Posts made in July 2017

Atomic Blond: Movie Reivew

By
Westley Smith

Taking a quick look at Atomic Blonde (which came out this past weekend) one maybe inclined to think that it’s trying to capitalize on the success of John Wick, only with a female assassin.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The only thing Atomic Blonde and John Wick have in common is their director, David Leitch (who co-directed (uncredited) some scenes in John Wick: Chapter 1; he is also helming the upcoming Deadpool 2) and very little else. The two films are so tonally different that comparing the two would be a huge mistake. Both are their own films – though Leitch has hinted that John Wick and Atomic Blonde may be in the same universe.

Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who is sent to 1989 Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent (who she had a relationship with; unbeknownst to her superiors) and to recover a missing list of agents that is about to fall into the hands of the wrong people.

There is very little I can tell you about the plot of Atomic Blonde other than the small synopsis that I gave above without spoiling anything for you.  Though it was marketed as a hardcore action film, Atomic Blonde relied more on plot, story and characters to drive the movie forward rather than its action set pieces. As with any cold war era film, Atomic Blonde is filled with intrigue and espionage, mystery and suspense, double crosses and backstabbing – you never really know who to trust, including Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton character.

The story is told through Broughton’s character in a series of flashbacks as she is being debriefed by her MI6 superior, Eric Grey (Toby Jones) and a CIA operative, Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman) on the events of her mission leading up to the the day the Berlin wall fell.

With this kind of storytelling, Leitch plays with the facts lose and fast, never giving full details; we’re led to believe one thing but in actuality it was something else altogether. This is an okay storytelling devise, but it does make the film hard to follow at times, and you’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve missed something along the way.

But Atomic Blonde is a thinking man’s action movie for sure; if you’re expecting to go into this movie for some turn-off-your-brain-action, you’re going to be disappointed with the amount of story that comes with Atomic Blonde. Upon the first viewing it’s going to be hard to understand everything that is being dumped on you in rapid fire exposition. A second, or even a third watch, will be needed to get all the facts and details in this thriller.

That’s not to say there isn’t any action in the film. There is, including a seven minute long fight scene between Theron and a handful of goons that is seemingly done in one long take. This scene alone is breathtaking, tense, scary, and downright brutal as you begin to see the affects the fight takes on the characters, their stamina, and as the bruises on their faces and bodies begin to swell and bleed. This scene alone is going to go down as one of the best action/fight scenes in cinematic history and I won’t be surprised if it gets put up there with Roddy Piper and David Keith’s brawl in John Carpenter’s They Live.

The action fight scenes are well choreographed with the camera pulled out far enough to show what is going on without cutting to a close-up (to hide the actors inability to fight) or relying on shaky camera tricks to hide stunt doubles.

Theron is in top form in both her ability to play the ice cold Lorraine Broughton (who is as sexy as she is deadly) and to perform in the brutal fight scenes with men who are much bigger than herself. She kicks a lot of ass in this movie and pulls it off effortlessly that she can beat the living hell out of anyone she wants with only her shoe. Theron is a great actress and any roll she’s in she commits fully to – just take a look at her Oscar winning roll in Monster if you have any doubt about her ability as an actress.

The cast also includes James McAvoy as agent David Percival, who is Broughton’s contact in Germany, and who may or may not be working against her.

Sofia Boutella is Delphine Lasalle a photographer that’s been following Broughton around snapping pictures of her and maybe working as a double agent herself and is trying to get close to Broughton by seducing her.

The cinematography in the film is fantastic (especially in the action scenes) with most of the inside scenes lit in neon, giving the film the 1980s punk feel it needed.

The soundtrack is also filled with 1980s punk hits (both German and English) and fun 80s pop songs. All the songs have a purpose in the movie; they were either on the radio or they were playing in a club or in the background, and they help to elevate the scene instead of the songs revolving around it.

With directors like David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (John Wick) spearheading a new wave of action films and redefining the genre as we know it, moving it away from the days of shaky cam and quick cutting and back to where one could actually see the actors fighting and shooting it out onscreen, the future of action films is looking explosive once again.

8 out of 10 stars.

Wish Upon: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

If you took a dash of Wishmaster. A pinch of Final Destination. Several cups of tween drama. Blend all of them together and what do you get? Wish Upon.

