Guns Akimbo

There are few Hollywood careers I respect like Daniel Radcliffe’s. He established himself and made his money in HP. Since then, he hasn’t done any high profile money makers. He’s done lots of indie and quirky stuff. Things that allow him to show his range (Jungle, Imperium), try new skills (How to Succeed… on Broadway), or just have some quirky fun (Swiss Army Man). So when photos started surfacing of him in a bathrobe holding guns with a crazy expression, I knew whatever that movie was I’d have to see it. Even if it mean that there were only 10PM screenings for one weekend only. As soon as I saw the trailer it was a done deal. This was a ME movie in the most bonkers way.

Radcliffe is a disaffected millennial, who thinks of himself as a superhero for trolling all the trolls online. He finds a new forum, the comments section of a live streaming death match in the streets, where he trolls the wrong person. They break into his home, surgically attach guns to his hands, and give this normal dude 24 hours to try and take down a psycho killer opponent. This film lives somewhere in the Venn diagram of Crank, Upgrade, Hardcore Henry, and Nerve.

This film delivered everything the trailer promised on, namely a twisted sense of humor and relentless bonkers violence. Very appropriate for me to use my freebie bday ticket from Arclight. There really isn’t much more to it than that. It’s all the adrenaline I was hoping for (sadly not enough to keep me fully awake, as hard as I tried, but it’s not my fault the film started at my actual bedtime). I want more movies like this

Guns Akimbo – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Fantasy Island

The premise of this intrigued me so much, I was ready to prioritize it for a couple weekends ago. Except for some unknown reason, there were no Thursday night preview screenings, and I couldn’t make it any other day that weekend. Then the first reviews started coming out, and it made sense why there were no word of mouth screenings–the word of mouth was terrible. I de-prioritized it for the following weekend. However, I was still curious. The next weekend, I was pretty booked up, and wasn’t even considering squeezing this in. But then I ended up systematically downsizing my weekend plans cause I just wasn’t up for doing much, and I realized this movie was still a possibility. Hooray? Sure.

In a loose re-imagining of the classic TV series, a group of lucky travelers are granted a stay at Fantasy Island, where their most secret desires and fantasies will come to life. However, fantasies don’t always play out how you’d expect, often to deadly consequences. And seeing as how this is brought to us by Blumhouse, very deadly indeed.

I’m not gonna say this was a good movie. The reviews coming in weren’t wrong. The story is rather ludicrous and full of plot holes and absurdities and things that should not work. And yet I was very entertained. There was a mystery around the whole thing. How did the island know their fantasies? How do these fantasies play out? What brought these people to the island? What’s really going on? I’m a sucker for a good mystery and I was sucked right in. It was very similar to some of the reasons I love the Saw franchise, but on a much lower level of quality. Instead of wanting to know their sins and the games, I wanted to know their past and their fantasy. And there wasn’t as much gore as Saw either, by a long shot.

It also had great tie ins to Fantasy Island, at least ones that I identified after reading up on the series’ Wikipedia article. Although I think waaaay too many people said “The Plane! The Plane!” I think this was a great concept and a fun film, just poorly executed. Some more thought into the writing would have gone a long way. I still enjoyed it, but I get why most others didn’t

Fantasy Island – \m/ \m/ \m/

Cats Rowdy Screening

Now that I had an Alamo Season pass, there was something I needed to use for it as soon as I possibly could: a Rowdy Cats screening. Yes, that Cats from last year. The musical that gave people nightmares. While it quickly pranced out of most theaters, it’s lived on at Alamo in these special nightly screenings that show no sign of stopping. Rocky Horror midnight screenings were a big part of my college experience, and The Room midnight shows are the single most fun screenings I’ve ever been to ever. This looked to be following in its footsteps.

I get off the escalator to the auditorium level and I hear people taking photos in the lovely Drafthouse hallway. They’re all wearing cat ears and drawn on whiskers. I’m in heaven. I get to my seat and find a menu of their special drinks for the screening: Hiss, Purr, and Meow. All three milk based (with vegan substitutions available) and served in a cat bowl. The preshow is all these bonkers cat videos, and I don’t know if I’m more confused about how/why they were made or how they were found.

