“Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” film review. NO SPOILERS

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I’m a HUGE Quentin Tarantino fan.  He should be on the Mt Rushmore of directors: Spielberg, Nolan, Scorsese, and Tarantino.  Yes, Tarantino gets flack for biting from the spaghetti westerns.  But his films have MUCH better rewatch ability than a bunch of said westerns.  Try watching the well-renowned, “A Fistful of Dollars,” now.  That shit will put you to sleep faster than Philosophy 101 or a new list of approved gender approved pronouns.  Tarantino is one of the 10ish people that automatically gets my $15, he’s earned it through and through.  Pulp Fiction is my 2nd favorite film all time; I saw that 3 times in the theater.  That film defined a generation and was/is nothing short of brilliant. Let’s quickly go through the directorial list for shits and giggles:

Reservoir Dogs-Insanely unique, probably the reason that got me into the independent films.

Pulp Fiction-It’s a fucking CRIME that this lost to OVERRATED Forest Gump.  Shawshank Redemption, I could’ve dealt with but not that University of Alabama dropout who had sex with an AIDS monkey.  Every time this is on, John Travolta needs to send Tarantino a dozen roses and a hooker.  This also brought Samuel L Jackson square into the main event of film lexicon forever and ever.

Jackie Brown-Not a fan.  At all.  And boy, did I try.  Despite SLJ and DeNiro, this just didn’t resonate for me.

Kill Bill 1 and 2- Fun, cheeky, nostalgic, and different.  A believable heroine before Hollywood DEMANDED every female heroine film be insanely revered or you be deemed as a sexist/misogynist.

Death Proof- Enjoyable nod to 70’s cheesy action cinema and brought Kurt Russell back into the foray.  You’ll never hear me complain seeing good ol’ Jack Burton in any film and boy, I enjoy his VO narrations.

Inglorious Basterds- The American coming out party for Kristoph Waltz.  Although I didn’t dig this much as other Tarantino installments; I felt this dragged despite Pitt doing a great job as a Nazi hunter.

Django Unchained- Loved it.  Jamie Foxx was amazing and who didn’t love Waltz returning as a German bounty hunter, hell bent on eradicating southern racist garbage.  And DiCaprio playing a sadistic slave owner, fantastically cast and played.

Hateful Eight- People didn’t dig this but I have no idea why.  More Russell, more SLJ, and another favorite Tarantino vet, Tim Roth.  And it all beautifully comes together.

My ranking:

  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Reservoir Dogs
  3. Django Unchained
  4. Hateful 8
  5. Kill Bill 1 and 2
  6. Death Proof
  7. Inglorious Basterds
  8. Jackie Brown

And now that leaves us with…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

First things first.  This is NOT the story of the Manson murders.  If this a spoiler for you, sorry.  But I sure was under that impression and quickly learned that wasn’t the case.  This is a nod to Hollywood in it’s golden age of 1969.  And boy, it’s quite the journey.  Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio from Growing Pains) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, the stoner from True Romance) are buddies.  Rick is an actor about to make the downhill march toward obscurity and Cliff is his stunt double who also chauffeurs Rick around.  Both DiCaprio and Pitt have such a great chemistry together; especially when Booth knows exactly how to get Dalton from carrying right into an alcohol-induced nosedive.  What makes Pitt’s character so satiable is his mysterious background (rumored to have killed his wife and serve in the war).  And when he gets into an on-set tussle with Bruce Lee and calling him, Kato, throughout their argument puts smiles on all audience members.

Margot Robbie (from topless glory in Wolf of Wall Street and man, find me a more attractive woman than her.  Go ahead, I’ll wait) plays Sharon Tate.  We see her and new husband, Roman Polanski (post Rosemary’s Baby, pre anal raping underage girls) live above Rick’s house.  Sharon just goes about her usual routines: Hollywood parties, getting pregnant, even seeing herself on screen by going to a theater.  I daresay that she’s under-utilized as again, the main focus is on DiCaprio and Pitt.  But we do see Manson and his crew on more than one occasion.  In fact, Booth runs into one of his crew several times trying to hitchhike rides throughout LA.  Which eventually leads Pitt to the pit of the Manson’s vipers; including a hell of a scene with Bruce Dern, another Tarantino favorite.  Speaking of the Tarantino favorites, you see all of the usual suspects: Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell.  Unfortunately, no SLJ or Steve Buscemi.  But let’s give credit where credit is due.  Lena Dunham is in this and A) isn’t annoying and more importantly, B) keeps her clothes on.

