This movie is all over the place. Right from the get-go, a motorcyclist has an unfortunate run-in with Wick’s car, and the wreckage is sent in pieces all around your head. Then suddenly, John is quietly whispering with an adversary. The entire movie weaves in and out of near silence then pure chaos, and while this might sound obnoxious, it’s a beautifully immersive experience that doesn’t let up until the credits roll. Here are some of the best scenes:
• Chapter 2: A neverending car chase after a fresh rain. Ridiculously incredible overheads interacting with the music
• Chapter 4: People walking around and talking in a quiet museum makes it feel like people are all around you
• Chapter 7: Sub-killing club scene with crazy, pulsing EDM bullshit overhead
• Chapter 8: Shoot-out in the Roman catacombs. Echoes and bullets bouncing all over your head
• Chapter 9: Super long battle with Common. Fist fights through tunnels, down stairs, shots raining down from everywhere. Really cool scene
• Chapter 13: Another gunfight, accompanied by a bass-thumping classical score that bounces off the ceiling before giving way to a “god’s voice” intercom immersion in a neon-lit hall of mirrors. It’s fucking BONKERS
While not too many people consider this the pinnacle of the Wick saga, this is my first foray into the home-viewed Atmos John Wick movies, and wow, was I impressed. The music is ever-present and interchanging with the action, and even in the quieter dialogue-driven scenes, something is always crawling across the ceiling. They did an amazing job with this mix, and I’d definitely say this is a demo-worthy Atmos title.
Dolby Atmos is the latest in Home Theater right now, and since I finally picked up an Atmos-enabled receiver and have managed to dial everything in just right for the theater room in my basement, I thought I’d share my experiences with just how immersive particular titles get.
Below, you’ll find a running list of Atmos (and in some cases, DTS-X) titles from both streaming and physical media that I’ve watched. I’ll be ranking each title out of 5 “speakers” (1 being not very immersive at all, 5 being insanely immersive) and will point out any scenes that stood out, so you can fast-forward to your ears’ delight!
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT (4K UHD BLU-RAY – 01/18/22)
This is the kind of movie that was made for Atmos. And while the sound more than shines throughout the film, the Atmos effects often take a backseat to the more-than-well rounded out mix of the movie itself. Dialogue is often whispered, and tense conversations through gritted teeth pop up in almost every scene. However, there are some Atmos-heavy scenes that are worth mentioning:
• Chapter 1: Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg are talking beneath an overpass where cars are driving overhead in both directions
• Chapter 3: Skydiving is a workout for every speaker
• Chapter 6: Police bike chase is wild. Stuff going on everywhere
• Chapter 7: Really tense scene with a traincar going right overhead then right into another chase scene with some wild alternating between left and right heights
• Chapter 10: Gun battle in a sewer has some really fun overheads
• Chapters 12 – 14: Helicopters just live overhead for minutes straight. Absolute helicopter porn that ends with a Cliffhangeresque scene that is almost exclusively overheads
This is a really cool movie and the sound is more than excellent. But if you’re looking for a movie full of demo-worthy scenes to show off those Atmos muscles, you might look elsewhere unless you’re really into helicopters.
ATMOS IMMERSIVENESS LEVEL:
🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 / 5
THE CONJURING 2 (BLU-RAY – 01/18/22)
Blu-Ray • Atmos • 1080p Upconverted
I’ve seen this movie my fair share of times, but this is my first time in Atmos, and fucking hell, what a difference. The overhead effects are put to full use throughout its run time. Rain pours almost the entire movie, British pop invasion tunes are crawling across the ceiling almost as much as whispers of demons, and it makes the jump scares that much more effective. Here are some moments that stood out:
• Chapter 5: Footsteps overhead when cops are poking around
• Chapter 6: Bells ringing all over the soundstage, house being torn apart chaotically in every speaker
• Chapter 8: Persistent rainstorm with thunder and lightning
• Chapter 10: Sounds of a flooded basement, water everywhere, kids running around upstairs. This scene was actually one of the coolest I’ve heard with an Atmos movie so far
• Ch 12 to the end of the movie: Downpour & Ed’s breathing in overheads. Demon begins grunting and breathing, and it bounces all over the ceiling
As far as Horror films are concerned, I think this is what Atmos was built for: another thing to scare the living shit out of the audience. I already really liked this movie, but this brought a whole new element to the table. This might be my go-to demo for now 🤘
ATMOS IMMERSIVENESS LEVEL:
🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 / 5
DOCTOR SLEEP: DIRECTOR’S CUT (BLU-RAY – 01/17/22)
Blu-Ray • Atmos • 1080p Upconverted
Since I can remember, The Shining has been my favorite movie – a go-to every Halloween, I get sucked in by Kubrick’s magic touch and cinematic trickery. It’s an incredible movie experience that gets better with every viewing. Lucky for us, Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Bly Manor, etc.) was given the reins to the adaptation of Stephen King’s Shining sequel, and I’m happy to say that this is everything I hoped for and more. Now, I’ve seen both versions, and while the Director’s Cut doesn’t change too much, I would still definitely recommend getting your hands on that version.
