Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cult of Chucky (2017) Movie Review

Surprised at how enjoyable this film was. The seventh outing for any franchise can be brutal, and not in a gory slasher movie way. The original idea flogged to death with a wet noodle. A slow anguishing process that that has anyone wishing for a bullet to the head instead of being subjected to even rumors of another movie. So bad Al Bundy would rather go up to the bedroom and to Peg kinda way.

Andy Barclay is back to finish Chucky off, once more. The first time back since 1991's Child's Play 3. Jennifer Tilly/ Valentine is back riding shotgun with Charles Lee Ray. And stuck in this asylum is Nica from Curse of Chucky. Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky, is the only (voice) actor in every movie. Andy was in Child's Play 3 but played by Justin Whalin, not Alex Vincent. So every film is represented here on screen by actors except Child's Play 3. To bad, they didn't bring back Perrey Reeves (the only reason to watch CP3). Thankfully the Seed of Chucky doll thing is left alone as just a bad memory.

Cult of Chucky doesn't take it's self seriously. Briskly cracking jokes at the expense if everyone involved. It takes a few dark turns and flips back and forth from campy to ridiculous. With so many characters to keep track of the movie jumps around a little. Interestingly the characters seem to keep the tone from the movies they originated. Which provides a nice balance. Bringing all previous movies into nicely into the story. Except for CP3, thank god they didn't try and bring back whinny little Tyler who mindlessly obeys every commend of that creepy little psychopath doll. Tyler most-likely grew up having major abandonment issues by being shipped off to military school at such a young age. On top of the whole killer doll thing in which he helped kill multiple people. To cope with the drama, you know since his family wasn't there to comfort him and the school claiming bankruptcy, from all the wrongful death lawsuits, clearly wasn't his home anymore, he turned to drugs and alcohol. Becoming a homeless hustler in Kansas City Missouri before joining a hippy commune on the banks of the Mississippi River. Still to this day suffering from PTSD, any time he sees a doll he pees his pants and sucks his thumb. Even a barbie or cabbage patch doll. Of course, Andy has some baggage of his own......

Written and Directed by Don Mancini who has been involved since the beginning. With so many of the main actors back and carrying a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes of 83%, it could have been theatrically released. It's a great movie to watch during the Halloween season. If it was between this movie or The original Friday the 13th..... I would pick Chucky!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Blood Circus (aka House Rules) (2017)

Sean is a loser who spends his days drinking at the bar his ex-works at. Once a promising MMA fighter, now he's a joke, with no job except chasing away paying customers. After rolling a couple of wannabes (and thoroughly pissing off his ex) an offer comes in he can't refuse. Three fights, with the winner walking away large, the losers...... not so much.

Sweeney Photography

Shot in Connecticut on a tight eighteen-day schedule that had a snow storm hit midway through the shoot. With a budget of $750,000 its impressive what director Jacob Cooney and Producers David Gere, Charles Lago, Christopher Johnson put together. The names of the cast members read like a Hollywood blockbuster; Tom Sizemore, Vincent Pastore, Kevin Nash, and Chuck Zito. Christy Carlson Romano is a face most will recognize from the Even Stevens (2003) and a couple of the Cutting Edge movies (2006 & 2008). It is very well shot film, there were a couple really good scenes I had to rewatch. Creative use of camera angles and light throughout.

Sweeney Photography

Poor Jamie Nocher who plays Sean, not that he is a bad actor it's just being surrounded by legends in this movie, he isn't on their level. Plus, fight scenes in a movie with a budget of less than one second of an action sequence in a Mission Impossible film isn't going to show much. The best fight scene in any movie was They Live (1988), the budget was four million dollar and they practiced the fight for three weeks (longer than it took to shoot this movie). The script doesn't help him out much either. Being the lead with so much screen time anytime Sizemore shows up for thirty seconds he steals the scene. Sizemore is one of those actors like Woody Harrison that always play interesting characters showing up in small roles all over the place. Watch Mother Wolf (2016) to see him just take a movie over, he's only in the movie for five minutes. Chelsea Vale is distractingly way too beautiful to play the girl-next-door type. She has a ton of movies coming out in 2017 be interesting to see her in a bigger role.

It is really hard to have a 'fight' movie without a budget. Without money, not much in the world of movies gets done, not choreographing the fights, practicing the fights, shooting from multiple angles, not much makeup. Stallone has talked in interviews about how long it took to film fight scenes in the 'Rocky' movies (1976-infinity). It took days to get a couple minutes of run time. Rocky (1976) also had a bad ass theme song. Blood Circus could really use some music. Oh, and Rocky had a budget of 1.1 million dollars of 1976 money, on top of a badass theme song for its training montage. If we have learned anything from South Park (1997-infinity+1) you have to have a training montage. Overall it's an enjoyable movie, that without its aforementioned budget constraints could be a major Hollywood release.  

Sweeney Photography

Friday, September 1, 2017

Phantasm Ravager (2016) Movie

Wait, there's another Phantasm Movie? Yup.

