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CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 6: ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ & ‘Samurai Cop’

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast – Episode 6
‘Santa Clarita Diet & Samurai Cop’

Well here we are, already on episode six! This one was a blast as we are joined by the hilarious Yoli Banos (@ybanos) to discuss season one of Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet and 1991’s ‘so bad it’s good’ classic, Samurai Cop. Check it out on all your favorite apps below! As always, please SHARE, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE!

iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cinemabysmal/id1153464020?mt=2

Google Play Music – https://play.google.com/music/m/Irjld24rxpsi22hdnugilmxh57u?t=CinemAbysmal

SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/cinemabysmal/06-samurai-cop-santa-clarita

Stitcher – http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=128435&refid=asa

Spreaker – https://www.spreaker.com/user/cinemabysmal

You can also find us on BeyondPod! Just search for CinemAbysmal.

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New to Streaming in March

Happy March! With the new month, there’s new stuff to stream! Lost with all the choices? Here are nine new and amazing streaming options you can enjoy from your couch right now!

New to Amazon Instant Video:

– Gangs of New York – Martin Scorcese brings us this incredible epic starring Leonardo Dicaprio and a stunning Daniel Day Lewis.

– What We Do in the Shadows – If you haven’t seen this movie yet, jump right to it. Hilarious mockumentary about vampires starring Jemaine Clement and more!

New to HBO Now:

– The Brothers Bloom – Rian Johnson is building an incredible career and this is no exception. A movie about con men with enough twists to snap your neck.

New to Hulu:

– Legion – The X-Men are finally getting the treatment they deserve with this absolutely stunning TV series created by the same guy that did Fargo for FX.

– Lost Highway – If Mulholland Drive is for undergrads and Inland Empire is for those seeking Doctorates in the David Lynch School of Film, this would be where you try to get your Masters degree.

– A Simple Plan – Written by the Coen Brothers, this thriller contains amazing performances from Billy Bob Thornton and recently departed Bill Paxton.

New to Netflix:

– Midnight in Paris – One of the more accessible Woody Allen films, this is a great way to start if you ever wanted to begin watching his films.

– Sausage Party – Seth Rogen and crew give us one of the funniest and smartest animated films that has ever been made.

– This is Spinal Tap – The Godfather of the Mockumentary format, this made Christopher Guest a god of comedy. “Turn it up to 11.”

Midnight Special 

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Midnight Special (2015) – Drama | Science Fiction 

Directed by: Jeff Nichols 

Starring: Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton 

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Jeff Nichols makes a habit out of taking his viewers into a different dimension. Take Shelter lifted Michael Shannon into an otherworldly acting status and Mud further solidified this decade’s Matthew McConaughey dominance. In both of those films, it was easy to get completely absorbed into the stories. His characters, often seemingly simple people, can be frustrating, yet immensely likable. Shannon is fighting paranoid schizophrenia in Take Shelter, stricken with visions of an imminent worldwide storm threatening his family’s safety. In Mud, McConaughey quite literally takes shelter in the forest on an island in Arkansas. While both stories stay grounded, there are times in each which border on the unbelievable. I don’t want to say this film is unbelievable, but Nichols definitely has jumped into another genre with this effort.

Midnight Special tells the story of a young child with extraordinary powers and his father (played brilliantly by Nichols alum, Michael Shannon) who does everything he can to protect his son from all those who threaten his existence. From the beginning, the film is exciting, unnerving and incredibly mysterious as it ramps up toward the heart of the movie. There’s a creepy religious cult, car chases, shit crashing to earth from space and some breathtaking CGI that is refreshingly done right in today’s world of graphic overabundance. While it might not reach the emotional levels that Nichols’ previous two offers do, Midnight Special has earned its place in the world of modern Science Fiction.

The film’s ensemble is one of the most impressive elements of Midnight Special. Joel Edgerton shines as Shannon’s old friend, driving and protecting the father and son throughout the film. Adam Driver is not a huge part of the movie, yet provides some of the little humor that pops up. Kirsten Dunst makes an appearance, which seems questionable at first, until I remembered when she rocked the hell out of the transcendent Melancholia. This is not quite the emotional rollercoaster that Melancholia is, but it’s easy to compare elements of the two. I get annoyed by child actors quite often, but Jaeden Lieberher does a great job as Alton, the film’s focus as the young boy with supernatural abilities. Whenever I see Sam Shepard’s name in the credits, I know I’m in for a treat. He does not let down in Midnight Special, as the leader of the cult. His character is unsettling, and walks the tightrope that begs both empathy and hate.