But I’ll go on a limb and say watching Dalton’s decent into possible Hollywood oblivion or purgatory is where the real joy is.  Wait till you see him break down when he forgets his lines due to getting rip roaring drunk the previous night.  Or when he has a heartfelt moment with his young co-star, Trudi (Julia Butters) where they share stories of the novels they’re currently reading.  There has been a ton of complaints saying that this is a whole lot of nothing regarding the eventual confrontation with the Manson crew and little payoff.  I disagree.  As I said, once you realize about 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through the film that this isn’t a regurgitation of the Manson murders, you’ll appreciate that Tarantino didn’t go down that road.  You can’t believe he’s bluffing by NOT giving the crowd what they want and I truly enjoyed the chance he took.  The ending is certainly unique and enjoyable with a hell of a callback.  Is this your typical, dialogue heavy Tarantino jaunt?  It is not.  Is it your typical Tarantino violent-riddled gorefest?  Not until the end.  Are you going to enjoy this?  I think so and especially if you’re not a Tarantino fan (kill yourself), it may be the film that may hook you back in because of the choices he did and didn’t take.  And I’ll go on a limb and say Pitt gets a nomination for best supporting actor.

The only knock on this film, not enough N words like I’m used to with his films.  I’M JUST KIDDING.  I enjoyed it and give it a 7 out of 10.  Where does it rank in the Tarantino pantheon?  I’m not sure yet; I need to see it again but I know it’s going above Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and Inglorious Basterds for sure.

 

 

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Film Review: Spiderman Far From Home

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What a world we live in.  Fellow comedian Cristian Duran posted on Facebook: “In 2002 I would have shit my pants if you told me that one day there’d be 3 different Spider-Man 2’s.”  The first S2, amazing.  Easily one of the top 3 Spiderman films.  Second S2, awful.  So this brings us to the latest Marvel iteration.  SFFH starts out 5 years after Avengers: Endgame.  Half the world died, or as they call it, blipped.  Those who blipped aged 5 years and they give a cute explanation how this works.  Even though it’s 5 years after the fact, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), still pines away after the loss Tony Stark in EG.  Hey, if you haven’t seen the 2nd highest grossing film of all time by now, that’s on you.  What’s next, you missed Keyzer Soze is Kevin Spacey?  Darth Vader is Luke’s father?  Michael Cera gets DP’ed at the end of Superbad?  Yep, deleted scene.  Check it out if you don’t believe me.  

Anyway, Parker continues to cry for Iron Man like some people still carry the torch for Jerry Garcia.  Yuck, what an overrated band, the Grateful Dead.  And while PP misses Stark, Happy (Jon Favreau) is trying to slide into Aunt May’s (Marissa Tomei) inbox.  Hilarious interactions throughout because the last time any version of Aunt May was having guys kick game to her was during LBJ’s presidential tenure.  And Peter is trying to make magic with MJ.  Zendaya (she’s too young and unaccomplished to pull off the single name yet) is the perfect nerdy-ish neighbor that MJ was.  I liked Kirsten Dunst (her body is fantastic, her snaggle teeth are not) in the original trilogy but Zendaya and Holland have great repartee in this film.  Jake Gyllenhal enters the Marvel Universe as Mystery, well known Spidey villain who enters as a good guy fighting the Elementals, villains in the form Earth’s elements.  And it wouldn’t be a Marvel film without Samuel L Jackson mailing it in for a paycheck.  Just kidding, he was better here than he was in Captain Marvel.  Thankfully, film scribes Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers save SLJ with some great lines and pretty good jokes with Holland regarding PP’s phone etiquette.  

Parker, his buddy Ned, MJ, and his classmates go on a class trip to Europe along with new teacher with the king of mumbling, JB Smoove.  I don’t get JB Smoove.  At all.  EVER.  Of course, Parker wants to make the moves on MJ but gets stopped because surprise, bad guys (The Elementals) appear along with Mysterio who saves the day.  Nick Fury and Maria Hill show up to make sure Peter helps fight off the bad guys.  How dare they make Peter be an adult/Avenger when Peter is just trying to blow off some steam and execute his Shakespearean love plan?

