DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE Review: Dragged Across Two Hours and Forty Minutes of Nothing

In 2015, S. Craig Zahler first wowed audiences with his ultra-violent feature debut, the excellent western horror BONE TOMAHAWK. This movie pulses Sam Peckinpah. Then in 2017, he again blew his now fanbase away with a modern grindhouse movie with a beefed up Vince Vaughn called BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99. Both films follow a similar method — slowburn with a hyperviolent payoff worth your time. So it’s excepted that he would do it once again with his latest, DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE, which only has a cool title going for it.

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Creed II 4K Blu Review: A Knockout 4K Release

Creed II is a good sequel, and that’s all it needs to be. It doesn’t try to be better than the first film because director Steven Caple Jr. – an odd choice to follow the great Ryan Coogler, but this rookie held his own – as well as Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote the screenplay), knew that trying to top a masterpiece – Creed – would be next to impossible. Creed is the second best in the Rocky Balboa franchise, and I will fight anyone who disagrees (note: must be shorter than 5’5’’ and weight less than 100 pounds)

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A STAR IS BORN 4K Blu-ray Review: A Star is Reborn

A STAR IS BORN has been remade three times, and I think there is a reason for this: this is a movie that every generation can relate to — love, loss, tragedy, successful and the pitfalls that come with it — dealing with all of these at once in today’s fast-paced society.

A STAR IS BORN looks great in 4K — there’s not many films that don’t. A STAR IS BORN gives you the option to watch in Dolby Vision or HDR10, and my recommendation is HDR10. More contrast and brighter colors. (I hate Dolby Vision — it’s dim and makes everything look washed out.)

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JUDGMENT NIGHT Blu-ray Review: EMILIOOOOOO!

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Back in the 90s, acclaimed actor-turned-multihyphenate Emilio Estevez was everywhere: YOUNG GUNS II (a personal favorite), MEN AT WORK (another personal favorite), FREEJACK, LOADED WEAPON 1 (I love this films and will fight you if you do not), the beloved THE MIGHTY DUCKS, and now it brings us to the 1993 classic, JUDGMENT NIGHT, starring Estevez, a young Stephen Dorff (BLADE), Cuba Gooding, Jr., that guy from House of Pain, and actor-turned-vicious-villain, Denis Leary. (Oh, and Jeremy Piven is in this, too, with a decaying hairline, 90s-style pants nobody would be caught dead in, and his same ole cocky attitude.) The film was directed by Stephen Hopkins who directed PREDATOR 2 and BLOWN AWAY, so this film has "irresistible 90s movie" written all over it.

Let me get this out of the way — I’m one of Emilio’s biggest fans. Like many, I grew up watching his films: BREAKFAST CLUB, REPO MAN, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, STAKEOUT (and its subsequent sequel), YOUNG GUNS, and those mentioned above in the previous paragraph. I remember the first time I watched JUDGEMENT NIGHT — it was at my dad’s, very late at night, I was 10, and it felt like I was in the movie. The atmosphere of the movie’s dark, brooding night sucked me in. I still get that feeling when I watch it.

JUDGEMENT NIGHT has never been on Blu-ray before, so if you have a giant TV like me, the DVD version wasn’t so great. Thanks to the great folks over at Warner Archive, you can now watch this film in glorious 1080p.

If you are an Emilio enthusiast like me, don’t move, don’t whisper, don’t even breathe — but the movie now right here.

HALLOWEEN Review: The New HALLOWEEN is Thrilling, Chilling, Savage, and the Most Fierce Entry in the Franchise Since the Original

“Are you afraid of the Boogeyman? You should be.” — Laurie Strode, sole Michael Myers survivor

If you’re reading this, you know who the Boogeyman is: Michael Myers. (If you don’t, stop reading, call your parents, and berate them for not giving you a good childhood.)

The original Halloween made its debut in 1978, cementing itself as one of the greatest horror films of all time. It opened the floodgates to countless slasher knockoffs and blessed us with horror icons such as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. It also spawned now 11 sequels, reboots, and reimaginings, with only a few being worth a watch, either for nostalgia or because they’re so bad they’re fun. (Rob Zombie’s “reimagining” diptych can burn in hell.) After countless duds, David Gordon Green’s Halloween is finally a worthy sequel that John Carpenter’s slasher needed. It’s scary as hell and gives the Laurie-Michael feud a finale that fans deserve.

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Capsule Review: THUNDER ROAD

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My dad passed away unexpectedly on August 20, 2017. I had to write my his eulogy and obituary, and was given less than 24 to write both. His life’s legacy was in my hands and I had 24 hours to make it just as incredible as he was as a father. We picked a preacher to deliver the eulogy, and he strayed off topic at times, making things painfully awkward. Dad’s funeral was far from perfect, but my sister and I gave him the best “see you later” that we possibly could.

I digress.

