Archive for the Movies Category

‘Spiderman Homecoming’: Meet Peter Parker the Protégé

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Movies, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2017 by aliciamovie

Spiderman-Homecoming

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Jon Watts

Studio: Marvel Studios

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Web-slinging spoilers catch more than flies!

Coming off the dubious success of the previous Captain America movie, wherein Spiderman was introduced as a protégé of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), we find Peter (Tom Holland) feeling rather too large for his admittedly smaller life back home with May (Marisa Tomei). In this outing, Pete simply calls her ‘May’ and it is only the first of many odd un-Spidey-like actions he takes. Dutifully attending high school and trying to stay out of trouble while sincerely frustrated with the held-back feeling of all the good he could be doing, if only Mr. Stark would but let him. There are bad guys in Pete’s neighborhood, stealing alien tech that’s the consequence of the wider-world fights between the Avengers and other alien invaders and selling it to other bad guys, or forging new weapons and tech from these salvaged parts for their own nefarious purposes.

Pete’s been telling everyone at school and home that he has an internship with Tony Stark, when in reality, it seems as though Stark has left his protégé behind to linger in mediocrity. While Spidey is off with his spiffy Stark-made suit with the training wheels still on, rescuing cats from trees and stopping eensy-weensy thefts, the Avengers are in theory out there having mega-battles with who-knows-what kind of alien villains, and Pete is heartily sick of it. It kinda sorta helps when Pete’s best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) finds out about his double-life and starts fan-squeeing at him day and night, but seriously, chemistry labs and the academic decathlon are nothing compared to the Avengers world. Yet the film often insists on tossing in we’ll say half of Pete’s so-called “normal” life, like your first major high school party, with the other half, like a tiny bank robbery that turns into murder by alien high tech, in a manner almost expectant of Spidey instantly able to do the necessary thing; poof. We need our Hero Spider-Man and we apparently needed him like yesterday – what’s the rush?

I totally get wanting to fly again after Spiderman’s cameos in the previous movie, but come on fellows. Most of the fans and the general MCU folk want Spider-Man to join the Avengers for whatever varied reasons, but you can’t expect him at a Toby Maguire level if he never had time to be at an Andrew Garfield level. And that’s another place the movie just feels weird – the apparent age of the Spider-Man and his support cast, you know, the high school kids, the girly crush and the best friend who suddenly morphs into ‘the guy in the chair’ level tech mastery. Many of the characters in the film are in an awful hurry to grow up, but that’s unfair to those familiar characters and especially to our beloved web-slinger himself. Spidey trains extra-hard to live up to what he thinks Stark’s expectations of him are, far beyond the point of risking his own safety, and crucially, no real regard for how his actions may affect his loved ones. No Peter Parker-Spider-Man I ever heard of did that (there are other comic book incarnations of Spider-Man now too). Why insist on sticking him in with the Avengers at this young age, and more bogglingly, why cast Tony Stark of all people in the missing-father role? It is what it is; onward we go.

The bright spot in an oddly endearing little fan-film version of Spider-Man we have here, is Michael Keaton as Vulture, and Adrian Toomes. I always thought Keaton’s double performances were some of the best Batmans I had ever seen, and his astounding job in the recent gem Birdman was quite good, so casting him in this beleaguered father role was a very smart move. He took what was essentially, let’s be honest, a boring leftover villain from the glorious 60’s only ever meant to forward the Avengers plot, and made him fun and maybe even a little relatable. How many of you can honestly say, with access to that kind of tech and a bunch of imagination, that you wouldn’t make another version of Vulture, or something like it, for yourself?

Every Spidey film has to have a gigantic “Spidey saves the day!” moment, and Homecoming is no different in this regard. But crossing the epic Spidey-Vulture fight with the high school academic decathlon field trip imminent-elevator-death scene was kind of ridiculous. And the very end scene where Pete finally goes to visit Tony Stark in the new HQ, was once again, mostly all about Starks attempts at mentoring. Does Pete’s decision mean he won’t be in the next Avengers movie? I highly doubt it.

Catch the web-crawler and his flying pals in ‘Spider-Man Homecoming’, in theaters now!

‘King Arthur Legend of the Sword’: Fate is a double-edged sword

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2017 by aliciamovie

kingarthur-lots

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Guy Ritchie

Studio: Warner Bros.

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Spoilers hide among the six-packs! 

Guy Ritchie’s utterly epic take on the whole legend of Arthur (and the damn sword, but we’ll get to that) is just rife with one major thing trumpet call- destiny! Oh it was absolute destiny that all this happened to Arthur, every last bit of it, fated to bring him to the moment of redemption, the orphaned ‘true born’ to the throne of Uther Pendragon his royal self, brought back to his rightful place by pulling the sword from the stone! But first –

In the beginning, we’re treated to these amazing scenes involving mostly the whole of the Camelot knights crashing against the Mage-led army of armored oliphants and utterly savage bad guys. King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) himself comes out to lead the charge, it’s his duty after all, and bids his loyal man to hold his crown while he does. Hey, that means multiple things! And after some highly improbable moves, Uther confronts Mordred and with a shining Excalibur, takes his head. Then during peacetime there’s a bunch of discussion about Mages, some utter betrayal that involves a very naughty blood sacrifice, and next thing he knows, dear little Prince Arthur is an orphan on the streets.

