I need to make a few things perfectly clear! Set the Wayback Machine for 2009/2010, I'm hip deep into Phantom obsession and believe you me I was there okay. I was there when the announcement was made, I was there seeing theory videos from fans and behind the scenes from the creators, I was there when the soundtrack dropped, I was there on the official website doing all the fun stuff, and I was there when the intial run had begun and reviews started coming in. And I seriously am about to get a punjab lasso around my throat, before being beaten to death by a mob and summarily thrown into the Seine when I say, I do NOT hate Love Never Dies. In fact if I am being horrifically embarassingly honest, I had more Love Never Dies tracks on my MP3 player back in the day than I had Phantom Of The Opera tracks and I'm pretty sure both musicals are tied with songs now on my phone. So just bear with, please. I was 15 when this production began, I never saw it live, and it wasn't until many years later after the Phantom obsession died down I discovered very much like the 25th anniversary they filmed a performance, with the Australia cast in a real theater with a real audience. And hearing so much about the story and character progression that was only limited to my imagination for so long I had to watch it. So this isn't my first viewing and far from my first listen. Kay? Kay. So let's friggin' do this. Set 10 years after the original the Phantom has crossed the sea and set up shop at Coney Island but is very much still not over Christine and pulls some strings to get her back to perform for him again. She arrives with Raoul and their son Gustave unaware of the situation but when the hammer drops she has to make a decision, sing once more for her angel of music or run like hell with the family unit. Things get a bit more complicated but we'll leave it at that! I don't want to divulge much here so I'll refrain from saying massive spoilers as much as I can but we have to discuss this film and more importantly the overall production before all is said and done. I'll admit when Phantom ended, full catharsis, semi-open ending, regardless of whether I saw it on stage or screen, the thought of a continuation never crossed my mind. Everyone loved the ending so there you go. No more, no less, no demand. Yet, here we are. We got a sequel to Phantom Of The Opera that nobody ever asked for. But why? Other than perhaps highly lucrative sales for Lord Andy, I don't know. I feel strongly even stalwart in the defense of this production that a sequel could genuinely work and work well. You get elements and snippets of that in this film, where you could flat out make a sequel that deconstructs every single relationship in Phantom and just delve into it from both past and present standings. The romance between the Phantom and Christine, the fledgling relationship between Christine and Raoul, how the Giry's connect to the Phantom after a decade of being together, Gustave's fascination with the Phantom's world and machinations, you could write genuinely insightful and emotional stuff from that. But even with the choices made in the initial run that may have been redacted or altered slightly for this version, it ain't half bad! The Phantom is an absolute broken man without his lady love, a shell of his former self and almost flat out dying from a broken heart, and the revelations that come shake him to his foundations because he's so defeated and longing for a reprisal. Christine and Raoul's marriage has broken down, Raoul lost all his money and spiraled into alcoholism, Christine has some doubts and regrets about choosing Raoul at the end, and Gustave takes more after his mother than father. Madame Giry and Meg have dedicated a decade of their lives to smuggle the Phantom out of France and help him build his carnival venue Fantasma, going through years of hell and have been happy to essentially serve him so they can have a better future and how they percieve Christine as a major upheaval of their lives. That's some compelling stuff that can be expanded on more and honestly, if they have made changes version after version, run after run, who the hell says they can't do a massive rewrite from the ground up? Not to say what we got is a shambles, I very much like the majority of it and can roll with how it progresses. Because there's so many little touches most importantly in the acting and characterization that I feel is a huge improvement over the debut, that adds to the drama, romance, and tragedy. Ben Lewis may not have that rocky stunning singing voice of Ramin Karimloo, but he does admirable and his acting seems incredibly Universal Monster almost Bela Lugosi-esque with his powerful stare and slight accent, and even when he gets to act big (cause theater am I right) it doesn't feel overblown. I really dig his look from head to toe and that they give him a threatning edge feels much more in line with the original musical. Anna O'Byrne as Christine is very beautiful and has a good singing voice, she brings a bit more fire to her acting calling out the Phantom when he reappears and feels like she has infinite more depth than the original. Again it's the little touches of her interactions with Gustave, or how she has so much unsaid emotion on her face with Raoul or whether she wants to perform I mean that's good stuff that goes a ways. Simon Gleeson I feel the writing for Raoul helped him out a lot cause Raoul was almost a flat out abusive son of a bitch the first go around release but they've mellowed him a notch, giving more of a depressed man trying to get his life together again while still partly living in a bottle vibe, so when he has that unguarded moment where he shows his emotions you feel something from that, it's not as brutish or cold as the West End version. Sharon Millerchip just gives me even more reason to crush on Meg Giry, yeah I'm sorry if the decision was Christine or Meg I'm going Meg. Odd? Incredibly, she's barely there in the book and even more rare in adaptations, I can't explain it, Meg just has my heart. I know people who howled betrayal and character assassination when it came to Meg in this story, but again they've tweaked it and fine tuned it for this production where she's not....creepy psycho obssessed phangirl, and more made her still the sweet and young girl trying to make the best of the situation, holds the Phantom's opinion highly, is genuinely thrilled to be able to see Christine again, and those little character moments pay gigantic dividends when it comes to Meg in this film which makes her story so much more tragic. Plus Sharon has an absolutely lovely singing voice and is cute as a button. I don't know what you expect from me anymore. Leave me be. The character of Gustave doesn't really have much to do during the story, he comes off more as a plot element instead of a character, but Jack Lyall has a bright and crazy singing voice for one so young and ain't half a bad actor either so what can you do? I think my biggest complaint isn't really what anybody would expect me to say but, this theater that they performed at in Melbourne had a really small stage. Small in terms of width and not so much depth, even though the scene