Certain movies fall in your lap at the right time and when you watch it, it feels like it was made just for you. For me, that movie is Jim Cummings’ THUNDER ROAD, a hilariously awkward, witty, and honest movie that envelopes the harsh reality of losing a parent.

Based on his SXSW and Sundance Film Festival-awarding winning short film of the same name, THUNDER ROAD is about the eulogy Officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings) performs at his mother’s funeral, and the heartbreaking aftermath that follows.

Anyone who’s dealt with grief knows there’s not one way to do it. Some find peace through God, some through pills, drugs, and the bottom of Jim Beam. There are a myriad of ways to cope and deal with grief. Officer Arnaud does it through violent verbal outbursts (immediately followed by apologies) and doing his absolute best to be a good father (which excels at). The latter os his swan song for his late mother. As learned in his eulogy, he took for granted a lot of kindness she did for him, something we can all say about our parents. Jim may have his outbursts, but he means well and his daughter’s well-being is the most important thing to him.

This movie had me from it’s opening moments, when Arnaud is fiddling with a tiny pink portable CD boombox, which he plans on using for his eulogy. He can’t get the damn CD player to work. Then in one long monologue shot in one take (by Lowell A. Meyer, who slowly zooms in on Jim during his eulogy performance), he delivers his eulogy. It’s messy, he loses focus and jumps off topic, says inappropriate things, and dances. He’s grieving, but to people around him, he’s lost his damn mind.

I say this movie fell into my lap at the right time and I feel like it was made for me because when my dad passed away one year, I felt everything Jim did. Confusion, anger, and profound sadness.

You don’t have to be grieving or loss someone to appreciate THUNDER ROAD — this is a good movie about real life and its blindsiding upsets. It’s also one of the most honest movies about grieving and best films of 2018. 

Review: MANDY (Or, HOW NICOLAS CAGE SET FIRE TO THE WORLD)

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Chances are, you've read enough about MANDY that can't already be said. It's weird, wild, feverish, and features Nicolas fucking Cage at his best. No hyperbole here, folks -- he's a tornado and shreds the screen in this here film. 

Sure, at first look, MANDY may look like an easy paycheck for Cage -- he hasn't done a film he didn't dial in since 2010's KICK-ASS -- but he literally slays it here. He's all in for MANDY, and you'll believe it. This is the most fun I've seen him have in a movie in years. 

Have you seen co-writer-director Panos Cosmatos' last film, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW? That might help you enjoy the first half a bit more, but patience is a virtue. MANDY is a wild and hypnotic tale of love, macaroni and cheese, and sweet, violent revenge in the 1980s. Red (Cage) and his love Mandy (BIRDMAN's Andrea Riseborough) live in a quaint little home, in a secluded part of the woods. They are in love and life is good. 

That is until a caravan full of 1980's-cult lovin' goons interrupt their innocuous life, sending Red on a path of hyper-violent revenge. (A dish best served with a colossal handmade ax, chainsaw, and whatever else he collects to kill along the way.)

I don't want to dive too much into the film because I'll be giving away so much fun, but I will say that all hopes and dreams of a completely berserk Nicholas Cage are fulfilled in this movie. It takes a little patience and time, but when it comes, you will not believe what you are seeing. (I didn't and I watch a lot of movies.) 

This movie has so much hilarity to it, too, and one of its devices I love is with each villain he kills; it's like a video game -- he consumes massive amounts of alcohol, cocaine, LSD -- whatever he finds on his journey of chaos, he takes. Drugs are his Popeye spinach if you will. 

What I applaud Cosmatos for most is he finally calls out villains for using God as making them indestructible -- it's all a sham. They use the Good Book and speak nonsense about God to scare, but when their reaper (Red) comes rapping, their tone changes — they quickly become feeble victims, begging for another chance. I haven't seen this in a movie before. (Don't worry, he also battles a band of four-wheelin' gimps who may or may not be from this world, and they only know how to do one thing: kill in the most violent ways imaginable.) 

OK, I’m going to spoil lightly. You won't see it coming. Swear.  

I have some favorite scenes from MANDY that I would like to point out. This scene is another point Cosmatos brilliantly makes about movies that we aren’t used to seeing. 

In this particular scene, Red is in the process of sending one of his new foes straight to hell. The guy — feeling temporarily tough— quotes a Neil Young banger (which was made famous in HIGHLANDER and in Kurt Cobain's suicide note: "It's better to burn out than fade away”) but the dearly departed is literally cut off before he gets to finish the quote. In my head, this is Cosmatos telling the audience, “Nah, it’s not better to burn out than fade away. It’s better to stay the fuck alive, which this nerd quoting Neil young isn’t doing at this precise moment in the film. He’s now deader than Kevin Spacey’s career.” 

