Saw

I got an email not too long ago about something called Cinema Phantasmagoria. An old venue downtown was set up as a haunted theater (unclear whether it’s generally considered haunted or if that was specific to the event) and would be playing horror movies all month. The staff would all be dressed as ghouls and goblins and ghosties. There’d be a tour of the place (for an extra fee), and it would ultimately be the most atmospheric way to watch a scary movie. I scanned the list of films they were offering. There were some cutesy scary movies (like Hocus Pocus or Beetlejuice) but I wasn’t interested in that. If I was gonna be watching something in this environment, I was gonna pick something that truly messes with me. Saw.

The venue was next to Grand Central Market, so we were encouraged to stop there for food and bring it in to the theater. I’d peeped the offerings there the day before and had like five different places I couldn’t decide between. It took me a while to get to the entrance to the parking garage that was attached to the market. So by the time I made it in there and found a spot (sidebar: if I go up to the higher levels and see that every single space is marked as compact, my giant ass truck is just gonna take one of those, don’t make it impossible for me). The garage felt dark and unfamiliar (this will be relevant later) and I didn’t know how much it was gonna cost me, but I had less than 45 minutes until show time.

I made a beeline for the seafood place. I tend to be skeptical of shellfish nowadays, but fried oysters is one of my favorite foods that i don’t get too many opportunities for. Cashier dude is super slow, but finally gets to me and no oysters. I opt for the fish and shrimp with chips instead. As I’m waiting, I see the vegan ramen place right behind me and I’m already lamenting my choice. I grab my food and run next door.

As soon as I walk in, I’m confronted by a ghostly character who looks kinda like a 1920s Freddie Mercury. He greets me and starts small talk, asking me which of his roles is my favorite “You know, there’s just so many terrific ones to choose from” He names something about a twisty mustache and I agree with him. He walks away and I’m on a mission to find the bathroom. I find a sign which sends me outside which sends me to port a potties outside Grand Central Market. Umm okay curious. I make a lap back to the theater and check out the concession stand. I spot the men’s room behind me, so even though I don’t need it anymore, I’m determined to find a women’s room inside. Apparently it was upstairs.

So it’s now 15 minutes to showtime. I haven’t really had a chance to explore or enjoy the atmosphere, but it’s not really looking like there’s a whole lot going on. I’d expected slightly more immersion. I walk into the suprisingly empty auditorium. There’s a demonic candy girl (demonic modifying girl not candy) at the door, and a dude that looks like an undead bellhop making corny jokes on the stage. I sit down about 10 minutes before the film start time and I’m surprised as the lights dim. They start with trailers for the next few films in the run. I try to figure out how I’m gonna eat my fish and shrimp and chips and eventually get it all balanced on my lap. As fate would have it, I did choose poorly. That stuff just was not good, but I’m stuck at this point. Soon after I give up on the seafood and move on to the See’s Bordeux Bar in my purse, the film starts.

Say what you will about this franchise as a whole (I did!), there’s no denying that this first film is a damn good horror movie. I’ve seen this before a couple times, but it still gave me a 90 minute anxiety attack. The thing is, I don’t consider this “scary”. I’m not afraid that Jigsaw is gonna come and get me. But the mind games mess with my head. I spiral down a rabbit hole of figuring out the games and trying to see the ways out that the characters didn’t.

Although what was scary was when I remembered that parking garage I was returning to, dark and unfamiliar. Granted, it was gonna be about 9 PM when I returned and I saw so many security guards around the market nad theater, I knew I’d be okay, but I was still dreading that return. The fact that some scenes in the film take place in a dark and unfamiliar parking garage did not help at all.

I walked out of there shaking, just like the first time I watched the film, back in my college dorm. There were a few more characters around, but I didn’t walked right past them. I didn’t wanna pay for the tour, so I figured I was done. Besides, I still wanted to get to the parking garage before it was too late. As I made my way back to my truck in the dark, all I could think about was how much I wanted to dive back into the full series. My watch queue is pretty backed up tho, so we’ll see if it happens. Even if the immerse experience didn’t feel as fun and immersive, watching this film on the big screen was definitely a win.

