Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J.B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei

Screenplay: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

129 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive content.

 

Well, Endgame is all done. We’ve culminated the MCU to our hearts’ content. There isn’t anything else to say, right? Oh, there’s another one already? Oh. Hey, everyone! Spider-Man is alive!

It’s been eight months since The Blip was reversed, and Peter Parker (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage) is still reeling from the death of his mentor and friend, Tony Stark. He’s been in the spotlight more and more since that time, scrutinized and studied, with reporters and people everywhere asking who will be the next Iron Man. Peter is more than happy to be leaving the country on a class trip to Europe for the summer, as it will give him a break from Spider-Man and allow him to have some more time with MJ (Zendaya, The Greatest Showman, Duck Duck Goose). Peter quickly discovers that he cannot escape his responsibilities as Spider-Man, though, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) comes looking for him. Fury has a mission for him: to team up with Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Velvet Buzzsaw), a hero from another universe that was destroyed by the Elementals, which have now found their way to our Earth. Can Peter juggle his class trip with his duties as an Avenger?

Kevin Feige was right when he called Far From Home the finale of Phase 3. In a lot of ways, it ties up a lot of the threads hanging on from Endgame in its own interesting way. It’s a more lighthearted finale to Phase 3 while also forever changing the MCU going forward. As a coda to The Infinity Saga, it is a powerful one, and it is a more MCU-centric film than a straightforward Spider-Man adventure.

Tom Holland is amazing as ever, this being his fifth outing as the web-slinger. He truly is the best version of Peter Parker I’ve seen. He embodies all that teenage high-school Peter Parker should, and yet, he is wise in some ways beyond his years because of all the things he’s been through in his short time as Spider-Man.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s work as Mysterio didn’t completely work in the movie. There were times I liked what he was doing and times I really didn’t. I think it boils down to the way his character was written because it did jump around a bit. I liked the way Mysterio translated from the comics to the film but I would have liked to dive into his character a lot more. It would have made his arc all the more powerful.

Zendaya’s version of MJ is much more fleshed out this time around and it works really well for the film, especially with how the possible relationship elements with Peter play out. She isn’t weird and quirky for the sake of it but just she finds interest in some of the more morbid elements of history and society. It’s a nerves thing, and you could call it out if you want, but there’s enough subtlety to give her a fascinating arc.

What’s so great about the film is how each character, major and minor, seemingly gets an arc in the film. It’s not extremely fleshed out, but there’s a lot going on and many of the minor characters get some sort of growth throughout the film.

I will say this. There are two post-credits scenes in the film and you have to see both. The first one is very important to Spider-Man’s story (it just should have been the end of the film and not a post-credits scene), and the other is major in the overall MCU story. You cannot miss these scenes!

Spider-Man: Far From Home juggles a lot of elements, and it works pretty well in that way. It does feel like it is cleaning up a lot of plot threads instead of focusing on Peter as much as I would have liked, but it does a great job with the classic Peter-doesn’t-want-to-be-Spider-Man story that all of the second installment Spider-Man films have done. I would have liked a better written Mysterio and a little tighter focus on Peter and company, but overall, this was an exhilarating sendoff to Phase 3, one very worth seeing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, click here.

Parasite from Bong Joon-ho Wins Palme d’Or at Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival ended Saturday night with Parasite, the newest film from director Bong Joon-ho, taking the prestigious Palme d’Or. It was thought that this year might be Quentin Tarantino’s return with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but his film, which was also widely praised at the festival, failed to snag a single award. Tarantino had won the prize 25 years back with Pulp Fiction.

Joon-ho’s is not a household name in America, but he has been captivated audiences for years with his unique take, not only on genre film, but on storytelling in general, and shouts and praise rained down when Parasite was announced as the winner. The decision was “unanimous,” according to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the Jury’s president.

I was a major fan of Joon-ho’s Okja, which came out about 2 years ago, and his Snowpiercer has become a cult classic. This just makes me all the more excited to see Parasite and what comes next for the impressive filmmaker.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Parasite now that it holds the Palme d’Or? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Captain Marvel (2019)

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Screenplay: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.