As I mentioned previously, Jeff Nichols has a knack for creating his own worlds. Like Steven Spielberg, you know when you’re watching one of his movies. David Wingo (who has worked with Nichols on all three of his features) and his music in the film, oppressively drones at your emotions, only ramping up when the action does. The beginning of Midnight Special is strange, but delivers an important sense of wonder, much like Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not much is said for quite a while and we as the viewers are left wondering where the story might move next. Little by little, the story comes together and is pieced together much like a 1980’s sci-fi flick (ala Spielberg) would be. Nichols ultimately abandons his typical penchant for leaving us suspended by the time the film comes to an end, but it still leaves enough to probably require a second viewing.

Midnight Special is the ultimate display of just how much Nichols is capable of with the appropriate budget. With more than three times the amount of money he was given to make Take Shelter, Nichols created a golden Science Fiction film that does not forget to keep the human element an active part of the story. While I feel it does not quite reach the level of Take Shelter and MudMidnight Special is a spectacular visual treat that lovingly takes from exciting sci-fi of yesteryear. If you haven’t yet experienced Jeff Nichols’ cinematic worlds, do yourself a huge favor and soak all of these in.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Melancholia, Take Shelter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Deadpool

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Deadpool (2015) – Action | Comedy

Directed by: Tim Miller

Starring: Ryan Reynolds and T.J. Miller

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “I had another Liam Neeson nightmare. I kidnapped his daughter and he just wasn’t having it. They made three of those movies. At some point you have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent.”

(I’m going to start this out by telling you that I have next to no familiarity with Deadpool and the universe surrounding him in the comic books. I sincerely apologize if I make any blasphemous misinterpretations or assumptions in the following review.)

Hollywood took a risk here. Allowing the X-Men franchise to stray into the world of violent rated R films was not without the potential hazard of being dead on arrival. Middle America is stuffy and boring and for some reason, Hollywood makes most of their choices to appease these pastor-driven zombies. I mainly drift toward independent film to avoid this, so when I heard “Marvel is making a Rated R action comedy,” my eyes and ears definitely perked up.

Ryan Reynolds hasn’t exactly had it easy since Green Lantern shit the bed in 2011. With movies like R.I.P.DThe Woman in Gold, and Self/less coming out and causing everyone to scratch their heads, you couldn’t help but wonder if it was over for him. Deadpool is more than enough to get his career back on track, though. In the movie, you get a sort of Van Wilder on a cocaine binge. His one-liners fly out of his mouth at a rapid pace and laughing at one might cause you to miss the next. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself either. There are at least a couple references to his last attempt at superhero stardom.

The other cast is unfortunately pretty underwhelming. T.J. Miller is funny as a bar owner and Wilson’s friend, but everyone else just seems to be there. The film’s antagonist is a British dude doing a Jason Statham impression and seems to really ride Reynolds’ wave throughout. Thinking about it now, though, this may have been the intention. Reynolds easily carries each scene, whether he is in the suit or casting jokes in his hamburger-like skinjob.

While Deadpool doesn’t exactly showcase a budget that its X-Men counterparts would receive, it makes the most of what it has. The script is fragmented in a way that allows those unfamiliar with the story to follow along without actually focusing too much on Deadpool’s origin. Superhero movies fall into the ‘origin story’ trap far too often (ahem, Spiderman, cough, cough) and it was nice to see it presented a different way. I realize that Reynolds was introduced in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as Wade Wilson and Deadpool, but it really doesn’t feel like those are connected at all once you watch this movie.

Maybe I was a little spoiled by violent action comedies like Kick-Ass and Kingsman, but I was prepared for a little more insanity that there actually was in Deadpool. Don’t get me wrong, right from the hilarious credit sequence, the movie is pretty nuts. Think Guardians of the Galaxy, but with stripclubs and George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say. From the way people were talking about Deadpool though, I was expecting to have my mind blown. Dredd and Punisher: War Zone both featured an unbelievable amount of jaw-dropping bloodshed, and even Netflix’s series Daredevil went off the handle once in a while. Deadpool has its fair share of R-rated insanity, but I felt like they could have gone crazier.

This was the perfect way for Marvel and Fox to dip their feet in the adult-aimed, superhero water. Grab a star that is self-aware that his last attempt at being a superhero hit a wall full of broken lanterns and let him run wild as a swearing, murdering jester in a red suit for an hour and a half. Like I said before, this could have exploded in their faces, but honestly, most everything works in Deadpool. It’s funny, pretty damn violent, and gives hope to a franchise that really, could have used this shot of coffee in its arm. If you haven’t already, check it out. If you have, watch it again. I’m sure like me, you missed a bit when you were laughing.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Guardians of the Galaxy

The Witch

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The Witch (2015) – Horror | Drama

Directed by: Robert Eggers

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “Wouldst thou like the taste of butter and pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

As a pretty big fan of supernatural horror movies, I was naturally pretty excited when I saw the first trailer for The Witch. One of the darlings of the Sundance Film Festival, the movie met critics’ adoration the world over, commending the film’s creeping horror and brutal dreadfulness. It hit particular theaters at odd times, so I didn’t get the chance to see it, but took advantage as soon as it started showing on online streaming services.