Wish Upon was directed by John R. Leonetti. Leonetti is no stranger to horror. For those of you who do not know the director, he has served as D.P. on several of James Wan’s films, including The Conjuring, Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2, and Death Sentence. He also directed The Conjuring spin-off film, Annabelle.

Clare Shannon (Joey King) is a traumatized teen who found her mother after she hanged herself when she was young, but only after her mother mysteriously disposed of a box, carved with ancient Chinese words and symbols in the trash.

Years later, Clare, now a teenager, is unpopular at school, bullied, and only has two close friends, June (Shannon Purser from Netfilx’s Stranger Things) and Meredith (Sydney Park). She is living with her father, Johnathan, (Ryan Philipee) who has a “job” (I guess) going around to dumpsters looking for scraps he can resell.

At one of the dump sites, Johnathan finds the mysterious box (the same box, Clare’s mother disposed of) and brings it home to his daughter because of the Chinese writing on the side, and since Clare is studying Chinese language in school (of course she is; convenient plot device) Johnathan thinks his daughter will like this dumpster dived gift – he actually wraps it up for her. HAHAHA!

Opening the “present” Clare finds that she can read only a few words. “Seven Wishes” is inscribed on the front. The box is closed with a metal clasp and will not open.  Thinking the box is silly, Clare decides to make a stupid wish against one of her bullies – a wish that will soon come true. But what Clare does not know, is that every wish she makes, someone has to pay the ultimate price…in blood.

I went into Wish Upon knowing (kind of) what I was going to see. The film was PG-13 and that the filmmakers were targeting the teen demographic. I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of gore, blood, foul language, or grizzly violence.

And that’s okay. I’m not a gore hound that needs all horror movies to be R-rated in order for them to be good – Poltergeist is PG, The Ring (remake) is PG-13, and both of them are very well made, scary movies that I have both enjoyed and praised over the years to countless people.

Wish Upon is not that caliber of film. It lacks originality and you can see the ending coming a mile away, because it has already been done before. Most characters are nothing more than cliché movie characters that we’ve seen in countless teen movies: the pretty and popular bad girl bully and her crew, the good looking jock, the broken down widower father, and the traumatized teen and her spunky buddies.

The deaths in the movie are a series of Rube Goldberg type accidents, just like Final Destination, that the box unleashes on its victims after Clare wishes for something she wants.

The movie isn’t scary in any way shape or form either, rather relying on the Rube Goldberg scenarios to create tension rather than scares.

Leonetti’s direction is competent in telling the story, but lacking any artistic touches that may have otherwise made the film better – it just all comes off kind of flat and…meh.


But I wouldn’t call Wish Upon a bad film – for young kids and teenagers just getting into horror. This film knew who it was going after and did that well for that age group. Kids would understand these characters and somewhat identify with them and their problems. The kills in the movie are just violent enough that the younger audience (who has never seen hard R horror movies) would find them disturbing.

I think what younger audiences would take away from Wish Upon more than anything else is the films message: be careful what you wish for. When Clare begins to wish for things, it’s all to fit her needs and wants: money, popularity, the hunk boyfriend, the rotting bully (yes that happens) but she soon finds that her wishes have repercussions to both her family and friends, repercussions that will cost her everything.

For adult audiences, and horror hounds who’ve seen it all, Wish Upon will be a big letdown and there is nothing really new to see here.

Wish Upon was a good film for a younger horror audience (it has an R.L. Stine Goosebumps feel to it) and I think kids and teenagers, who are not ready to see really scary films, will find this entertaining, with just enough story, mystery, horror, and scares to satisfy them until they are older.

I’m going to give this two ratings: one for kids and one for adults.

ADULT RATING: 4 out of 10

KID RATING: 8 out of 10

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Remembering George A. Romero

By
Westley Smith

As years go on, we begin to realize just how sacred it is to get a new film from a director we grew up with and love. Sadly when that director passes away, we are hit with the reality that we’ll never see another movie from the filmmaker. It’s a bittersweet moment that makes you feel both heartbroken and thankful; for at least a small moment in time, we were graced to have that filmmaker on this earth to enthrall us with their movies.

Sadly, on July 16 2017, we lost the great George A. Romero to lung cancer.

For most, Romero will always be remembered as the godfather of the modern zombie films with his creation of the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, which he directed, co-wrote (along with John Russo) edited, and produced on a shoe-string budget of just of $100,000.

