Category Archives: Assorted Nuts

potpourri of reviews in various mediums

Honest Thoughts on the Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer

On December 7th, I totally, completely forgot about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I actually only realized that it happened because I had to look down at the lower right-hand corner of my laptop so I can use the date as a point of reference for what I actually want to say. Instead of observing the war tragedy that forced an isolationist United States to begin campaigns against the Japanese, I saw the very first teaser trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

There was a lot of hype growing in the past 48 hours because that trailer ended up being the trailer for the real trailer that came out late last night. (This is how marketing works now in the 21st century) Tom Holland impressed in the red-and-blue suit during the couple of scenes he got in Captain America: Civil War. The new movie, Homecoming, takes our Spider-Man back to high school and looks like it is really targeting the adolescent audience. The Peter Parker elements, like staring across the lunch room at the girl he’s crushing on alongside his overweight nerd friend, feel like the sort of thing that’d be written in a Young Adult novel. Just the fact that the friend is Asian (that CAN’T be Harry Osborne) makes his character feel more realistic, as though the school actually does comprise of various ethnic backgrounds. So despite the questionable use of MGMT in the trailer, the cast doesn’t resemble a bushel of cauliflower, for once. I’m INCREDIBLY wary about the casting decision for Flash Thompson, however. If you watched Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and thought, “that smol bellhop sure has an intimidating presence about him,” then congratulations! You are fit to miscast bully characters in Hollywood blockbusters.

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I do find it peculiar how hard he’s crushing on someone who is neither Mary-Jane nor Gwen Stacy. I’m not familiar with the actress playing Peter’s love interest this time around, but I’m optimistic that she’ll bring something new to the table. The kid’s full of raging teenage Spider hormones, so it makes sense that there’s a girl he’d pine over, but the execution needs to be strong. I don’t like that the trailer already gives it away that he gets with her in some capacity, as having a phone call with her explaining things like he’s in a relationship kind of dropped some of the “will she, won’t she” suspense right from the get-go.

The trailer shows a lot of Tony Stark, too. Which is fine, because RDJ is one of the few reasons to watch any of the Marvel movies anyway. Having him in the movie hopefully means Marisa Tomei is going to reprise her role as Aunt May. That way I can sit in the movie theater and silently, but happily, contemplate whether or not Peter’s loving, old aunt should be that sexually attractive. I mean, this is the same actress from My Cousin Vinny, and the same one who performed a strip tease in The Wrestler. I’m excited to live in a universe where Peter’s aunt is actually a selling point of a Spider-Man movie.

Further strengthening the cast, Michael Keaton’s role as Vulture is one of perfect Hollywood irony. He was once the Tim Burton era Batman. Then he starred in Birdman as a washed-up actor known for his heroic role in his younger days. And now Keaton is actually playing an old man in a bird suit. That’s the kind of fate that is written in the stars and found in tea leaves at the bottom of jade cups. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a great actor, either. This level of experience making up the adult cast ought to help guide the younger stars of the film. The suit and the laser tech used in the trailer are really cheesy, though. They looked like props, and I’m fairly certain that these clips have all seen their go through post-production already, so I’m bracing for schlock.

Tom Holland looks like he has the character nailed down, but he is still a little too small, muscle wise, to completely satisfy what I know to be Spider-Man. The original Tobey Maguire films still have the best version of the hero in terms of body physique, and I don’t think that including the shot of him shirtless in the trailer was needed. It was clearly a thirst trap designed for adolescent females to gif and reblog on their Tumblr pages. A little exploitative man bod never hurt anyone. Literally, he’s still so little. Adorable, but as someone who finds himself vainly and self-consciously staring at themselves in the mirror all the time, it’s very very clear that Tom Holland was flexing with every fiber of his being in that shot. I was hoping some of that Hollywood physical training he’d supposedly been doing in preparation for this film would have added a little more bulk than simply make him more cut. Oh well. As long as he can shoot webs well and the plot isn’t as bad as Amazing Spider-Man 2, then I will happily put up with it.

Hype Rating: 4.5 Hypes out of 5



Sci-Fi Movie Trailers Extravaganza!!! (Valerian)


In my last post, I briefly mentioned how I didn’t like Lucy. That movie where Scarlett Johannson “unlocks full brain potential,” as if our brains are normally just inactive heaps of jelly that slosh around in our skull. Well, that director is back. Luc Besson, whom the trailer humbly refers to as “visionary” for sticking Chris Tucker in a cheetah print dress and attaching a loofah to his head like some sort of bath time rhinoceros (i.e. the best part of The Fifth Element), is now adapting an ancient, French comic series that no American has ever heard of. He will also be selling tickets to see it on the big screen next summer. Initially, my first viewing of the Valerian trailer was one of dismissal. Image result for chris tucker fifth element gifThere’s so much cartoon CGI for the eye to feast on, replete with vivid colors and lush worlds that were likely made by a small army of artists and designers in front of computer screens. I like videogames, don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate some nice CGI, but when an entire movie looks like it was made exclusively in green and blue screen studios, it tends to trigger my flashbacks of Viet-Attack of the Clones.

