Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cinema Freaks Live: Suicide Squad

Last week, The Observer/Colin and I got together and watched Suicide Squad. I didn't really know what I was going to think of it, but I kept hearing equally good and bad things about it, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

And... well, just check out our video on it:


If you can't watch the video for some reason, we thought it was a pretty shit movie really. But it was oddly fun for all of that! It was so patchwork, so piecemeal, so poorly done. And other alliterative terms beginning with 'P.' You could tell the studio edited the fuck out of this in endless futile attempts to please an audience that hadn't seen it. The stench of desperation about this whole thing is worse than the dead dog I passed on the sidewalk last week.

It's a shame because some of the performances are good and you can tell the actors probably had fun working on it. Well, until they saw the final product anyway and realized they now looked like they'd spent hours working on a movie and had nothing to show for it except costumes that look like bad childrens' birthday party entertainers.

One thing Colin pointed out that I agreed with was that it seems really weird to put together something like this Suicide Squad at all. "We need an army to fight off the bad guys in the shadows and not get any recognition... okay, let's get a guy who can shoot a gun, a girl who's crazy, a dude who plays with boomerangs, a guy who can shoot fire from his hands and a guy with a crocodile head. Sounds logical! We totally don't need anyone else! That should be enough!" It's like, how is that going to solve problems? If there's any real threat, I don't see how these assholes would be that much more capable than anyone else. Maybe the fire guy would be OK. But otherwise, nah.

Jared Leto's Joker, for all his hi-larious antics backstage of the film, wasn't as bad as I figured he would be. He wasn't great - mostly because he looked kind of like a weird CGI blowfish with bad clown makeup on. But for a performance that had to live up to Heath Ledger and partially succeeded by sort of imitating him, Leto was not too bad.

I don't want to say any more. Check the video. Enjoy. Live your life. Watch Suicide Squad, if for some reason that might make you happy. Until next time!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some loose thoughts on The Invitation (2015)

I saw the movie The Invitation last night at about 1 a.m., which really is the best time to watch a horror film – when everything is dark and the noises go bump in the stillness of the night. Naturally, at that unique time of day and with a movie this strange and eerie, some thoughts were borne out of the experience which I wanted to write down as quick as possible. So I did. Here they are. I'm basically just going to ramble about it for a few paragraphs, just a bunch of loose thoughts. Let's talk about The Invitation. There'll be some spoilers, I guess, but I'm not going through this scene-by-scene like in my normal reviews.

Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall Green, Tammy Blanchard

The story is about this guy named Will coming back for this reunion with his ex-wife and a bunch of their friends. Apparently Will and his wife's son died two years ago, and after that his wife joined this religious group out in Mexico, which is always a good sign by the way. The group's philosophy is that apparently, letting go and dying shouldn't be this scary concept. Which seems like an awfully long way to go to make a religion – why not just get some pills and cash out now? Why wait? But it's a religion for them, I guess, and it starts to make for what could charitably be called an awkward house party. There's a sense of unease immediately, with the crowded camera shots full of all these characters and the almost toxic, claustrophobic sense of politeness – you can just tell there's something “off,” and the movie never skimps on that feeling. I was uncomfortable all throughout this thing.

The movie's first two acts especially are so exquisitely creepy. This is masterfully headfucked, bizarre, trippy stuff, like Stanley Kubrick's The Shining – that was really the prevalent influence I kept being reminded of through the whole movie. There are all these weird, head-trip moments where you don't know what's going on and what's just in someone's head. Will, the lead, seems composed at first, but the memory of his lost son slowly starts to show that maybe he isn't a reliable narrator either – you wonder a few times what exactly is just his warped perspective and what isn't. The ending of the movie is much more straightforward, and doesn't have that kind of ambiguity, but I liked the way they built it up anyway. At some moments before the climax, the movie has these surreal scenes that sort of dive down a rabbit hole of fucked-up-ness, but then cut back to normalcy and you wonder if that scene even really happened. It doesn't end up mattering if it really happened, though, because the effect is still so macabre.

The climax turns into an all-out bloodbath. It becomes something similar to the movie End of the Line, which I panned way back in 2014, but the execution is what matters – the 'cult end of days killers' theme is done so well in this film. As I mentioned, the ambiguity and the surreality of the early parts of the film were excellent, but I am not one to turn my nose at a good dose of violence, either. This climax is full of great stark, surprising, bloody moments, and it works. The final twist at the end is one I've seen done before, and maybe it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I was rolling with it the way this movie told it. I had no great complaints.

I think beyond everything else, it was the little touches that made this movie so good to me. The villains in this film are part of this cult that wants to enact mass suicide. But when they die, they don't seem like they're at peace as they said they'd be. When these cult members die, they don't reach some kind of perfect bliss like they blather on about all throughout the first two acts – they're in pain, screaming and they don't want to go. I think that's a kind of insight that puts this movie way above most other horror movies.