From there we’re whisked off on a breathless rush of Arthur growing from a boy employed as a server in a brothel, all the way to a smart, capable young man with a giant heart, rock-hard abs and a gang of loyal friends. Yes, they’re all pickpockets and thieves, but of the Robin Hood and his merry men variety. Then suddenly that damned clarion call of destiny visits Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) in a nightmare and we’re off to the races with the current big-bads, the soldier and assassin knights of Black King Vortigern (Jude Law), known colloquially as Black Legs. Seriously though, that’s all Vortigern seems to wear, is eternal black. Which I personally dig, but it practically shrieks bad guy! to the audience.

That whole idea of the island where any man can try his luck at pulling the sword from the stone was interesting. Every man gets one try, only one and then gets branded with a mark that basically says he tried and failed. How long have the Black Legs been manning this silly operation? No-one expected anyone to ever actually do it. Damn it, destiny, you’re just being a bitch now.

By the time he’s about to be executed live in front of Vortigern’s men and grumbling subjects, Arthur is still staring like he can’t quite understand how the hell we got here. In the midst of it all is a Lady Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) with a plan, and hey Arthur’s crew have a plan to get him out too, so with all that combined plus that bloody persistent call of destiny, onward we go!

As with any reluctant hero epic, Arthur wants nothing to do with any of this nonsense. He doesn’t want to fight (so he claims, but seriously, no-one believes that for a second), he sure doesn’t want to be the true-born King, and trying to wield Excalibur in any meaningful way is very hard on him. But the drums of destiny are screaming at him now, both when he’s awake and being taken to the stronghold of the last of his fathers Knights, and when he’s asleep and confronting the killer of Uther Pendragon, what he thinks is an actual demon. Forces of good and evil are gathering together from without and within, whether Arthur likes it or not, and a final bloody confrontation will determine the fate of Camelot!

Except that it kind of doesn’t. I mean, yes, all this destiny nonsense brings Arthur full circle to kill Vortigern, but the manner in which the movie shows this epic fight is … odd? If they can have Charlie Hunnam fighting a Witcher video game escapee, they could have just as easily CGI’d the hell out of a fight betwixt him and Jude Law and made those scenes just as epic and over-the-top. Given the massive Mage fight from Uther Pendragon at the beginning of the film, sure Arthur needs his own monster to fight, but like that? Just didn’t much care for that part.

Of course, that damnable fate won’t be denied, so the film ends with a reluctant but dutiful King Arthur constructing an oddly-shaped table in the great hall and joshing with his multi-colored Knights. Which was a good way to end it, almost Guy Ritchie saying, “Whew! Okay we’re done, cool off, great run today team!” The performances were all favorable, though I had trouble with the strange accent of the Lady Mage who came in Merlin’s stead. The special effects and eternal CGI are big and masterful and epic, but also sometimes cheesy as hell in the earnestness to imply destiny once again. And the soundtrack is unexpectedly good.

Succumb to the destiny of King Arthur Legend of the Sword on DVD and Bluray now!

Netflix presents ‘Lucid Dream’: Are we really-really awake this time?

Posted in Action, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2017 by aliciamovie

Lucid-dream

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Kim Joon-Sung
Studio: Rod Pictures
MPAA Rating: N/A
Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

An investigative journalist will stop at nothing to find his son, who was kidnapped three years ago!

South Korean cinema is experiencing another upswing in popularity, and in more than just their Horror department, which is good, because them wacky Koreans can give even the Chinese a run for their money in terms of grand story, amazingly emotional characters, and great use of both practical and special effects. Lucid Dream is a fine example of all of these things together in a movie that could easily be billed as a contender for Nolan’s Inception. The plot concept of wheels within wheels within yet more wheels has long actually been a Korean film mainstay, and so is right up this movies alley.

So the film begins with a kind of fly-by explanation of our main character, Dae-Ho (Go Soo), putting out some kind of giant journalist expose on corruption in business conglomerates, and as a result, a bunch of prominent and powerful men go to jail and vow revenge. We see a loving Dae-Ho with his son, poor apparently anemic child but who still lives to have fun, and despite the very real threats from without and within, they both decide to go to an amusement park together. And almost inevitably, its there at the amusement park that the poor boy gets snatched and ineffectual Daddy Dae-Ho can’t seem to do a thing about it.

Fast forward a bit and its now been approximately three years since the kidnapping, apparently Dae-Ho’s been filling his time with who-knows-what while desperately searching for his son, and he comes across this idea of using his medical technician friends lucid dreaming technology to plumb his own memory for clues. This tech has already been used before and had some serious consequences, condemning the guy called This Man or Kwon Yong-hyun (Park Yu-chun from the K-Pop band JYJ) to a wheelchair in real life but allowing him to all but be The Oracle when it comes to the lucid dreaming stuffs. And yes, kind of roundaboutly, but Dae-Ho does manage to ferret out some clues from his own memories, enough to send him on a new direction at least.

The police detective in charge of the case, Song Bang-seop (Kyoung-gu Sul), has been Dae-Ho’s friend this entire time and has never said one word about the guy being crazy or giving up the search. Detective Song’s own daughter is sickly too, so he has some inkling as to what it means to be desperate with no options left he can see. So, Song doesn’t bat an eyelash as Dae-Ho proceeds to tell him about lucid dreaming hunting, and how he thinks the next places to investigate would be the mobsters whom he crossed with his investigative reporting, who have children with issues similar to Dae-Ho’s own son and are therefore compatible for, you guessed it, rare blood transfusions and the like. It all seems perfectly plausible, but we have to remember the wheels within wheels within yet more wheels, so while this particular lead may not pan out directly, it does point to a new and perhaps entirely unexpected direction for Dae-Ho’s search.

