Turbo (2013)

Turbo (2013) – IMDB

I originally wrote this off as any other family movie to be released at the time: a filler to occupy time till something better comes along. What is interesting about a snail that goes fast? Sounds like a topic of conversion from the minds of stoners sitting poolside after a day of rain, watching slugs traverse aimlessly among the wet concrete. Well, it wasn’t until a few nights ago a mood struck me for something fun and I had to watch it.

Turbo opens up with your expected slug jokes and an introduction to the slow critters’ mundane but organized life within a homely garden. Which was fully realized and inventive, reminiscent of PIXAR’s A Bug’s Life in how they work together and function within an oversized realty of vegetation. One anti-salt mollusk has a dream of his own outside the limits of the adjacent sidewalk. And it doesn’t involve following in uniform with the rest of the gastropods, fiending for the next tomato or avoid being plucked by the next crow. This little guy wants to RACE. Be fast like his Italian race icon, Guy Gagne. Our little dreamer, Turbo, wants to reach past his limits, not be prisoned by his limited capacities.

Not without the help of a friendly substance called NOS.

The message of the movie is clear and not muddied by presentation. Challenge yourself to new abilities, reach new heights, but also know what is realistic and imaginary. If you have a dream, go for it, even if someone doesn’t believe in you. And Turbo does all this without being preachy. I wonder if this includes consuming substances to transcend your limitations and enhance your physical capabilities? Maybe I’m digging too much… Crawling forward, it’s rather entertaining and enjoyable to watch the absurdity of a snail racer and taco man team up to win the Indy 500.

A small mention to the voice acting which isn’t just an all star cast selling the movie, they all fit respectively, even Ken Jeong who made me laugh more than once.

I’m happy to find the music is not slimed by today’s music but brings back the old making Turbo feel right at home and more appealing.

Turbo was a nice little movie I could watch again. The message is important without it being overstated about reaching your goals and going past the limit. A fun movie I think will slip by as more movies race to the screen. Not a necessary watch but an entertaining one especially if this is what you’re looking for.

Overlord (2018)

Overlord (2018) – IMDB

Overlord is an interesting hybrid of war and horror genres. It’s nothing entirely new, the idea of Nazi experiments being hellishly realized. Call of Duty Zombies and Frankenstein’s Army have toyed with this idea among others. Can’t say any are classics with possibly Dead Snow being close candidate. (COD Zombie could be great if transitioned from video game to the moving pictures screen. Even better, Wolfenstein. Yes, please.)

The first 10-15 minutes when the troops had to jump from the burning, airborne plane soaked my attention. It was intense and had a great start for our heroes’ journey to destroy a tower. I forgot I was watching a zombie horror until an unnatural discovery in the woods reminded me it was not just a WWII film. I’m not going to say it was a problem, the tonal shifts, movies have accomplished this before, thanks From Dusk Till Dawn. Overlord feels more grounded and has a sense of a realistic approach to war. Not what I was expecting, thinking I was in for something that had some camp/less seriousness or a more self aware identity; a more traditional B-movie. Meaning they played more with the topic of the movie, experimented more with the “Thousand Year Reich” idea. Like don’t just show me how nasty Nazis were, show how nasty their creations were; guess I’m saying I was looking for various types of monstrosities on screen. But what is on screen is fun, that is, once we clock in enough time to see it. It does feel like it took awhile to get to why we all pressed play in the first place. Even then I’m not sure if the payload was satisfactory. With that said, and without spoiling, there is a moment when a neck is dislocated and thrust backyards. Very unexpected and satisfyingly grotesque!

The french madame who befriends our fellow soldiers is a real BADASS. She is confronted by a pesky annoyance late in the movie and she handles it like an exterminator fed up with eradicating vermin.

Some moments like the one above impressed me, others left me bored or wondered the characters’ decisions if they actually had to go that route.