Sure, it does take some patience to watch MANDY because of its setup — hypnotic lighting and it’s shot like a fever dream, a film that would make David Lynch smile — but I promise you, dear reader, once Cage goes uncaged, you’ll get your money’s worth. If you disagree, page me on my beeper, and I’ll give you money for giving MANDY a shot.

Capsule Review: DAMSEL

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The Zellner Bros.' DAMSEL is worth the price of admission for Robert Forster's opening monologue alone. Forster is a cinematic treasure, and if you've seen Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN, Haskell Wexler's MEDIUM COOL, or 1980's ALLIGATOR (where he fights a giant Alligator -- the title is no secret), then you will agree. 

So you've already got your money's worth for this scene, and the rest of the movie is such good fun, so you don't have anything to lose here. 

DAMSEL stars Robert Pattinson -- who I've grown to deeply admire over the last few years for his pure dedication to independent cinema -- as Samuel, a not-too-bright pioneer traveling through the Old West with the hopes of rescuing his alleged true love, Penelope (played by Period Piece Princess, Mia Wasikowska.) 

DAMSEL reminds me of the Coen Bros. It's an unconventional western that turns the genre upside down on its head. This topsy-turvy is the wackiest and most hysterical western I've seen in a long time.

What makes DAMSEL so funny is Pattinson's dedicated performance as dimwit Samuel; he puts in 100% in every indie role he takes, just like he did last year in the Safdie Brother's excellent GOOD TIME. His Samuel is a lunatic with good intentions but lacks common sense, logic, respect, and every trait a human needs to live an honest and respectable life. If Samuel had any friends, they would probably describe him as "not all there." This dimwit sells DAMSEL's grounded story about a man willing to risk it all to get his love back. We've seen this formula in movies a dozen times, but it's rarely ever this much fun. 

Capsule Review: SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO

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I don't have a lot to say about the exhausting SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO.

If you're like me (or are me) and loved SICARIO, the first thing you're going to say when talking about SOLDADO is, "SICARIO didn't need a sequel." It tied up the story and character arcs for the two principal characters: Kate (Emily Blunt) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro); the story doesn’t need to carry on, but this is Hollywood, baby. 

As we learned at the end of SICARIO, it doesn’t matter if you take out a major crime boss, more will pop up. Reminds me of the ending to the excellent CITY OF GOD, when all of the significant gangsters are killed off, and the kids take over, becoming more violent and vicious than who we just spent a few hours watching.  Since SICARIO was a critical hit and there was enough curiosity to see what Alejandro would do once he accomplished what he so patiently had set it to do, a sequel was bound to happen.

SICARIO has everything going for it: del Toro's commanding presence, Blunt’s terrific navigation through the plot, Taylor Sheridan’s sharp screenplay, Roger Deakin’s always beautiful cinematography, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson's hypnotic score, and Denis Villeneuve's stylish direction.  SOLDADO has almost everything going against it: bad direction, frivolous plot holes, implausible characters, and an asinine final scene.

The only thing good about SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is seeing del Toro on the big screen. He’s electrifying and in SOLDADO, shoots guns in hip ways and throws live grenades in gangster's cars while driving down a desolate highway like it ain't no thang.

But these scenes aren’t enough to make SOLDADO a good movie, or even an OK sequel. It's subpar at best, and that's being generous (and depressing). Under the direction of Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah tv series), SOLDADO is a cash grab that spends most of its time setting up for a third movie (which the incredibly talented writer Sheridan has said for some time was the plan; his entire third act was changed by Sollima which from what I have been told, would have made for a much more pleasing ending). 

In SOLDADO, the stakes are higher and this time the beloved, violent antihero Alejandro is let loose on Mexican cartels (all of them, if there were only two) -- groups now considered terrorists to the U.S. by the U.S. government. He's given the freedom to do what he needs to wipe out the cartels in creative and violent ways by the secretary of defense (played by Matthew Modine) who believes is responsible for bombings happening around the united states. So Alejandro and SICARIO's Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) are allowed to "get dirty" and do what's needed to get this job done (which we learn in the last shot of SICARIO, is impossible. Take out a crime boss and another eager trigger-happy thug will take his/her place; take out an entire crime syndicate, and another will take over.)

To be fair to Sollima, it's pretty impossible to top -- or even match -- Villeneuve, a director responsible for ENEMY, PRISONERS, INCENDIES, ARRIVAL, and BLADE RUNNER 2049. His vision is slick, and aside from two cool shots in the movie, SOLDADO doesn’t have much to impress. 

It’s also confusing. In SICARIO, we learn what’s happening (or not happening) through protagonist Kate’s eyes. SOLDADO is pure chaos, and we’re not too sure what is happening. I supposed Sollima wanted to go for the unreliable narrator approach, but not having a lead guide us through the A.D.D. madness is frustrating.

