good movies

The Void

voidThe Void (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie

Starring: Aaron Poole and Kenneth Welsh

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Everyone has their ideal movie in their head. The one they always wished they could make or at least see. Characters that speak on themes that are important to you. The addition of plot twists and full frontal male nudity. Everyone has something they want their favorite movie to be. I want to see an 80;s style cosmic horror film that feels equal part Lovecraft and Cronenberg. I want practical effects and an ending that feels completely batshittingly disconnected from the first act. And folks, I have seemingly found this film. Or so I thought.

The Void is a film that was produced in 2016 and feels very much like a full-length film cousin of Stranger Things. It doesn’t initially try anything too daring, starting with a small town sheriff’s deputy finding a man who has run away from some seemingly bad men. He brings this man to the nearest hospital, which unfortunately is under reconstruction after a recent fire and thus, suffers from a limited staff. And the deputy’s ex-wife works there also, which is the kind of coincidence that happens in films all the fucking time to give emotional depth, but tends to just break down fourth walls.

But forgiving that, shit goes full fucking insanity pretty fast when a whole host of white cloaked figures descend and surround the building, killing anyone who wishes to enter or exit. Their perfectly starched and ironed cloaks look very KKK outside of the black triangle over the face, presumably so they can see. Also, one of the nurses has killed one of the patients and therefore has also decided to cut her own face from her skull. So that’s cool. She is killed, but pretty immediately comes back as a giant bloody tentacle monster which has to be re-killed. It is pretty fucking sweet to watch. And this all happens in the first act. Are you pumped, cause I am fucking pumped.

Then the second act hits and shit slows way the fuck down. It becomes the same dynamic that plays out in every single location horror film. Mistrust, survival runs, and hashing out personal issues that really don’t matter but again, add depth. I really don’t want to ruin the rest of the film for you, because the third act is a masterclass on mind-blowing and face shredding.

So this is the film I wanted to see. It kinda feels like one of those wishes where you wish for something, but some asscracked genie or monkey paw kills everyone on Earth because you asked to be the richest man alive. Turns out, I like a lot of things in films besides which other artists it stole from. Like good acting. The acting in this film was fairly disgusting in many scenes. Also, casting. This is some backwoods community and half the characters look like patrons of some french named coffee bar in Williamsburg. I know actors tend to look like actors, but come on. Does the sheriff’s deputy really need an undercut and skinny jeans? Dialogue was also just kinda boring. We are talking about entering a new plane of existence and reanimating the dead and monsters and shit, and I am just fucking yawning. You have to try so hard to make dialogue with that subject matter boring.

Overall, the film’s strengths can really carry the film. And I am definitely buying it on Blu-Ray or a future as-yet-named format and recommending everyone with the same tastes as me go out and see it. All the weaknesses do is frustrate you with how great it could have been. I love the blood and gore and tentacle porn, but when the characters’ emotions don’t match the tension of the scene, it pulls you out of all that horrible shit. I like that horrible shit. I want to sleep in it. Don’t do that.

The Eyes of My Mother

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The Eyes of My Mother (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Starring: Kika Magalhaes and Olivia Bond

How I Watched: Netflix

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Opening on a sultry black and white shot of some goddamn trees, that is quite possibly the most beautiful shot of trees I have seen outside of a BBC Planet Earth special, The Eyes of My Mother is almost jarring in its simplicity. I had heard a many creepy story of this film, most notably by my mother, who accidentally turned it on one night and sat through the whole thing. “It’s really dark,” she said. She wasn’t fucking kidding. It is a film about solitude and grief’s effect on the human psyche, blatantly starting off with a mother describing to her child the religious ecstasy of Francis of Assisi, canonized in 1228 after receiving the stigmata after years of loneliness. This connection between solitude and violence is a central theme, I think.

The mother and her daughter are seen cutting out the eye of a cow in a scene that seems to pay homage to the 1929 Surrealist film by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou, which uses a cow’s eye as stand-in for a woman’s eye, which is stand-in for the way the clouds seem to cut through the moon. But you’ve seen that film. You know what I’m saying.