transitions and set designs are really damn good it can feel a bit claustrophobic and I kept noticing it. But everything else, the sets, costumes, makeup, and overall color and motion look great! They take a slightly darker edge to the carnival scenery and the performers therein, and even though the props and furniture do seem sparse it doesn't detract from a scene. Of course I can't talk about this movie without mentioning the score, and as stated above I've listened to this music plenty. In my incredibly humble opinion I feel they excised the right musical numbers, kept the best, changed some things here and there but ultimately as an improvement. Not as a slam against these singers, cause I damn well assure you I could not do better, when my mind plays these songs I hear Ramin, Sierra, and the original West End cast giving such powerful emotion to some numbers, but I still enjoy and appreciate the australian cast here full force. I actually feel the acting bits are superior to the singing bits here but the singing is still good. And just for the hell of it let's talk favorites. I'm split on making one of the few instrumental songs The Coney Island Waltz into a lyrical song so just stick to the album on that one. Till I Hear You Sing may honestly be my favorite of the tracks, with real powderkegs of emotion with certain singers at the helm and just a beautiful lament from the Phantom. It's hard for me not to sing along with it. Speaking of which, The Beauty Underneath goddamn is this a rocking wild tune that put my mind in a stranglehold and I begged for more when the album hit, it's a split decision between this and the Phantom's solo as best song of the entire album. Both Devil Take The Hindmost's are respectively great duets and quartets, I think the quartet is my favorite of those two with so many intertwining melodies where it's almost addicting to listen to. Good stuff man. And the less we speak of the beauty of bathing the better, don't despise it but good lord that's a whoooole other can of worms. No thanks. And as for the ending well, my lips are sealed but you know what? It made me feel a tinge of emotion if only for one moment so it isn't a failure. That's how I'd sum up the entirety of Love Never Dies, despite what people said, despite the not so popular and consistent runs, despite the direction Lord Andy wanted to take for the sequel, it didn't fail. It's just one more piece of Phantomy goodness to enjoy and it is so not the worst. Not by a longshot across a country mile several lightyears from our galaxy. I give it 3 stars, 7.5/10! And The Phantom himself has stopped haunting Broadway after 3 decades, so nothing clearly lasts forever. But it's never really gone. Who is the Phantom? He is...whatever you want him to be.
Thursday, April 27, 2023
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
I really confused myself majorly in doing some research for this version.
Bit of backstory necessary for this, back in the 70s Ken Hill fashioned a Phantom Of The Opera musical completely unrelated to what we know today as the musical Phantom, and two creators saw the Ken Hill play, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Arthur Kopit, who in tandem with Maury Yeston were creating a Phantom story of their own with a lot more emphasis on romance instead of horror. But Lord Andy and Cameron Mackintosh got to the finish first and even though the Yeston and Kopit stage play was backed by Broadway and ready to go, they all jumped ship to the Lloyd Webber musical forcing the duo to shelve the project until the 90s. The Charles Dance mini-series is essentially the play just without most of the musical numbers. And the Yeston and Kopit musical has been performed all over the world with a highly succesful iteration in Japan with an all female troupe, so it's not complete bad news for them. But back to the main reason we're here. The movie is a good sit clocking in at 3 hours and honestly if they just stuck to the book I really think we would have had a definitive version here, cause obviously they don't need to rush the story with a good runtime like that, they actually film at the legit Opera Populaire, and for a while at the beginning it seems to follow the sequence of events for the book. But hey, the musical wasn't really trying to be faithful to the book so whatever it's okay. It's pretty typical for the vast majority of the movie in terms of plot, a young lady named Christine is brought to the Opera House with patronage of the Count De Chagny, as new managers move in, and both come to be aware seperately of a strange presence at the opera. Christine gets singing lessons, mishaps occur at the performances of prima donna Carlotta, Raoul or rather Philipe in this version takes an interest in Christine, and the Phantom eventually abducts her. It doesn't deviate much from the source except in one major respect, we get backstory on Erik's parents. And of course they have to fiddle about with Christine so she looks like Erik's mom, I'll never understand that as long as I live! Why? Just leave it, leave it, stop touching it, if it ain't broke don't damn well fix it! Back to the review. The recent ex-manager of the opera is Erik's father, which some people have issue with but honestly I don't mind it, sure he's not as isolated or takes great matters in his hands cause he has help from above but I feel how the story goes and the performances involved make it work nicely. Talking of which, this is a very good cast. I know Charles Dance has a big reputation these days and I'm thrilled he does, but to me he'll always be Erik first and foremost. Very different from past incarnations, much more soft spoken and gentlemanly rather than outright murdering monster. And I have to give the movie major credit for not showing the Phantom's face, controversial perhaps but I like that it's just left to your imagination and it works in a different way. Plus I greatly enjoy how you can tell he has feelings for Christine and while he showers her with compliments and enjoys her company he doesn't really know how to say or voice his deep love for her. Teri Polo as Christine I loved just as much as Charles, she has this very humble, innocent, sweet persona and it's difficult not to smile when she's on screen, and brownie points for getting a blonde Christine like in the book which is rarer than having Meg or Caesar the horse in an adaptation. This might be the first Burt Lancaster movie I've seen and he has a good presence weaving the mystery of the opera ghost, the relationship between Gerard and Erik is not only unique but heartfelt at times, and I like how he has a prominent role throughout. Ian Richardson and Andrea Ferreol make a solid duo as the opera manager Choleti and Carlotta, they're used for comic relief well but not overused, Carlotta's actually pretty devious in this and any version of this character is fun to watch even if her egotistical personality makes her very unlikeable. And Adam Storke as Philipe, no disrespect to the man at all for this, but I really don't like this version of Raoul. This is quintessential floppy hair fop Raoul and I don't truthfully buy the romance but I barely ever do, I mean he acts perfectly