Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Most Horrorble Time of the Year!

A few of you have actually been here during prior Octobers. If you have, then you know that this is when I forsake all of the cinematic universe with the exception of the horror genre. And I go hard for 31 straight days. It all starts at midnight tonight. If you want to know exactly how long, keep an eye on the countdown above.

As usual, we'll kick things off with a horror classic. Don't worry, it's not all ancient stuff, though. We'll hit some more current fare, too. We'll also try to hit horror from every angle. We'll hit some haunted houses, run from some slashers, twist our mind psychologically, and we'll even get to have a few laughs. We'll throw in a list or two. This year, we've added a few new ingredients to our witch's brew to switch things up a bit. The Thursday Movie Picks that have become a popular feature around here, all have a horror slant to them. We're also hosting the Slasher Cast-a-thon, where bloggers get to create the cast for their very own slasher flick. Details to come this weekend.

I hope you'll join me every day this month. If you do, leave your two cents in the comments section. If you're lucky, you'll come across a movie that will have looking like the couple pictured above.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Equalizer

Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
2014. Rated R, 131 minutes.
Denzel Washington
Marton Csokas
Chloe Grace Moretz
David Harbour
Johnny Skourtis
Melissa Leo
Bill Pullman
Haley Bennett
Alex Veadov
Vladimir Kulich

At Home Depot...er...HomeMart, where he works, Rober McCall (Washington) is the star employee. His bosses and co-workers all look up to him and he'll do anything he can to help out each and every one of them. He is also a man deeply mired in the routines of his life. He has to have everything a certain way. A bit of an insomniac, he finds himself at the local diner at 2 AM every morning. He sits in the same booth, sets up his silverware the way he likes and gets a cup of hot water for the tea bag that he brings from home. He also talks to Elaina (Moretz), the young girl who is always seated at the counter. She also happens to be a hooker. The night she's not there, Robert becomes very worried. When he finds out she's in the hospital after being badly beaten by her pimp, he takes matters into his own hands.

The early parts of the movie are spent developing Mr. McCall's character. We get to see what makes him tick. During this time, Denzel Washington owns the screen, completely selling us on what type of guy McCall is. The first few scenes establish him as definitely having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, it's subsequent scenes during which the point is driven home. It's not necessarily in the acting out of the routines, but in his subtle reactions when those routines are broken. More importantly, we come to realize how much he cares for those around him. This is most ably demonstrated through his conversations with Elaina and his interactions with Ralphie (Skourtis), one of his co-workers down at HomeMart. Washington's supporting cast helps him out just enough, too. Marton Csokas gives us a solidly detestable villain. In her brief screen time, Chloe Grace Moretz also does very well.

Once the movie transitions into our hero taking care of business, it becomes a very different affair. This part of the movie is loaded with action of the brutally violent sort. Mr. McCall makes use of things such as corkscrews, power drills, nail guns, and more. It's to the point where my wife expressed wariness of ever visiting a Home Depot ever again. Speaking of Home Depot, or Lowe's for that matter, how is it they didn't drop a few bucks to get their name on this? This would have functioned as the best commercial either company has ever had. Just imagine the logo of one of those stores being visible as Denzel Washington strolls away from an explosion in slow motion. By the way, I know such scenes are cliche, but the one in this movie might be the best one ever filmed. And I'm not exaggerating one bit. I generally roll my eyes when these happen in other action flicks. I even started to when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was about to happen in this one. However, this one was so deliciously overboard that I couldn't help but love it. The action as a whole has this effect. Yes, it's over the top, but it is also done with a twisted sense of humor that comes across really well. Honestly, though, it makes the best use of this when the action happens off-screen. We'll see our hero immediately after he's done something heinous to a bad guy which we didn't get to see. It's usually funny enough that we don't mind missing out on what he actually did.

