Rest in Peace, Wes Craven (1939-2015)

Horror director Wes Craven passed away from brain cancer on August 30, 2015 at the age of 76.

Wes Craven

Wes Craven made many of my favorite horror movies. From an inauspicious debut in 1972 of The Last House on the Left, Craven would go on to dominate the horror genre for decades and found not one but three movie series.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Netflix has many of his films available for streaming. They have his classic Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as well as his own revisionist take on it, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). These are the only two directed by Craven and not coincidentally, the two best in the series.

Scream

The first three Scream movies are also streaming. The first two are quite good and the third is enjoyable but quite tame in comparison. Skip Cursed and Vampire in Brooklyn unless you are a completist.

Speaking of Scream, the first six episodes of the new MTV television series are streaming on Hulu.

Rest in peace, Wes Craven. You will be missed.

Friday This ‘n’ That – Vudu

I am lazy. I don’t mind admitting it.

Vudu

While blu-ray picture and sound quality are unsurpassed (at least until 4K becomes established), if I’m going to put on a random movie to watch, I’ll turn on Vudu (or Netflix or Amazon or Hulu) rather than get my lazy butt up and find the blu-ray. This is made easier by having most new movies come with digital copies that work on Vudu.

Wal-Mart has a program where some percentage of the films they sell will automatically come with a copy if you enter your receipt into their savings catcher. This has never worked for me personally but perhaps I’m not purchasing the right films.

What does work is that you can download VUDU togo on your computer and convert DVDs and Blu-Rays (if you have a drive). They charge $2 per movie for blu-ray to HD or DVD to standard. They charge $5 for DVD to HD. This is fine for a movie or two but gets pricy if you have more.

Thankfully, Wal-Mart will give you half-price if you convert ten or more titles. Conversion is easy if a bit time consuming. The time consuming portion is that there are a ton of titles not supported. Still it is a nice tool when it works.

Vudu also makes it easier to watch a marathon without getting up.

Alien

Pardon me but I’m queueing up the first Alien movie.

How Bad is Sinister 2?

I have written the title and the beginning of this post prior to seeing the movie. I’ll change the title if I’m wrong. (I wasn’t wrong)

Sinister 2

 

Sinister 2 (2015) – Rated R

A young mother and her twin sons move into a rural house that’s marked for death.

I normally try not to prejudge movies but the original Sinister was just okay. It cost nothing to make so naturally made a ridiculous profit. It helped that indie darling Ethan Hawke was in it.

Along comes Sinister 2 with no Ethan Hawke and no advance reviews. Not only that but Fandango was giving buyers $5 concession cash to go see this. I guess the other thing which doesn’t give me hope is that all the latest horror gems have been independent and/or foreign features (The Babadook, It Follows) while the dreck have been quickie sequels (well some of them – The Pyramid and As Above So Below were not only terrible but wasted their locales).

Sinister 2 is director Ciaran Foy’s sophomore effort. His debut was with 2012’s flawed but fascinating horror movie, Citadel.. The writers are the same ones as Sinister, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. These are Cargill’s only feature credits but Derrickson has written other horror (Deliver Us from Evil, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Hellraiser: Inferno, Urban Legends: Final Cut)

Sinister 2 promotes James Ransone’s (The Wire, Generation Kill) support character of Deputy in the first film to leading man here. The deputy might as well be named deputy doofus a la David Arquette in Scream. Shannyn Sossamon is Courtney Collins, our struggling mother of twins. They gave her an absolutely hilarious movie job – she is an antique furniture restorer. It is portrayed as believably as it sounds.

Well, the first two acts were just meh. The main flaw is that all the characters are quite unpleasant or horror movie stupid. There is a scene in the film that is really nonsensical and only serves to sideline a character to serve the plot. Oh and to stupidly set up the obligatory stinger.

The third act is indeed as stupid as feared. Honestly the first two acts should have been edited down to one act. The real second act is completely missing – you’ll know what I mean when you say “huh? what the heck?” When the third act starts. I’m guessing the parts leading up to the third act jump may have been filmed but looked ludicrous and were deleted. One characters fate will have you scratching your head.
Sinister 2 is indeed terrible but I thank them for the grub and the hour and a half in a darkened theater.

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Wolfcop

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Wolfcop are currently available on instant Netflix.

Wyrmwood

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015) – Not rated

Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor – together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland.

“We need to find a zombie fast” – “A zombie? What do we need a zombie for?” – “This truck runs on zombies. No zombies? No truck.”

I love zombie movies but they have been done to death so you really need a good angle and production values to do justice to them now. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is an attempt to apply a gonzo Mad Max atmosphere to a zombie picture and I am not just saying that because it is an Aussie film. The zombie effects are good and show a high production value for a low-budget film.

Unfortunately there is no character development and not much of a script so it just plays out as “Scenes from an Apocalypse”.

 

Wolfcop

Wolfcop (2015) – Not rated

As a series of strange and violent events begin to occur, an alcoholic policeman realizes that he has been turned into a werewolf as part of a larger plan.”

