Netflix review: SyFy’s VAN HELSING (season 1)

Starring: Kelly Overton (video game adaptation TEKKEN [2010], and TV shows TRUE BLOOD and ALL MY CHILDREN)

(SUMMARY)

Set three years later during a post-apocalyptic future. Vampires have taken over Seattle, Washington. In an abandoned hospital, the last Marine of his squad, Axel (Jonathan Scarfe), has been holding his position since the uprising of the vampires. His mission, to ensure the survival of a three year comatose patient, Vanessa (Kelly Overton), who has an immunity to the virus that turns humans into vampires and may hold the key to salvation.

(REVIEW)

Grr. It’s not as good as the posters make it out to be. I’ve got a lot more problems with this show than compliments, but all in all, it’s… okay.

What shall I start with?

The opening has some grim promise. You see our lone and faithful Marine Axel (Jonathan Scarfe) talking to a locked up vampire while he’s feeding her his own blood. It’s a little fucked up, but that’s what I usually come to expect from vampire stories. You’re not entirely sure if Axel’s all there mentally, but then the action starts. A group of human survivors about to be killed by a group of vampires are trying to get into the hospital that’s on lockdown thanks to some makeshift traps and barricades. He lets them in, of course, and then the first problems with the show rear their ugly heads: most of the characters are annoying as hell.

Almost immediately, the survivors are questioning Axel’s situation, exclaiming how the locked up vampire needs to be killed as well as the unconscious woman that “might” be a vampire herself, even though they haven’t an inkling of prove to back that up. For the rest of the show, that’s all these characters do. They bicker, yell, and constantly disagree. Which would be fine if it did feel like a bad sitcom the whole time. In an apocalypse, there will be disagreements on how to survive. Thing is, these people start this crap not even half way through the first episode. They barely ever show appreciation toward Axel for sheltering these people and this goes on throughout the season.

Thankfully, there’s a few characters that I liked. The three that immediately come to mind are Susan (Hilary Jardine), Mohamad (Trezzo Mahoro), and Sam (Christopher Heyerdahl). Susan, prior to the apocalypse, was Vanessa’s neighbor and friend whom has been the victim of physical abuse from asshole boyfriends that Vanessa beats the crap out of. While Vanessa’s been in her coma, she got turned into a vampire and eventually meet up after Vanessa attempts to leave the hospital to look for her missing daughter Dylan (Hannah Cheramy), but got captured by vampires. Vanessa turns her back to human, and the two rekindle their relationship, which I really enjoyed. Mohamad and Sam are the “two peas in a pod” characters that have a nice connection as well, as a pair that always looked out for each other. Mohamad’s a young man who was separated from his sister Sheema (Naika Toussaint), still locked away in a human camp overlooked by vampires and wants to find her. He’s a loyal friend to those he respects and who show him respect. He’s brave, smart, an all around breath of fresh air from all the married couple bickering. And Sam is the deaf gentle giant. Again, he’s a kind guy and his silence is, like Mohamad, a welcomed detour from the arguing.

Now for our titular character. Vanessa, for all intents and purposes, isn’t poorly written. As a character, Vanessa is tough, no nonsense, capable in a fight, but a loving mother and friend, she’s perfectly serviceable, and Overton’s performance is strong enough to carry the show, for my tastes anyway. Here’s my issue: Vanessa as “Van Helsing.” When we’re first introduced to her, she’s about to be chewed alive by vampire-Flesh (Vincent Gale), but she immediately snaps out of her coma and defends herself quite proficiently. However, she’s never quite this deadly in any other scene. She’s just a run of the mill survivor that isn’t stupid. Aside from her inability to be turned after getting bit by a vampire, and her stupid-ass ability to change vampires back to human after them biting her or her biting them (yes, that’s a thing that she does too), there’s never a moment in this show where I’m like, “Yes! That’s our new Van Helsing!” At least, not until the final episode of the season, which lasts probably a grand total of ten minutes.

I can probably guess what the structure was supposed to be and why that moment was dragged out ’till the end. It’s the “superhero” idea. Like in the TV show DAREDEVIL, the first season featured Matt Murdock/Daredevil in a borderline amateur black garb and a black mask throughout the entire first season, only giving him the iconic red suit in the final episode or couple episodes. The purpose of this, I imagine, was to create the character and build him up, getting the audience a near perfect understanding of him before going full comic book on us. But what makes Vanessa as “Van Helsing” so frustrating in this regard is that the character of “Van Helsing,” while well-known in supernatural literature, isn’t exactly a modern pop culture icon like superheroes are. Seriously, can you name a movie that came out that was about Van Helsing? I can. Hugh Jackman’s ill-fated VAN HELSING (2004), which is not considered to be a good movie. I know there’s a ton more than that, but are any of them considered landmarks of cinema or classics? Is Van Helsing truly in the echelons with Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, and the Wolf Man? No. The character truly isn’t. Not like that. So Vanessa’s development, not just as a character, but as this generation’s “Van Helsing” was crucial to make her really compelling. Instead, she’s lukewarm. Not bad, not great.

If I were to have changed anything, I would have made Vanessa a bit more of a one-woman army. Like, everything about her personality is fine. Her backstory, all that, that’s all good. But in a fight, I would have made it like a Jason Bourne type thing. Like in IDENTITY (2002), when Jason is sleeping on that park bench and the cops try to get him to show them his papers, but when they take out their batons, he instinctively goes into combat mode and efficiently takes them out, and promptly, but subtly, freaks out after with a look that says, “How the hell did I just do that?!” You never get any real sense of bad-assery in the vampire killing department. She’s obviously not useless in a fight, but nothing on the scale of “Van Helsing.” She trips and stumbles a little too much for me to take her seriously like that.

On top of my problems with the characters, the show as a whole isn’t very well-written. One set of dialog sticks out for me.

VANESSA
No offense, but go fuck yourself.

AXEL
Understood.

VANESSA
Good, then go do it!

Ugh, this script gave me an aneurysm. Thankfully, the cringeworthy dialog sort of dissipates as the season progresses, but the way it’s structured and how every event is handled is completely inconsistent and character choices are utterly stupid. Why doesn’t Axel throw the survivors out that give him a hard time? Or kill them? Why do the survivors stay with him if they don’t agree with any of his decisions? There’s this subplot that starts in episode four “Coming Back” that focuses on a murder within the group. You wanna know what’s freakin’ frustrating? This plot thread isn’t resolved until episode eleven “Last Time.” There are thirteen episodes in this season. What the actual fuck? We’re introduced to characters that have a big role early on, leave the show, and then return only to be killed off later as soon as they reappear. Incredibly forced romance subplots that go nowhere, a questionable accent by Tom Cavanagh who is only in one episode and still whispers his lines half the time, infighting with the vampires that no one gives a shit about, the vampires in this show present themselves to be more like zombies than vampires and I don’t recall a single vampire having fangs, all these problems are littered everywhere.