Zombieland: Double Tap

The original Zombieland is one of my top ten favorite movies. I love a good genre mashup, and this is such a seamless one, you really can’t say it’s one or the other. The dark and clever humor is right up my alley (to the point where I always associate the film with an excited phone call I got from my Daddy after he saw the trailer for something that he knew I was going to love). Ten years later, we’ve got another installment, and you bet your Twinkies I was there opening night.

Our fearsome foursome have been living in quiet chaos in Zombieland for the past ten years, but they’re getting restless. Little Rock wants to meet people her own age. Wichita is feeling tied down. Tallahassee is feeling the call of the open road. Only Columbus is perfectly content to stay hunkered down in the white house. When Little Rock does make a break for it, the others hafta decide whether to shut up or nut up and go after her. I think you know which they picked.

The opening credits sequence in the original might possibly be my favorite opening credits sequence ever. I got hopeful hearing the familiar bars of a different Metallica song playing, but it just didn’t live up. Something was missing. My heart dropped as the tone was set for the rest of the film: fun but missing something.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It was very funny, and the new cast members certainly gave it some life. The third act in particular really brought things back to form, but I wasn’t feeling it like the first time. I wanted more. More excitement. More surprises. More envelopes pushed. I wouldn’t say this felt lazy, but it didn’t feel as innovative as before. I’m happy to have returned to Z-land, I

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

ExpletiveDleted just turned 10! My first post was for Toy Story, kicking off the AFI project, and I posted it on Oct 15, 2019. I never quite figured out a way to celebrate with all six of you readers, so I’d just sorta forgotten about it. I heard about Kevin Smith bringing Jay And Silent Bob Reboot to theaters for two nights only as a Fathom Event, so of course I had to get a ticket. Then I realized what day it was on. Why is that significant? Because ExpletiveDleted got its name from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. So I suppose that counts as a way to celebrate.

After dabbling in things like horror and other people’s movies, and having a life view changing heart attack, Kevin Smith is back in the View Askiewniverse, which is where he’s always belonged and done his best work. Because he felt people weren’t actually clamoring for this film (I kinda beg to differ) he decided to forgo the traditional release. Instead it was being shown on one night with bonus footage (when I saw it) or another night as a double with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (tempting, but I didn’t wanna miss Zombieland opening night) or he’d be taking it on tour with Jason Mewes (I’m still bitter about how much I paid for the Red State tour).

While the real world is in order with Smith back in his happy place, his world is not in order. The Bluntman and Chronic film that Jay and Silent Bob had tried so hard to stop before giving in is now being rebooted. Of course they can’t let this one happen, so once again they’re hitting the road from outside the Quick Stop to the big Hollywood studio. They meet a lot of new and familiar faces along the way (including Jay’s daughter played by Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith). And we also learn the difference between a remake and a reboot, but I couldn’t even possibly begin to tell you what that is.

This film is definitely for the fans. It throws back to every single one of Smith’s films (except maybe Red State? I don’t remember catching that one). You can’t go five minutes without seeing a cool person, trying to recognize their connection to the Askewniverse, and almost everyone you’d wanna see is in it (or at least mentioned). But the number one fan this fanservice film is truly servicing is Kevin Smith. He’s one of the few writer/directors who can get away with that because making him happy makes us happy. It gives us his best and funniest material, and reminds me exactly why I’ve loved him for so long. I’m thrilled to welcome him back to the ‘Verse, and I’m excited to see what’s next

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Jexi

Yes I know how dumb this movie looked. I was on the fence about whether or not to even go. But Adam Devine was such a sweetheart at the HFC County Fair, that I had to go support him. That and I had 5 bucks of AMC rewards and was eyeing an Oreo milkshake, which simultaneously turned out to be a mistake and a good idea (mistake cause it’s was terrible, but good idea because now I’ll never want another one again). It was a rush to get there between Dracula and a friend’s party, but my boy was a leading man. I’d make it work.