Let’s fast forward to the meat.  Yes, Mysterio turns sour and the main reason was just meh for me.  Were the battle scenes great?  You bet.  There are plenty of funny moments and it’s fun to see Spidey and MJ’s romance begin to blossom.  But my biggest issue with the film was the constant love song that’s consistently being sung by Spiderman.  Want to devote the first act with Peter still mourning (again, 5 years after the fact)?  Fine.  But he STILL carries on throughout act 2.  Some people argue that Spiderman played a “Robin” role in Spiderman: Homecoming.  I can see the point but I enjoyed Homecoming more than this one.  Why?  I LOVED Keaton as Vulture more than I liked Bubble Boy as Mysterio.  I just found his logic for wanting to screw over Parker and his plan for domination to be a bit weak.  Yes, the effects are great and the final battle scene is cool.  But again, this didn’t grab me as much as Homecoming did.  This is still enjoyable and boy oh boy, that first post credits scene is a TOP 3 ALL TIME SCENE.  You heard me.  And when it happened, I literally yelled out, “Oh SHIT!”  Check this out but lower your expectations a tad.

I give this a 6.5 out of 10.

Film Review: Toy Story 4, the “worst” of the bunch

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Until Friday, I firmly put Toy Story as a top 5 trilogy.  As you sit and stare at that last statement in mild shock while trying to process if this is a valid point, I’ll make it easy for you.  Top 5 trilogies (meaning ALL THREE are nothing below fantastic) are:

  1. Star Wars
  2. Dark Knight.  Yes, some of you may not have liked DKR as much but it’s good enough.
  3. Indiana Jones (no one counts the 4th, just like no one counts Godfather 3 as a film.)
  4. Toy Story
  5. Back to the Future. BTTF3 isn’t as bad as some make it out to be and can we please get over the flying train?  He made a Delorean go back in time as well as fly, why the hell can’t he get a train?  Some of you will want to argue LOTR but that 2nd film was just 3 plus hours of WALKING.

Toy Story 1-3 are so goddamn good, I can’t even pick out an order how good they are.  Gun to my head, I pick 3, 1, 2.  3 is first only because it got such a reaction out of the audience and it has to be one of the best finales to a series.  I teared up like I was 6 years old (or even at my current age) again, watching ET and bawling when the flowers die or when ET goes home.  What about Kevin Costner having a catch with his dad in Field of Dreams?  Or when Arnold drops into the molten steel in Terminator 2.  Don’t you dare posture and say that didn’t get you.  Hell, even Rocky 2 gets me when he yells, “Yo Adrian, I did it.”

Toy Story 3 PERFECTLY wrapped everything up with people saying, “there’s no better way to close this out and I hope they don’t reopen the franchise and taint the series.  So imagine my tepid dismay as well as mild happiness when they announce that Buzz, Woody, Ham, the Potato Heads, and the rest of the gang would be returning this summer.  The preview wasn’t really grabbing me but in Pixar, not God, I trust.

We open with Bonnie playing with most of her toys, except Woody, before her first day in kindergarten.  Woody wants to make sure everything goes right (and also to maybe get some one on one play time) and shanghais a ride in her backpack.  He witnesses Bonnie getting her arts and crafts on where out of a few pipe cleaners and googly eyes, a new friend is born.  Forky is just what he sounds like and Bonnie loves him.  But Forky wants to be in the trash more than Bonnie’s toy and Woody tries to convince him that a toy is the life to lead.

Bonnie’s parents declare that it’s the time for a road trip in an RV, which sounds more like something outlawed in the Geneva convention than a vacation.  Camping, vacation for poor people.  Bonnie grabs all of her toys and away we go.  However, Forky feels there’s no better time to do his best Johnny Knoxville impression and jump out of moving RV.  Woody plays the role of Bam Margera and follows suit because he wants to get him back to Bonnie.  Buzz and the other toys run interference while Woody runs his mission.

Woody and Forky reunite with Bo Peep, who hasn’t lost her sheep but has a few new uninteresting friends tagging along with her.  They run into Gabby Gabby, voiced by Christina Hendricks, who runs the roost at a local antiques store.  GG turns out to be quite the naughty girl, as she wants Woody’s voice box as hers was faulty.  Hence why she’s never been selected by a child.  <insert easy boob joke here> But if Gabby had Christina’s cup size, even I would’ve pocketed my masculinity and bought that doll.