Night not only defined the modern zombie movie (and spawned countless rip-offs, spinoffs, sequels, TV shows, books and comics) it also paved the way for independent filmmaking while at the same time taking on social issues and breaking down race barriers with the casting of Duane Jones (a black man) as the lead in the film.

Though Romero will always be remember for his Dead trilogy (Night, Dawn, and Day – Day of the Dead was Romero’s personal favorite of the series) he had a long history in the film business, and sadly, to some, a lot of his other credits are very seldom talked about or remembered.

Let’s take a look back now at Romero’s life and history in film:

George A. Romero was born on February 4th 1940 in The Bronx, New York. He grew up in New York until he moved to Pittsburg, Pa to attend the renowned Carnegie-Mellon University. Though he would become very influential in film, and to fan’s around the world, Romero never set out to become a filmmaker.

In the 1960s he and his pals created “Image Ten Productions” where they would shoot short films and commercials. In 1968 he would direct Night of The Living Dead, which would go on to be one of the most influential films of the 1960s and be inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress of the United States in 1999.

For the next several years, Romero would continue to work steadily releasing several films: 1971’s There’s Always Vanilla. 1972’s The Season of The Witch. 1973’s The Crazy’s. 1978’s Martin. Though, at the time, these films were not as critically or commercially as successful as Night of the Living Dead, but all had Romero’s signature horror flair with a healthy dose of social commentary, and were shot in Pittsburg.

In 1973, on the set of Season of the Witch, he met his second wife Christine Forrest, they share two children together. The couple would later divorce.

In 1978 Romero would returned to zombies with Dawn of The Dead. Persuaded to make a sequel to Night by none other than fellow horror director Dario Argento, Romero would surpass Night with Dawn and take zombies to a whole other level with the help of make-up artist Tom Savini. Produced on a 1.5 million dollar budget, Dawn would take in a healthy 40 million dollars worldwide.

After Dawn, Romero would take a break from horror to shoot Knightriders, starring a then unknown Ed Harris. Knightriders is about a group of medieval reenactors who find their family-like group is falling apart due to fame, the police, and a leader who is becoming unbalanced and delusional. It was a vastly forgotten film in Romero’s filmography, but has since gained a huge cult following that many fans are now praising for its genius.

Next would come Romero’s first paring with horror author Stephen King. That movie would be Creepshow (1982). They would again team up for Creepshow 2, but Romero would pass off directing duties to Michael Gornick. Romero would venture back into the world of Stephen King in 1993 when he directed and wrote the screenplay for The Dark Half starring Timothy Hutton – it would prove to be the last film Romero would direct in the 1990s.

In 1985 he would returned to his zombie roots yet again for Day of the Dead. Day was nowhere near as influential as Night nor successful as Dawn, and was quickly panned by critics and fans alike and would be, at the time, considered the worst in the trilogy – it has now earned more praise from fans. It would take Romero another 20 years to work on another zombie film – though he would write and produce the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, directed by Tom Savini.

Following Day of the Dead, Romero would shoot Monkey Shines in 1988 and then Two Evil Eyes in 1990.

For most of the 1990s Romero was absent from the film world; he would return in 2000 with Bruiser and find that his film would be dumped on the direct-to-video market and very few people had found out that the director had put out a new movie. It was an eye opening experience for the director that he loathed and talks about on the Dawn of the Dead Commentary track.

During this time, Romero had relocated to Canada, (where Bruiser was filmed) and where he would live out the reminder of his life. In September of 2011 George would marry his third wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and would be with her until his death.

By 2005, times had changed in the film industry. Romero, always wanting to stay independent from studio influence, had to change with the times as well if he wanted to get another project off the ground.

That film would be Land of the Dead.

After 20 years away from zombies (though Romero was set to direct the movie adaptation of the Resident Evil video game; he actually shot a few commercials for RE2 – here is the link to them) Romero would come back to where it all began. If life imitates art, one can fully see that in this film with its social commentary message as a direct result of the Bush administration and the 9/11 attacks. Though Land would hit #1 in its weekend opening, audiences and critics were split on the final outcome of the film. Land would come out after the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and in the wake of 28 Days Later – zombie films had changed, evolved to modern audience’s tastes; Land seemed to be a step backwards.