fine but it's the character I take issue with. I was so over it by the end man, I just don't like the ending cause it puts me in a bummer mood but at the exact same time that goes to show good storytelling and effective drama if it can take you to those emotional places. I highly recommend looking this movie up on Youtube cause there was some severe film preservation going on and even more so specifically Phantom film preservation, they have both parts in upscaled 1080p and it looked great even on my laptop. Seeing the Paris Opera House in such clarity, with all the costumes and props, was so cool and enjoyable. It's undoubtedly a movie that's a matter of taste to people, some adore it and say it's one of the best, other say it isn't for them, but where do I stand? Well once more, this version I have heard about for 15 years now and finally seeing it was nice. I think it's a very good version and has lots to enjoy, but I can understand some of the feedback on things like the runtime, the Phantom's characterization, more emphasis on romance and less on the music, but those things didn't faze me badly. There's something for everyone in this phandom. You want straight up bloody horror here's the Robert Englund version, you want classic cinema and a faithful adaptation go wild with the Chaney version, you want high emotion melodrama with a fantastic score the musical is most certainly the way, and if you want absolutely fucking nothing what so goddamn ever to do with the source material unfortunately the Dario Argento version exists. I'd recommend this for phans who want a more human story with Erik and Christine, who like romance movies and emotional drama, or just wanting to see yet another version previously unexplored, because it is worth it. And from what I've seen the stage show isn't half bad either, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing it all live, and on the tier list of Phantom musicals I think it sits at 2nd place which in the grand scheme of things is a mighty good place to be. So take it for what it's worth. 3 stars, 8/10! And God above are we just digging into it tomorrow, oh yes it is time to talk....Love Never Dies.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Down once more to the depths of the opera.
It's strange how certain things come back into your life and Phantom has slowly crept in these past few months, I've rewatched films, seen some more fan appreciation for various adaptations, and even re-read the book so let's talk more films of this beyond niche corner of popular literature. Now I've heard about the Schell version almost immediately in my first and most severe obsession with Phantom Of The Opera way, way back in about 2008 or 2009 but I've only just seen it for the first time. So how was it? In terms of movies it's about lower mid tier of adaptations. They shift the setting from turn of the 20th century Paris to about 1920s-30s Budapest, which brownie points for the crew actually shooting on location there, as we meet composer Sandor Korvin and his fiancee Elena who's a debutting opera singer and after a pretty convoluted and not super well defined reason of the manager sabotaging her career, Elena drowns herself and leads Korvin to seek revenge. And yes this is one of those versions where the Phantom is scarred by acid instead of being deformed, a popular trope since the 1930s chinese version Song At Midnight, but here it's not handled nearly as well. What confuses matters even more for me is Korvin is rescued from acid disfiguring and being almost burned alive by this character who seems to be a mix of the ratcatcher and mute assistant from the Herbert Lom version who inexplicably is outside but not only that, he takes Korvin to his soon to be subterranean lair, and even picks out the mask for him. This boggles my mind and quite frankly takes away defining moments for the Phantom. An indeterminate period of time elapses as we are introduced to new budding opera singer Maria who catches the eye of the Phantom, but not due to just fancying her for her talent and looks but because she looks similar to Korvin's dead wife. Not a fan of such changes, they really love interjecting a reason why the Phantom loves Christine in movies instead of it being a natural attraction (or about as natural a romance as you can get with a creepy mask wearing cave dweller). Oh Christine is his dead wife reincarnated, Christine is his daughter, Christine is the only woman to do his music justice, and it just doesn't work. And to compound that fact that there really isn't any romance or love triangle here, our Raoul equivalent is a posh englishman played by Michael York, and admittedly I actually liked how they weren't making googly eyes at each other from the start and have a rather catty and non-romantic edge to them at the start but there's no real fight or passion to win Maria to either side and when they do get together it's very much a whatever reaction. Hell the most confrontational they get is when the Phantom chokes Michael out like a bitch at a turkish bath and that's kinda it. Another aspect woefully cut short. Sounds like negatives all around huh? Well in all seriousness, I don't hate it. I accept it was just a TV movie made in the 80s, they took some liberties with the source material, and in a pre-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical world showed that people still remember the story. The best part period about the movie is Maximilian Schell himself, I heard his acting might have been a tad much but madame please Erik ain't exactly a down to earth subdued presence in the book so I'll live, I love the look and the mask, I dare say he has one of the best speaking voices for this character in any medium, I love we see him out and about beyond the opera house, and while he doesn't appear much the stuff he has is nothing but highlights for me. Jane Seymour is decent in acting and I don't hate how she takes a more firm spoken and career driven iteration of Christine, but in tandem with our two male leads there's just something missing that's needed for this particular story. Michael York, eh I've rarely seen a Raoul variant that I tremendously like and the attitude and upper classmanship for lack of a better word turns me off quick but no bad acting from him. I will admit the video I got ahold of for this was free on Youtube cause to own it on video you need to have a region free DVD player and even then it seems like not many copies are abound, so the quality was in classic 360p which lends quite well if you imagine you're watching it on a tube TV in 1983, but the direction is solid, the scenery in sets and locations are nice, also kinda amazing to see a Phantom lair look pretty damn close to the musical version 3 years before the stage musical came out so well done there, everything feels legit to the time period, you just gotta roll with the less than crystal clear picture quality but hey maybe there is a better and cleaner source to be found elsewhere. Who knows. Not bad, but there are better. I give it 2 stars, 6/10, and we jump all the way to 1990 tomorrow for another TV movie with a huge modern film star today. If you know your stuff you already know who it is.
