[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 18 – The Perfection (2018)

Director: Richard Shepard

Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman

Screenplay: Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder

90 mins. Rated TV-MA.

 

I had virtually no knowledge of the plot of The Perfection before viewing it. It was a benefit, so I’m going to be very surface-level in my description.

The Perfection revolves around famed cellist Charlotte (Allison Williams, Get Out, TV’s Girls), who has taken some time away from her talent to care for her dying mother, as she goes to Shanghai to see the charismatic and gifted music teacher Anton (Steven Weber, The Shining, TV’s 13 Reasons Why). There, she meets Lizzie (Logan Browning, Bratz, TV’s Dear White People) and the two end up having sex in Lizzie’s hotel room. The next day, Charlotte joins Lizzie on a vacation through China but as they begin their journey, it seems that things are not as they appear, and Charlotte and Lizzie find everything they know falling off the rails in a series of escalating horrors. I’ll leave it at that.

This movie is bonkers in all the right ways. My best advice is to not try to pick it apart and guess where it’s going because I don’t think you’ll be able to. It’s best just to take the mental mind fuck and roll with it. Director Richard Shepard (The Matador, Don Hemingway) crafts a tightly-packed and constantly evolving horror/thriller that kept me guessing the whole time. This film, like any good film or onion, has a lot of layers, and peeling them away was a great movie experience.

Allison Williams and Logan Browning are both great in the movie. Williams is more the lead than Browning but each is given plenty of opportunity to shine. Their performances as each layer is peeled away in the narrative was exhilarating to watch, and their chemistry was sizzling. Both actresses are steamy as hell whenever they appear onscreen together, my TV practically fogged up.

Not all the surprises worked as well as I’d have liked, but they were definitely unexpected and made me want to watch the film again, and though it doesn’t have the same level of interest on the second viewing, it’s still a damn fine mystery for the viewers.

The Perfection is an arty horror/thriller with plenty of surprises in store as long as you’re paying close enough attention. I really liked it on first viewing but it isn’t, for me, as strong once you know the whole mystery. Led by two amazing actresses and anchored by another standout supporting role from the criminally underrated Steven Weber, The Perfection is damn fun and damn shocking. Not a perfect film (almost no film is, right), but good enough to warrant your attention.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Director: Josh Cooley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack

Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom

100 mins. Rated G.

IMDb Top 250: #132 (as of 7/9/2019)

 

We didn’t need a Toy Story 4. That’s what I kept saying. We just didn’t need it. Toy Story 3 was a great ending to a solid trilogy and we didn’t need to muddy the waters with another installment almost destined to be terrible. We trusted Pixar not to ruin this one, and our trust in them was worth it.

It’s been two years since Andy gave his toys over to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw, American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp) and departed for college, and the toys have been on a great many adventures since then. Andy’s favorite toy Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks, Cast Away, The Post) is struggling, though, as he has been seemingly forgotten by Bonnie when playtime occurs, but he remains vigilant in his duties to protect her, so when she becomes nervous at kindergarten orientation and makes a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale, Batman Ninja, TV’s Arrested Development), out of some trash and crafting supplies, Woody takes it upon himself to teach Forky how to be the best toy he can be. During this time, Bonnie and her family are on a vacation in the RV, and at one of the stops, Woody spots a lamp at an antique store that he believes may belong to Bo Peep (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters, TV’s Young Sheldon), a toy that one belonged to Andy’s sister, one that he cared for very deeply. Woody and Forky also come across the menacing Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks, Ginger & Rosa, TV’s Good Girls), a defective antique toy who wants Woody’s voice box for her own. Now, Woody must return Forky to Bonnie without getting caught by Gabby Gabby, and he is also forced to confront his own wants in the process.

Let’s cover the purpose of Toy Story 4, because if there was one criticism in just about any fan’s mind as they enter the theater, it’s the question of WHY? Why Toy Story 4? Well, I will say this. I think Toy Story 4 is the second-best film in the series behind the third film. That being said, I think Toy Story 4’s ending is so much better than the third film. It leaves up in a very satisfying place and works very well in questioning everything that came before. It’s a film that looks at the toys we have and asks a lot of questions.

This is very much Woody’s story, and he goes on it mostly without the help of the other toys, encountering lots of new characters in the process. While Toy Story 3 is the ending of the story in relation to Andy, Toy Story 4 takes a good hard look at Woody, a toy that has always been in service of his human, but he is confronted with the very real idea that he may not be Bonnie’s favorite toy. His character arc, especially in relation to Forky’s existential crisis of self, is very well-layered and something I’ve always wanted more out of.

The new characters are so wonderful as well. Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, TV’s Friends from College) and Jordan Peele (Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, TV’s The Twilight Zone) appear together as Ducky and Bunny, two sentient toys made sown-together at the hands, and they are an absolute delight. Key and Peele use the classic comedic timing and chemistry that they’ve been known for to make this the funniest of the Toy Story movies. They had me in stitches, never once ruining the scene by trying to hard.