There are too many scenes of overhead sonic excellence to mention in this release, that I’m just going to have to suggest that you experience it yourself. There’s a persistent heartbeat pouring through the overheads and surrounds throughout the entire film that will rattle your nerves by the time the characters arrive back at the iconic Overlook, and then the Atmos effects take center stage, and you’ll be smiling from ear-to-ear until the credits roll. If you’re not too sure about Atmos yet, Doctor Sleep will definitely get you on the train.
ATMOS IMMERSIVENESS LEVEL
🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 / 5
OVERLORD (BLU-RAY – 01/17/22)
Blu-Ray • Dolby Atmos • 1080p Upconverted
Superhuman Nazi Zombies aside, the sound design on this movie is fun as hell. From the get-go, nervous soldiers on a plane rattle through the air, and we’re right in the middle of every bullet and explosion from there on out. There’s a scene where the main character falls out of said plane, and the wind whooshing around him covers the entire overhead landscape. There are a few other standout scenes, including footsteps over creaking boards that might convince you someone is upstairs, and great water trickling in tunnels throughout. This was a really fun one.
ATMOS IMMERSIVENESS LEVEL
🔊 🔊 🔊 🔊 / 5
ARCHIVE 81 (NETFLIX – 01/17/22)
Netflix • Dolby Atmos • 4K
This show is really fun. It goes off the rails in the last two episodes or so, but that’s also when the Atmos effects really kick in. Without spoiling anything for you, there’s a scene in the last episode where a particular structure begins crumbling all around a couple characters and it really feels like the stonework is crashing down over your head. Add in some really cool overhead music effects throughout the entire show, and this makes for one really fun immersive viewing experience. Definitely would recommend this show (especially in the last few episodes) for Atmos demo.
Alright. We’ve come to the end of the 1994 nominees for Best Picture. And what a snoozy doozy way to end them. I’ve been sitting on how to approach writing about this movie for a couple days, and I just…well, let’s give it a shot.
I’ll start with the acting. Anthony Hopkins, the most recent, and controversial winner of the Best Actor award, is so Anthony Hopkins in this. He’s a butler of a giant estate owned by a nazi sympathizer in pre-World War II England, and he rules every scene, as he always does. When I say Hopkins is so Hopkins, you know what I mean: he’s got those signature tics, the witty little reactions, the head-held-high snootiness that he’s best known for.
As always, he’s great, and I really think this movie would have been in a lot of trouble without him. Emma Thompson, like Hopkins, is who she always is – not bad, just incredibly British and sad, and honestly, it took me three sittings to finish this movie because Thompson films put me to sleep.
Something strange to see is Christopher Reeve, just a couple years before his debilitating accident that ultimately led to his death, as the American ambassador that attempts to convince the owner of the manor not to work with the Germans. The acting is here, the problem is, there’s not much else.
There are also a couple of Game of Thrones alums in this, not surprising since it’s probably the most British movie ever made. We’ve got a really young Lena Headey as a housekeeper, and that old blind dude from the wall as Hopkins’ dad.
This movie drags. Hard. I haven’t read the book, of course, but I came away from the film wondering what the hell just didn’t happen. I won’t ruin it for you, but when the credits rolled, I was really surprised. It’s one of the dullest endings to a movie I’ve ever seen, and I’m guessing it’s explained better in the novelization.
The strangest part of the film for me, is that there is this clique of butlers and housekeepers, and they’ve all crossed paths at some point. And there is also this hierarchy in which these people are fighting over, and the top spot is butler. Like, I’m sorry, but what the fuck? Is this a strictly British thing that I’ve never heard of or read about? Or was this made up for dramatic effect? What the hell is going on in this movie?