Friday, April 21, 2023
Nope, not even a small connection to the 2013 movie. But you know, I was going to review it sooner or later.
So Evil Dead Rise, new entry in the series with executive producers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell chipping in, pretty decent I would say. I can see it as a complete standalone film yet it has a tiny bit of an open ending, focusing on a single mom with her three kids and visiting sister in a run down apartment tower and after an earthquake (still figuring out if it was demon caused) whaddayaknow they find a clearly fucked book and take it back home. Kids. Now one aspect I really appreciated in this is you get down time with this family before stuff goes sideways, hell it almost becomes a drama learning about their relationships and little character details which I felt was handled very well, I was invested in that. I mean when you bring kids into the mix of an Evil Dead movie it's almost a given they'll get possessed and if they really got balls they'll drop those kids like a bad habit. They got balls the size of watermelons. But it makes you root for the family even more, wanting them to make it out from the fairly unsettling visage of their mom. The effects work for makeup, prosthetics, and gore are very good but I'll admit that's a hard area to top from the 2013 movie but it all works in creepy ways. However one aspect I can't stand which is an unfortunate trend in horror for the past few years is, creepy shit is starting to escalate, sound drops to nothing, then a spooky thing happens. And that happens a fair bit in this movie, but at the exact same time they don't commit to a great deal of jumpscares, and I really like just seeing weird freaky shit occur without any quick edits to go BOO so it's not a complete failure in that aspect. They still do plenty new, and because it's a standalone I really feel like someone could walk into this blind without seeing a frame of previous Evil Dead movies and not only roll with it but like it. Yeah, you get the boomstick and chainsaw, you see the clock, but to the uninitiated those are just elements that work in the film. I thought the cast was rock solid across the board, I mean these kids freak out but not in an annoying loud way, the drama aspects as I stated above work well and the performances make that work, even the other tenants who are purely ancillary characters don't feel like a waste or there to pad the runtime. It's a competently made film, the innovations bring a new edge to the proceedings, and I would even go so far as to say it's on par with the original Evil Dead. That ranking will come up in a brief moment but first, ratings! I give it 3 stars, 7/10. Now let's figure out the sequence.
5. Evil Dead (2013)
4. Evil Dead Rise
3. Evil Dead (1981)
2. Army Of Darkness
1. Evil Dead 2
One week closer to the end. I had something larger planned for my birthday week but doing two weeks of TV shows would have been rough so I'm swapping it out for something that has crept back in my life somewhat.
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
I don't really know what I was expecting but I figured it would be wise to cover my bases before the new movie hit Friday.
Now I'm not what you would call a mega fan of the Evil Dead movies, I like the first one, I love the second one, and I really like Army Of Darkness. I haven't heard much in the decade since this movie's release, maybe seen a trailer, but this was very much a blind first viewing. And how I wish I could say it was a good movie. I can't even say if it's a remake or a semi-sequel, it seems much more like a reimagining. A group of friends or more I should say a support circle arrive at the infamous cabin for a young girl named Mia who's been struggling with drugs, and of course they find the fruit cellar, poke around, and find a book clearly NO ONE WANTS THEM TO READ! I will give you a hint what transpires, blood. It's not a good sign when a group of five characters in search of an exit are presented and only two of them I like. One of them being friggin' Tabitha from Gotham, and Mia herself. The rest, which unfortunately, we center on for the majority of the film I cannot stand in the least. You're probably familiar with a certain trope of horror movies that concerns very dumb people, yeah there's a bit of that here. It...God almighty, I was so over it. I know you gotta speak the words for the spooky shit to occur but this was egregious man, I mean purposefully out of the way for one of these fucks to know the words and then inexplicably say it out loud. At least it kinda worked in previous movies cause it was on a tape recorder and they didn't know necessarily about the Necronomicon, but this shit heel finds it wrapped in plastic and barb wire, sees the skin bound binding, with seven inches of satanic panic thick pages with clear evidence of blood and he just keeps fiddling with it. How about....no. There's so many bad decisions to be found here. So yeahhh, story is okay but the characters butcher it more than any deadite ever was. However, all is not lost cause holy shit balls! The effects, top tier, 10/10, it's gnarly! I mean wowww the gore is insane and I'd say 99% of it is done all in camera for real for real, all practical baby! So color me grossed out and beyond amazed. Not a great reliance on jumpscares too so hey brownie points for that. I like the look of the film, undoubtedly modern but has a crisp clear cinematography where it mixes a tinge of atmosphere, eerie lighting, and rich blood spewing. It's a grotesque film and the demons or deadites or whatever go for straight horror and do a decent job of it. But is it enough of a saving grace for the movie? Well just as a tribute let's do those drive-in totals, we have: 4 undead bodies, 1 dead dog, brain bashing, glass stabbing, possesed foliage, bloody rain, pyromania, arms roll, hands roll, nailgun-fu, needle-fu, chainsaw-fu, 2.5 stars check it out. I'd personally skip it but if you can find a special effects highlight reel online, you will see craftsmanship of a rare breed. 5/10, I'm honestly terrified to see Evil Dead Rise cause boy this week has not been kind in the movie department. I beg to all the forces of the cosmos, both good and ill, let the next movie be decent. It holds promise and looks decent but that has yet to be decided by me.
