Tuesday, June 30, 2015

John Wick (2014)

John Wick is a movie that a lot of people liked. So of course I will get a lot more traffic when I say right out that this movie SUCKS!

Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, A Dog, Michael Nyquist

Co-written with Michelle and Mercedes.

Did that get your attention yet? Because I was totally exaggerating. It's a pretty okay movie that everyone pretty much loved unabashedly when it came out. But it's not without its problems, which I do want to talk about today. First of all, really, another movie about a retired hitman coming back and getting revenge for something? I don't think there are even that many retired hitmen in real life as there are movies coming out every year about this same goddamn plot.

I guess there is one different thing though – in this one, the reason the retired hitman comes back is because his dog is killed. Uh, give them points for trying? It sounds kind of like a South Park parody of a movie from the plot summary. But I guess we won't know how it plays out unless, you know, we go through and talk about it.

We start off with a very rushed and fast-forwarded telling of how main character John Wick met this woman, married her, and then she died of cancer. Nothing else; that's all the movie gives us. No further depth. Wow – really not wasting any time, are you? This movie is like the caffeine-addicted soccer mom of mafia flicks. Come on, come on, come on, get dressed, we've got to go NOW!!!!

This makes the opening of Up look positively slow and plodding by comparison.

We then fast forward through the funeral because that wouldn't have been interesting at all. Wick gets a puppy dog in the mail from his wife, who delivered it before she died. That's a very nice gesture – unless, that is, he didn't like dogs and wasn't prepared for the responsibility of taking care of one! In that case it would have just been rude of her. Is his wife's ghost prepared to have a dejected and uncared-for puppy dog on her conscience?

But of course that doesn't happen. Instead, Wick bonds with the dog, and reluctantly grows to love the cute little bugger. These scenes are some of the more effective ones in the film, as they come closest to establishing a real human connection to Wick. Which is good, because anything that makes Keanu Reeves seem even close to an actual human being is cool with me. The dog is a better actor than him, but we can look the other way and not hurt his feelings.

So I guess it's okay now. I guess nothing bad will happen and it's going to be a movie about a boring man with a dog. That's cool with me.

… oh, shit.

Yes, apparently a couple of thugs who asked to buy his car earlier in the film break into his house later and kill his dog and take the car. It's a pretty over the top scene. I dunno, I mean obviously this stuff can happen in real life – but the way it's done here is very jarring and comes off as more silly than anything, and the murder of the dog in particular always just feels kinda sensationalistic and cheap to me – like is Keanu Reeves so unsympathetic and dull as a person that you couldn't get us to like him without killing a puppy dog?

And, really, they saw him with that car at a gas station way earlier in the day, so they spend their whole day tracking him down and fucking breaking into his house that night? I guess they didn't have any other plans that day. Everything else can go on the backburner today, we've got to go take that guy's car!

"I could probably get my rich father to buy me this car brand new, but fuck it, I'm very easily distractible! Ooh, a shiny object! Let's kill everyone for no reason to get it!"

So this sends Wick into a spiral of despair, as it's revealed that he actually used to be a hitman himself, and apparently one of the deadliest, too. The young kid who killed the dog goes back to his mob boss father, Viggo, who is shocked to hear this and tells him what a mistake he made. We get a pretty lame and cliché scene where Viggo goes “I've seen him kill three men with a fucking pencil.” We don't get to see it, so I'll fill in the blanks myself and assume this was John Wick's past life:

He also says Wick is “not the boogeyman, but the man you sent to kill the fucking boogeyman.” Because I guess making entirely too long, drawn-out exposition scenes is fine, so long as you include plenty of dumbass quotes for the trailer.

We also get a cameo by John Leguizamo, who is always in good movies like Gamer and Kick Ass 2, playing some car dealer guy who sells stolen cars. He refuses to take Wick's car because he knows Wick, and asks the two kids if they killed him. They say no, but they boast proudly that they “fucked up his dog.” Yeah, fist bump, bro! We killed a puppy! Wahoo!

Captains of the douche squad.

I wonder what they would have said if there had been no dog, and if they'd just broken some of Wick's furniture instead. “No, we didn't kill the guy, BUT WE BROKE HIS LAMP AND LEFT HIS A/C ON SO HE'LL GET A HIGHER BILL! AHAHAHAHA!!!” Lame.

One of the more head-scratching parts of the film involves them sending a bunch of dudes to John Wick's house to kill him. After you got done with your whole monologue about how John Wick is the most fearsome and badass killing machine ever in the history of the world? That's like sending them into a lion's den, isn't it? I think you're the kind of person who doesn't send out any invites to a birthday party and then sends angry passive-aggressive Facebook messages while drunk on boxed wine when nobody shows up.

But seriously – you send them to kill John Wick in his own fucking house? You couldn't just wait until he went around the corner for a six pack and then knifed him in the alley when he wasn't expecting it? I guess not. Maybe you had shit to do the rest of the day. You impatient morons.