Then, there’s Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum), a Canadian daredevil toy with a motorcycle capable of performing incredible stunts, or at least, that’s what the commercials had said. I love all the character Reeves packed into such a limited screen time. He worked tirelessly on embodying his character with the director, and it shows in the work. His is a similar character to the one that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, El Camino Christmas, TV’s Home Improvement) was in the first film: a toy that is coming to terms with its limits. He is broken on the inside because he was never able to meet the expectations of his commercial.

The only real flaw I had with Toy Story 4 is that I believe that Gabby Gabby is probably the worst villain of the entire franchise. It sounds like I may be in the minority on this one, but I’m going to speak my reasons and let them stand. I never found Gabby Gabby as a villain to be very menacing. Yes, she’s a little creepy and her henchmen ventriloquist dummies are certainly frightening and strange enough, but I never really saw her as villainous in the way that I saw, say, Lotso from Toy Story 3. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like she was antagonistic but never villainous.

Toy Story 4 also feels, at times, like a big game of I Spy. The antique store, where a good portion of the film is set, is chock full of Easter Eggs and references to other Pixar films, to Toy Story films, and to other pop culturally iconic movies, most notably The Shining, which has always had a somewhat odd connection to the Toy Story franchise. Then, there’s voice cameos galore, many of which I didn’t catch until someone told me about them after the film ended. It’s just a celebration of so much magic that Disney and Pixar can craft.

Toy Story 4 is the perfect true finale to the franchise, one I hope they actually keep to, and I absolutely adored this movie. It’s the ending that feels most earned, not just throughout this installment, but through the entire series. It’s a powerful finale that will drive many to tears, this writer included. I really enjoyed it.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The World Shines for Doctor Sleep Official Teaser

I’ve been very curious about the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. It’s based on his novel, of course, which was a sequel to The Shining. I was curious how they were going to tackle The Shining, a film that King notoriously hated and one that made some changes to King’s book that would indeed affect Doctor Sleep.

Well, I have a bit more of my answer, as the Official Teaser Trailer for Doctor Sleep has arrived, and it’s pretty excellent. The film, directed by Mike Flanagan of The Haunting of Hill House fame, is set decades after The Shining with a now adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) protecting another child with the Shining from a cult called The True Knot.

It starts with a very notable reference to The Shining, featuring Redrum on the wall and Danny connecting with his past. We get some cool interactions between Danny and the younger kid with the gift, and it’s very reminiscent of Dick Halloran’s discussions with the child Danny.

We get some cool shots of The True Knot, although I’m not sure as much about what’s going on with that. My goal is to read the Doctor Sleep book before the film actually comes out, but what I saw was pretty damn excellent. It’s great to see more Rebecca Ferguson. The shot of her greeting the little girl made me think of Frankenstein’s monster throwing the little girl in the lake.

What I’m most astounded by, though, is the way they recreated Kubrick’s version of The Shining for the film, which leads me to the obvious that while the Doctor Sleep book is a sequel to King’s book, this film version will be a sequel to Kubrick’s film and an adaptation of King’s book, so it will be interesting to see how they play the differences between the two mediums.

With the references to The Shining, Flanagan has seemingly (again, this is only a teaser) found a way to meld his style, which has refined over the past several films, and Kubrick’s visual palette for The Shining into one, and it looks amazing!

This trailer just about blew me out of the water! I cannot wait to read the book and see the film when it opens on November 8th.

So what do you think? Did you see the trailer and what did you think about it? Have you read the Doctor Sleep book? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Stephen King Day] The Shining (1997)

Director: Mick Garris

Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Steven Weber, Wil Horneff, Melvin Van Peebles, Courtland Mead

Screenplay: Stephen King

273 mins. Not Rated.

 

Yep, it’s Stephen King’s birthday again, and today we are going to talk about The Shining. No, that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. No, the other one. Yes, there was another one, this time directed by King regular Mick Garris (Critters 2, Bag of Bones).

Jack Torrance (Steven Weber, Batman vs Two-Face, TV’s Wings) has just been given the job of caretaker at The Overlook Hotel during its winter hiatus. He is planning on spending the winter the famous hotel, keeping it safe and secure until the snow melts. Joining him for the season is wife Wendy (Rebecca De Mornay, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, I Am Wrath) and son Danny (Courtland Mead, Little Rascals, Recess: All Growed Down). When the snow starts in, Jack begins to unravel the mystery of The Overlook’s past, from murders to mafia ties, and as he does so, he begins to be tormented by his alcoholic past as he himself unravels. Son Danny begins to see horrors of his own due to a special gift that he shares with the head cook of The Overlook, Dick Halloran (Melvin Van Peebles, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Peeples). Halloran tells Danny to ignore these visions, that none of them can hurt him, but Danny begins to learn that there are things at The Overlook very capable of hurting him and his family.

The Shining is by no means a perfect film. Some of the pacing is off, the visual effects are often laughably bad (even though the practical effects work well enough), and there’s a cheapness to the film that permeates the sets. De Mornay and Weber are quite good in their roles, but the young Courtland Mead just cannot do justice to the Danny Torrance character from the book. Van Peebles is also horribly miscast and just doesn’t fit the Dick Halloran character at all.