In 2008 Romero would direct Diary of the Dead on a budget of just 2 million. Diary returns to the night of the zombie outbreak, following a group of college students capturing the first hours of the outbreak on video camera. The film was released limited (just 42 theaters across the United States) and on VOD, but pulled in a hefty profit of roughly 11 million dollars on just its worldwide theatrical run, enough to greenlight the first-ever direct sequel to one of Romero’s Dead films. But like Land, Diary came out too late; it was no longer innovative or original, since found footage had, at that point, been done to death and so had the zombie crazy. But there was another film in 2007, that really captured audience’s attention from Italy, and used the found footage angle extremely well featuring zombies (or infected) REC. While REC will go down in history as one of the best zombie and found footage movies in cinema history, sadly Diary will be largely forgotten.

Romero would direct his final feature in 2009 with Survival of the Dead, a direct sequel to Diary of the Dead. Most fans agree that this is Romero’s worst dead film, and by this point it seemed the well had run dry.

Recently it was announced that Romero was gearing up from Road of the Dead a Mad Max/Zombie film. He was set to produce and had co-written the script. Only time will tell, now with the director’s passing, if this film will actually be made as it was still in the process of securing financing.

As sad as this day is in horror history, be thankful that we had a man like George Romero to entertain us, to open our eyes with social commentary in his films to things we may have overlooked otherwise.

Were all his films great? No, of course not. No one, I don’t care who you are, will have the perfect track record of films – including Hitchcock or Spielberg. I have heard people complain about Romero’s last few films, saying awful things about him and the films, and I just shake my head. We are all on this earth for such a short amount of time, why spend it bashing a film, especially when it was created by someone you say you admire. Enjoy what they have created for you; it is, after all, their vision they are bringing to the screen for you.

Relax and enjoy your favorite director’s films (good or bad) and don’t turn your back on them just because they did not live up to your expectations. Do you have to like all their films? No. But you don’t have to bash them or the director either. Appreciate them while they are on this earth, because when they are gone, there will never be another to replace them.

Thank you George Romero – RIP.

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War for The Planet of The Apes: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

War for the Planet of the Apes is the third movie in the modern Planet of the Apes films, which started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and continued with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).

War  picks up shortly after the events of Dawn. The Apes, led by Cesar (Andy Sirkis) are being ruthlessly hunted down by soldiers in hope to eradicate them from existence and reclaim earth as the top species.

A large regiment of soldiers has located the apes near their home in the woods, thanks to Ape traders (who are called Donkey’s by the humans) that pledged loyalty to Koba in the last film; they have sided with the humans in hopes of staying alive. This particular group is being led by a mysterious man known only as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) who himself has a secret agenda – don’t worry, I will not spoil anything in this review. After a few of The Colonel’s men are captured, they are brought before Cesar. He spares their lives, showing mercy, in hopes that The Colonel will do the same and leave the apes in piece. But after The Colonel and a few of his men secretly enter the camp, inflicting a great amount loss to the apes, Cesar sets out on a quest to avenge his fallen brethren – a quest that will put him face-to-face with The Colonel and his morals.

Out of all three films, this is by far the darkest entry in the series. Cesar is pushed to his limit of what he will do to keep his kind safe from the humans. Unlike the last two films, were Cesar was more a pacifist, unwilling to fight unless he absolutely has too, Cesar goes on the war path to find the Colonel. Everything Cesar is, everything he has becoming in the last two films, has been stripped away from him this time; he is broken and hurting, in a dark place where delivering death to death is his only option – in a way, he has become just like Koba.

On his quest to kill The Colonel, Cesar is joined by Maurice, and two other apes that offer to help him. Along the way they discover a mysteriously mute child (Amial Miller) and another Ape, named Bad Ape (played loveably by Steve Zahn – That Thing You Do, Saving Silverman).

Over the last two films we got to see both sides: the human perspective and the ape perspective.

For the humans: Rise is filled with questions of should human kind being messing with nature, and when they do, look what happens. Dawn is how they deal with what they created, how do they go on, how they survive their own creation. And War is how they deal with it – when talking fails, you go to war.

 

For the Apes: Rise brings into question what it would be like for one ape to suddenly become smart (or smarter) than a human, to rise up against an aggressive species. Dawn is about betrayal and one ideal going up against another to fit the purpose of war and eradication of another species – that ape isn’t much different from man. War is how they deal with it – when talking fails, you go to war.

In the end, both species end in the same dark place.