 

Captain Marvel, much to the chagrin of sexists and trolls, is good. Take that!

Vers (Brie Larson, Room, Basmati Blues), a member of the Kree Star Force team with no memory of her life until the last six years, has been taken captive by the Skrulls, a shapeshifting alien race, and when she escapes, she finds herself crash-landing on Earth. Aided by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Vers begins to uncover secrets of her past life on Earth. She is pursued by the Skrulls, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Robin Hood), on her way to finding her past and her connection to a mysterious woman she does not remember named Dr. Lawson (Annette Bening, American Beauty, Life Itself).

Captain Marvel is filled with spoilers, so I avoided as much as I could, but the film is thick with mythology. Too thick at times and too thing at others. The screenplay has some holes and plotting issues, having perhaps traded hands too many times. It’s the biggest problem with the film. Not enough time is given to developing the various members of the Star Force, which would give more purpose to their goals. There’s also no understanding of Vers’s superpowers. They appear limitless in the film. No boundaries are given which limits the stakes.

Brie Larson is pretty solid in her MCU debut as Vers. Her best work in the film comes from her great chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. The two actors have worked together on three previous films and, in Captain Marvel, a true comradery is formed. These two characters form a bond that really works well. I also liked her interactions with Lashana Lynch (Brotherhood, TV’s Bulletproof), who portrays Monica Rambeau, someone who knew Vers during her time on Earth and holds many secrets to who she was. I hope these two get more time together in future MCU installments.

Jackson and Clark Gregg (Spinning Man, TV’s The New Adventures of Old Christine) return to the MCU, playing their younger selves. The CG de-aging is so great in this film. The MCU is known for de-aging their actors in flashbacks, and each film seemingly gets better. Captain Marvel is the best version of this tech. Not once with Fury did I really think about the age difference. Clark Gregg had one scene where he looked a little glossy, but overall it didn’t pull me out of the film.

Outside of Jackson and Gregg, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Serenity) and Lee Pace (The Fall, Driven) also return to the MCU as Korath and Ronan, having previously appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy. Unlike Jackson and Gregg, these two aren’t given all that much to do. It’s nice to see some more interconnectivity in the MCU, I feel like Korath is on the verge of more development but never quite reaches it, while Pace appears in essentially a cameo appearance. He’s just not given anything worthwhile to do.

Ben Mendelsohn is under thick makeup to play Talos, leader of the Skrulls who are pursuing Vers and Fury, and he’s so much more fun than most other actors would be under all that makeup. Mendelsohn is having fun here, and that’s noticeable. It’s a tough line to walk as a villain to be fun and still threatening, but his performance really works in light of his character arc.

An area where the film stumbles is from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who are dealing with their first big budget film. Marvel has a tendency to get great success in this arena, but I feel like Boden and Fleck are in over their heads with the action. Their skills lie in the drama between characters, but when action happens, it doesn’t feel exciting in the way that it should. This is particularly noticeable in the finale. I didn’t get a sense of the direction in the action, and it was unfocused.

Captain Marvel had a tall order. It was the first solo female-led film in the MCU, the first film to be released following the death of Stan Lee (the way this is handled in the film is exemplary), has to lead into Avengers: Endgame, and became the target of asshole trolls. For the most part, it handles all of these problems very well. Outside of a muddled script and some directing issues, it’s a very fun time at the movies with a terrific 90s flavor and soundtrack, and an MCU movie to push forward into the Post-Endgame slate of the franchise.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Leythum’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 24 – The Fly II (1989)

Director: Chris Walas

Cast: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, Frank Turner, John Getz, Harley Cross

Screenplay: Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Frank Darabont

105 mins. Rated R.

 

As some of you are aware, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of my all-time favorite horror films. The sequel, The Fly II, has a steep ladder to climb, an impossible feat. But the question is whether or not The Fly II can be capable enough to stand on its own, and I think that, as a sequel, it actual is passable enough.