In this movie, Adam gets a new smart phone. That’s it. That’s the plot. More detail? The smart phone goes all Fatal Attraction on him as it starts to destroy his life in order to control him. There’s also a romantic plot with Alexandra Shipp. It’s basically a film about putting the technology down once in a while and trying to live your life IRL.

It actually wasn’t that bad. The low Rotten Tomatoes rating had me worried, but the comedy was watchable, not as terrible as I was fearing. My one gripe was that it was just a little too awkward. Some of the situations the phone put him in were so extreme that I was expecting him to wake up at the end and find it was all a dream designed to make him reevaluate his life (it wasn’t).

But if you take out the fear that the phone is gonna boil a bunny and some of her more intense actions, you’re left with a mediocre romcom. Now seeing as how I typically hate romcoms, the fact that I found this one watchable tells you something. This will be a perfectly servicable Netflix film some day. Just maybe not somethign worth rushing out to see

Jexi – \m/ \m/ \m/

Dracula (1931)

I found a really cool place! And by found, I mean a coworker suggested I check this place out when I told him that I was trying to hit up all the small indie theaters in town. This place was the Old Town Music Hall, a cozy little theater in El Segundo that only plays really old movies. In particular, they’re interested in silent films because they have an old Wurlitzer pipe organ that can be used to accompany the movie. As soon as my buddy told me about this place, I looked expectedly at their October lineup, and while there was no Nosferatu, there was the next best thing: Dracula. As in, Bela Lugosi. Hell. YES.

I made my way over to the town and walked into the venue. I was greeted by SO MANY HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS. Giant ghouls and goblins in every corner (and even some in the seats) made me feel so welcome (honestly, I wanted to move in). Plus I was just excited to see the most iconic vampire flick (you know I love my fangers) on the big screen.

But what ended up being the best part was the pipe organ demonstration. A volunteer came up and explained the history of the venue and the organ. He demoed a few of the different sound effects and listed out the songs he was gonna play. When I’d walked in, I’d expected this giant impressive machine, but only saw this small little one that didn’t look like more than an upright piano. Turns out the rest was behind a curtain. It opened up to reveal some gorgeous neon colored bits and pieces with some little dolls swinging in the center. He began with the Haunted Mansion theme song (!) and I was mesmorized by the instrument. The bright colors and upbeat tones warmed my cold little heart, and I was ready to find any excuse to come back again soon.

After a few songs, a screen came down with some slides for a sing-a-long. I’ll admit it felt a little cheesy since they were such old timey songs, but I get that’s the whole point of it. Following the sing along was a Laurel and Hardy short, The Live Ghost. It was longer than I’d expected, and not really my type of humor. Still, I appreciate the effort to preserve old film, and I love that this kind of thing exists, even if I was mostly anxious to see the main event.

I grabbed a popcorn during intermission and once the opening credits rolled I could not contain my excitement (sidebar: they use the music from Swan Lake?!) Bela Lugosi is beyond legendary and it was such a treat seeing him on the big screen. The film is as classic as its ever been. Sure a few effects don’t hold up (every time the bat showed up he got a few laughs) but it otherwise still works. It’s suspenseful and creepy and there’s a reason he’s endured all these decades.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Yeeeaah bitch, Jesse Pinkman is back! So you may have heard of a little show that ended a few years ago called Breaking Bad. It’s quite possibly the best show that has ever been on television. The quality was so consistent from each season and the story went so many unexpected places. The third to last episode, Ozymandias, is in my opinion the best episode over any tv show ever. The finale, Felina, wrapped things up so perfectly. It was the rare show that was fantastic throughout AND stuck the landing. But there was one storyline left a little open ended. What happened to Jesse?

Now I do actually like Jesse’s original ending. There’s a hopeful ambiguity to it. I like to think that he did find his way to freedom and peace, but we don’t know. Anything could have happened once he got past that stretch of road. El Camino seeks to put a definitive punctuation mark at the end of that sentence.