To sum up, I had mixed feelings about the latest trek down Hitler’s dream of his invincible army of darkness. Don’t expect this to be anything like Kung Fury or any of the above mentioned titles, this outing is a little more serious in tone. Perhaps I will enjoy the movie more a second time viewing sometime in the future knowing now what happens. Maybe Overlord will gain a cult following, time will tell.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

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From Dusk Till Dawn still entertains me today. Over a decade later, I will come back every so often to this movie for it’s originality, abrupt twist, and George Clooney’s sheer acting ability. Before his peak with Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino was at his best in the 90’s delivering fresh aura to cinema along with his indie buddy filmmakers wave. His crime caper vibe and cheesy hamburger dialogue married perfectly with friend Robert Rodriguez’s cool, rock and roll direction. These two combined a stylish crime nightmare that blended genres into one satisfying bite.

Straight off the stake this may not be for everyone. Not exactly a happy movie but an absolute brutal thrill ride. An entertaining punch to the chest that dishes out unexpected laughs and shock. The biggest diss I can find  the audience dislikes so much is the twist (and probably the gore). By the cover you can guess this isn’t your normal “escape the authority, brother, we just robbed a bank” type of flick. This I personally loved. My favorite bit of the movie is when it snaps your neck at a 180 degree turn and ship-shapes into a mythical monster. Some say this is when the movie loses it’s grasp. I say nay. From Dusk Till Dawn never loses sight of what it wants to be. From A to B the goal is always prominent.

Who doesn’t like a good heist film? Well, this is the aftermath of a bank robbery and you never get to see it like Tarantino’s classic Reservoir Dogs. However, you don’t have characters named after the colors of the rainbow.  From Dusk Till Dawn follows the Gecko brothers who must take the cash across the Mexican border without being caught and meet at the Titty Twister, leaving trail of fire and dead carcasses. Seth (Clooney) is the oldest brother with a temper but keeps it under a cool veil. This is a guy who has a book, a cool book, and you want to be in his cool book. This role here jumped Clooney’s stardom because of his on screen presence and cool demeanor. Although, I think Seth is almost as dimwitted as his younger brother, Richard, leaving him in a room with a woman alone. Richard (Tarantino) is a psychotic sex offender who has a knack of grinding his teeth. He is perfect in this role for being simultaneously weird and awkward. The two leads play well, but Tarantino is surpassed by Clooney’s espresso experience in acting. You can see this alone, clear as day, when Clooney forces Tarantino up against the wall in anger, skewing Tarantino’s glasses and Clooney keeps him from fixing them. Tarantino is not prepared for this and you can see his cowering bewilderment. It’s quite impressive to see. Speaking of impressive, Salma Hayek is a goddess. A sexy introduction for her as she steps on stage with a boa wrapping her seductive body and the music serenading and accenting her curves. Even this experienced actress leaves Tarantino with a foot in his mouth.

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Everyone does there part. From the young Juliette Lewis as a daughter of faith to Harvey Keitel, a father who has lost faith. And lets not forget those two guys we randomly meet and start rooting for at the Titty Twister. Tom Savini as Sex Machine who fancies a whip and a secret weapon in the formation of his privates. Then we have Fred Williams as Frost who has an endless supply of cigars and talks about ‘Nam back in ’72.

Acting wouldn’t be without it’s writing and Tarantino has a script that not only makes us laugh but is cheesy. Like when Jacob (Keitel) is talking about his spirituality with his kids or when Seth is discussing how his .45 will answer questions. Tarantino’s writing can easily be put into a 24 episode anime or it’s own manga series. At times it’s delectable but sometimes it’s nonsensical and dare I say somewhat juvenile; however, his odd ideas ‘trademark cliches sticks out like a stylish smile with vampire fangs.

From Dusk Till Dawn will always be a movie I come back to, no matter how long. From the opening bad-a** credits to the closing. The last 45 minutes when the twist manifests itself is a total switch up and pushes the question “What if?” in cinema. A great throwback to grindhouse flicks and a great film in general.