It's sad to see something you love age, get old and shriveled. Manning playing with the Denver Broncos, unable to throw the football past the line of scrimmage. Muhammad Ali getting beat senseless by lesser fighters. If you loved these fallen figures, looking past the current state and remembering fondly what used to be is easy. If this pitiful existence of a being wasn't someone who you cared for, it's easy to see only the current state. Fans of the Phantasm series are happy for any scrap. Everyone else sees this as the painful mess it is.

Don Coscarelli has said he keeps making these films for the fans. But the level of the last films has never been up to the level of his other projects. His episode on Showtime's Masters of Horror series 'Incident on and off a Mountain Road' was one of the best of the series. Well written, directed, filmed, with a story that is entertaining. The Phantasm films have lacked for a while. They have been called in repeatedly. The cool world started in the first one hasn't really been added to or made exciting. Furthering this crime is the waste of good actors on weak material. But if Michael Angelo did a bunch of meth and blew something up people would still want to see it, cause it's Michael 'F'ing Angelo. If Picasso free based some crack and painted a homeless dudes ass, people would still want to see it. And that has been the case for a number of Phantasm movies. But this movie was mostly written and directed by someone else.

The movie is an utter mess. Filmed in total secret. Being intended for release as a web-series following Reggie's character. Expanded to include the original cast. Unfortunately Angus Scrimm past away before the release of the film. Very cool they got everyone from the original movie to make an appearance. Which just magnifies the wasted opportunity. With so many fans of the series, there had to be someone better than David Hartman to direct (J.J. Abrams is a huge fan). He does have an impressive resume in animation. Leading many scenes to come cross cartoonish and the CGI is just bad. If there is no budget for special effects, don't try, use practical effect and tricks. If this was released as a web-series it would be a lot easier to look past the quality. Plus they could have included much more of the story line they left on the cutting room floor. So many random characters pop up from nowhere and quickly disappear again.

It comes down too, if you're a fan of the series, this is worth watching. A number of good scenes between the original cast members. Find out what Mike and Reggie have been up to for the past twenty years. See how the fight against the Tall Man has evolved. If you're not a fan of the series, this movie is just plain bad. The CGI is laughable, the story line is a mess, and the few good moments will not mean anything to non-fans. Not that this world is done. Much like it was time for George Lucas to hand the reigns over to a fresh vision of Star Wars. It's time for Don Coscarelli to turn the world of Phantasm over to some young blood. There is so much that could be done with this franchise. A Rob Zombie make over, focus on other survivors fighting the Tall Man. Or either focus on the other dimension or this world after the release of the virus. But with Mr. Coscarelli's history of wanting total control, it's hard to see him selling the rights. With being in his early sixties we might have to wait another twenty years for someone to acquire the rights and make a new Phantasm movie. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Beta (2017) Movie Review

Beta is the new micro-budget sci-fi film recently released to amazon prime. The sophomore directing effort of Layton Matthews (director of 2013's The Wanderers) follows Jake Plissken (Evan Gamble), a drug-addled So-Cal rockstar well on his way to being washed up. When Jake is confined to his home by a court order and an ankle monitor after some criminal mischief, his lawyer pulls favors with the Hilltech corporation to get him the chance to be a beta tester for their new fully immersive, virtual reality network H.A.V.E.N., which Jake accesses with the BCI (Brain Computer Interface.) Within the network, Jake is introduced to a host of other characters including Natalie (Cole Smith), a fellow tester that ultimately challenges Jake to rethink what it really means to be human. 
      The film makes use of classic sci-fi themes such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality and applies them in a unique way. Within sci-fi, most films coalesce with the genres of action or horror, while Beta opts to use it's scifi foundation to explore romance and humanity. Though i initially thought this genre mash-up to be strange, by the end of the film i was impressed with the competency in which it was executed. There were also plenty of technical aspects to keep me engaged throughout the runtime as well.
Jake logs into H.A.V.E.N. with the BCI
      The locations in the film are very limited but they're put to good use and livened up by some crafty camerawork. I noticed rack focuses, time lapses, first person POV shots, and one sequence that i suspect was done with the aid of a drone. The soundtrack is also a fundamental aspect in constructing the movie's character; the heavy bass and drum sound complimented with electronic melodies was perfectly suited for the high tech settings. Beta never takes itself too seriously to miss opportunities to take comedic jabs at the nature of A.I. or tech culture. There are also a few special effects scenes that, while looking cheesy, just add to the low-budget charm.
      Beta held my attention throughout, but it's most glaring problem is it's pacing. There are times when the movie begins to drag, especially during scenes with lengthy expository dialogue. The characters are well established by the end of the first act but by the end of the third act I didn't as if they were fully realized. Also, the ending wasn't as climactic as I'd have hoped and it left a few loose ends but overall, Beta was a solid watch for any sci-fi junkie that values high-concept themes and ideas over budget and visual effects.