Who did the actual kidnapping of Dae-Ho’s son and why, whether or not the boy is still alive and if so where has he been all this time, and how the lucid dreaming world actually manages to tie into all of it, is surprisingly fairly good and at least possible inside this world. Yes the circular plot has a tendency to recycle some key points, but the visuals and the enthusiasm for which the actors toss themselves into their parts give the film a nice breathless boost.

Dive deep into ‘Lucid Dream’ on Netflix now!

‘The Mummy’: Trying way too hard

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, Historical, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2017 by aliciamovie

themummy

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Studio: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG 13
Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Spoilers will unravel your bandages!

So way back in good old Egyptian times, we had a Princess. She was Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), and she was meant to rule the land of Egypt after her father Pharoah was gone, right? Wrong! Despite all her training and destiny and junk, as soon as her father had a son, all bets are off and Princess Ahmanet goes from would-be Demigoddess of Egypt to vengeful demon-summoning killer witch. She makes a deal with the Egyptian equivalent of the Devil, in this particular movies’ case the Egyptian God Set is the chosen evil one, and does the whole offering up her life and soul bit in exchange for power to crush her enemies and lay waste to humanity. Like Egyptians do, yknow.

Obviously Pharoahs court takes issue with these plans, and a bunch of Priests manage to subdue Ahmanet and truck her mummified-alive body far away from Egypt, to be buried in a very thorough prison hopefully for all eternity. Now, some thousands of years later, former military guy turned treasure-hunting thief Nick Morton and his pal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are off in war-torn Iraq to track down rumors of a great relic hoard, and of course stumble across Ahmanet’s un-resting place.

Aided by Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a proclaimed archaeologist whom Nick is already far too familiar with, the uncovered crypt is explored and of course everyone wants to take the recovered sarcophagus back to London for study. Elsewhere in London is a mass tomb of Knights Templars, who apparently had dealings with Egypt so long ago and were familiar with the legend of Ahmanet to the point where they separated her sacred dagger of Set from its summoning stone, to prevent her from unleashing evil on the world. Ahmanet’s already chosen her new Chosen One, the man whom she’ll sacrifice to get Set into the world, and as was inevitable, her choice has fallen on Nick. Some killer birds in a Hitchcockian style later, and the plane carrying the sarcophagus has fallen from the sky, only to have an unharmed Nick wake in the freaking morgue.

And hey, it just so happens that that Templar crypt where the gemstone of the Set dagger was hidden, is nearby-ish. At this point there’s been a fair amount of action sequences, what with falling out of the plane and the car ride through mummy-infested forests and all. Then we have a whole bunch of confrontation at the crypt itself, where I couldn’t help but question the plausibility that Mummy-Ahmanet could command the undead Knights to rise and serve her, but whatever – it looks awesome. And that’s what matters, right? This Universal rebooting their entire monster-verse movie seems to think so for much of it. But then, right in the middle of some nifty fighting scenes, Ahmanet actually gets taken and in walks Russell Crowe’s character, who turns out to be, wait for it, Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Yes, that Dr. Jekyll, as we see when he shoots up his treatment of preventing-Hyde juice, even while talking to Nick. His lab and holding facility, especially the specimen room (that tellingly shows, among other things, a Creature from the Black Lagoon arm and a vampire fanged skull in jars) is among some of the best storyline scenes in the movie. So the good-bad Doc has trussed Ahmanet up so he can study her, which will of course mean eventual dissection, as Jekyll tries to rationally explain to Nick, who doesn’t take too kindly to being used as a hunting dog. That the Demon Mummy Queen would get out of this setup and wreak havoc was inevitable, but it made most of Jekyll’s supposedly grand defenses look weak and ill-prepared for an actual capture.

Eventually, after much running and fighting and swimming (yes, I know, just go with it), it comes down to Nick having to make a very heavy choice. Will he finally grow a soul, and perhaps a pair too, and do the right thing at the cost of himself? Will he join the evil Mummy Goddess and rule the world? The answer may surprise you, it made me raise an eyebrow.

Yes, the visuals and the Mummy CGI and the fight scenes are all spectacular, you bet. The story itself is kind of all over the place, including bits and pieces from earlier Mummy origin films but struggling to stay true to its own particular style. Where the whole thing stumbles hard is Cruises’ character Nick. We all know TC is an action star, there’s no debating that. It’s just that the character the movie has him play, is so empty, so totally devoid of originality or anything resembling a personality, literally anyone could play him. We didn’t need T.C. in the Mummy reboot to love it, the Universal folks seem to be trying a little too hard. Supposedly this movie is meant to reboot the entire Universal monsters movie line, but perhaps we can hope the next one is a little less bombastic. Rumor has it the next scheduled Dark Universe monster movie scheduled is Bride of Frankenstein, so we’ll see.

Dig up the newest curse of The Mummy in theaters now!

‘Alien Covenant’: Not Another Movie Blockbuster Like ‘Alien’

Posted in Action, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by aliciamovie

Alien covenant

Reviewed by Alicia Glass 

Director: Ridley Scott

Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Spoilers will eat your backbone!

