[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 11 – Tusk (2014)

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: Kevin Smith

102 mins. Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

When people ask filmmakers and storytellers where they get their ideas, I would imagine they rarely say, “from a podcast.” Well, that’s what happened to writer/director Kevin Smith (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Holidays). On his Smodcast show with Scott Mosier, the idea percolated throughout episode 259 until they came to the story that became Tusk, the first film in Smith’s planned Canada Trilogy.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard, Frank & Lola) is a host of the podcast The Not-See Party with best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense, Almost Friends). Wallace plans to travel to Canada to interview the famous “Kill Bill” Kid, but when that plan falls through, Wallace finds another potential story at the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks, Kill Bill vol. 2, Django Unchained), an elderly man with a very interesting past and a loneliness for someone to bestow his tale upon. But Wallace quickly finds that he is in for more than mere stories when he is drugged by Howe and awakens with a few body improvements. Now, Teddy and Ally (Genesis Rodriguez, Big Hero 6, TV’s Dame Chocolate), Wallace’s girlfriend, must travel to the great north to find him with the help of famous inspector Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

Tusk is a rather odd film. It appears on the surface to be a satirical take on the Body Horror Subgenre of films, but Smith plays it completely straight. Almost too straight in fact, as I didn’t find myself connecting to the characters in an interesting or emotional way. Smith’s famous dialogue is rather absent as Wallace, Teddy, and Ally are all flawed in a way that makes them too unlikable. The plot runs its course rather easily, but there is still fun to be had here. It just isn’t as blatant.

That being said, Michael Parks is excellent. The late great actor is a thespian of the odd and extreme, and he plays Howard perfectly. The scenes featuring him are the best in the film. I also loved Johnny Depp having a little bit of fun and not playing the same character that we’ve seen numerous times. It’s great seeing his push the envelope of LaPointe to strange new avenues, and I look forward to seeing how he is further developed in the concluding chapters of this trilogy.

The trilogy idea is rather fun as well, and Smith has already pushed on with Yoga Hosers with word on Moose Jaws unknown at the moment. It’s clear that Smith is interested in making his films for him and I can respect that. It just might not be all that lucrative.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Happy 5th Birthday!] Sucker Punch (2011)

 

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya

110 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

 

Wow, I remember being very excited for Sucker Punch five years ago. I really enjoyed Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, both directed by Zack Snyder (300, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and I couldn’t wait to see what the visual director was going to bring next. Sucker Punch had the right amount of mystery and confidence to carry it for me. Then, it came out. My mind quickly changed. Looking back now, I decided to revisit Sucker Punch five years later to see if it had changed.

Sucker Punch is another one of those movies impossible to fully describe in a paragraph, so I’ll try to make it as easy as possible. Babydoll (Emily Browning, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Legend) has just lost her mother, and her step-father has sent her to an asylum for the mentally ill, which Babydoll sees as a brothel. She meets others there, like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish,  Limitless, RoboCop) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone, Contact, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2), and she is introduced to Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), who makes Babydoll and her friends dance at his club. Not wanting to deal with the cards dealt, Babydoll escapes into a fantasy world where she battles Nazi Zombies, Robot Samurai, and of course, a dragon, all the time attempting to get tools to plot her escape.

If there are two truly great things that came out of Sucker Punch, they are the visuals and the music. This movie is gorgeous looking, and I don’t just mean the talent in front of the camera. Zack Snyder’s constant flair for the screen  is again impressive here. The score and soundtrack, both in the original renditions and songs selected to fit the film, are incredible and rhythmic and a lot of fun. That is where the wins for Sucker Punch end.

I’m not even going to touch on the misogynistic feel of the overall film. The movie just wants to be better than it is. I didn’t feel the emotional impact of much of the film because I knew that what I was seeing was not exactly what was really happening. It isn’t very easy to make a popcorn movie with explosions and scantily-clad woman battling monsters into a total snoozer, but Sucker Punch did just that. Honestly, when I read down the list of components of this film, it should be great, but the poor screenplay from Snyder and Steve Shibuya shines through this film, ultimately making a disappointment.

The film is star studded, also including Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, Bad Johnson), Carla Gugino (Night at the Museum, San Andreas), Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men, Minions), and Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs, The Barber), but unfortunately, the film feels overdone and undercooked, a beautifully confusing mess, a nicely mixed cocktail that tastes like mud. I really wanted to love Sucker Punch, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Longest Yard (2005)

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Director: Peter Segal

Cast: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, James Cromwell, Nelly, William Fichter, David Patrick Kelly, Tracy Morgan, Cloris Leachman, Burt Reynolds

Screenplay: Sheldon Turner

113 mins. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, violence, language and drug references.

