Friday, September 22, 2017

Warner Bros' Akira, Round Who Is This For Again?


Good Lord, how long have I been away?

Seriously, there's dust everywhere.

Anyway, jokes aside, yes, it's been a while. I have a couple of projects coming down line, including trying something for October.


Also look for: final articles from my Gundam movies retrospective and the 'Sometimes They Come Back' Halloween run of 2015 (because otherwise that means I watched Nekromantik 2 and The Lost Boys: The Tribe for nothing. Try and guess which I regret more – you may be pleasantly surprised).
Anyway, that's for down the line. For today, I wish to discuss something that has remained about the same as it was when I last turned off the lights here.
That's right – Warner Bros is still trying to get that live action Akira adaptation off the ground.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Halloween Week 1: Sometimes They Come Back

So it was established, and so it begins.

As I said yesterday, this year's a weird sort of retrospective on the past four years. Each of the 31 films chosen for this year's Halloween run is a sequel, prequel, or remake of an earlier movie featured here.

With that in mind, the randomizer's hitting a couple of low balls out of the gate, so let's just dive in.

(Note: Sorry about the links guys. Gonna try and get those more fine-tuned soon.)

Sorry guys, but you're in the same movie as Larry Miller as an evil, rapey clown. There was no way you guys were gonna be scarier than that.

10/1 - Wes Craven Presents Carnival of Souls

(remake of Carnival of Souls)

So, going into this movie, I will admit I had some reservations. With Craven's passing earlier this year, I wondered if it would be better to sit out a remake with his name on it and a pretty spotty reputation. Then, two things happened to convince me to leave it in. First, my girlfriend made the case for the fact that, hey, it is part of his legacy, and sometimes you've gotta take the bad with the good (for the record, I still stand by what I wrote in previous years on The Serpent and the Rainbow – still a favorite of his movies).

The second was that I actually sat down to watching it...and realized this was a Wes Craven movie like Hostel was a Quentin Tarantino film. Which makes sense on the year this came out – the success of Scream meant Craven was riding high, so if you could get him to produce, you would want to rubberstamp the Hell out of his name for brand recognition.

Unfortunately, it only does just so much here.

I'll just say this now – I genuinely feel like Carnival of Souls could be remade. It would be a little tricky thanks to the fact modern audiences would likely see the ending coming, but if you play it with a subtler hand, I think it could still fly. This...was not that movie. Subtlety is run out of this film on a rail pretty early on and never comes back even until the end. As a result, what was originally a pretty straightforward sort of mystery in the vein of Incident at Owl Creek Bridge instead becomes a low-rent Jacob's Ladder knockoff, complete with visions of deformed beings that look like they were trying to recapture Lyne's film more than that of the late Herk Harvey. Further bogging things down is the addition of a new story in which our protagonist (Bobbie Phillips) finds herself haunted and pursued by her dead mother's former lover (Larry Miller). The plot itself mostly just diverts with all manner of uncomfortable flashbacks about this sleazy clown character who the movie makes it clear definitely molested our heroine all so she has someone to confront in the big finish. Outside of a surprisingly effective performance by Miller, whose acting is probably the best part of this movie, the whole plot just left me going “why was this needed?”

This is arguably one of the more frustrating cases of a remake ever – it's one that could have worked. There's definitely fertile ground for an update, but instead it bogs itself down in a lot of things that are unnecessary and don't really aid the story in any way.
At least Wes's hands are mostly clean.

...you know what? Screw it. This picture says all it needs to for itself. Any riff is just excess trimming.

10/2 – The Exorcist II: The Heretic
(sequel to The Exorcist, followed by The Exorcist III)

Let's face it – this theme was really the one way this movie was going to have a chance of getting in here.
I could probably do an entire writeup on my problems with this movie (maybe somewhere down the line) and while I'm doing two longer ones to make up for the fact this entry is only two movies long for a start, I do kind of want to keep from going all in on that, so I'll just keep to my two main problems.