It’s not too often that a movie can inject dread right into your veins within the first few minutes. Dread is important in horror films and this is something The Witch more than excels at. In fact, I think it’s a perfect exercise in the art of dread, each frame dripping with an unforgiving despair that does not let up until the screen finally goes black. It’s surprisingly ruthless right from the beginning and completely unafraid to show what a lot of horror movies don’t.

I am personally horrified by religious fanaticism. The Witch is set in a 17th century New England, so there is plenty of this right from the beginning. The family in the film blindly follows the Word, Old English being uttered by each character throughout, leaving a very bitter taste in your mouth that grows worse as the story progresses. The plot of land they live on is dirty, unable to grow produce, and completely shrouded in a depressing gray hue that leaves you feeling completely hopeless. If any movie was to ever gloat about its ability to introduce a universe utterly devoid of a heavenly being, it would be The Witch.

In fact, not since Rosemary’s Baby have I been left feeling thoroughly creeped out by a Satanic force. Typically, it seems that directors have a difficult time making witchcraft and/or Satanism frightening. It usually comes across as if they’re trying too hard or even show too much, with a heavily made-up dude in red donning cloven hooves and a tail. The Witch though, without giving away too much, succeeds with terribly evil flying colors at making witchcraft downright horrible. It’s couch-clutchingly vicious at times and even momentarily bordering on the unbearable.

Another facet of the film that really helped me get into it was the setting. I grew up nowhere near New England, but the farm I grew up on in the Inland Northwest looks eerily similar to the one featured in the film. My childhood home has an open valley expanse meeting a dark treeline on all sides and in the winter, mornings and sunset strike an uncanny resemblance to The Witch‘s moody gray-soaked cinematography. My father kindly told us witches lived in the woods, seeking children in the night, so you can probably imagine how much I identified with this film (Thanks, Dad).

My one complaint about the movie is probably a silly one to some people. I mentioned previously that the film’s dialogue is drenched in Old English, and while I find it to be strategically a good move in authenticating the storyline, it’s next to impossible to understand some of the whispered conversations without switching on subtitles. I am not one to complain about subtitles, but the film is not meant to have them, so it was a bit annoying to turn them on (me being a film snob that likes to see movies as they are meant to be seen).

Really though, The Witch is a damn great movie. It’s hard to call it a horror film, as really, it’s more of a suspenseful thought-piece on religion with some unbearably tense scenes peppered throughout. I’m excited to see where first-time director Eggers goes with his career. The acting is convincing enough, even with the translation issues coming through the speakers. If you really get into it though, with the lights off and the sound cranked up, The Witch will intravenously creep right in and stay with you the next time you’re out in those dark, moonlit woods.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Rosemary’s Baby, The Blair Witch Project, There Will Be Blood

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak (2015) – Horror | Drama

Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things. Keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be.”

Let me begin by warning you that this movie is not scary in the way that you’d expect an R-rated haunted house flick directed by Guillermo Del Toro to be. Crimson Peak is at times, uncomfortably frightening but it just manages to avoid terrifying you into oblivion. Its story instead grows increasingly insidious as it progresses and is almost surgical in its mental burrowing of the viewer. What it will not do however, is cripple you into fear like some scenes in The Conjuring or The ExorcistCrimson Peak is a classically well-told ghost story built upon the back of a Victorian era love affair.

Those of you that are now planning to avoid this one due to the words, “Victorian era love affair,” hey, I don’t blame you. From the trailers, I could tell that this one was possibly more Jane Eyre than Del Toro’s exceedingly brutal Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone. When all is said and done though, trust me, it works. Fear not, thy testosterone. There’s enough tense moments in Crimson Peak to get at least a couple nods out of even the most jaded Horror film aficionado.

If you’re familiar with Del Toro’s track record, you know he’s made some pretty solid films. Including the two mentioned above, he’s credited with the insane Cronos, the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim. Sure, Mimic and Blade II weren’t exactly Citizen Kane, but c’mon. Everybody is allowed to slip up once in a while. While The Devil’s Backbone is his only other true ghost story, there were plenty of horrifying scenes in Pan’s Labyrinth, as well as movies he helped produce like The Orphanage and Mama, so I was not worried that he could handle the task of scaring us again.

For a little background on the film itself, the story features a young American writer that is swept off her feet by a mysterious entrepreneur that lives in a haunted British estate. For a bit, I felt the movie was going to be like 2012’s The Woman in Black. English accents swept over the lines and it started to seem as it was going to be a costume-themed period piece, until it really began to pick up once the story moved to this British estate. Those that have picked up on it might have already realized that the estate is called ‘Crimson Peak.’ I won’t tell you why but really, the more I think about it, the stranger this story gets.

