Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rampage - The Rock, A Giant Gorilla, A Giant Wolf and a Giant Alligator Walk Into a Bar.......and Oh Yeah, the Giant Wolf Can Fly

A Quiet Place was knocked out of the top spot last weekend by its complete cinematic opposite. Replacing the quiet but "grip your seat tense" movie experience was a spectacular-spectacular of noise, destruction and giant monsters. I've included a trailer above with Dwayne Johnson having a little fun at his own expense, and some big, dumb fun captures why Rampage succeeds despite the obvious urge to roll your eyes.

What to say about Ramapage's plot? Well there is one fortunately. An evil corporation (darn you, Citizens United) run by siblings Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) have gotten their hands on a concoction that can "edit" the genetic structure of living creatures in incredible ways. It will take you a quick minute to realize they are not using it for warm and fuzzy purposes. Due to poor planning and an accident, samples of the chemical end up crashing to earth in three different locations and spawn the three monsters. One is found by George, a extremely intelligent gorilla, cared for by Davis (Dwayne Johnson) who works with animals dislocated by loss of habitat and poaching. Mainly he's a big, scary giant of guy with a heart of gold. When the monster chaos busts loose on the screen, the remaining two main characters show up. There is Kate (Naomie Harris), the scientist who developed the genetic editing and got herself in a bit of trouble trying to keep it from being used to create weapons and Harvey (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who works for a shadowy government agency trying to contain the situation. All of our bad guys, good guys and monsters end up in Chicago for the destruction-fest finale.

Rampage survives or falls on two things - the quality of the abundant amount of CGI and the actors who have to "act" in relation to all of that technologically rendered fake stuff. I have trouble judging CGI but I thought it was really well done here. From the small stuff such as dust particles to the bigger set pieces, I never reached that point where I was knocked out of the fantasy by it all being just too much. Dwayne Johnson flexes his muscles as a natural showman with a knack for comedy; so that's nothing too surprising. His chemistry with Naomie Harris was spot on and never seemed forced. I liked that because I've only seen Harris in pretty weighty fare like Moonlight or Collateral Beauty. Jeffrey Dean Morgan worried me at first because he was talky and smarmy in a way that made me cringe and think "Oh great it's Walking Dead's Negan minus Lucille" but that was dialed back as the movie progressed. So there, I give Rampage and A. It's corny and you might think you're not supposed to enjoy it but I bet you will.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Equalizer 2 First Trailer

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was a fan of a TV show called The Equalizer about a seemingly every-man who possessed what we would call today "a special set of skills" and used those to equalize the odds for people in trouble. In 2014 Denzel Washington starred in a movie version and guess what? It was great, hitting all of the right chords for an action movie and had a slightly over the top finale that I refer to as "1001 ways to die in Home Depot". Now there is a sequel.

The new movie appears to have dropped the contained storyline of the original for a more international thriller feel that you might associate with a Bourne movie. Hopefully, the desire to go bigger that is a hallmark for most sequels won't do much harm. The Equalizer 2 starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman will land in the theaters on July 20th.

Marrowbone Review

My last post was a preview of Marrowbone which had quite intrigued me and I promised to write about it since it was being released for rental on iTunes this past weekend. Sorry for the delay but this was bit of a conundrum. I really needed to sort out the good and bad thoughts on this movie

I'll keep the plot details lite because describing Marrowbone is fraught with spoilers. Set in 1969, Marrowbone tells the story of a woman and her children who have moved from the UK to the United States to make a new start and escape from a public scandal and a monstrously abusive husband. The mother succumbs to health problems and before dying, she makes the oldest son promise he will keep her death a secret so that the family can stay together until he is old enough to be a legal guardian. At this point the movie skips ahead 6 months and drops the viewer into a tense atmosphere filled with dark secrets and a possible sinister presence haunting the children.

So, why was I so conflicted about his movie? Mainly because at times I felt like I was wondering around the dark, shadow filled Marrowbone house following breadcrumbs that promised an ominous reveal. However each path only led to more questions which can be pretty frustrating. Too many sub plots begin to trip over each other and by the time everything is made clear, you may be confused enough to find the ending unbelievable and irritating. However my final thought is that I am definitely not sorry to have watched Marrowbone. The acting on all parts is fantastic. The whole look of the movie is designed really well to feel like a dark fairy tale. Also it's not traditional horror so you have plenty of creepy, hold your breath moments that don't lead to cheap thrills.

Marrowbone will probably suffer from some bad reviews and not garner a lot of attention; however I give Marrowbone a B and will say give it a chance.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Marrowbone Official Trailer

Nothing says art house horror like pale, gaunt orphans living in a rambling old house that you would look at and say, " Yeah that place is haunted". The story set in 1969 is about a woman escaping an abusive husband who moves herself and her children to the rural U.S. She becomes ill and dies but makes the oldest son promise he will do whatever it takes to keep the family together until he is of legal age to become a guardian to his siblings. I'm assuming from what is seen in the trailer that he does this by simply (or not so simply) hiding the fact that their mother is dead. However that all becomes the least of their problems once they become aware of a dark, ominous force sharing the house with them.