I spent a little time researching into the source material, and there’s a strong foundation for science fantasy in Valerian. I couldn’t get too familiar with the series since Wikipedia had its hand out begging for money again (they must not understand that Trump is president now), but apparently the Valerian and Laureline comic series is one of the most inspirational works in the genre, even having supposedly influenced the original Star Wars. So looking at it again with this in mind… I still see an advert for 4K ultra hi-definition televisions. Really. This doesn’t scream “visionary” to me. This screams “I’m really comfortable with not having to do much in the actual creative process and still getting top billing for the work of countless others who will be packed into the credits like brown people in slums.”

I don’t hate the idea of a cartoon, because that’s what this is – a film with eye candy as its main selling point to lure kids’ butts in theater chairs. But with Disney’s move toward more practical effects and sets in Star Wars, this trailer sets a tone of consequence free adventure stuck in the computer generated ideals of the 2000’s. The giant monsters don’t pose a real threat, the characters aren’t presented with any dimension or conflict, and the laws of physics apparently don’t apply. The last shot in the trailer shows Valerian in the middle of a free fall several stories high, narrowly avoiding the CGI ships zooming around the CGI world before crashing through a tube walkway with enough force to shatter glass, landing on his knees with not a single indication that it hurt. Is he a super person? Does that space suit conveniently also protect the wearer from breaking every bone in their body? No and no, are the answers. It conveniently keeps the script on track. This is a movie about spectacle for spectacle’s sake, to say nothing about the characters or the story other than “it looks cool.”

What the plot will be about is anyone’s guess. I’m guessing intergalactic Jerry Springer Show. My original idea was that it’ll be about a terrifying, parasitic life form that attaches to the faces of Valerian and Laureline, compelling them to engage in summer blockbuster nonsense. Then I realized that was just their eyebrows. Speaking of which, the casting seems rather curious. Cara Delevingne didn’t “wow” anyone with her role in Suicide Squad. In fact, the only “wows” that film generated were followed by “Jared Leto really needs to stop talking like that,” and “Suicide by firing Squad doesn’t sound like a bad option.” I don’t know what it is with Luc Besson casting models as the lead female parts in his science fiction, nor do I understand why he loves making the most ugly aliens in science fiction. And why Rihanna is in this film at all is a big question mark that needs to be addressed. Though she could never match him, her crazy blonde hair leads me to believe that she is a callback to this fabulous creature:Related image Luc Besson has some explaining to do. As for me, I think I’ll watch this movie if I happen to sustain some blunt force trauma to the head sometime between now and July.

Hype Rating: 2 Hypes out of 5

(end of all parts)



Sci-Fi Movie Trailers Extravaganza!!! (Ghost in the Shell)

Now here is a trailer that has been getting a lot of internet backlash. Scarlett Johansson stars as a killer android in the cyberpunk universe of Ghost in the Shell. Based off the Japanese anime film from the 90s, this live action interpretation looks gorgeous visually, but a lot of fans are worrying right now about how well it is going to adapt the story of the lauded film/manga. Because although the trailer seems to indicate a successful transfer of the anime’s futuristic world and aesthetics – minus the lighting and composition, which is disappointing, but I digress – there is no telling if the original’s themes are going to be simplified for general audiences as Hollywood often likes to do.

And this is fair criticism, especially considering the director at the helm here has only one other big-budget film under his belt. Rupert Sanders directed the 2012 film, Snow White and the Huntsmen, which currently has a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t even trust Rotten Tomatoes considering how often cinematic scat manages to find high freshness ratings on the site, a constant reminder that the human race is a sickness to the earth, but that still means the only other movie he’s made is hot garbage in the eyes of many. Not exactly an amazing track record. Then again, maybe he was disillusioned by the Hollywood factory line. Perhaps he didn’t care to put effort into Kristen Stewart pretending to be a fairy tale character in a film that turned out to be nothing more than a forgettable but stinky fart in long string of shitty, overly-produced fairy tale movies.

I think that’s what everyone in the comment section really has to be wishing for, anyway. With fingers crossed, we all just have to wait and see and hope that this Sanders guy, who probably doesn’t even know the first thing about being a senator in Vermont or getting robbed by the democratic party, can deliver something worth watching. Not just a regrettable kidney stone in a long string of shitty, overly-produced adaptations and remakes.