For those of us old enough to remember, and to care, the big question is how does it compare to the TV show that it was based on. I am old enough to remember. However, I must confess that I was never a fan of the show. I might have watched it a handful of times and really don't remember anything about it other than the star. This means that, sadly, I've no clue whether or not it does the show proud. I do know that it does the action genre proud. Once it gets going The Equalizer is insanely fun, provided you're not put off by all the blood and guts. The first act perfectly sets up the last two acts. It's a guy we like doing things we wish we could do for the people we care about. Admittedly, there are some late second act scenes that fill in some of our hero's back story, though not very much. The real point of these is to provide something that could be expanded on in sequels. Trust me, this movie clearly wants sequels. To be honest, though, it might be better as a standalone. In either case, it's Denzel showing us all that he can still carry a movie without a big name co-star and still be extremely compelling. That quality is what really makes this an excellent watch.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Really Uncomfortable Movie Summaries, Vol. 1

Every now and again when a Friday rolls around, I get in a silly mood. Yup, this is one of those Fridays. What that means is we're going to boil down the plots of some well-known (and not-so-well-known) movies to their disturbing and/or hilarious core.

I can't say this is a completely original idea. A friend sent me the link to this post years ago on a site called postmodernbarney. It shows a bunch of movies doing exactly what I said we're going to do here. A few examples:

Batman: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
Beauty and the Beast: A peasant girl develops Stockholm Syndrome.
Blade: Obsessed loner stalks minority group.
Deep Throat: Medical anomaly earns woman new friends.
Deliverance: Tourists experience local hospitality.
Demolition Man: In a future where crime is completely eradicated, a black man steals and murders.
King Kong: Endangered animal stolen, shot.
Star Wars: A New Hope: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, kill thousands.
Taxi Driver: Modern dating proves challenging for working class man.

Those are just a few of many. But since I did say I was in a silly mood, I came up with some of my own. Oh, I'm calling it volume one because I think I might do this again. And away we go...

Quick warning first - I can't promise good taste from this point forward. And there might be spoilers.

Now you're ready.

American Hustle: Con-man and his girlfriend rip off the FBI.

Any Given Sunday: Drug addicts play football, expose themselves to female owner.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A former U.S. Soldier takes down a government agency.

District 9: Government relocates already quarantined immigrants.

Friday the 13th (original): Campers kill a mentally ill boy and his mentally ill mother.

In Bruges: A child murderer goes on vacation.

Her: Man masturbates while using his computer.

The Hobbit: Terrorist group plots to assassinate a head of state.

The Incredible Hulk: The U.S. Army exploits paranoid schizophrenics, forces them to fight each other.

Law Abiding Citizen: White vigilante targets minorities in positions of authority.

The Matrix: Religious extremists recruit a hacker to destroy the world's computers.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: A man of ambiguous sexuality tries to get his ship full of sea men back.

Saving Mr. Banks: Big corporation takes advantage of an artist in financial trouble.

Shallow Hal: Man reluctantly comes to the realization he's into plus sized women.

Sky High: Violence erupts at a school for children with special needs.

Spawn: A disgruntled employee battles the company snitch.

Underworld: Couple shunned due to their interracial relationship.

Up: Elderly man abducts a young boy.

The World's End: Alcoholic goes on a binge, becomes violent.

The Wrestler: Adrenaline junkie stalks both his estranged daughter and a stripper.

You are more than welcome to join in by posting some of your own really uncomfortable summaries in the comments section, or to tell me how bad mines suck. Either way, be creative.

Oh, and congratulate me. This is my 1,000th post!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back To School Blogathon: Links!

At the end of August, I created the Back to School Blogathon to celebrate kids everywhere making their return to the classroom. The object was for bloggers to create classes uses movie characters that fit into some very well worn archetypes. I won't give a complete rundown on the rules again. To see them, just click here.

A number of you responded with some very interesting classes. Below are the links to them all.

John at Hitchcock's World was our star student. He contributed three classes to our school. His first class is headed up by one of the Marx Brothers. For his second class, he managed to get in someone from a prequel to a classic horror flick. Then, he went completely off the rails for his third class and used nothing but characters from David Lynch movies.

Mike from Mike's Cinema chimed in with some inspired choices. His class includes Robert Downey Jr. before he became a superhero and Jon Cryer before he became one of the Two and a Half Men.

Over at Feeling Fuzzier, Rhys gave us a class run by a couple of action movie icons and includes a quite literal interpretation of the Invisible Girl trope.

Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves was the first lady to get involved. And she truly represented with an all-female class.