That’s not to say some things are done right. There are some cool visuals, like there’s this one bit where a dude is being hung in a cold room, is missing one arm and a leg I think, and his intestines are hanging out, and he’s totally alive. That was delightfully sick. And there’s another little scene where you have vampire leader Dmitri (Paul Johanssen), his… lover? Rebecca (Laura Mennell), and Dmitri’s sister Anastasia (Gia Crovatin), and they’re sitting at a dinner table, drinking blood soup. I won’t lie, I sadistically giggled when Anastasia got up to get more blood and it’s from a corpse with her throat slit and pours blood with a ladle.

***SPOILERS***

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Here’s one plot point that went nowhere that I really wanted to see developed. So the group is hiding out in an underground bunker and Vanessa and Susan find themselves in bed, just being friends. But before long, they share a kiss. This was quite possibly one of my favorite relationships in the show and felt really organic to the story. Never mind that I’m a guy and watching two hot chicks making out isn’t the hottest thing ever, but that their relationship went in that direction felt right for the characters. Vanessa is very butch and independent, and Susan is a little more vulnerable. She looks up to Vanessa for her strength, but managed to come into her own when the apocalypse showed up. Both women have had lousy luck with men in their lives and Susan did seem to harbor some feelings for her, as demonstrated in the beginning of episode six, “Nothing Matters.” I liked seeing the two of them interact with each other and being friends. To see them possibly testing waters for a romantic fling, I was looking forward to that blossoming in future episodes.

But in probably the ultimate middle finger to my expectations, not only is their shared kiss never acknowledged again, either by the two characters, even to the point where Vanessa has about the most contrived romance that can possibly exist with a male character that she’s only known for less than a day, whose name I couldn’t remember for the life of me, but it’s revealed that Sam was the group murderer and he kills Susan. She was just starting to become a great character and then they kill her off. Fine, make Sam the killer, but it should have been any other character. Like Doc (Rukiya Bernard). She just sort of gets written out of the show randomly. Why not actually write her off more sensibly?

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this show isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen and would certainly prefer to watch it over many other shows that have been considered great, simply because it’s action, post-apocalypse, and vampires, so I’m pretty bias. I sure won’t go out of my way to keep up with the show as the episodes air on TV. I understand season two is underway. But yeah, I can’t claim this to be a good show. There’s some good things to keep myself interested, but if season two isn’t better by the time it comes out on Netflix again, I won’t care to sit around for a third season.

My honest rating for Syfy’s TV series VAN HELSING: 3/5

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WISH UPON review

Oh god! Somehow I’ve been thrust back into January/February where all the bad horror movies get tossed! SOMEBODY SAVE ME, PLEASE!!! CALL THE FIRE BRIGADE!!! CALL THE NATIONAL GUARD!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND SACRED, SOMEONE CALL DOC BROWN!!!

Okay, fine, toning down the drama, you killjoys. But serious talk, what the hell is this horror movie that is clearly meant for those… “uary” months doing in the summer line-up? Eh, fine. I doubt it would have done a better job there anyway, it looks so stupid. I mean, look at this thing. It’s about this bullied teen girl who happens upon an evil device that grants her darkest wishes as it consumes her soul or whatever, despite her friends telling her stop. Lame.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Joey King (GOING IN STYLE [2017], INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL [2013], and the upcoming SLENDER MAN [2018]), Ryan Phillippe (FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS [2006], CRUEL INTENTIONS [1999], and TV show SHOOTER), and Ki Hong Lee (the Maze Runner films, TV show UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, and the upcoming Maze Runner film THE DEATH CURE [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have John R. Leonetti, known for WOLVES AT THE DOOR (2016), ANNABELLE (2014), and- abandon ship!- MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION (1997). Writing the script is Barbara Marshall, known for TV show TERRA NOVA. Composing the score is… *sigh* tomandandy, known for 47 METERS DOWN (2017), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012), and THE COVENANT (2006). And for clarity, I just learned that their real names are Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn. Fun fact of the day. Finally, the cinematographer is Michael Galbraith, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir.

Overall, I’m expecting a stupid-ass movie with dumb characters doing frustratingly dumb things, getting other dumb people in trouble; the standard formula for a bad horror movie.

This is my honest opinion of: WISH UPON

(SUMMARY)

Teen high schooler Clare (Joey King) is not the popular girl in school, constantly harassed by the popular girls. Her mother committed suicide when she was a child and her father raids dumpsters. One day, she’s given a music box with Chinese lettering on it. After getting into a fight with the popular Darcy Chapman (Josephine Langford), Clare makes a wish that Darcy would rot, and so Darcy does, possibly losing limbs to amputation. Soon, she realizes that the box will grant her a total of seven wishes, but unbeknownst to her, someone she knows has to die.

(REVIEW)

WISH UPON, the most surprisingly competent comedy of the year. I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming.

Haha, let me be clear before anyone freaks out. The movie is labeled as a horror film, but it’s so poorly written that it has some seriously unintentionally funny moments. Or maybe they were intentional, but they’re so much more effective than the horror, which is what this movie is supposed to consist of.

The movie opens in the most cliché way possible. Bright suburban wholesome neighborhood with the sequence ending with someone dying. Jeez, BYE BYE MAN (2017) did that too. Twinsies, much? So already, the film is ripping off from a movie that’s equally bad, so I got to thinking… how many other movies does this rip-off from? So far, I’ve come with this: gruesome deaths as a result of someone else’s actions… the Final Destination films. The evil thing makes its user crazy and stops caring about other people… I don’t know, Lord of the Rings? Cut me some slack, I’m trying here.

But most importantly, it rips off pretty much every high school movie that you can think of. In fact, the biggest scare this movie delivers is the fear that this movie is a high school drama that even Nickelodeon would find trite. You have the unpopular girl whom is so infamous that literally every single student OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL BUILDING will stop what they’re doing to stare at her as she walks by, smirking at her and giving her looks like she has two heads. And what is the trigger for all that attention? Her dad hops into dumpsters to salvage for what he thinks are valuable and useful items. There’s no rhyme or reason why he does this… not even joking, this little tidbit of information is left completely unjustified. But while I too admit that this is bizarre, I don’t see how that alone would merit such a brutal and widespread mockery, especially since this is the same girl whose mother committed suicide when she was a child. I’d say everyone involved has a right to be a little mentally unhinged.

Christ, I can’t believe I just defended a character’s motivations in this movie.