While watching SOLDADO, I never felt uneasy and anxious like I did for SICARIO, which has some of the most anxiety-inducing scenes in cinema (the border shootout is one of the most intense scenes in cinema). Sure, there are some great action sequences, but they’re not focused enough for the audience to see what is actually happening. There are some great action scenes in SOLDADO, one is quick and unforgettable. Unfortunately, most of the movie is. 

I’m done talking about SOLDADO now. 

New on Blu: Aerobics Instructor-turns Ninja in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION

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It's not easy being an aerobics instructor, and it's not easy being a ninja. (I know. I tried. SIx times.)

Lucky (debatable) for Christie (Lucinda Dickey), who inherits the spirit of a ninja from an arcade machine after he beats up a bunch of golfers on a golf course (no I am not making this up), and wreaks havoc on her non-ninja town.

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION is part of a ninja anthology from Cannon Films, but none of them have any relationship to each other. Some people just want to ninja the shit out of their franchises. 

NINJA III: THE DOMINATIONis worth the purchase alone for the hell-of-a-good-time bonkers 80s movie, but look at that artwork. This is why Scream and Shout! stand out from other distributors -- they know their audience wants good cover artwork, not the standard U.S. covers with actors faces on them. This ain't Blockbuster! People don't need to browse and already know what they want to buy and collect. (And a reason why people like me have a region-free player -- to get U.S. movies with cooler artwork overseas.

 NINJA III: THE DOMINATION's extra features: 

- NEW 4K Scan From The Original Film Elements
- NEW interview with Actress Lucinda Dickey
- NEW interview with Actor Jordan Bennett
- NEW interview with Producer and Stuntman Alan Amiel
- NEW audio Interviews with Production Designer Elliot Ellentuck and Co-Composer Misha Segal featuring isolated tracks from the Original Score
- Theatrical Trailer (in HD) with optional Trailers From Hell commentary with Screenwriter Josh Olson
- Audio Commentary by Director Sam Firstenberg and Stunt Coordinator Steve Lambert (ported over from the prior DVD & Blu-ray release)

 

 

Fear and Loving in David Gordon Green's HALLOWEEN Trailer

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Anyone who knows me, knows how loud my heart beats for John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978). It's the best slasher film ever made, and if you don't agree, let's fight. (Must be under five feet tall and weigh less than 100 pounds).

There have been several reboots, all have sucked (looking at you, Rob Zombie), and we finally may have the Michael Myers conclusion fans like me deserve. HALLOWEEN (2018) is under great care -- Jason Blum (producer for the great GET OUT, Paranormal Activity, and other great horrors movies), and is directed by my king, David Gordon Green (GEORGE WASHINGTON, JOE, PRINCE AVALANCHE).. DGG has never made a horror film before, but I will always trust this man.

Another fun tidbit: Danny McBride (Yes, Kenny Powers) co-wrote the film, but don't let that turn you off, he's a terrific writer and like DGG, he's taking this film very seriously. 

I trust DGG and McBride with this franchise -- they got Carpenter to return and do original music, as well as executive produce, Jamie's back, Nick Castle (who played Michael Myers / The Shape in the original Halloween) returned as Mikey, and you can tell just from what we've scene, DGG and McBride have paid close attention to detail. (If you look close, you can see Meyers left eye is poked out from when Laurie poked it with a hangover in Halloween (1978). So stoked. 

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I try to avoid trailers if I can, but there's no way I was going to miss this one. I also hate when people judge a movie based on the trailer, but I cannot help but not when it comes to Michael Myers. I have been eagerly waiting to see footage of the film since HALLOWEEN's production started. The trailer does get me amped, but I do have some reservations (please God, let there be a damn good reason for Meyers for going after Laurie now they we know they are not brother-sister -- pure coincidence and a 40-year grudge will make her less significant and special). I will save those for the review, once I've seen the film. I just hope this is the Myers-Strode showdown us Halloween nerds deserve. 

I will say, I love the homages to previous Halloween incarnations throughout the trailer. Very cool of DGG to pay tribute to all the filmmakers who took a stab at the Myers franchise. 

October 19th is the theatrical release date; until then, check out the trailer and let me know what you think. 

Capsule Reviews: HEREDITARY, HOTEL ARTEMIS

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A good horror film doesn't rely on big budgets, special effects, and giant monsters (unless that monster is your average human). A good horror film is atmospheric, grounded, and shakes you to the core long after leaving the theater. HEREDITARY nails all three of these. I'm still processing this movie, but I haven't been impacted by movie like HEREDITARY in quite some time. This movie scared the hell out of me.  

HEREDITARY is a horror film, but at it's core, it's a film about family plagued with mental illness (hence the title) and the deadly perils that come with it if untreated here. Maybe it’s an allegory for mental illness, maybe it’s a straight up horror film. Either way, it’s highly effected and you need to see it ASAP. 