We pick up exactly where we left Pinkman. He’s in an El Camino speeding away from the base where he was imprisoned for months, being forced to cook meth in chains. From there he syncs up with his friends Skinny Pete (!) and Badger (!!!!!!) and starts to put in motion the plan that will take him thru the rest of his life. We also get flashbacks to his time in captivity as well as moments throughout the series.

This is very much a movie for the Breaking Bad fans. In fact, it’s less of a movie and more of a bonus double episode. You’re expected to know who these people are and what the story is thus far. It’s not for the casual viewer who is encountering this world for the first time. You also should know all the random people who show up (especially in the flashbacks). I won’t list out who appears since each cameo is a fun surprise, but they are kinda gratuitous. Still fun though.

Even though I don’t think this film was entirely necessary, it was rather nice to give Jesse some closure. And it’s given to him in a truly Breaking Bad way. There’s lots of tension and suspense and an intricately worked together story. It’s not as epic as some of the best moments in the series, but it’s not gonna tarnish its reputation either. It’s simply a fun bonus, and a welcome one at that.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Gemini Man

Well after scoring my first perfect cinema in Fantasy Movie League last week, I tanked this week mostly because of this movie. I had more faith in Will Smith’s ability to open a film (and I did not want to support the lazy film making of Addams Family). Sure, Gemini Man was getting panned, but surely people would be interested in seeing it for the technology. I was. And that’s really the only reason to wanna see this. Director Ang Lee has proven himself to be good at managing new technology.

Will Smith is a top spy assassin dude. So what happens when he does something that upsets his superiors and they wanna take him out? They hire the only person capable, this younger clone that he didn’t know about. The plot is pretty bland. If you want a better story about an assassin trying to kill his self, watch Looper. Gemini Man played out how you would expect, with some cheesy father figure type of thing going on with Will trying to mentor young will. If this was all the movie had to offer, I’d tell you to skip it (and I would not have pulled it into my FML lineup). But as I stated previously, you see this movie for the technology.

I’ll preface by saying that no theater in the US is capable of showing this film as intended. I went to one of the 14 in the country that almost can. I was at a High Frame Rate, 3D, Dolby screening. It looked so gorgeous.

3D doesn’t normally do much for me. In fact, it’s more likely to give me a headache than add something positive to my experience, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. This 3D undeniable. I’m sure the HFR had a lot to do with it (more on that in a bit) but there was very well defined depth in every shot. There were also some effects that leapt out of the screen, which has always been my fave part of 3D and one that’s usually something you see at Disneyland attractions and not in theaters. Keeping in mind this is primarily an action movie, anytime there was a big explosion or a particularly messy death, you’d see every angle of it, falling into the screen and bursting out of it. It was so freaking cool!

Now, the high frame rate. I’d previously only seen it with one of The Hobbit movies and I found it kinda weird. This time, I found it more distracting than weird. I’m simply not used to it. I remember the first time my Daddy and I watched 24 on Blu Ray on an HD tv it felt strange, but now I’m so used to HD that I barely notice anything. I feel like HFR could go in that direction one day. But for now, it was a (mostly welcome) distraction. The first few minutes it feels like it has to be fake. Then you start thinking that no one needs to be able to count the pores on Will’s face. But then as you settle in, and you see the HFR play nice with the 3D, it makes it worth it to experience.

There’s still one more piece of technology, and the one that’s (incorrectly) getting more of the attention. Young Will Smith. De-aging seems to be all the rage these days, but this dude is pure CGI. So think Gollum not Nick Fury. I’m still not clear if any Mo-Cap was involved, but essentially he was created from the ground up. He mostly looks great, and you’d think he was a person who was really there. But every so often, he looks a little too rubbery or something just feels off. I blame the HFR though because it’s impossible to hide any imperfections with that crystal clear lens on you. I kinda feel like it was a mistake to combine these two things when they’re both still kinda experimental. Then again, maybe on one of the screens that’s fully equipped to show the film as it was meant to be seen can handle it better.

