[Stephen King Day] The Mangler (1995)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor

Screenplay: Tobe Hooper, Stephen David Brooks, Harry Alan Towers

106 mins. Rated R for gory horror violence and language.

 

I always had a fondness for the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mangler, a strange film about a possessed laundry-folding machine, so I took a chance to revisit the film this year in honor of Stephen King’s birthday. In hindsight, I wish I had kept this one buried in my memory.

The laundry press at Gartley’s Blue Ribbon Laundry service has been acting funky. First of all, a woman named Sherry, niece to owner Bill Gartley (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightworld: Door of Hell), cuts her finger on a lever, and later that same day, the machine goes haywire and traps Mrs. Frawley, an older worker, in its safety shield, dragging her through the machine, crushing her body in the process. John Hunton (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and his brother-in-law Mark (Daniel Matmor, Hit It, A Dark Truth) are on the case, investigating the accident, but what they discover is more horrifying than any normal work-related problem. The laundry press is possessed by a demon, and it’s out for more blood.

The Mangler is not a good movie, and at 106 minutes, it’s quite a slog of a movie. This was one difficult sit-through that I did not remember or expect. I recall more recently reading the short story from King, and the added mythology and plot in this adaptation don’t add much of merit to the film. In fact, having really liked King’s story, which, like so many, offered an EC comics or Twilight Zone-style to them, would have made a great movie in the right hands, but it seems now that Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) was not the right person for this job. There’s so many strange changes made to the story that benefit neither the adaptation nor the overall feeling and tone of the movie.

Robert Englund is horribly miscast, appearing almost like a version of Freddy Krueger that had survived to old age. He brings a nose-twisting grossness and annoyance to Gartley, but then you have Levine, who struggles with some of the more cringe-worthy dialogue here (he starts swearing at a possessed ice box as one point in an absurdly laughable moment taking itself too seriously).

There are several times in the film that something interesting comes up, and it almost seems that Hooper is righting the ship, only for it to devolve into a wholly unlikable mess. I really liked the setting mostly being placed at the Blue Ribbon Laundry, and I think the setting is hyper-unclean in a way that I would have been able to believe. I really like the production design and the overall look of the laundry press. I even kind of the dug the finale, though it has aged very poorly, but even after all that, the film sort of limbers on past the point of my minor enjoyment.

The Mangler was advertised as the product of King, Hooper, and Englund, three horror geniuses, but I doubt anyone involved in this film would have been happy to have their name associated in such a way, especially King, who wrote a solid if somewhat absurd short story but had no hand in the film. This is one of those adaptations I would caution even King fans to shy away from. You have better things to be doing…like the laundry, for example.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

Jurassic World Short Film Set to Premiere on FX Sunday?

[SPOILER WARNING for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom]

In a surprise announcement from Colin Trevorrow, a new short film titled Battle at Big Rock is set to premiere on FX this weekend. The short film is set within the world of the Jurassic Park franchise, set after the events of Fallen Kingdom.

As you may recall, that film ended with dinosaurs being released into our world, and the announcement of Battle at Big Rock would seemingly follow-up on that reveal. The poster Trevorrow revealed seemed to indicate a zoo or wildlife refuge sign stating “Do Not Feed Wildlife.” Collider reportedly spoke to Trevorrow who revealed that the short film will be set just after Fallen Kingdom at the Big Rock National Park nearby. Trevorrow directed Jurassic World and will be helming the untitled Jurassic World 3.

This is surprising news, and if I am correct, it seems like this is the mystery project that was set to premiere with the Hobbs & Shaw theatrical release. Not much is known about the project, but it is intriguing to say the least. I am very excited to see what is unveiled when the film shows on FX, and I hope it sets things in motion for the next film in the series.

So what do you think? Is this a smart move for the studio and Trevorrow, and what do you want to see in the new short? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

Screenplay: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Nicole Perlman

104 mins. Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.