There’s so much lore in HEREDITARY to unpack and needs to be seen a second (or third) time so miss what was miss the first. Sure, a lot of answers are right there in the movie, but so many should be picked up upon second viewing. I’m certain I missed quite a few because I still have questions. This is also what makes a good movie affective — talking about it long after seeing it and many are doing that now, including me. 

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Jodie Foster camera out of acting retirement (since ELYSIUM in 2013) for HOTEL ARTEMIS. I am not sure what she saw in the script, but this is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. There was a lady texting me two seats down from me, and I was so exhausted from the daunting task of finishing this punishing movie, that I did not care about her distraction. 

There are so many missed opportunities in HOTEL ARTEMIS, so many lazy plot points, and so, so many unnecessary characters with their own plots that would have been better if all were cut out of the film 

This is going to get a lot of comparisons to JOHN WICK (and rightfully so), so I’ll give you an head of how boring HOTEL ARTEMIS is: Imagine JOHN WICK being about him moping around for two hours over his dead dog — no action — and at the end he realized he’s going to be OK…annnnd scene! This is HOTEL ARTEMIS in a nutshell. There are fight scenes, but very few. 

What there’s most of is storylines and characters that do not need in the movie. The only good things about HOTEL ARTEMIS is Jody Foster and David Bautista. Cut everything else and you have a great short film. 

I could say more about this movie but this movie was a beating and I’m way too tired to give think about this more any further. 

There are a lot of guests at HOTEL ARTEMIS — Foster, Bautista, Jeff Goldbum, Sofia Boutella (our new, much needed action star), Brian Tyree Henry (Paperboy in Atlanta), Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day  Kenneth Choi, and Sterling K. Brown. A big, bad guest list which should make for a good time, but I wanted to check out long before the movie ended. This movie has no idea what it's doing. If you are coming for the action like the marketing makes it sounds like that's what you're in for, avoid at all cost. 

The best thing about HOTEL ARTEMIS is that it ended. 

Review: DEADPOOL 2

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When DEADPOOL (2016) released, not many thought it was going to well. It was a February release, which is normally when studios dump their low tier movies they don't feel have a shot at awards season. (It's quite disheartening so many studios out there have the Oscar Bait mentality when making their films. Sure it's nice to win awards, but movies are made to entertain the audience first and foremost.  )

I digress

DEADPOOL went on to make $783,112,979 worldwide on a $58 million budget. I would call that a win. 

DEADPOOL 2 is here and is bigger, filthier, and badder than it's predecessor. The over-the-top meta jokes and fourth wall breaking are here and better than ever, along with super witty jokes, and the movie is so much fun -- just what a comedic R-rated superhero movie should be. 

I should point out that DEADPOOL 1 and 2 aren't the first Marvel superhero movies to be rated-R and extremely violent, and neither is LOGAN. Here's a trip down memory lane; back in 1998, Marvel and New Line released the incredibly cool BLADE, featuring Wesley Snipes as the titular character who hunts down vampires in the coolest way possible. This is the first R-rated Marvel film (alone with BLADE II which was directed by cinematic visionary Guillermo del Toro. BLADE will always have a special place in my heart, but DEADPOOL won't and that's not a bad thing -- both DP and its sequel are so much fun. 

There are so many things to love about DEADPOOL 2 -- the meta fourth wall breaking really invites the audience into the movie so we can play along and have fun, too. 

What makes DP 2 work is he can break all cinematic rules with his excessive use of breaking the fourth wall and being so meta(l). This smart because it allows the film to do whatever it wants and we have to accept it for its sheer absurdness. 

The film has a lot of surprises, too. Lots of hilarious cameos, a good story, and lots and lots of violence -- everything you want to see from a superhero named Deadpool who does not want to join the X-Men because they are too to prudish and DP loves killing bad guys and killing them dead in style.

New on Blu: TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL

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Once upon a time, the TREMORS franchise was fun to watch. When practical effects and real scares were in, as well as a solid plot, and Michael Gross wasn't hurting for money. (It also didn't hurt that TREMORS (1990) starred Gross, along with Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Reba McEntire, and Victor Wong.)

In the sixth installment of the very tired franchise, TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL stars Michael Gross (the guy from the other TREMORS movies you probably know as Dad from FAMILY TIES) and Jamie Kennedy -- a once-beloved actor who stole the show in a little movie called SCREAM -- as the father-son duo who head to Canada to take on more Graboids and Ass-Blasters. If the latter sounds like a scat porn title, we are on the same page and need to get our heads out of the gutter. 

I really wanted to enjoy TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL, but it's, well, boring. This is never a good sign when it comes to a monster movie about creatures who chew through the earth to make you their lunch. A COLD DAY IN HELL wants to be funny and scary at the same time, but the execution is really, really bad. There's a scene that comes to mind when a smart character is about to be pulled under with a Graboid -- she has the option to survive if she takes off her pants. She refuses because she's "not wearing any underwear." What was director Don Michael Paul intention here? Comedy? Unconventional practicality? I don't want Jamie Kennedy seeing my bits and pieces as much as the next person, but there's no way I'm risking my life for a pair of jeans because I'm not wearing underoos. 