The cast in Crimson Peak is pretty good, but it’s not exactly something to write home about. I was a bit disappointed that Del Toro didn’t manage to slip stalwart Ron Perlman anywhere in the movie, but hey, Doug Jones made it in so I guess I can forgive the man. Leads Wasikowska and Hiddleston do enough the keep the story going, but I really think this one belongs to Jessica Chastain. Del Toro is famous for his absolutely stone cold, evil villains and Chastain does not break this chain. It’s pretty refreshing to see her play a character that is not emotionally or morally confounded in a muddled thriller and she definitely steals the show from the rest of the cast.

As I mentioned above, this movie isn’t going to turn your blood cold. A few scenes will have you gripping the arms of the couch (if you’re in the right mood), but honestly, Crimson Peak is just more of a really cool movie. The cinematography is absolutely stunning and though I felt Guillermo was a bit liberal with some of the CGI effects, it was not enough to take away from the tale itself. Del Toro weaves his story intricately with those scares and avoids the easy jump-frights that a good number of recent horror films are guilty of. He instead takes the opportunity to build the terror like a layered cake, until those final few moments when he knows he has you roped in and invested in the storyline.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: The Others, The Devil’s Backbone, The Shining

Black Mass

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Black Mass (2015) – Gangster | Drama

Directed by: Scott Cooper

Starring: Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Best Line: “The last thing I would do if I was planning to harm you is to warn you in advance, you dumb fuck.”

One of the most polarizing genres of film is the gangster movie. Loyalists often argue the merits behind the Godfather films and compare those with the absolute perfection of GoodFellas. Personally, I love the first two of the Godfather trilogy and GoodFellas about just as much as the other (admit it, you watch GoodFellas every time you happen upon it clicking through channels). A good gangster flick is just perfect sometimes. While Black Mass can’t really be placed in this higher echelon, it is still a damn good time and may even take its own place as time goes on.

Scott Cooper has only directed two movies previous to Black Mass. Those that saw Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (for which he won an Oscar) know a bit of what to expect out of a Cooper film; it’s going to be dark, dirty, a bit depressing and there’s going to be some pretty cool music. 2013’s critically under-appreciated (in my opinion) Out of the Furnace continued this trend, but turned those elements up to the max. Woody Harrelson is especially disgusting and I felt like there was definitely a lot more that we were going to get out of Cooper.

Then the trailer for Black Mass hit. Cooper traded the country music and Appalachian meth dealers in for 1970’s Boston gangsterland. Johnny Depp looked like he fell out of a Tim Burton nightmare and I honestly thought it looked too much like The Departed. The more I watched it though, the more I was intrigued. When I learned more about the supporting cast (including Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, etc.), I knew I had to check this one out.

Let’s start with what is great about this movie. I love The Departed. The accents, the cast, the crazy ending; all are great about that film. One thing I’ve noticed as time goes on though, is that it feels too chaotic, almost disjointed in its storytelling. Scorcese does some frantic cuts and at times, it’s difficult to keep up, but I think that’s also what makes his movies as exciting as they are. Black Mass, like The Departed is based in Boston, but it spans over a few decades. It does not take the same approach and really paces itself in its build-up of Johnny Depp’s character, Whitey Bulger.

This is important, because I really believe this character is one of the chameleon-esque Depp’s best. From the moment his face appears, it’s clear that this is not going to be the kooky Depp we so often get. This is a character that can stand on its own in the gangster canon, including the Vic Vega’s, the Tommy DeVito’s, the Michael Corleone’s. Depp’s Bulger is downright frightening, and his presence steals every scene in this film.

Something that I felt the movie was missing though, was just a little bit more to the story to make it more exciting. I don’t want to say it lags in the middle, but there was a definite change of tone from where the film started. If you can handle changes like this in movies, you’ll be just fine and appreciate Cooper trying to tell a story, but I could see how some would check out at this point.

There are a lot of moments in Black Mass where I felt like I did watching Out of the Furnace: Cooper is trying some really cool things. There are some awesome zoom shots in Black Mass that I wasn’t expecting and he even seems to be experimenting with some Nicolas Winding Refn-ish, neon-infused backdrops that really breathe some life into the gritty browns I’ve come to expect from Cooper’s films.

If you like gangster movies, you’re probably going to like this one. There’s great one-liners, it’s bloody as hell at times, and it’s got some great characters. It may not stand up as one of the best in the genre, but god damn, it’s worth the ticket alone for Johnny’s Depp’s Bulger.

Final Score: 3/4

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Similar Films: Killing Them Softly, Out of the Furnace, The Departed