Some of the new characters are fun, especially Bunny and Ducky, voice by Key and Peele.     They TRULY steal the show.  Some of the new characters don’t hit the mark, like Bonnie’s originally owned toys and Giggle McDimples.  I wasn’t as crazy as Duke Kaboom, a Canadian motorcycle stunt rider, voiced by Keanu Reeves.  One of the problems with this is that the new film screwed with the perfect formula by the other films, not enough integration with the original characters.  And the biggest crime is a major lack of Buzz Lightyear.  The dynamic duo of Buzz and Woody is sorely missed and rumor has it that the reason for the reduced role of Buzz is because of Tim Allen’s politics.  IF that is the case, that’s truly sad that people can’t look beyond their opinions.  IF it’s because Tim Allen is a raging asshole, well then shame on him.

But to be perfectly frank with you, I didn’t have the same emotions with this one as I have with the previous 3.  There weren’t as many LOL moments.  I read that while Allen and Hanks broke down reading the last scene.  And I was all prepared to lose my shit again at the end of this film like I did with 3.  The problem of course, is facing a bar that’s set INSANELY high.  But although the ending does make that emotional turn, it didn’t grab me.  I was fine with it but it didn’t hit me near as hard as I expected.  Is this a good film?  Yes.  Do I hope they  they end this series to as not to tarnish its near pristine reputation?  Desperately.  You’ll like this, just not NEAR as much as the others.

I give it a 7 out of 10.  And stay for the credits, there are a few scenes worth checking out.

Film Review: John Wick 3 Parabellum

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Everyone’s favorite unemotional, ass kicker, Keanu Reeves, is back.  Let’s face it, Keanu Reeves is like staring at your 4th cousin’s hot ass, a guilty pleasure.  And we all know he’s limited in his acting range.  But expecting more out of him is like complaining that Greyhound buses are filled with people who think cruise ships or Jimmy Buffet resorts are high end vacations.  You know what you’re getting into.  And I’m fully on board the USS Johnny Utah.  The Matrix.  Point Break.  And more recently, the John Wick series.  I didn’t see the first film until it went on video after many people saw it and said it’s not a dopey B film.  It was a new type of action film: continuous shooting with no edits during action scenes.  It also introduced us to a new term, gun-fu.  Gun-fu is defined as close quarters martial arts fights using guns instead of traditional weapons.  These films have also ushered in innovative ways of taking out bad guys, including using a pencil as a weapon.  In this latest edition, he uses a large book to take a bad guy in the library.  The only thing missing as he bashed his head in with the novel is a pithy sign off line like, “Reading is fundamental, BITCH!”  Again, this isn’t the Godfather but it sure as hell entertaining.

The film opens up moments after the 2nd film, where Winston (Ian McShane) has declared him ex-communcado.  Wick is racing against the clock before the hour he has been given by Winston is up and that’s when the contract on Wick’s life begins.  In the first 5 minutes, there is a spectacular knife fight in Chinatown.  And that’s why these films are great; they make no bones about these being high octane films with a surprising, above average plots.  Besides the hit men out for John Wick; the High Table has sent out the Adjudicator, (Asia Kate Dillon).  She is not happy with those who have provided Wick help, (the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and Winston) when he broke the rules at the end of John Wick 2.  Which is  So Wick has to deal with assassins and the Adjudicator’s hit squad of sushi chefs who are also a vicious ninja hit squad.  Yep, imaginations must have run wild in the writer’s room.  But not as wild as Bill DeBlasio thinking he has a shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination.  HAHAHAHAHH  Sorry, I had to wipe tears of laughter from my eyes.

Wick uses his last ace in his sleeve when he visits Anjelica Huston at her school of ballerinas/assassins to get him out of the country and to Casablanca.  That’s where we meet Sofia (Halle Berry) and her 2 killer dogs.  BTW, let’s acknowledge that Halle Berry looks AMAZING at 50+ and she shows off her fighting chops quite nicely.  This film is just a treasure trove of fantastic action sequences: Wick chased on a bike by katana carrying bikers, Wick being chased while on a horse by attackers, and the final gunfight just to name a few.  And let’s not fail to mention Zero (Mark Dascascos), the leader of the aforementioned Adjudicator’s hit squad.  His fan boy crush on Wick while giving the fights of his life.  He brings a whole new class of “villain” that’s well received.  And the final battle between the two is fantastic, especially the way the scene was shot and lit.  It really makes one appreciate how filmmaking can continue to ascend; even in a wham-bam ass kicking film that’s more than a guilty pleasure.  If you like the first 2 JW films, there’s no doubt you’ll love the 3rd.  And yes, he even sneaks in a direct line from the Matrix.  This fan-boy had a big ‘ol smile on his face when that happened.

John Wick: Parabellum is an 8/10.

