll be knee-deep in pig's blood as horror season here at DoM will be underway. With that, let's sail away...in chronological order, of course.

Batman: The Movie
Right now, most of you are probably scratching your head. How is this a nautical movie? Sure, there are the prerequisite scenes in Wayne Manor, especially the Bat-cave, and in Gotham City. However, you know where more scenes take place than in either of those locations? Aboard a submarine which our four super-villains (The Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, and The Penguin) are using for their criminal headquarters. There is also the legendary scene where Batman takes on a shark. Okay, so how is it a hidden gem? It's almost fifty years old and one of the consequences of the main character becoming a darker character over time is that this rendition has been overshadowed and ridiculed. For me, it's a towering achievement in camp perfectly spoofing the serials of the 1930s and 40s utilizing a never-ending stream of double-entendres as its main weapon. (click here for my full review)

Pirate Radio
If you're at all familiar with this movie then this choice makes more sense to you. If not, let me explain it. This movie is actually set when my first choice was made, 1966. We follow an underground British radio station broadcasting from the North Sea because they play rock-n-roll which is forbidden by their government. It's a funny and quirky movie with an all-star cast. We get wonderful turns from Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, Emma Thompson, and the late-great Philip Seymour Hoffman. (click here for my full review)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Hugh Grant stars as Pirate Captain. He runs a rag-tag crew aboard a not so marvelous ship and dreams of one day winning the Pirate of the Year award. His attempts at doing this fuel the first half of the movie while the second deals with the one and only Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Lots of fun, though kids might not quite get most of the jokes. (click here for my full review)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Lego Movie

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
2014. Rated PG, 100 minutes.
Chris Pratt
Elizabeth Banks
Morgan Freeman
Will Ferrell
Will Arnett
Liam Neeson
Nick Offerman
Alison Brie
Charlie Day
Channing Tatum
Jonah Hill
Cobie Smulders

As Lord Business (Ferrell) is defeating the wizard Vitruvius (Freeman) and taking the super-weapon known as The Kragle, he is informed of a prophecy stating that "The Special," the most amazing, interesting person who has ever lived, will find The Piece of Resistance, the one thing that can stop The Kragle. Fast forward eight and a half years. We meet the rule-loving, happy-go-lucky Emmet (Pratt). He quite literally falls into The Piece of Resistance while staring at Wyldstyle (Banks), the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. Believing Emmet to be "The Special", Wyldstyle quickly snatches him up, informs him of the prophecy and Lord Business', now President Business, plan to destroy the world on Taco Tuesday. There's just one little problem. Emmet is not the most amazing, interesting person of all time. In fact, most people who come into contact with him on a daily basis barely remember him. Besides that, Emmet doesn't seem to be particularly bright. Nevertheless, with the help of Vitruvius and, somehow, Batman (Arnett), Emmet and Wyldstyle trying to stop President Business ensues.

From the very beginning, we witness the greatest strength of The Lego Movie. It's taking the things we love about some of the most iconic movie franchises and making fun of them while still integrating them into its own wonderful story. The most frequent targets are Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy (plus The Hobbit, I suppose), Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, and more subtly, The Wachowski's The Matrix trilogy. For good measure, it takes healthy swipes at George Lucas' Star Wars franchise, too. Lots of movies have done similar things. The difference here is that just about every joke is spot-on. They all perfectly capture the essence of whatever it is skewering and are all flat out funny. Maybe it's because I've seen most of these movies multiple times, and I'm just a geek at heart (more on that, later), but I seriously laughed for every single minute of this movie's run time.

Once we're consistently giggling, it's easier for us to buy in to the plot and whatever messages it is pushing. In this case, both are pretty standard things. We've already covered the plot. As far as the message goes, the movie sings of the virtues of maintaining one's individuality and creativity in an increasingly homogeneous society. The magic of it all is how well they work in concert with one another and with the humor. This takes the edge off. Where other movies may come off as heavy-handed, this one seamlessly weaves in its commentary. Then, to keep us on our toes, it throws us a nice third act curve ball, adding yet another dimension to the movie, literally.

Other big reasons for our enjoyment are both the film's look and the voice work by its actors. The look nicely mimics actual legos and mixes it with more familiar computer generated imagery. It's amazing to see fluid, moving things such as fire and water made of legos. Better than that, though, are the many bursts of color that happen during the movie, particularly its action scenes. As for the voice acting, it's great all the way around. Of course, Morgan Freeman is a standout. So are Chris Pratt as Emmet and Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle. Regardless of how good they are, they all pale in comparison to what Will Arnett does with the role of Batman. He perfectly pulls off what the movie is trying to accomplish with the character.

If there is an issue with The Lego Movie, it's that much of the humor might fly over the heads of the kids who believe this movie is for them. As mentioned, there is lots of referencing of other things. They may not always connect the dots. People who, God forbid, aren't familiar with those other things might have the same issue. Luckily, it's still plenty of fun so no one should be bored by it. I take that back if you're just too cool for this sort of thing. This brings me back to my own household and my own geekiness. My wife enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I. A lot of the little things that cracked me up flew right by her. She's familiar with the franchises I mentioned earlier, but not intimately so. She's seen them and likes them well enough, but doesn't have the same connection with them that I do. My kids are teenagers. They are either too young for many of the jokes or just think it's all about nerd stuff. Yes, they freely told me I was lame. I replied that they just didn't get it and that this is easily the best animated movie since Toy Story 3. None of this changed their opinions, but it felt good getting it off my chest. Nor did it help that, at the time, I so happened to be wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt. They just rolled their eyes and walked away as I cheerfully sang a medley of "Everything is Awesome" and "Batman" that was desperately in need of auto-tuning.