Monday, April 17, 2023
I'm not entirely sure where I stand with this.
When I saw the trailer I thought, oh shit yeah Gotham By Gaslight meets H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos, sign me the hell up! I mean what a fascinating idea, to do a late 19th/early 20th century story where Batman has to stop some whacked out cult from essentially doing what Rasputin was trying to do in Hellboy and summon some Outer God leviathan to our realm, that's a solid ass plot that I think is awesome! That really is not entirely the movie I got, and I truthfully 100% can absolutely see this from both sides. There's Batman iconography present, you do get some of the characters but they pretty much take the lore, throw it up in the air, watch it fall into a shredder, and take a flamethrower to it just for good measure. I kind of expected this to follow the Gotham By Gaslight adaptation with Bruce Greenwood returning, but it's an entirely other adaptation of a comic I had no clue existed until the credits rolled, and it's just so fundamentally different to an almost extreme level. On one hand I kinda appreciate that, they don't do some partially by the numbers Batman movie and do so much original and innovative things with the concept of these characters but at the exact same time it's such a radical change that it's almost alienating even to a hardcore fan like me. I know they wanted to tell a grand epic story mixing and melding these two very different worlds together but I think the direction was in the wrong place while their hearts were in the right place. And the same goes for the Cthulu mythos themselves, it takes pre-established facts about these enormously unnatural beings and kinda just wanted to use the imagery but not the essence of those literary sources. Bruce stares down an outer god not once but twice and retains his sanity almost fully, and I'm like.....???? Beg pardon? Cause that's kinda what they do, that's part of the horror of it all to see such overwhelmingly just unearthly creatures to where your mind can't process it and you go insane instantly. When fucking Bird Box does a better job with this shit, I don't think you get it. I really do think this is a film that appeased neither fandom and falls through the cracks. And yet there are aspects I quite like! I think the animation is very solid, I like the idea that Talia and Ra's are the head of the cult trying to summon Yog-Sothoth pretty much, I like how Etrigan comes into play he fits perfectly with this kind of story, seeing the steampunk detailing for the gadgets are fucking sick honestly, even just as simple of a concept as Batman having to utilize science to fight magic is fascinating. There are little gold nuggets here and there, and you could tell they were onto something good but it came apart at the seams. That sucks man. Especially when the story really didn't seem that hard to fuck up. Craft a story where Bruce returns to Gotham and becomes the Batman, have him wander across a truly disturbingly brutal ritualistic killing case, do some detective work into the Cthulu mythos that leads him perhaps to Ra's perhaps to some Otherworld's variant of the Court Of Owls, he learns their plan, you pepper in some fights against henchmen and maybe individuals who enhance themselves with dark magic throughout the movie, maybe he employs the help of Jason Blood at one point to equip Batman with some magical protective gear, they go stop the ritual midway as this multi-eyed tentacled creature is coming through a portal, bada-boom! Perfect! End of movie. Brevity is the soul of wit, you keep it nice and simple and it most likely will turn out good! So I can't fullheartedly recommend it to fans novice or experienced in either camp, but it certainly isn't horrible either. I give it 2 stars, 5.5/10. We got some more horror stuff so fingers crossed and I will see you next time.
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Surprise! It's the little things in life that help accentuate a good experience.
I've been partaking in some vampire media of late, re-watching Tod Browning's Dracula and Cinemassacre's Dracula showdown, and I've been hopelessly addicted to Castlevania Symphony Of The Night for a solid week. It's awesome, and so was this movie! I only had two wants stepping in, let me see the 1930s Universal logo and let me hear Swan Lake, I did not get either but I am so not even mad! I'm counting this along with 2020's The Invisible Man as the future of the Universal Monsters, taking classic iconic monsters and doing something new and unique with them. It's kind of a pseudo sequel to 1931's Dracula, which works surprisingly well considering the monster movies of the 40s had their continuity fast and loose so it doesn't have to match up exactly. We of course follow Renfield, familiar to the world known Count who is hoping for a change in his life. He starts gradually building a life of his own in New Orleans and spending less time with Dracula, leading him to cross paths with a police officer named Rebecca on the blood trail investigation as they each have their own goals to accomplish. The first thing I gotta tell you is, Nicholas Hoult is fucking great in this role! I know people could complain about, well he's nothing like Dwight Frye but 1.) That's dismissing character innovation, and 2.) You just couldn't replicate that. Even Peter MacNicol in Dracula Dead And Loving It, even he couldn't do Dwight Frye but he came damn close! Nicholas has the right chops for this, perfectly casted in my opinion, he can do the comedy well, when it's time for the big guns he can act so well in scenes requiring drama and emotion, and is just a great lead to follow! Now what do I think of Nicolas Cage as Dracula? Well again I appreciate immensely that they don't just do Bela Lugosi or even Max Shreck, he makes it his Dracula. Now he doesn't go all out, you're not getting Vampire's Kiss part 2 here, he's there to be an intimidating and mostly serious villain for Renfield to overcome and it works very very well. And I have to admit I never equated the vampire/familiar relationship to well...an actual toxic relationship, it's pretty unique how they handle it and it really ain't far from the mark. Awkwafina as Rebecca is absolutely the comic relief but they dial her down as the film progresses, and I feel her story is a solid one trying to avenge her father Morris Quincy (Ha!) and I'll freely admit her and Renfield share some super cute moments. Insert still a better love story than Tw-back to the review. I wasn't fully feeling the kinda unrelated mob family element, I know it's part of Rebecca's story and progression but I also simultaneously felt it wasn't terribly needed as much as it was in the film. But the story and the characters are still great, and yes it gets some hardcore brownie points for incorporating seamless footage at times of the original film with Nic and Nicholas digitally added in, and of course I quoted it because I'm me. The technical aspects are pretty grand too, if you're a bloodhound this movie is up your alley, I mean they take Evil Dead levels of blood and elevate that higher somehow, with a great deal of practical effects, makeup and prosthetics, and solid direction that really put a smile on my face. The comedy works quite well I found, and it's not a joke a minute and if I'm being really honest I don't consider it a full on comedy. Now I know I'm biased, I love the Universal Monsters, I still mourn the Dark Universe, so this won't be an objective rating. But when I stack it all up, those pros really overwhelm those odds. And given the fact this movie made me settle on not just finally sitting down and reading the Bram Stoker novel to appreciate all the adaptations more but also actually wanting to watch and review the spanish version of Dracula, and I swear to you now that will happen this October (So let it be written, so let it be done.), so clearly this worked for me. And the audience I watched it with, even though not many of them probably knew the Lugosi movie, seemed to really enjoy it too. So hey, it might work for both fans and newcomers. I give it a full 4 gold stars, and a 9/10! So check it out, and all you hardcore blood drooling beast of the night fans go point out all the nifty nods and easter eggs. Have a bit of fun and drink up.
