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Here's some of my favorite movie memories from the 99 cent double feature days.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)
Nor Am I A Very Interesting Movie
Yeah. This one's weird. It tries its hardest to be some kind of Donnie Darko. At other times it tries to be some kind of Phantasm. Ultimately its kind of a mess. It tries. It tries really hard. It's an original thought, mixing psychological suspense (a kid who has all the earmarks of a serial killer, although this plot line goes nowhere) with the supernatural or is it science fiction (some old man who is really a creature from beyond who feeds on human organs to survive). Sounds like it should be scary as all hell, doesn't it? It's really not. It's really very slow moving and so ambiguous that its kind of boring. I know this is suppose to be based on a book, so I guess the plot was set in stone, but wouldn't it have been cool if the young killer and the alien creature sort of teamed up Mr. Brooks style or something? I mean, an hour and forty five minutes is a long time to watch something with such a minimal plot as this film has. The film is very well shot at times and I did like how the seasons changed early in the film and we were suddenly in winter with snow on the ground. I'm not going to say this film isn't visually stunning; at times it is. But it really drags on and on and I honestly can't put my finger on why exactly it just doesn't connect but it just doesn't. It seems to be an experiment, like Donnie Darko was, or like Phantasm was, but one that for whatever reason just doesn't hit the ball out of the park like those movies do.
Blood Father (2016)
Mel Gives it His All
Mel Gibson gives it his all in Blood Father as John Link (sort of sounds like John Wick, eh?), the gristly ex-con living in a trailer and struggling to stay on the wagon. Erin Moriarty also gives a good performance as the young Lydia, John's estranged daughter, who looks him up because she needs help when some real baddies are after her. It's not fair to compare this film to Taken, because John Link is no indestructible super-hero who can kung-fu his way out of any situation. He's just a regular guy who happens to be a bad ass. If you wanted to compare this to a Liam Neesum action film, probably Run All Night would be more appropriate; but in reality, this is sort of a throw back to the low budget action films of the 70s, and it reminded me in tone to films such as Race With the Devil. On the other hand, this isn't pure over the top action either. There's a lot of time spent on the rekindling of the relationship between father and daughter, and all the action is presented within a somewhat realistic text. I thought a little bit more extreme action couldn't have hurt, and that was what I was prepared for early on during the siege of John's trailer, but other than the grand finale at the end, all the action in the middle was quite subdued. But that's okay, because this isn't a John Woo film. It's a film where Mel Gibson gets to remind us why he's a great actor and it's a film that delivers a couple of good life lessons, and, hey, William H. Macy is even thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed it.
The Whole Truth (2016)
Pretty Damn Good Movie
The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama. If you're not up for that, then don't watch it. Courtroom dramas take place in a courtroom. If you're not up for a movie that primarily takes place in a courtroom, then don't watch it. If you like courtroom dramas however, this is sure to please. The closest I can compare this to is perhaps Primal Fear. Keanu Reeves plays a defense attorney who is tasked with representing a client (relative of a friend actually) who refuses to speak. The happenings in the courtroom are complimented with speculative flashbacks (could it have happened this way or maybe it happened that way). As things unfold we learn that there is a deeper conspiracy at play that I won't go into because that would spoil it. Suffice it to say, for a movie that was less than two hours long and primarily was shot in one location (the courtroom) I never got bored. This is no work of genius, mind you; it's not A Few Good Men nor is it To Kill A Mockingbird--but it's pretty damn good nevertheless. So if you like courtroom dramas, do check it out.
Your Guess is as Good as Mine
Observance starts out promising, making you think it's going to be some type of Rear Window, Body Double, Blow-Up or Blow Out type of suspense mystery. Instead, about halfway through, it turns into a confusing, "plotless" experiment in body horror and dream imagery. This is when the minutes start going by ever so slowly as, if you're like me, you start moaning and groaning, wishing something would happen already, wishing some plot would develop, wishing something would be explained or at least make a lick of sense. About two thirds through, if you're like me, you'll start looking at your watch wondering if you should even bother continuing; but you'll hang in there because the camera work is awfully nifty, the music is haunting, the lighting is creepy and there are a handful of jump scares after all. Then the credits will roll and, if you're like me, you'll shrug your shoulders and ask yourself, "What the heck was that?"