It'll be a cold day in hell before I watch this movie again. Thank God we will always have TREMORS (1990), a satire that brilliantly paid homage to JAWS and didn't take itself too seriously but managed to still scare the hell out of audiences everywhere. 

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Review

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The Avengers are at war, and this time it's not civil. (Sorry, I have been waiting to use that sentence since the announcement of this film. It's quite lame and I'm OK with this.)

This is going to be a capsule review of THE AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR because there's a lot of layers and superheroes (about nine million, if I counted correctly), and so much going on, and well, I don't want to spoil anything for you. 

I don't think I need to dive much into the plot -- the big, bad guy we've been waiting on to come take on the Avengers -- Thanos (voiced by DEADPOOL 2's Josh Brolin) -- is here. He's arrived to get all the infinity stones and wipe out the galaxy. If he gets all of those stones, he's got the chance. 

INFINITY WAR is stuffed like a fat turkey with all your favorite MCU superheroes, and the action is mind-blowing. Moreover, the CGI is better than any superhero film I've ever seen -- there is one character I thought was real but was, in fact, complete CGI. (It's hilarious we are in 2018 and Marvel tricked me with their immaculate CGI, yet DC can't digitally erase a fucking mustache properly.) 

INFINITY WAR's running time is over 2 1/2 hours but it's so nail-biting intense it zooms by and is a rush the entire time. Marvel is unstoppable and DC needs to take notes. (Note: I love MAN OF STEEL and will defend it to the death. Come at me.) 

Co-directors The Russo Bothers did a fantastic job balancing the tone of each character and franchise that joined while keeping the film dark when it needs to be dark, and funny when it needs to be funny.

THE AVENGERS will always be the best in the franchise because Joss made a seemingly impossible job so incredible, but INFINITY WAR will no doubt be the most memorable.

 Being a more of a DC fan (well, OK, just Superman and Batman, and now Wonder Woman), I am very much looking forward to AVENGERS 4. 

Fun trivia: Marvel has a thing for giving Josh Brolin's left hand a key element to his character -- the glove in INFINITY WAR and his metal arm in DEADPOOL 2. Man, I am a dork but I love this stuff. 

Scream Factory Presents: CYBORG Collector's Edition Blu-ray

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My affinity for Jean-Claude Van Damme goes very far back. When I was a feeble kid in elementary (technically I’m still feeble), JCVD movies were my escape. I could kick anyone’s ass while watching his movies. 

BLOODSPORT was the first JCVD movie the universe introduced me to, and then CYBORG (the last theatrical release for the now-defunct once-super awesome distributor, Cannon Films), starring a 29-year-old Van Damme. I still remember first watching CYBORG and turning it off because the opening scene terrified me — the film is ultra-violent (for its time) and that beheading was something else. Worse, JCVD gets crucified — that was jarring for six-year-old Chase. 

Shout’s re-release is the first time I’ve seen it since childhood, and the experience is not much different aside from some goofy dialogue, and I picked up on the traditional trope of 80s/90s post-apocalyptic movies always having barrels of trashcans on fire everywhere, and slow-motion fights, are ubiquitous in CYBORG. Oh and that thing where the villain shows all his sweet character movies before attacking his opponent. Despite the tropes and sometimes silly dialogue, CYBORG is fun as hell to watch.

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The 4K restoration is incredible — looks just like its 1989 birth. CYBORG has a lot going for it — the practical effects are excellent, there’s an incredibly long battle between JCVD’s Slinger  — a term created by the writer-director as a homage to the term gunslinger from his love of westerns. Slinger’s are warriors who get people out of a war-torn city. And the goons chasing after him are perfect villains, costumes and all. The shot of him in the sewer is one for the books, filmed by cinematographer Philip Alan Waters.

As an adult, something that drove me bonkers watching was the movie’ s antagonist Fender Tremolo (in a solid performance by Vincent Klyn) taking off his fucking glasses off every 20 minutes to show his contact lens. I don’t know to this day if this means to show badasses strike fear in foes in a post-apocalyptic world by taking off their glasses. It’s pretty laughable every time. 

The long chase-battle scene is certainly what makes this movie a great Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. It’s raw, dangerous, and filthy. 