With ScarJo’s name attached to the project, we can at least say that she is definitely one of the coolest actresses in Hollywood. Black Widow, Lucy (which was stupid but whatever), and Mindy from The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. That’s the kind of person that runs on walls with dual pistols and enjoys it. I appreciate that at least one person working on this film is enthusiastic in making it aside from the set designers and maybe the cinematographers. Because really, the original movie looks golden. An anime that isn’t also an embarrassment is rare, so I definitely will be watching that to see how this remake stands up.

If nothing else, I can see this movie being a decent collection of colorful lights to have play in front of your eyes as you gorge on popcorn in a dark room alongside the other bipedal apes who enjoy the act of sitting in dark rooms and gnashing loudly on butter and salt. In the scenario that this movie does turn out to be doodoo, then hey, there’s always that 1995 anime and Ms. Johansson’s low-quality noods somewhere on the internet.

Hype Rating: 3.5 Hypes out of 5

Hype for watching the Anime: 5/5

(end of part two)

Sci-Fi Movie Trailers Extravaganza!!! (Rogue One)

Hollywood really wants us to go watch science fiction movies. We’re all plenty aware that Disney is going to bombard general audiences with annual Star Wars movies from now to 2020. In addition to the numbered entries in the series, we’ll also be getting side stories of characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo as individual films. I personally can’t wait to find out more about Dexter Jettster™ and his 50’s themed diner.

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As for non-Disney controlled properties, a film adaptation of a French comic series and a live-action adaptation of a popular anime are both coming soon to silver screens near you. One of which has the director of The Fifth Element on board, and the other has Scarlett Johansson looking practically butt nekkid. As god-king, I will now pass my ultimate judgements for these movies based on their trailers. Will they find the land of milk and honey that is my favor? Or will my growing sense of apathy toward Hollywood damn them for eternity?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I suppose we should just start with the morbidly obese elephant in the room: the Star Wars. Sometimes when I’m alone, I think. And sometimes when I think of the hideous mass of tumors that is Disney’s empire, with it’s lumpy, misshapen form lousy with boils, and dollar bills strewn about its gurgling, amorphous figure clinging to its sticky, milky flesh… I sometimes forget that I actually enjoy some of the viscous waste goo excreted from its various udders.

Certainly not all of it. If someone puts Mickey Mouse™ ears on my body when I die, they best know I’m waking tf up and dragging them to hell with me. I don’t like Disneyland. I don’t like musical numbers. Pixar’s lost their touch. Disney princesses are about as interesting as a glass of hot dog water. And the next person who tells me The Lion King is “just like Hamlet,” is getting a collected volume of Shakespeare across the temple.

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It just so happens that one of Disney’s many tentacles is currently absorbing the nutrients of Lucasfilm’s monolithic franchise (and therefore my childhood), so I have to put up with it. So far, it only seems like the dialogue is awful. That’s the right word. Awful.

Cliches and lame excuses for interesting dialogue have been evident since the first trailer’s “This is a rebellion… I rebel,” quote broke my ankles and stole my SSN. I thought that would be the worst of it. But then the “Rogue… Rogue One” line in this trailer threw bleach in my eyes and laughed at me for ever thinking that. Now I’m Brailling it.

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Speaking of severely debilitating vision impairments, Donnie Yen’s inclusion as a blind guy-with-stick is a rock solid casting choice. I’m very happy to see my Ip Man cross-contaminated with my Star Wars, even if it is just an obvious ploy to net the elusive Chinese dollar that Force Awakens totally and hilariously missed.

Unfortunately, the yin to to Yen’s yang comes in the form of the theatrically stunted oaf, himself: Forest Whitaker. Thus raising the question: “Who let this happen?” Really, I will be taking note of casting during the credits. How has Morgan Freeman still not been cast as the sagely, old Star Wars character yet? The guy will read the script of a high school stage production if you promise him a scalp massage and two coupons to the Long John Silvers. How could he deny this check?

I would call this a let down, but naturally I’m saving those feelings of disappointment for when Darth Vader shows up in the film for 5 whole minutes of screen time. I can’t wait to see his nondescript face plastered all over cereal boxes, toys, clothing, and adult novelties, accordingly.

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Stepping back from the flaming roast I’ve just created, I would be lying if I said the cinematography in Rogue One  doesn’t look stellar. I actually want to pay money to see the action scenes in this film. The practical effects look great, and considering the production pedigree, I can expect an amazing soundtrack to play over the whole nonsensical thing. Never mind all that story stuff when you got good pew-pew lasers. Who watches movies for good stories anyway? Certainly not this red-blooded American, that’s for sure.

Hype Level: 2.5 Hypes out of 5

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(end of Part 1)

28 Days Later – Review

Donald J. Trump. Donald J-Muthafuckin Trump is going to be the 45th president of the United States.

As if the universe finds personal gratification in making my life a more miserable thing to endure specifically, it would appear South Korea is also experiencing its fair share of presidential woes. Typing “president” into Google this morning resulted in the expected and ubiquitous Trump articles, in addition to pictures of Obama’s exhausted face. But news of hundreds of thousands of Koreans marching through the streets of Seoul last night also made headlines.