Not to be outdone, Brittani at Rambling Film joined the fray. Her class is led by a wizard and a lady who tries to work magic with troubled kids.

At Big Screen, Small Words, whirlwind.supernova's class has a little bit of a musical slant and includes two people with the gift of telekinesis.

The Flick Chicks, Jenna and Allie came up an interesting roster of students. Their class includes probably the most unlikely picks for star student and jock.

Alex at Alex Raphael joined in on the fun and gave us a teacher from the Japanese movie that's made Jennifer Lawrence a household name...in a roundabout sort of way.

Finally, I contributed two classes of my own. The first includes a trio of not-so-bright bullies. The second give us a trio of very intelligent bullies.

As always, I'm not completely a stickler for deadlines so if you put a class together in the next week or so, drop by here and let me know. I'll gladly update this post to include you.

Thanks to everyone that participated this next go round. I'll see you in about a week or so with another blogathon, so be on the lookout.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Back to School Blogathon: Class Two

If you've been hanging around here for a few weeks, you might be aware that I'm currently hosting the Back to School Blogathon. Today is the listed deadline. Before it passed, I wanted to get one more post in for it. I posted Class One last week. Today, logically, it's time for Class Two.

Before I start, just a quick note on what I'm trying to do, here. It's actually simple. I'm creating a class using movie characters that fit certain archetypes. For a full rundown on the rules, click here. Now, let's get to it.

Principal Powers
Sky High
She's tough and fair. Besides, if she can handle a school full of super-powered kids, I think she can handle whatever I'm going to dish out. It doesn't hurt that she's still easy on the eyes after all these years.

Trevor Garfield
As a high school teacher in Brooklyn, NY he got stabbed and suffered some serious injuries. He switched coast, became a teacher in LA and found himself in a school essentially run by gangs. You know what? He's going to get through to them one way or another. He's hired.

Star Student
Autumn Haley
The Program
It's easy. She's a great student who makes a little extra cash by tutoring the football players. What more could you want. Again, my shallowness is peaking through, but it helps that she bears an uncanny resemblance to Halle Berry.

Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite
Has there ever been a bigger nerd than Napoleon Dynamite. Calling him socially awkward is an understatement on the level of saying outer space is kinda big. All is not completely lost, though. He practices hard on his dancing and does sweet jumps on his bike.

Scott Howard
Teen Wolf
He's pretty far from being your typical jock. In fact, until he discovers that he's literally a beast on the basketball court he's a very nice, if somewhat anonymous guy. Once he takes over the hardwood, yeah, he becomes a jerk. (click here my Teen Wolf experience)

Popular Girl
Raven Darkholme/Mystique
X-Men: First Class
Part of the first class at Xavier's School for the Gifted, she's the linchpin that holds it all together. Besides that, she can literally be whoever you want her to be and has no problem injecting herself into any situation. (click here for my full review)

Invisible Girl
Lilly Onakuramara
Pitch Perfect
Who could be more invisible than a girl who literally whispers every word out of her mouth? If you can manage to hear it, though, she says some hilariously nonsensical stuff. For instance, did you know she was born with gills like a fish? (click here for my full review)

Class Clown
Jeff Spicoli
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Spicoli usually shows up to class, but doesn't do anything when he gets there. Well, that's not quite true. He's generally high on pot, says the most ridiculous things, daydreams about winning surfing competitions and has his pizza delivered right to class. (click here for my full review)

Class Bullies
The Heathers
They could probably be slid into the "popular" slot because everyone knows who they are. However, they aren't actually popular. They are really feared and hated since they rule the school with iron fists. Everyone must bend to their will, or else.

Troubled Youth
Kim Bentley
Malibu High
Kim is the quintessential troubled teen. She's flunking out of school and has lost her boyfriend. To turn things around she starts sleeping with her teachers. To start making some money, she takes up prostitution. So, as you might imagine, she's a busy girl. And her exploits don't stop there. (click here for my full review)

Well, there's Class Two. Click here to check out Class One. And come by tomorrow to see the links to the classes others have put together for the Back to School Blogathon.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay

Boys and girls, it's finally happened. At long last, I've been bitten by a radioactive spider, overexposed to gamma rays, had my skeleton fused with adamantium, and jettisoned from my home planet as it exploded only to have my parents killed in an alley right in front of my eyes.