In any case, she’s even bullied by the school’s most popular bitch Darcie. Never mind that she’s a boring copy and paste bully that you’ve seen in every movie involving teenagers, but there is a scene that leads to the first big laugh. It’s lunch time and Clare and her friends are laughing about something and Darcie just has to know what it’s about. It’s some kind of word that needs a dictionary to define it, leading to a crowd going, “ohhhh.” This means that Darcie must retaliate… by slapping Clare. Pause for her to react slowly… pause… then Clare takes her turn and slaps her back. Something that anyone can see coming a mile away. Pause to react… pause… Darcie pushes her! Oh my god, it’s like combat in a Final Fantasy game. “My turn? Basic attack. Minus one HP. Enemy uses basic attack. Minus one HP.” Good lord, I feel like I broke a rib from how funny that shit was.

These comedic moments don’t even really let up and even go so far as to insert slapstick. You’re reading this right! Slapstick comedy in a horror movie that isn’t meant to have comedy! What is this slapstick moment you may ask? Clare walks by her high school crush at the mall, stares at him, and walks into a door! It’s about as hilarious as it sounds. And people die in the most implausible of ways in this movie. This one woman gets axed off when her long-ass ponytail dips into the garbage disposal and she accidentally turns it on, snapping her neck. There’s another scene where a character is about to be killed off. She’s walking around her dark-ass apartment room, starting off empty enough to comfortably walk around in, but then trips and gets her face impaled by a horn from a bull statue that SO CLEARLY WASN’T THERE WHEN THIS SEQUENCE BEGAN! This movie can’t even give its characters a dignified way to die! Even the ending has someone getting hit so hard by a car that they fly right into another car. All I could hear was pinball sound effects in my mind. So few characters die in this movie with any shred of dignity and I loved it.

Oh and here’s my favorite joke that I can possibly make in this review. Anyone fans of the Netflix TV show STRANGER THINGS? Well guess what, if you watch this movie, you’ll know exactly what happened to Barb, played by actress Shannon Purser, who plays one of Clare’s best friends in this. She was forced into this movie, developed an unhealthy crush on her best friend’s saxophone-playing dad, played by Ryan Phillippe, and was forced to say the following line, “Your dad is serious hot sauce. Like, sriracha hot.” Oh god, Barb! Those damned demogorgons made you suffer a fate far funnier than death!

Now, before anyone thinks that I have nothing but hilarious praise for the movie, I can’t keep going on like that as the unintentional comedy isn’t consistent. Between each of them is drawn out boredom of Chinese translations, which puts the lame writing into question again. This school apparently teaches Chinese, but a lot of good all that teaching does since Clare can’t translate any of the Chinese on the music box and spends half the movie running around taking to people who would know how to translate it. So… if her learning Chinese wasn’t going to factor into the story, why bother having it at all? If it isn’t that, it’s boring exposition about the box’s origins and where it came from and what it does and just becomes a faucet of running bullshit that no one cares about. The whole time it’s happening, you’re screaming at the screen, “More cat fights! More slapstick! For the love of God, more bad sriracha jokes!”

Oh, and it’s not scary in the least. There’s maybe one or two jump scares, but that’s probably being really generous.

Guys, this is actually kind of a riot. I did not think my time with this movie was wasted. Will I see it again in theaters? No. Will I go out of my way to buy it on Blu-Ray? No. But if it comes out on Netflix, I might skip the boring shit and admire the comedy that shouldn’t have been here. I might say unless you’re looking for a hilariously bad horror film, don’t waste your time or money. It’s not going to scare you. But it entertained me enough.

My honest rating for WISH UPON: a strong 3/5

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THE BAD BATCH review

Awww yeah. Love my post-apocalyptic films.

Not much of a story of how I got into this. Saw the trailer, looked fucked up, wanted to see it. It’s got Aquaman and John Wick in the film and it’s somehow about cannibals. What’s not to want to see? But… it’s a romance film? Really? Calling it out, I’m guessing whatever romance elements are in the movie are the reason why the film is getting less than stellar ratings and reviews (IMDB = 6.0/10, and RottenTomatoes = 43%). Regardless, I’m interested, so we’ll see how I feel.

Starring, we have Suki Waterhouse, for some reason credited as an “introducing” in the the trailer (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES [2016] and the Divergent Series INSURGENT [2015]), Jason Momoa (BULLET TO THE HEAD [2012], CONAN [2011], TV show GAME OF THRONES, and upcoming DC films JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017] and AQUAMAN [2018]), Keanu Reeves (JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 [2017], THE NEON DEMON [2016], and THE LAKE HOUSE [2006]), Diego Luna (ROGUE ONE [2016], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], CONTRABAND [2012], and upcoming films FLATLINERS [2017] and the remake SCARFACE [2018]), Jim Carrey (DUMB AND DUMBER TO [2014], KICK-ASS 2 [2013], and SIMON BIRCH [1998]), and Giovanni Ribisi (PAPA HEMINGWAY IN CUBA [2016], AVATAR [2009], and FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX [2004]).

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Ana Lily Amirpour, known for short films. I guess this film has no score, so I’ll jump to the final crewman, the cinematographer: Lyle Vincent, known for a ton of unknown projects.

Like I said, I’m interested. Something’s telling me I’ll find the romance elements out of place or pointless, but I might like the movie just fine. Besides, Jim Carrey in a movie about cannibals? Sold.

This is my honest opinion of: THE BAD BATCH

(SUMMARY)

Set in a post-apocalyptic setting outside of Texas, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is one of the “bad batch,” someone not fit for civilized society and must find a way to live in wasteland desert. Almost immediately upon arrival, she’s ambushed by a group of cannibals, who cut off her leg and arm. Managing to free herself from chains, she also kills one of them, and escapes into the wasteland again where she’s found by a quiet hermit (Jim Carrey) and taken to a safe haven settlement known as Comfort, headed by the charismatic leader known simply as The Dream (Keanu Reeves). Months later after healing and getting a new prosthetic leg, Arlen heads back out in the wasteland to find those who deformed her.

(REVIEW)

Yeah… as much as I love my post-apocalyptic stories, this was sadly not as good as I’d hoped. I hesitate to say that it’s even good.

Thing is, the movie doesn’t start off bad. In fact, I kind of got sucked into it. I enjoyed the lack of dialog from Arlen and the vast landscape of the wasteland. Granted, I wasn’t getting any real semblance of her personality through all this, other than… she likes make-up and probably needs an attitude adjustment considering her laughable “bad girl” attire, consisting of a hat with middle fingers stitched in. But then she’s captured by the locals, immediately gets her arm and leg sawed off, it was grotesque, but in all the right ways. She covers herself in her own shit, kills the bitch who was about to cut more of her off, and escapes via laying on her back on a skateboard. I won’t lie, the visual is actually pretty funny.

Remorsefully, the movie mostly falls flat from this point on. Maybe a surprisingly realistic “homeless man” performance by Ribisi is very humorous, but now it becomes a really stale revenge flick that’s been done in better amateur films. Literally, she has a gun, finds one of the cannibals that stood by and watched her get mutilated and decided to take in Honey (Jayda Fink) and take her away from her father, the Miami Man (Jason Momoa). This movie is a bunch of walking from one place to another and randomness to boot. Arlen gets high, wanders into the desert, meets Miami Man, they talk about nothing that matters, and the list goes on. Nothing makes sense. There’s barely a plot that even the movie itself doesn’t seem to care about.