NO SPOILERS: Film Review: Avengers Endgame

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Everybody ok?  Whew, we all made it!  Although I must confess, that wasn’t THAT bad of a dead zone (January-April) as it could’ve been.  Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of clunkers: Us, Glass, Captain Marvel, What Men Want, Up, and Alita.  I only saw Captain Marvel because I don’t like wasting time, money, or sitting with other people in mediocre or less than films.  But we did get a couple of nice surprises with Shazam (Welcome back, DC.  It only took you 4 films not including Wonder Woman since TDK trilogy to get respectable) and Fighting With My Family.  But for now: bring the bar into your lap, keep all cell phones in your pocket, and keep all hands and feet within the cart.  Hold on lady, we go for a ride!

I always circle one film on the summer calendar as my, “CAN’T WAIT” (Bart Scott impression) film.  Last year was IW, this year is Endgame.  Honorable mentions to Toy Story 4, John Wick 3, and Spiderman: Homecoming.  This is the 2nd straight year that the “summer blockbusters” begin with an absolute megaton warhead.  Last year, Avengers: Infinity War took the world by storm with an airtight plot, non-stop awe inspiring action scenes, and the snap that sent kids crying out of the theater.  Thankfully, the Russo Brothers were wise enough to film both IW and EG back to back so we didn’t have to wait but one calendar year to the day to see how they wrap up the saga.  So let’s get into it!

It’s a Thanos, post-snap world we’re living in.  The Avengers want to get back the Infinity Stones so they can undo the mass genocide which saw friends and love ones disappear into ash like an anti-smoking PSA.  They track him down and learn that Thanos has destroyed the stones so his work can’t be undone.  Bogus.  Fast forward ahead 5 years where we find the Avengers have split up but still keep in touch.  Tony Stark has a child with Pepper Potts who is quick witted and charming as he is, surprise.  Bruce Banner has found a way to become half Hulk, half Banner all the time and it makes for some pretty funny moments.  Suddenly, Ant Man reappears from the Quantum World where he has a pretty big surprise: he’s figured out time travel.  Hey everyone, let’s go back in time to get the stones before Thanos got them.  Just one problem: Stark is quite happy surviving the snap and enjoying life as a dad, living in a log cabin.  Going back in time can undo this current happiness and he doesn’t want to risk it.  Don’t worry, he changes his mind so the plot can proceed.  Next comes rounding up Thor, who has taken to living in New Asgard with a few buddies and a lot of extra pounds, thanks to beer and pizza.  Thor is also not thrilled about losing to Thanos and reliving that memory.  Don’t worry, he also changes his mind.  And lastly; we find Hawkeye has also lost his family and now lives as an assassin, killing off bad guys and not wanting to do anything else.  Don’t worry, he too, changes his mind.  Now that we’re all a big happy family again, the Avengers all go back in time to very familiar former films to find the stones.  And pay attention on how time travel is possible, they do crack a few jokes how time travel isn’t done like it is Back to the Future.  I must confess, I did feel the end of the first act was dragging a little bit but right at that moment, act 2 kicks it up a few notches.

And of course, when you go back in time, you’re going to find a younger Thanos on his original quest to procure the stones.  Joining him are Gamorra and Nebula who still believe in their father’s quest.  Of course, they catch wind of the Avengers plan and plan to intercept them before they outfox ol’ testicle chin Thanos.  What’s really cool with this second act is very Back to the Future 2 ish: the crew goes to previous films to get the stones: the Tesseract during the first Avengers film, Vormir and Red Skull, etc.  It’s fun to see them not interact with their younger selves.  What else is cool are the tertiary characters we’ve seen in other films also make reappearances which will bring a knowing nod or smile to your face.  I won’t spoil my favorite scene with an old character and the closure that occurs but man, it REALLY goes Back to the Future-ish and is really fun to witness.

No shocking revelation here, act 3 is FUCKING INSANE.  The final battle scene sent shivers right up the ol’ butthole.  It is GLORIOUS and you WILL be on the edge of your seat those last 20-30 minutes for sure.  I mean, WOW.  This is going into the pantheon of best final battle scenes in film history.  So many characters are involved and I daresay we see the best Captain Marvel stuff here vs her own disappointing film.  But make no mistake, people die in this film.  And I promise one of them will get you a bit teary eyed.