 

After decades of waiting, a live-action Pokemon movie exists, and it follows Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town as he…wait? It doesn’t? Then who’s it about? Detective Pikachu? Seriously? Okay, let’s start this one again.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, Paper Towns, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) works in the high-stakes world of insurance, and he has no interest in being a Pokemon trainer, but when Tim learns of his father’s death, he goes to Ryme City to settle things. When Tim arrives at his father’s apartment, he comes across a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool, The Croods) sporting detective wear and claiming to belong to Harry, Tim’s father. The crazy thing is that he and the Pikachu completely understand each other as if they’re speaking the same language. Pikachu wants to solve the case of Harry’s possible murder, but he has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything. The two unlikely heroes join forces to find the culprits, and their search brings them to a conspiracy neither one ever expected.

I was really disappointed to hear that the first live-action Pokemon movie would be a Detective Pikachu movie, mostly because there was so much material to be mined in the Pokemon Universe, and choosing to focus on a game that was largely unreleased in North America until recently seemed like a really odd choice. Then, I heard Ryan Reynolds was voicing Pikachu and I got really concerned. It seemed to me like this whole franchise was coming together in a really bad way. Then, the poster looked okay. Then, the trailer looked silly, but it also looked like fun, so I became increasingly excited about the prospect of a Detective Pikachu movie, but there was still that lingering confusion as to the narrative purpose of a Detective Pikachu movie. It was only after seeing the film that I got it. There is a very important narrative purpose to this movie, and while I still would have like to see a straight-forward Pokemon adventure, Detective Pikachu is a great introductory course for Pokemon fans, and it has the potential to bring in a lot of new fans.

For the most part, Ryan Reynold’s voice work is pretty solid for him and the writing gives him a lot to play with. His chemistry as a CG-character actually melded pretty well with Justice Smith’s Tim. Their central relationship is the reason for watching the movie, as many of the secondary characters serve a purpose to that central relationship but little else.

Director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Goosebumps) injected a lot of little references and visually appealing fan moments into the movie. I had some concern about the use of legendary characters like Mewtwo in this movie, and how they would be incorporated in an interesting way, and overall, it was mostly done with care. Again, the whole Mewtwo has a purpose in the film and a narrative reason to appear, albeit a thin one. What’s great is that, even with Mewtwo, his lore from the animated films and games appears to be intact and built into the character’s past. That’s one of reasons that I couldn’t look away from the screen during the movie. I have been a Pokemon fan since it hit stateside, and I was glued to the screen for every little CG critter to show up.

The biggest flaw of the film is that it caters to one demographic age range, which was a silly choice. This is a kid’s movie, and before you say DUH! I want to say that Pokemon, as a franchise is now multi-generational, much like the Toy Story movies. Kids who grew up with Pokemon when it started are not adults with their very own children, and if Detective Pikachu aimed their narrative at both kids and adults, it would have been more successful. I had a lot of fun watching, but the plotting was a little simplistic and I put it together rather easily. The final turn of the film surprised me a bit, and it was a good little hook to the narrative, but the overarching plotline was rather simplistic. Too much so.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu now holds the distinction of being the best video game movie ever, at least from a critical viewpoint, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s the kind of movie that Pokemon fans will like and non-Pokemon fans can at least understand. It’s plot is a little too rudimentary, but the central comradery between Pikachu and Tim is strong enough to carry, and it has plenty of cute little monsters to keep the spectacle alive.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my theory involving Detective Pikachu’s connection to Home Alone, click here.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Director: Mike Mitchell

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

106 mins. Rated PG for some rude humor.

 

Do you remember when Everything was Awesome back in 2014 when The Lego Movie surprised everyone by actually being great? Remember how it got completely snubbed at the Oscars causing complete and utter outcry and sadness? Remember Pepperidge Farm? I remember.

It’s been five years since Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) saved everyone by defeating the evil Lord Business on Taco Tuesday. Unfortunately for Emmet, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, The Happytime Murders), and the others, that victory only made way for the invasion of the Duplos, frightening beings from the Systar System. Now, Everything is Not Awesome, and Bricksburg has become the bleak and dark and brooding Apocalypseburg. Emmet has tried to make the best of it by staying positive, but his happiness is tested when the sinister General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz, Short Term 12, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) kidnaps Lucy and the others and takes to them to the Systar System to meet with Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip, Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History) for a royal wedding. Emmet has to join up with the dangerous and strong Rex Dangervest (also Pratt in a dual-role) in order to have a chance at saving them and avoiding “Our-Mom-Ageddon” in the process.