Never mind that, there’s also a ton of missed opportunities. The Dream has a bunch of hot women that worship him, most of them are pregnant, and all of them carry assault rifles. We never see them use it. Earlier in the movie, we saw that the cannibal community has a shit-load of hugely muscular Adonises, and it’s clear that the people of Comfort don’t like the cannibals. I don’t know about the rest of you, but two plus two equals four. If you have a league of intimidating cannibals and a group of armed pregnant women with guns, you obviously pit them against each other together because… God damn it, why wouldn’t you do that?!

I’m also not entirely sure why this movie insists on partly classifying itself as a romance. Nothing in this movie is romantic. The ending where Arlen wants to stay with Miami Man and Honey where they eat Honey’s pet bunny? That was funny, but… I don’t think that’s enough to call it a romance film, dark or otherwise. THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) had a man run over another man doesn’t suddenly make the romantic drama into a crime thriller. Fine, whatever, most of the movie doesn’t make sense, I should be used to this shit by now.

Overall, there’s not a lot to say because… it’s dull. It’s boring. I can’t say it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely not good. It’s not without some bursts of enjoyability, but a lack of consistency doesn’t make it worth a watch. I’m not saying avoid it at all costs, but I don’t think it’s worth anyone’s time.

My honest rating for THE BAD BATCH: a weak 3/5

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Quick Reviews: CARS 3 / ALL EYEZ ON ME / ROUGH NIGHT / 47 METERS DOWN / MAUDIE

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Starring: Owen Wilson (MASTERMINDS [2016], MIDNIGHT IN PARIS [2011], MARLEY & ME [2008], and the upcoming SHANGHAI DAWN, due out… who knows when), Bonnie Hunt (ZOOTOPIA [2016], THE GREEN MILE [1999], JUMANJI [1995], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]), and Larry the Cable Guy (A MADEA CHRISTMAS [2013], WITLESS PROTECTION [2008], and DELTA FARCE [2007]). In support: Nathan Fillion (PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS [2013], WONDER WOMAN [2009], TV show CASTLE, and the upcoming video game DESTINY 2 [2017]), Chris Cooper (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], THE MUPPETS [2011], and THE BOURNE IDENTITY [2002]), Armie Hammer (FREE FIRE [2017], THE BIRTH OF A NATION [2016], and THE LONE RANGER [2013]), Kerry Washington (DJANGO UNCHAINED [2012], LAKEVIEW TERRACE [2008], and TV show SCANDAL), and Lea DeLaria (TV shows ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and ONE LIFE TO LIVE)

Directing: Brian Fee, making his directorial debut. Writing: Kiel Murray (CARS [2006]), Bob Peterson (FINDING NEMO [2003]), and Mike Rich (SECRETARIAT [2010], RADIO [2003], and THE ROOKIE [2002]). Composing: Randy Newman (MONSTERS UNIVERSITY [2013], SEABISCUIT [2003], JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH [1996], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]).

(SUMMARY)

Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is still as popular as ever and still considered a champion after all these years. But then a harsh reality settles in when a rookie racer named Jackson Storm (Hammer) starts surpassing him in speed and starts winning the races. Sadly, he’s also a jerk to Lightning and eventually, Lightning’s inability to keep up causes him to spin out of control and he experiences a horrible crash. Though out of the game for a few months, Lightning is determined to decide for himself when he quits, not the voiced of those who think he should. After signing on to a new sponsor, headed by Sterling (Fillion), promising to train him to the point of being just as fast as Storm, with the help of the young and eager trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), whose training methods frustrate Lightning as a big race approaches that will determine his staying power in the sport of racing.

(REVIEW)

It’s surprisingly better than I thought, but… yeah, it’s still just okay. I admit that there is a certain level of poetry to see a career and proud racer learning to accept his age and growing increasingly aware that his time may be coming to an end, but wanting to end on his own terms, not because others are telling him too. It can be surprisingly brutal, so when McQueen is determined to prove his worth, it is pretty easy to get sucked in to his story. Sadly though, the movie is mired in predictability and a ton of lame and unfunny jokes. The moment a certain plot point crops up, you know exactly where the story is going to go. Even though it’s handled well, the rest of the movie getting to that point simply feels like filler. By no means bad, it’s still not consistently written well like Pixar’s previous work. While being the most memorable and poignant of the Cars films, it’s still not up there with Pixar’s greats.

My honest rating for CARS 3: 3/5

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AllEyez

Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr. In support, we have Kat Graham (ADDICTED [2014], DANCE FU [2011], and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Lauren Cohan (THE BOY [2016], and TV shows THE WALKING DEAD and CHUCK), and Danai Gurira (TV show THE WALKING DEAD and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]).

Directing: Benny Boom (S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT [2011]). Writing: Jeremy Haft (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY [2011] and GRIZZLY MOUNTAIN [1997]), Eddie Gonzalez (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY), and Steven Bagatourian. Composing: John Paesano (ALMOST CHRISTMAS [2016], video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017], animated film SUPERMAN/ BATMAN: APOCALYPSE [2010], and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE [2018] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]. Cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr. (GODS OF EGYPT [2016], THE INCREDIBLE HULK [2008], LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER [2001], and the upcoming animated film PETER RABBIT [2018]).

(SUMMARY)

Tupac Shakur (Shipp Jr.) started off as a normal kid growing up with his lawyer mother Afeni (Gurira) and his younger sister. But when the kids are forced to live in California, Tupac quit school to earn money to take care of his sister. He started rapping and didn’t take long before he was signed on to his first studio. In just a couple years, he became one of the most controversial and popular rappers in the 90’s.

(REVIEW)

I wish I could say this movie got me into the life of one of the most popular rap artists of all time, but… it’s a movie I feel like I’ve seen a dozen times over, particularly in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015), or in better films like MOONLIGHT (2016). While that acting is good, particularly Graham as a young Jada Pinkett Smith is the spitting image of the younger version of the real-world woman, and Shipp Jr. does bring a ton of energy to the role he’s been given, it just doesn’t do anything particularly new. Give COMPTON a little credit, you can argue that it came out around the time when police brutality was getting a ton more media attention in recent years, and could be interpreted as a call-to-arms against that kind of bullshit. This movie is just a standard biopic. Plus, I’m going to be on Jada Pinkett Smith’s side and say that it’s tasteless for the film-makers to throw in a poem that she never knew existed until years after Tupac’s death all in the name of a forced, directionless, and unimpactful romance subplot. It’s not the worst, I suppose, but I couldn’t get into it.