Apparently they’re demanding their own scandalous president’s resignation. With drums banging and horns blaring, the candlelit protesters yelled out for Park Guen-hye to step down in response to her alleged, widespread corruption. Yikes. There goes my back-up plan.

In the spirit of the end of days, I finally watched 28 Days Later for the first time. And you know what, I’m more in favor of national demise via zombie apocalypse than by way of Trump presidency.

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Danny Boyle’s then-original idea of “zombies that run” takes everything we know about zombles in the over-saturated realm of popular culture now, and sets it in the early 2000’s – a simpler time with simpler pleasures. The good old days when Britain was part of the E.U. and jet fuel could melt steel beams.

The story begins in a Cambridge laboratory, where a group of chimpanzees have been introduced to an experimental virus that is only described as “rage.” Once PETA-with-guns comes storming in to liberate our poo-flinging cousins, it only takes 28 days for 99% of the island’s population to go feral. If only we could be so lucky.

Our protagonist, Jim (Cillian Murphy), wakes from his coma and joins a small handful of nomadic scroungers surviving off snack cakes. There’s romance, strife, family bonding, and a pre-teen on Vicodin. The film focuses largely on the human interactions between survivors, rather than on mowing down the infected horde. But that’s every zombini movie, even the not-so-decent ones. And “decent” is really all I can say about the writing in 28 Days Later.

This could be because of the film’s age and how many zombaloos we’ve seen since 2002, but the threads of the plot aren’t tightly woven and didn’t engage me as well as they could have. For instance, the only zombizzle that Jim kills is an infected boy that attacks him in an abandoned diner midway through the movie. The experience is supposed to be an emotional and harrowing moment for Jim. But aside from one brief back-and-forth on the subject, it’s entirely forgotten as Jim proceeds to brutally murder an entire militia alongside an infected soldier.

This, as well as the fact that no other character seems interested in sharing any expository information on their pre-outbreak lives, their interests, or opinions on much of anything, makes the cast of characters come across as somewhat hollow. The film runs for nearly two hours, but the script seems largely pre-occupied in setting up beats of action rather than use the time to engage with the characters closely until… oops one died, and oh, I guess they’re making out now.

Moments like the grocery shopping scene and the tense drive through the zombo-infested tunnel, though well-shot and edited, could have delivered more impact had there been more scenes to flesh out characters beyond “she’s tough, he’s a dad, and she’s a girl.”

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Cinematography is the highlight of 28 Days Later. The eerie views of a desolate London are spectacular, and the frenetic close-ups of the rabid zombipperkins does an excellent job of transitioning that sense of panic into the frame. Composition and lighting was also very well done. The climactic scenes were utterly dominated by the imposing use of shadows and lightning. I didn’t take particular note of the film’s score, but it wasn’t something I disliked either. It was serviceable, neither spectacular nor awful.

Danny Boyle’s made a name for himself since 2002. The director now claims a total of eight Academy Awards, and boasts an impressive filmography including Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. If you dig film and have yet to see 28 Days Later, give it a shot. It’s not particularly horror-intensive either, so don’t let that stop you. The film has a lot to teach on the framing and lighting of scenes, intense or otherwise. If you’re not into movies like that but are concerned for your country’s future political leadership, then watch the movie anyway and hope for a sick chimp to bite your neck.

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10

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O Bernie, Where Art Thou?

Election day is finally here, and the fate of the White House and the United States as a whole is only a few grueling hours away. Will the nation’s people choose the soulless Borg queen, who is so cold and calculating she makes Margaret Thatcher look like the girl-next-door? Or will our democratic system prove to be a broken mess once and for all, historically electing the first Cheetos Puff into office? It’s tough to predict considering we ended up with the two most disliked candidates possible to represent the two (count them, two) major parties. Thus begging the question, what ever happened to Deez Nuts?

Considering I’ll be flipping patties for the next six hours, I suppose I’ve been spared the nerve-wracking anxiety and sweaty palms that accompany this four-year tradition. Although I’m not convinced either candidate will accomplish much as el presidente, I still have my reservations. Mostly because only one of them would compel me to buy a plane ticket out of the country.

Those that know me well are already aware of my ideal nation to flee to should we decide to make America great again. For those that don’t, it’s a wonderful place where the idols are beautiful and the Wi-Fi is plentiful; a land of kimchi, and Starcraft players so unthinkably competitive they could probably beat Nike, Goddess of Victory, in a 1v1. This country also just so happens to have what may be the most comically evil twin living just across the Demilitarized Zone.

Do I really know anything substantial about South Korea’s culture, history, or language? Not terribly so. Do I have a tendency to jump into things with both feet and a devil-may-care attitude? You bet that sweet blog-reading ass I do.