The colony spaceship Covenant is out here on a 7-year journey to Origae-6, a giant terra-forming monster staffed by a skeleton crew of 15 or so with a bunch of others asleep in cryo-stasis, and inevitably, one synthetic crew member to help this whole process along. The synthetic crewman, Walter, who just so happens to look exactly like Michael Fassbender’s David from ‘Prometheus’, is in charge of the entire ship’s maintenance, including the crew’s own cryo-pods and the embryo storage, while the crew is asleep. In the midst of malfunctions and space issues, a nearby planet is discovered to be potentially everything they were looking for, for terra-forming colonization purposes, which prompts a landing party but also the speculation, if this planet has everything we need, why wasn’t it included in the list of potential habitats when we began this venture?

We, those of us who dutifully sat through ‘Prometheus’ and tried to understand how the hell it connects to the ‘Alien’ films, could’ve told the terra-formers why: that planet from the prequel of a prequel movie, where we lost Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and damn near everyone else, where David is now holed up plotting revenge, the place crawling with proto-Xenomorph species, that’s the planet our heroes just discovered. The film dutifully even lays it out for the audience as the landing party goes exploring on the ground, how there’s no animal life of any kind, no birds either, not even insects really, well that’s because the seriously dominant predatory species wiped them all out. And that predatory virus has begun to infect members of the landing party already.

There is absolutely no quarantine that will save them now, and believe me, the landing party did try. I understand being completely frazzled and terrified by this albino monster in your midst that just exploded out of a guys’ spinal column, but the spaghetti gags of slipping in the blood pool twice and blowing up your own damn drop ship by randomly firing on the fuel tanks hoping to score a kill clearly demonstrates that maybe these colonists aren’t exactly humanities’ first draft pick. And it’s here, when all hope looks lost, that a savior that really isn’t shows up and saves the remaining landing party survivors, one of whom is mercifully the synthetic Walter. It’s only an actual mercy for Walter though, because David the synthetic from ‘Prometheus’, as the savior turns out to be, is as we all know far from merciful when it comes to humans. (Of course, the sterile opening scene between David and Peter Weyland makes a bit more sense now.)

Normally I’d be all for racial representation and freedom of an oppressed class of any kind, but but but, come on y’all. I find it hard to swallow that so many years ago when Ridley Scott basically spawned an entire new generation of Scifi-Horror with the original ‘Alien’ movie, he meant to have all this stuff tied together by a pissed-off synthetic robot. Legend has it, and this is somewhat supported if you watch the ‘Alien vs. Predator’ movies, that the alien species Xenomorphs were either discovered by or actually created by the Predators themselves, who seeded the baddies across the worlds as the ultimate hunting prey; I like that explanation soooo much better than this.

Synthetics have always had a large or at least significant role in the ‘Alien’ films, more often than not as reluctant bad guys. Sir Ian Holm as Ash was an utter amazement, Lance Henriksen blew me away as Bishop (and as older Weyland, don’t forget that), even Winona Ryder as Cole got to hang with the ultimate hybrid. But Michael Fassbender’s David does seem to rather revel in being a villain, and indeed, as he proceeds to just wipe the hell out of the Prometheus progenitor species the Engineers with the nastiest virus we can think of, we can see him smile. And sure, he has plenty reason to hold a grudge, who knows how long he served in slavery to those that built him; I do understand that. But existing in seclusion for more than ten years specifically to cultivate that same virus and prod along the evolution of the Xenomorph proto-species so that it can go out in the expanded universe and just kill kill kill and destroy everything in its path, is a bit much. When David gives the Ozymandias speech to Walter, I was reminded of a ‘Dogma’ quote: “Don’t allow eons of history and life to be blinked out of being just because you’ve got a grudge against your Creator.”

A great deal of time is spent on the odd relationship between Walter and David, and that whole flute-playing scene struck me as practically synthetic masturbation. Which would have been fine, I guess, if it had led anywhere profound or even subtle, which as far as I could tell it rather didn’t. Like any proud mustache-twirling villain, David leads one of the surviving humans around his personal laboratory, showing a decades worth of sketches (one of which was an attempt at an early Giger-like style and annoyed me because of it) and research into making the virus proto-creature the ultimate end-product of prodded evolution. To which I must ask, if one was going to make the ultimate evolutionary predator like the Xenomorph, why not give it eyes? Just a thought; we go on. The poor trusting fool got a face-ful of facehugger and before you can say bob’s your uncle, we have a fully-grown black Xenomorph of the type we all love and remember terrorizing everyone.

The scenes of Daniels hanging on by a single cable to the drop-ship fighting the fully realized Xenomorph is one of the few reminiscent of beloved Ripley from the entire movie, and yet looks rather unbelievable due to being shown in daylight with nothing but CGI-laden monster effects. Far as I could tell, the whole movie suffers from this same problem: when the Xenomorphs are finally shown, it’s nothing but CGI effects, no person in a monster suit only enhanced by CGI. (I know, it’s a long-standing issue of mine – I love practical effects.)

That’s another thing the movie suffers from: way too much of a good thing, as far as advanced movie-making techniques go. Just because you can use a thing, it’s totally available for use now when it was only a mere thought exercise thirty-odd years ago, doesn’t mean you should. Especially when trying to tie the clunky monitor green readouts of the original ‘Alien’ to the sleek and polished chrome-and-white-goddamn-everything of ‘Prometheus’. It honestly feels like the two halves of this particular movie-verse don’t belong together no matter what Ridley Scott does or says, and as much as there are a few good “’Aliens’ like we remember it!” moments, this is likely never going to become the fan favorite. Potentially even more reviled than the wishy-washy ‘Alien: Resurrection’, ‘Alien: Covenant’ will make you want to scream, and not in a good way.