MY SCORE: 10/10

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back To School Blogathon: Links!

At the end of August, I created the Back to School Blogathon to celebrate kids everywhere making their return to the classroom. The object was for bloggers to create classes uses movie characters that fit into some very well worn archetypes. I won't give a complete rundown on the rules again. To see them, just click here.

A number of you responded with some very interesting classes. Below are the links to them all.

John at Hitchcock's World was our star student. He contributed three classes to our school. His first class is headed up by one of the Marx Brothers. For his second class, he managed to get in someone from a prequel to a classic horror flick. Then, he went completely off the rails for his third class and used nothing but characters from David Lynch movies.

Mike from Mike's Cinema chimed in with some inspired choices. His class includes Robert Downey Jr. before he became a superhero and Jon Cryer before he became one of the Two and a Half Men.

Over at Feeling Fuzzier, Rhys gave us a class run by a couple of action movie icons and includes a quite literal interpretation of the Invisible Girl trope.

Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves was the first lady to get involved. And she truly represented with an all-female class.

Not to be outdone, Brittani at Rambling Film joined the fray. Her class is led by a wizard and a lady who tries to work magic with troubled kids.

At Big Screen, Small Words, whirlwind.supernova's class has a little bit of a musical slant and includes two people with the gift of telekinesis.

The Flick Chicks, Jenna and Allie came up an interesting roster of students. Their class includes probably the most unlikely picks for star student and jock.

Finally, I contributed two classes of my own. The first includes a trio of not-so-bright bullies. The second give us a trio of very intelligent bullies.

As always, I'm not completely a stickler for deadlines so if you put a class together in the next week or so, drop by here and let me know. I'll gladly update this post to include you.

Thanks to everyone that participated this next go round. I'll see you in about a week or so with another blogathon, so be on the lookout.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Back to School Blogathon: Class Two

If you've been hanging around here for a few weeks, you might be aware that I'm currently hosting the Back to School Blogathon. Today is the listed deadline. Before it passed, I wanted to get one more post in for it. I posted Class One last week. Today, logically, it's time for Class Two.

Before I start, just a quick note on what I'm trying to do, here. It's actually simple. I'm creating a class using movie characters that fit certain archetypes. For a full rundown on the rules, click here. Now, let's get to it.

Principal Powers
Sky High
She's tough and fair. Besides, if she can handle a school full of super-powered kids, I think she can handle whatever I'm going to dish out. It doesn't hurt that she's still easy on the eyes after all these years.

Trevor Garfield
As a high school teacher in Brooklyn, NY he got stabbed and suffered some serious injuries. He switched coast, became a teacher in LA and found himself in a school essentially run by gangs. You know what? He's going to get through to them one way or another. He's hired.

Star Student
Autumn Haley
The Program
It's easy. She's a great student who makes a little extra cash by tutoring the football players. What more could you want. Again, my shallowness is peaking through, but it helps that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Halle Berry.

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite
Has there ever been a bigger nerd than Napoleon Dynamite. Calling him socially awkward is an understatement on the level of saying outer space is kinda big. All is not completely lost, though. He practices hard on his dancing and does sweet jumps on his bike.

Scott Howard
Teen Wolf
He's pretty far from being your typical jock. In fact, until he discovers that he's literally a beast on the basketball court he's a very nice, if somewhat anonymous guy. Once he takes over the hardwood, yeah, he becomes a jerk. (click here my Teen Wolf experience)

Popular Girl
Raven Darkholme/Mystique
X-Men: First Class
Part of the first class at Xavier's School for the Gifted, she's the linchpin that holds it all together. Besides that, she can literally be whoever you want her to be and has no problem injecting herself into any situation. (click here for my full review)

Invisible Girl
Lilly Onakuramara
Pitch Perfect
Who could be more invisible than a girl who literally whispers every word out of her mouth? If you can manage to hear it, though, she says some hilariously nonsensical stuff. For instance, did you know she was born with gills like a fish? (click here for my full review)

Class Clown
Jeff Spicoli
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Spicoli usually shows up to class, but doesn't do anything when he gets there. Well, that's not quite true. He's generally high on pot, says the most ridiculous things, daydreams about winning surfing competitions and has his pizza delivered right to class. (click here for my full review)

Class Bullies
The Heathers
They could probably be slid into the "popular" slot because everyone knows who they are. However, they aren't actually popular. They are really feared and hated since they rule the school with iron fists. Everyone must bend to their will, or else.

Troubled Youth
Kim Bentley
Malibu High
Kim is the quintessential troubled teen. She's flunking out of school and has lost her boyfriend. To turn things around she starts sleeping with her teachers. To start making some money, she takes up prostitution. So, as you might imagine, she's a busy girl. And her exploits don't stop there. (click here for my full review)

Well, there's Class Two. Click here to check out Class One. And come by tomorrow to see the links to the classes others have put together for the Back to School Blogathon.