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***Spoiler***

On a side note, despite rather two lackluster sequels, my latest viewing made me realize this original could have a proper direct sequel. One focused on Lewis’s character, Kate. Her life takes a turn as a monster hunter after the events of this film. She eventually goes out to seek Seth for help, whether or not he helps or not, I think there is a sequel here. A monster hunt sequel, more than vampires. From Dusk Till Dawn can venture into other mythological territory with different storylines than stay with one tone. Then again, maybe that’s what makes this film so unique as a standalone.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant – IMDB

 

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As a fan of this beloved series, I read articles, watched interviews, and looked out for the anticipated teaser trailer released last Christmas. My hopes couldn’t have been higher. A return to the dark and dangerous universe of Alien. Prometheus opened a whole new world for us to explore and upon initial viewing I loved it, then hated it, then as time passed it grew on me and I have accepted it for being a stand alone film and an unique entry in to the franchise. With that being said, there was a lot to be expected from Ridley Scott taking yet another lead in the xenomorph franchise. And then finally, FINALLY. A full red band trailer was released. I watched. As the trailer for Alien: Covenant burst from its organic egg shell, revealing it’s gooey innards. I couldn’t help but be exposed to the spoilers on screen as one colonist after another were dying showcasing their deaths to entice and scare viewers demanding it’s attention. AND THEN, my questioning began, “Is this really going to be good, it looks like Alien? Should I lower my bar of expectations? Is this the sequel we deserve?”

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I see nothing but death.

I believe Ridley Scott listened to those shouting and screaming Alien fans and their hatred for Prometheus without consideration of those who spoke softly for their love of a film that took a risk in a new direction. Scott himself wanted to create something new that centered around creation and a story that provoked the thought of origins for life. And not just any life, but birth of the hissing xenomorph. I understood Prometheus was set in the same universe but placed far before the original. And it was this movie that many were apparently down right upset about. Movies age like wine, many show their true colors and morph into something flavorful later on down the road. The tick with this film is Scott took a chunk of Alien and a spice of Prometheus. When instead it should have been vice versa. It felt like he wanted to please the audience and new comers with an over cooked monster and playing it safe. When, in fact, I would have chosen the risky route. Continue Prometheus mission.

This is the biggest fault of the film. Alien: Covenant wanted to spring into an Alien movie so badly it left many ingredients that made it’s predecessor stand alone. There’s reviews that could go on about what Prometheus did wrong and what not. Yea, yea, we know. A great sequel would add to the first’s mystery, answer questions and then some. Frankly, the sequel does not. You want to know if Shaw gets any of her questions answered? Who cares. Want to know any more about the Engineers? Nah, irrelevant, they’re just a plot device. Alien: Covenant moves forward in a storm abandoning almost everything behind. Leaving a mess of a film.

There are good points in the movie and I will say it definitely is not a waste of time. By far my favorite is watching the androids, Walter and David, both played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender, interact with one another. Their conversations and differences make some compelling dialogue. They are by far the best part of the film. David is becoming more of a solid character in the franchise as Ripley. It’s exciting to think about. **Spoiler** Seeing as David’s relationship with Weyland is submissive in the the shadow of his creator, David holds the ability to create, and to create he does. The perfect being. And this is justified (if not hard to swallow) in the beginning  when Weyland talks to David on his initial creation. This bit I loved. Discussion of art, creation, and Gods. It is what is expected of a Prometheus sequel.

Androids were not the only ones who were good, those looking for a more serious role for Danny Mcbride actually has a good standing here. It was a pleasure to see him on screen and provide a drop of comical relief and play a driven husband to the end. A part I was looking forward to. And Katherine Waterston who played the down beat Daniels. She did good but nothing to stand out or even complain. She is in grief of losing her husband so her character hardly has an uplifting moment. With that to say the movie as a whole is quite atmospheric and despairing.

In relation to the other characters I really wish they were more fleshed out. Especially Oram and Karine. This couple could of had some deep conversations. Oram (Billy Crudup) could have used a lot more text and background on why and how he is religious. I think personally he is the most interesting character besides David. With Shaw out of the picture, Oram could have real conversations with David. If not him, Daniels or Tennessee about the future humankind’s path is set on or the Engineers’ purpose. Potential once again lost. Oram is just another guy with faith providing no meaning or value to his own asset to the story of origins. Like the trailer,  Alien: Covenant provided  meaningless scares and predictable deaths. There’s no exaggeration. The deaths are predictable, good acting, but predictable, signing on a new cast dying for a paycheck.