My honest rating for ALL EYEZ ON ME: a weak 3/5

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Starring: Scarlett Johansson (GHOST IN THE SHELL [2017], THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], HER [2013], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Jillian Bell (FIST FIGHT [2017], OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY [2016], and 22 JUMP STREET [2014]), Zoë Kravitz (ALLEGIANT [2016], MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015], X-MEN: FIRST CLASS [2011], and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 [2018]), Ilana Glazer (THE NIGHT BEFORE [2015] and TV show BROAD CITY), and Kate McKinnon (GHOSTBUSTERS [2016], TV shows SNL and THE VENTURE BROS, and upcoming animated film FERDINAND [2017] and animated TV series THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS RIDES AGAIN). In support: Demi Moore (WILD OATS [2016], CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE [2003], and G.I. JANE [1997]), Ty Burrell (FINDING DORY [2016], MUPPETS MOST WANTED [2014], and TV show MODERN FAMILY), Colton Haynes (SAN ANDREAS [2015], and TV shows ARROW and THE GATES), and Paul W. Downs (TV show BROAD CITY), who also co-wrote the script.

Directing and co-writing: Lucia Aniello. Composer: Dominic Lewis, known for FIST FIGHT, MONEY MONSTER (2016), and THE DUFF (2015). Cinematographer: Sean Porter, known for 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and GREEN ROOM (2016).

(SUMMARY)

Jess (Scarlett Johannson) is a city counselor, and about to get married. Her best friend from college, Alice (Jillian Bell), has planned a fun weekend in Miami, Florida to celebrate, along with their other friends Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon). After a wild night of drugs, drinking, and dancing, they return to their rented home and hire a stripper. Unfortunately, Alice accidentally kills the man and the ladies panic and try to figure out what to do next.

(REVIEW)

Yup, didn’t like it. Raunchy comedies and I rarely get along, and this is no real exception. Far too many jokes are sex or drug related and I just can’t laugh at this brand of shock humor when it’s been done countless times before with no real variation. Even if there is a joke done in a different way, that doesn’t automatically mean comedy. While I do admit that there are a couple legit surprises that I didn’t see coming, and some of the reaction shots can be humorous, making this arguably my favorite movie that McKinnon’s been in, none of this really prevents the movie from being bad. It’s by no means the worst – can’t be too mad at a movie that I knew wouldn’t be funny to me – but I don’t see myself seeing this movie again. Only see this if you do like raunchy meaningless comedy, but even then, I think there’s funnier and better comedies out there.

My honest rating for ROUGH NIGHT: a weak 3/5

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Starring: Mandy Moore (TANGLED [2010], A WALK TO REMEMBER [2002], and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: THE ROYAL ENGAGEMENT [2001]), and Claire Holt (TV show THE ORIGINALS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and H20: JUST ADD WATER).

Directing and co-writing: Johannes Roberts (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR [2016]) Co-writing: Ernest Riera (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR). Composer: tomandandy (SINISTER 2 [2015]), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION [2012], and THE HILLS HAVE EYES [2006]). Cinematographer: Mark Silk.

(SUMMARY)

Loving sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) are on vacation in Mexico, mostly because Lisa is getting over a bad break-up because she’s apparently too boring. In an effort to spice up her life and show her boyfriend up one, Kate drags Lisa in a cage dive to see sharks. However, not long after they get submerged and see three great white sharks, the cable to their cage snaps and the crane breaks off the boat and the three young women plummet to the ocean floor. With no communication to the surface, rapidly depleting oxygen, and bloody wounds attracting the sharks, it becomes a series of desperate gambles to stay alive.

(REVIEW)

I wanted to like this, I really did. But I do not. I honestly don’t know how this movie is feature-length. Leave the cage, get eaten by a shark. Stay in the cage, hang out, be safe, let search and rescue do its job. This movie shouldn’t be very long. But it’s one of those movies where you’d be justified in screaming at the screen, “Oh nah, girl, don’t do it!” “Bitch gonna get eaten!” This movie is so poorly written that I an curious if I could make a drinking game out of it: take a shot for every time Moore says, “Please be careful,” “I am so scared,” “No, please, don’t go.” Seriously, someone try this out for me when it comes out on Blu-Ray. There is great atmosphere, and some chilling visuals I give it that. But the story falls flat when it comes to characters that are annoying and an ending that feels like such a slap in the face of the viewers, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone. No, not the worst. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s not good.

My honest rating for 47 METERS DOWN: a weak 3/5

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Starring: Sally Hawkins (PADDINGTON [2014], BLUE JASMINE [2013], JANE EYRE [2011], and upcoming films PADDINGTON 2 [2017] and GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]) and Ethan Hawke (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN [2016], BOYHOOD [2014], DEAD POETS SOCIETY [1989], and the upcoming VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS [2017]).

Directing: Aisling Walsh. Writer: Sherry White. Composer: Michael Timmins. Cinematographer: Guy Godfree

(SUMMARY)

Set during the 1930s in Marshaltown, Nova Scotia. Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) is an arthritic woman with a talent for simple paintings. Unable to take care of herself, she sets out to look for a job to provide for herself. As fate would have it, a local impoverished fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawk) is looking for a woman to take care of his small house while he’s out on his rounds trying sell fish and wood. She takes the job and though their relationship is beyond rocky, the two eventually strike up a complex relationship, leading to an imperfect but loving marriage, all the while the local townsfolk flock to their home to buy her increasingly popular paintings.

(REVIEW)

It kills me to do a quick review on this movie, but I’m paralyzed on what to say about it other than… it’s one of the best romance films of the year. Both Hawkins and Hawke are phenomenal and flawlessly bring to life a relationship that is so unconventional, so complex and complicated, yet so tender, meaningful, and beautiful that I can’t help but gush. With gorgeous landscapes, cute, but memorable artwork, and unforgettable performances, this is one of those few reminders that a movie doesn’t need to have the biggest drama or greatest of stakes to be compelling, or to overly dramatize to make interesting. All it needs is to give you a raw and passionate look into the life of a woman who may not have changed the world, but definitely changed and warmed the hearts around her. And wiping away the tears in my eyes, I happily say that this brilliant films warmed mine.

My honest rating for MAUDIE: 5/5

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IT COMES AT NIGHT review

Alright, our first high-praised horror film of the year. Thank God. We needed something to save us after the abominable existences of BYE BYE MAN and RINGS.

Honestly, this does look pretty good. So far, it’s shrouded in mystery. I have no idea what it is that’s causing these sicknesses. It looks like it has some firm rules, some smart and possibly likable characters that understand the score. Although the tar-drool is something we’ve seen time and again, I do really like that I have no idea what’s going on, or what starts the shit hitting the fan.