Sorry. I will say, the movie is pretty. It’s shot so well, and though it doesn’t really take many risks, each shot feels like a painting you’d find in a gallery. There’s a scene toward the end, where Hopkins and Thompson are sitting on a pier and the lights come on, and the contrast of the lights’ colors are absolutely mesmerizing. There is also a sunset scene with Hopkins driving that really is amazing. Trouble is, a lot of these shots make you feel like you’re watching something on PBS. I know there’s a market for that (probably bigger than I think), but woof, not my bag, man.
This is the sort of movie that’s playing at your grandma’s house on her tiny TV on a summer afternoon. It’s a costume designer’s blueprint, a Masterpiece Theater special stretched long, the film that appeases your groaning grandparents so they’ll watch the Oscars. It’s undeniably, the worst of the five ’94 nominees: not necessarily bad, but without the substance of the other four.
Where is ‘Philadelphia,’ by the way? How did that movie not get nominated? It’s cool that Hanks won Best Actor, but that movie carries so much more emotional depth and focuses on a much bigger worldwide issue than The Remains of the Day attempts to. Perhaps AIDS was still much too taboo for the Academy, but Philadelphia absolutely crushes me every time I see it.
Well, that’s the end of the 1994 nominees. Overall, the right movie won, and it really wasn’t close. I feel like four of these should have been nominated, but that seems to be the case every year. Next up for this month, we’ve got the 1985 nominees. I’ll try to squeeze them all in this month, but life has a way of making that tough, so we’ll see.
Have you seen The Remains of the Day and want to tell me I’m absolutely wrong? Think some other movies from 1993 should have been nominated for the ’94 Oscars that weren’t? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram, and it’ll probably help me write these in the future.
Oh, Schindler’s List. My god, what a movie. Possibly the most visceral film ever made, and Spielberg’s emotional masterwork, there is no way any other 1993 movie had a chance at winning Best Picture. And in case you haven’t seen this (you must, do it now!), let’s get into why it’s so damn good.
I’m assuming most have seen Schindler’s List, but for those that haven’t, be forewarned that there will be some minor spoilers following. Let’s start with the cinematography. Janusz Kaminski, a frequent Spielberg collaborator, crafted this film as a series of old photographs. Every piece of Holocaust video or photography that we’ve been witness to over the years comes to almost nauseating life in the movie, and brings you right in – whether you want to, or not – to the horrors and crimes against humanity that the nazis brought to Europe and beyond.
Another Spielberg teammate, John Williams, crushes your soul repeatedly for over three hours. The violin entries are almost too much at times, making your skin crawl in anticipation of another relentless act of violence from those in the Third Reich.
Speaking of horrible people, the always villainous Ralph Fiennes makes Voldemort look like a harmless gecko in his turn as Amon Goeth, the nightmarish SS lieutenant in charge of overseeing the construction of a new concentration camp in Poland. From the get-go, he’s a slippery ghoul, straight from the bowels of an unthinkable hell. I won’t get into the details of what he does to the incarcerated Jews, but holy shit, did it have me sinking to unimaginable depths of my couch.
Another thing to note, is how this violence is portrayed in the movie. Not letting up in the slightest, Spielberg chooses to show every bit of the hyper-realistic executions of men, women, and children inside the camp. It’s a bold choice – one that I’m sure had the MPAA arguing for months – but I think it’s necessary to show this, to really drive the point home, and induce some of the trauma endured by the victims of the German fascists. I will also note, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with more headshots. Not even in a Rambo or John Wick flick.
Some more notable performances include that of the always wonderful, Sir Ben Kingsley, and action star, Liam Neeson as the titular Schindler. The first (and only other) time I saw this film, I thought Neeson was pretty dull. I was also probably around 15, and didn’t really have an appreciation for Neeson at all. Now that we’ve seen him in countless revenge-action flicks that rerun on TBS every weekend, it’s almost breathtakingly impressive just how good he is. Wait until the end. God damn.
Now, I will admit that a few scenes got me that hadn’t on my first run through more than 20 years ago. Perhaps, it’s the recent rise of White Christian Nationalism in our country (and world), or I’m just a weaker soul, but the first scene to note is where the children are leaving the camp in truckloads to be gassed (while singing gleefully, as if they’re about to go on a field trip), and the mothers run after them screaming in horror, helpless.
Another is a scene where women and children that are meant to join their fathers and husbands at Schindler’s new camp, are accidentally sent to Auschwitz. Earlier in the film, rumors spread through the camp that Auschwitz has been gassing Jews en masse in the showers, and as they arrive in Auschwitz, sure enough, they’re shipped into the showers as a group, naked. It’s a deeply unsettling scene, with more tension than any horror film I can name.