The mother is a surgeon, or was in Portugal, and is seemingly teaching her young daughter the family craft. Soon, a stranger arrives at the home played amazingly to creeptastic effect by Will Brill, who played that methy prisoner in The OA if you watched that. He smiles and his eyes bulge like a Peter Lorre impressionist. He looks like a fucking evangelist with his white shirt and black slacks, but presents an almost immediately ominous tone. He is an animal and they his prey. They regard him with the same poise and caution one would present a rabid wolf. But by the time the Father arrives, the mother is no more. The discovery of her demise is pitch perfectly played with the camera following the Father and the audience hoping to press the brakes for fear of the barbaric sounds coming from the bathroom. The animal is subdued and like any animal, chained in the barn. Perhaps the Father has more torturous plans for the stranger. Maybe he just doesn’t have the ability to kill another human being. But his daughter steps in, ten years old at the most, and after seeing her Father’s agitation toward his screams for help, the girl decides to cut out the eyes and vocal cords of the creature, but not before he relays to her the secret behind why he kills. Because it feels so good.

The film then follows as the girl, Francisca, is now an adult woman. She is played by Kika Magalhaes in a mixture of intense angst and far-off stares. She is beautiful and slender and sports the jet black hairstyle of Chantal Goya in Masculin Feminin. Her father has died and she still yearns for her mother, while tenderly caring for the blind and mute stranger locked in her barn. The film turns to story of a young monster while she preys on locals in a pursuit to regain the family she has lost. The final impact of her life comes in a gunshot heard from a drone filming above the familial home.

I like this film and would recommend it to anyone, but for reasons outside of it being a great film. It is honestly one of the more stunning hour and twenty minutes you will find within the horror genre. The subject matter is dark and disturbing on every count as you ride along on very stark journey into the mind of a killer. Scenes are complex with many layers and alternative viewpoints to be gleaned. But the story in and of itself doesn’t have much to say. I found myself constantly amazed by what I was watching, yet questioning, what the fuck is the point? Should I just be shocked or is this film saying something outside of the context of the film?

It feels like it relies so much on the momentum of the callous way that Francisca destroys her fellow humans in the search of a connection, that it doesn’t collect anything worth saying about the human condition. The film never stands up for the protagonist or makes excuse for why she acts the ways she does, and in another film, this could be seen as a strong point, but in this one, it feels like a cop out. The entire third act feels rushed and devoid of the very relationship building it needs in order for the audience to feel the full weight of the climax. It just ends.

Ultimately, go see it. Turn it on Netflix and revel in its beauty. Think about it for days but don’t be surprised if you find nothing of value on the other side of all that thinking.

The Fast Franchise: Volume 8 – ‘The Fate of the Furious’

The Fate of the Furious (2017) – Action | Drama

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Vin Diesel

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

So I recently went through and watched and reviewed every Fast and Furious film (go back and check those articles if you are inclined). Now that there is a new F&F flick to whet my tingly parts, I have decided to write a review. This is the first of the series I have seen in the theater and also the first one I have seen sober. F8 is not the best film in the franchise, but it is pretty damn close. That distinction falls to Furious 7, which packed in tons of action and a great plot. It also features a heart-raping final ode to Paul Walker RIP. F8 has a ton of action and the best plot of the series, but is stalled by its two-hour twenty minute runtime.

So the film opens once more with booties and exotic locales as we travel to Havana, Cuba for Dom and Letty’s honeymoon. Dom is approached by a mysterious woman whom we know by the trailer to be the film’s main antagonist, Cipher, played amazingly by Charlize Theron. After this film and Fury Road, and the trailer for the upcoming Atomic Blonde, Theron is proving to be one of Hollywood’s most reliable ass-kicking action stars, and just like Mad Max, she steals the show. She somehow gets Dom to forsake his family, which if you’ve seen any of these films, you know there are like three things Dom loves; fast cars, family, and Corona beer.

So the most inexplicably badass motherfucker in F&F universe has turned on his wife and heist crew for some unknown reason, stealing an EMP and nuke plans for Cipher. Twist time: Dom has a son with Elena from a couple films ago and they are being held hostage and will die if Dom don’t comply (RHYMES ARE BACK!). The final battle set-piece takes place at a frozen sea in Russia and a nuclear submarine and some badass fucking stunts that do make everything the team has endured worth it. Dom must not only save his son and ex-lover, but save the world from a cyber terrorist. He succeeds.

The casting in this film is top-fucking-notch. Theron is a dream. Kurt Russell is back in Jack Burton form with sly smiles and amazing one-liners. Scott Eastwood is an excellent addition to the team, playing Russell’s assistant. The old standbys return as well; Tyrese is at his most hilarious in all the films. Jason Statham returns, working with the team in order to save his brother from some black site prison. His banter with The Rock is truly a highlight. Helen Mirren plays the foul-mouthed mother of Deckard Shaw and is beautiful in the role. F. Gary Gray gets the best acting out of the whole series in this one and his camera work is fun and fluid, leading to some truly magnificent sequences.