When Veronica Quaife dies giving birth to her child with Seth Brundle, the child, a victim of his father’s experiment, is taken in by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson, Network, Prizzi’s Honor) and his company. The boy grows at an accelerated rated. and celebrating his fifth birthday, Martin Brundle (Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, Class Rank) is a fully-grown man with extreme intelligence and a need to learn. Martin searches for a cure to his mutation. At the same time, Bartok is searching for the missing piece in Seth Brundle’s telepod experiment. When Martin discovers that Bartok is not interested in helping him, he must venture for his answers with only the help of fellow Bartok employee Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga, Spaceballs, Those Left Behind).

The Fly II is nowhere near as strong a film as its predecessor. First-time director Chris Walas (The Vagrant), who worked on the creature effects for the original film, stepped behind the camera this time around. For a first film, The Fly II could have been so much worse. The faults here come with pacing, performance, and the ending.

The Fly II has some real pacing issues. It feels like a three-hour movie at times. I feel like the lack of a throughline direction from Walas is a big reason why this sequel suffers. It feels very unfocused at times, meandering about in search of meaning.

The performances from Stoltz and Zuniga are very underwhelming. Stoltz seems childlike, as he is still, but he is just uninteresting. Zuniga, though, is just dull. Richardson’s Bartok isn’t an interesting villain, but he is evil enough to suffice. I just missed the characters from the first. I feel like having more of a presence of Seth and Ronnie, or hell, even Stathis (John Getz, The Social Network, Trumbo), who appears in the sequel in a cameo.

The ending is pretty amazing, except that it half-sucks. There’s an ending for our main characters that is extremely underwhelming, Then, there’s a super-dark stinger before the credits that I loved. The entire third act goes insane, a larger-scale version of the original, and I liked where it was heading, but it just didn’t go far enough.

But there are some really cool moments of the film. The Fly II is at its best when it forges a new path rather than retreading its far superior parent. Walas kills it again with the incredible makeup effects. The attempts made at adding to the mythology are mostly successful, and I have to say, I did enjoy most of the film.

The Fly II is an inferior sequel, but it gets about as good as it was ever going to get after losing Cronenberg. It’s a fun 1980s camp horror sequel that does try to reach the stars even if it misses often enough.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, click here.

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 24 – Day of the Dead (1985)

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty

Screenplay: George A. Romero

96 mins. Not Rated.

 

We lost a great one this year. Director George A. Romero (Bruiser, The Dark Half) was an innovative and topical storyteller who forever changed movies, both as a genre filmmaker and an independent one. Romero was most notable for his Living Dead franchise, and today we will be looking at the third film in that series, Day of the Dead.

The world has ended. Society has crumbled. The living dead have taken the world. What’s left of the government is in hiding in military bases, trying to solve the undead crisis. Doctor Logan (Richard Liberty, Flight of the Navigator, The Crazies), known as Frankenstein around the Everglades-based military outpost, is trying to cure the disease. On the other side, the military man Rhodes (Joe Pilato, Pulp Fiction, Digimon: The Movie) is trying to maintain order under his command in a dictatorial rule, and stuck in the middle is Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille, No Pets, Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace). As egos clash and weapons are drawn, it becomes clear that the living might be more dangerous than the dead.

I love Day of the Dead. In the six-film series, I think Day of the Dead is the best installment. A lot of my colleagues can’t stop praising Dawn of the Dead, and I love Dawn of the Dead, but for me, Day takes the finale of Dawn of the Dead and makes an entire movie out of it, and it works so well.

The performances aren’t all perfectly tuned, especially from the tertiary characters, but the tension that builds with every interaction involving Rhodes or Logan just amps it up. I won’t say that Day of the Dead is as satirical as its predecessor, and it isn’t a fun time for viewers, but the realism is disturbing and I love it.