First is with this movie's role as a sequel. I can forgive a surprising amount from some sequels. I mean, I'm one of those people who feels Halloween III: Season of the Witch gets a bum rap more because of its lack of Michael Meyers than anything else (...and let's be honest, it's arguably better than some of the Meyers movies that followed it). But there's two big differences there – first is the fact that Season of the Witch is, to be perfectly honest, dumb as Hell. And it owns it. It owns the Hell out of it. As a result, it's still quite watchable in a 'so bad it's good' kind of way – plus, that ending IS pretty awesome. By comparison, The Heretic takes itself too seriously to really defend on those grounds. I mean, granted, that more serious approach is actually part of why its predecessor holds up over 40 years later (and also helps part III), but here it just makes the movie's rather ridiculous premise and groaners in its dialogue (“If Pazuzu appears, I shall spit out a leopard,” James Earl Jones manages to get out with a straight face, God bless him) clunk that much harder. The other reason this sequel fumbles compared to Season of the Witch is that that movie is fairly self-contained. It's free to be a mess entirely of its own design and the rest of the franchise remains untouched by the antics of Dan O'Herlihy and his army of robot minions. By comparison, The Heretic tries to apply its plot and ideas over the first movie, at points overriding some of the themes of its predecessor in ways that just make the sequel look bad (most damning is their newly written reason for why Regan was possessed. I'll spare the details to avoid spoilers, but they apparently decided Merrin's hypothesis of despair in the first movie wasn't good enough). That William Peter Blatty (and the people behind the later movies, for that matter) completely disregard anything this movie had to say on the greater Exorcist continuity should tell you how well that went over.

The other problem with this movie as this list goes is...well...it's just barely a horror movie. JUST barely. While the level of scariness in the first film will naturally vary from person to person, the fact remains, it is going for scares. At points, at least for me, it manages some good ones – some creepy bits of buildup, some good atmosphere, and a couple of really effective jarring images all work in its favor. I'm trying to think of moments in the sequel that could be said to be going for scares and...I'm gonna be honest, outside of MAYBE a scene of a person being burned alive, I've got nothing. Despite being an Exorcist sequel and sporting a pretty wild score by Ennio Morricone (which is a plus of this film), it feels less like this was shooting for a horror movie, and more for a weird sort of modern day fantasy with Chardin's spiritual philosophies as its backbone and Friedkin's movie as its foundation. And it's not like you can't go that modern fantasy route and still manage to work a few scares in (Audrey Rose went a similar direction and still made for a few decent moments of tension along the way that are pretty absent from this movie). So to see this film not even try and fail but just not try, especially considering the act it's following...that's a lot to ask me to forgive.

Okay, that's a bit harsh on wording. I mean, I don't hate the movie – it's not good, but I'm mostly just ambivalent on it. But at the same time, holy Hell is this a disappointing mess as a sequel.

This is gonna be a rough month for some entries, but it's gonna yield some interesting stuff. Plus, I promise some good ones are coming.

So buckle in, folks. It's gonna be one Hell of an October.


Till next Friday.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Third Row's October Run Part 5 – Oh God, It's a Theme Year

Well, like I said last time, there was a plan for this year, which was part of why I hadn't done the usual sweep for suggestions.

For those who've kept score – and to those who have, my sincerest apologies, this will mark the fifth year I've been doing this particular project.

I know, I'm surprised too.

Anyway, I told myself if I got to one of these milestones, I'd try my hand at this project. A little theme I like to call Sometimes They Come Back.


...for the record, that movie will not be featured this time. Just made a good hook.

The upshot for this year, however, is tied back to that title – in preparation, I compiled a list of the movies used in the first four years of entries. With some research, I compiled this year's list: a selection of 31 sequels, prequels, and remakes of movies previously featured in this project.

The first entry goes up tomorrow...and this is gonna be a rough one.

There are some good things to come though.


Till tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tusk - Come for Michael Parks, Stay For...Uhh...

As I promised, with tomorrow starting the October festivities (and an announcement on to come as I'm trying something a little different this year, hence why I didn't pool for suggestions) we're continuing the penance with something a little seasonably appropriate.