Let’s look at this cast. Starring, we have the incredible Joel Edgerton, known for LOVING (2016), THE GIFT (2015), and THE THING (2011). In support alongside him, we have Christopher Abbott (WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT [2016], A MOST VIOLENT YEAR [2014], and TV show GIRLS), Carmen Ejogo (ALIEN: COVENANT [2017], FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM [2016], and THE PURGE: ANARCHY [2014]), and Riley Keough (AMERICAN HONEY [2016], MAD MAX: FURY ROAD [2015], and MAGIC MIKE [2012]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Trey Edward Shults, known for stuff I’ve never heard of, mostly short films. Composing the score is Brian McOmber, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Finally, the cinematographer is Drew Daniels, also known for projects I’ve never heard of. Although, all these men have worked together before.

Overall, I’m very interested in seeing what this movie’s got up its sleeve. Maybe it won’t be overly scary, but the suspense and mystery are effective. So let me at it.

This is my honest opinion of: IT COMES AT NIGHT

(SUMMARY)

An unknown pandemic has been sweeping over the big cities causing people to get sick. The story follows a modest family, Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their teen son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who are living in a house in the woods, far away from it all in an attempt to be safe. However, they’re still recovering after having been forced to kill Travis’ grandfather, Bud (David Pendleton) when he contracts the sickness. Not long after, the family encounters a man named Will (Christopher Abbott), who breaks into their home looking for supplies to take care of his own family; his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). After misunderstandings are squared away, it’s decided to allow Will and his family to stay with Paul and his to try and coexist.

(REVIEW)

Perhaps it’d be best to put this out there now… it’s not a horror film. At least, not by any conventional means anyone else would understand. I would say this is more of a suspense film, akin to THE WITCH (2016). It’s not scary, but there’s disturbing imagery, well-written characters that you empathize with, and leaves you with stuff to think about. Maybe not quite as much, but something.

First thing’s first, it’s good. I’m not sure if I’m in love with it like the critics seem to be, but I think it’s good and I like it.

Right off the bat, you’re left with an incredibly unsettling feeling when the first frame pops up. All you see is an old man who looks like he’s ready to turn into a zombie and hear muffled voice and the old man isn’t paying attention at all. He gets carted out in a wheel barrow, gets shot in the head by Paul, put in a hole, and burnt, all while Travis the grandson is watching. Ho…ly… shit. What a way to start.

However, in retrospect, this does pave the way for my first eye-twitch of the movie. We later learn that Sarah feels guilty about Travis seeing that horror and that Paul couldn’t do it all by himself. Two issues. One, so… why didn’t she help Paul? The old man wasn’t a three-hundred pound tub of mayo, he was a scrawny guy. Kind of a gut, but he couldn’t weigh more than two-hundred pounds. Two, she subjected her son to a pretty terrible thing to bare witness to. Again, why did she hang back? This isn’t really addressed, or not addressed well. Three, what couldn’t Paul do by himself. Maybe loading a body onto the wheel barrow, but that’s a stretch to believe considering how fit the man is. But he didn’t need another set of hands to carry the wheel barrow, he wouldn’t need a set to dig the ditch, or to roll the body into said ditch, or to light it on fire, or to bury it. What needed two people? What did I miss, if anything?

But right after this, the movie gets really well-made. The dialog is either nonexistent, or it’s sparing. All you see is each of them processing what they had to do and they each seem to be taking it differently. It’s brilliantly haunting.

It’s not long before the movie starts picking up speed again by throwing in an intruder, who ends up being Will. I’m actually going to take a minute and talk about the next brilliant thing this movie does, which is throw good people into horrible situations and how even the most rational and well-meaning people can make bad decisions. There is no bad guy here, other than desperation for survival and the need to protect one’s family. Even though things between Paul and Will start off rocky as hell, and Paul hammers in the whole “you can’t trust anyone” mentality, you never get the impression that Will is ever hiding anything. He really is on the up and up. He’s no different than Paul. A series of misunderstandings, sure, but they eventually get along.

I’m going to call it out, I think most audiences expecting a horror film will call this movie slow and uneventful. I personally think the pacing is just fine. This is primarily because the characters are enjoyable. Paul is a history teacher who jokes about knowing a lot about the Roman Empire and Will’s done construction, demolitions, and other stuff. The great thing is that these people feel like they’re real people. There’s no elaborate backstory about Will being a discharged Marine or Paul being a reformed abusive drunk, none of the drama gets overblown. They’re normal people doing what they can to survive this outbreak. It’s refreshing beyond belief.

***SPOILERS***

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When things turn dicey and Andrew gets sick. Will and Kim know what Paul would do, so their first reaction is high-tail it and run. And when Travis tells his parents that Andrew may be sick, their first reaction is to verify. At first, everything makes sense and there’s no fault in anyone’s motivations. Having said that, I think this climax is a bit… over-dramatic, to a degree. I know that Paul needs to take precautions, believing that even if he let Will go with food and water, there’s the chance that if they run out, they’ll come back for more. But maybe I’m just a dude who believes in seeing the good in people who earn it, but I doubt Will would do that. I thoroughly believe that he would have left and the two families would never have seen each other again. But I also wouldn’t have stuck around to pack food. I would have known to leave that and just take my family away. By taking the food, it raises the chances of shit hitting the fan and getting someone killed… you know, like my wife and kid. Which is exactly what happened.

Ultimately, this is probably missing the point. All of this was happening in a matter of minutes and everyone was simply reacting the only way they knew how. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to think things through. Like I said, even when two sets of well-meaning people who are more than reasonable people will ultimately make mistakes. A bad situation is sometimes just a bad situation.

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***END SPOILERS***

Ultimately, the movie’s good. It’s not great, though. There’s some questionable character choices, plot events that aren’t explained in any way, and… I’m not entirely sure why the title is what it is. “It comes at night?” Nothing comes at night in this movie. Unless I seriously missed something. But it’s got great character-building, creates solid tension that makes you question where the story will go, among many other things. It’s a well-crafted movie and I think it’s worth seeing if you enjoy tension more than cheap jump scares. It’s not exactly a must-see, or anything, but if you’re curious, I’d say give it a shot.

My honest rating for IT COMES AT NIGHT: 4/5

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THE TRANSFIGURATION review

Well now this looks interesting. Already, it’s got me hooked with being a dark vampire movie. Sort of. So the best I can understand the flick is that it’s about a young kid who takes a huge liking for Vampire movies and stories in general and starts to think that he’s a Vampire too. He falls for a girl his age and he’s got a presumably older brother whose purpose in the story is pretty hidden as of now. But I gotta say, I’m interested.

Here’s the on screen talent. Starring, we have Eric Ruffin, known for TV show THE GOOD WIFE, and Chloe Levine, known for TV show THE OA. I’d list the other actors, but I have no idea who they are and their importance to the story, so I’ll tackle that in the actual review.

