Saturday, October 21, 2017

Movie Review: "Child's Play" (1988)

Director: Tom Holland
Year: 1988
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

A dying serial killer named Charles Lee Ray transfers his soul into a 'Good Guy Doll,' which winds up in the hands of a six-year-old boy named Andy. Now, Chucky wants to transfer his soul out of the doll and into Andy so he can live again, and he is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way.

Dolls can be very creepy. We think it's the soulless looking eyes that do the trick. They have been a go-to antagonist in horror movies for quite some time. Chucky may not be the first killer doll in a horror movie, but he is certainly one of if not the most memorable. Director Tom Holland, no, not THAT Tom Holland, is known for his other horror films like "Fright Night" and "Thinner." He takes a bit of a twist on the standard eighties slasher and adds a supernatural element by making the killer a possessed two-foot tall doll.

The story is about a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray, played by Brad Dourif, who, in a desperate attempt to save his own life after being fatally wounded, transfers his soul into a 'Good Guy Doll.' He's just lucky he wasn't around a display of Barbies or Cabbage Patch Kids because that may have changed the entire tone of the movie. The doll eventually becomes the property of a six-year-old boy named Andy, played by Alex Vincent, who received it as a birthday present from his mother Karen, played by Catherine Hicks. She unwittingly purchased the possessed doll from a homeless peddler in the alley behind her work, which is always the best place to find discount children's gifts, didn't you know?!

"Child's Play" is a fun, slightly tongue in cheek horror film that we love watching during Halloween time. It has plenty of gore and tons of horrific moments, the most memorable of which involves a voodoo doll and the breaking of some limbs. There is a hefty dose of absurdity to everything that happens here, and as the series went farther and farther along, it started to embrace those comedic elements more and more. This first installment does have its fair share of humor beyond the fact that full-grown adults are constantly wrestling a very small doll. Chucky himself delivers a lot of quips and insults that certainly make the audience chuckle. The final conflict between Chucky and Andy is extremely unsettling and really gross. The acting in this film isn't great, but it's actually not all that bad either. Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon, who plays Detective Mike Norris, are very capable performers. Brad Dourif also does some awesome, now iconic voice-over work as Chucky. The plot is as simple as they come and the film does have the occasional jump scare, but it doesn't really overdo it.

In the end, "Child's Play" is a good damn time (before the series got wildly out of hand). Fans of cheesy 80s horror will rejoice while watching this film.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 69%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Movie Review: "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" (2017)

Director: Angela Robinson
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Doctor of psychology William Marston uses his polyamorous lifestyle and the two women in it as the inspiration for his comic book Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is a huge phenomenon right now, probably more popular than she has ever been thanks to Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros., and the DC extended universe. Have you ever wondered about the story behind this iconic superhero? Have you ever wondered about the person who came up with the story and invented the most well known and most popular female superhero of all time? This is the tale writer/director Angela Robinson tells in "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women." The film features Luke Evans as the titular Professor William Marston. He stars alongside Rebecca Hall, who plays his wife Elizabeth, and Bella Heathcote, who plays their lover Olive Byrne. Marston worked as a professor developing his DISC theory. He was also trying to invent the lie detector. It was there he and his wife met a student named Olive. The professor and his wife Elizabeth take Olive on as an assistant to help with their research. A short time later, the three enter into a polyamorous relationship. Many years into their relationship, William uses the two women he loves as the inspiration for his most memorable creation: Wonder Woman.

"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" deals with issues like feminism, women's rights, polyamory, sexual freedom, and bisexuality in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. Surprisingly, many of these issues still play a huge role in modern society and are often still seen as risque or taboo though some are becoming a little more accepted. This movie has some extremely good performances, especially from Rebecca Hall, who we feel never quite gets the recognition she deserves. Hall is constantly giving brilliant performances over and over, and between 2016's "Christine" and her tremendous display here, we really hope she starts to gain more attention for her wonderful work as an actor. Her character Elizabeth is strong, stubborn, and confident at times, but with an underlying insecurity. Bella Heathcote also offers a great performance as Olive, who has a more innocent naivete, but is still curious and exploratory as she overcomes the societal sexual oppression she has been raised to abide by all her life. Luke Evans is also good, though he is overshadowed by his two female counterparts. The movie starts out as an exploration of Marston and Elizabeth's marriage and work, as well as Elizabeth's fight to be recognized free from the shadow of her much more scholarly recognized husband. The movie then morphs into a romantic drama as they add Olive into the equation and begin to fight for the love they want and believe in despite the notions of the time. Finally, the creation of Wonder Woman comes into play in the latter half of the movie as the couple explores the world of role-playing, bondage, and secret identities.