It's a nuance that shows an understanding of people's psyches where, even as far gone as these villains are, we're all the same when we're dying. The reactions of the main characters, the good guys, killing them are appropriately horrified, too; another thing most movies do not get right. I think when you can feel the deaths at a more visceral level, see the pain, then a horror movie is even more “real.” That's why The Invitation succeeds.

Image copyright of its original owner, I don't own it.

Standoff (2016)

Standoff is a movie about angry, shouting men trapped in a house together. If that sounds good to you, well, you'll like the film. If you're thinking there could be subtleties and more depth to it than that, well, get ready to be disappointed!

Director: Adam Alleca
Starring: Thomas Jane, Laurence Fishburne

Co-written with Tony.

Apparently this got mostly negative reviews, according to Wikipedia, which really is the only source for movie ratings. Fuck Rotten Tomatoes. I'm a purist and only read the "reception" tab on Wikipedia to tell me whether to get a movie or not. And I'm glad to add my critical voice, so esteemed by my peers, into that foray!

This movie begins with Thomas Jane, who I like to think of in this movie as Better Keanu Reeves, as he has long hair and a similarly angry, stoic demeanor, but he can at least try to act, so that's something. Him and his wife are mourning because their kid dies, and she leaves him, apparently not really needing that big Thomas Jane acting gold too badly.

That's way too nice of a shot for this movie. Kind of a waste...

Meanwhile, a little girl with a camera, called Bird, is going to a funeral with her stepfather, Rob Zombie movie extra:

Straight from the set of '31' probably.

They get there and it's pretty much as clich̩ as a funeral scene can get Рlike, the fact that they filmed this at all without falling asleep is amazing. I bet they just watched a funeral scene in any other generic Z-grade thriller like this and copy-pasted the entire script. But they can't even finish the funeral without a hitman showing up and killing everyone there. D'oh! Foiled again! Better try to have that funeral again at a later time. It's going to require a do-over.

He actually always only kills people at funerals, just because he is a lazy fuck.

The little girl sees him doing it and takes a photo of him with his mask off – it's Laurence Fishburne, by the way. He sees her and then immediately decides he has to devote the rest of his day to killing her. He cancels all his other appointments, including the one to curl his hair and the one to get his nails done. He chases her through this big field to the house of Better Keanu Reeves, who opens the door and is surprised to see her there. But he's even more surprised when Fishburne shoots him in the foot immediately, without even attempting to reason with him.

This begins the main conflict of the story – Jane's character and the little girl, Bird, stuck upstairs in Jane's house while the increasingly deranged Fishburne stomps around downstairs threatening them. It's the least suspenseful cat and mouse thing ever. There should be multiple ways out of this, but for some reason, this is dragged out for a whole damn movie. It's also revealed somewhere in this mess that Jane's character is a soldier. This has importance because, well, they couldn't think of any other way to shoehorn in him being such a badass. Still better than John Wick, though, which is why Jane's character retains the nickname Better Keanu Reeves.

Especially ludicrous is the way Fishburne constantly blathers on about how he's the best hitman ever and he's the biggest challenger Jane will ever face. But he proves himself wrong instantly, as he's constantly over-emotional, flying off the handle at every little insult Jane throws his way. You know, like a good hitman would be. He also gets really, really drunk to ease the pain of when Jane shoots him, too – I'm sure being drunk just makes him a better hitman.

Drinking on the job is actually the way to be good at anything. If you're a bus driver for instance, drinking on the job will just make you even better than you were. I'm telling the truth obviously, as this is in a caption on a picture on a movie blog.

Not to mention the elephant in the room – he's doing all of this just to kill one little girl, and he can't even do that right! How good of a hitman can this guy be? Were all his previous marks catatonic patients in hospital beds? Fuck, this is a dumb ass movie.

The movie pretty much proceeds like this for the entirety of its runtime:

FISHBURNE: Who the hell do you think you are? I'm going to laugh at you from down here!


Or sometimes, when the movie really starts taking risks, they reverse that conversation so it's Fishburne screaming his head off at Jane being condescending. Ooh, now we're really getting brave!

I just don't know. Most of the movie is just a dull slog. They really, really stretch this out, to the point where the stretch marks would look more like World War II bayonet battle scars. Jesus, this is boring. I guess a few times, they move around and make it seem like something interesting is going to happen – like, at one point, Fishburne goes outside and climbs upstairs using a ladder, I guess. Even then it doesn't get any more interesting. Having the only two characters involved in the fight be crippled from wounds and one of them very drunk doesn't exactly make for good suspense. What's next – a movie about two geriatric wheelchair-bound old farts screaming at each other across a nursing home? Check that out next summer, from the makers of Standoff!