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
It's been a hot minute since an ending has gotten me that vocally invested.
What a film! Finally talking The Whale, heard so much high praise about it but I never saw a single showtime at any theater and I knew I couldn't pass it up. I really don't want to talk about it too much cause I feel people should just see it but hey this is a review and there's good stuff to talk about. The plot isn't terribly involved, taking place almost entirely in a single apartment where we meet Charlie an online college writing professor who is quite literaly morbidly obese and is suffering from congestive heart failure as he tries to reconnect with his family. That's all you need to know walking in. It's pure high emotional storytelling, I genuinely would call it a tragedy instead of a drama, as we see just how this one man's life went on a downward spiral and he's just trying to find something positive he has done with his life. I'll level with you here today, I'm quite a large fellow. 6'5", 350 odd pounds with no rippling muscles to be seen whatsoever, I wear 4XL or 5XL shirts, I prefer wearing sweatpants for comfort, and my ring plus my shoe size is a 16, and while I'm not to the extent of Charlie or suffering major health problems it was quite easy to understand his complications with day to day living. And yes the movie did make me confront why it is the way I am today in physicality. You see this man whose heart is worn constantly on his sleeve, positivity to the Nth degree, completely honest and caring, who is constantly berated and treated so badly by his family for mistakes he did in his past and you sympathize pretty strongly. I heard a lot of bashing in the case of Charlie's daughter Ellie and while I admit she says horrible things for seemingly the most random of purposes, I can understand where it all stems from and that's an aspect the movie does incredibly well at, it simply potrays people as individuals who are not perfect. They have problems, they make mistakes, they have demons to wrestle with. I'm not entirely sure why there is a semi-prominent religious aspect to the film, it doesn't hurt the film in any way and brings up interesting points, but I don't quite get what the intention is from the writing and directing perspective. Let's switch gears to the cast real quick. Brendan, my frickin' guy, I'm so proud of you on your awards cause you really did bring it for this role, I mean I know it comes down to a combo of the script, the actor, and the director but he really did great work and his commitment to actually carrying a heavy weight on camera speaks volumes to his character. I really loved Hong Chau as Liz who is Charlie's carer, she's a hard ass but you can tell she does truly want to be there for him and at a point certain information comes to light and it poses the question of does she do it because she cares or does she do it because she feels an obligation? Which is a great talking point after the movie! Sadie Sink as Ellie is nothing but a wild card in the equation, heavy on the angst and gruffness which I know will bother some people but look at it from a teenage perspective and see if your opinion changes. Ty Simpson as a missionary named Thomas is quite good as well, sort of inexplicably drawn to Charlie for reasons of his faith but like Charlie wants to try to do positive things. I'm gonna go off on a wee tangent here but shit I fucking need to just admire teachers, as I said Charlie is an online course professor and fully encourages his students to be honest, thoughtful, and meaningful writers and it made me think a lot about how hard it is to be a teacher. You gotta make a curriculum for the year, you have to have a system of judgement to grade papers, you need to have equal parts patience and passion to educate others, that shit ain't easy so I loudly and unapologetically applaud teachers of all sorts. And his message of writing with honesty and meaning, to commit to the words on the page, emboldened me because that's how I prefer to write. Uncensored, undiluted, speaking my mind with zero reservations because it's who I am. It's a very well written movie with solid moments of catharsis near the end, understandable characters, and a very small scale but engrossing story. And that ending got me, I couldn't shut up, I was just like, "You fucking bastard Darren Aronofsky, you actually did that." man that goes to show how into this movie I was. It might not be the best movie I've seen all year but it most certainly was a great movie. I give it 4 stars, 8.5/10, and we're going to do something a little different than usual tomorrow so stay tuned.