Wait, what? That doesn't make any sense.

Sorry, I'm just geeking out because I've finally been tagged in Bubbawheat's "The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Blog Relay." And let me tell you, I've been itching to get my superhuman hands on this thing since the beginning. Now that I've got it, let's do something with it.

Hold up a sec.

There's some rules to contend with that makes this a bit different than the ordinary relay. This list was created with a definite end in mind. Instead of bloggers endlessly replacing one movie at a time, Bubbawheat set it up so that it will end at some point. The quick and dirty is that once a movie makes it through five consecutive rounds it is locked in and cannot be removed from the list. There are some other rules dictating how many movies each blogger is to replace. Suffice it to say that we're at the stage where two movies need to be dropped and two new ones put in their places. If you want the full rundown, just click the link above to his site to check out the rules and see the path of the relay so far.

While you're there, stay a while. Silly me, I didn't even mention the name of his blog. It's Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights and as the name suggests, it's all about superhero movies. Personally, I love the place. I especially like when he writes about some obscure superhero flick that I've never even heard of.

Okay...that's enough brown-nosing. We have a world to save.

Let's start by checking out the list as it stands

The Avengers

The Dark Knight

Spider-Man 2

Iron Man


The Rocketeer

I'll say just a few quick words about the movies that are locked in. If we were ranking them, and all superhero flicks for that matter, I'd put The Dark Knight number one. No hesitation. And it's not even close. In fact, I might rank the next movie number three. I'm most surprised and most thrilled by the inclusion of Unbreakable. It's certainly unique for the genre. For me, it is the very best movie that M. Night Shyamalan has ever made. And it's not even close. In fact, I might rank...oh, sorry. I also love The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, and Iron Man. I don't know what to feel about The Rocketeer because I've never seen it. The rest of the movies are...

The Incredibles
The Incredibles easily gives me the most intriguing dilemma of the remaining movies. It has made the cut, four times in a row. If I keep it, it gets locked in. I do love it, but would I rank it in my all time top ten of superhero movies? I'd probably have it right on the fringe, somewhere between nine and fifteen. I haven't written that out in a while. Maybe I'll do that after this list gets all locked up. Without question it is superior to some of the other remainders. However, do I sacrifice it in hopes that something I think is more deserving will earn a spot? Hmmm...

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The newest of the remainders is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I absolutely love this movie. Right now, I'll tell you that it's better than The Avengers which is already locked in. However, that newness scares me. It's only been out a few months. I'd like to think I'll still feel that way in a year or ten, but who knows. How we feel about movies changes all the time, both personally and collectively. After all, Crash received mostly glowing reviews and won Best Picture. Now, it's hard to find a person to own up to even liking it. Except me. I still like it. I wouldn't have given it Best Pic, nor would I have given to Brokeback Mountain, but I digress. Point is, Winter Soldier might be too new to be on this list. (click here for my full review)

Batman (1989)
The movie I have the most personal connection with is Tim Burton's Batman from 1989. For me, it stands up as a great superhero flick. I rank it as the second best of all the movies based on The Caped Crusader, behind The Dark Knight, of course, and ever so slightly ahead of Batman Begins. Jack Nicholson was great as The Joker, and helped the whole thing be a fun affair. However, this was no goofy superhero movie. It took its cues from the darker roots of the character and from what Frank Miller had done in print earlier in the decade. This re-energized Batman as a whole and let Hollywood know that the genre could indeed be lucrative beyond Superman. On the other hand, there is already a Batman movie locked in. This isn't the best, so the question is do we need two on the same list? (click here to see those Batman rankings)

X-Men: First Class
It so happens I just re-watched this a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, it stands up to the praise I gave it when I saw it in the theater. McAvoy and Fassbender are nearly as good together as Prof. Xavier and Magneto as Stewart and McKellen. Just to get an idea of how high that praise is, I think the older gentlemen are the absolute most perfect choices possible for those roles. Aside from that the story is wonderful. The message of self-acceptance, in addition to the Civil Rights metaphor always present in X-Men movies, is spot-on. That said, is it even the best movie in the franchise? I'd argue that it's not. (click here for my full review)