Endgame is just as close to perfect as you can draw it up.  This film should be a lynchpin of discussions when it comes to tying up any kind of film or TV series.  Every thing is buttoned up nicely and a few comic book nods occur throughout and at the end of the film. I daresay it’s time we start the conversation of having the Russo brothers of the greatest comic book film directors alongside of Christopher Nolan.  Winter Solider, Civil War, IW, and Endgame…none of those films are below an 8/10.  All of the reviews I’ve read had this 3/4 stars, 4/5 stars, 9.5/10, 97%.  And they’re all right.  IW was so good, it was going to be almost impossible to match.  But Endgame does just that.  This is an absolute masterpiece and unlike last year’s snub, should ABSOLUTELY be involved in the Best Picture discussion.  Because we all know IW was MUCH better than Black Panther.  And this year, there is no distraction for a Marvel film of this caliber to be denied.  My ONLY knock is it did drag a TAD, maybe knock off 5-10 minutes and then this baby is a flawless pearl.

I give this a 9/10 and will definitely see this again in the next few weeks.

Double Dip Film Reviews: Pet Semetary and Shazam!

Yep, been a little while.  But don’t blame me, blame the slop we’ve been forced to sit through since the new year:  

I watched “Aquaman”, meh.  I did see, “Fighting With My Family.”  Enjoyed it and a nice chunk was the few scenes the Rock was in.  Vince Vaughn also solid in this.  Those are words not many people have written in over 10 years.  Also saw “Captain Marvel.”  Look, it wasn’t as bad as some people made it out to be but it certainly wasn’t good.  And the only thing missing was Samuel L Jackson wearing a postman’s uniform in that film.  Cause he mailed that shit in, big time.  The jokes failed, big time.  But they had the best Stan Lee cameo, big time.  

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Honestly is the best policy, except when it comes to dealing with your wife.  I had no desire to see the new Pet Semetary film.  Never read the book, never saw the original film.  But the reviews were coming in much more positively than I expected.  I also expect the Stephen King remakes will be held to a higher caliber as It was fantastic.  So here we go:

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke of the unfortunate Terminator: Genisys) is moving his family up to the country.  Wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and kids Ellie and Gage (Jete Laurence and Hugo Lavoie) along with their cat, Church which is short for Churchill.  No reason given for naming the cat after a Gary Oldman character.  The house the family move into happens to be adjacent to a creepy pet cemetery.  Next door lives Jud (John Lithgow from the evergreen Harry and the Hendersons) who just may know what exactly is going on with said cemetery.  

Cue things going bump in the night, premonitions, the usual suspects of horror films.  Poor Church decides to go one on with a tractor trailer and ends up like a Mortal Kombat Fatality victim.  Neighbor Jud (who would ever saddle their kid with that name) suggests that burying the cat beyond the pet cemetery may benefit the Creed family.  Well guess what?  That’s an Indian burial ground past the cemetery and good ol’ Church just happens to cash in on 1 of the 9 lives.  Although he looks like he just spent all night raging at a fraternity party and ripping off 14 straight wins in beer pong.  Oh wait, that was me, 20 years ago.  

I’ll bet you, gentle reader, that you think that even though that Church may not be the same lovable feline he was before the resurrection.  And you’d be right.  He hisses and scratches more people than a 14 year old girl in a lunchroom brawl.  And then this of course, sends everyone into a panic and more bad things start to happen.  Apparently, one of the major events was changed from the book to this film and yes, King gave his blessing for the change.  And now we’ve crossed into spoiler territory so I shall now circle the wagons.

This film is enjoyable, it delivered what it promised.  Gave me a few jumps, not any cheap scares.  Foresaw most of the ending but the very end, didn’t see that angle.  I did wish they better explained the scene with the procession of children wearing pet masks and why they were doing it.  Otherwise, it’s a fine and fun watch.  Must you see it in a theater?  Not a must.  Will you feel disappointed after dropping $15 on it?  I don’t think so.  

6.5 out of 10

 

shazam

DC Films is like the Sword in the Stone.  Many people tried pulling out the sword without success as DC has pumped out poor film after mediocre/decent film.  Man of Steel, Justice League, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman…all awful.  Wonder Woman was fine, Aquaman was meh.  And now we have, Shazam.  The guy anyone barely remembers from the Justice League cartoon but had one hell of an entrance.  Now DC drops this into our collective laps, hoping this bird flies after being thrown out of the nest instead of crashing to earth. Avengers: Endgame is out in 3 weeks, this is their only chance to get a hold of something until the Joker comes out in fall.  How does it fare?  Let’s go to the videotape!  