After a few trailers, our host came out and greeted us. She led a quick contest to award the best “cat call” and gave out weird cat prizes. She then laid out the rules for the screening (basically make noise, but don’t be a dick) and some sample responses before suggestion a drinking game. Drink every time a cat is introduced (and there’s like 70), every time you realize a cat has boobs, and every time a cat disappears. No survivors were expected. She took her seat and the usual “Quiet Zone” announcement was replaced with a “Rowdy Zone” one, and it got me more excited than anythign else we’d seen (sue me, I’m a Drafthouse groupie). And thus it started.

And not much was happening in the crowd. A bit more noise and reactions than usual, but all of it just that: reactions. No call backs or audience participation like I was hoping for. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was boring, but it was certainly underwhelming. At this point, the heachache I’d been fighting for two days was coming back in full force and my limbs started to ache too (I’d done a pretty hardcore yoga practice just before). I was gonna hafta sit here for another two hours feeling not great. After we met Rebel Wilson and Jason Derulo, my eyes started to get a little heavy and I didn’t fight it. I was hoping I’d wake up in time to sing along with Rumpleteaser, but only did for a brief moment before succumbing to sleep again.

About halfway thru, I woke back up. The crowd was starting to get a little more active, and one pattern started to emerge. Any shot or mention of Judi Dench caused people to shout “Old Deut!” It started to feel like maybe the crowd was getting a little rowdier, and it made sense. The alcoholic cat bowls must have been kicking in. We got to Ian McKellan’s song and the cheers stepped up.

Then came Skimbleshanks, the Railway cat. The crowd lost their mind. Why was Skimbleshanks so special? I do not know for the life of me, but everyone started singing and screaming and cheering and meowing for him. This was what I wanted for the whole film. It died back down for a bit until we got to Mr Mistoffelees, the magic cat. We were given bubbles to blow during his number to fill the room with magic, and his song was repetitive enough that we all soon learned it and sang along. Even more of what I really really wanted from this night. From there it devolved back to incoherent rowdiness and some weak attempts to sing along with Memory.

I left there a little disappointed. It was still fun, and as someone who didn’t actually hate the movie on its own, this was a great environment to rewatch it in. I should have realized the potential problem when the host asked who had been to multiple Rowdy screenings and no one had done more than 2. There still isn’t any set responses like you’d get with the more established films. I think if they had leaned into the singalong more (lyrics on screen?) and if some Jellicles can invest the time to make repeat visits, it could be something special. For now, it ain’t got nothing on The Room (which incidentally, I passed up a chance to see it that same night)

Oh and my Mom saw my FB post mentioned that I was going to this. “Oh how nice, that movie was so beautiful” I tried to explain how the rest of the world viewed this film. “But the ballet is gorgeous! It’s something different” I gave up.

The Invisible Man

I don’t scare easily. So when I tell you that The Invisible Man is utterly terrifying, believe it. Between Upgrade and Saw, Leigh Whannell has been high up on my respect list, but now I think he moves to my see-at-all-costs list.

Whannell writes and directs this modern take on the Universal monster, starring Elizabeth Moss. We open with one of the most suspenseful five minutes I’ve ever seen, as Moss tries to escape from her abusive partner, a wealthy scientist who has made incredible advancements in optics. Soon after her escape, she hears that he’s died by suicide. But some of the strange occurrences that seem to be following her suggest there may be something else going on. Is he really dead? Or has he found a way to continue to haunt her?

This film is scary on two levels. On the surface, Whannell manages to make you afraid of nothing. Is he there? Where is he? Is something going to happen? It’s not just that it creates great jump scares (which it absolutely does) but it leaves you unsettled throughout the whole film. Given how unimpressed I typically am by jump scare horror, it really tells you something when I say that this movie achieves what so few do.

AND THEN, you have the layer. It was already high on the scare meter for the surface, but it’s the layers that terrified me to my core. That’s because this film’s core is a look at domestic violence and gaslighting and stalker behavior. This is a very real fear and Whannell brings it to life. What most scared me was that I could feel how utterly powerless Elizabeth Moss felt. She couldn’t fight him because she couldn’t see him, and no one believed her to help, and there was little she could do about any of it. I’m so impressed at how well Whannell captured that especially since it’s typically a fear that’s experienced more by women, but he put it on screen like he knew exactly how it felt.