At one point, a cop shows up and hears gunshots coming from the direction of the house. Showing that the old 'dumb cops dies' trope is still fresh to some misguided individuals, he doesn't even call in that he heard gunshots. He's about to, but instead of telling the rest of the sheriff's office there was gunshots, he just goes it alone. You go for it, Rambo!

He actually does call in, but then changes his mind and doesn't even tell them he heard gunshots. Either he has a death wish, or the movie is just terrible at writing cop characters. What motivation does he have to go off rogue-style on his own? He doesn't know what's out there. He could be walking into a gunfight between two redneck assholes. He doesn't know if this is going to be anything that will like, skyrocket his fucking career and make him a hero. I don't get how a character can be this dumb...oh, wait, it's because the script needs a convenient idiot.

So Fishburne ties up the cop and tortures him for a while, all to get Jane to send Bird downstairs. He doesn't, so instead we just get a pretty lame, try-hard torture scene shoved into the movie. Ya know, in case you weren't convinced already that this movie is out of ideas and pandering to horror cliches that no one wants to see in the first place.

Did you want a torture scene with cuts so quick you can't even see any gore? Do you also want a porn movie with only shots of the girl's feet through the whole thing?

I just don't get the whole premise of this story. Fishburne's character wanted to kill Bird because she saw him without his mask on. But he CHOSE to take his mask off in front of the woman he came to the cemetery to kill in the first place. That was in broad daylight. Unless he had extremely accurate, prescient future-vision, there's no way he couldn't have known that some other random pedestrian(s) wouldn't have walked by. So really, it's his own fault for taking his dumb mask off and assuming no one in broad fucking daylight would ever see him. Kinda a self-fulfilling prophecy. Numbnuts.

And now he wants to kill Bird – a girl who can't be older than eight. She would have nothing to talk about if you hadn't taken your mask off. So really, all this is your own fault. It's especially insane and maddening because he constantly talks about how he's the greatest hitman in the world. Uh, maybe if by greatest you mean worst. Maybe that would be accurate.

The movie ends with a lot more huffing and puffing from these two assholes РJane does the clich̩ thing for these movies and asks why Fishburne ended up the way he did, and Fishburne tells some dumb story about how he started killing more and more people and it helped him sleep. Snooooooore. Wake me up when you learn to write a real character!

The movie's characters are so thinly and shallowly written. They have no depth and they just scream and the movie thinks that's a way of conveying who they are. It's hack bullshit. It sucks.

Then, as if this whole thing couldn't possibly get any dumber, it's revealed Fishburne has lured Jane's wife to the house, by telling her he was drinking too heavily, and she believed him despite never having heard his voice before. Yeah, I'm sure the guy who you've never met or heard of, claiming he's your husband's friend and telling you to come back to the house but not letting you speak to or hear your husband, is telling the truth! I also have a Nigerian prince who needs some money. Open up that check account, bitch!

So he kidnaps her and threatens to kill her if Jane doesn't give up Bird. Seeing as he would probably kill them both anyway after they gave him Bird – why wouldn't he? – the whole thing is just dumb. This guy has left a bigger trail of bodies by now than most serial killers. He killed a fucking cop. You think you'll be able to really get away with this? He constantly goes on about how his employer will kill him if he leaves any witnesses. Well, I doubt your employer will look kindly on this Appalachian Trail of bodies you just left in broad daylight and go, oh yeah, this was the job I wanted done.

But it's OK, because Jane attacks Fishburne and stabs him multiple times in the neck, killing him – so glad this whole thing was solved in the non-violent way as my Sunday school teachers always used to tell me. Then we get a ridiculous ending of Jane and his wife and Bird huddling together, set to the worst and most inappropriately sappy music they could find. As if to say 'look at what an important story just happened.' Honestly, I'd rather set this music over a video of me taking a shit.

What a happy ending and how much we've learned. Oh wait, except for that cop who died, whose body is still rotting in your house. Have fun cleaning that up. And I'm sure his family really appreciates the sappy music montage you're playing right now! Ah well. He isn't a real person anyway. He's a fictional character.

This is a load of crap, honestly. I've had more fun locking myself out of the house, in terms of things tangentially related to what happens in this movie. In fact, what did happen in this movie again? I can't remember. Oh well.

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

Monday, August 1, 2016

Cinema Freaks Live: Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Here it is. The newest big budget video production from me here at Cinema Freaks. This one, I did by myself, because I alienated everyone else around me. Either that or I just didn't have anyone that night to go see the movie with me. Pick whichever answer makes you feel better about your own life.

Anyway, this is the new DC animated movie, Batman: The Killing Joke, based on, I believe, an 80s post punk band. But on the case that I am wrong I did include the video here for your viewing pleasure.

Have fun with that! It's eight minutes of bliss about the movie. Spoilers included. If you watched the video before seeing the movie, and then saw the "spoilers" warning after you already heard some spoilers, then sorry. I'll refund your money at the door.