It always happens. Even before I get to October, I start feeling the itch for horror. Fortunately, this project gave me an opportunity to indulge said itch while I got ready for the big push – Kevin Smith threw his hat back into the ring.

Actually, that sounds a bit harsh. Honestly, I still want Kevin Smith to do well. Even on projects like this, I feel like he has potential in him. Which makes it all the more frustrating when he not only doesn't live up to it, but falls prey to some of his old bad habits that have been called out many times before.

This goes double when it comes to his forays in horror, as some may remember from when I discussed Red State last October. I still feel like there's the potential for a good movie within it, but the finished film was overwritten, too caught up in blindsiding its audience, and making sure we understood what it was trying to say (to borrow a line, somewhat ironically for this movie, from the podcast 'We Hate Movies', all that film was missing was a big red “Do You Get It?” over the end credits) to really work.

To his credit, Tusk does at least avoid some of those earlier hurdles.


Keyword some.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Cobbler – The Punishment Begins!

...that almost sounds like a subtitle for the movie itself. In which case I imagine it would take on a much darker and considerably harder to market tone.

Anyway, this is where we get started. This was one I hadn't even considered as a candidate until viewing it as part of a group bad movie riffing...and frankly, at that point, it insisted on itself.

For anyone out there who is now asking either of the following questions: 'What the Hell is The Cobbler?' and 'Wasn't this a 2015 movie?', let me just say good questions, and I will answer both now.

Yep...let's just start knocking that low-hanging fruit right off the tree now, folks.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Insurance Check Didn't Come Through...

And apparently that faked death would be considered fraud anyway, so I'm back.

It's been...it's been a year. Quite a bit in life in general as well as fair amount of writing over at Moar Powah! Kind of cut into things here. But, we're coming to October, and since this year marks the fifth anniversary, I do NOT plan to blow this off.

...but, I do have to answer for the seven months of radio silence.

So, in a fashion that truly befits my Catholic upbringing, I will be doing so through the route of atonement by pain.


...okay, not that kind of pain.

Just watch, that's probably gonna lead a whole colorful chunk of audience here care of GIS.

Anyway, rather than just settling on one punishment movie from last year, I will subject myself to seven over the course of the last few months of 2015.


That's right, seven awful movies from 2014 because I... … … ...love...you...readers?

I don't know, actually.

ANYWAY, these will be starting this week along with other general content, and some will likely have to wait till after October, but fact is, things are moving again.

Also, got some work lined up over at MP as well as we move into the fall, so keep your eyes peeled.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The 2014 Post-Mortem Part 1b: Ye Olde Top Ten (part 2)

Last time at The Third Row.

Really, it's right there. I'm not gonna recap something that's not even a week old.

And now, the conclusion. Same rules as mentioned in the link apply.


"I'm good enough,
I'm smart enough,
and doggone it, people like me!"

-Nightcrawler

As I said with Gone Girl, this has been a good year for films that offer disturbing perspectives on us as a collective. Regarding how easily lead by the nose we as a group can be, Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler takes the idea that was woven into the larger story of Gone Girl and pulls it out to serve as its own horror here. While the idea of the 'perfect victim' is a part of this narrative as well, most overtly exemplified in a grim mental image Rene Russo invokes while explaining to Jake Gyllenhaal what sells in news media, it plays the 'type A from Hell' in an altogether different direction. Where Gone Girl's Amy is someone whose drive is largely focused towards the idea of playing and maintaining a role, Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom doesn't have any sort of appearances to keep up. His is a story of American exceptionalism and the idea of the self-made man as reflected through a darker lens. First turning to the idea of collecting footage from crime scenes as a better job than his gig stealing metal for money, Lou quickly embraces the venture. We then watch as his determination to be the best drives him to increasingly more unethical, dangerous, and illegal means. As everyone around him questions his actions, he remains steadfast and determined to keep advancing, no matter who he has to step on to get there.
As a first time effort for its director, it admittedly does sometimes lay out the moral too overtly, Still, that downside is well off-set by the phenomenal performance at the center of it, some sharp editing, and the pitch black heart of the story. While the telling rather than showing is a shame, the message is still a compelling one.