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Some effects I enjoyed but couldn’t help but feel it was a slight downgrade from Prometheus. Times I felt practical effects could have been used but weren’t. i.e. animatronics. The aliens themselves are creepy. Mainly the new one, the neomorph. The original isn’t welcomed like an old friend coming home. Not that it should as it’s history in terrorizing the screen for the past 30 years. We all know what you’re capable of alien, step aside. The neomorph is here and shows it’s origins but where is it on the scale of the Engineers’ existence? Where does it stand? We still know little about the goo from the previous movie. Why couldn’t we just get proper sequel instead of an Alien prequel? You are draining this series dry, Ridley Scott.

The music itself is terrific. With moments calling back to Alien and Prometheus scores gives a hybrid vibe of the universe that’s currently existing and was happy to hear. The additional music was also good, emanating a dark ominous howl. Creating a subtle hint of intense terror that’s not exploding in your face.

It’s interesting to see where the franchise is going.  Not to be sexist but I was hoping not another heroine in this picture. But it’s not all we got. And I hope she isn’t the only one. We’ve had a Ripley. Please, present something new. And try not to kill everyone in the opening credits, so learn from the mistakes. If by chance Scott listens and isn’t a crazed old man looking for a come back and says “F***  it this is how the story is gonna be” we can fix this average film into what the franchise needs: back to answering and asking questions Prometheus introduced. We’ve had our Alien films, bring us something else. Tease us with Alien, give us Engineers and a space to explore with new findings. Our minds are bigger than this. What is life without expanding our boundaries? It’ll be hard to trek back around this film and find our footing once again. Maybe in time this will grow but who knows. We still have stupid characters and a lazy, messy plot that wants to entertain with the occasional questionable dialogue.

I saw a lot of promise when Michael Green was attached (creator/writer of Penny Dreadful, writer of Gladiator). We’ll see where this takes us. Scott proclaims at this moment that the series is pinned for an additional three movies that lead up to the original Alien. Anything could happen. Am I worried? At this point, yea, I am. A Prometheus like sequel will be welcomed. Scott needs to figure out his vision for the future of the franchise. Do I still look forward to the next entry? Hell yea, I do. However, we need innovative ideas. It’s time for the reigns to be passed on Ridley Scott. If you need attention, get a dog.

In the end, I liked the movie. Since Aliens no Alien movie has been perfect. Close calls but no perfect specimen. If Scott plans to release these next few additions then he needs to find that vision and stick to it. Pleasing the audience with a cooked monster will do nothing. Possibly the goriest entry along with Alien Resurrection, we need more than shock and fright. Story much? Missing the chemistry David and Shaw had we can only look forward now after a grim experimentation. One can hope for the director’s cut. As I and fans alike look for the missing parts not already integrated into a film we anticipated for.

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Sphere (1998)

Sphere (1998)

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What is it you fear? Do you fear your nightmares? Do you fear alien life? Michael Crichton is a terrific author. He has treated readers worldwide with stories that provoke the mind with thrilling entertainment. Stories such as Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Andromeda Strain shows us Crichton has quite a knack for storytelling. However I myself have not read a few of these including Sphere itself. I understand it was a mind bending thriller, no doubt, but did the movie live up to the expectations of Michael Crichton’s handy writing? I’m afraid not. Sphere starts out really well, then somehow rolls down hill. Then up again, then levels out, then down again. It’s a twirl down from a great hook then all is left is pressurized frustration on what is going on and where the story has gone.