Of course Elizabeth Moss goes a long way towards making it work. We know she’s one of the strongest actresses working today, and this was an incredible showcase for her. So many scenes were just her on screen (even if there may have been a second person technically there). And I never once doubted what she was experiencing, and never once failed to see the internal battles she was going thru. Seriously impressive.

The Invisible Man – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

I had a birthday recently! After years of planning these big elaborate celebrations and parties and movie nights and events with minimal attendance, I figured I’d keep it low key this year. I just didn’t have it in me to plan something big, and nothing was really calling to me. Right at this moment, where am I happiest? If you’ve been keeping score at home, you know my current happy place is Alamo Drafthouse. Around when I was starting to solidify this plan, they announce Bram Stoker’s Dracula as their Terror Tuesday screening on my birthday. It’s not my favorite vampire film (in fact, I didn’t really care for it the one time I saw it) but it’s a freaking vampire film playing on my bday. How could I not? And it was late enough that I could hang out with people for a bit first. Awesome.

So that’s what I did. Movie started at 9. I invited people to come hang at Video Vortex downstairs as soon as I could get there from work. I ended up with about 10-12 people sitting around the table I picked out up against the wall. We were all sharing apps, that kept on appearing every time someone got up for another drink (thankfully everyone else seemed to love the buffalo cauli as much as I do because that supply seemed endless). I’d planned on maybe playing some Cinephile or the Blockbuster game, but the conversation was going so well, we didn’t need it. Maybe 2/3 of the crowd knew each other, but the odd men out had enough commonalities with the others that they seemed to fit right in. And as probably the best surprise, the giant wall screen behind us was playing old episodes of Double Dare. I would have happily just sat in front of the screen and watched that all night.

I was watching the clock, trying to time my goodbyes so I wouldn’t be late for the film, and I didn’t want it to end. We’d had a solid 2 hours or so, and I was still having a lot of fun. But at the same time, I know myself. In almost any social situation, I will eventually hit a point where I’m just done. So it was nice to not only not hit that point, but to have a definitive end that kept me from getting there. That guaranteed the evening went well. Closed out the check, gave hugs all around, and ran upstairs (with my fangs on) and a smaller subset of the crew.

As I said before, I’d seen this movie once, and I didn’t care for it. It was too long and slow and just couldn’t hold my attention. Plus all that I remember afterwards is how terrible Keanu Reeves’ accent was. Maybe sitting in a theater at rapt attention and with my new undying love for Keanu I’d enjoy it more, and I did to some extent.

What I realized in watching this is that it’s the most visually beautiful vampire film I’ve ever seen. The costumes, the sets, the make up, all of it is gorgeous. It stays true to the novel while pulling in from all the vampire films that came before it, and attempts to make the ultimate visual vampire encyclopedia on film.

It just feels like director Francis Ford Coppola (yes that guy) is trying to hard to make it the Godfather of vampire films. It’s this big sweeping epic that feels more self important than sincere. It sets a pretentious tone and a glacial pace that undermines a lot of the artistry. As a friend exclaimed after “That was a MOVIE”, and yes it was. It had all the pieces in place to make a great epic, but the intentions seemed to tarnish it.

Oh and Keanu’s accent is still atrocious.

But I did appreciate the film more this time around, and I won’t think of it was such disdain as I once did. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I think I could have because about five minutes in I remembered something. My go to parking structure across the street, where I’d left my beloved Samwise, was the one I tried to park in for the Rambo marathon. I didn’t end up there when I found out that it closed at 11. Dracula was a 2 and a half hour movie starting at 9. So I sat there freaking out that my truck would be locked up and I’d hafta deal with getting it back the next day or some other hassle. As soon as the film ended, I bid my friends an abrupt goodbye (even though one had lots of questions I would have happily answered). The garage entrance was locked, but the exit gate was half open with a security guard. He didn’t bat an eye as I ran in and freed my truck from its prison. And then drove home in less than 20 minutes, as opposed to the hour long drive from work at rush hour. I love LA

