Zombieland: Double Tap 2019 comedy, horror, adventure
Hard to believe the original Zombieland premiered ten years ago in 2009. It is way past time to review the famous Rules of Zombieland, so here we go again. Fans of the original Zombieland will be pleased by this sequel – it is a riot. The whole gang (Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock) is back together and, as usual, are well armed and ready for zombie combat. Along the way they pick up Madison (Zoey Deutch) who adds plenty of laughs and gets credit as the top banana in the flake department. True to character, the group travels on a cross country odyssey – this time to Graceland for a retro salute to Elvis Pressley, then on to Babylon – a liberal, hippie-type compound “full of love and understanding! And NO guns allowed.” If the movie has a message, it is this: The story expertly and hilariously trolls the anti-gun crowd, who promptly shit their pants when the Zombie mob arrives in Babylon. Once again the importance of the armed individual and self-defense become painfully obvious. So despite the violent slaughter, the movie delivers a rather wholesome message. Stay for the end credit scene! You won't regret it! This film had the whole cinema laughing throughout the movie! Catch it on the big screen while you still can.
Candyman 1992 horror
This is one of the stand-out horror movies of the decade; frightful, disturbing, intelligently made and without a screaming teen in sight. So just take my word and watch this flick, when in the mood for a scare. Suffice to say, it has a genuinely weird and evil villain, fast pace, jarring shocks, and a moody, dark score. Virginia Madsen is totally convincing as Helen, the damsel in distress. She is so good; in fact, you will remember her performance for days afterward. One reviewer complained that this flick made her kids have nightmares and it "dwells on the nasty things in life." I can think of no greater compliment for an adult horror movie. No dear, this is a film for grown up people. Put the kids to bed. You have been warned, gentle readers.
Pitch Black 2000 action adventure SF horror
While most monster movies pitting humans against horrendous extra-terrestrials end up being cheap imitations of Aliens, Pitch Black stands as a fine piece of Sci-Fi/Horror. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the film is the lighting. The movie camera captures many different colors, shades and intensities of light which set the mood and lend a distinctive feeling to the film. At first I thought something went haywire with my motel room TV. The visuals are quite different than the typical movie lighting. But why is this interesting? Because the desert-like planet where our gang has crash landed has not one, not two, but three suns. This is a key part of the plot. NO. SPOILERS. I was impressed with the excellent ensemble cast, and Vin Diesel, as anti-hero Riddick, expertly brings his troubled character to life, and avoids the routine portrayal of the hardened criminal. The supporting cast of B actors turn in solid performances, and although I knew most were doomed from the start, I was rooting for them to make it off the planet to safety. The special effects were more than adequate, but at the same time not the sole focus. The movie uses Science Fiction as a medium to tell an engaging, human story, rather than telling a mediocre story hiding behind flashy Sci-Fi FX.
Fearless Vampire Killers 1967 horror comedy
This movie has a dark, gothic atmosphere like a good Hammer vampire flick, but is tempered with plenty of goofy humor and silly characters. A comical Professor hunts vampires in snowbound Transylvania with his trusty young assistant, Alfred (a young Roman Polanski), but the hapless prof does not really know what to do once he finds Count Dracula and his army of vampires. This is also a rare opportunity to see what an astonishing beauty Sharon Tate was (Sharon Tate and Polanski were married soon after this movie). To know what happened to her afterward is heartbreaking. Favorite scene not to miss - the midnight vampire ball with Roman and Sharon dancing to haunting harpsichord music while surrounded by vampires.
Shadow of the Vampire 2000 horror suspense
Available on Prime Video
This is not your Anne-Rice or Buffy kind of vampire flick. Willem Dafoe is unforgettable as the original movie Vampire – Max Schreck. Schreck is a walking, talking monster. For those interested in horror/ suspense genre, silent films, films about films, vampires, or cinema pioneer F.W. Murnau; this is the movie for you. Mr. Malkovich, as maverick director F.W. Murnau, takes the role to the absolute Dictatorial Level. Most of the characters are unlikeable except Greta (Catherine McCormick). No spoilers, but she is so delicious, Max wants to eat her alive. Some of the scenes are disturbing, especially the ending, but, this is after all a horror flick. So what did you expect?
Riding the Bullet 2004 horror drama psycho-thriller
Available on Prime Video
This is a solid story from the twisted mind of Stephen King. The overlooked film is not near as famous as his big hits Carrie, The Shining, Christine, and Green Mile, but is worth the search. The storyline has many of the recurring themes that are in several King books and movies: The troubled teen with a touch of schizoid, family tragedies that tend to repeat over generations, demons from the supernatural world, death and guilt. Unknown actor Jonathan Jackson delivers a fine performance in the lead role. I've read mostly mixed reviews on this underrated flick, but found it to be one of the more enjoyable (and less gory) horror films of the last few years.