So after this it's basically just John Wick going around and knocking off his targets, and it becomes more like watching someone play a video game than actually watching a movie. Some of the fighting is pretty cool, though – especially this one scene set in a nightclub. The lighting is cool and Wick's super fast, furious fight choreography is entertaining. It's a solid action scene.

"I'm amazed I can see well enough in here to even fight the right people, let alone use my gun correctly."

I also love the scene where Wick kills a few people out there and everyone just keeps dancing. That's some dedication. We worked hard stacking boxes at Banana Republic this week and nothing will stop us from dancing! RAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!

Later on there's a scene where he gets a drink from a hot tattooed Elvira-wannabe chick at a mafia bar, and she also later comes to kill him at a hotel. I guess everyone in this world is just a hitman. It's Hitman Land – which is kind of like the classic children's game Candyland, but with more murder and less bright colors.

"Mom, she's trying to take my gun again!"

I guess it's just kind of the world the movie is building, as my friend Mercedes pointed out when we watched the film together. Which is true; this is not the normal world where the law can just intervene; it's a mafia-ruled underworld. The film does suck you into that. But I mostly thought we've seen all this stuff before and the settings and characters aren't terribly interesting. Also, the constant blue-grey monotone colors everywhere and lack of any kind of interesting dialogue just starts to put me to sleep after a while.

Though I do have to give the movie props for including a guy at the front of the hotel desk who can act like all of this is normal. They really must have propped him up on some lethal doses of Xanax to get this performance – but hey, actors, right? Anything they have to do. That's what makes 'em special.

Ohhhh yeah, the picture of cool. This guy could charm anyone.

One of the more interesting aspects of the film is Viggo, I suppose, as there is a rather touching subplot about how he doesn't want to let Wick kill his scumbag of a son. We don't get a whole lot of depth on either him or his kid, but we get a few nice tidbits here and there. Though I do have to dock points again when they capture John Wick and then do the whole clich̩ scene where Viggo gives him this whole speech when he's tied up. Guys, this came out in 2014 Рthe evil villain monologue has been parodied to fucking death at this point. It's really not necessary.

"I could kill you right now and save my own life as well as my son's, but my ego is a shriveled prune that needs watering! Muwahahaha!"

I mean, okay, so they know each other and have this whole history together. Fine. It's still pretty bad dialogue overall, and really just serves purpose to hold a place until the next fight scene. The big line that sums up the movie is when John Wick says the dog was the last thing that reminded him of his wife, and they took it from him – it's an idea we already understood without him saying it, but okay. What else is there to get connected though? His name is in the title of the movie and we barely know any fucking thing about him. That's kinda lame.

Give Keanu credit though – he does actually raise his voice here. He was saving up his emotions for the last 20 years for this, so now we won't see anything like it until around 2035. Was it worth it?

Eh, no.

Eventually we get the final chase and fight scene between John Wick and Viggo, where he beats him up at a dock in the dark. It's pretty cool I guess – though I wouldn't mind if we got some other colors besides blue and black and grey once in a while.

Then he goes and Breaking Bad Season 5 style kills the son, shooting him midsentence and finally bringing down this whole reign of nonsense. Also inadvertently it points out how shitty this mafia was if it could be brought down in like a day or two by one dude who wasn't even at the top of his game really, but let's ignore that part!

This whole thing was just more of the same “immortal invincible badass” genre of action movies that have been cropping up for years now. It's really not an interesting plot. Does anybody else agree with me here? Having your good guy just be this super weapon of a man who never faces any challenge and you know he's gonna come out victorious just isn't compelling. He mows his enemies down and nobody ever even comes close to killing him. It's like a better produced slasher horror film. There was never any doubt here that John Wick was going to beat his enemies. Kinda hard to get invested when you fucking know what's going to happen.

Really, a movie like this with strictly generic tropes and cliches is all about the journey it takes you on, the world it immerses you in. The fight scenes are good enough, and obviously they were the focus of the film. The choreography is good and the fight scenes do tend to flow pretty well, keeping the momentum of the movie up. The scenery can be very moody and atmospheric, and it does try and transport you to this dark, gritty world. Sometimes, it even succeeds.

But the writing is just bog standard. That's what really killed the movie for all three of us watching it – we just needed to know more about the characters. They were really just so bland and cardboard cut-out, with very few good lines or memorable personality traits, and that's why it was difficult to sustain interest all throughout this thing, even despite the fight scenes. The way they killed that dog just to move the plot felt a bit cheap, and there was never an attempt to look any deeper into who these characters are and make us like them. Killing the dog and the wife is just cheap emotional broad strokes that anyone can write. It isn't compelling. A good action movie has action like this one, and also good characters and drama too, beyond the bare minimum of John Wick and its ilk.