Come to Daddy

I got my Alamo Season Pass last week, immediately when they were available. I figure I only need to go twice a month to get my money’s worth. As soon as I signed up, this is the movie whose times I checked immediately. It’s exactly why I got my pass, so that I can see movies I’m interested in, but don’t absolutely need to see. The absolute needs, I’ll pay for. The ones I’m on the fence about (and this one I’d been putting off for that exact reason, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the extra twenty bucks to me), I can cross my fingers that they’ll still be available when pass reservations open (cause the catch is I can only reserve a ticket 7 days in advance, so the 50 bucks I dropped on Bong Joon Ho movies in April the day before I signed up was still worth it cause those are already sold out) and if they are, then yay I get to go. So yay I got to go!

Elijah Wood is the strange little man child named Norval. Norval has never had any relationship with his dad, but instead lives a very comfortable and privileged life with his Mom in Beverly Hills. Dad sends him a letter inviting him for a visit at his secluded little beach home, which Norval gladly accepts. Once he arrives, he soon finds that he may be getting much more than he bargained for, and he might learn things he didn’t wanna know about his father.

First of all, I loved how quickly the film goes into the story. The opening credits follow Norval from his Uber to his Dad’s door and it just takes off. It’s like they took that advice of write the first few pages (him getting the letter, etc) and then throw them out completely. I liked the approach.

As for the rest of the movie, I had some pretty high expectations. The trailer hadn’t really excited me much, and I even skipped a few opportunities to see screenings with Elijah Wood in person. But the buzz that came out of those screenings excited me. I was told that it was completely bonkers and bloody and messed up. Now it had my attention.

The first act played out about how I expected. Quirky and unsettling. Then it took a turn that was completely out of left field, not at all what I thought was gonna happen. And I was so lost. Not confused, just lost, because I had no clue where were going, but wherever the destination it was getting there very slowly. It started losing me as I was wondering when and how we were gonna get to the crazy.

Then we took another turn for the final act, and this looked like it would deliver on its promises. And it did, in bursts. There were

some absolutely insane moments, but they felt just like that, moments within a bigger film, not overtaking the film. I loved those bits, but I wanted so much more. I thought it would be absolutely non stop bonkers, but it was broken up to where it felt unsatisfying when I did get my fix.

Come to Daddy – \m/ \m/ \n

Nosferatu

You probably know I have a cat named Nosferatu, named for the old silent vampire film. When he was adopted, I had never seen the film, I only knew its legacy (and I figured the name would fit nicely with his sister Lestat). I soon bought the DVD so I could finally enjoy this film I had heard so much about, and also to give my vampire kitty proper education about his fanged heritage. The problem was that while the print of this old silent has been restored, much of the score has been lost. This DVD had two alternative options: one was pure pipe organ, the other a bit more varied. I couldn’t stand either. The organ fit well, but got annoying after a few minutes. The other was just bad. It didn’t fit at all and was hardly melodic. I spent a whole Saturday afternoon trying to watch the film, but kept on falling asleep to terrible music. I gave up.

Then a few weeks ago I get an email from Secret Movie Club, the same crew that organized the Jurassic Park screening I went to a few months ago. These emails are kinda messy and wordy, and haven’t had anything worth watching since JP. But this email had a line that caught my eye. It pointed out films that were likely to sell out, including a screening of Nosferatu in a month and a half. A screening that would include a live ensemble accompanying the film with an original score. I could not give them my money fast enough. This was bucket list, not just seeing a silent film with live music, but that it’s THIS film. Especially since the biggest impediment to me watching it before was the score. As an added bonus, it was my bday weekend (not that I really made it a bday thing, but it still felt like it was scheduled just for me).

Here’s a little movie history in case you’re still looking at this post having no idea what film I’m talking about. Nosferatu is a 1922 (yes, you read that year correctly) silent film by FW Murnau. It’s basically Dracula, but for legal reasons the names and ending and other details were changed. But no really, if you’re moderately familiar with the Dracula story, you’ve got this one down. It would become the playbook that so many future vampire films would draw from, and at one point it was considered so terrifying that it was banned in several countries.