There is an interesting and engaging story here, though we are sure many liberties have been taken with some of the aspects of their lives. This is to be expected in most biopics. The photos of the real Professor Marston, Elizabeth, and Olive show as the credits roll, and they don't look a thing like their much sexier Hollywood counterparts, but it seems clear Robinson wanted to make this film have a little bit of a steamy romance to it to have mass appeal, so we understand. Our one major complaint about this movie is the pacing. It can be a bit slow at times, causing the film to drag here and there. It can get a little melodramatic, but the subject matter necessitates it at times.

We wound up really enjoying "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women," though it's really no wonder why this movie didn't make any money at the box office. The exploration of sexuality, particularly female sexuality, coupled with its themes of feminism, polyamory, and women's rights have been gaining more acceptance in our modern society, but are still considered taboo subjects to a lot of people. It's a shame more people don't open their closed minds and accept that times are changing.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~88%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Movie Review: "Tales of Halloween" (2015)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, & Paul Solet
Year: 2015
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

An anthology of ten Halloween-related horror stories.

"Tales of Halloween" consists of 10 loosely connected short films that all take place on Halloween night. Here's a recap of the individual shorts.

"Sweet Tooth" is written and directed by Dave Parker. It's about a candy-craving monster who kills those who don't share their candy with him. This entry boasts a strong premise that is a lot of gruesome fun. It's a little slow at first, but the payoff is worth it.

"The Night Billy Raised Hell" is up next, which is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and is written by Clint Sears. When a young trick-or-treater is pressured into egging a house, he finds out the house belongs to the actual devil, who is about to show him what a real Halloween prank looks like. This short film is a raucous good time with a good dose of silly dark comedy.

"Trick" is the third short, which is directed by Adam Gierasch and is written by Greg Commons. A group of adults gets a bad trick from a group of trick-or-treating kids. It's a bit of a different take on the slasher film with a few extra twists thrown in. A worthy entry into this anthology.

"The Weak and the Wicked" is directed by Paul Solet and is written by Molly Millions. A teen attempts to summon a demon to exact revenge on his childhood bullies. Unfortunately, this short is one of the weaker entries. It doesn't quite fit the flow of the rest of the shorts and is also sort of boring.

Next, we have "Grim Grinning Ghost," which is written and is directed by Axelle Carolyn. A woman is tormented by a ghost who steals the eyes of anyone who looks at it. This one is an excellent entry. It is simple but has great tension. It successfully creeped us out.

"Ding Dong" is written and directed by Lucky McKee. It is about a witch who wants a child and a husband who did his best to prevent her from getting one. This is a bizarre entry that's weirder than anything else in this anthology, and we weren't huge fans of this one.

"This Means War" is written and directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp. This short pits two neighbors with different ideas on what makes Halloween great against each other. They both have varying ideas on how one should decorate and act during the holiday, so they battle it out in a fight to the death to prove their side is right. This is a basic short film that doesn't have much tension but is full of silly fun.

"Friday the 31st" is directed by Mike Mendez, who also wrote the short along with Dave Parker. A deformed psycho killer meets his match in a small trick-or-treating alien. This is BigJ's favorite entry and it's one of the funniest. It is an over the top, hilarious bloodfest reminiscent of "Evil Dead 2" or "Army of Darkness."

"The Ransom of Rusty Rex" is written and directed by Ryan Schifrin. Two kidnappers snatch who they believe is the son of a wealthy man to be held for ransom. What they get, however, is a nightmarish demon who gets very attached to those he likes. This interesting concept turns the tables on the villains. This is a successful and overall solid entry in the anthology.

"Bad Seed" is the last short in the bunch. This one is written and directed by Neil Marshall. A genetically engineered pumpkin becomes a killer man-eating jack-o-lantern. This is a fun final entry that gives a few nods to some of the earlier ones in the anthology, as well as a few homages to certain horror classics. "Bad Seed" is definitely a good time.