Day of the Dead is worthy of any zombie fans praise. I think it’s Romero’s best film in a great career. If you love modern zombie works like The Walking Dead, you have to look back and see where this all came from, and Day of the Dead is the zombie genre at its most perfected.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Director: Jordan Vog-Roberts

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly

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

 

Creating a MonsterVerse (I believe that’s the working title) is nothing new. As far back as the third entry in the Japanese Godzilla franchise showed the big kaiju taking on King Kong. But in the world of cinematic universe, at least this one is taking a little time.

Set in the 1970s, Kong: Skull Island sees a group of scientists and soldiers , led by former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers, The Night Manager) and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, The Incredibles), make their way to the mythic island in search of adventure. In the process, they learn that the island already has an owner, the mighty Kong, who does not want visitors. Other inhabitants of the island include giant monsters dubbed Skullcrawlers as well as missing-in-action Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Wreck-It Ralph). Now, cut off from the rest of the world and possible stranded on Skull Island, the team must find a way to escape before they are ripped to shreds by the many creatures residing on the island.

The plot of Kong: Skull Island is a rather simple one, and it may be the film’s cardinal sin. The simplicity of the put-a-bunch-of-people-on-an-island-and-pick-them-off-one-at-a-time idea feels unoriginal in a film that takes a familiar monster in King Kong and tries to break new ground with it. I can applaud the filmmakers for trying to do something original melding a bunch of the most famous King Kong works into one (seriously, there are parts of all three major King Kong films here as well as belting out references to Apocalypse Now and setting up more of the MonsterVerse). It’s safe to say that there are a lot of moving parts to Kong: Skull Island.

The film is entertaining though. The action sequences are beautifully shot and a lot of fun to watch. Kong is the star of the film and every scene that features him showcases the great motion capture work from Terry Notary (Warcraft) and Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, A Monster Calls). Kong works, and therefore the film works.

I hope that as the MonsterVerse continues to build, the filmmakers working within it try to marry great human characters with the intense action sequences the franchise is likely to be known for. Between the two MonsterVerse films we have, I find Kong: Skull Island to be a much more entertaining film, and I hope the upward trajectory of this franchise continues all the way to the long-awaited mash-up, Godzilla vs. King Kong. Kong: Skull Island is a fine action film that is great at what it needs to be great at…action. Now, if they could only make the humans more interesting, the film would feel much fuller.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla, click here.

For my review of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s Nick Offerman: American Ham, click here.

 

 

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[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 13 – Piranha (2010)

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Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Richard Dreyfuss, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. Queen, Christopher Lloyd

Screenplay: Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg

88 mins. Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.

 

We’ve discussed remakes many times before, so I feel like you don’t need to know my thoughts. Essentially, you have to make a film that adds something to the story that you didn’t get before. Piranha, the 2010 remake of the Joe Dante film, sets out to be a great B-horror film, and the crazy thing, it actually succeeds.

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Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, TV’s CSI, Back to the Future Part II) is determined to keep Lake Victoria safe during Spring Break as she has every year. This year, however, she has one more dangerous obstacle in the way of her mission: an underwater tremor looses thousands of bloodthirsty piranha upon the lake and the surrounding area. As she assists an group of seismologists in determining the cause and full effect of the fissure, her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen, TV’s The Vampire Diaries, Minutemen) is out on the water with amateur voyeur and professional pornographer Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, Stand By Me, Justice League vs. Teen Titans), right in the path of the deadly prehistoric fish.

People don’t seem to get my enthusiasm and real belief when it comes to Piranha: this movie is perfect. Now, does that mean Oscar-worthy? Not so, but I mean that this movie knows what it wants to be, and it perfectly embodies its goal: to be a fun and bloody homage of horror/comedies like the movie it is remaking. I’ve told many people that Piranha is one of the best horror movies of the 1980s and it came out twenty years too late.