Okay, the poster artwork looks pretty funny. I had been staying away from this one because people kept comparing it to Hobo with a Shotgun which I had not enjoyed. Sure enough, some of the comparisons are apt.

Wolfcop does indeed have a grimy grindhouse feel to it. I appreciated that aesthetic during its heyday in the 70s. I loved Rodriguez and Tarantino’s take on it in Grindhouse, especially all the fake trailers done by their guest directors.

Sadly, I found myself rolling my eyes at this one when I wasn’t grimacing over how unpleasant the characters were.

Oh well, two swings and two misses. Maybe I’ll get lucky next time.

 

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 8/25/15

Not much again, mostly one off television documentaries, though Viggo Mortensen in Jauja looks interesting

Jauja

Action & Adventure: Jauja, Next

Transcend

Documentary: Transcend, 30 for 30: Angry Sky, Miss Representation, Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Drama: Grantham & Rose, As Cool As I Am

Faith: Stop the Pounding Heart

Ejecta

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Ejecta

Foreign: La Sapienza, The Kid with the Golden Arm, Justice My Foot, Heroes of the East, Five Shaolin Masters, Executioners from Shaolin, Disciples of the 36th Chamber, Cross, Behind the Yellow Line, La mafia uccide solo d’estate, Gun Woman

Television: Strange Empire, W1A, World War II: Final Days, Titanoboa: Monster Snake, Titanic’s Final Mystery, Shuttle Discovery’s Last Mission, Secrets: Richard III Revealed, Secrets: A Viking Map?, Nazi Temple of Doom, Mystery Files: Hitler, Mystery Files: Leonardo da Vinci, Mission to Murder Hitler, The Incredible Bionic Man, The Hunt for Bin Laden, History in HD: The Last Bomb, History in HD: Shooting Iwo Jima, Hindenburg: The Untold Story, Helicopter Missions: Vietnam Firefight, Day of the Kamikaze, Air Disasters, Girl Meets World, and new episodes of Being Mary Jane: The Series, NCIS, and Real Husbands of Hollywood

Rest in Peace, Yvonne Craig

Well, I guess I have reached the age where all of my childhood actors are passing away. Boy does it make me feel old.

Yvonne Craig

Actress Yvonne Craig passed away August 17, 2015 at the age of 78. She has 86 imdb credits, although she doesn’t show up on streaming Netflix’ search list. Admittedly most of her parts were rather small. She got a boost to her career when she started dating Elvis Presley.

Her big claim to fame, of course, is that she starred as Batgirl in the third season of 60s Batman. Earlier this year, we showed our granddaughter all of the Batman episodes as well as the three movies (which did not feature Craig). She enjoyed the show but was enthralled when Craig showed up in season 3. There sure aren’t enough female superheroes.

Yvonne Craig

I don’t know about other shots because of Netflix’ search fails but Craig can be seen in the original Star Trek episode “Whom Gods Destroy” as Marta.

Rest in peace, Yvonne Craig, you will be missed.

Friday This ‘n’ That – The Sinister Fandango

“A bad day at the movies beats a good day at work” – Kevin Smith

I have a really wonderful life but I’m an introvert and periodically I need alone time to recharge my batteries. Usually I get a day a week which is great but it’s been several weeks so I’m a little antsy. Thankfully, today is my day off.

As much as I’ve made my home into a theater, I still get a real sense of comfort from going to the movies in an actual theater. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps I should work harder on making a cozier theater.

Fandango

I normally only use Fandango with special offers as they charge that pesky customer fee on every transaction, even on their own promotions (EXCEPT for you lucky AMC Stubs members, I’d sure like it if Regal Crown Club would follow suit). Well, they are currently offering a $5 concession gift card with purchase of a ticket to Sinister 2.

Sinister 2

Apparently I’ll go see a bad movie if you offer me FREE grub to go with it. Woohoo! Mini corn dogs ($5.50) for dinner! And a drink from my Regal Crown Club card! Maybe it won’t be so bad. I’ll probably go see a second film with my soda refill.

Mission Highly Improbable

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is currently in theaters

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) – Rated PG-13

Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.”

The blessing and curse of any Tom Cruise movie is that it is, first and foremost, a Tom Cruise film. I believe that Hollywood has two types of successful players: actors and stars. While the groups are not mutually exclusive, Cruise does fall firmly in the latter category.

Cruise, the consummate showman, actually hung from a plane as it took off. His willingness, even insistence, on performing this stunt himself garnered a lot of press and the studios milked that for all it was worth. It was showcased in all the trailers and most of the clips and featured in just about every interview. It was a brilliant marketing ploy that paid off handsomely.

The even more brilliant part of this strategem is that this showpiece is the opening scene in the movie (a la some of the fantastic Bond openings). Not only that but, while it is breathtaking, it isn’t even the best action scene in the film. That award belongs to a complex piece set during a performance of Turandot. That scene is worthy of Hitchcock with a dash of DePalma (who directed the first Mission Impossible movie).

Lately, Cruise has had some very strong female leads. Emily Blunt stole Edge of Tomorrow away from Cruise with her performance. Here, Rebecca Ferguson appears as a mysterious femme fatale. Her role is not as good as Blunt’s but she makes a great impression.