See how the alien world began with ‘Alien: Covenant’ in theaters now!

‘Wish Upon’: We hate high school, too

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2017 by aliciamovie

wishupon

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: John R. Leonetti

Studio: Broad Green Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Spoilers are in the box!

A high school girl discovers a Chinese wishing box that actually grants her wishes – with horrific consequences!

Okay, so Clare Shannon (Joey King) is your very typical Carrie-like put-upon high school girl. A pair of devoted outcast friends (anyone else recognize Barb?!), bitchy H.S. rival enemies, a toooootally embarrassing father, and that angsty artistic temperament all lead to a depressed but relatable girl lead. Clare’s mom killed herself with that old hangin’ rope right at the beginning of the movie, but it sure looked like she had the wishing box first, which leads to all kinds of interesting speculations. Clare and her dad are noticeably poor, and Jonathon Shannon (Ryan Phillipe) dumpster-diving for treasure right in plain view of Clare’s school sure doesn’t help. The only real comfort in Clare’s life is her dog, given to her as the last legacy of her beloved and missed mother. And this is where we begin.

So inevitably, Jonathon found the wishing box on some dumpster dive and gave it to Clare to try and apologize for being embarrassing. And quite soon after that, the H.S. bitch that gives Clare such a hard time gave Clare an extra-hard time, and it’s one wish down. You really should be more careful with your wording, little leading lady, but then again, wishing for someone to go rot opens up all sorts of fine body-Horror opportunities for the movie. As much fun as it is to hear that bitch-fest is in the hospital, Clare needs to learn that all magic, especially of this magnitude, comes at a price. First up to go is Clare’s beloved dog, and of course Clare is devastated.

But not devastated enough to stop wishing, oh no. Our lead just happens to take Chinese language classes in high school (when did that become a curriculum option?) and so learns she’s offered seven wishes from the pretty box that plays haunting music at odd times after Clare’s made her wishes. Like any common put-upon high school girl, Clare’s wishes continue to be selfish in the extreme, whether it be insisting the handsome boy she’s had a thing for since elementary school fall head over heels for her, or turning the death of a neighbor into a windfall of cash and extravagance for her, her father and her two closest friends June and Meredith (Shannon Purser & Sydney Park), but the sacrifices are beginning to pile up and become impossible to ignore or explain away.

A friend from Chinese class, Ryan (Ki Hong Lee), with a super-obvious crush on Clare offers to take the box to his cousin for better language translation, who of course soon after gets spiked for her trouble. Even with the super-nasty death of one of her two true friends, and the very real possibility of the death of her father, Clare can’t seem to rid herself of the box, by means fair, foul, or even necessary. Her insistence she knows what to do, how to “fix everything” and rid herself of the box simultaneously, is a pretty standard “gotcha!” Horror trope by now, so we can all guess what happened to poor Clare after that. Still, the ending of the film was a nice little ba-zing! for fans, myself included, who thought Clare needed to get what was coming to her.

With a plot very much like The Craft and a bunch of zany death scenes that strongly echo the style of the Final Destination films, Wish Upon is a very good movie for a new generation of Horror fans to begin a lifelong obsession. (Though seriously, Ryan Phillipe in the Dad role makes me feel old.) Given the PG-13 rating and the eternal high school drama that Carrie ever despaired of, Wish Upon is a burgeoning entry into the Horror world anyone can appreciate!

Many thanks to the crew of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival for the pre-screening of Wish Upon, out in theaters now!

‘Once Upon a Time In Venice’: No More Naked Skateboarding, please

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2017 by aliciamovie

onceuponatimevenice

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Mark Cullen

Studio: Voltage Pictures

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Through a series of bizarre circumstances and roundabout confrontations, down but never out former detective turned private investigator Steve Ford gets his beloved dog stolen by Venice’s toughest gang!

It’s like the movie tried to capture the magic of ‘Go’ or ‘Snatch’ or even ‘The Big Hit’ (don’t judge, I enjoyed that last one), with the convoluted circular storylines, but in the rather relaxed setting of Venice Beach, California.

The character of Steve Ford, played by Bruce Willis as he is, seems rather unlikely to me. The man is past 60, and yet playing a character who has playful sex with women considerably younger than him (who also happen to have severely protective Samoan brothers), skateboards down deserted roads in all his naked glory (you can assume that was a stunt double), and can still badass throw down with the worst of them if need be, which he does when confronting Jason Momoa’s gang leader character Spider to get his niece’s dog back. John (Thomas Middleditch) is Steve’s assistant and the film is mostly narrated by him as we get introduced to the various sundry characters Steve’s about to have to deal with. And don’t forget Dave (John Goodman), Steve’s recently divorced and rather suicidal best friend, who needs something to get his mind off his pathetic excuse for a life and of course offers to help Steve with his own troubles. Steve loves his niece and she loves her dog Buddy, which means when the dog gets stolen to get back at Steve, the hang-loose godfather of the Venice neighborhood needs to get the poochie back by any means necessary!