This review would be more knowledgeable if I had read the book myself, one day I will. Because after this, I felt my time was wasted. Everything that lead up to it’s end point fizzled flat. I give huge credit to start, though. About the first half its a perfect popcorn flick. You are laughing at the jokes, asking same questions as the main characters were asking, and feeling drawn in on the suspenseful moments. It’s a perfect set up because you have a mix of The Abyss and Alien where a team is assembled and they must venture somewhere into the unknown, facing something foreign; alien. Sphere, for a moment, even feels like a horror. But the weird begins to happen and you start having withdrawals. What am I getting myself into? I certainly was not expecting that to happen. One action leaves to another. Questions seem to skip the answers and you forget totally about them. This creates plot holes galore.Like key subjects that I believed were crucial to the story manifesting a truly thought provoking thriller. Including loop holes that don’t make sense despite the bizarre circumstances. Instead, Sphere dives deep into the weird leaving nothing but vast pockets of nothingness floating abundantly. I think the movie could have made a 90 degree turn, perhaps even a 180, creating something special.

This was something truly unique. It had potential to be an underrated masterpiece or a down right classic reminiscent of Jurassic Park’s success. I’ll give it that, Sphere will keep you totally engaged. Something was always happening. The dialogue was never dumb, I actually paid attention to each characters’ contribution. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the discussions the main protagonists were having and fit the movie perfectly. Acting was even decent to say the least. The budget is there to support the film giving a glipse of a scientist’s expedition underwater would be like. 

The movie moves so fast forward though to the next event, you almost forget some key plot points that previously happened. I love movies that make me think and even ones that are open ended for discussion among the viewers, but this my friends, is no table talk. You will be as baffled as the next person. Scratching your head, trying to undo the knot in your mind that’s bent three quarters to nowhere. Leaving you at the end with no value, as if you have wasted your time. With a perfect set up and cast we hope all the chaotic wierdness will come together in the end. Too bad we’re not gifted with an imagination to forget the potential here that has gone awry. 

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) – IMDb

The thing

Briefly I would like to explain my absence and apologize for it. For the past three months I have been in Basic Military Training for the Air Force (hua!) and have been missing my currently small but meaningful followers. To pay tribute to my return I have decided to review an all time favorite of mine: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Recently, I purchased this movie for my third time off of Amazon. A long awaited Mondo’s Steelbook Collector’s edition that I have fallen in love with. With a haunting bleak cover of snow and blackness, and a ghostly mutated figure screeching upwards on the left side of the case – the words THE THING etched across it’s chest. And subtle, hidden words lie beneath this beautiful box: Man is the warmest place to hide. I gladly unwrap the movie and recall my favorite moments, and times I introduced this bad boy to fresh eyes. Much like when I told my friend he HAD to watch this movie upon it’s arrival a week after basic, hence, he does not like horror. And I told him if there were ever a horror to watch before you die it must be The Thing  (and given, a few others). He was quite hesitant until this day, today, I had the pleasure of finally showing him after weeks of anticipation. He’s a hard nut to crack, my friend, but has said it contained a good, enjoyable plot and good characters. Seeing 25 years is around the corner of it’s release, that it has stood the test of time and is a worthy addition for your shelf. However, he said, it seemed drawn out and some of the characters were not well developed. Is he right? Meh, to my degree of thinking HE IS WRONG. But I will explain later, ladies and gentlemen.

If you are reading and have witnessed this bloody awesome movie then I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. If not, then you’re on the wrong ship. Those of you who still need to pop that cherry, I suggest, as a movie lover, watch it. Experience it. Take in the cold and bleak wasteland that is of Antarctica. Where everywhere you go is isolation. Where you thought the below 40 degree weather was the worst of your fears. Until you find out there’s a 100,000 year old UFO beneath the ice. A neighboring outpost is left burned and destroyed, inhabiting nothing but ice and dead bodies. What do you do? The radios are down. You have acquired a stray dog who appears to be normal. Then things happen. Abnormal things. Things you can’t explain. One thing leads to another thing. The characters begin to question each other. Without noticing, you start questioning them. Soon enough you question yourself, Are You Crazy? The thing creeps up on you, slithering it’s way to your brain, becoming absorbed, clouding your judgement. You start building a shanty spaceship out of scraps thinking escape is the answer, I’m telling you that’s not it. You’re infected. Take your last shot of J&B Scotch and burn yourself.