I guess this is all to say if you live near one of those 14 theaters, it’s worth checking out (esp since they’re all AMC so your A-List should cover the ridiculously expensive ticket). But if you’d be seeing this on a regular screen without the bells and whistles, it’s prolly not worth your time.

Gemini Man – \m/ \m/ \m/

Parasite

I’m just gonna come right out and say this is so far my favorite screenplay of the year. Maybe not favorite film (I enjoyed The Farewell a bit more and we can’t forget the juggernaut that is Endgame) but it will absolutely be ranked high on my year end top ten. This Palm D’or winner might also be in line for other major awards.

In this offering from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (mainstream audiences might know him from Okja or Snowpiecer, but apparently he’s got some great films before those that I’ll need to investigate) a financially struggling family cons their way into being employed by a rich family. Then stuff goes down that I’d rather not talk about because the unexpected twists and turns were part of what made this movie so great.

The reason I love this screenplay so much is that it’s so many things. It’s really funny in a messed up bonkers sort of way. But it’s also a thriller with such insanely dark and tense sequences. And on top of all that, it’s a rather poignant social commentary about class and socio economic status. All of this all at the same time, all completely unexpected, and all entirely genius.

I hesitate to say too much because I think my experience was better for not knowing much going in. One thing I do find interesting though is the situation this family conned their way into. Normally when you think of con artists, you think of someone who is dishonest and trying to make a quick buck and move on. These people use trickery to work their way into the role they want, but then they’re actually doing work. You kinda can’t fake being a good driver or housekeeper, and they’re not trying to get rich. They’re trying to earn a living wage. It’s a fascinating concept, and it makes me hesitant to call them con artists. This is ultimately a statement about how difficult it can be to work your way up in this world.

I’m not sure how wide this film will be opening (although the more the Oscar buzz builds, the wider it’s likely to go) but it’s absolutely worth seeking out. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve seen this year

Parasite – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Joker

I really don’t want to be writing this right now. Not just because I wanna go back to crocheting tiny Avengers while watching Anna and the Apocalypse which is FINALLY on region 1 DVD. And it’s not because I’ve had so many different conversations about this film from so many different angles that I know it’s gonna take me a while and I know I’m not even gonna remember everything to cover. It’s because I really don’t want to revisit the mindset I was in while watching the film, one of discomfort and terror. Because while this truly is an incredible film, I cannot say I enjoyed watching it at all.

This film is already becoming rather infamous so I’m sure you already know what it’s about, gentle reader. Still, the rules in my head state I gotta give a synopsis in paragraph two soooooo Joaquin Phoenix plays the man who would become the Joker. Yes that Joker, the chaotic villain who terrorizes Gotham. But this isn’t a comic book film. It’s a realistic look at the psychology of what can drive a man to that level of madness. The fact that he becomes such an iconic baddie just furthers the illustration, but the reality is the way he’s depicted, he could be anybody, and THAT’s why I was so terrified.

I love films that get into the minds of psycopaths. That is a subgenre of horror that I eat up as much as I can, which is what really intrigued me here. But it’s one thing to be getting into the head of Patrick Bateman or Norman Bates who are very clearly living in a fantasy world. Phoenix’s Joker was grounded in reality. He seemed like he could be any guy on the street who received more negative reinforcement than the mental health care that was desperately needed. That everyman quality is what terrified me.

People are clamoring to keep the politics out of this film, but to me it’s screaming out about the need for accessible health care. This man was abused by his parents, disowned by the system, and full of self destructive behavior. He needs the care that is stripped away from him. Sure, a real person in the same situation isn’t likely to turn into the Joker, but he could be equally dangerous.

Also worth noting that there was an ominous vibe around watching the film. I didn’t believe there was likely to be an attack during a screening, but it was still a possibility in my mind. Two days earlier, I was at the theater and there was an early screening of the Joker. There were cops posted in the lobby and bag searches going into the auditorium. Opening night of the movie, I saw no such presence. I was eyeing every person who got up for a bathroom break or walked in late.