On the other side of that coin, The Shining is an incredible adaptation of Stephen King’s source novel. I hate to compare this to the other adaptation from Stanley Kubrick, but this film captures King’s novel, while Kubrick’s film is a terrible adaptation that makes for a terrific movie, and in that way, I like them both for what they offer, but being such a fan of King’s book, I find myself pulled more to this version of the story, purely for what it offers me. I’m definitely in the minority here, but I prefer the 1997 miniseries, even if I acknowledge it as a lesser film in many ways.

Overall, 1997 version of King’s tale is heavily flawed from a technical standpoint, but it is truer to the King novel. I love this version but I can understand why it has disappeared from the memory of many others due to its comparison to the 1980 film.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Batman Day] Batman (1989)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance

Screenplay: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren

126 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

 

Happy Batman Day! I think, in honor of the legendary Caped Crusader’s special day, we should look back on the 1989 Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) film, Batman, featuring Michael Keaton (Birdman, Minions) as the tycoon-turned-hero.

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On the dark criminal-filled streets of Gotham, tough guy Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Shining, How Do You Know) has been betrayed by his boss, villainous gangster Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, The Swan Princess, Tango & Cash) and now, disfigured by a vat of toxic chemicals, he has donned a new persona, the Joker. Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle, The Land Before Time, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Fanboys) are powerless to stop him, but there is hope in the guise of the near-mythical masked vigilante Batman (Keaton) to stop the incoming crimewave.

Batman is a strange but not entirely out of line choice for director Tim Burton, who had previously worked on dark horror-comedies like Beetlejuice and the short film Frankenweenie. Burton had a very tall order to deliver on, having a pantheon of stories to honor is his depiction of Bruce Wayne and his story, and fans were not too thrilled with the decision to cast Keaton in the role.

I think I can say wholeheartedly that fans were proven wrong. Michael Keaton kills it in this role. His decision to play Bruce as an unhinged man, fully committed to his insane lifestyle is what drives his performance home. He fits perfectly in Burton’s over-the-top occasionally overtly-goofied version of Gotham.

Add to that an absolutely bonkers portrayal of The Joker given by a perfect casting choice in Jack Nicholson. Nicholson almost passed up the opportunity to play the villain, but thankfully, due to a considerable offer, he signed on. This is also the first time ever that viewers received a Joker origin story. Up until that point, and in many subsequent versions of the character’s tale, we do not get the answers to why he is the way he is. This origin is perhaps not as powerful as the mystery surrounding the character, though.

Now, from a technical perspective, Batman is hit-and-miss. The set decoration, for which the film won an Oscar, is incredible, but from a sound perspective, I believe the film mostly misses the mark. The sound mixing is a real loss, and the idea of jamming a great theme from Danny Elfman (I can’t believe I just said that) with original music from Prince was a huge mistake.

I should point out that I do love the opening titles. How about that fantastic theme? Am I right? Another interesting tidbit from this film is in the sequence where an underground doctor is fixing up Napier after the incident with the toxic chemicals. The tools used to operate actually came from the Little Shop of Horrors props, which was remade from a 1960 film featuring Jack Nicholson way before being famous. Movies are fun, eh?

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Batman wouldn’t have worked if it were made in a different time period. It is darker than the overtly campy 1960s iteration and yet still embraces the silliness more so than Christopher Nolan’s self-contained trilogy. I still find the film, despite its shortcomings (seriously, how do people not know who Bruce Wayne is), to be an interesting and enjoying piece of pop art, and it was a ton of fun to revisit.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

  

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

[Top 250 Friday] #58: The Shining (1980)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson

146 mins. Rated R.

iMDB Top 250: #58 (as of 6/12/2015)

 

In today’s visit to the iMDB Top 250, we take a look at The Shining, from director Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket).

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Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, The Departed, How Do You Know) has just been hired to care after The Overlook Hotel during the offseason of the winter alongside his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall, Annie Hall, The 4th Floor) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Danny meets the hotel chef, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Aristocats), who teaches him about an ability they both share called the Shining. As Danny encounters some of the ghostly apparitions of The Overlook, father Jack sinks deeper and deeper into madness as cabin fever takes him over.

I’m not a fan of Danny Lloyd, but the rest of the cast performs admirably and very well in the film, thanks to Kubrick’s unwavering ability to get the best out of his performers, whatever means necessary. His relationship with Shelley Duvall turned an okay performance into a good one, but it was through an entire movie shoot of ridicule and fighting.

Kubrick gives this film some truly incredible cinematography. He has some of the most impressive shots and lighting I’ve seen in a film, due to his imperfect perfectionism. Because of this, The Shining has been and will be forever analyzed.

I love this film, but I hate this adaptation. So did Stephen King, who wrote the incredible novel that the film is based on. I think the book was better and I would love to see a straight adaptation one day, but the film is pretty incredible nonetheless.

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There are so many great pieces about this film that fit so well together. It is truly the high point of an already terrific career. Stanley Kubrick has made a list of notable films, but his abilities to direct what is essentially a horror film prove his prowess among the greats.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more iMDB Top 250, click here.

 

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