Overall, not a terrible film or anything. It had a few cool moments, but we didn't like it the way everyone else did. You can say the flaws are excused by the action scenes, but come on – why not push for movies that don't have this many flaws? Let's expect better than this kind of stuff, guys.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Worst Criticisms You Can Make About Movies (Or Any Entertainment)

Look, guys – I used to be kind of annoying about movies. When I was in my teens and even my early 20s, I think I tended too often to be an asshole when talking about movies. I brought up things I hated a lot; too much, even. I would start discussions and often rant about terrible movies just as often as I'd talk about good ones, and it put some people off. Now, from my own perspective, I was just having fun and being frank and honest. I never looked down on people for what they liked – I was adamant about this – but I also never quite considered exactly everyone else's feelings all the time, either.

I think it's a common thing for young people in our entertainment age, in this time where we're so saturated with 80s and 90s culture and retro referencing and childhood nostalgia and – yes – new good movies coming out. We tend to get sucked into that and get way too passionate about it. It's good to love movies and TV, but we also shouldn't stop caring about other people, and about making the discussion good rather than just honest. I will never stop being honest about what I like and what I don't like, but at the same time, the older I get, I am learning that maybe it's okay to scale back things a bit in favor of having a good, mature discussion.

With that, I'd like to talk about some bad criticisms and arguments I always see when talking about movies. I've done some of them myself over the years, and if you have too, I wouldn't look badly upon you. But I think it's worth making this post anyway, just to promote healthier, better discussions about the entertainment we all love and cherish.

And maybe, just maybe, this is also kind of a rambling soul-searching monologue...a manifesto of thoughts built up over years and years of watching movies, thinking about movies, and thinking about opinions on movies. Maybe these questions and thoughts have been in the corner of my mind all along when writing this blog.

So bear with me. Here we go.

“It's a sellout!”
It's really fucking easy to decry things for being sellouts. Usually, these complaints are leveled by teenagers who haven't yet gone out into the world, or just zealous weirdos mad that their favorite thing has changed. If something sucks, it sucks – I get that. But complaining about something being made for money just seems so ridiculous to me now that I am out in the world trying to make something of myself. Why wouldn't you want something to make money?

If it's a real shameless corporate shill, I get hating that – like Jaws 3 trying to ride Sea World's dick. But even that isn't worth manufactured outrage. Very few things really are. I really only get mad at a movie now if it promotes some kind of horrible idea, or represents humanity poorly. Just being a silly corporate product is a reason for light mockery, but not real rage.

But someone making a movie and making money off it, and getting bigger, isn't really a bad thing in and of itself – people need to make money, no matter what they do; regardless of whether or not you wanted your favorite movie to be an uncompromising, singular work of art made in a vacuum. Yeah, I really want my works of art to be pure. And by that I mean, I want my works of art to be produced by starving, depressed people who pay their rent each month by lending their landlord cigarettes or booze.

“That's just your opinion!”
Of course it's my opinion. I'm the one saying it. I guess people sometimes take certain ways opinions are delivered to be some sort of attack on them personally. When really, if we wanted to do that, there are probably a lot better ways to do so then making fun of a movie they like. If you're the type of person to get offended at someone talking about how they didn't like a movie you liked, you probably have a lot of other things we can make fun of you about.

But seriously – people tend to say this one because they feel attacked and emotional when someone doesn't like their favorite show or movie. It's just a natural response at times, and we have the luxury of feeling that way because our world has become so advanced, because society has progressed as far as it has. We don't have to hunt for food anymore, nor find shelter for fire. We have time to think about this stuff, even if it isn't as important as we think it is. (And it's really not, for the most part - it's still just entertainment at the end of the day.)

I hope nobody actually thinks their opinion is a stone-cold fact. I've certainly never seen anyone who thinks so. I hope the people on the other side of the argument don't expect everyone to just coddle them forever and sugarcoat everything, because that doesn't make for a good discussion either.

There has to be some middle ground, you know? There has to be a way that we can talk frankly, honestly, but also with compassion and understanding. I'm still trying to find it.

“It was just x, y and z – nothing else!”
Not one I see all the time, but now and again I do come across it – people trying to boil down a movie they didn't get to “it was just this and that.” Like for example, if you didn't like The Fault in Our Stars, you might have used this to say “it was just two kids with cancer crying and stuff.”

Well, no...it was a lot more than that, actually.

I dunno. You're certainly allowed to THINK it was just those things (as not everyone has to like a movie that's received well) – but I think that means you just didn't get it. Saying it was just x, y and z is kind of tantamount to admitting you didn't get it, just using more aggressive and self-favoring words.

And I know, I know. That makes me sound like some kind of hipster douche. Well, let me tell YOU...I am exactly that. There's no illusion here, folks.

But also, not “getting” something isn't really the end of the world. It just means it wasn't for you. People see different things in different movies, but nobody ever makes a piece of art that is “just” anything. If you only see the surface elements of the story or find it boring, well, you just didn't get it. Oftentimes, people say something was “too slow” or “nothing was happening,” and oftentimes, I watch whatever it is and really enjoy it. The other people just didn't get it.

And that's okay.