So, the big question is, ‘Did Schindler’s List deserve to win Best Picture in 1994.’ Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Rarely have I seen a film so enveloping and purposely discomforting as Schindler’s List. It will remain for the foreseeable future as a masterpiece in filmmaking. It’s necessary, it’s permanently relevant, and it will go down as Spielberg’s greatest work, guaranteed. If you haven’t seen it, carve yourself out 3 hours, turn down the lights, and get ready to bawl. This is essential film.
To end 1994, I have The Remains of the Day, starring recent Best Actor winner, Anthony Hopkins. It’s another on this list that I haven’t seen, and I can’t say I’m very excited about it. But, we’ll see. See you in a few days, before we get going with a new year of Nominees in May!
Another film on this enormous list that I have not yet seen was this Irish drama that stars the greatest actor of our generation, Mr. Daniel Day-Lewis, in an absolutely amazing performance, that probably comes as expected at this point.
The movie begins almost just like ‘Children of Men,’ with a cafe bombing in London. The story kicks off with an incarcerated Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon, who’s been falsely imprisoned by the English government. Conlon, an Irishman, is in London to dodge a minor charge in his home of Belfast, but the classic wrong place-wrong time puts him, his friends, and family into an embroiled mess with the IRA.
Long story short, Conlon is imprisoned along with his father and friends for 15 years, before Emma Thompson takes his case. It’s peak-90’s Drama, almost too PBS for its own good with a score that screams ‘your grandma’s going to love this movie,’ but overall, it’s a really damn good flick.
Day-Lewis steals every scene, his usual physical transformations throughout the film, which would be a marvel if it had been any other actor. Pete Postlethwaite is refreshingly kind and warm-hearted throughout the movie as Conlon’s father, Giuseppe, and some scenes between the two are undeniably heartbreaking.
Of the films on this list (the only one left I haven’t ever seen, ‘Remains of the Day’), this one feels the most dated. Perhaps it’s the score, or the rather pedestrian cinematography, but it just didn’t bring too much excitement to the table when compared to its honorary counterparts. I did appreciate the theme throughout regarding cops’ mistakes and lack of care, which ultimately brings down the system as a whole, and how relevant this is today, especially since I watched this the day before a certain murdering cop was surprisingly found guilty of all charges in Minnesota.
Overall, I’d definitely suggest checking this movie out. It totally drags at times, but I think it’s a mistake to ever pass up a chance at watching a Day-Lewis romp. He’s unbelievable at times in this one, and makes the whole 2+ hours absolutely worth the ticket price.
Up next, we have the soul-stomper, ‘Schindler’s List,’ the movie that ultimately took home the little gold dude in ’94. I’ll see you in a few days with my thoughts on my second time through that chest ripper.
What can be said about The Fugitive that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the ultimate “Flipping through the hotel cable and it doesn’t matter how far into the movie it is, I’m fucking finishing it,” movies.
I guess I’ll try anyway. For those that haven’t seen it, The Fugitive stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man framed for his wife’s murder, convicted, and on the run from the US Marshals led by a ridiculously good Tommy Lee Jones. It’s got a ton of people you’ve seen in almost everything over the years, like Jane Lynch as a non-comedic doctor, Rose from Lost as a cop, and that dude that totally Judased Neo and crew in The Matrix.
The movie is surprisingly gorgeous, given Ford is on the run on the outskirts of Chicago. It’s shot masterfully, both incredibly exciting and intentionally slow at times, and the James Newton Howard score keeps everything calibrated perfectly – John Williams frantic when it needs to be, and a slow-burning Jazz fusion when the tension needs to build.
What am I saying? You’ve seen this movie. It fucking rocks, right?! It’s the perfect blend of a Ramboesque tale filled with Robocop style flashbacks. Tommy Lee Jones is driven by what feels like must be mountains of coke, and Ford seems to hurt himself more than Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
One thing I did notice on this thousandth or so rewatch (which I’m sure many have noted before), is that David Lynch lifted some names for Twin Peaks from the extensive Fugitive lore (it was a TV show in the ’60s), as Lee Jones’ name is Gerard, and the villain (who has one arm) is named Freddie Sykes (the dude with the strange green fist in ‘The Return’). Why is that important? Because I’m a fucking nerd, that’s why.
Anyway, this movie rules. You know it, I know it, the world knows it. No one dislikes this film – it’s one of those. Why didn’t it win in ’94? Well, a little film called Schindler’s Fucking List came out the same year and pretty much obliterated any other movie’s chances of going anywhere near the little gold guy. However, I do want to ask you one question before I leave you:
How many times have you stopped flipping channels in the hotel room to watch Schindler’s List again? Thought so.