Now for behind the scenes. Directing and writing is Michael O’Shea, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Margaret Chardiet, making her feature film debut. Congrats, miss. Finally, the cinematographer is Sung Rae Cho, known for movies that I’ve never heard of and short films.

This is my honest opinion of: THE TRANSFIGURATION

(SUMMARY)

Milo (Eric Ruffin) is not your typical teen growing up in a rough neighborhood. Though quiet and well-meaning, he hides a dark secret, believing himself to be a vampire and having already killed some people and drank their blood. He’s a loner and doesn’t have any friends until he meet another loner, a teen girl named Sophie (Chloe Levine). They strike up a relationship that starts off rocky at first, what with him showing her clips of cows getting slaughtered on the internet, but they eventually develop a unique connection as they figure out what their lives are all about.

(REVIEW)

I have to say, it’s not bad. It’s not great either, but this was worth the watch… for the most part. Yeah, this might take some explaining.

The movie opens up exactly how a vampire movie should open up: creepy as hell. It opens on Milo drinking blood from a dude’s neck in a bathroom stall and walks out like it’s just another Monday. And that’s what this movie does pretty well; its atmosphere. While you acknowledge that Milo isn’t necessarily a bad kid, you’re never quite comfortable around him, especially since he’s so quiet. But the strange thing is, it’s a weird blend of knowing exactly what’s on his mind, and not knowing what’s going on his mind at all, making Ruffin’s acting pretty much pitch perfect, which I think will go over a lot of people’s heads and call him bland and uninteresting. I hope that isn’t the case, I’ve barely looked at any reviews for this movie, but it would do my heart some good to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought this about him.

In fact, the acting from the core cast is actually pretty damn solid. I’ve already mentioned how Ruffin is good, but I think the real heart of the movie is Levine. On top of a smile that needs to be nominated for an Oscar, she’s got such a warm presence to counteract all the dark, gruesome, and discomfort. But that’s not to say that she’s a regular Mary Sue or anything. Quite the opposite, she’s got her own problems as well. She drinks, as most teenagers do, has sex with random boys, and cuts herself. She’s depressed, has an abusive family, all that stuff, yet still finds some way to be smiley and open to letting someone into her life and trusting him. In fact, this makes for a good segue, I think as much as Sophie loves Twilight – which she mentions, like, three times in this fuckin’ movie – that set of stories can take some serious notes from this movie. Milo and Sophie are absolutely adorable together. They have this wonderful connection that probably makes for the best scenes in the film. It’s probably the only real time you see Milo say more than a few words at any given time, even smile. You never get a genuine connection in Twilight like that. There is an innocence to their relationship and a tried and true happiness that they bring to each other and it’s incredibly sweet to watch.

This is a character-driven movie through-and-through, and in that regard, it succeeds surprisingly well. However, the movie isn’t without some bizarre flaws.

First of all, is this the only way to portray black kids? In rundown, sketchy neighborhoods who get bullied and beat up? This movie almost blatantly rips off the opening of MOONLIGHT (2016). Actually, I doubt it’s a cliché that’s hard to rip off from any other source tackling this subject. I doubt MOONLIGHT started the whole “black kid getting bullied in rough neighborhood” thing. Hell, KICKS (2016) came out before that and did the same damn scenario. Seriously, this sort of thing can’t happen in a middle-class neighborhood? Bullying exists no matter what social class you’re in. I suppose you could make the very real argument that this is supposed to be a setting where gang violence needs to be the norm, but again, that’s any neighborhood you go to and the effect would be the same. I suppose this isn’t necessarily a complaint, just a personal peeve, so I’ll move on to the genuine problems.

I don’t care how much of a social outcast someone is, there is no good reason for half the shit Milo does. Let me explain, when Milo sees Sophie cutting her wrist, he asks to see them. As she shows him, he immediately tries to taste her blood. I don’t care if you are a vampire or think you’re a vampire, neither excuses a downright creepy-as-hell action like that. In fact, for a movie that praises LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) more than once, and bashes Twilight more than once, it certainly took a more than a couple pages out of Twilight’s formula. Milo and Sophie’s first hang out is eerily similar to when Edward reveals what he is to Bella in the woods and nearly every scene prior to that: giving her ample reasons to not be attracted to him. Milo’s first offense of trying to taste her blood should have been enough to walk away freaked out and never talk to him again. But no, she quickly forgives him. But then they decide to hang out longer and he takes her back to his home where they watch cows getting slaughtered! That’s when she decides that he’s too freaky to be around. And again, why does Milo show her that shit?! Why would he think that anyone would be interested in the same shit that he’s into? Show her a vampire movie, fine, you can accept that as fiction, but reality is a little different and harder to swallow, you dumb-ass! But of course, does she stay away from Milo forever? No! Of course not! You read my positives and know that I think very highly of their relationship. So one would assume that Milo did something to sway her opinion of him, right? He apologized for his weird behavior and she forgave him? Ha! Yeah, right. There’s a reason I made this comparison to Twilight. When she leaves Milo’s place, freaked out and all, the next time we see her again is a few scenes later where she spots him as he’s walking home and she immediately lights up, smiling, runs over to him all excitedly, and asks to walk home with him. It’s only during that walk where Milo apologizes for the cow-slaughter, which seems pretty needless considering how forgiving she is of him.

Also, a lot of random leaps in logic crop up too. There’s a scene where Milo says that he doesn’t know where his dead mother is buried. The next day, Sophie visits him and tells him that she found her burial site. Um… hi, movie! Remember me? The audience? Mind filling us in on how she found it?! It’s not like Milo ever says his last name or anything! Logic: what’s that? There’s also a stretch in time when he starts avoiding Sophie for no reason. He says that he’s not avoiding her, but he clearly is, and then they start randomly hanging out again… feeding back into why is Sophie so forgiving of Milo’s actions. Milo gets a guy killed because you think he’s going to drink his blood. But after getting the guy killed by some local gang punks, he just leave his body without tasting a single drop of blood from him. Milo, for some reason, can’t watch scenes in vampire movies where the vampire is drinking blood from a victim. Why? Never explained? Milo marks the days where he kills people down on his calendar. Why? Also never explained.

***SPOILERS***

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Now let’s talk about the ending, which is both a complaint, and a saving grace. So Milo follows this violent-prone drunk guy home. He sneaks into his home to obviously kill him, but quickly sees that he has a young daughter. For whatever damn reason, he kills her and starts drinking her blood. Already, this character became irredeemable and had a feeling that he was going to get a happy ending, despite not deserving it. He then kills the man, of course, and leaves. Thankfully, he comes to the decision at the end that if his life is just going to be hurting people, then he probably shouldn’t live. So he takes the money he’s been saving to Sophie to live with her cousin, and sets up events to get himself killed, where he’s actually killed. Thank you! Aware that the innocent life he ended violently didn’t deserve it and he needed to stop somehow.