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
I've said it many times and I mean it with every syllable, for a pessimist I'm pretty optimistic. Fun though it is to reference a Paramore song, because I'm turning to dust and bones with each passing moment, I truly mean that. If you know anything about me in real life I'm grumpy, bitter, and don't care much for people. So why exactly do I choose to look on the bright side when it comes to movies, and shows, and just media in general? Well I always consider it to be escapism first and foremost, I'm self aware enough to look at the big picture and even laugh at my own anger and frustration which more often than not is directed towards something that doesn't matter a lot. Not to say cinema and entertainment cannot be more than simply that, I know better, I know what the power of film and stories can do to the world but like I said I have enough diassociation to understand it's a movie. I wish more people had such ways of thinking, cause I'll be honest here man....it's gotten to the point where I don't give two fucks about hardly anyone's opinions anymore when it comes to movies. That really is something big for me to say here, I built my life from teenage years onward on film reviews, internet critics, and opinion pieces on all different kinds of media, but I'm just not that dude anymore. Which is odd because I've held the firm belief that you shouldn't care what other people think and to live your life your way for a good long while now, before I really got out of my teenage years when self doubt, paranoia, and teeming emotions are a constant. And I'm taking a positive stance on this, it's just another part of growing up. And you never really stop growing. But I hate to admit it came from a spiteful source, I'm just so over an abundance of negativity to where I'm receding further and further from social media. Because I see just so much ugliness over like a kid's show or a book and most certainly on movie series I greatly enjoy, even if I don't indulge in those individuals content and it grates. It grates like a son of a bitch and I can't stand it. That's pretty much my stance on my own reviews, why contribute to just badmouthing and hating on something when you can shed some positivity instead? I know it all comes down to emotions but I strongly feel not many folks take everything into account and just rage for the sake of views and don't acknowledge good things as well. You've probably seen that a good few times online. I have seen some not so great stuff in my life but I don't dwell. You know what I mean? So my opinions and my personality have changed and I just hope it's for the better. Having a high functioning autistic mind doesn't help much, ridiculous though it seems I feel very isolated if that's the right word in my own thoughts and likings because I simply don't see or hear anyone share them. Not all of them obviously, that would be impossible but just something....anything. Very counter culture though I am, never once have I wrote something just to be contrary. I fail to see the point and just tell it how I feel, even if certain opinions have changed since the initial review which they have! I've even flat out called bullshit on myself for certain ratings, but I'd rather grow and form new opinions than stagnate on a topic for nearly a decade not reflecting on anything. I've been a hopeless YouTube addict for nearly 20 years, delving into all kinds of stuff but I find myself more rewatching older stuff than pursuing new material, maybe you do the same but I feel that's something I need to come out of my shell more on. You never have to agree on everything, you just gotta find someone your speed and energy. But all that most certainly will not hinder my own views on the things I choose to review, it's been a very grand journey thus far and to know people stop by to read awhile means the world to me. And let me tell you something man, it's a better world to live in when you get up, walk away from the computer, and savor life a bit before coming back for a little while later. That's the goal. And as far as my writing I can only say this: It is a far far better thing that I do than I have ever done before, and it is a far far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. Less than a month to go now and I'll see you tomorrow.
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Well I was partially right.
The new Mario Bros. movie is good, but again you have to divide it between an adaptation and a movie on it's own. I do really like despite what others might grumble about how they craft the world, with Mario and Luigi as plumbers in New York who discover a warp pipe and get transported to the world of the games we know and love. Luigi gets seperated and ends up in enemy territory while Mario meets up with Peach in an attempt to stop Bowser and save his brother. It's a completely decent plot, and while the pessimist in me wants to say well they sure figured out how to cram each gameplay mechanic into this, they do Super Mario, they do 3D World, they do Mario Kart, they even pretty much do Smash Bros., yet the optimist in me has to give minor applause for how they strung each setpiece together and did make it work quite well! Though I'm split on how things in the game world carry over into the movie, and what I mean by that is the characters know a red flower gives you fire powers or what a question block does but there's no explanation as to why they are there, who made them, or how they know that. I suppose it's just one of those don't question it things. Voice acting was pretty good though I gotta say, I didn't hate the Chris Pratt voice like so many were dreading, and I did NOT need this lavish, over the top "It's-a me Mario, I'm gonna beat the living ragu out of you and then drink a lot of red wine while shouting about the new Ferrari Stradale while making my world famous linguini!" I'd put my foot down on that pronto. It peppers it in but not much. Charlie Day, solid casting as Luigi I must say and was almost expecting them to do some Luigi's Mansion stuff at one point, but I liked him! Anya Taylor-Joy as Peach, here to throw down and do what must be done so rock on there, it's odd seeing her in this considering her previous films I've seen but hey I'm here for it and I really really dig the backstory they give to her. Jack Black as Bowser is the best part of the movie in my opinion, yeah the voice has been augmented a fair bit but only Jack could deliver these lines and these moments. The animation is everything you imagined and more, it really does look like the newest games with a Hollywood budget creating some colorful, beautiful, even atmospheric worlds with more easter eggs and references than you could throw a blue shell at, and not just Mario stuff either! The music is...interesting, they throw in a lot of Mario music in full orchestral fashion which was fantastic, but then they throw in tracks like ACDC'S Thunderstruck and A-Ha's Take On Me seemingly random at times but I dig those songs so it was jarring but not bad. The comedy was good, but the big shining stars are Bowser and a quite literal star from the Super Mario Galaxy games that made me laugh until I had to cover my mouth, bite my lip, and shed brief tears just so I wouldn't laugh like a cross between a strangled hyena and the friggin' Emperor. It's exactly as advertised and oh yeah, people will be shouting cash cow advertisment product placement galore with this movie and even I gotta admit it worked on me. I would love to fire up Super Mario World on my SNES or marathon 3D World with some friends (dibs on blue Toad), but it's Mario man. It's been around awhile, it most likely is the first video game we have ever played, I know it was mine when I was starting to get around on my own two legs and going to my cousins place where they had an NES with Super Mario/Duck Hunt and I really liked it. Not long after that Super Mario 64 and more importantly the N64 made me the gamer I am today. It's okay to watch and love it. As an adaptation it's pretty much a 9 if not 10/10! But as a movie all on it's own I give it a 7.5/10, good movie, pretty fun, will we see Wart in a sequel? You never know. So hey fuggetaboutit, get you some italian food after the movie, school your family and friends at Mario, and have a fun day to yourself. Now if only we could get a Zelda movie...