Up next, we’ve got ‘In the Name of the Father,’ another one I haven’t seen, starring the unrivaled cinematic god, Daniel Day-Lewis. Until then, be safe, and drink some water if you haven’t yet today.
It struck me a couple of months ago that I haven’t seen that many Best Picture nominees, and I should probably be better about it. I realize that being nominated doesn’t necessarily make a movie great – especially in the Academy – but, the films nominated are also often recognized because of their impact and reflection of society at the time.
I got it in my head that I could go back 50 years to 1971, put all the years individually into a hat, and randomly choose a year’s nominees for each month. Now, it’s going to take me about 5 years to do this, and I don’t really know what the end goal is – maybe I’ll write a book, or maybe it’s just nothing more than cinematic enlightenment – but anyway, 1994 is up first this month. I’ll do a small review of each movie I watch on here, along with some opinions and comparisons to their running mates.
I started this little journey by randomly picking 1994 first. I’ve never seen a few of these, so I decided to go with The Piano to start, a movie I actually knew nothing about and confused with ‘The Pianist’ a few too many times. I didn’t know who starred in it, and assumed it was some sort of Jane Austenesque comedy. Hot damn, was I wrong.
The movie stars Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, and Harvey Keitel in one of his weirdest performances since Bad Lieutenant. I’ll spare you the fat, and just tell you that this is one strangely fucked up story concerning mutes that love the piano, Sam Neill peeping on his wife cheating, white men taking advantage of Natives, and Harvey Keitel’s gratuitous donger.
Ok, I’ll tell you a bit more. Holly Hunter’s character is a widow with a young daughter (True Blood’s Anna Paquin) that is married unwittingly to a man on an island by her father. Hunter is mute, due to some sort of an accident, and is obsessed with this piano that she refuses to let out of her sight. As the movie progresses, there are even more obsessions that come to light, and the ending was a bit more astounding than I ever would have guessed going into this film.
A few things about this movie that I noticed, included its cinematography, the beautiful music, and some incredible shots from the beaches of New Zealand. A lot of the scenes were awash in a heavy blue filter, that really built a somber mood. The piano-soaked Michael Nyman score matched it beautifully, and those beach shots couldn’t be prettier.
What wasn’t pretty? Man, I totally get that there is more female nudity than male in film, especially the mainstream ones, but wow, Keitel is not historically shy about his package on screen. And you get quite an extended take in this flick. Hunter isn’t too shy either, in one of those scenes where you start to question whether or not they’re really getting down. Hey, if they decide to, more power to ya, I guess.
Anyway, I think this movie was set up pretty harshly with competition like Schindler’s List and the classically awesome, The Fugitive. It’s one of those films that you’d totally expect to show up in the running and not win. You know what I’m talking about – the period piece costumes, the story catered toward bored, post-menopausal housewives – but I did end up enjoying it a bit more than I thought. It wraps up nicely and pays off in the end.
I’ll be back in a few days with a review for The Fugitive. Until then, let me know if you’d like these to look a little different, or if there are other aspects I should focus on!
Welcome to Episode 49 of CinemAbysmal: The Podcast, where contributors of CinemAbysmal.com talk about what society would consider some of the worst of the worst media out there.
This month, we welcome back the inimitable RYAN DEAN TUCKER, as he assigns is each a film from his enormous basement movie store and we report back our thoughts to him. Nick gets the Canadian rival to ‘The Room,’ a strange road trip cult classic, ‘Ryan’s Babe.’ Holly gets the Shelley Long supernatural (?) comedy, ‘Hello Again,’ and Dylan talks the Kyle Maclachlan alien thriller, ‘The Hidden.’ DON’T MISS THIS EPISODE!!
As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!
Find this new episode and more on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spreaker, and everywhere else you find podcasts! Just search for ‘CinemAbysmal’!
Welcome to Episode 44 of CinemAbysmal: The Podcast, where contributors of CinemAbysmal.com talk about what society would consider some of the worst of the worst media out there.
This week, we talk some Netflix originals: The 0% Rotten Tomatoes rated The Last Days of American Crime, and another entry in the exhausting Happy Madison catalog, The Wrong Missy. Come listen to us gripe!
As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!
Find this new episode and more on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Spreaker, and everywhere else you find podcasts! Just search for ‘Cinemabysmal’!