Bonus Features

  • 4K Scan From The Original Film Elements
  • Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Albert Pyun
  • A Ravaged Future – The Making Of CYBORG – Featuring Interviews With Writer/Director Albert Pyun, Actors Vincent Klyn, Deborah Richter, And Terrie Batson, Director Of Photography Philip Alan Waters, And Editor Rozanne Zingale
  • Shoestring Fantasy – The Effects Of CYBORG – Featuring Interviews With Visual Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr., Go-Motion Technician Christopher Warren, And Rotoscope Artist Bret Mixon
  • Extended Interviews From Mark Hartley’s Documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS With Writer/Director Albert Pyun And Sheldon Lettich
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

First Poster for David Gordon Green and Danny McBride's HALLOWEEN

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John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) is perhaps the greatest slasher of all time. What makes the film's antagonist -- Michael Myers, also known as The Shape -- so frightening is the mystery surrounding him. He can't be hurt and we don't know why, and he really wants to kill his sister Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) for reasons I can only guess is for sport. Before all the awful sequels tried to ruin Myers' reasoning (with the standard "supernatural" trope), Carpenter kept it simple with Dr. Loomis' (the late, amazing Donald Pleasance) words: Michael Myers is just pure evil. 

When I was younger, I loved Halloween H20 because it returned Curtis to the franchise, and she ended it in the best way possible -- buy chopping his head off. Michael Myers was finally dead. 

But that's not how it works in Hollywood and the regurgitated more movies (with Lee coming back for one more and getting killed off which I'm still bitter about), and they all sucked. 

This is about to change. King David Gordon Green (GEORGE WASHINGTON, PRINCE AVALANCHE) and Danny McBride (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) teamed up to write a faithful continuation of HALLOWEEN that picks up 40 years later after Carpenter's. 

The first poster has just been released and it's fabulous. Myers has got to be in his late 60s now, and the emaciated mask proves it. One thing I noticed, if you look close, you can see his left eye is missing from when Strode poked him  in it with a hanger in HALLOWEEN. This is a small but colossal detail and proves DGG and McBride really care about the original film and want to do a stellar job with their film. It's also great that Carpenter officially signed on to score the film, which he did for his HALLOWEEN and many of his other great films. 

HALLOWEEN (2018) hits theaters on October 19th. Do not miss it.

Review: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

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Update: I've watched this a lot since writing this and have come around. I love this film. Maybe I'll write about what changed my mind later. 

We need to talk about YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, writer-director Lynne Ramsay's new hammer starring the immaculate Joaquin Phoenix (INHERENT VICE). Based on Jonathan Ames' (BORED TO DEATH scribe) novella of the same name, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE follows PTSD-stricken Joe's (Phoenix) vigilante quest to take down suits trafficking underage girls and smashing them to death with a hammer. Or is it? 

I don't watch trailers for two reasons: 1) They always give away too much and, 2) they can often be misleading. The latter is the curious case for YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE. Last May when the film premiered at Cannes, we were shown a clip from YOU WHERE NEVER REALLY HERE. It's two incredible tracking shots with an intoxicating score from Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood -- composer for PTA's masterpieces: THERE WILL BE BLOOD and THE MASTER. The first moment, the camera floats down a motel hall and then cuts to a disheveled Phoenix walking out of the building -- fire alarm screaming -- into an alley. His beard is unkempt, his hoodie is up, covering his head, and while walking, he gets a surprise attack by some goon, only the goon is caught off guard when Phoenix headbutts him, knocking him to the ground, vomiting blood. It's the coolest clip I've seen in a long time and I was sold.  

This scene is kickass, for lack of a better term, and I watched it a thousand times. Here it is -- you need to see it

This scene is one of the best moments in a film, and that's all I needed to put this at the very top of my Must See list. In fact, I had made up my mind this was probably going to be my favorite movie of the year. But, to my disappointment, I was wrong. *sad emoji*

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is not a terrible movie, but it's not the movie I thought it was going to or hoped it would be. It goes in one direction and then gets lost along the way. I don't want to spoil much, but there seems to be an underlying theme in the movie that's hard to pick up on if you're not paying attention (watch closely with his interactions with his mom). That or I don't understand what Ramsay is trying to show with the changes she made from the novella. 

Lots of critics are calling this the contemporary TAXI DRIVER, and I can see that -- a man with apparent mental illness wanting to save an underage girl from scumbags. 

But this doozy is quite different than that, and I'm still not entirely sure I understand the final act. So, what I did was buy the novella the film as based on, and read it before writing this review. Ramsay did a remarkable job capturing specific scenes in the book -- and even making some moments a hell of a lot cooler -- but the novella gives us a much better understanding of the story and why Joe (Phoenix) is the way he is, as well as how good he is at his job. I am a big advocate of separating the book from a film adaptation when it comes to watching and/or discussing, but I can't do that here, the film is too disoriented. (Sort of like INHERENT VICE, but PI novels are meant to be mysterious and confusing -- it keeps a reader on their toes. I don't consider YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE a PI novel but Joe is a hitman, and a good one at that.) 