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Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, The 9th Life of Louis Drax) just figured this movie out. His use of great actors and amazing cameos from legends like Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I am Not a Serial Killer) and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Madoff). Dreyfuss’s role even sends up his character from Jaws (and he puts forth a solid albeit small performance even though he didn’t really want to be in the movie). And if you pay close attention, you can even see horror director Eli Roth cameo as a wet T-shirt contest host. He even tried to include Joe Dante and James Cameron (director of Piranha II: The Spawning) as boat captains giving safety lessons, but the idea ultimately fell through.

Every plot thread of the film is fun and interesting. Shue’s work as the Sheriff helping to uncover the secret behind the piranha is great, and she has terrific chemistry with Novak, played by Adam Scott (TV’s Parks and Recreation, Krampus) and her Deputy, played by Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Unfortunately for them, nothing beats Jake’s story, as nobody beats Jerry O’Connell, who chews his scenes up and steals every moment onscreen.

The visual effects from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are top notch, which only furthers the technical prowess of Piranha. In fact, just about everything technical in the movie works, from the visual flow of the cinematography matched with the perfectly-paced editing, to the musical score and Aja’s directing at the helm.

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It’s a shame that Piranha was not screened for critics. It may have given the film the necessary buzz to bring in more viewers. Sadly, the gains that Aja’s film received were only able to garner it a really shitty sequel instead of the franchise we fans deserved. Either way, Piranha is perfect for what it wants to be. It doesn’t want to make friends. It wants to show a lot of Booze, Babes and Blood, and if that isn’t for you, then this movie isn’t for you. However, for those of you looking for a fun cheese-fest of a horror film that satirizes and pays homage to what came before, Piranha will not disappoint.

 

5/5  (I’m Serious)

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

[#2016oscardeathrace] The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

167 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Jennifer Jason Leigh) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [Pending]

 

What happens when eight morally ambiguous humans find themselves snowed in for the weekend? You get The Hateful Eight, the newest film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained). We are first introduced to Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chi-Raq), a famed bounty hunter known for his past transgressions in the civil war. He is out amongst the snow when he is met by John Ruth (Kurt Russell, The Thing, Bone Tomahawk), a fellow bounty hunter known as “The Hangman” who is delivering the notorious Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Machinist, Anomalisa) to the proper authorities in Red Rock. Along the way, the three come across the new sheriff of Red Rock, or so he says, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, TV’s The Shield, American Ultra), and the group make their way toward Red Rock before being stranded at Minnie’s Haberdashery in the blizzard. Now, John Ruth is under the impression that one amongst the group snowed in is out to free Daisy and kill anyone in her way in this thrilling whodunit.

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There’s no way to get this film confused with the work of any other filmmaker. This is pure-laced Tarantino from its deepest core. There are all the stylings of this one-of-a-kind director like the gripping dialogue, the extreme violence and Samuel L. Jackson, who eats up the screen. He is matched in prowess with Kurt Russell, who proves to be perfectly matched for our director in style and wit. Jennifer Jason Leigh also steals her scenes as the morbidly chilling Daisy, but to be fair, everyone is playing their A-game here, from regular performers Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Selma) and Michael Madsen (Kill Bill vol. 1, Hell Ride) to Demian Bichir (TV’s The Bridge, The Heat) as the hilarious Bob and the Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Twixt) as the racist General Sandy Smithers.

Then there’s the cinematography, expertly handled by DP Robert Richardson. The film, if you hadn’t heard, was shot using an Ultra Panavision 70 and projected in a 70mm cut, which is absolutely excellent. The frames are stark and beautiful and rich and actually help to drive the story even if a large amount of it takes place in a single shack. If you didn’t get the chance to see it in 70mm, let me assure you that both cuts of the film are terrific, so don’t feel too bad.

I also fell in love with Ennio Morricone’s original score, the first original score from the famed composer in decades. He is almost ensured to win the Oscar for it.

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The Hateful Eight could have been shorter, but I really loved the feel and grandeur of such a simple and intense whodunit like this. After two viewings, the film has continued to grow on me, and while it isn’t top-tier Tarantino, it certainly is still one of the best films of 2015.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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

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