Review Round-up June 1st, 2020

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Locke & Key: 2001; horror; Written by Josh Friedman, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci from the Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriquez comic; Directed by Mark Romanek. 1hr, First watch, from Youtube.

 This is an unpicked up  pilot, not the television show (that’ll come later), but an unpicked up pilot. I get the complaints of the one we got, but be glad it’s not this. I can see why it wasn’t grabbed up. Okay, I made that sound really bad. It’s not, but it’s rather weak. It slams through some big plot moments that served better spread out over episodes and doesn’t really make a good hook for further pick up. It’s just so low… key… heh, far from the gripping set up of the Netflix show. Good cast though. Miranda Otto, of Lord of the Rings and Sabrina is a great choice for Nina! 

Polaroid – 2020 (in release at least, on a shelf for a few years) ;horror -Written by Blair Butler; Directed by Lars Kevberg

This film is what got Kevberg booked for the surprising really good Child’s Play remake from last year. Boy was a let down. This is nothing but a pile of underlit Final Destination type flick. Girl finds an old polaroid, takes a photo and then everyone in the photo is stalked and blandly killed. Everyone is so unlikable. Everything is so hard to see. And the reasons behind the curse? Blech. So much of this does land on Butler’s script rather than Kevberg. But the way he has chosen with his crew to light the film, it makes it so damned hard to see. The whole affair is generic as all hell.

Hudson Hawk – 1991 – Comedy/Action – Written by Steven E. de Souza & Daniel Waters from an idea by Bruce Willis and Robert Kraft. Directed by Michal Lehmann. 1h40. First time watch. Tubi

Another entertaining as all hell trainwreck of bad ideas, awful jokes, and misplaced charm. I loved it for all the wrong reasons. And some of the best reasons – Richard E Grant chewing his way through the scenery with Sandra Bernhart. They know the shit they are in and live it up. Too bad Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, and Andie MacDowell seem to think they are in a film that thinks it’s as cool as Ocean’s 11 but is as lame as Ocean’s 12.  An insanely stupid plot, one dumb set-piece after an other, and a whole bunch of jokes that dont’ land (the candy bar assassins anyone?) come together in a tornado of bad movie glory. 

Phantasm – 1979 – Horror – Written and directed by Don Coscarelli; Starring Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, A Michael Baldwin – 89 min – Shudder as part of Joe Bob Briggs. Seen too many times.

BBOOOOOOYYYYY!  This weirdo classic is a classic for a reason. It’s hard to pull off a trippy dream-logic narrative without getting lost in the odd, but Coscarelli pulls it off. It changes the rules and has straight up contradictions, but Don shucks and jives through these with ease, leading the viewer down the labyrinth with interest instead of checking out. Scrimm is riveting as the Tall Man, commanding the screen in his limited time (the series does a good job in not over-playing him). Gooey and trippy and highly engrossing with a great look, I love this movie.

Playmobil – 2019 – Animated kids – Written by  Blaise Hemingway, Greg Erb, and aso Oremland. Directed by Lino DiSalvo. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Jim Gaffigan, and Daniel Radcliffe. 1h39m. 

Like Ugly Dolls, which I saw some time ago, this is as bland and generic as you’d expect for this type of film. Low level, easy jokes, poor animation, and voicework of famous people barely trying. Some of the animation itself is pretty good, so I can give it that. But it’s not worth much of your time.

Almost Human – 2013 – horror written and directed by Joe Begos. Starring Graham Skipper, Josh Either, Vanessa Leigh. 80 min. First time watch

Joe Begos’s first film before The Mind’s Eye and VFW (see May 27th review). Shows a raw talent for a new filmmaker, getting a solid but maybe a little underdone film out of a little. The effects work is the star and that lands well, even if the rest of the film doesn’t quite get there.

Outsider- 2020 – horror/crime – 10 Episode TV; various writers/directors, based on the book by Stephen King. HBO. First time watch.

Based on the Stephen King novel I haven’t read – but I have read the Bill Hodges trilogy which previously featured Holly, albeit in a completely different manner. The always great Cynthia Erivo (even if the property is bad, cough Harriet and Bad Times at the El Royale) is amazing as the new version of Holly. The rest of the cast is stellar too. Ben Mendelson, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson, and so many others. The Outsider is a thickly plotted crime-horror show, 10 episodes, filled with real characters, heavy drama, and a heck of a mystery. One that admittedly does lose much of the drive as the mystery gets answered. That’s rather expected of the genre and source, but the rest is so good, I didn’t mind. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco – 2019- Drama -Written by Joe Talbot & Rob Richert; Directed by Joe Talbot. 2h1m. Netflix disc – First time watch.

Oh my Bowie, this film is freaking’ gorgeous. Even if it didn’t have incredible writing, plotting, and performance, I’d recommend watching it just for the astounding camera work and mise-en-scene.  Newcomier Jimmie Fails (who created the story with the writer-director) bursts onto the scene as a young man trying to find a home in a gentrified and changing San Francisco. One home, in particular. The home his grandfather owned, and lost, when he was young. A home that represents a stability he no longer feels in his current life and culture. It is also a film of positive male friendship, with an honest and true platonic love and connection. I loved this movie. It’s too bad this came and went without much fanfare or award nominations. It deserves them.

Robot Holocaust – 1987 – Sci-Fi; Written and directed by Tim Kindaid. 1h19m, via MST3k. First time watch. Tubi

I’d love this slapdash mess of a post-apocalypse adventure even if it wasn’t part of the first season of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I need to see the uncut, unriffed version. But no matter the cut, Robot Holocaust has bad accentss, worse sets, cheap robot costumes, and a hell of a lot of fun in how every choice made by Kinkaid was just wrong enough.It’s the type that feels like an Italian rip-off but is made in America. That weird feel. I’m really surprised we don’t have a Troll 2 type of bad-movie cult around the film. Maybe because there are so many similar but more entertaining films, but for whatever reason – I’m a fan now. 

Mulan- 1998 – Animated action – Story and script but a butt-ton of people I’m not going through. Directed by Tony Bandroft & Barry Cook – Starring the voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer.; 98 mn. Third watch

Let’s get down to business to defeat the Huns! FIve bucks you started singing that as soon as you saw Mulan as one of today’s titles. A catchy earworm for sure, one of only a few in Mulan, a bigger and grander movie to be reduced to musical numbers. My favorite of the 90s Disney films may be a simplified version of war, but for doing what it does presents a very different Disney Animated feature. It’s animation is gorgeous, its action grand, and the voice work of Wen impeccable. But dammit I honestly hate Mushu. I’m so glad the new version is cutting him out. He’s an annoying, loud distraction. I get he’s there for the kids but holy hell this would have been so much stronger without him. Maybe he should have also been left behind like the songs when the terror of the Huns is realized. That moment, where a song is cut off abruptly when coming across a firebombed village of dead, is a sobering moment of clarity. It is powerful, as much of Mulan is – when Mushu doesn’t make a quip.

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