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
This is gonna be hard to rate.
I almost don't know what to say about this movie considering it's been talked about enough since the movie came out and even more so when internet critics became popular, so all it comes down to is my opinion. Now the idea of a Mario movie doesn't sound difficult even despite the sheer lack of story in the games at that point and quite frankly beyond, so I genuinely do appreciate what they did and what they were trying to do. Seeing Mario and Luigi as plumbers from Brooklyn works really well, and they feel real enough so that when the weird shit happens they don't just immediately roll with it and have a solid course of action. True the whole parallel dimension thing is a bit odd but how would they have introduced all the fantastical stuff? That's kinda the problem with this movie, it's really not a clean cut good/bad kind of film, it's a mixed bag of good stuff, perplexing stuff, and interesting stuff. I feel it almost has to be a split rating, what do you think of it as a movie and what do you think of it as an adaptation of a game? So let's dig in a bit. The story or more the set up for the story is hit and miss, with the Mario brothers going about their normal business when they meet a young girl named Daisy with a mysterious origin and not long after that she gets kidnapped so they go after her. And then it gets weird, falling through a dimensional fissure they emerge in the city of Dinohattan where all residents naturally evolved from reptiles instead of apes led by the tyrannical Koopa who has plans to invade our dimension to further his kingdom so the boys gotta get back Daisy, thwart Koopa, and somehow get back home. Not a horrible story on paper, and the logistics and worldbuilding they do may be considered too realistic but I feel it helps the movie's style and tone. Dinohattan is a mish mash of Blade Runner, Mad Max, with an unhealthy overdose of fungus and the script thinking of what if there was a world with reptiles but no mammals. So they did put effort into crafting this world and thinking it out. There's no fossil fuels so everything including the cars are electric, there's no furs or much cloth for clothing so it's mostly leather, the denizens move more like dinosaurs and aren't completely evolved to look like homosapiens. All those neat touches add to the score and it's genuinely a world I would want to see evolve through more movies. The characters are defined well enough with good acting and decent chemistry I found with some offbeat things about it but nothing bad. The effects are really really good actually, again going back to a time where CGI was used only when necessary so the vehicles, props, Goombas, Yoshi, and stunts were legit! You cannot prove to me otherwise that Yoshi is real and alive, it's right there breathing and moving in front of your eyes! The music's okay but it's got some good tracks that I enjoy. With so many good points you'd think why exactly do people hate this movie yet I know the friggin' answer. The production was a nightmare and I can pin this down to two sources, the directors and the studio. The studio wanted something more kid friendly and colorful while the directors who were a married couple wanted to give it some edge and not just make a kids movie. Not horrible intentions of course, but how the actual production went, in particular the shooting, made the project into a shit show. Constant daily rewrites, the directors not communicating the schedule and what they had to get shot, rushed in editing, and emotions ran high. It really sucked reading that Bob and John were utterly miserable on the set to where they had to drink heavily just to make it through, cause I do like their performances and the energy they bring when working in tandem together. They genuinely are decent in the lead roles, I like the romances they have with Daniella and Daisy respectively, that's not a bad element to the story. Dennis Hopper as Koopa, weird ass choice but he accepted, and unfortunately doesn't get to go batshit but I can't truthfully say he sucked in this either. Of course you got your little references and easter eggs and those are cool, I totally want a wind up Bob-Omb! And you know maybe, just maybe, I'm being nice because I was a fan of this movie when I was young but I also haven't watched it in about 15 years and I'm just calling it as I see it. Regardless of what you think about the quality of it, it's a fascinating little movie. The fact that whatever momentum it had going for it was completely nuked by the release of Jurassic Park just 2 weeks later in and of itself is crazy. The 90s man, the fuck was with this decade and dinosaurs?? I was a dinosaur kid for a lot longer than most other kids, we're talking from like 98 or 99 all the way to about 2004, all due to this decade's fascination with these legendary extinct creatures. But the movie has a fanbase that seems to be growing bit by bit over three decades since it's release with some individuals finding a print with many deleted scenes and made a pretty packed Blu-Ray from what I've heard. And yeah, you're gonna have to buy that Blu-Ray. Why? Because this movie is on zero streaming platforms, you either need to own it on home video or be like me and taped it off Starz in the early 2000s and you still have your VHS of it all these years later. It's the only true way to watch it in my opinion. So what's the score here? As an adaptation of a Mario game, of which there were about 4 console games at that point, I'd give it a 6/10. But just as a movie all by itself, I'm gonna give it a 7/10. It's really not that bad, just a bit odd in how it came to be. And if you really need a second opinion of it, Shigeru Miyamoto the creator of the Mario series, stated that the movie may have been a little too close to the games and focused on being a video game movie instead of just a fun movie on it's own. Maybe he's just being nice too, but I don't doubt the man himself. So 30 years have passed, video game movies are at a better standing now than they ever were, so what will the new movie accomplish? Will it just be a 90 minute cutscene from the new games, or will it have something going for it? Well I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, I haven't heard the Mario voice or any voice for that matter. See you tomorrow.