So regardless of whose name you throw in the ballot box today, prepare a back-up plan in case your nominee of choice doesn’t win. A negative outcome for either party would be disastrous at this point. And if you’re a “Bernie-bot,” as my old man would say, then join hands in prayer, my friends. Pray that Bernie, the second coming, parts through the clouds and flies down from the heavens on the back of his glorious white steed. And pray that with his Progressive Blade of Student Loan Debt Forgiveness raised high in his right arm, he frees us from the two party system that has left us with the crappiest election in recent memory. Hey, if there’s one thing Bernie Sanders supporters are known for, it’s wishful thinking.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch – Review

Any horror fan worth their salt is already all too familiar with the story and mystique of the classic Michael Myers character. Not only did John Carpenter’s silent, lumbering serial killer propel the teenage slasher to heights surpassing Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it solidified Hollywood’s revival of the horror genre. This Halloween, I took the time to re-watch the 1978 hit, as well as its two most immediate sequels, Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It’s this last one that would inspire me to write this piece, however. Season of the Witch isn’t a perfect movie, and its plot has nothing to do with Michael Myers or the protagonists of the first two films, but it is an uncut gem buried under a mountain of slasher schlock. Season is both a sorely underrated title with new and interesting themes, and a vast missed opportunity for a more interesting Halloween franchise.

It didn’t happen immediately. My opinion on the series didn’t suddenly flip-flop like a politician discussing gay marriage. No. Much like the first film, the idea of Halloween III’s secret greatness lurked in the shadows like a returned Myers.

I went into the third film knowing very little: That it would be about Halloween masks, and that the film ended with a man screaming at a television. And that was an image that’s stuck with me since childhood, when I caught the last couple of minutes on TV. Other than that, I went in completely blind. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a unique plot revolving around a mysterious novelty toy company’s sinister intentions for October 31st.

Unlike the first two films, the titular holiday actually plays an important role in the film’s plot, as opposed to simply setting an interesting day for the events to unfold. In Season of the Witch, protagonist Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) partners up with Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) to investigate Ellie’s father’s murder, as well as uncover the Silver Shamrock company’s diabolical intentions for the upcoming halloween. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away considering how well the mystery thread is utilized. It kept me wondering until the very last act, when the film changes gears to a more suspenseful nail-biter, culminating in an ending more impactful than Halloween 2’s yawn of a resolution.

I will say that there is a pretty healthy helping of 80’s cheese in Season of the Witch. However, if that’s not a problem for you, then there’s plenty to enjoy. I actually howled in laughter at certain moments in the movie because of this. The suddenness of the obligatory sex scene was unintentional comedy gold, and the final fight that Dr. Challis gets into is nothing short of genius slapstick. Neither of these moments diminished the tense conclusion, though, demonstrating the film’s real strengths. In addition to a strong B-movie cast, a crew of skilled film makers created tension in the atmosphere of an otherwise silly spook story.

On the acting front, special commendation should be directed to Tom Atkins. As Dr. Challis, Atkins is not the pretty face typical of horror film leads. His character is an older divorcee with two children, and a tempered but rugged masculinity. I think it’s because of the mustache. As he gets sucked into a plot far larger than he could have anticipated, Atkins portrays the audience’s curiosities and rising stress levels admirably and intelligently. Very rarely does his character suffer from that profound lack of logic symptomatic of slasher protagonists.

I wish I could say the same for his co-star, Stacey Nelkin. Though her performance isn’t awful, it’s nothing special either. Bad script writing is partially to blame for this, as her character is a bit underdeveloped. It’s the “Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker” problem, really. She could have benefited from a mustache… However what Season lacks in co-star, it makes up for in antagonist. As the owner of the Silver Shamrock toy company, Conal Cochran, Dan O’Herlihy fully embraces his character’s demented menace. In a particularly low point for Dr. Challis, when everything seems hopeless, O’Herlihy delivers what may be one of the best “evil plan” speeches of all time. In all of the Halloween series, this is the only villain who speaks, and that is a treasure all its own.

I was inspired by the remaining elements of the film: direction, cinematography, and soundtrack. To start, John Carpenter and Alan Howarth scored an original soundtrack for Season of the Witch, replete with high tempo synth over a gloom of deep, bassy beats. And yet again, Carpenter’s mastery of the movie theme song is showcased in Season. And though it never reached the enormity in pop culture that the Myers theme achieved, the Halloween III theme is an amazingly dreadful piece that is second to none other than its own movie franchise.