Shazam is the story of Billy Batson, a 14 year old foster kid constantly looking for his mother whom he lost at a winter fair when he was 3.  Billy finds himself escaping bullies on a subway in Philadelphia (No, his superpowers aren’t avoiding white trash or mouth breathing Eagles fans) when he’s suddenly transported to a wizard, also a Shazam, seeking a replacement for his powers.  By yelling, “Shazam!”, Billy turns into the bigger and even older superhero.  The lighthearted approach of discovering Shazam’s superpowers as well as coming of life experiences with his fellow foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Glazer) pays off in spades.  The trial and error method while the boys upload their videos to youtube is quite humorous.  It’s kind of Deadpool-ish without the R rated dick jokes.  Not that I’m opposed to them by any stretch though.  What’s the second most important aspect of a superhero film?  Tits.  Just kidding.  Well, they never have those in films unless it’s Barb Wire which was nothing short of a method of torture outlawed by the Geneva Convention.  The villain, you chowderheads!  Mark Strong plays Thaddeus Silvana, one who was also was interviewed by the previous Shazam wizard but had failed the test.  He wants that power and goddamnit, he’s not stopping at nothing to get it.  Silvana enlists the help of the 7 Deadly Sins who are lizard-like that are named after the, ding, 7 deadly sins.  

Well, let’s give credit where credit is due.  This film breaks the streak of shitty/mediocre DC films not named Batman.  Bale, not Affleck.  C’mon, we’re civilized here.  This film is rock solid except for the final battle does lag a bit.  I also observed Batson’s foster family noticeably checks the multicultural boxes: Asian boy, Asian girl, black girl, Hispanic boy, Samoan dad, Hispanic mom, white girl, white guy.  This film hits all marks and finally correctly copies from the Marvel playbook.  Funny how DC has a better film out there now than Marvel does.  I’m MOST shocked that this made ~54 million opening weekend while Aquaman opened to 67 million.  This film is FAR superior to that bread sandwich.

7.5 out of 10 

Film Review: Bumblebee

Bbeefilmpsoter

Michael Bay completely torpedoed a cartoon and franchise that molded many lives of my age group.  He did a great job with the first film but with each subsequent sequel, managed to out suck the previous installment.  Yes, even Bay gave the short shrift to one of these easiest characters in to make grandiose on a movie screen, the Dinobots.  Screwed the pooch big time. And after that, I swore after Transformers 4 that I would never see another Transformers film in the theater.  I waited till Netflix to waste another 2+ hours of my life watching the Transformers: the Last Knight.  I spent most of that time wondering how much they had to give Anthony Hopkins to appear in that stillborn.  So when they announced they were doing the origin story for Bumblebee, I still wasn’t caring that much.  After seeing Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm for this, I gave this a better than fighting chance.  After seeing the preview and seeing old school Transformers and see the battles on Cybertron (the home planet of the Transformers), I was hooked.  

I’ll give this review 2 parts and the first part of this review is for those who are not hardcore Transformers fans.  The second half of the review is for those who are going in with a more critical eye and have an affinity or solid background in Transformers.  Scroll down for the nitpicking.  So if you’re completely Transformers naive, here’s your review: 

The Transformers come from Cybertron and there are 2 types, Autobots and Decepticons.  Autobots, good guys, Decepticons, bad guys.  Decepticons have won the battle for control of Cybertron, forcing Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots and one of my all time favorite characters) to send one of his top soldiers, B-127, to Earth and set up a new base for the Autobots.  Of course, the Decepticons track down B-127 to Earth and they want to take him out and set up their own base.  Charlie (Hailee Steinefeld) is a teenager living in the 80’s who just lost her dad and is full of angst.  She and her dad used to work on cars and uncovers B-127 who is hiding in a junkyard.  Surprise, she fixes B-127, brings him home, and uncovers his secret.  Bumblebee earns his name by Charlie finding in bees in the VW bug.  

John Cena plays Jack Burns of sector 7, probably the MOST cliched army-esque character of all time.  You’ll remember sector 7 as the agency John Turtorro worked for who made it his life’s mission to lock up the Autobots.  He was hilarious, Cena is not.  Burns encounters Bumblebee when Bee crashed landed onto Earth and made it his life mission to track him.  Arnold Schwarzennegger had the best action cliches, Stallone had some good ones too.  But they were tongue in cheek.  Cena doesn’t have that affable nature the Rock has but to his defense, even the Rock couldn’t deliver these lines without vomiting.  Yes, these are word for word: “I will personally rip off your face.”  Good to see he can do his own face ripping and not delegating a lacky to do that.  But my favorite: “There’s a door in my way.”  And then had his guys blow up a door.  How fun would that be?  I would love to loudly announce there are tourists in my way.  And then blow them up.  Stuck behind some asshole on the turnpike who refuses to move over but does 55 in the fast lane?  Blow them up.  Someone sits directly in front of you in the movie theater while there are 5234 other open seats?  Blow them up.  God, this character made my skin crawl.  