To get a suitably horrified reaction from Phoenix, Paul Thomas Anderson snuck in a square of paper on which he wrote a reminder to Phoenix that he starred in The Village.

-Inherent Vice

Oh, Paul Thomas Anderson, I've missed you. You aren't the most prolific of filmmakers, but damned if you don't make it worth the wait. Following the previous two hits of There Will Be Blood and The Master, he returns here with a new sort of ambition - taking on the challenge of adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel. The end result doesn't have the impact and isn't as visually stunning as his last two, but it's still a strong offering in its own right. Reuniting with Joaquin Phoenix - a man who I'm really growing to respect as an actor - he takes Pynchon's tale of hippies, infidelity, dentists and heroin dealers (really, you just need to see it for yourself to see how this all fits together) and actually manages to get it to the screen in a fairly coherent fashion, while earning the elusive author's blessing to boot. On top of which, it's nice to be reminded that both Anderson and Phoenix can be pretty damn funny with the right material. Anderson's certainly no stranger to comedy, but after the heaviness of his last few films, it's refreshing to see him returning to it here, especially with the talented cast he has along for the ride. It's the kind of comedy that works really well at delivering absurdity with a straight face, upping the humor in the process. There's a scene near the end of the film between Phoenix and Josh Brolin that is probably one of the single funniest moments of the movie, and the humor is almost entirely conveyed in their expressions in the scene- Brolin's stony stoicism and Phoenix's utterly gobsmacked disbelief play off each other to a great effect. On top of their, their dynamic throughout the movie leads to some fun interactions.
This is another one of those movies it feels strange to sum up in a single blurb (I'll actually be reviewing it in more detail over on Moar Powah! soon) but that's also because, really, it's one of those that needs to be seen to be fully believed. I could recount snippets and examples to try and sell you on it, but really, it's just a plunge to take on its own. It's definitely a weird one - particularly the blend of early 70s retro and noir - but that just further adds to the fact it will stay with you.
Hey, if nothing else, you'll get some great performances out of it.


"Just ignore them. The Harry Potter fans still give me grief over that role to this day. They're not mad at you."

-The Grand Budapest Hotel

I know it's an old cliche to say, but it's one I genuinely felt watching this movie:  "they don't make them like this anymore." I definitely felt the Wes Anderson coming off of this movie like the proverbial Shining, but I was also struck by something older at the core that, the more I thought of it, the more I realized is a rare breed now: this was an honest to God caper comedy. Like, more than the Anderson tics, I was genuinely amazed how at home this storyline would feel in a 60s or 70s screwball comedy, to the point where I felt like, had this been made back in the day, Ralph Fiennes's role would have gone to Peter Sellers. Which is a pretty damn impressive trick when you think about it. To be able to capture the feel of that sort of film that strongly without overtly trying to make it a throwback isn't something a lot of directors will do, and even fewer can do it well. Here, Anderson had a movie he pitched as just a very Anderson-styled comedy and in the process still managed to capture that older feel. Also, to Fiennes's credit, this is a welcome chance for him to show some range as an actor. Over the years, the man's been typecast pretty badly as all manner of ruthless and cold-blooded villains. Here, as protagonist M. Gustave, the man is an absolute scream as a bumbling, somewhat egotistical, but overall goodhearted cad. It speaks to the man that he manages to play this up while also still making him likable in all of his dysfunctional sides. Paired with Tony Revolori as his stoic but dedicated lobby boy, the two make for an unexpectedly enjoyable comedic team.
It's kind of a shame that, later this month, the movie Mortdecai is probably going to murder the reborn caper so shortly after this brought some life back to it. But at least we can still watch this and enjoy it all the same.


"See, honey? No monsters. Only a visibly traumatized 80s-era Kyle Maclachlan."