I will take my scares in a lot of different forms but admit the subtle, atmospheric sorts are my favorite; so I have high hopes here although I worry Marrowbone may not get a lot of initial attention. However, I read that it is supposed to premier not only in theaters this Friday but also on iTunes as an early release which is just a way of saying I will have to pay more than the normal rental price. If that is the case though, I promise to be in comfy clothes and on the couch with adult beverages this weekend; so that I can watch Marrowbone and come back to tell you all about it.

Starring - George Mackay, Anna Taylor-Joy (from Split and The Witch), Charlie Heaton (from Netflix's wildly popular Stranger Things), Mia Goth and Matthew Stagg.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Let Me In (2010) - New to Netflix Streaming

My Netflix recommendation for this week is 2010's horror movie Let Me In which I enjoyed very much at the time of it's release. In the throes of enduring the Twilight movies, I dubbed Let Me In as "the real awkward teen falls for a vampire story". It's been added to Netflix streaming this week; so let me tell you all about it.

Set in 1983, Let Me In tells the woeful story of Owen (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) who is not exactly living the dream of adolescense. In addition to being thin, awkward and bullied, his fractured home life is anything but a refuge. Into his life comes new neighbors who will change everything. An older man and young girl move next door to Owen and he can easily eavesdrop on them from his bedroom. Owen soon makes friends with the girl, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) and instantly senses a soul mate. At first she is presented as timid and possibly neglected. However the story moves pretty quickly and doesn't try to hide that Abby is actually a vampire, much older than she appears and as much a vicious killer as a perpetual adolescent.

The atmosphere in Let Me In is stark and never lets you rest from a sense of foreboding which is exactly as it should be for this type of movie. I commend the director for keeping the blood and gore at a level that satisfies without turning off the viewer. He replaces some of the visuals for sound. Just know, when Abby feeds her need, you will have no doubt what is happening even though it may be shot in the shadows or off camera. The acting is good all around with most of the screen time taken by Smit-Mcphee and Moretz who excellently balance tnderness with the darker and more violent parts of the story. Richard Jenkins who plays Abby's guardian is a chameleon actor who can excel in the silliest of comedies and the tautest of dramas. I even enjoyed Cara Bouno (who I bet we all recognize now from Stranger Things) who plays Owen's mother, although she is shot intentionally out of focus with a glass of wine in hand or nearby. I think it's a nod to how this story is not supposed to be about the adults.

In closing, if you have not seen Let Me In, take the chance to enjoy this dark, delicious treat while it's on Netflix.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The House With a Clock in its Walls First Trailer

Here is the first trailer for The House With a Clock in the Walls based on a young adult horror novel published in 1973. The premise is that a young orphan (it's always an orphan isn't it?) named Lewis goes to live with his uncle in a foreboding house that hides a dangerous secret borne of some very dark magic.

It's been practically raining young adult adaptations of all sorts since the muggle world discovered the Harry Potter films in 2001 but to be fair each one deserves it's own chance. Cate Blanchett and Jack Black are always winners in my book. This looks gorgeously filmed and while whimsical and magical come to mind, there is also a dark, creepy vibe. The House With a Clock in the Walls is set to premier September 21st.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Wonder Wheel Review

It's a common device in fiction to start or drive the story forward by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. Woody Allen makes good use of this in his latest movie Wonder Wheel set in 1950's Coney Island.

In this instance the arrival is Carolina (Juno Temple) who is running from trouble and come home seeking refuge with her father Humpty (Jim Belushi), stepmother Ginny (Kate Winslet) and stepbrother Richie (Jack Gore). Unfortunately, Carolina does not realize she has dragged her own proverbial baggage into an already troubled domestic drama. Humpty and Ginny have a dismal marriage and young Richie is a budding pyromaniac setting fires from one end of the boardwalk to the other. To complicate things further, Ginny is having an affair with local lifeguard Mickey (Justin Timberlake) who gets a bit dreamy in the eyes when he meets Carolina.

One of my first likes about Wonder Wheel is that Woody Allen is nowhere to be seen. If not starring in a movie, he usually creates a character who exists as a stand in, emulating him in words and action. Mickey is supposed to be that character here but fortunately Justin Timberlake can't quite pull off the feat. This deficit is a plus though because I was spared dealing with Allen's cinematic doppleganger. That aside, all of the other actors play their parts well especially Kate Winslet. She carries a good part of the movie and becomes a taut bundle of negative energy as Ginny unravels at the prospect of seeing her one bit of happiness possibly lost to Carolina. When her anxiety reaches a fever pitch, the small apartment where her and Humpty live becomes a stage of sorts. She smokes, drinks and paces from one end to the other as the story plays out like a combo of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Tennessee Williams seen through the neurotic lens of Woody Allen.

I found it all quite enjoyable. That's probably not the expected reaction based on how I've described the story. However, I've left one thing out. Mickey is the narrator of Wonder Wheel and he tells us at the beginning that as an aspiring writer and "dramatist", he loves some drama and over the top characters. I see the out of control spiral downward to the end of the movie as a wink and a nod to that warning. We may be seeing the story exactly as Mickey wants us to.

Wonder Wheel gets a B+ and I suggest giving it a chance regardless of your feelings on Woody Allen's distinctive style of movies.