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.