When it comes to anthologies, they can be hit or miss. Often times, there are more bad entries than good ones. "Tales of Halloween," however, has an overwhelming number of good entries compared to bad and mediocre ones. We enjoy the mostly tongue-in-cheek comedic approach it takes with its short films, and we think this is a great way to get into the spirit of the holiday. You may have to sit through a couple of lulls, but the high points more than make up for them. This anthology is a pleasant surprise.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Movie Review: "My Friend Dahmer" (2017)

Director: Marc Meyers
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

A group of band geeks becomes fascinated with and befriend an odd kid named Jeff Dahmer, who likes to fake epileptic fits for attention.

It's not every day you see a coming-of-age film about one of America's most notorious serial killers. "My Friend Dahmer" is written and directed by Marc Meyers and is based on the graphic novel of the same name by John "Derf" Backderf. He was a classmate of Jeffrey Dahmer's back in high school. If you went to school with a person who murdered and cannibalized at least 17 people, some may ask the question, "what was it like going to school with that guy before he murdered and cannibalized at least 17 people?" Well, this is that story.

The film stars Ross Lynch as Jeffery Dahmer, who back then was simply an awkward kid with a rough home life. We see how tough it was for Jeff living with parents, played by Anne Heche and Dallas Roberts, who endlessly argued. A lot of these arguments seem to be spawned from his mother's instability and her own battles with various forms of psychosis. One day, Dahmer starts acting like a 'spazz,' faking epileptic seizures and mocking a local decorator who has cerebral palsy. Keep in mind, this took place back in the 70's, and to a bunch of tactless teenagers growing up in that era, they found these impersonations to be hilarious. His actions gained the attention of a group of band geeks who formed the Jeff Dahmer Fan Club, led by aforementioned author Derf Backderf, played here by Alex Wolff.

One may have conflicting emotions watching a movie like "My Friend Dahmer," and rightfully so. It often has a comedic tone to it, which may make some viewers uncomfortable since we are looking at these situations in hindsight knowing what a monster Dahmer actually turned out to be. There are numerous awkward and uncomfortable moments where the audience is left waiting for this clearly crazy and unwell person to completely snap. Though it is meant to offer a bit of insight into Dahmer's life, it also wants to help us understand how easy it is to miss the warning signs of psychopathy. To his classmates and friends, Dahmer was just a weirdo freak and a bit of a goofball who did crazy things for attention. What they didn't really realize is his clownish behavior was just a mask to hide the darker desires he kept repressed by numbing himself with large quantities of alcohol. We start to see how other kids like Derf and his friends may gravitate towards a guy like Dahmer. We as an audience often laugh at the stuff Jeff does. We can even empathize and sympathize with how poorly he is treated by others, but then, a thought will creep up in your mind, saying, "oh yeah, this guy is a crazy murderer and eats human people. I shouldn't really feel bad for him or laugh at his antics." It's an interesting position to be in and it may be one that Derf has struggled to understand for many years. We found ourselves wondering if Derf or any of the others in the Dahmer Fan Club have reflected on their time in high school with this serial killer and have wondered if there was anything they could have done that may have changed the trajectory of Dahmer's life. This story seem like a way to visualize that refection.

"My Friend Dahmer" is an interesting film about obsession, popularity, and mental illness that will make you think about things you may have never considered about the pasts of serial killers. It has an excellent, creepy, unsettling performance from Ross Lynch and a smaller but worthy role by Alex Wolff. Though the tone can be jarring at times, it still made us think and squirm equally.


My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Movie Review: "The Mountain Between Us" (2017)

Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

A brain surgeon and a photojournalist sharing a plane ride crash land in the Rockies after their pilot has a stroke mid-flight. Now, these two strangers must rely on each other to survive and get down the mountain alive.