Not everything with tastes in entertainment has to be a pissing contest. We can change our opinions of things as we get older and have different perspectives on the world. It's okay. Not everything we think at one point in time has to stay ironclad and firm all throughout our lives. It would be insane – and also very boring – if we couldn't change how we felt and learn and grow. Not everyone has to get everything at the same time you do, or at all.

I don't get what people like about James Wan's movies, or Nicolas Winding Refn's – but you know, I get it, apparently some people find merit in that stuff, some qualities I can't see. That's fine. It doesn't mean I have to say those movies are anything but absolute shit, because that's what they are to me. I can talk about what I don't like about them and you can say why you do. Perception is a bitch.

“But you liked x, how can you not like y?”
I see this shit all over the place. You say you didn't like something, then some idiot has to chip in and go 'hey, you liked this other thing, why don't you like this too?' Like, hey, you liked snorting crack cocaine! Why don't you also like smashing priceless sculptures to pieces and snorting that? You must just be delusional.” It just sets up this precedent where the other person has to defend their choice for no reason, and you bringing it up seems to just serve the purpose of making you feel smarter and better over something trivial. Just accept the fact that not everything people like always syncs up perfectly.

“The only people who would like this are [some negative stereotype]!”
Don't do this one. You don't know why anybody likes anything, and if you do this, you're pretty much just perpetuating garbage stereotypes as much as that bully you hated in school did. Remember that kid? Who would shove your head in a toilet like it was a football at the touchdown line? Yeah – that guy. It's just poor form to assume anything about someone because of what entertainment they like. People are too complex for that.

“You were just expecting Shakespeare!”
I've talked about this before, but it's another bad, bad argument. When someone doesn't like, say, The Expendables, or whatever crap-ass action or horror movie that came out last month, this is inevitably trotted out. “Well, you can't expect a Shakespearean tragedy...” Or “well, it's not an Oscar-winning drama, it's not supposed to be!” Or the opposite – when someone doesn't like arthouse movies like Dogville or anything David Lynch has done, some people go “well, you must just like Michael Bay action movie jizzsplosion fests!”

Yeah, buddy, when I walked into fucking Tree of Life, I was totally disappointed when it didn't have a musclebound action hero shooting terrorists. That killed the buzz. Thanks for the insight, Freud.

Don't get me wrong, there is some small degree of truth there: you should take into account what a movie was trying to do. If it's a straightforward, dialogue-light movie like Mad Max: Fury Road, yeah, maybe you shouldn't bitch and complain that it's got no long rambling monologues. Little things like that, yeah, clearly the film was trying to do something completely different. If it didn't work for you, fine, but attacking it from some faulty perspective doesn't make sense. I guess if you want to go ahead and do it, that's cool, but I've always been a proponent of the school of thought that you should look at something for what it was trying to do, not what you expected it to be.

I'm just saying come the fuck on, I wasn't expecting Shakespearean tragedy when I watched Insidious 3 last week, but that doesn't make the movie any better for me.

I said earlier that entertainment wasn't as important as we thought it was. I'd like to clarify that a bit, as it is important; don't get me wrong. From a cultural standpoint, movies and other entertainment are very influential and show us important things about the time period and environment they were released in. 

But I do think these last few decades have seen a marked rise in people really, really getting into entertainment on a deeply personal level. Different upbringings and social climates also influence what we like, and as such, people are bound to get very passionate about the movies and books they like, and want to defend them. That's why I think we tend to see all these ad hominems and argumentative tactics used. Because people see their movies and entertainment and whatever else like children. We live through our entertainment.

It's good to be able to relate to things, but I think growing up in that 80s and 90s environment where everything was suddenly overflowing to the brim with entertainment did tend to tip the scales too far into crazy territory at times. Add in the Internet in the 2000s making everything - even the rants of the worst cretins from IMDb - public, and we've got a lot of work to do in terms of talking about this stuff. If this comes off as a bit finger-wagging in how to talk about movies, well, I just think there are a lot more ways to talk about them without resorting to angry bickering and arguing all the time.

You don't have to resort to cheap ad hominems or assumptions. We are more than our entertainment, more than our tastes. It should be a given that entertainment is art and art is important to society, so we should be able to discuss it in a lot of mature ways that make us better people. I know that sounds sort of hippie-ish, but it's true. Art should make us feel good; not divide us through petty bickering over tastes.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Insidious Chapter 3 (2015)

In this week's podcast, Michelle and I looked at Insidious Chapter 3, which is actually a prequel to the other two movies. So why is it billed as a sequel? I don't fucking know. In the podcast, we talk about a lot of things I don't mention in this review, so check that out right now, you guys.

Also, SPOILERS abound!

The film is just bad all around. I didn't really expect much, but like a horrific car wreck, it was hard to turn away from this after the unmitigated disaster of the second film. I guess I really just don't get these kinds of movies. Who are they trying to appeal to? There's zero good scares, no plot, no character – just an endless run of loud noises to make you jump. Oh man are there a fuckload of jump scares in this.