The action is really one of the let downs in this one, however. While the fight scenes are well choreographed and the final act of the film delights endlessly, there is a bit of a slog getting to this point. The plot is captivating, but not mindblowing enough to make up for action sequences we have seen in previous installments in the series. Overall, definitely check out the film. It is a solid flick worth seeing, but realize that there is better fare out in the franchise. 

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 3 – ‘Arachnophobia’

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What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume Three

Arachnophobia (1990) – Comedy |Thriller

Directed by: Frank Marshall

Starring: Jeff Daniels and John Goodman

Format I Own: LaserDisc

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Synopsis

Arachnophobia begins like a lot of other movies in the ’90’s: Big city doctor (Jeff Daniels) moves to a small town with the intention of taking over the town’s only medical practice. Little does he know, a spider-bitten corpse from Venezuela was just dropped off and the carcass brought a huge and aggressive, 8-legged freak with him. Somehow, this baseball mitt-sized tarantula mates with a spider in this tiny farm town, and soon all Gremlinsesque hell breaks loose.

What I Love

I think love might be too strong of a word to describe how I feel about this movie, but I did love it as a kid and it’s definitely got some nostalgic value to it. By no means, though, is it a great movie. The effects are dated, they tried really hard to make it funny, which comes off as unnatural, and it’s hard to have Jeff Daniels carry your movie. Every scene with John Goodman is pretty damn good, but really, there’s not quite enough. The musical score is goofy as all hell, as well. But really, if you saw this as a kid, you’ll probably enjoy it merely for nostalgic reasons like I did.

My Favorite Scene

For almost the entire movie, Marshall and crew dog hard on this couple that really likes food. This guy is the town mortician and is constantly eating Ruffles around the corpses, and at a dinner party, he and his wife take full paper plates of food home. Well, when it’s time for the outbreak of spiders upon the town, one climbs into a disgustingly buttery bowl of popcorn that the portly couple is eating out of while watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s standard ‘it’s funny ’cause he’s fat’ fodder, but I still enjoyed it, especially when the murdering spider crawls out of the mortician’s nose after killing him.

 

What You Might Not Like

I think based on the title, it’s pretty obvious why a lot of people would not be able to handle this film. From the beginning, the spiders are big, they’re aggressive, and their actions play on everyone’s basic fears of spiders that bite. While watching, I admittedly lifted my feet off the floor a few times in momentary fear of some scuttling beings. They hiss, they jump and fly through the air, they have dripping, black fangs and they really couldn’t be more frightening.

How You Can Watch

  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 2.5/4

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Similar Films: Gremlins, The Mist, Eight Legged Freaks

The Fast Franchise: Volume 7 – ‘Furious 7’

fast7

Furious 7 (2015) – Action | Drama

Directed by: James Wan

Starring: Paul Walker RIP and Vin Diesel

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

So I mentioned in the past, The Fast & Furious tends to have a formula that has become a bit stale. Nothing that a new director can’t fix. Furious 7 brings on James Wan to replace Justin Lin, and he brings on the fucking pain. Not only is Furious 7 the best of the franchise, it is easily one of the best action films I have ever seen. James Wan ups the action and films some of the most giddyingly experimental shots I have ever seen. Again, these films feel built around high action stunts and this one does not disappoint with every scene relying on tension.

The plot is simple enough, with Jason Statham coming on as the brother of Luke Evans who wants to avenge his brother, who now rests in a coma. He is a super awesome rogue British operative who has decided to wage war on the Torretto clan. We got Dom still trying to seduce an amnesiac Letty and Brian still trying to come to terms with his role as a father. The Rock is attacked by Statham early in the film and breaks his arm and leg in a fall from a building onto a vehicle, and you know that moment they put the cast on The Rock, how that motherfucker is coming off. So this random fucking government agency led by Kurt Russell in his coolest role since Death Proof asks the Torretto team to recover a hacker who has hidden a device called The God’s Eye, which is essentially Eagle Eye from the Eagle Eye movie; a device which composites all digital surveillance devices (CCTVs and Iphones). If they recover it for the government, the government in turn will let them use it to track and kill Statham. Actually a cool fucking plot comparatively. They recover the device and lose it again in an ambush by Statham and return to LA to recover it. How the fuck do you beat The God’s Eye, a device you can’t escape from? Well, if you are fast and/or furious, you outrun it (and hack it). The Rock returns flexing his arm which causes the cast to break then proceeds to fly an ambulance into a drone!   