The thing about The Thing is that you begin asking questions from the start. Who are the Norwegians and what are they saying? What is the dog doing? Then more questions begin to form. I think what makes a good movie, specifically this one, is to keep the audience engaged. Have a setting that they become familiar with so they  have the feeling of isolation. Introduce characters we can relate to who can also represent the daily human being. Keep them diversified. Make their personalities stand out and make it seem they have been working with each other for months to the point they appear close. Now throw them in a situation that they need to survive within a stationary location. Where they are faced with unknown, terrifying threat and need to survive with little resources. Where their wits are their best weapon by a foe who takes over it’s host. But they become challenged, divided – their trust tested. This alone, is my favorite part of the movie. The psychological fear can be witnessed on each characters faces. Like the scene when the blood is tested to see who is really who. This scene is what sold director John Carpenter to be a part of it. It was really well done. I feel for the guy because his movies are great but at the time, if any of you know, critics and audience alike did not swarm to his movies let alone Halloween. This made most of his movies a box office flop, only to be picked up by fans in the later years. Carpenter was hit hard by the critics as well. Saying “He’s better suited to direct traffic accidents, train wrecks and public floggings.” Ouch. If it’s any compensation, Mr. Carpenter, we love your movies now. the growing popularity even grew another limb in 2011 entitled by the same name The Thing. Which was a prequel and was to say the least OK. It tried to explain some questions from the first but left out the amazing special effects from the original (1982, not 1951).

I’d like to go out on a separate limb here and comment on the simple but haunting score. Done by Ennio Morricone, using a deep three note bass cord. I thought what was more impressive is that it sounded like John Carpenter did it himself since he has scored for many of his own movies. It fit perfectly, giving Antarctica that lonely, ominous feeling.

Let’s not forget the hard working special makeup effects creator Rob Bottin, who worked himself to exhaustion. Stan Winston (Aliens special effects) stepped in to lend a hand for the dog kennel scene. What’s cool about the effects is it’s actually made and not computer generated like modern movies (i.e. The Thing (2011)). This is where most of the terror, I believe, s produced. The imagery is grotesque. Like pulling guts out from two deformed bodies entangled together creating this twisted freak of a monstrosity. Or when a body’s chest opens up and clamps down on the victim’s arms and tears. And the head dislocates itself from it’s body and forms into it’s own nightmarish creation. You truly believe every part of this thing wants to survive.

Now, to comment on something my friend said earlier. The Thing can feel slow but something is happening and it adds to the storyline if not the characters. It’s a quiet progression, like the cold environment it is set in. The slowness, like other films I have reviewed and said, draws you in and makes the shock value increase. And these moments here are bloody, holding nothing back. As for the characters, you get to know how each individual reacts under pressure and in the face of peril. You see who stands out as the leader, the follower, the strong and the weak. I found myself questioning who to trust and having to change my belief, as did my friend.

The Thing and Alien are among my most beloved films in cinema. They both follow similar criteria; isolation and a small crew against an impossible foe. The Thing is even watched annually June 21 in Antarctica by researchers and the like. Its becoming a forgotten film by the younger generation but I will spread it like an infection. Without it we wouldn’t have the many imitators it has today. It even spawned a chilling videogame in 2002 that elaborated on the ending with a rescue team arriving to the outpost to search for survivors. I played it many years ago and due to it being difficult and being frightened I never finished it. If there were ever going to another installment, I feel this would do justice. (Even though I think sequels/prequels have potential to lessen the value of it’s predecessor.) Since the ending leaves you in the cold to ponder did something survive? It’s the ending that completes this masterpiece. Whether or not a direct sequel will be touched upon only time will tell. Would it be worth the admission?

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The Canal (2014)

The Canal (2014) – IMDb

The Canal is one of those effective mood pieces. It’s stuck between horror and thriller about a man uncovering a ghostly mystery from a century ago. I would like to keep this review short for I feel this is a movie I don’t want to give too much away. I overlooked this movie countless times since the original cover on Netflix suggests a B movie that was unsatisfactory and boring. Although, some reviews claimed this was rather good, so i took a risk in playing this film and sacrificing 90 minutes of my time. The Canal is deviously unexpected.