Let’s also discuss Charlie’s family.  The mom (Pamela Adlon) and stepdad (Stephen Schneider) try to recapture the Witwickis goofiness from the first 3 Transformer films.  Although it’s a little more deep and tumultuous with Charlie still holding on Even the brother Otis (Jason Drucker) gets in on the laughs as a karate student who is hell bent on kicking ass.  And why oh why is someone naming their kid, Otis?  What kind of sadist would do that, even in the 80’s?  Let’s cut that shit out, that name is now reserved for pets only.  But another problem with this film is it revolves WAY too much around Charlie.  The name of the film is Bumblebee.  The basis is robots coming to Earth and fighting.  Yes, I do want to see the relationship the Transformers have with humans.  And the cartoon/cartoon film/first Michael Bay film did a great job with balancing out robot battling and human interaction.  But this is too much on everything else but as Michael Bay said, “Giant fucking robots.”  

The reviews are pouring in how this is the greatest Transformers film.  I get we’re all eager to wash out the Michael Bay shlock from our mouths but slow the fuck down, people.  This films isn’t that great at all.  And how soon you forget about the animated movie?  And the first Bay incarnation was solid.  But this is the best film of the lot?  Please.  Is it because it’s a female lead and we’re savages if we all don’t agree that it’s the best, we’re sexist?  Please.  This film was almost 2.5 hours long and I felt myself looking at my watch as this dragged.  The final battle was meh at best and the ending was beyond lazy.  This is the 3rd best Transformers fan but that’s not high praise as all of the sequels were awful.  This isn’t in the same league as the animated film or the first installment.  

If you’re not a big Transformers fan, you’ll give it ~5.

Now, for a deep dive analysis for those who are fans of the franchise.

Here are my problems with this film.  You have the chance to undo some of the Michael Bay choices.  The film opens with Autobots and Decepticons fighting on Cybertron.  IMMEDIATELY, I was ecstatic to see some of my old time favorites on the screen.  Optimus Prime, Starscream, Soundwave, Wheeljack, and Shockwave to name a few.  No exaggeration, I let out a mini, “yes!”  THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR YEARS.  But this euphoria only lasts for 3 minutes before Bumblebee is shipped to Earth. You get another flashback to Cyberton fighting and yes, a Ravage sighting.  So explain to me why the opted to use Shatter and Dropkick as the main 2 Decepticons who track down Bumblebee.  Who are they?  EXACTLY, THEY DIDN’T USE ANY OF THE MAIN DECEPTICONS?  These are 2 made up Decepticons for the film.  And Christ, not even one Megatron sighting, really?  You do see Prime in a few video messages, fine.  And we even get a great Easter Egg.  They play everyone’s favorite song, “You’ve got the Touch” so be ready.  So they do get a few nods in there but man, such opportunity wasted.

I have no idea why these writers don’t utilize the perfect recipe.  All of the ingredients are here and mixed, all you have to do is throw in the oven and wait.  Like Mariano Duncan said of the 96 Yankees, We play today, we win today.  Das eet.  Have Cybertron battles.  Use the characters in the cartoon as they were.  Have more screen time focused on the Transformers but a nice dose of the human relationship. Das eet.

This wasn’t good by any stretch and the fake love from the critics is staggering.  As I write this article on Saturday afternoon, the news is already in that Aquaman is going to win the weekend.  Aquaman, the lamest of superheroes.  Aquaman, of the DC universe who hasn’t made a quality film yet.  Calm down Wonder Woman fans, that was just fine.  I understand the Bay has ostracized a ton of the fan base.  But to lose to a perennial loser superhero and franchise screams volumes.  Maybe if they get this franchise right, people will go back to the theaters to see the greatest cartoon series (next to Looney Tunes) ever.  But for now, I’m going back to my edict of not paying to see Transformers films.  

Autobots, transform and stay home.  I give it a 4.  And that’s only because of the Cybertron scenes.