If you thought the height of artistry in horror was a haunted house you visited down the block on Halloween though, this movie could be for you.

There are so many that I'm amazed they didn't get slapped with a fine for harassment. I mean, if you banged on your neighbor's door as much as there are loud noises in this movie, you'd be lucky if you didn't get shot.

Plot and character are super flimsy. Excuse me if I'm not invested in the plight of the clearly rich girl with the fancy apartment, good friends, supportive family, etc. Yeah, her mother died, which sucks for her, but the movie is trying to play it off like her newly-single dad is struggling and having this super hard time keeping things together. Which, again, I'm sure would suck in real life – but how does this movie portray it? They just put a few messy dishes in the otherwise picture-perfect, super-nice apartment they live in. Otherwise, the place looks like it could be in an Urban Outfitters catalogue – but a few dirty dishes, fuck me.

Can you feel the struggle and sadness?

It's just a shitty, phoned in way to try and depict grief. Better movies like The Babadook or The Shining have portrayed real people struggling with demons through metaphor and storytelling. This one doesn't do that – it doesn't even try. Instead it just drops all of that and goes into what you expect from these sorts of movies, which is mostly just endless jump scares from people with white face make up while the soundtrack goes quiet.

Jesus fucking christ there are a lot of jump scares in this movie. I know I'm repeating myself a lot there, but, hey, I've still said it less than the actual amount of jump scares in the movie.

Oh, but there are a few other things in the movie - like the most accident prone main character ever. She gets hit by a car while standing in the middle of the street early on, because she was distracted by a ghost. Then for the rest of the movie, apparently nothing can stop her from getting pushed out of her wheelchair or bed, hurting herself more and all around just failing at being safe. I think it's time to get her a bubble, you guys.

"Dad, how hard is it to keep me from falling out a window?!?"

There's also the scene where the main chick, who has two broken legs, gets possessed and attacks them, somehow coming out on top. I wouldn't want to be the guy who got the shit kicked out of him by her - what would his story be? "Hey, bro, how did you get hurt?" "Uh...a girl with two broken legs kicked me..."

All people with broken legs become MMA fighters. That's how life works. Try it at home, kids with broken legs!

Michelle said it was better than the second one. That's probably true, as being worse than the second one would have been a feat to be marveled. But there's this really irritatingly simplistic attitude this movie seems to have between the lines. Its world-view is depressingly black and white – one of the actual lines said in the movie is “there are two worlds beyond our own, one light and one dark.” Aside from being an incredibly cringe-worthy piece of writing, it's also a terrible way to look at the world, being more akin to a cartoon action movie than anything scary or interesting.

They literally just say there's good and evil, black and white, right up front. If you don't mind me getting philosophical, maybe the world would be a better place if our entertainment didn't push the idea on us that there's such thing as good and evil, black and white, only two binary answers to every question with zero ambiguity or grey area in the middle. How is that productive at all?

I don't even think you can use the excuse that it's just dumb fun, because this is about as fun as having the flu. It's poisonous and vapid "entertainment" that I hope people start to see for the crap that it is. With cliche and rote writing that's always predictable, no good atmospheres, no good scares, it sucks. If our watching this movie and reviewing it can persuade one person not to see it, then we did a good thing.

And again, holy shit, how many jump scares do you NEED in a horror movie? Someone stop this madness!

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mosquito (1995)

It’s summertime again. And that means the mosquitoes are out, hunting for blood like the little bastard vampire insects that they are. Most of the time, you can just kill them with an ordinary flyswatter or the bottom of a sturdy shoe. Other times, though, they grow giant due to meteor radiation and kill dozens of innocent people. This phenomenon is most closely observed in the 1995 cult flick, Mosquito.

Director: Gary Jones
Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Rachel Loiselle

Co-written with Colin and Michelle.

With a title like Mosquito, it really doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Like you know this isn’t gonna be about the Vietnam War or civil rights. It’s going to be about a mosquito. That’s kind of a limited scope and size, isn’t it? I mean, where is the spontaneity? When I watch a goofy sci fi horror flick about a giant bug, I’d like it to throw me for a loop.

As we see, the movie starts with a spaceship and some other stuff in outer space.

You know, it makes sense; I'll go with it. Maybe the new Star Wars movie will start out with a bunch of people looking at bugs under microscopes.

Anyway, some asteroid crashes into the Earth. Some time later, two people are driving to go to the woman’s new job, when a freakishly huge mosquito plummets from the sky and destroys their windshield. Megan, a scientist, is curious about this. Ray, who is just some dude… well, not so much. He’s just annoyed that his windshield is broken. This guy acts so nonchalantly that you just have to wonder how many abominably giant insects he sees per day. Maybe 50.

"Honey, it's just a miracle of scientific discovery that will change the world; why should we do anything? Let's just get back in the car and leave."

Meanwhile, this fat incompetent park ranger guy is spying on women in the bushes, because, well, the camera needed an excuse to show the most important parts of this scene:

Their impeccable skin tones?