The story is somewhat a cliche in the horror/thriller department but it definitely makes up for brood atmosphere and a terrifying conclusion. Without trying to give too much away, this movie is in close relation with the movie Sinister. I found horror movies to either end not well and obscure or really well but either tragically or with contentment. This is the latter, but it left me jaw dropped and I had my hand over my mouth. This is not common in my movie watching, believe me. The movie is slow but the unexpected graphic scenes and the mystery will keep you hooked. There are no real jump scares but this is where the atmosphere and eeriness creeps in. Towards the second half, it just becomes increasingly unnerving.

Like I said, I did not expect this Irish film to be as effective as it was. When you think you have it all figured out, you get hit with a curve ball. The Canal is subtle, even in the writing. I enjoy finding movies like this, from which ever continent it’s from. The film’s ending, it left my hairs sticking up, and if a movie has that kind of power then I recommend this to be viewed, by horror fans, thrill seekers, mystery hunters, or loners looking for a good scare sitting in the dark like I was tonight. 

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, what have ye done? Taken your beloved franchise and downgraded it you have. This child-like installment had a positive force surrounding it’s premier showing, bringing back humanity’s favorite universe. Phantom Menace takes us to the beginning, to when there was balance in the force, to where we meet a young pod-racing slave, Anakin Skywalker, who contains too much “midichlorian” for his own good. Qui-Gon Jinn, a jedi master, informs young Annie the power he holds, that he is to be taught in the ways of the Jedi and is, in fact, the chosen one. This starts an epic journey across the galaxy of hardship and a dark personage with a sinister agenda.

We don’t just follow Skywalker’s first steps to becoming a Jedi, but we witness the start of a secretly planned, and I must say it is cleverly planned, that shadows this first trilogy. The Trade Federation becomes greedy, taxing resources higher, fueling a war with Naboo. The Republic’s army is weak and rumors of a Sith Lord has spread throughout the galaxy. This starts an unforeseen chain reaction throughout Episodes I, II, and III that only the unsaid mastermind himself could stop if only it didn’t benefit him in the future. The over arching story is subtle in its manifestation where it’s aftermath, the second trilogy, is more straight forward, which all can be described into one word: EPIC.

Another pro for this installment is some of the characters that were created. Like Qui-Gon Jinn who is Obi-Won Kenobi’s master during his young apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, played by Liam Neeson, as one of the best Jedi Knights and masters in Star Wars history. Most notable mention is Darth Maul, possibly the scariest, most badass, and most underused character in the whole universe! This, needlessly to say, ticked me off. Darth Maul has the awesome double sided lightsaber and horns erupting from his black, fire-like face. Oh, and really bad teeth. He had an onscreen presence that would soak up more light than Darth Vader. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say he was more powerful than Vader but definitely had the moves. Now an additional character I thought was rather sloppy and gave a childish aura was Jar-Jar Binks. As a child, myself, I thought he was funny, but now i don’t find him quite amusing as I did before. After recently watching this, I would have preferred his friend, who’s name escapes me, but you can spot him helping Jar-Jar in the Naboo scenes rocking a Fu Man Chu mustache. I would’ve liked to see him have more screen time and Jar-Jar, not erased, but less time so his comedic effort isn’t so overwhelming. And finally the wonderfully played Anakin *cough*. Again, on my first viewing i was about his age and everything was fine. But dear me, his acting would’ve been better in a Disney Channel original. However, let’s not piss this guy off, alright? He’s got enough emotions to deal with…

When Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was during an era where almost every movie was trying out this wondrous thing that got rid of prosthetics and do this impressive thing called CGI. The CGI usage is strong with this one, and lemme tell you it’s not that impressive. This first edition to the beloved saga could have used a bit more authentic special effects. Although the pod racing scene is definitely one to check out.

I remember my dad purchasing this movie on a double VHS special edition. It had an intro before the film by George Lucas and had a Making of featurette. Good memories. Watching this movie years later and understanding the backstory and noticing the subtleties has given a whole new outlook and understanding on the second renowned trilogy. Although flawed and cringe worthy dialogue moments, this and it’s two sequels are worth watching for it’s in depth story and amazing fight scenes that range from duels to epic battles among the stars.