Steve understands that making deals with drug lords, loan sharks, pissed-off Samoan brothers and other unsavory characters isn’t a good idea, but hey, Buddy’s in trouble and time’s running out. There has to be a way to settle his debts with every single last one of these shady nutjobs and get Buddy back safe and sound, preferably without another naked nighttime jaunt on a skateboard. (I guess it wouldn’t be quite the Venice Beach style to have Uncle Steve riding his naked glory getaway on a Harley.) Unlike many of Willis’ other characters, Steve tries hard to leave the violence as a last resort, though he can certainly kick your weak ass, if need be.

So without giving anything away, Uncle Steve does manage to wrap things up more or less nicely near the end, with a minimal amount of fuss and muss. There are even a few clever boots moments, though for the most part they are entirely predictable and therefore one-shot-ed at best. The movie is a perfectly fine way to waste an afternoon, but it will never live up to action standards like the Die Hard series.

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Longer-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

For those Horror directors and writers who’ve had a shade bit more experience, or who need longer than fifteen minutes to tell their stories of terror and woe, we have a series of Horror shorts to shock and terrify. From the familiar twisted into something new, to ancient powers of the macabre, sit still for these longer shorts and let yourself be carried off into a whole new darkness!

‘Creatures of Whitechapel’

Country: UK

Director: Jonathan Martin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers will cut you down!

It’s the dark cold heart of London, and a killer stalks the alleyways of Whitechapel, hunting down the Ladies of the Night. But it turns out, that killer is actually a her-self too, and she has a Master she’s working for. What could “Jacqueline the Ripper” possibly need with those body parts she stole? Dr. Frankenstein needs a heart for his latest creation, poor thing; the eternal quest of man to make a thing with his own two hands, simply so he can boink it. He needs other parts too, and that’s why he sent the Lady Igor out in an opera cape and top hat with a scalpel blade, never imagining that she would find some kind of redemption in the arms of Mary Kelly. Nevertheless, Master needs a heart (and still doesn’t see the irony in that statement), so he can bring his lady love to life and hopefully responsive movement. Even Dr. Praetoris, Frankie’s fellow scientist, rival and skeptic, doesn’t quite seem to understand that women monsters stick together, through death and beyond!

When done well, Horror mashups are a terrific thing to behold, and Creatures of Whitechapel has certainly done that! The storyline rather reminds me of the awesomeness that was Penny Dreadful, well remembered and always missed, with scenes and sets inspired by From Hell and Victor Frankenstein, original musical scores that won awards and put me in the mind of Sweeney Todd, this particular short makes my little black heart so happy. We women really should get more gender-bent roles in the Horror world, that opens up all kinds of amazing intertwining possibilities!

‘The Madame in Black’

Country: Sweden

Director: Jarno Lee Vinsencius

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Drawn from a Swedish legend in which a Countess was burned for witchery that purportedly killed her husband and children, which was of course turned into a mirror game for generations to come, very like the American legend of Bloody Mary, The Madame in Black also appears to be a parlor game for young adults who really should be more leery. Our siblings in the short played the game when they were very young and apparently the Madame makes no distinctions about what age she continues to haunt a person. Emma convinces Alex, while they’re hanging out drinking with their significant others, to say the words before the mirror again, and next thing you know, a scary Lady draped in all black is terrorizing everyone!

The story of course puts me in the mind of the movie The Woman In Black, and the atmosphere surrounding the short is very reminiscent of The Conjuring. The “gotcha!” scares are fairly good, and the makeup job for the Madame (when she is fully shown) is pretty darned terrifying, if a little predictable. While I agree it’s important to have background story to whatever game you want to play inside your Horror movie, a little too much time is spent on the brother-sister and their friends dynamic, which could be easily achieved with some flash scenes, and leave more time for the admittedly-good jump scares and hauntings of the Madame in Black.

‘Elegy’

Country: USA

Director: CJ Gardella

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

All around is the cycle of life and death, and nature reflects that in its simplicity and savagery. A brick house out near a swamp teeming with animal life that devours each-other endlessly holds many secrets, where the lines between being alive and being dead, or even undead, blur and become indistinct. A man and a woman walk the lonely halls of the house, attempting to not antagonize each-other, but rather understand the mysteries of the dead and the dying, and even returning back to a kind of existence. A strange kind of harmony exists, with the insects and those who feed off of death, and that which withers finds a kind of quiet beauty in its preservation.

The entire short, especially the animal scenes of hunting, killing, and decaying, really reminded me of the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, and that was an incredibly odd one. The animals and insects caught on film mid-snap are certainly wonderful to look at, and the truly great thing about this short is the creepy between-life-and-death atmosphere the filmmakers manage to convey. In a short fraught with unique imagery, where none of the characters actually speak, one can only expect some confusion about what the short is attempting to convey in the depths of Horror. I’m still not entirely sure, but I wager it was some kind of descent into madness to study the whole process of death, and perhaps, how love never actually dies.

‘Others Like You’

Country: Italy

Director: Eugenio Villani

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When does an obsession go too far, and land one in the depths of sheer Horror? Ester wants a child so badly, she’s been binging a series of one-night-stands to get herself pregnant, but somehow never manages to carry a baby to full term and birth. Especially after seeing the female Doctor for a pregnancy test, and showing off that what I assume is a hysterectomy scar all across her abdomen. Doc Greta herself is a scarred survivor and no longer able to have children either, yet she still manages to “mother” a group of hidden monsters, creatures of the old world and old ways, where the sacrificial math of one life for one life is perfectly valid. Ester’s looking for her missing kitten, and though it’s rather unfair of Greta to say Ester can’t even look after a kitten much less a baby, luring Ester to a place of dark birth magic doesn’t seem like the kindest lesson.