The other guy pulls him away, because really, the department doesn’t need any more sexual harassment lawsuits.

"We don't want to have to put out another press release saying we're sorry for bothering the tourists!"

The park ranger then goes to see the captain, who has a bunch of animal heads and stuffed animals all around his office, because in a movie like this, that’s basically gold standard subtlety. The captain guy then launches into a huge dramatic spiel about how mosquitoes are evil and it is the park rangers’ duty to exterminate them all, the last line of defense between mankind’s fall and mosquitoes. You’ve been practicing THAT one in the mirror, huh buddy?

There’s also this other guy, who is extremely serious and doesn’t really seem to fit in with the movie. Personally I kept expecting him to launch into a super serious monologue about who killed his father, how he’s going to find him, that sort of thing, but unfortunately the movie continues on its current path about radioactive giant mosquitoes, and he is a part of that plot. Oh well.

"Someday, I will get vengeance on the man that killed my father, as you can tell from this super serious look on my face...wait, what movie am I in? Mosquito? Oh, fuck that noise."

Rounding out our main cast is a group of vague criminals wearing military jackets and pants. It’s never really explained what they want to do. So I’ll just make it up myself: they want to steal every copy of the movie Race to Witch Mountain and sell them to small Indonesian children at outrageous prices. What a bunch of douchebags. At least keep Race to Witch Mountain for yourself. Nobody needs that mess.

And yes, the big guy with the white beard is Gunnar Hansen, famous for playing a small bit part in an unknown film. But this one is clearly where he's even more well known for.

"Yes, this map will tell us how to do unspecified crime-y stuff..."

Anyway, one of them gets eaten by a giant mosquito. Which, frankly, isn’t done in enough action movies. Heat came out a few years after this. How come THAT movie didn’t have a giant mosquito in it? That would have really improved things.

Yes, yes...this is what the movie needed.

Ray and Megan meet up with Steve, as their vehicle is broken down and they need a ride. I still like Steve the best of any of the characters. He’s just so cool. Every movie like this needs a really cool guy, and Steve is it for Mosquito.

"One day I will finally ride away on a comet and find the other dimensions."

We also see the only true way to have shameless product plugs - put Pabst Blue Ribbon everywhere. Yes, while other beer companies today are trying to look legitimate and also tear down the little guy craft breweries, PBR back in the 90s was just like “fuck it, we're appearing in Mosquito. This is now the plan.” I can dig it.

PBR is the only way to get through giant mosquito attacks.

My favorite part about this scene is the sex scene:

Oh, wait, no, that's wrong. My real favorite part is when he leaves to go take a piss (with the PBR of course, what other way would you have it?) and then comes back and finds his girlfriend being killed by a giant mosquito in the tent. He's pretty nonchalant about it, because nobody seems to care that there are giant mosquitoes in this universe. And plus, he has more PBR to drink.


Or maybe he just doesn't like his girlfriend that much, because you know, she was good in bed but also kind of annoying and wouldn't shut up about animal rights or something.

"...eh, I didn't like her that much anyway."

Meanwhile, the main characters find everyone dead at this camp and then steal this RV with a dead guy in the driver's seat. Careful, he might have germs!

Then they find the military outfit criminals, who are doing whatever those types of guys always do. They have a fight, but it's okay – afterward, the good guys invite them to come onto their RV and hang out after. They tie them up I guess, but it's still a nice gesture.

The ensuing RV driving scene is full of mosquitoes chasing our heroes (or, if you prefer, “those random people we don't care about” which is what I imagine most viewers called them). 

However, that wasn't exciting enough. No, we also needed a subplot in this action scene about the bad guys breaking out and attacking everyone in the RV.

Mosquito attacks aren't that exciting, we NEED this dumb hostage scene that goes nowhere!

Ray does some kung fu fighting he mysteriously learned between takes to take on the younger guy – I wonder where he learned that. Maybe they had him strapped to a chair with his eyes forced open Clockwork Orange style watching Bruce Lee movies in his trailer.

Then Megan stops it by kicking the older dude in the balls, because we're operating on 1990s pre-teen cartoon logic. Maybe in the next scene, someone will pull pigtails or make a “Yo Mama” joke.

Then they have to go hide in the sewer. I'm sure they had a good reason, like maybe they wanted to see how one of those giant mosquito props could fit in a sewer. Or maybe, I dunno, the main characters just act better when surrounded by literal heaps of stinking garbage.

Verdict - eh, too blurry.

After they get out of there, we get a bunch of scenes of Mr. Park Ranger Guy yapping his bitch hole about how annoying it is to be chased by giant mosquitoes. I guess maybe he got shot in an earlier scene before this. But so what if he got shot? There are children starving in Africa, you ungrateful pig swine!

So, a bit of a question for you guys: do you like Night of the Living Dead?