Behind the camera, Season was led by Halloween vets. Both director Tommy Lee Wallace and cinematographer Dean Cundey worked on the first two films. Interestingly, Cundey had been nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and his experience shows in Halloween III. The scene setting shots of the desolate company town of Santa Mira stand out in particular. Kudos to Wallace as well, who nearly transformed Halloween from a simple slasher series to an anthology. Had this film been successful, the series would have seen different stories with new directors for each entry, but instead we got one film lost under a pile of Myers sequels whose quality range from “ok, I guess” to “I guess the monkeys with typewriters actually got something out.”

It’s really too bad what ended up happening to Halloween III. Upon release, audiences and critics panned the film for diverging away from the masked killer. Only after decades of drowning in never-ending Jason Voorhees trash, Scream’s parody of the genre, and the torture porn of 2000’s horror did this film get looked at with welcome eyes. Now a minor cult classic, I’ve come to spread the good word of Season of the Witch. The masks central to the film’s story perfectly capture the difference between this entry and the rest of the series. Both look really damn cool, but one is iconic, and the other is actually in the spirit of Halloween. Next October, give the movie a shot. Halloween III gets far more right than wrong, and deserves a spot in the annual scary movie line-up.

Obligatory Number at the End – 7.75

Twice – “TT” – Review

Twice has come a long way since their debut just one year ago. The dorky but fresh idols stormed the Kpop scene with their mega hit “Like Ooh Aah,” and have since blossomed into the it girl group of Korean Pop music, much to the credit of JYP Entertainment’s exceptional music production. Despite criticism lobbied at the girls regarding their level of vocal talent, they’ve still managed to put up impressive numbers in both online viewership and Korean air play, amassing a fervorous fan base in the process. All those Korean music awards they’ve won aren’t half bad, either.

Now, six months after their successful “Cheer Up” comeback, Twice has returned with their best track to date. “TT,” the title track of their third mini album,  TWICEcoaster: Lane 1, emphasizes all nine members in their own unique way. Utilizing the same strategy as “Cheer Up,” JYP has worked it out so that each girl not only has their own part in the song, but their own aesthetic as well.

Naturally, with the October release date, the music video has a Halloween theme. And naturally, this of course has next to nothing to do with the lyrics, which are no more than standard, pop romance fare. While endearing, the theme is somewhat hit-and-miss in execution. As it is, the Halloween flair boils down to each member wearing a costume meant to tie in with their personalities. And though this is a concept I’ve yet to see in Kpop, (Halloween isn’t a particularly festive holiday in Korea), only some of the members make it work.

For example, it was difficult to look at Momo (my bias) hover in the air dressed as Tinkerbell. The costume didn’t fit her style as well as some of the others. Considering she’s the group’s lead dancer, a less whimsical outfit would have been a better choice. I’m not sure what she should have been, but none of the members should have been a fairy. I probably could have done without Dahyun’s running man in the bunny outfit, too. I get that she’s supposed to be an adorable and silly member, but I’m not upset knowing that that was only for the video and won’t be included in their stage performances.

On the other hand, Tzuyu, Nayeon, and Jihyo were all stunning as a seductive vampiress, she-devil, and ice queen, respectively, and I feel the video could have been improved by more of this thematic cohesion between the members. It should be noted however, that the more ridiculous elements of the M/V are the extent of the problems I have with this song. There are a couple of transitions between vocalists that can come off a little jarring, like when Sana brightly sings “Nanananana” between Tzuyu’s and Jihyo’s more subdued verses, but this doesn’t detract much.

The chorus of “TT” is a relentlessly catchy tune. How catchy, you ask? Well, let’s just say that there are washed-up child actors struggling through rehab with more control over their addictions than I do. My listen count is somewhere around half a billion as of this writing, partially so I can write this review, but mostly because I just can’t stop. Now, before I ruin all my critical credibility by shamelessly admitting that I’m unforgivable Twice trash, I have to clarify my stance. I like this song because I really like this song. I’m not so blinded by idol fandom as to automatically love anything they put out. In fact, with the exception of “One in a Million,” the remaining six songs on the album are ho-hum at best. Fortunately for everyone, “TT” is a big winner. The beats have a much more obvious dance vibe to them than any of their prior songs, and there is a lot of potential for remixes.

One of the biggest triumphs of the song is the balance Twice has, gracefully walking the line of unapologetic elegance and suffocating cuteness. Sana and Momo both bring a Japanese “kawaii” element in their parts, but it’s very clear that TWICE as a whole has been training their voices a lot more since “Like Ooh Aah.” Listening to the two songs one after the other is like night and day. There is a more developed sense of range, and though I don’t expect the girls to stop lip syncing their stage performances anytime soon, the song is definitely easier on western ears while remaining impossibly upbeat as ever. The choreography has even improved. Though the originality in “Like Ooh Aah” still stands out as their best to date, there are much more inspired movements in “TT” than in “Cheer Up,” making for more enjoyable stage performances. The standout move for me happens early on in the song, when Mina and Tzuyu mirror one another and cross arms. “Fashion show show,” indeed.