Superman II
The sequel to Superman: The Movie does things much bigger than its predecessor. For starters, the three people pictured are an actual physical threat to The Man of Steel. Supes' seems to always be more intriguing when this is the case. Additionally, Christopher Reeves turns in another great performance as our hero. He's clearly the best Kal-el in cinematic history. Mix in another excellent turn by Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and shift the focus from telling the origin story to showing Supes in action and the excitement factor is taken up a notch. Then again, having more action and being a bigger spectacle does not necessarily mean that a movie is better. Those things might be hiding some flaws.

A lot of us have wondered what a superhero would like in the real world. Kick-Ass answers that question in marvelous fashion. In addition, it perfectly spoofs the entire superhero world. Superman, Spider-Man, and a number of other heroes are targeted and hit. The way it parodies the old Batman TV series, the one that starred Adam West, is just perfect. Best of all, it does all of this while clearly being big fans of the comic books and the movies (and TV shows) that they spawned. On top of all that it was graphically violent and Chloe Grace Moretz absolutely walked away the movie. There's a flip-side to all these positive things, though. Because of its desire to poke fun at the rest of the comic world, it's not as original as it could be. Our hero is essentially Peter Parker deciding to don a costume even though he hadn't been bitten by a spider. Big Daddy and Hit Girl are merely Batman and Robin. Do we really need a movie that pieced itself together with shards of other films? (click here for my full review)

Someone's got to go. What to do?

Well, first I lured this movie into a crystal chamber and depowered it so I can kill it off...

Superman II
I have an interesting relationship with this one. As a kid, I actually went to see this and its predecessor in theaters. I immediately declared this one to be far better. After all, it had more action, it was funny, and it had Terrence Stamp doing a now iconic version of General Zod. I saw it a number of times during the next ten or fifteen years and still thought the same thing. I hadn't watched it all in the last ten or fifteen. Then right before Man of Steel came out, I decided to watch all of the Superman movies and review them for what I called My "Week of Steel." Much to my surprise, Superman II didn't age nearly as well as the original. Probably, a more accurate statement is that I've become a different viewer than I was years ago. I still liked it, but all the cracks in its armor from the Richard Donner fiasco were clearly visible to me. I know lots and lots of you consider this the best Superman movie of them all. For me, it was clear that this is the movie that must go.

Deciding on what else to cut was much tougher. Eventually, I settled on stripping someone of his shield and re-submerging him in ice.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The truth of the matter is that I love this movie. Right now. It hasn't aged enough to earn its stars and stripes. I just can't place something among the greatest of all time anything after just a few months and one viewing. If it holds up to repeated viewings over the next year or two, I'd be more than happy to give it a spot on the list. Right now, I just can't do it.

So what movies do I invite to use their powers for good?

I figured we needed someone to keep the creatures of the night at bay. So I gave our new hero a shot of serum and let him loose in the city...

Blade II
This entry into the Blade canon improved upon the first movie in every way. Director Guillermo del Toro, took the superhero flick and infused with a heavy dose of horror to create the creepiest superhero flick ever made. He also told a great story and, of course, imbued it with his normal visual splendor. Not only does it belong on this list, but it's one of the Best Vampire Movies Since 2000.

Next, I felt bad about stripping The Big Blue Boy Scout of his powers so I restored him, as he was orignally...

Superman: The Movie
Sure, the sequel has more action and possibly a better villain. What it lacks is the pure magical feeling this one gives the viewer. Everything about it is iconic. Christopher Reeves is just perfect. The way scenes are shot are wonderful. Watching our hero grow up feels important. His love story with Lois Lane is expertly portrayed. Finally, the score by John Williams is unbelievably good. In fact, it's probably one of the best scored films of all time. This is truly the class of Superman's cinematic lifetime.

Yes folks, that means that The Incredibles are now...


Now that I'm done, I'm going to pass it to a guy who spends lots of time blogging about superhero flicks, so I know he'll do a great job. That lucky blogger is none other than Jeffrey at Jeffrey K. Lyles' Movie Files. He has great power. Now I'm giving him great responsibility.