Another short that happens to be well-shot but whose storyline is near-inexplicable, Others Like You peels back the layers of women’s Horror, that deep desperate pain and emptiness of childlessness. Very much like the movie Grace with its eternal question of, ‘How far would you go for your children?’, the short adds its own dark European magickal twist that may send even the strongest advocates of The Handmaids Tale running away in disgust!

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts Part 2

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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‘Blackbird’

Country: UK

Director: Tim Fellingham & Charlotte Stente Nielsen

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What happens when the one you think is your savior, turns out to have been your tormentor all along? Here on a lonely stretch of nowhere, a man with a concussion and severe memory loss, apparently from getting tossed from his motorcycle, goes to save a runaway maiden in a nightgown. The both of them hole up together trying to figure out what they’re running from, and through a series of dreams and flashbacks and one horrible “gotcha!” moment involving a blackbird tattoo, discover they really do know each-other, a little too well for either ones comfort.

The use of Memento-like timelines and flashbacks can be perfectly fine, but I thought a little too much emphasis was placed on atmosphere and not enough on the story itself. If a movie, either short or feature-length, has only two actors in it, it is very likely that the villain is one of them; it kind of lessens the potential shock value. Nevertheless, should the story be expanded, the short could have real potential.

‘The Dark Hunger’

Country: USA

Director: Anthony Williams

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

What to do when one discovers a supernatural cannibal terrorizing your neighborhood? No calling in the CIA or some paranormal equivalent, no, some sort of mafia-like gang kidnaps the man they call Dead Fred and stick him in a cell, to be fed their enemies. Because Dead Fred is a full cannibal and always cleans his plate, so there’s no evidence left behind. And when we meet up with our cannibal hero, it looks like he’s been enduring this setup for awhile.  His Dark Passenger, the actual cannibal vampire in his skull with the awesome deep voice, is content to stay in prison so long as the captors keep feeding it, but Fred has other ideas. Despite that not actually being his real name, Dead Fred decides to embrace the pseudonym and make a deal with his Dark Passenger to get out of this prison and find the man at the top, the real mastermind monster who put Fred here in the first place!

It’s never easy to combine a supernatural element with an attempt at Hannibal Lecter-like characters, and yet somehow The Dark Hunger manages it nicely. The short reads like a trailer for a film that I would certainly watch, and I sincerely wished the short was one of the longer short films, so I could pretend it was a movie. With even some of the better notes of 30 Days of Night thrown in, The Dark Hunger should make Director Williams an up-and-comer worthy of keeping an eye on.

‘Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir’

Country: USA

Director: David E. Munz-Maire

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

If you could ever imagine what a winery run by Children of the Corn would be like, then the Chateau Sauvignon is for you. The stark landscape, dead animal skulls and eerie wine-making equipment that looks suspiciously like butchery pressings all serve to provide an atmosphere that screams Horror. And almost immediately, it turns out, the vitner equipment really does still make wine for the tourists and all, but is also being used in the butchery of at least some of those tourists, to keep Mom alive. (Whether Mom is a zombie, some kind of vampire, cannibal or anything else, is unclear.) But the meat juice is beginning to run out, Son is becoming concerned, and Dad is just trying to hold everything together, despite Moms condition. Two new tourists have come late to the winery and Son wants to give them the full tour, no matter what Dad says – here sample some of our wine, over here is some of the processes we use to make our vintages, and by the way, your son is a jackass, here’s a glass pouring beaker shoved into your skull. Because Mom needs to be fed, and wine isn’t cutting it anymore.

A very fine short, all kinds of atmospheric and moody, though I would have liked to have a bit more to the story. What kind of creature is Mom now, how did she get this way, what happens to all of them when the meat juice finally runs out? Perhaps for the next series of Horror shorts from Director Munz-Maire, or, he could turn the whole thing into a feature-length jaunt – I would watch it.

‘Death Metal’

Country: USA

Director: Chris McInroy

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Dude man, I get you, hail Satan and Metal is God and all that, you bet. But if you’re handed Grand-dad’s axe (as in guitar), that he supposedly got from the Dark Prince himself, along with three important rules to follow when using it, you’d want to adhere to them and be respectful wouldn’t you? It doesn’t seem as though frustrated metal-head Lars gives two damns about any of that, and immediately goes off to break all three rules jamming in the afternoon at the park on the axe. Is it any wonder that the axe-head breaks off from the rest of the guitar and goes hog-wild?

I saw Lars and his dumbassery at another Horror film festival and thought it was hilarious then, as now. It’s always so cute to see the Metalheads tossing the horns and headbanging for all they’re worth, because of course Satan’s all kinds of into that. Just never forget, Lucifer has a very wicked sense of humor, too.