What I think is more likely than a screening of this film being attacked is a person taking the message the wrong way. Now I absolutely understand what the filmmakers were trying to do. They’re trying to show the systemic issues that can break a person, and they’re not trying to glorify him or make his actions seem justified. That doesn’t mean that everyone will draw the same conclusions from the film. I absolutely do not believe in censorship and I do want this film to be out there. I think it does draw attention to important ideas, but without the proper context that attention could come at a price. And frankly it scares me how many people are cheering over this film without talking about the underlying message of it. Did we all see the same movie? Were you not affected by it?

Switching gears. The inevitable comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Heath is the ultimate, no question. And I really do prefer him having a mysterious origin (although Phoenix’s was never meant to be an origin for a character interpretation that would persist in the franchise). While Phoenix is real world scary, Ledger’s unhinged chaotic take is a scarier villain. The difference is that he clearly lives in Gotham, so he’s not a threat to our world. I guess I didn’t switch gears as far as I thought.

Okay fine, the cast. More than fine. Joaquin Phoenix gave a mind blowing performance. He’s def gonna be hanging around come awards season. I think Robert DeNiro was just stunt casting, trying to hammer in the connection to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, so he didn’t have that much to do. I did love the ladies, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz (and I just thirty seconds ago found out I was pronouncing her name wrong in my head). I had some concerns with Beetz’ storyline, but it mostly course corrected by the end.

I think I’ve gotten all my points across. I truly truly hope that this film uses its powers for good, because there is so much potential for this villain to ultimately be the hero in the real world. At the very least, it should be starting some important conversations

Oh wait, one more lighter point to end on. The one part of the film that I found entirely unbelievable was that a Wall Street bro would know all the words to “Send in the Clowns” I’m a theatre kid, and I don’t even know that song

Joker – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Shining

I had the opportunity to watch the 4K restoration of The Shining on the big screen the other day (I’d hoped to see it in Dolby, but wasn’t able to go until a later non-Dolby screening). I wanted a refresher before Doctor Sleep (even though I think that scene from Ready Player One gives me more than enough of a recap) and frankly this is a horror classic. It deserves to be seen in theaters. Except, I kinda don’t really like this movie. Let’s back up a second.

There is a reason it’s such a classic of the genre. It’s one of the rare horror films that is able to be terrifying on a superficial level. The images are haunting and the overall feel is so chilling, it has been giving nightmares to the masses for nearly 40 years. Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is iconic, and no one has ever been able to look at twins the same way since. If we’re strictly looking at this as a straight up stand alone horror film, I would agree that it’s incredible.

However (and that is a big HOWEVER). I am quite the Stephen King fan girl. King famously came out against Kubrick’s interpretation and I absolutely agree with him. It completely misses the entire point of the story.

First off, there are some things I can forgive, that are typically lost in adaptations. I can deal with Wendy being a one dimensional scream queen (even if I can’t buy why she and Jack are together). I can accept Halloran hardly doing anything, showing up only to be killed quickly instead of being an integral part of the third act. I am even okay with minimizing the use of Danny’s powers, although how are you gonna call it The Shining if there’s hardly any shining, and do casual viewers understand how Halloran knew Danny was in trouble? All of that I can forgive. I’ll go one step further and I’ll applaud some of the elements Kubrick added in like the hedge maze, Room 237, and basically all the quintessential creepy crawlies we know this film for.

Where I draw the line is the characterization of Jack. The film firmly establishes him as the villain. True, he’s not intentionally evil, but he’s clearly the big bad running around and causing trouble. The problem is Jack is not supposed to be the villain. He is a victim of the Overlook Hotel, and the Overlook is meant as a metaphor for Jack’s alcoholism. (It’s pretty well documented that King was battling his own addiction demons when writing this, which is why the book is so powerful in that respect). The film brings up Jack’s struggle, but only as a way of doubling down on his malevolent character. All of the layers and nuance and meaning of the story are obliterated with every swing of his ax. For shame