There are some charms to a silent film that you don’t see today. But quirks aside, it still works as a very compelling film. It’s truly a work of art in a way that few are capable of. The score fit it perfectly and absolutely made the experience so much more special. Also, every time the narration cards said something sinister about the “Nosferatu” I kept thinking it was talking about my cat.

Downhill

Force Majeure is a movie that had been on my radar for a while. I didn’t really know much about it, but it was supposta be good. Then not too long ago I catch a trailer for Downhill and I realize that it’s a remake of that film. The trailer spells out the plot that a family is on vacation when a controlled avalanche appears to be out of control. While Mom huddles down in Mama lion mode to protect her kids, Dad runs off to save himself. The rest of the trip isn’t exactly pleasant.

This version stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as that Mom and Dad, skiing in Austria with their two boys. The trailer and those leads suggest that it’s a comedy. Either it’s not actually meant to be one or it failed miserably because this isn’t at all funny. Absurd, yes. But not side splitting laugh out loud type of thing. In fact, it’s very stiff and awkward. The scenes are filled with so much tension, I desperately wanted some humor to cut thru it.

It is a pretty intense setup, and I was very interested to see how the dynamics of this family played out amidst these events. But the way it played out wasn’t very interesting. There was little back and forth or exploration or ambiguity. It was cut and dry and unpleasant to watch. I mean I guess they did a good job in displaying the discomfort and awkwardness of the situations, but it doesn’t make for a fun movie. It makes those 85 minutes feel infinitely longer. And that’s a bummer. Not to mention a waste of two fantastic leads.

So I guess I still need to see Force Majeure because I feel that one may have done better with the premise.

Downhill – \m/ \n

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog was my first love, in the video game space at least. The neighbor boy around the corner was the first to get a Sega Genesis, and we spent hours playing over there. Not long after, I got my own Genesis, and for some reason, didn’t hang out with the neighbor boy as much after. Funny how that works. My Daddy and I were super into the console, and would hit up Blockbuster most weekends to rent games. Except Sonic games. Those were immediately purchase and play for hours. I still have my Genesis with every Sonic Game: 1, 2, 3, Sonic and Knuckles, Sonic Spinball, Sonic 3D, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Even had a Game Gear with Sonic Chaos. I eventually jumped ship to Nintendo when the N64 came out. I tried to return back to my homeboy on Wii, but he was no longer my Sonic. I could deal with the werewolf thing, but not with the extra controls. My Sonic can only run, jump, and spin dash. Anything else is an impostor.

Anyways, I was gonna skip this movie unless I got really bored. I’ve been giving myself permission to pass on the kiddie movies, and the whole human teeth debacle left me with no faith in this one. Add in that its release date was on a busy weekend and it was doomed. And then. And then, positive reviews started coming in, so my interest peaked a little. And then I saw Jim Carrey doing the late night circuit and it made me nostalgic for the Jim Carrey of the 90’s, which this film promised to deliver a little of. And then this movie earned my top priority spot for the following week, and there ya go.

Our furry little friend is a creature from an alien planet or parallel dimension or something. His speed makes him special, which makes him a target. As a result, he’s been hiding out on Earth for a while, enjoying everything our planet has to offer at a safe distance from humanity. That safety is threatened when he ends up on the government’s radar, who have dispatched the villainous Doctor Robotnik (Carrey) to track him down. He’ll need some help from a friend (James Marsden) in order to survive and move on to his next home.

I started watching waiting for Carrey to take the screen, but something unexpected happened along the way. I was really liking it, falling in love with the little blue devil all over again. As far as kids movies go, it was pretty solid, not unlike all the family films of the 90’s I grew up on. The story, humor, and heart were all there. Ben Schwartz’s voice imbued him with all the spunk and personality I didn’t realize I was expected. And it’s nice to see James Marsden get a strong leading role where he doesn’t get screwed over. The whole thing was just such a perfect combination.

I’m a little torn on Carrey. He was fantastic, do not misunderstand me. Part of me wanted more. It felt like such a tease just getting small tastes of his antics. But at this same time, this was Sonic’s film. You really didn’t want Dr Robotnik to take over the whole film. I think the balance was right, it’s just weird seeing Carrey on a bit of a leash.