A brain surgeon, a photojournalist, and a dog walk down a mountain, then they walk down a mountain some more, and then they continue walking down a mountain. Director Hany Abu-Assad's "The Mountain Between Us" is a survival adventure romance starring two very talented, capable actors, Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. Elba plays brain surgeon Ben Bass, and Winslet plays photojournalist Alex Martin. He needs to get home to perform brain surgery on a young patient, and she needs to get home to attend her wedding. They both need to be at their destination by morning. When their flights are canceled, Alex has the bright idea that the two should team up and get a commuter plane to take them to another airport so they can make their respective flights. Midway through their rickety journey in the smallest plane imaginable, the pilot, played by "why did you even cast him if he was only going to be in one scene" Beau Bridges, has a stroke and crashes the plane. Ben and Alex get stuck high up in the mountains and must depend on each other to survive until they are rescued.

One has to wonder how a movie with two of the most charming, competent, and talented actors can wind up being so extraordinarily bad. This is one of the most boring, insipid, uninspired, unoriginal movies of the year. Yes, snow-covered mountains are extremely gorgeous to look at, but goddamn, this film moves at a glacial pace (which Kate Winslet must be used to....get it??). This movie is sold as a survival adventure, but really, it's yet another unattainable cheeseball romance. The two are stuck together in the wilderness, but we never feel any sort of tension and we never have any fear that either of them will die. The movie shows a few ill effects during their ordeal, but both of them still manage to stay fairly well groomed despite being stuck with very few supplies for at least three weeks. This story drags on and on and on, and we wished so badly we could yell, "GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT ALREADY!!!" at the screen, but there were other people watching the film with us. In fact, there were more people watching this movie with us than there were when we saw "Blade Runner 2049," and we think that's simply unacceptable. We know where this damn thing is going the second it starts. When it finally looks like this atrocity is winding down, it keeps slogging along and has more non-story to tell.

As we said, we love both Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. They are both proficient actors and have been excellent in other films. Together in this flaming turd of a movie, they are stripped of what makes them good actors. Who would have thought that two of the most talented people of their time would have such unbelievable, terrible chemistry together? We never once believe their forced "will they/won't they" wilderness romance, not even for a second. We understand that if you're alone with Idris Elba or Kate Winslet for three weeks, chances are, you are probably going to want to fuck one of them if they allow it to happen, especially if you could die at any time. But seriously, if we had just spent three weeks waste-deep in the snow, trekking through the mountains for hours every day with limited food and water, we're not going to be able to fuck anything, let alone Idris Elba or Kate Winslet. Hell, you'll be lucky if your genitals still work and aren't covered in frostbite.

Oh, and did we mention they have a dog with them? How the fuck did the dog survive? Our dogs hate being in the cold weather...AND WE LIVE IN SAN DIEGO. 65 degrees is chilly for them. Do you think any dog that goes without food for multiple days, let alone weeks, is going to survive jumping through the snow? BUT WHO CARES!!! He just hopped like a bunny through piles of freshly fallen powder! AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! It's so0o0o0o0o cute!!! AND COMPLETELY UNIMAGINABLE AND FALSE AND WE HATE IT AND WHY.

"The Mountain Between Us" doesn't embrace its cheesiness, it just hopes the audience is too stupid to tell the difference. It is such a waste of a movie. It is boring, cliche, and overlong with thinly written characters, shoddy, dopey dialogue and horrendous writing, and the directing is flat out bad. Its only saving grace is some good cinematography and the fact that the dog is cute.

My Rating: 2/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~43%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

Movie Review: "The Frighteners" (1996)

Director: Peter Jackson
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A spiritual medium/paranormal investigator/scam artist is thrown into a real investigation when he discovers that a ghost is killing from beyond the grave.

Before Peter Jackson became known for making big-budget fantasy epics like "The Lord of the Rings," "King Kong," and "The Hobbit," he spent much of his early filmmaking career making horror comedies like "Bad Taste," "Dead Alive," and, of course, "The Frighteners." This film stars Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister, a paranormal investigator, and spiritual medium. A tragic experience many years prior gave Frank the ability to see and speak to the dead. He uses this power in a shady way by having his ghost friends haunt houses so he can be paid to clear them. He seems to be running a decent racket, though he lives in a shabby, unfinished house. All of this changes when he comes face to face with a spirit that is actually killing people from beyond the grave. Now, he has to actually do what he has only been pretending to do up until this point. Joining Fox are Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, and Jon Astin, who play Frank's ghostly pals, as well as Trini Alvarado, who plays love interest named Lucy Lynskey. For fans of cult classic horror films, Jeffery Combs from the "Re-Animator" series stars here as well, alongside Dee Wallace, who is a horror icon and has appeared in numerous films in the genre.