Cameos abound in this one. We get a creepy call back to Sean from Tokyo Drift that is supposed to take place immediately after the events of the third film, despite the fact that the actor has aged almost ten years since. Ronda Rousey plays a bodyguard that speaks like a statue learning to play a sassy black lady, but is very cool in the fight scenes. This is a film that feels like a cultural event, adding as many well known celebs as possible. It feels like they are taking a page out of The Expendables book, but rounding out the action in a way reminiscent of super spy thrillers like MI:Whatever, instead of campy 80’s bullet slingers.

Let’s get back to the stunts. There is seriously a scene in which Paul Walker RIP is inside a bus edging off a cliff. He ends up on top of it as it starts to teeter downward and he must run the full length of the tilting bus and jump off, only to catch the spoiler of Letty who is Tokyo-fucking-drifting around the edge of the cliff in order to catch him. So that’s awesome, and then they try to steal a car from the penthouse of a high rise and when shit hits the fan, they drive the car out the window into another skyscraper next door. When the brakes go out, they drive the car through that window and into ANOTHER skyscraper. Holy fuck. Seriously, check this movie out.

So on a somber note, this is the film that was in production when Paul Walker RIP passed. They apparently had to finish up his scenes with his two brothers as stand-ins, which is very noticeable in certain shots with that shitty CGI facial shit they do. They also had to rewrite an ending that had Brian decide to be a father instead of continuing to do Torretto missions. There is a sappy goodbye which is clearly intended for Walker RIP, and not Brian (cause everyone in the film lives next door to each other). It was a nice touch. I talked a lot of shit about Walker RIP, especially in early reviews, but as the series continued, Walker RIP became a highlight. I teared up. My wife all out bawled. But I can seriously say that Brian and Walker RIP’s absence will be felt throughout subsequent films.

Thank you for following me on this strange journey and be sure to check out Fate of the Furious when it hits theaters April 14th.

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 1 – ‘Raging Bull’

rb

What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume One

Raging Bull (1980) – Drama

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci

Format I Own: Blu-Ray

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Synopsis

Raging Bull is the story of Jake LaMotta, middleweight boxer and serial wife abuser. A genuinely hard film to watch at times, Robert DeNiro earned every bit of the Oscar gold that came his way after this movie dropped. Cathy Moriarty brilliantly plays his wife, Vickie, and Joe Pesci is introduced to the acting world as his brother, Joey. The film follows LaMotta’s rise and fall in the ring from 1941 to 1964, as well as his explosive temper outside the ring. The American Film Institute has recognized the film as #4 in the greatest 100 American films, and the #1 Sports film of all time.

What I Love

What initially drew me to Raging Bull years ago, was Martin Scorsese’s name. I admittedly had not seen a great number of his movies, but I adored GoodfellasGangs of New York, and being relatively young, The Departed, of course. Since watching Raging Bull, I’ve definitely expanded my Scorsese horizons, but this one is absolutely one of his best. It’s absolutely beautiful, especially on the Blu-Ray copy. The fighting montages are brilliant, the score is haunting, and the cinematography by Michael Chapman, which contrasts deep blacks and popping whites (this is a black and white film, by the way) is incredibly stunning.

DeNiro, as I said above, is wonderful in this. He pulled a Christian Bale and gained more than 60 pounds by the time the filming was complete to play the older version of LaMotta. The makeup applied to his face to make him look like a worn fighter is more than uncomfortable to look at. He won his first and only Best Actor Oscar (he won Best Supporting Actor for Godfather II), and deserved every piece of that statue. Pesci, who was both virtually unknown, and making his first Scorsese appearance, is incredible as DeNiro’s brother.

My Favorite Scene

The sixth and final fight with Sugar Ray Robinson is the most beautiful scene in the film. Almost all of the fighting sequences are great, as Scorsese zooms in on the fighters and allows the sound to go silent, as the score weaves in and out of the fists in slow motion. But something about this final fight sequence just gets me. The high contrast of the scene is mystifying. At one point, Scorsese chooses to turn the sound off and the camera zooms in on Robinson, breathing heavily as LaMotta is collapsing on the ropes. The build-up to the final punches is huge, as blood sprays in jets from LaMotta’s head, covering the crowd and announcers in a sea of blackened gore. It’s gorgeous.