‘As They Continue to Fall’

Country: USA

Director: Nikhil Bhagat

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Whether you’re a fan of the Prophecy series, or saw the film Legion and the short-lived Syfy show it spawned, Dominion, Angels are fairly well-known these days as something other than the be-winged halo’d bringers of light and Gods love. What we have here is the somewhat now-familiar trope of the hobo hero hunting bad guys, in this case actual Angels, and it must be said, doing a fair job of it. From the looks of the feather trophies that line his coat, keeping him warm, our hobo hero is no-one to be trifled with. (Because really, depending upon which hierarchy of Angel you’re fighting, you could strap a nuke to the Angelic type and he’d laugh at you.) Our hobo hero has been dealing with Angelic visions all his life, but now after the apparent end of the world, has taken to hunting them down with vim and vigor. And who could blame him? What is an Angel, after all, but another Devil just waiting to fall?

Many of the minds who worked on this short have made major names for themselves elsewhere (Sinister, Deus Ex, The Thing, the NBC TV show Dracula, to name only a few), and they managed to cobble together a short awesome to watch. The future dystopian world where our hobo hero hunts Angels is clear and perfectly understandable, while much is still left open to audience interpretation and judgment, and in building a world like this, that is what we would prefer.

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Horror lives on in our hearts all year ‘round, and all across the world too. The fears we share cross all manner of cultural and gender lines, creating a fandom unique to any other. Because if we unite and share our fears, through glorious films and shorts, perhaps some of those fears will be lessened in shared fandom.

‘Last Resort’

Country: USA

Director: David Schneiderman

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What couple thinks it’s a good idea to take a Horror vacation, when one half of the couple isn’t into Horror? Apparently these people do, and in the role reversal of the common, the female in this relationship is the Horrorphile and her boyfriend the reluctant tagalong. Mel the girlfriend wants the immersive Horror weekend promised in the Horror Haven brochure, which includes bloodstains in the shower, a purportedly dead body in the closet, and a cannibal wine host who likes to dance while ranting and isn’t too smart about where he leaves his tools. Oh, and don’t forget the singularly unhelpful delivery guy who keeps getting lost.

A campy little romp that pokes fun at “experience” camps and Horror in general, Last Resort reminds us that no matter how clever you think you’re being, the universe is still laughing at you. And inside the Horror universe, it’s a damned cackle.

‘Black Ring’

Country: Turkey

Director: Hasan Can Dagli

Review Rating: 9 out of 10

What looks like a professional photography setup in a rundown Turkish castle turns out to hide something far more sinister. Considering the men doing the initial setup look like European gangsters, one would think the chosen who participate in the lottery from hell would be more leery about being handed a black disc. But alas, these bright young beautiful things are here for their shot at fame, and for many of them, it is their very last shot. The shock value the artist and his audience are hunting seems almost gorgeous in the grotesquerie, and reminds a great many of us just how jaded we really are. You really can make art out of someone’s death, but how could you possibly top that?

This short was incredible, and I’ve seen a freaking ton of Horror shorts. To be able to do an entire art-house Horror piece, as a short film no less, where not a single character speaks, is even more mind-blowing. The images and ideas brought across come both starkly dark and breathtakingly bloody, mixing styles like an astounding master painter on the movie screen. Seriously, Director Dagli needs to get on making feature-length Horror movies, and right now.

‘A Fathers Day’

Country: UK

Director: Mat Johns

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What Daddy doesn’t want to protect his little girl from the Horrors of the world? Well, what happens when both you and your daughter are already zombies, does the protecting stop once you’ve died? Of course it doesn’t! You still want to protect your drooling, growling baby, and provide fresh-ish entrails for her, and push her on the merry-go-round while she twitches. And when the human survivors take aim at your zombie daughter, when she goes to protect you, is the proudest moment any Daddy, dead or alive or anything in between, can experience!

A wonderful little short done in the sympathetic style of the movie Warm Bodies, A Father’s Day reminds us that the love of a parent for their child transcends all preconceived boundaries, and that includes even death.

‘The Gift of the Woods’

Country: USA

Director: Kris Theorin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Everyone knows the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but also, that they’re full of ancient creatures, some of whom are monsters. The little girl in the short is an innocent, wanting nothing more than to skip along in the woods and enjoy the bug and plant life, when she happens upon a stump with a dolly on it. The dolly itself is unusual, more like a voodoo doll than anything else, with a bloody paw-print adorning its stomach. And of course when the girl takes the dolly off the stump, it wakes the creature who made the dolly, wanting it back!

Some say even monsters have nightmares. Some monsters even need a teddy, or a dolly, to sleep with to keep their own dream-monsters away. That thought basically sums up the end of this wonderful and sadly far too short Horror cartoon short. Don’t steal another nightmares’ teddy, and if you do, give it back before the sun sets!

‘Hope’

Country: Norway

Director: Adam A. Losurdo

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and the world remains pretty much the same, with one or two tiny exceptions – the shuffling zombies still around. They don’t eat brains, they just kind of die and shuffle along, to be abused and ridiculed by the still-living. Here we have Carl, our zombie forever dressed like a soda jerk, completely without hope as he, you guessed it, shuffles along. Carl gets harassed by young girls on bikes, has his shoes stolen, gets his dumb self buried by the meanie living (not buried alive, reburied dead I guess), only to be rescued by a female zombie inevitably named Hope, and instant attraction. After a whirlwind romance, Hope is inevitably killed and that’s when poor Carl finally becomes the killer zombie he was meant to be.

The short is a fun little turnaround on who the real monsters are – the zombie who doesn’t even eat brains and never did no-one any harm, or the still-alive folk who keep bedeviling him. Everyone has a breaking point, even zombies apparently. After all, how would you react if the love of your unlife was slain (again!) in front of you?