The Lego Movie 2 sets itself up nicely as a direct sequel to the original film and even a follow-up to The Lego Batman Movie, but it’s clear that this sequel is missing the boat a bit in terms of its ability to ignite fire in its story. It comes right out and states that this is set 5 years after the events of The Lego Movie, but it doesn’t feel like anything fresh has been conjured in those five years. While the events, scenarios, and overall message of this sequel, there’s just something in the film that doesn’t work as well, as though director Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Trolls) is struggling to be Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of the previous film.

Lord and Miller have crafted the screenplay here, and that’s why the overall arc of the film works, including some of the third-act twists and turns. I was surprised at myself for not getting where the film was going as it went, and I think that upped my overall enjoyment of the film. I found the screenplay’s meta-humor broadened even more so with the original film’s revelation that the Lego world is a representation of what is happening in the real world. Lord and Miller are able to use that to craft a lot of interesting humor between the real world and the Lego world that works nicely to bridge the two films.

The voice-work is pretty solid here, especially from newcomers Haddish and Beatriz. Haddish takes a lot of the heavy lifting as Wa’Nabi, and she holds her own in several musical numbers. With their inclusion, though, I felt the loss of Benny (Charlie Day, Hotel Artemis, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman, Bad Times at the El Royale, TV’s Parks and Recreation), and Unikitty (Alison Brie, The Post, TV’s Community), who are all relegated to tertiary-level characters in the sequel.

I think it was a bad call for Warner Bros to move the release date of this sequel to accommodate The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. It separates this sequel from its predecessor in a way that kind of hurts it for people that haven’t watched the original recently. The Lego Movie 2 is perfectly fine and, at times, brilliant, but it mostly stands in the shadow of The Lego Movie, always being fun but never rising up to the level of its predecessor. I still found myself enjoying it, but it’s a step down.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie, click here.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

I think a lot of people would say, when Jurassic World came out back in 2015, that it was the best film in the series since the original. That may be true. What’s also true is that it was the safest choice to make by following very closely the trajectory of the original film. That’s not really the case with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom picks up some time after the events of Jurassic World. The park is closed and deserted. Dinosaurs roam free. But people haven’t forgotten about Isla Nublar. There are groups of dinosaur rights activists, one of which is led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, Gold) who are trying to protect these precious species. When Claire is given the opportunity to work with a team on the island to save these creatures from certain destruction at the hands of the island’s no-longer-dormant volcano, which is set to erupt, she goes to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie) for help. With a team assembled, they head back to the island in hopes of saving these creatures, but there’s a much more nefarious reason for this expedition.

Fallen Kingdom got a lot of hate this year for a film that performed so well at the box office. I got married the week it was released so I didn’t actually catch it until it hit home video. This means I was able to temper my expectations, which were high considering that it was directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls), a highly-skilled director with a particularly good eye for horror.

What’s great about the choice of Bayona as director is what he brings to the second half of the film. I won’t delve into spoilery territories but there are elements to the back half that are reminiscent of a horror film. And this is really a film of two halves.

The first half of Fallen Kingdom boils down to a standard sequel to Jurassic World. In fact, it’s a plot point hinted at since the original Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton that a dormant volcano lies at the center of the island. The second half of the film is ballsy and ambitious. Does the second half work? Some of it did for me. I’ve heard criticisms about the final moments of the film and yes, I agree, they are infuriating for how they play out, but I get it given the character development we’ve seen from these people over the course of two films.

The biggest issue that rises up from me is some of the timing inconsistencies in the film. The opening literally has characters talking about a dinosaur that should be dead by now that are not, and then there are moments brought up later on that do not confirm this timeline. Even co-screenwriter Colin Trevorrow’s answer to the mystery of how much time has passed makes it seem like he really didn’t put much thought or care into the decision of setting the film at a specific distance from Jurassic World.

I think that Fallen Kingdom puts the characters from Jurassic World to better use in a more interesting narrative. Claire is more accessible and, in a lot of ways, this is more her movie whereas the previous film is more Owen-centric.

Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a really ambitious installment of the franchise, and while I don’t think it really works as well as it should, I found myself engaged with the plot of both halves of the film, and I’m shocked that it was allowed to be made at all. If you haven’t seen this one yet, don’t listen to the naysayers and give it a go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and it makes me very excited for where the series will go next.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, click here.

 

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