Horace and Pete (2016)
A Ten Star Show That At The Same Time Is A Waste
I was watching some video review of Better Call Saul when the reviewer in passing mentioned Horace and Pete. Horace and Pete? Why had I never heard of this show? So I got myself a copy and binge watched it over the course of three days. All I can say is WOW. This is my kind of drama. It's basically Cheers spliced with My Dinner With Andre; in other words, Cheers if Cheers was about real life. Unfortunately it's a bit too real, as characters that you instantly fall in love with just as soon die or disappear for other reasons, robbing you of the opportunity to enjoy them some more.
In fact, so much in the lives of Horace and Pete crumbles by the final episode it is guaranteed that there will never be a Season 2, and that just plain sucks. Why create such lush, developed characters if you're just going to flush them down the toilet? And what great characters they are!
Alan Alda shines the brightest as one of the last remaining Archie Bunker's on planet earth, but he only appears for a few episodes (in one of them he's merely a hallucination). Steve Buscemi is spot on as Pete, co-owner of the bar who is clinically psychotic and can only keep his disease under wraps by taking a very expensive drug, who finds out he isn't really Horace's brother but in fact his cousin. Edie Falco does her greatest work yet as the rough around the edges sister suffering from cancer who would like nothing more than to shut the doors of Horace and Pete's and move on in life. Jessica Lange is nothing short of wonderful as a barfly who's welcome unfortunately runs out early in the season. Add to this mix a theme song by none other than Paul Simon and a slew of cameos from other great dramatic actors (we even get the voice of K-Billy Super Sounds of the 70s) and the result will leave your jaw dropping through eight episodes.
I say eight because by this time the writing and acting seems to get a little rushed (maybe Louis CK was running out of money by this time, and had to move it along) and the final episode will leave you so furious and disturbed that you'll look back and wonder was it worth it. Horace and Pete is masterful at delivering emotional pain, perhaps too masterful, because pain hurts and that's what you'll be left with at the end of the binge: a lump in your throat and a bit of heartache.
I give it a perfect score of ten because it really is that good, and maybe you should just think of it as a really long movie that has an ending, because as television it's an odd bird (nothing is consistent: one episode might be thirty minutes long while the next might be fifty minutes long for example). Like some of the characters, the show itself is suicidal and it makes damn sure there is NEVER going to be a Season 2. What a loss. What a shame. It'll make you want to cry.
Scherzo Diabolico (2015)
Where do I even begin? This movie starts out like it's going to be somewhere between A Simple Plan and the rather obscure Hong Kong horror film Run and Kill--that is, a plan that goes terribly wrong resulting in unexpected bloodshed. Spoilers ahead. A lawyer kidnaps his boss' daughter not for ransom, but in order to put his boss in an incompetent state of anxiety so that his boss will get fired and he will get promoted to his job. The plan works until, well, until the movie decides to get pretty surreal and defy all logic as the boss' daughter becomes a psychotic serial killer. This film certainly builds a hell of a lot of tension and leaves you guessing which direction it's going to take next, but unfortunately the direction it takes will leave you shrugging your shoulders in confusion at the same time that you're at the edge of your seat. The most disturbing thing about this movie is the reactions are so overblown. A guy kidnaps a girl just because his boss won't pay him overtime, and then the girl brutally murders a slue of people just because she got kidnapped. This is a very unsettling film that doesn't seem to have any other purpose than just to freak you out. I wish it had a more cohesive plot; it probably would have been even more disturbing if the things that played out made even a lick of sense. But if you're into this type of nightmarish mind-f**k it won't be a waste of your time.
Starry Eyes (2014)
For those who have been complaining that American horror hasn't kept up with European or Japanese Horror, well, how about Starry Eyes? It's equal parts Martyrs and Audition. It doesn't really make a lick of sense but the acting is so good and the tension is so high, who gives a care? It's really not as graphic and violent as others have let on, but since the tension builds so effectively during the first two thirds of the film, the violence of the last act just seems over the top, and that's a pretty cool accomplishment. I'm giving this a ten because it's a masterpiece of horror. How I didn't even hear about it until two years after its release is beyond me but whatever.