What You Might Not Like

Jake LaMotta seems like he was a real asshole. Not only does he kick the shit out of Joe Pesci’s character multiple times, for seemingly nothing, he abuses two of his wives, both mentally and physically. If you’re at all familiar with the previous film Scorsese did with the screenwriter Paul Schrader – Taxi Driver – you might know what to expect: a gritty, unflinching portrait of a man with a lot of fucking problems. Raging Bull is no different, and Scorsese does not let up in the lip-biting viciousness of LaMotta’s character. Like I said, at times, this is a difficult film to watch.

How You Can Watch

  • Streaming on HBO Now as of 3/29/2017
  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 4/4

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Similar Films: Taxi Driver, The Fighter, Warrior

The Fast Franchise: Volume 6 – ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – Action | Drama

Directed by: Justin Lin

Starring: Lucas Black and Sung Kang

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

And then there was Tokyo Drift. The Fast & Furious film chronology can easily be split into two parts, best defined by their look. The first three films produced, of which Tokyo Drift is included, are flashy, neon colored affairs that center almost exclusively on bragging rights involved in racing cars. The later three (that I have seen to this point) are hued in metallics and deep blues, focusing on heists and acrobatics. However, due to the strange chronology of the series, the events of Tokyo Drift take place after the events of the sixth film, in which the character Han dies during a car chase. It is all so confusing and stylistically jarring if you are watching the films in the same order as I am.

Story is not this film’s strong point. If you’ve ever seen a film, you have seen this story play out: fish out of water must prove himself. Sean (Lucas Black) is sent to live in Japan with his father, who I assume is in the Navy because every time he is seen, he is wearing a shirt that says “Navy.” He got in trouble for racing in America, so that’s his punishment. He goes to a formal Japanese school where he doesn’t understand the customs or the language and they suck as much “comedy” out of these situations as possible. He meets Twinkie (Bow Wow) and gets introduced to drifting, or sliding your car. He meets Han and they start racing together, and there are a fuckton of training montages, and a hot girl that the bad guy is dating, and there is a final showdown. So yes, you’ve seen this movie before.

This film is definitely the worst of the old school and therefore, the worst of the series. Lucas Black is brought in to be the Paul Walker RIP analog, which I read was the studio’s decision, believing Walker RIP to be too old to continue making F&F movies, but you showed them, right, Paul? RIP. Black has the badass look but is a terrible actor. There are moments when he is telling someone about something and I just am curious why he wants to kick their ass. His tone never matches the scenes. He is full of unnecessary intensity and creepy unmatched goofiness. Bow Wow is clearly a Ludacris analog. And just like the first film, Asians are corrupt as fuck. The only trustworthy people are expats living in Tokyo – including Han – the best motherfucker of all the motherfuckers.

Let’s talk at length about Han, cause he is my favorite subject when it comes to the Fast & Furious films. Sung Kang is such a natural and cool actor that despite being of Korean descent, isn’t a tech genius or a member of the Yakuza, or a martial arts expert. He is just a charming dude making money – which is what doesn’t make sense. Han’s past with the Torretto clan had him raking in millions and millions of dollars in capers, yet he goes to Japan and runs minor scams and skims money from the Yakuza. High risk, low reward type shit you’d think he’d be over.

Also, at the end of the 6th film, we see Han heartbroken over the loss of his love, Gal Gadot. In Japan, he seems carefree and untouched by any trouble ever. Now, I totally understand that the character was given so much more depth in the subsequent films to be produced after TD, but they could have worked harder to mesh these two worlds. Clearly, Justin Lin just loves working with Kang, whom has such an amazing presence in this world. But makes some connections, dude.

Ultimately, the film is flawed due to its title. This is a film focusing on car drifting. Which sounds cool, but after the first time you’ve seen it, you’ve seen the extent of what is going to happen. It is a highly technical racing skill, I am sure, but doesn’t translate well to film. Especially after I just saw F&F 6 in which there are people flying through the fucking air and grabbing love interests before they fall to their death. And this makes the film a strange subject. Like I’ve said, this film should be seen after 6, but really doesn’t fit in with latter F&F flicks. I knew it was going to be bad going in and it was still such a let down, due to what I am used to from Lin & Co. Try to avoid this one, unless you really love Han, or have to witness every piece of Furious lore. But seriously, it isn’t worth it.