As Joe, Phoenix makes the movie worth the watch. He is a force to be reckoned with, and he keeps mopping the floor with each film he pumps out. His Joe has PTSD from his time as an FBI agent, and he makes it his life's mission to track down and murder every pedophile he can. He only needs two weapons to get the jobs done: a hammer and his rage.  Judge, jury, executioner. Phoenix's Joe wears a stoic face throughout the film. You don’t know if he’s going to hug you or explode in a fit of rage and beat you to death with a hammer. This is what's makes YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE fascinating -- this unreliable narrator is fascinating to watch. We are not sure if Joe can be trusted.  

The problem with the movie is the story skips important plot points and big scenes come and go quick. It's hard to keep up with exactly what's going on with all the people Joe meet, who they are, and why they are necessary for this story. And that third act, hoo boy -- I wish Ramsay went with the novella's ending, it's much more potent.  

An important character in Joe's life is his mom. He lives with her and shares an endearing moment with her. This scene involves Hitchcock's PSYCHO that's not in the book -- a nice addition from Ramsay -- and this scene may or may not be a critical part of the movie. I am still not sure.  

Phoenix won Best Actor at Cannes, and Ramsay took home Best Screenplay at the festival as well. Look, I want this movie to do well because Phoenix is so good in it and I like Ramsay (sans WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, an incredibly frustrating movie). But I need to be honest; this movie lost me. Once the credits rolled, I'm not sure what YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is about at its core. There's life to this movie, but it dies rather quickly. 

Review: John Krasinski's Riveting Masterpiece, A QUIET PLACE

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The best movies sneak up on you. A vicious tornado that rips through town without any warning. You didn't see it coming, and the aftermath quite literally blows you away. 

This is a pretty lousy metaphor, but my point is, the best movies are the ones you don't think much about but are left slack-jawed once the end credit rolls. 

This is the luck of A QUIET PLACE, a marvelous post-apocalyptic monster movie about family. That's a sentence I never thought I would write. 

A QUIET PLACE stars John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed) and Emily Blunt (SICARIO), as a married couple (whom are married in real life) trying to raise their children in a future world where monsters hunt anything that makes a sound. 

What makes the design of these creatures so terrifying is that they're not here to feed or hunt for sport (hello my dear PREDATOR (1987)). These monsters go berserk by the sound of anything -- human noise, a tractor, or even a spaceship toy. We don't know why they are here; we know they've been here a while and already wiped out half of humanity. What's terrifying is our only defense system: to stay as quiet as possible and hope a fart or sneeze doesn't have the creatures coming to slaughter. 

Lee (Kraskinski) and Evelyn (Blunt) have built a quaint little home/fortress for themselves and their kids. They've paved paths to walk (barefoot) on that eliminates noise, and they communicate with each other via sign language; one of the children, actress Millicent Simmonds, is deaf in real life -- kudos to Krasinski for hiring an actor who is truly hard of hearing versus hiring someone just to pretend, it gives the casts' communication a natural presence. Simmonds reactions to important scenes feel more realistic because we -- the audience -- know she truly hearing impaired and doesn't know what could lurk right behind her. We are scared for her because she lives in a world where she may inadvertently cause a loud noise and not even know it. Imagine living with this threat daily. Terrifying. 

Sure, A QUIET PLACE is a movie with monsters, but this is not a monster movie. A QUIET PLACE is an allegory on parenting and the challenges a mother and father face under sometimes extreme duress and pressure. 

SPOILERS AHEAD

At the beginning of the movie -- within the first five minutes -- the Abbott's lose a child in a most violent and shocking way, setting the tone for the rest of the film: nobody is safe. There's an unspoken rule in cinema -- when you kill off a child, all bets are off. Anyone can die at any moment, including the stars of the movie. It's meant to make the audience uneasy and sweat during the film's entire running time because of that dreadful feeling so-and-so could die at any moment. This scene sets that tone, as well as the allegory about parenting and Emily Blunt's Evelyn says it best, "Who are we if we cannot protect our children?" 

There is also a major character death and it's one that I that will never forget. This scene replays in my head over and over. 

What makes A QUIET PLACE so impactful is the real star of the movie: the silence. It makes you question long after leaving the theater the little noises you make that now sound larger than life. Since first seeing this, I now tiptoe at my apartment because I don't want to wake up my roommate and I imagine the chagrin of my downstairs neighbors when I stomp. A good movie has you talking long after leaving the theater, and that is exactly what A QUIET PLACE has done for me and many others -- I think about this movie constantly. I think about the film's frightening atmosphere, and what I would do if I were ever in Lee and Evelyn's position. 

It's only April, but A QUIET PLACE will make my top 10 movies of the year. I did not expect to be walloped upside the head as hard as I did seeing this movie. 

A QUIET PLACE is quietly making a loud statement in Hollywood; it cost $17 million and has raked in $328,450,761 worldwide. It's a critic darling and audiences around the world love it. This message is pretty clear: people want originality (and John Krasinski in a beard). A QUIET PLACE screams cunning innovation on a genre that's hard to achieve real success.