All in all, “TT” is a homerun of a comeback. Great synergy and dedication amongst the members has paid off in dividends for both their company and fans alike. It’s an instant mood changer. Not only is the song fun and make you want to sing along in a language you don’t speak, but it will make you want to come back and listen again and again. The improvements in their vocal talent, strong dance component, and JYP’s determination to make sure all nine members shine, highlights exactly why Twice is the girl group to beat.

Obligatory Number at the End – 8.75/10

Eraserhead – Review

Before I begin waxing poetic, can I just say something real quick? For a movie that debuted before an audience of only 25 people back in 1977, Eraserhead  is a comically daunting film to review. David Lynch’s premier feature-length film has the ability to really make one feel under-qualified as a critic. But I suppose if Jeremy Jahns can make a living from giving his insipid opinions on the internet, why can’t I? So let’s jump in, shall we? 


The most important thing to know going into Eraserhead is that this is NOT a movie for casual viewing. This isn’t Jack Sparrow’s latest romp in the Caribbean that you can just turn on halfway, watch for 20 minutes, then go jerk off and fall sleep. This movie demands cerebral vigilance. And not in the way a high-concept action flick like Inception does. Think more along the lines of Polanski’s Repulsion or Bergman’s Persona. (complete with matching black-and-white aesthetic choice) So be prepared to set the phone down and save the popcorn for a movie where the stars wear capes. 

On the most superficial level, Eraserhead simply tells the story of a man struggling with the notions of parenthood and settling down, but no summarized plot description can truly capture the film’s delightful horror. What begins as a general confusion and a couple uneasy laughs steadily ramps up to a full-on assault on the psyche. Lynch and his crew’s tumultuous five years of production culminated into an exemplar of deliberate film making. This is a movie whose every intention is to make its audience deeply uncomfortable and is capable of striking genuine awe and horror.

A large part of what makes Eraserhead mystifying is its utilization of the b/w visual style. The urban-industrial world the film is set in is bleak and isolating. Stark contrasts of spotlights and shadows paint a nightmarish landscape for protagonist Henry to live in. 

Camera and editing work is excellent; nothing ever feels flat or stale despite the minimalist sets, and the surrealism is engrossing without being overbearing. Better yet is the film’s sound design. In addition to “Fats” Waller organ playing, Eraserhead’s phenomenally wretched noises (as well as the consistent white noise) will make your skin crawl with Lynchian dread. I never before would have imagined that puppies suckling at their mother’s nipples could make me fidget in my seat.

These kinds of subconscious physical responses aren’t commonplace in film. During a particularly mortifying sequence in which Henry must interact with one of the most disturbing props in cinematic history, I found my hands on top of my head, fingers gripping hair as I continued to watch wide-eyed and incapable of looking away. There are things in this movie that are haunting, and others that will make you question how you’ll go on living.

Editing together a bunch of weird visuals, while potentially thought-provoking, does not naturally equate to a great movie. Fortunately, the performances in Eraserhead are excellent all around. They really had to be considering the script rarely resembles natural dialogue or even human interaction. Lead actor Jack Nance’s portrayal of the confused, anxious Henry – our avatar through the 90 minute descent into madness – is as perfect as his iconic pompadour. This man is the Eraserhead.

The credit reveals that everyone in the film has a name, but these are not characters in the classical sense of the word. The rogue’s gallery of peculiar individuals, including Henry despite his protagonist status, all represent larger ideas – symbolic and thematic elements for viewer interpretation. As well as showcasing phenomenal acting prowess, this ambiguity ends up being one of Eraserhead’s best qualities. The surreal nature lends itself well to further individual meditation even after the credits, and in a way that is far more compelling than the mentally-fatiguing Persona.

Though I might need some time before I subject myself to a second round with Lynch’s masterwork, I can’t recommend a first-time viewing enough. The only critique I have to give is that it’s a little dry at the beginning when Henry is just walking around for 5 minutes. But, once he reaches his destination, the terrifying roller coaster plummets down the tracks. 

If it’s been too long since you’ve seen a good feel-bad movie, or if Ghostbusters (2016) gender politics are getting you down, Eraserhead is the panacea to all your modern Hollywood woes. This is the kind of movie that should be experienced by anyone who considers themselves a fan of film or filmmaking. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but who needs them? Eraserhead is an astonishing, captivating, and unforgettable work of American cinema too impressive to ignore.