I Am Wrath (2016)
Nothing To See Here: Move Along
Nothing special here. You would think when a film company manages to get John Travolta to agree to be the star of a vigilante film, that they'd want to go for broke. Make it something over the top. Make it something that people are going to want to talk about. But, I guess there has to be a screenwriter and they're stuck with whatever that script says. Oh well. This is just a ho-hum tale with nothing going for it. The acting is just adequate, the plot is less than thin, the action is TV-ish and there's nothing remarkable about it. It's not total crap. You're not going to waste your dollar if you rent it in the Redbox or watch it on Netflix. But after John Travolta's stellar performance in The People vs. OJ Simpson, I just expected more than this lazy little done-before excuse for a motion picture.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
10 Whatever Lane
I usually don't write reviews for IMDb when there are already 175 reviews written but since I expect my opinions to be brief, why not, maybe someone will read them among all the odd glowing reviews of this totally average film. (Can't explain this mess without spoilers so be warned.)
Okay. First thing. This film has absolutely NOTHING to do with Cloverfield. Nothing. Period. Even the weird aliens that turn up at the end look nothing like what was presented in Cloverfield and their presence is short, so get it out of your head that this has anything to do with Cloverfield.
Other than that, this was about as entertaining as two episodes of The Walking Dead back to back minus the zombies. Sure, there was some suspense, but nothing more than you'll see in a cable television show. John Goodman lost a little weight since his whale of an appearance in Trumpo but he's still way out of shape, gasping for breath just to move across the room, so the idea that two healthy young people can't take him on in his little bunker is just absurd. Just put some of those cans of food in a sock and whack him over the head already, I was saying to myself.
So most of the movie is John Goodman holding two younger adults hostage in his bunker while we aren't sure what exactly has happened outside. At one point the young woman almost escapes but she sees another woman trying to get into the bunker who is like, I don't know, burning up, or dying from some disease, or bubbling from acid air or something. But then when the young woman finally escapes toward the end there is no acid air or poison air or whatever so what was that all about? I don't know. Makes no sense.
Okay, so basically, most of the movie is John Goodman holding these guys in his bunker against their will and then the young woman escapes to find out indeed the world has been taken over by aliens and then it's like, okay, tune in to episode three, except there is no episode
Pointless and not very successful exercise in mood
I was highly disappointed by The Witch. I just don't understand why independent horror films keep failing to scare me these days. The closest anything has come to scaring me in recent years is perhaps Babadook and Goodnight Mommy, but even those fell a little short of their potential.
In this one we have a handful of creepy scenes that are completely wasted, because this film so lacks anything resembling a plot that that's all they come across as, just random scenes.
OK, here we go, I'll try to explain it (spoiler warning). A family is for some reason exiled from an early 17th century New England town, so they go off and find a spot to live on their own, but they don't seem to know how to grow or hunt for food. The family isn't properly introduced to us in the first place, so it's a little confusing (is there one or two families living together) but soon we figure out it's just one family with a lot of kids. They all talk like Shakespearean characters so it's hard to identify with them. One day the little baby vanishes in thin air and apparently there's some old witch living out in the woods who took him and I guess, ate him or something. From then on nothing is explained. The witch does make another appearance, but she's just a flash and she never becomes a character in this story, is never explained whatsoever. The older boy disappears in the woods and when he returns he's possessed, I guess, or maybe he's just sick and delusional. I don't know. The older daughter and the younger set of twins then start accusing each other of being witches because their goat gives blood instead of milk, while the mother thinks she's breast feeding her baby when really a crow is pecking on her. The father chops a lot of wood in at least four or five scenes of him chopping wood. Their goat then becomes murderous and everyone goes nuts and the girl discovers that the goat is Lucifer himself, I guess, and he tempts the girl to sign her name in his book and she goes off into the woods to float around in the sky with the other witches.