The supporting cast does an admirable job but make no mistake: they are there for support. Simon Pegg returns as our comic relief. Alec Baldwin plays a smarmy Alec Baldwin type. Jeremy Renner waits patiently in the wings in the hope that he can one day headline the franchise. Ving Rhames provides some needed color to the otherwise lily-white cast.

Now for the curse part, Cruise works so hard to be on top of the game that some things come off a little strange. We’re treated to the sight of a perfectly-sculpted shirtless 53-year-old Cruise for an extended period during an interrogation sequence. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is an expert marksman, champion swimmer/breath holder, short and long distance runner, demolition driver, motorcyclist, and on and on. The movie seems to function as an ad for Cruise bodybuilding or perhaps Scientology.

Cruise has a knack for picking good directors. The first Mission Impossible was directed by Brian DePalma, the second by John Woo, and the third by J.J. Abrams. Each showcased their directors’ strengths without losing sight of the Cruise factor. Ghost Protocol dropped the numbers and proved Brad Bird could do live action films with incredible stunts. Rogue Nation is made by Cruise’s Jack Reacher director (and Usual Suspects scribe), Christopher McQuarrie.

MI: Rogue Nation is an excellent action movie although my wife thought it went on too long. I will agree that the motorcycle chase right after the car chase was a bit excessive.

Cry Uncle?

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is currently in theaters

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – Rated PG-13

“In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.”

I love Robert Vaughn’s turn in The Magnificent Seven. As a kid, I remember enjoying the short-lived Invisible Man series starring David McCallum. Yet strangely I have never seen their signature roles in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. For some reason, it wasn’t in syndication in Miami, perhaps because the spy craze had mostly burnt out by then. So, for once, I find myself unable to compare a reboot to the source material.

Henry Cavill did not make much of an impression on me in Immortals or Man of Steel. Both were pretty yet vapid movies. Man of Steel was the anti-Superman Superman movie. I thought Cavill was pretty vacant as Superman but I’m not sure if that was Cavill or director Snyder.

Likewise, Armie Hammer has never made an impression on me. I saw him as The Lone Ranger in Disney’s Deppified The Tonto Show. He was good as a complete gooberhead John Reid but the role required a lack of depth. Likewise his role as Clyde Tolson in J. Edgar was to subvert any personality and play sidekick to the titular personage.

Alicia Vikander, so terrific in Ex Machina (go see it!) is just fine here but the role doesn’t call for much. Elizabeth Debicki looks incredible in the retro fashions and, as that seems to be her primary role, does a good job. I look forward to seeing her in a role that stretches her abilities.

Now Guy Ritchie I do have an opinion of. Ritchie had a wonderful debut with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and no sophomore slump with Snatch. They both did a wonderful job capturing London thugs. He bombed with Madonna’s Swept Away but so did just about anyone who filmed with her.

Guy Ritchie is an amazing visual stylist. He certainly proved that when he shifted his milieu to Holmesian England with a dash of steampunk. The visuals in Uncle are simply wonderful. The setting, fashions, and vehicles are droolworthy. I believe Ritchie intended the performances to be superficial as they all seem to be a uniform shade of vanilla. As such I don’t really fault Hammer or Cavill here (or Vikander or Demicki).

Uncle would be a great film IF the script matched the visual stylings and IF Ritchie had worked on getting better performances instead of photogenic characters. The script and story were from Richie, Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes), Jeff Kleeman (first feature), and David C. Wilson (Supernova? and nothing for fifteen years?). Too many cooks spoil the broth.

There is a lot of semi-clever banter here but Ritchie has had so much better dialogue. The deadpan deliveries also ruin some of the lines. Everything seems just a little off in the movie like it could have been a classic if…

As it is the movie is a visual treat, a good amount of fun, and has two incredible scenes. The best is a great gag involving torture (yes, I know that’s a sore subject these days – the humor plays all the better for it).

The second best is one a lesser director would never try. One of the signature action sequences takes place almost entirely in the background.

It is not at all that Uncle is a bad film (it isn’t), it is just that it is disappointing that it doesn’t live up to its potential.

New Netflix Releases for the Week of 8/18/15

Another week with not much happening, perhaps try Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Definitely give The Woman in Black 2 a pass (great idea, poor execution).

Lord of War

Action & Adventure: Lord of War

Seeking a Friend

Comedy: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Billy Madison, Colin Quinn: Unconstitutional, Demetri Martin: Live (at the Time), For a Good Time Call…, Leap Year

Documentary: Libra X Libra, Race to Nowhere, Food Matters

Drama: Being Flynn, Pariah, Alex of Venice, If I Stay, Ship of Theseus

Family: Hot Wheels: The Skills to Thrill

Foreign: The Admiral: Roaring Currents, Taal

Woman in Black 2

Horror: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

Television: 1992, Digimon, El Sexo Debil, Heidi, Rosario Tijeres, Spooksville, Dinotrux, The Glades, and new episodes of Ever After High