There was something else I noticed as the film went on–the attention to detail. Particularly when we got to the boss fight (not a spoiler because of course there’s a boss fight). I noticed it playing out EXACTLY how it would play out in the game. IMDB trivia pointed out other Easter eggs for the sharp eyed. It made me realize that this film really was made by people who love this little dude as much as I do. Even if I still don’t understand what they were thinking with the original “realistic” animation, but the makeover was worth the waiting for.

Oh and if you’re a real fan, stay thru the mid credits. Something happened (no spoilers) that made me absolutely lose it and freak out. It’s what really opened the floodgates to my nostalgia. Memories of all the hours I spent playing with my Daddy just started pouring out. I went from squealing to nearly crying and walked out of there so emotional. If you had ask me two weeks ago what I would get out of this movie, that’s the last thing I would have expected.

I came home really wanting to bust out the Genesis from my top shelf of the closet. Was talking about it with a coworker who then told me about Sega Genesis Mini. Long story short, it was ordered minutes later. But the only reason I’m able to write this post instead of being glued to it was because there was a delivery delay and now I’m devastated that I hafta wait a couple more days to get it and prolly a few more days to play it. Life is hard. But first I blog

Sonic the Hedgehog – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Don’t worry, this isn’t a first time watch post. I’ve seen it many many times. This and its sequel were constant rentals from Blockbuster. I was watching it last night, and I had a somewhat different experience that I thought would make a fun blog post.

I was gonna back up and talk about my experience watching this as a kid, but it turns out, I already did that. So I’ll just back up to two days ago (as of writing). I was watching a clip of Jim Carrey on Colbert, and he was revisiting some iconic lines of dialog. That and his other antics on the show got me feeling nostalgic for 90’s Jim. Again, this man’s movies were a big part of my childhood, and I can still quote entire scenes. I’d always preferred When Nature Calls, but I had put it on not too long ago, so I opted for Pet Detective as I went to sleep last night. And as previously stated, something was different this time.

Yes there was the dose of nostalgia that comes from watching this film in my 30’s that I didn’t have in my single digits. Carrey had also mentioned that he was in his 30’s during this era, so now I was viewing Ace as a peer and not this weird adult. But I was feeling this strange pull towards his character. Wait a second, am I crushing on Ace Ventura? What?! That strange guy that always made me laugh but seemed too over the top to be a real person? I’m attracted to him now? How did that happen? Surely, I’m just sleep deprived and delirious, no? I thought about it for a bit, and actually yeah he kinda fits my profile. Not just kinda, but more like fully embodies it.

I’ve figured out in recent years that what I want in a partner, what I’m most attracted to comes down to three basic traits: kindness, humor, and intelligence. Prolly in that order of important, but really at the most basic level someone needs to check all three boxes. Then of course there’s additional details like shared interests and maybe some superficial preferences. But if you’re not kind, funny, and smart, then sorry game over. Let’s see how Ace measures up.

Kindness. I think where I first started feeling my heart stirring was in seeing him interact with the dogs in the film. So much love, not unlike how I interact with every dog ever. Or with any animal (I say as one of my cats has been balanced on my leg rubbing up against the back of my arm as I’m trying to type). There’s a genuine empathy and kindness in his actions. He’s nice to humans too, but you don’t see it as much because they’re not often nice to him either. So he shakes it off and gives his attention to those who appreciate it. Still, if you watch closely, you see that Ace really does have a bigger heart than anyone gives him credit for.

Humor. I don’t think I need to justify this one at all. We love this movie because Ace is funny, and all these years later he and this film still make me laugh.

Intelligence. The scene that made me realize I was turned on by Ace’s smarts was when they’re investigating what they think is a suicide and he shows they’re actually investigating a murder. The attention to detail and the way he pieced together what he saw better than a room full of cops is, in a word, hot. Very hot. And that’s not the only time he flexes his brainpower in the film. I fell asleep before I got much further, but I’ve got something to look forward to watching tonight.

So yeah. I have a crush on Ace Ventura. Not even gonna try to hide it. Does anyone happen to have his number? Asking for a friend (and that friend is me)