I assume you do. In that case, haven't you always thought it would be better with giant mosquitoes replacing all the zombies? I sure have. And I am fucking glad this movie solved my issues with Night of the Living Dead.

Yeah...that house looking exactly like the Night of the Living Dead one and this situation being very similar doesn't do your movie any fucking favors.

We get some pretty so-so scenes full of a bunch of gunfire and stuff. Then in the best twist in the world, it's revealed that underneath the house, there are a bunch of mosquitoes nesting. Fearing sequels to this, they destroy them by blowing up the entire house.

That's way too many to animate, so we have to destroy them all and end the movie now.

This film was instructional. Through its runtime, it did help me understand how to get rid of a mosquito infestation. If there are too many of them around my house, I really just have to open the door, let them all in, and then burn down my house. That's the path to true mosquito death. Thank you, Mosquito, for giving us that tutorial. Now if you'll excuse me, there are way too many of those little fuckers in my house. Time to go get my blowtorch.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Well, the Chldren of the Corn series slogs on. This one is called Urban Harvest, which sounds like a really stupid rap album based around a bad Goosebumps book or something. You can definitely see that being the point where some poor sap of a 1990s rapper's career would jump the shark.

Hell, I'm astounded they didn't have any rap songs in this movie's soundtrack. For 1995, that's kind of like being the one gold miner who didn't feel like getting rich in the late 1800s.

Director: James D.R. Hickox
Starring: Daniel Cerny, Ron Menendez

Co-written with Michelle.

This one begins with a sort of rushed telling of a usual story for this series – a teenage kid, Joshua, is being chased around by his drunken, abusive father in the country. His father uses what most drunken, abusive parents do – a giant scythe, and he swings it like a maniac as his terrified son runs for his life through the cornfields.

Tough love, at its finest.

Ah yes...just part of the usual parenting regimen. Doing dishes, doing chores... chasing them around with a giant scythe for no reason.

Luckily he gets helped by something even better than child protective services – we get Eli, a strange kid who has the power of conjuring up dark mystical forces that I'm sure Sam Raimi would sue for if he wasn't already a dozen times richer than anyone in this movie:

Well, it's not exactly tree rape Evil Dead style - his clothes are still on...

Eli and Joshua, for some unstated reason, decide to go to Chicago and let themselves be adopted. Why? Isn't the whole idea of this series that the children don't need adults and want to just live on their own drooling and eating corn all day out in the middle of nowhere? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but the kids in the previous two films were very much content with doing that. And this one takes place in the same town, Gatlin, that the other ones were in. So my guess is just that Eli is so annoying and douchey that none of the other kids (of the corn) want anything to do with him, so he has to go to the city to find anybody to hang out with.

The parents they get are apparently leftover stale 80s stereotypes. The mother is a personality-free cardboard cut-out with big hair and screams a lot. The father is a mulleted douchebag businessman who wears suits and does stupid things like adopt two children and then, as soon as they get in the house, says “just remember to knock before you come to our room at night.”

"Honey, we're going to make sweet, sweet love right across the hall from you all night long."

Yup, he adopted two children just to tell them he and his wife will be having loud, constant sex in the night while they're there. Hell, I'll go a step further – I think the only reason they adopted these kids was because knowing impressionable and abandoned kids are sleeping in the other room, turns them on more. Real libido booster, there. You goddamn fucking weirdos.

"Moan louder, they need to hear this!"

Eli is able to match the bizarreness, though, when the mom sees that his suitcase is full of cockroaches – which is a typical carry-on for kids who used to live in cornfields, but the mom's delicate big-city disposition just can't handle it. The dad, though, sees a bunch of ears of corn when he opens it – you know; sometimes you see ears of corn and other times you see cockroaches. That's just the diversity of life.

Either way, I think we can all agree the mom needs to go to a mental asylum and chill out. Especially after the next scene where, while again having sex with her husband, she has a hallucination of having a mouthful of dirt. I mean, I've heard of weird fetishes, but eating dirt before making out? Ew, just ew.

"Ahhhh! Phew, that's the same dream I've had all my life, about dirt coming out of my mouth. How awful."

Meanwhile, Eli grows a bunch of corn in the dangerous creepy old abandoned, almost surely haunted, warehouse directly behind their house. If you're wondering why the department of children and families would let two kids go live right near something so obviously hazardous, or why a house would be built in such a weird place at all, well, you're thinking too hard.

Did I say grows corn? I meant takes it out of a suitcase. You slacker.

And while you were thinking too hard about this dumb-ass movie, Eli killed a homeless man and used him to make super good corn. I guess homeless people are nutritional.

All the people who talk about GMOs would also do well to pick up the cause of homeless people used as fertilizer. It's seriously a problem.

The father comes over and eats some of the corn right there without washing it or anything, just right from the ground, because, I guess after making out with a woman who eats dirt, anything seems better.

"Mmmm, tastes as black and filthy as my soul."

He decides that the corn is so good he can take it to his work and sell it to Germany, even going over the head of his boss. What's that? You don't care and are wondering why this scene is in the movie? Yeah, me too. Skip it!