 

I think The Longest Yard was an interesting choice for a remake. Technically, my rule on remakes is that one should remake a film if it has faded into obscurity or not succeeded in making a noteworthy film to begin with. I know that the original film The Longest Yard was somewhat successful upon first release, but by 2005, it wasn’t a talked about film.

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The Longest Yard is the story of Paul Crewe (Adam Sandler, Grown Ups, The Cobbler), a washed-up ex-professional football player who has just been imprisoned. There, he is offered the chance to earn some brownie points and possible early parole by Warden Hazen (James Cromwell, The Green Mile, Big Hero 6). All he has to do is recruit a team of convicts to play a game of football against the guards. Paul makes nice with Caretaker (Chris Rock, Head of State, Top Five) and an older coach, Nate Scarborough (Burt Reynolds, Boogie Nights, Delgo) and proceeds to turn a rough-hewn group of criminals into a well-oiled footballing machine in this remake from Peter Segal (50 First Dates, Grudge Match).

The biggest fault of The Longest Yard is the aging process for an Adam Sandler movie. Adam Sandler’s films, with a few notable exceptions, do not age like a fine wine, but rather an open beer bottle. The jokes become less enjoyable as time goes on, and they start to turn from funny to annoying. There are still some hits that work, but ultimately, I groaned more than giggled. I surprisingly enjoyed Chris Rock’s performance as Caretaker, and unsurprisingly I had fun watching James Cromwell and Burt Reynolds let loose.

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Peter Segal isn’t the kind of director to thrill, but I thought he handled the action scenes during the football game pretty well. Ultimately, however, the film felt tame, having a lot less grit than its predecessor. I found it enjoyable enough for one viewing, but after another ten years, I don’t think I could do it again.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

Screenplay: Frank Miller

102 mins. Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.

 

Sin City is back and at it again with four new tales of brutality and violence.

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In “Just Another Saturday Night”, Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals) wakes up with little memory of last night’s events and tries to piece it all back together. In “The Long Bad Night”, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, The Wind Rises), a gambler on a winning streak, attempts to win it all from Senator Roark (TV’s Nashville, The Avengers), at any cost. In “A Dame to Kill For”, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, W., Inherent Vice) gets involved with former flame Ava (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale) who is in deep with the wrong people. Finally, in “Nancy’s Last Dance”, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) is still reeling from the loss of her beloved Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) and wants revenge of the men who caused his death.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original film. The story selection here is a lot of similar fare. Still, it is a gorgeous looking piece of noir cinema. “Just Another Saturday Night” is a great, albeit short, character piece that brings back fan favorite Marv, who appears a lot in this collection. “The Long Bad Night” is mostly entertaining even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I don’t agree with the decision to cut the story in two halves which appear separately in the film. “A Dame to Kill For” isn’t the least worthy piece in the film, but it doesn’t have the strength it should and doesn’t make the connection to the original film it should. Finally, “Nancy’s Last Dance” feels like it is missing something. All in all, these stories  are mostly entertaining, but they don’t weave like they should.

The performances are mostly awesome, with notable exceptions being Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, 7500) taking over as Miho and Jeremy Piven (TV’s Entourage, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) as Bob. Both characters were previously played by Devon Aoki and Michael Madsen, and the originals were much better. Dennis Haysbert (TV’s 24, Dead Rising: Watchtower), on the other hand, takes over for deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute and does well at giving the character something new while not forgetting the work put in by his predecessor.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For looks great and feels good, and while not being as powerful as the original film, it is still a ton of fun.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, click here.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

102 mins. Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

After tragedy strikes and takes everything Hiro (Ryan Potter) thought he’d never lose, he befriends Baymax (Scott Adsit, TV’s 30 Rock, St. Vincent), a robotic caregiver built by his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand), and the two set out to find an invention of Hiro’s that has been stolen to be used for evil. Along the way, Hiro gets help from a ragtag group of nerdy geniuses that would soon come to be known as Big Hero 6 in the newest Disney animated feature from directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.

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Baymax is 2014’s answer to Frozen’s Olaf. He is a lovable and sweet companion who is challenged in his quest to heal others by Hiro’s wanting of vengeance against those who wronged him. Young Ryan Potter does great work as Hiro, and he gets great help from veteran voice workers like T.J. Miller (How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Alan Tudyk (TV’s Suburgatory, I,Robot). I do wish the supporting characters weren’t just relegated to minimal development based around the tech they are currently working on, and I hope that if this becomes the first Marvel-Disney franchise that these superheroes are further developed. The world of San Fransokyo is pretty cool though, taking cues from anime masterpieces like Akira.

Big Hero 6 isn’t Frozen even at its best, though I am happy to see a Disney film willing to deal with death. Although I don’t think they should’ve danced around the subject so much, always referring to the deceased as “gone” when they should take the high route and understand that kids can handle it.