But unlike Rise and Dawn, where we saw the good of man, and a bit of the bad, in War we get to see the darkest part of man. The Colonel (and his men) are deranged sociopaths, who will stop at nothing, including torturing, murdering, and enslaving the apes to get what they need out of them. It is in these scenes where the violence is really amped up, with apes being whipped, executed, and crucified when they step out of line.

There were times in the film where I forgot I was watching a sci-fi movie about smart apes that can talk, and thinking more about real life; how events in the history of mankind (our darkest hours as a species) played out just like some of the images on the screen. There is a heavy moral ambiguity to the film from both sides on who drew blood first – Cesar or The Colonel. And though there is no real ‘war’ in the film (there are two big battles scenes) the ‘war’ is really between ideals of who should be the supreme species – man or ape.

The performances in the movie are outstanding, especially Andy Sirkis, who could easily be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Cesar. Yes, he is hidden under CGI, but at this point, that shouldn’t be an issue. He brings Cesar to life, much like he did Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. He does so much with just his eyes or a twitch of the face that he expels the soul within the ape to the audience that you feel everything Cesar is feeling.

Woody Harrelson as The Colonel was also very good – though there were times where I felt he was pulling a little bit of Brando’s performance as Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. He does an excellent job of making you both hate him and understand his reasoning for wanting to decimate Cesar and his ape clan.

Steve Zahn is also very good in the film as Bad Ape. Bad Ape is kind of a bumbling, stumbling, out of place ape that wants nothing to do with humans or the war between apes and humans; he just wants to live out his life in piece, alone. When I saw this character in the trailer, I feared he was going to be nothing but comedy relief for the film, and not in the good way – like Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Ep 1.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bad Ape was essential to the plot and would prove to be pivotal in the epic climax of the film. There were times when he was funny, and his character did help lighten the mood of the film when a laugh was needed, especially after some of the torture and brutality scenes inflicted by The Colonel or his men.

That brings me to the CGI in the film. This is some of the BEST CGI I have ever seen in my life. There are times when I was unsure if I was looking at a CGI ape or if they actually used a real ape – which most likely they did not. Yes, the CGI is that good, and this is coming from someone who LOVES practical effects.  Just look at the pic below and tell me that looks like a CGI ape…

 

Director Matt Reeves (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield & and hopefully 2019’s The Batman) handles the script and characters with a tremendous amount of care and respect, allowing the film to unfold naturally instead of feeling forced just to get to the next big action sequence. And when the action scenes do come, they are shot very well and not over cut to the point where you cannot see what is going on.

I was really surprised how this film ended. And I can admit going in, I did not see the ending coming. I’m not sure you will either…

I will end with this: in the original Planet of the Apes movies there was a big plot hole in the series of films – why humans could no longer talk. If these new Ape movies do indeed exist in the same universe as their predecessors, they answer this question fully in War, closing the plot hole forever.

10 out of 10 Stars.

8” Mego Re-Animator Figures Coming From NECA

By

Frank Ford

Longtime fans of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator rejoice: NECA landed the rights to Re-Animator from Re-Animator Productions and are looking to design 8” Mego figures based on the film.

This is very exciting news, as a lot of fans of the film have been wanting new officially licensed figures for some time now.

There has been no official street date announced nor which figures are being produced yet, but Randy Falk, director of product development for NECA had this to say. “I have been a longtime fan of Re-Animator and know that there are lots of comedy sci-fi collectors waiting for a new Re-Animator figures. It will be a perfect addition to NECA’s line.”

Brian Yuzna, president of Re-Animator Productions and producer of the Re-Animator films, said: “We are excited about our relationship with CLC and its ability to get the Re-Animator brand out to fans internationally. “Re-Animator is a horror classic with a passionate fan base that will be well served by CLC’s relationships with top producers such as NECA.”

Rand Marlis, CEO and president of Creative Licensing, concluded: “Re-Animator is a film about a scientist who invents a way to re-animate deceased bodies. It is full crazy, gory, over the top scenes that fans have come to love. We are excited to continue to build out the merchandise licensing programme for this film.”

There have already been a few figures created for Re-Animator, but only Herbert West. Maybe this time, we can have a few other figures in the line like, Dr. Hill, Dan Cain, or Megan Halsey, or some of the other re-animated souls that West and Cain bring back in the film.

Only time will tell. Hopefully with San Diego Com-A-Con coming up more details will unfold.

Stay tuned to The Crimson Screen Collectibles for more details…