We then see they go to an inner-city school where kids are just allowed to bring knives in just in case they want to get in huge fights with their classmates. School security was lax back then. But don't worry – all they really do is shove each others' chests and get close enough to kiss if they wanted to, without actually hitting one another. Like most school fights, ya know.

Just kiss him, you fool.

Also, if you’re wondering why some of these kids are dressed like clown pimp gangsters with colors bright enough to be in a Skittles commercial - well, it was the 90s. Just leave it be.

So I guess for the rest of the film is taken up by Eli somehow, mysteriously, winning over every kid in the school to his werdo corn religion, worshiping He Who Walks Behind the Rows. I’m guessing nobody had much imagination when writing this, because it’s seriously unbelievable that any kid would follow him. Yeah - I’m sure a bunch of streetwise Chicago kids are gonna want to join up with some weird Amish-looking kid who worships a Lovecraftian corn deity on a whim; that's fucking realistic.

Well, everyone except Joshua, anyway. He’s too busy having sex with the neighbor girl. I just love how hackneyed and random this scene is - it’s like hey, you survived this long into the movie and had to watch the parents fuck, so here’s a scene of two attractive people doing the same thing. That’s your reward.

Most of the other scenes are just Eli ripping off The Omen and doing a particularly poor job of it. Hard to really be scared of this movie when most of it has been done 15 years prior and much better. And how many more scenes do we really need in any movie of a creepy kid leering at adults and then eventually killing them? Is someone really sitting around in a dank-ass apartment writing this and going 'oh yeah, THIS is really original'?

I guess eventually they catch onto what Eli is doing after he makes a common mistake for wannabe cult leaders and crucifies a priest using cornstalks and other wildlife. Damn. That has ruined so many aspiring cult leaders!

"Kid, you're really not very good at acting like a creepy older person. Quit watching The Godfather so much and instead, just take acting lessons."

So Joshua and his girlfriend’s brother go off to Gatlin again to find this magic Necronomicon-esque book that might solve the whole thing. To do this, they first have to fight this horrific abomination:

"Quick, use your football moves on him!"

Seriously, what the hell is that? It looks like a bunch of straw stuck together with human vomit and then a Jack ‘O’ Lantern’s face was drawn over it. Someone tell the neighborhood alchemist not to get drunk next time he makes something.

Also, the girlfriend’s brother dies stupidly before they leave. Farewell, whatever your name was! You were a valiant soul to try and survive in a movie this stupid.

Back in Chicago, we get a scene where Eli is mobilizing his cult to go and, I dunno, eat lots of corn on the cob or something. It’s probably something more violent than that, but really, does it deserve any more dignified write-up? No. Joshua shows up and announces that the only way he can kill Eli is by destroying the book AND him at the same time. Which I’m pretty sure he just made up on the spot. I mean, how lazy can you get? This was literally never mentioned in the film before.

Joshua also makes a reference to the situation being like killing a worm by cutting off its head. Yes. That IS what it's like. Heh heh... but yeah, this is just the kind of clever writing we have in this movie, and I am basking in its glow like a person lying for hours in a manmade tanning box... and getting cancer from it.

"Now part like the sea in an extremely hackneyed and contrived way to let this lone dissenter through! Yes, my minions, go now and do so!"

Eli dies, but then He Who Walks Behind the Rows arrives, looking like something Ray Harryhausen would have made when he was tired after a three-day mountain hike and wanted to go to bed. The kids all wake up from their hypnotized trances and then they all start getting eaten.

Imagine if the Harry Potter films had CGI like this.

And wait a second - they were under a trance that whole time? Really? I couldn’t fucking tell, and I’m not even sure you made an attempt to tell us, movie. Sometimes I wonder why I even try to put this much effort to review these things, for how little effort they actually put into making them. I could just post a picture of a potato, no other context, and that would be appropriate enough to sum up half the movies I watch.

Only the potato is more interesting.

Anyway, the girlfriend character stabs the monster, but I guess that’s all she had - it turns around and eats her immediately. But then Joshua stabs it like once and that ends the whole thing. My favorite part about this is that she's actually alive inside the monster still and escapes completely fine, as if nothing happened. I guess his digestion is really fucking slow and his teeth really fucking soft, like pillows.

Or she's related to that guy from Jaws: The Revenge last week who also escaped being eaten by a monster...yeah, I'm going with that one.

Everyone goes home, wondering how best they can forget the unearthly abominations they have just witnessed. The possibilities are endless for them. Will they partake in alcohol, weed, LSD, cocaine? Who knows?

The movie is unsatisfactory. On every level of story, character and relevance, it gets an F. The effects can be kind of fun, but they aren’t enough to save it. Overall, like in any urban school, this movie deserves to be swirlied in the bathroom - head completely shoved in a toilet and flushed. That’s all Urban Harvest deserves. I have written it, it is my grade, and so it shall be carried out.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.