The visual style is neat and it presents a pretty great number of action set pieces for our heroes to defend their beloved city, and it just looks good.

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Big Hero 6 is one of the more enjoyable films of 2014, but it has a lull to it around the second act. Even though it is a Marvel property, it tends to borrow a bit too much from previous Marvel fare like Iron Man instead of drudging a new route. There is a fun post-credits scene, so wait around for that. Big Hero 6 should satisfy parental units as well as kids thought, which is a tough feat to make.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

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Director: Luke Greenfield

Cast: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key

Screenplay: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas

104 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use.

 

When an actor tries to make that jump from television to film, it’s a big deal. The transition can go three different ways. 1) Success: the actor creates a film career practically overnight, or 2) Failure: the actor can lose all chances of a film career, but will at least exist on the small screen, 3) Super Failure: the actor loses his television career in the process. I’m hoping Jake Johnson (TV’s New Girl, Neighbors) is only #2.

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Let’s Be Cops stars Johnson as Ryan, a guy who had all the chances after high school, but who never really took off the way he thought. The same is true of his friend Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr., TV’s Happy Endings, Big Hero 6). Yeah, seriously the same character practically. When the two come across some truly lifelike cop costumes for what they think is a costume party, they decide to just pretend they are cops, which gets them into deep doo-doo when they get involved in a major drug crime in this new film from director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed).

This film’s tone is all over the place. It tries too hard to be a comedy when it should be serious, and it comes off as too serious when it tries to be a comedy. These main characters are all so flat and similar that I wasn’t interested at all. I liked Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street, Dumb and Dumber To) as fellow real cop Segars. He was a nice infusion of actual comedy.

Johnson and Wayans are both funny when they get the chance to shine, but Greenfield’s script with Nicholas Thomas is riddled with unfunny moments throughout.

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I started out liking Let’s Be Cops, but soon it became a film with somewhat unlikable and terribly underwritten characters just kind of doing things in front of the camera. It’s a shame because I really like Jake Johnson and I want to see his career continue. Fingers crossed that everyone else finds this film as forgettable as I did.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Have you seen Let’s Be Cops? What did you think? Was it an undercover success or a Super Failure? Let me know!

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

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Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Titus Welliver, Bingbing Li, T.J. Miller

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

165 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language and brief innuendo.

 

It has been seven years since Transformers came out. I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing a review of the fourth film in this series, Transformers: Age of Extinction. This film is a bit of a departure in that it takes place five years after The Battle of Chicago, as it is referred to (which took place in Dark of the Moon) and features an entirely new cast of characters. Literally, nobody returns to this franchise for the fourth film except some of the voice actors for the Transformers.

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This installment introduces us to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, Ted 2), a novice inventor, and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz, TV’s Bates Motel, The Last Airbender). Cade is a picker who scavenges for parts to use in his various inventions. He and his assistant Lucas (T.J. Miller, Cloverfield, Big Hero 6) come across a truck in an old abandoned theater and take it home to discover it is Optimus Prime in hiding. A government official named Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, TV’s Cheers, The Expendables 3) has hired a human hitman (Titus Welliver, The Town, Promised Land) and a bounty hunter Decepticon named Lockdown to hunt down and destroy the remaining Transformers. Meanwhile, a big-time business named Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, The Hunger Games, Muppets Most Wanted) is developing new technology incorporating Autobot tech and using it to build his own Transformers.

The plot is at least a new direction for this series. I was getting tired of the limited character development of Shia LaBeouf. This film isn’t great, but it certainly epitomizes the Michael Bay promise: likable trash. I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It just felt newer, and it had a lot more in terms of acting prowess (from Wahlberg, Tucci, Grammer, and Miller). The plot runs on for damn near forever, but I’ve come to expect that from this series and I didn’t feel as restless as I had from the last few movies.

I also absolutely love the design of the new Transformers in this installment. Hound (voiced by John Goodman) is a new Autobot who plays off like an old army colonel. He is an absolutely fantastic and angry beast who actually transforms to have a cigar in his mouth, too. Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) is a samurai who has blades that come from his transformation into an Apache helicopter. The faces are so well-defined that this is the first Transformers movie where I know all the Transformers based on looks. These are different characters.

And then there’s Lockdown. This is a complex character who is joining the US government to take on the Autobots and also has plans of his own.

I enjoyed this movie more so than I thought, and perhaps that comes from hearing all these bad reviews coming out of this movie’s initial release. I guess I had my hopes down.

One major flaw came from Galvatron, who is one of the new lead villains, a man-made Decepticon who feels so underdeveloped that it becomes really tough to fear him.

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All in all, this was more fun than expected. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, because you will be here awhile, and non-Transformers fans need not apply.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction? Did it transform into a masterpiece or did you “Roll Out” of the theater? Let me know!