-The Babadook

Jennifer Kent, you have my attention. Last year had turned up some damn good up and comers in film, especially in horror. In writer-director Kent's debut, she aims for a wider scope than Gilroy's Nightcrawler, but her movie certainly isn't any lesser for that. If anything, the tighter focus of this movie is one of its big strengths. It has a decent number of players, but at its core, it's really only about three characters: Essie Davis as a widow and single mother still coping with her husband's death, Noah Wiseman as her well-meaning but troubled son who has sworn to protect his mother from monsters, and the titular monster. What follows is a well acted, tense thriller with an incredibly personal edge to it. That edge is a big part of what makes the movie work as well as it does: it's a story that can play at two different levels - taken as just the surface monster story, it's fairly strong, but it's also further added to by the more personal reading of the film as a story of guilt and coping. In this regard, Davis gives a Hell of a performance in this movie- her protagonist certainly loves her son, but, as we also see, can justifiably become quite frustrated with him. As the pressure from his behavior, paired with the threat of the Babadook itself, bear down on her, Davis gives the strain an uncomfortable realness. There are a few moments where she angrily snaps at her son that made me recoil a bit in the theater simply because it felt that real.
Which, for a movie that takes its name from a monster from a children's book, is one hell of an accomplishment. As a nice further bonus, this movie plays with one of my favorite things I don't see used in film nearly enough, and plays the unreliable narrator to a great extent. I went into this not fully sure what to expect from all the hype, but it delivered wonderfully. With this as her first time out, I'm genuinely curious to see what Kent has lined up in the future.


...Nah. I don't have the heart to riff this one.

-Life Itself

Watching this made it strange to realize just how (relatively) little time has passed since Roger Ebert died.
Just when it seemed like we could finally move on, this movie opened up the old wound, and despite that, I'm grateful it did.
Biographies are pretty standard material for a documentary. In order to stand out with that in mind, you need to either pick an interesting perspective or a strong subject to work with. In this case, filmmaker Steve James has both and combines them in a genuinely heartfelt tribute. Based on Ebert's own memoir, rather than simply acting as a biopic overall, this is both about the man's life-particularly the final months- and the people he lived it with. On the more 'biography' style end, this discusses his famous collaborations with people like Gene Siskel and Russ Meyer -the former of which leads to some interesting discussion on the nature of their now famous partnership that leaves one missing them both. This is cut with those final months, over the course of which we see Ebert with his family, friends, and loved ones as he first fought his cancer, and, as things turned, began to make preparations for the end. The result is equal parts heartwarming and sad, some of the scenes with his family are genuinely touching, while we also see some messages he wrote near the end that really made it clear just how much this fight had taken out of him. By the end of the movie, it's hard not to feel the loss of the man all over again. Even if you didn't know him too well before, this documentary paints such a vivid picture that it's very hard not to feel the loss even if it's just your first time learning who he was.
In the end, while his death is a big piece of the movie, like the title says, this is itself a celebration of the life the late Ebert led. Even after a year and a half, watching this makes it feel like it just happened. At the same time, it's not entirely a sad feeling. The man may be gone, but as this documentary showed, he leaves a loving family and a great legacy behind him.

All in all, not too bad a year.

As I said before, thanks to life and studio delays there are still some I'd meant to get to that are still in my queue, as well as a few runners-up I'll cover briefly.

Still to see:
-Selma (I can tell this is gonna eat at me later)
-Boyhood
-Only Lovers Left Alive
-Interstellar
-Force Majeure
-A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
-Citizenfour


Honorable mentions:
-The Lego Movie (this movie really shouldn't have been as fun as it is. But dammit, it was an infectiously fun ride.)
-Captain America: The Winter Soldier (I said it in the write-up at the time, I'll say it again here. Marvel as a baseline is pretty good. This is honestly one of those few times so far they've really gone above and beyond. And yes, I do still consider this to be the stronger Marvel movie of last year. Sorry, Guardians.)
-The Wind Rises (yeah, I still maintain it's one of Miyazaki's weaker movies, but it's still pretty watchable overall. I honestly didn't think it'd make the final cut, but I wanted to give it the salute here all the same.)
-Chef (apology for Iron Man 2 accepted, Mr. Favreau.)

That's one down.
Next comes the last of the Gundam write-ups.
Then I make myself pay for the fact this came late.

God, will I pay.

Till then.