This movie starts off very fun and light in tone, then takes a dark turn part of the way through. "The Frighteners" is rated R, but watching the first half, we started to wonder why. It almost feels like a goofy ghost comedy that would be fun for the whole family. It is silly and filled with CGI ghosts doing ridiculous stuff, then suddenly, it gets a more horror-focused. By the second half, the mood has totally changed. That's not to say the comedy element is completely gone, but the story becomes far less silly by the latter half and contains much more violent imagery.

Michael J. Fox does a great job in his part. It helps that he was a comedy staple in the 80's. He has a pretty solid story to work with that keeps us engaged almost entirely. Jeffery Combs' character, FBI agent Milton Dammers, also offers a lot of funny moments and is a real highlight of the film. Apart from the acting, the CGI is extremely dated. The technology was very new at the time, and it appears, like most children with a new toy, Peter Jackson just wanted to see what he could do with it. Much of what happens here winds up looking super fake and really cheesy in retrospect, especially considering much of what was done could have likely been made more convincingly with practical effects. We are sure "The Frighteners" was groundbreaking at the time, but there is something to be said for knowing your limits and the limits of the technology you are working with. This is a mistake Jackson still makes even today. Just because something can be done with CGI, doesn't mean it necessarily should be, especially if the alternative will look better.

Despite its dated visuals, "The Frighteners" is a fairly entertaining ghost feature. It's got a lot of laughs and some good performances. The shift from super silly comedy to downright violent horror midway through its runtime will keep the audience guessing what's yet to come.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Movie Review: "Halloween: Resurrection" (2002)

Director: Rick Rosenthal
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

When a group of college kids joins a reality internet show being filmed at the childhood home of Michael Myers, the infamous killer comes out of hiding to go on another Halloween murdering spree. 

So here we are, yet again, on another Halloween with another group of young adults just waiting to get murdered. You may be thinking, hey, wait a minute, didn't Michael Myers have his head chopped off at the end of "Halloween: H20"? Don't worry, the writers of this movie have an easy solution for that whole situation to allow for Myers to return and kill again.

"Halloween: Resurrection" is directed by Rick Rosenthal, who is best known for directing "Halloween 2." One would hope Rosenthal's return would signal a return to form for the series. It had been over twenty years since the last installment, and at this point, the series is just too stale and unimaginative to be resuscitated properly. Enter "Halloween: Resurrection," just when we thought it couldn't get any worse.

Jamie Lee Curtis once again reprises her role as Laurie Strode, though her appearance is brief and apparently done out of a contractual obligation according to Curtis herself. Once Strode is out of the picture, Michael Myers finds new targets that have nothing to do with familial ties and have everything to do with the group's proximity to his childhood home. A group of college kids has signed up to be part of an online reality-style show where they investigate the old Myers house to discover why Michael went bat-shit crazy and started murdering people. The cast includes Bianca Kajlich, Sean Patrick Thomas, Katee Sackhoff, Luke Kirby, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Daisy McCrackin, Tyra Banks, and Busta Rhymes, yes, that Busta Rhymes.

What we have here, as you may have guessed by our disdain thus far, is a recycled slasher story trying to squeeze whatever money is left out of a floundering franchise. This is a horror film filled with meaningless fake-out jump scares and tons upon tons of bad acting. There is an added little twist as this movie is partially filmed in the found-footage style as the would-be Myers victims all wear body cameras... as if what was missing from the franchise was shaky, poor quality camera work. "The Blair Witch Project" had come out a few years earlier, and our guess is the filmmaker must have figured found-footage was all the rage... it must be what the public wants nowadays! They couldn't have been more wrong. Sure, there is a bit of blood and guts and some gore here and there, but since we don't give a shit about any of the characters, we don't care if any of them survive. We actually get a little mad when some of them do live to tell their tale.

If we had to sum up this entry into the "Halloween" series in one word, that word would be pointless, which probably applies to every Halloween entry since 1988. "Halloween: Resurrection" is useless, irrelevant, and dull, a tired has-been that only wishes it was as good as the worst installment in this franchise.

My Rating: 2/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 12%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!