Intriguingly, my interpretation of these events is that he was never a vampire at all, though I think this is a given. He’s a traumatized kid, mentally unstable, got hooked into vampire lore, and latched on to that as his reasoning for being what he is. While he says that, in his case anyway, vampires can walk in sunlight, eat garlic, it’s all pretty thin stuff. He vomits when he drinks too much blood, which is a real physical thing. Gets shot, and dies. Very much not like a vampire.

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, no, it’s not a great film and far too many problems hold it back from even being all that good. Logic being thrown out the window, a few too many clichés, and frustrating character choices all wound the film. But I can’t pretend that there wasn’t a whole lot about the movie that I didn’t like. The characters themselves and their relationships to one another, the chilling and creepy atmosphere, and the actors themselves are all wonderful. It’s a mixed bag, so I’m not sure if I recommend seeing this. If you’re a fan of the genre, you might find a few things to enjoy here. Just don’t expect a very good movie to accompany it. If you wanted to see it in theaters, a matinee showing would be best. Definitely worth a rental later on down the road.

My honest rating for THE TRANSFIGURATION: 3/5

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PHOENIX FORGOTTEN review

RANDOM MOVIE ALERT!!!

Seriously, where do these movies come from?! No trailer, no announcement of any kind, I demand answers because I am entitled! *SARCASM*

Just kidding, but is anyone else calling “foul” on the whole “untold true events” tagline? I don’t know, y’all, it doesn’t seem to carry much weight if the main stars have an IMDb page, but I’m obviously just spit-ballin’ here. In any case, it’s another found-footage movie that looks… well, like nothing special. Even the poster looks incredibly cliché. Single scared person in footage that looks like it was from a messed up VHS tape. Can’t scare me if I’ve seen it before. Oh well.

Most of the cast is unknown, but we’ll go through a few of them anyway. Florence Hartigan (known for stuff I’ve never heard of), Luke Spencer Roberts (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016]), Chelsea Lopez (known for stuff I’ve never heard of), Justin Matthews (TV show MAJOR CRIMES), and Clint Jordan (THE PERFECT GUY [2015] and THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 [1999]), among many others.

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Justin Barber, making his feature-length debut. Congrats, sir. Barber’s partner-in-pen is T.S. Nowlin, known for THE MAZE RUNNER (2014), MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (2015), and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE (2018), PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018), and GODZILLA VS. KONG (2020). Composing the music is the Mondo Boys, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Finally, the cinematographer is Jay Keitel, known for stuff I’ve never heard of.

Overall, I’m guessing this movie is going to be boring and cliché, but with so many unknowns and not being distributed by big-name companies, this could be better than the trailer lets on. So we’ll see.

This is my honest opinion of: PHOENIX FORGOTTEN

(SUMMARY)

Based around the famous 1997 “Phoenix Lights” phenomenon in Phoenix, Arizona. In the present day, Sophie (Florence Hartigan) is making a documentary about the Phoenix Lights after new footage reaches her that was shot on a camera owned by her older brother Josh (Luke Spencer Roberts) who went missing at that time, along with two other teens, Ashley (Chelsea Lopez) and Mark (Justin Matthews).

(REVIEW)

Okay, before I get into my review, some backstory. Yes, I am aware that the “Phoenix Lights” was an actual event that happened in 1997. It’s infamous and remains a mystery to this day with a ton of controversy surrounding it. Thing is… I don’t remember that. I guess I slept through it when it happened, but I didn’t hear anything about this. I suppose I could do my research later, but for now, let’s judge the movie for what it is.

You know what this is? It’s combining the two Blair Witch movies (I’m not referring to BOOK OF SHADOWS [2000]). How do I mean? Look at the similarities. Both are found-footage movies. 90’s footage was shot in the 90’s by an older sibling, along with other teens who went missing via supernatural events, a la THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). Then in the present day, the younger sibling of the original cameraperson starts following the same paths to uncover secrets to find out what happened to the sibling, a la BLAIR WITCH (2016). The difference here… it’s all the same movie and it’s about as predictable, boring, and stupid as it sounds.

It even follows the same formula of PROJECT. Teens get an idea to go out to the middle of nowhere with their camera and weird shit starts to happen. Of course, give PROJECT some credit, the weird shit starts eventually. It’s not scary in the least, but it’s there in some capacity. In this movie, the weird shit doesn’t start until the final fifteen minutes. Yeah, less than an hour and a half long and the weird shit doesn’t happen until it’s basically over. So what do they fill in for the other hour and fifteen minutes? Lots of talking, of course! It’s boring as all hell!

Okay, to be fair, I saw this movie with a buddy of mine and we missed probably the first five to ten minutes of the movie. If I were to hazard a guess, we missed some atmospheric set-up. But whether or not it was good set-up, it’s clear throughout the rest of the movie that it doesn’t maintain that level of intrigue for the rest of the story. As far as the missing teens go, all they do is talk to each other about this or that, but never anything about how they’re feeling about the events they’re looking into. Okay, that’s not quite true. But again, it’s conversations you’ve heard before in the Blair Witch movies. “This is so cool, dude,” “This is creepy, dude,” “We’re gonna make history,” “What is that?” Ugh! I’m never interested in what these kids get themselves into because we never really get a sense of who they are. Josh has a crush on Ashley, but at some point gets jealous, which goes nowhere and factors into one single conversation, which again, goes nowhere and has no impact on the story.

***SPOILERS***

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I guess I can see where a good movie could be formed. After all, it has a foundation based on true events, even though the characters are fictional. But unlike BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, there’s an air of ambiguity at the end of the film and you don’t actually know if the Blair Witch had anything to do with what was happening to these people. Here… nope, they tell you right away that it’s aliens and the teens were abducted. While their fate is sure left a mystery, this is basically saying that the Phoenix Lights were indeed aliens, which has never been proven to be. I’m sure if I did a crap-load of research that there’d be quite a few question mark laced around the event, “aliens” has never been the 100 percent factual answer. I mean, should I take it this literal? Probably not, but for a movie that’s grounded itself in realism for so long, throwing in definitive supernatural occurrences at the last minute feels out of place.

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***END SPOILERS***

There’s not too much to get into. It looked like it was trying to be Blair Witch with aliens, I figured it wouldn’t be good, and it wasn’t. So I’m not too upset that I was right. I’d usually dock a few points if it was ripping off good movies, but I wasn’t a fan of Blair Witch, so a bad movie ripping off another bad movie just doesn’t feel like it’s worth getting mad at. I don’t hate it, but there’s absolutely nothing to it. I don’t recommend this, either in theaters or as a rental, unless you are a die-hard fan of the Blair Witch movies and love that formula done with aliens, then maybe you’ll be okay, but I will throw you a big ole sign saying, “VIEWER BEWARE.”

My honest rating for PHOENIX FORGOTTEN: 2/5

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