Bargain Bin 2

Many times a movie can slip underneath your nose and you may never have caught a whiff. Bargain Bin is an accumulative set of movies I found underrated or hidden gems. Movies I’d like to bring attention to. You may have seen one, or a few, before but I’d like to dig inside the bin and discuss what we find. Perhaps, you may have found your next ‘Movie Night’ entertainment.

Today, I have a selected list of Animated features that may fancy your itch for something light and fun. And at the same time, being captivated by the artistic worlds the stories are surrounded by.

Watership Down (1978)

The movie opens beautifully with a tell-tale backstory of the Watership Down‘s folklore, then transitions to our main characters Hazel (John Hurt) and Fiver. After a vision, the rabbits decide to move away from their warren to escape the evil humans tearing down their land. What follows is a perilous journey, testing each other’s strengths and wits. Beautifully told and masterfully hand drawn. The film can be quite gruesome at times, with images of blood and flesh tearing; it is said this is the most violent PG film ever made. But it’s balanced by the serene landscape and a fateful bird “[perfectly] landing” some dorky comic relief (if only there was more of it). Watership Down became an instant favorite of mine.

PS: The locations you see are actually based off the map the author, Richard Adams, put in his book. Also is based on some real locations in Hampshire, England.

Song of the Sea (2014)

A film i recently watched and had to tell the world about. This is a movie that could rival Ghibli Studios. The animation and the music was just captivating. Literally. When not much was happening and I got up to get a snack, my eyes were still on the screen. Song of the Sea serenades us a bedtime story inducing lucid dreams. This is one of those moments when a family will look back on and say “remember when we watched-“. A magical movie that reminded me similarities that strung to Spirited Away. I knew nothing of this movie, and i suggest you keep it that way and let yourself become enchanted.

PS: Nominated for best Animated movie of the year. I’d like to also point out the backstory of Irish folklore is very interesting. And a selkie is my spirit animal.

Pom Poko (1994)

Three of my childhood years was spent in Japan, this was when i was exposed to the wonderful world of Ghibli. Since then I have grown up watching these films and I have to say, Pom Poko is one of THE most underrated films i have ever seen. Written by legendary Hayao Miyazaki, tells a story of raccoons trying to save their land from the humans who continue to deforest their home. They’re no ordinary raccoons though, these are shapeshifting raccoons. And they will fight to survive; whether that means they put on a psychadelic, full-on trip-out show to strike fear, or simply blend in. I found myself laughing at some of the going ons because it’s actually quite funny. Yes, Pom Poko took me by full surprise.

PS: Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to telling stories about ‘humans and their deforestation for their industrial greater good’, Princess Mononoke anyone? Pom Poko is just a little more comical.

Ernest and Celestine (2012)

Another animated feature that became an instant favorite of mine. Ernest and Celestine is a French film, in English, delivering the laughs and, i must say, is quite cute. When Celestine befriends the bear, Ernest, which is taboo, they must depart from the city life, but not without the marshmallows. The authority says other wise hence they have unfinished debts to be repaid. I truly cared for what happened between the newly found friendship as they found they are not that different at all. This movie had me laughing at the expressions being made and other situations, all making me fall in love with the genius behind this creative animation. Simply one anyone will enjoy.

PS: Anyone get a flashback to Totoro when the mouse started poking the bear?

Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max is a sweet story about long distance friendship. Based on a true story, Mary lives in Australia and writes to her friend, who she has never met, Max, who is living in a New York apartment and is diagnosed with asberger’s syndrome. They send each other letters about their private lives and sometimes a box of local goodies. The stop motion animation is fun and the different color schemes when bouncing back and forth between Australia and New York really adds to the whole experience; giving each other separate moods. Sometimes the subject matter can be dark or unexpected but it’s hard not to care for their friendship and hoping that they one day meet. I enjoyed this movie, lending me a good few chuckles which lead to a near tearjerking end.

Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie.