Justice League

Justice League just opened at my local theater and I learned it needs to gross 600 million dollars to make a profit. Because it’s a DC comic book movie, I think sheer nerd and geek curiosity will get it close. Is it a great movie? I encourage you to do your reading and decide if you want to go first. When you’ve seen it? Then you’ll know. The question is, do you need to know? I have no spoilers in my review below so feel free to check in here along your journey.

Justice League (2017)
PG-13 | 2h | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 17 November 2017 (USA)

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay by), Joss Whedon (screenplay by) | 9 more credits »
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa

DC brought Zack Snyder back to do this film. This surprises me because there has been so much criticism of his past movie. Batman vs. Superman is one example. When will the behemoth studios give the millions to new directors with new ideas about movies? I’ll be happy when they do. This looks and feels like a rehashing of Batman vs. Superman. The colors are grey and dark but not in a way that made me intrigued. It appeared like a “look,” the same way a goth person has their look. It isn’t goth though, I’m simply saying there was an attempt to keep colors subdued and cityscapes greyer than they usually might be. It might work for some but for me, it felt depressing. So, I’m not sure how Zack Snyder keeps getting a gig with DC but it looks like we are in for yet another since he has been chosen to direct Suicide Squad 2. Zack, some more color would be awesome.

I’ll run through the actors: Gal Gadot is a show stealer. It’s no surprise to me they gave her ample screen time after the commercial and critical success of her Wonder Woman. I enjoyed her and her scenes. Ezra Miller as the Flash is a comic wonder. I absolutely loved his part and he delivered it all well. Even above Gadot, I think he is the star of this movie. Affleck and Cavill were flat, annoying, tired, and old. They some scenes zoomed in on Cavill’s teeth I thought I might gag. God bless you dentists out there, thank you for what you do. I for one could not get that close to peoples’ chompers every day. The other characters were also flat. I found myself looking at my watch during the first half of the film. It was like, we know the band is getting back together but why does it have to take so fucking long?

The story is pretty simple. IMDB can tell you better than I. The Justice League has to reform because of a demonic character named “Steppenwolf” who is named after a demon but also an awesome book by Hermann Hesse I read in college, unrelated to this crappy story. They all need each other and there are some trite quotes about “Team.” I really kind of wish there was no Affleck in team but hey, you can’t always get what you want. I’m not a fan of this genre but I do like some of the films: Ant Man, Hellboy, and Green Lantern are some examples. To date, I have not enjoyed any comic book character ensemble film so that may explain my Scrooge-like opinion of this film. I really wouldn’t recommend it as a great film but with enough popcorn, coke, and candy, it’s a few laughs and action moments worth seeing. I guess in a way, even Suicide Squad is and I consider that the worst I’ve seen of all of them. At the moment I am even more excited to see Lady Bird. That gives you an idea of what I get excited about.

6/10

The Brood

This horror film from 1979 is interesting only from the 1/2 way point on but when it gets there, it really takes you on a messed up ride.

The Brood (1979)
R | 1h 32min | Horror, Sci-Fi | 25 May 1979 (USA)
A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist’s therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Stars: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle

You get to see primal tripod camera panning and some of the worst latex jobs ever created. Still, it had my interest. I may not have loved this film but I found it very entertaining and I thought David Cronenberg did a great job of writing this. It was a little complicated at time, more than it needed to be. In the end, it was a fun horror film and I encourage people to watch it.

It’s a story about rage and a horror metaphor of what it can do to destroy us. Psych majors will really like it I think. As to the message of the writer/director? That would be gret to discuss in the comments. I think he’s saying something about women here. Their rage is a lethal force. I do allow spoilers in my comments section so if you’d like to get into further depth please leave a comment of your response to this film. Ebert hated this film, I am on the fence. I think it’s enjoyable and well made horror. Not the best but sertainly worth watching and being entertained by.

8/10

Apocalypse Now

War movies don’t always leave a good impression with me. In fact, I rarely go to see them. When I saw Apocalypse Now, it was years after its release on DVD and I wasn’t that excited going in. Luckily, I was hugely pleased with the result. This film made it into Riley’s Great 100.

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Apocalypse Now (1979)
Cast

Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Directed by

Francis Ford Coppola

Written by

John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola

Other Info

Drama, War
Rated R
2h 33min

When I saw it the first time, I was in an American Literature course at Cal State Fullerton. I had a prof named “Dr. Friend.” Some people didn’t see him as a friend but I did, considering the amazing books and movies he turned me on to. This film is one of those.

One of the assigned novels in the course was Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” This is a gut-wrenching novel about killing for profit. The first chapter of the book is full of blood soaked descriptions. It describes a place where human life no longer has value in the wake of the mighty dollar. Conrad was getting at real “truth” and many a college student since has studied his words looking for that elusive word. What is at the heart of darkness? That’s what Conrad is luring us toward.

apocalypse-now3-300x159-6620954Apocalypse Now is based on “Heart of Darkness.” It takes place on a boat in Vietnam. The soldiers are lost in a lost cause war but they stumble on something far more sinister and evil. A living being created by the American war machine. There are parallels to Conrad’s book but both pieces stand alone as incredible vignettes of evil and the dark propensity of the human soul if left unchecked.
IMDB gives a short synopsis as such:

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Robert Duvall stars in this film along with Harrison Ford a cast of other now-legendary actors. The two that usually get the most press are Martin Sheen as Captain Willard and Marlon Brando as Kurtz. apocalypse-now-kurtz-300x185-3261410Brando is hypnotic to watch and listen to. What can you do when you have sympathy for the devil? The interplay of what we see as “moral” vs. “animal” makes this movie a trip. Should we assign guilt to those who are survivalists at all costs? If not, why do we murder them in war? These are questions that came up for me. I saw this as less a war movie and more or a moral drama. I really enjoyed it on that level.

david_halberstam_on_apocalypse_now-7621711The war images are still prevalent here. Almost every scene has an orange sky, alluding to the use of crop dust laced with Agent Orange to commit mass unbridled homicide against the Viet Cong. All is fair in love and war? You see the men uttering phrases like: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” upon waking. There is even a stud from San Diego with a surfboard who catches waves in between mass carnage. This black humor lays the foundation to look at what we do in the military on both sides and the dark hearts we must have to do it. The director, Francis Ford Coppola gave so much of his heart and soul to make this movie. francis-ford-coppola-on-the-set-of-apocalypse-now-1050x715-300x204-9669570A documentary called Hearts of Darkness shows some of the ghastly things the cast and director had to go through to get this filmed. It’s an amazing doc, I highly recommend it. Martin Sheen was so stressed filming he had a heart attack during filming. Fortunately he was able to get proper medical care and rest and he finished the film. If you are like me and don’t like war films but the idea of this “heart of darkness” being portrayed is interesting to you, I recommend seeing it anyway. The war images soon fade in the presence of a profound cinematic look at the human heart. What you make of that experience is up to you and your conscience. Are you more or Kurtz or Willard? For me it was tough to choose one over the other as good. In the end though, I made my choice. I recommend this film highly, a LOT of other movie critics do as well. This is of course, a classic of all time.

Chained

*This review contains spoilers.

I’m fascinated when I watch biographies of serial killers and discover they had some very normal characteristics. It’s in those normal places this film finds its strength. Could a kidnapped victim become like a son to a serial killer? Would that victim choose to follow in the killer’s footsteps?

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Chained (2012)
Cast

Vincent D’Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Evan Bird

Directed by

Jennifer Lynch

Written by

Jennifer Lynch

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 34min

If there were a book on serial killing and how to do it, Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) could have written it. He has a perfect routine for killing. Bob goes about as a Taxi driver, picking up women and then taking them back to his secluded home to kill them. It’s an ingenious method because who could track a person to a Taxi? Beyond that, how could you question all the taxi cabbies in a high traffic area? It would be like picking a needle from a haystack. Bob’s domicile is also perfected for his occupation. There is no way out for his victims once they are inside. Only Bob has control of who gets at, and of course, since he’s a serial killer, no one gets out.

So what’s missing for a guy like Bob. Whether he realizes it or not, he needs a helper or a slave to help him clean up after his kills. That’s where Tim comes in. Tim’s father arranges for he and his mother to get a taxi home from the movies one day. There is an element of premeditated evil in this on the part of Tim’s father which is revealed later. Bob picks them up, kills Tim’s mom in the usual way and keeps Tim on a chain, treating him like a slave and animal until he is 17-18 years old, Tim cultivates a deep enmity for Bob and we see it play out toward the end of the film. The end is somewhat satisfying though I would have preferred the sideline of studying books on medicine and anatomy to play a larger role as the vengeance scenes unfurl. I kept wondering how Tim might use his knowledge of medicine from books to take out Bob. It can be argued it does but I expected something more intricate and satisfying.

The psychology of an abducted prisoner is always interesting. In this case, Tim is on a chain, he cannot eat without permission, and what’s more he cannot eat anything other than what Bob leaves on his plate. After years of this, the actor playing an older Tim (Eamon Farren), has dark eyes, an emaciated figure, and deep-seated hatred for Bob. My favorite scene in the film is the featured image above. Tim hovers above a sleeping Bob like a crouching demon. It’s a quite scary scene. Jennifer Lynch did an amazing job as director. She is not a horror director per se but she has a bit on her resume. One of note was an episode of “Damien.” Ha! Scary, symbolic name is it not? 😉 I’ve always liked it.

I liked this film. There isn’t as much gore as the subject matter suggests. I saw it as a psychological thriller with some horror elements, the above described scene being one of the few horror scares. D’Onofrio gives a solid performance. I saw parts of famous serial killers: Ted Bundy, for example, used to pick up girls and lure them back to him home to kill them. It’s an interesting study of confinement and being held for years against ones will. We live in a world where people threaten so much. “I’m going to sue you!” etc. People rarely make good on threats like “I’m going to kill you.” or “I’m going to make you my house slave on a chain and call you rabbit.” I kept thinking Tim would escape but the years went by and alas, he didn’t. The ending is as much exciting as it is good writing. The question is though, after a film like this, can vengeance be exacted when so much abuse and harm has taken place? This film is better classified as a study in human behavior and how it reacts in the face of evil. Because Tim’s study of anatomy and medicine from Bob’s books was not used cleverly enough, it lost a star with me. In conclusion, this subject matter is not for everyone. Having said that, for fans of the horror, thriller, and criminal psychology genres, I highly recommend it.

Wheelman

This is a Netflix original movie that takes place in the car of a driver for a heist. It’s Frank Grillo from Saw sequels and The Purge and he does a great job in this pseudo action film. I call it that because it takes place almost entirely in a getaway car.

The director has done minimal indie type projects. His name is Jeremy Rush and he’s done a great job with this film.

There are a few other known actors besides Grillo including CaitlinCarmichael and Garret Dillahunt. It’s a great story though and that overshadows any one great performance. It is likely a challenge to sit down and write a story like this. We see The lead character get taunted as in most heist/getaway movies. The bad guy weaves a web it’s sometimes hard to follow but always keeps you on the edge of your seat. They know how to get to him and we feel it as we identify. As in most films like this, they get to hm where it hurts: his family. There are a few places where it kind of drags and doesn’t explain what’s going on well enough. This was at times frustrating for me. I found some of the characters to be implausible. Still, it was time enjoyed, Netflix has done it again.

I’ll give you no spoilers but simply say I think this is a great Netflix movie, even though I am not the biggest heist film fan, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

7/10

The Invitation

This film is guilty of a convention lately where a movie is labeled horror and there is miniscule backing to call it as such. It is a bit of a thriller as labeled but more a drama as it is not labeled … oh so much more of a drama.

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The Invitation
Cast

Logan Marshall-Green, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman

Directed by

Karyn Kusama

Written by

Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Not Rated
1h 40min

So here’s what the Invitation is all about. I know a lot of you have probably been seeing it advertised and you’ve thought to yourself, “I wonder what that dark, foreboding looking film is about? I need to see it someday.” That’s what I had been doing that is, until today when I finally watched it. There were no pleasant unraveling, except for the performance of Logan Marshall-Green who plays Will. Let’s talk about that first.

Will is a re-married guy who lost his young son while married previously. He didn’t see the first wife for 2 years after, nor did he see any of their good friends. After that 2 years, he gets an invitation to attend a dinner party at the house where his son was killed and he reluctantly accepts. The drama begins there (no horror, sorry to disappoint). In all truth, there is nothing really scary at all in this film, much less horror. Why it is classified as such, I do not know.

Basically, the ex-wife and her new husband have plans to kill the 11-15 people at the dinner party because they got through their pain by being in a cult. There is some suspense as we try an figure out why the vibe is so weird. When the gun comes out, we all know what we suspected was correct. I was a little bitter that I waited over an hour to find out this was a dinner party poisoning. There are attempts to escape and Will and his wife are among the survivors. That’s it! No shocking horror moments that take you out of your comfort zone. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before. This film could have been half as long.

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The story is weak, as is the premise. One example of something that is never developed is the divorce and subsequent remarriages. Will seems perfectly comfortable with the new husband, who incidentally is the leader orchestrating the killing. The film is better classified as a drama but it’s a highly underdeveloped drama. I rate films based on what they are trying to be. There is no horror here and very little suspense so it loses 2 stars for that. Finally, the script is very weak and drags on. For that, it loses another star. If you ever see this film clicking through possible horror or thriller titles, opt for an independent true horror/thriller like Hush instead.