 

For my review of Transformers, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, click here.

For my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, click here.

November 2014 Preview

We’ve been to this part before. I have not seen any of the films we are going to discuss today. I merely feel as though you should be aware of what will be coming to theaters this month. I am pretty good at assessing possible wins and likely failures in the film business. So here we go. Hold onto something.

 

 

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Interstellar

I love Christopher Nolan. Apart from Insomnia, I have found each of his works to be utterly powerful pieces of film. His genres usually stick to the darkness and the fantastic, and perhaps just as much in his new film Interstellar. It is about a team of explorers who go through a wormhole looking for a suitable planet to replace Earth. Now, the basic idea here sees simplistic, but it offers up a lot of avenues to move the plot along. The sci-fi community has been freaking out about this movie and I have to agree with them. I’m already hearing some early Oscar buzz for this one.

 

 

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Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 might not sound like a big property (to be honest, I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it on Disney’s upcoming slate and decided to look into it. It is actually based on a Marvel property recently acquired by Disney’s banner in their major merger. It will not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but instead will be an animated adventure from the creators of Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. I know the plot involves a future city known as San Fransokyo and a young robotic wiz named Hiro and his robot friend Baymax (this year’s Olaf) fighting crime with a group of inexperienced heroes. It sounds like a lot of fun, a more family friendly version of The Avengers with undertones of Disney animation tropes that made Frozen so much fun last year.

 

 

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Jessabelle

Jessie is a woman who just lost her husband in a car accident and now she has gone home to Lousiana, where a spirit waits who wants her dead. I like Kevin Greutert, the film’s director. I liked what he did with Saw VI and as an editor on previous horror films. That being said, he hasn’t had a whole lot of wing-spreading and I fear that he hasn’t proven himself. This film looks good in trailers and poster work, but I’m feeling a vibe akin to The Grudge a little too much here and that doesn’t bode well.

 

 

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Beyond the Lights

Movies like Beyond the Lights, about a woman who has become a singing sensation falling for a cop who wants a spot in political office and can help her get her voice back, all sound the same, and oftentimes, they are. I will say little more on this except that your girlfriend may drag you to this, and if she does, go. Don’t expect this movie to be good, though. Dream of better films in the next theater and maybe sneak away to one of them when you “go for more popcorn.”

 

 

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Dumb and Dumber To

Man, I really want to like this movie. I loved the original Dumb and Dumber as I’m sure you do. I happen to think that 1994 was the greatest year in motion picture history, and I think Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels have tremendous chemistry together. The first trailer didn’t give me much hope except that I’m hoping the best parts are not in it. That would be refreshing. Here’s my advice: See the movie because it is going to be a big release. Do not expect it to be better than Dumb and Dumber. Do not expect it to be as good as Dumb and Dumber even. Just be happy it won’t be the shit-storm Dumb and Dumberer was. See, there is a silver lining.

 

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

So, we are at the third Hunger Games movie. I really liked the first installment and I absolutely adored the second film. Returning director Francis Lawrence doesn’t always pick the right properties (Jonah Hex) but when he does, he can do some magical work. He did it with Catching Fire and I think that trend will continue in Mockingjay, where Katniss Everdeen brings her war with President Snow to the forefront after destroying his Games forever. I liked the third book (a lot of fans did not) so I expect that is where the dividing line will be drawn here.

 

 

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Horrible Bosses 2

Comedy sequels are not easy. Far too often we get a Hangover Part II when we deserve an Anchorman II. What I like about Horrible Bosses 2 is that, from the information I have gleaned, it appears that this film will respect the storyline of the first but depart in a whole different way with new interesting characters played by great new actors. I won’t be seeing this film in theaters because I don’t trust comedies there, but I think it will be some solid fun.

 

 

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Penguins of Madagascar

Nope. Nope. No. Not gonna happen. The Madagascar movies were getting stale right around the time the first one came out. Now we get a spin-off already ruined by truly disappointing cartoon series that has tread this territory before and not lightly. Skip it. Worth a rent, sometimes these spin-off can work magic, but not often.

 

 

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Paddington

It is interesting when a film like Paddington gets behind-the-scenes  troubles, like original voice Colin Firth dropping out unexpectedly just months before the film’s release. A bear from Peru gets taken in by the Brown family from London and discovers that life isn’t what he thought it would be. Simple enough, it looks cute and I suspect a winner, but I’m not guaranteeing anything.

 

So there it is. Here’s a tally:

 

Best Bets: Interstellar, Big Hero 6, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Likely Misses: Beyond the Lights, Penguins of Madagascar

On the Bubble: Jessabelle, Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2, Paddington

 

As before, these are but tools. Use them at your own will. Let me know your thoughts as well, and what November 2014 film are you most looking forward to?

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