Vice 2018 drama biography
Available on Prime Video
Full disclaimer – Being a hard-core Independent, I was quick to detect a left-wing bias in the storytelling, but it was not offensive. I recommend this film regardless of your politics because the war drums beat constantly, and it is important to know how and why the War Propaganda machine works in America. The movie skewers the Republican War Party wing, of which Dick Cheney was one of the kingpins. I don't need to remind you about the unjustified, wasteful, and disastrous war in Iraq, for which Cheney strongly advocated using a fake casus belli (WMD). But, to be fair, don’t forget the many Democrats who voted for the Iraq war (Clinton, Biden, et al). Now back to the movie…
The ensemble cast and the acting in this film is world class. Amy Adams can do no wrong, and she is terrific playing Lynne Cheney. Sam Rockwell nails the role of dufuss Bush Jr, and Steve Carell has a commanding turn as “Rummy” Rumsfeld. As much as this movie paints Cheney (Christian Bale) as a villain, the writer/director still gave him depth by showing compassionate family moments, and struggles with his cardio health problems. You really get to see how this man ticks. Some wonks have claimed that Cheney became the most powerful VP in U.S. history. I am not at all sure about the accuracy of that claim, but the story is all the more interesting having lived it.
Unfortunately this week's movie is not streamable, but is available at your local theater.
Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood 2019 drama, comedy
I’m not a big fan of Tarantino and have skipped most of his recent flicks. But I really enjoyed this new QT film. Set in Hollywood in 1969, there’s a lot going on in this film: it is by turns a buddy film; a fun look behind the Hollywood curtains to see movie-makers in action; a love letter to the 1960’s especially the cars and music; a man struggling with his mid-life crisis, a culture clash with the very dark side of the rebellious youth (hippies), the perfect amount of comic relief; and overall there is intense attention to detail and historical accuracy (except the ending. No. Spoilers). The lead characters Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a B-movie actor while Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is a stuntman. Rick and Cliff have the best screen chemistry I have seen in many years. The two characters are interesting, honest and likable. I will not rehash the storytelling – go see it for yourself on the big screen. But I will mention a few of my favorite scenes: Rick (badly hungover) in wardrobe being told about his outlandish cowboy costume (1869 meets 1969!); Rick being schooled about acting by an 8 year old girl; Cliff’s sparring match with Bruce Lee; all the TV show clips; Sharon Tate dancing the night away at the Playboy Mansion, Cliff’s visit to the creepy, sinister Spahn Ranch (hangout for the Manson gang); the flame thrower; and finally Cliff’s dog (a big pit bull) attacking drug-crazed hippies.
I highly recommend this film, simply as well-crafted grown-up entertainment that does not go out of its way to insult the intelligence, race, or moral sensibilities of its overwhelmingly white audience.
Netflix round-up for August:
Who has not seen Rocky and Groundhog Day? If not, WTF are you waiting for? You can catch these two classic films on Netflix. My favorite binge watch for August was The Sinner Season 2. I look forward to season 3.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? 2018 drama, crime, biography
Here’s an overrated movie for those “woke” film fans that need to get in an LBGTQSF flick to complete their useless “best movie” list. Lee Israel, the main character, was a mean, nasty, selfish lesbian author. As her writing career declined, she committed fraud by selling fake letters. She also stole, and peddled, genuine letters from a library. Richard E. Grant has a more interesting role as the gay hustler who sponges off her, and ultimately becomes an accomplice in her schemes. Yet the essential stupidity and weakness of his character presents a great comical scene when the cops close in, and he quickly sings-like-a-bird to save his own neck. This is a simple flick with two main characters for which a (normal) audience can feel no sympathy or connection. The most interesting thing about this flick were the scenes shot in the venerable Argosy Book Store in NYC, but believe me, this is not a big scene movie. I watched this movie while trapped on a verrry long transatlantic flight, and missed nothing with the smallish screen. Only suckers paid heavy to see this forgettable flick on the big screen. If Forgive Me sounds like your kind of movie, you have blundered into the wrong website. Streaming on HBO this weekend. Recommended only for diehard Melissa McCarthy fans.
Modern Romance 1981 comedy romance
Available for streaming on Prime Video
The theme of this film is timeless: People fall in love, emotions run high and sometimes jealousy becomes a big problem. Robert (Albert Brooks) and Mary (Kathryn Harrold) have a roller coaster relationship. Mary is a knockout. She is also a successful executive. Robert has frequent attacks of jealousy because, quite frankly, she is out of his league. To paraphrase Philip Marlowe (Mr. Chandler); She is so pretty, a guy has to wear brass knuckles every time he takes her out. Robert goes off the deep end and the romance part of the movie tends to get a bit tiresome. But for no other reason, see the movie within a movie that Robert and Jay (Bruno Kirby) are editing. The exchanges with the director, star actor- George Kennedy, and the sound mix crew were the funniest scenes and had the best lines. Brooks and Bruno Kirby make a great comedy duo, especially in the Screaming Hulk scene – it is Comedy Gold.