Obligatory Number at the End: 10/10

Ant-Man – Review

Do you ever just crave watching an exceptionally mediocre movie? You know, kind of like that feeling you get when you’re binge watching Drake and Josh reruns on a Sunday afternoon? Well look no further than Marvel’s Ant-Man! This movie’s got it all, folks – an almost-interesting protagonist, just enough action to keep you from slipping into a coma, a plot that follows story beats like it was ripped straight from “How to Write Film Scripts for Dummies,” and so much cheese you’ll regret not bringing a few bottles of wine. If  you saw Paul Rudd on the poster for this movie and had some second thoughts about it, well I’m here to affirm that sense of apprehension. Ant-Man is pretty much the most Paul Rudd movie ever. A more fitting title would be Ant-Guy, or possibly even Ant-Bruh, to be quite honest. You won’t hate yourself afterward, and you’ll be able to cross it off the bottom of that “haven’t gotten around to it” list, but Ant-Man‘s got “Redbox and chill” written all over it.

The first red flag (aside from the fact that an Ant-Man movie exists) came within the first 5 minutes of the movie. Michael Douglas (made youthful again through the power of CGI) wastes no time establishing an absolutely ludicrous tone that I knew in my loins the film was not going to maintain. Playing the role of Hank Pym – the original Ant-Man – Douglas casually slams a man’s head into a table with all the grace and finesse of a WWE performer while at some sort of corporate board meeting. In that one action, Ant-Man already establishes a fictional world that is unbound by real world logic. Coupled with how corny the set looked, doubt slowly started to creep in. What remaining hopes I had were swiftly dashed in the following scenes, in which Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang character is released from an insultingly childish depiction of San Quentin State Prison, and proceeds to have conversation after tiresome conversation of expository dialogue opposite various character cliches and blatant racial stereotypes. It’s at this point that it became apparent that Ant-Man is just another summer popcorn flik that feels it has to spoon feed every detail because general audiences are too stupid to piece anything together on their own. All of it is hamfisted to hell too, of course. Seriously. So much ham! Someone with a kind heart should really show this movie in a homeless shelter for the holidays. Please. No one will go hungry this Kwanzaa. The best part is this exhausting process of “telling,” rather than “showing” what these characters are like, is repeated with Hank Pym, Wasp, and Yellowjacket as well. None of it clever, most of it cringe inducing. The movie feels like it doesn’t actually start until 20-30 minutes in because we have to go through the motions of watching Down-and-Out Hero Plot #3.  And even then, the movie just transitions to Superhero Origin Plot #2, where we get to watch the time-tested and never-stale “new to my powers,” scene, as well as a training montage for good measure. To be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s terrible introductory scenes still beat this in terms of sheer cringe value. But just the fact that I’m having to draw parallels with the overhyped feces that was Gaurdians doesn’t speak well for Ant-Man.If there’s one thing that Ant-Man does do right, it’s making Ant-Man’s powers actually seem cool. No sarcasm. Despite what little life P-Rudd brings to the Ant-Man character, I think my 5th grade self would’ve thought having a shrinking suit is awesome. The suit is actually pretty nice too. It’s kind of got that Captain America color desaturation thing going on to make it seem realistic (?), but at least it’s better than this:

Also to the benefit of the movie, rather than having the protagonist create the suit and ant-telepathy tech himself (and waste even more time), Paulie Rudderstein just pilots it. In doing so, the movie allows audiences to discover the powers of this lesser-known character alongside the hero of the movie. It almost feels too smart for this movie when I say it out loud. Hmmm… I’m going to have to balance that out with a harsh critique. Ahem… The Baskin Robbins shill was GROSS. An entire scene dedicated to product placement, guys?? When did Adam Sandler start his contract at Marvel Studios? I’ve seen less Baskin Robbins promotions INSIDE of Baskin Robbins. No, that scene wasn’t funny. No, I will not go to Baskin Robbins  . Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. F*ck that scene. F*ck it in the nose and between the toes.

I didn’t have massive expectations for Ant-Man, but I wish someone would have warned me about Evangeline Lilly’s portrayal of Wasp. For the majority of her time on screen, she’s either being overly dramatic or just plain stiff. The blame falls squarely on the writing. It’s embarrassingly obvious her character was shoehorned in as supplementary “drama,” with a weak, inconsequential subplot about her and her father’s terse relationship. She must have needed some more lines, because aside from this, she’s just the person who trained Ant-Man. (By punching him in the face?)So we all have to suffer as a result. My recommendation for anyone interested in seeing this movie (because you would feel like an incomplete nerd to not have all the MCU under your belt) is to take care of any other things in your life you need to get done during these scenes. Out of popcorn? Time to microwave some more. Got some emails you need to check? You’re good, fam. Whether you got a load of laundry to check on or just have to drop the load of a lifetime, this is an overall great movie to run your errands/take a shit to. <<real quote on the cover of the DVD box.

Taking all this into account, there are some moments that made me realize that I was still alive. As I mentioned before, the fight scenes are pretty neat, and Pudd Ruddershins getting shrunken down to Planck length near the end is a visual trip. Stan Lee’s hilarious cameo is one of his best. Michael Douglas is still too cool to hate. And though Michael Pena’s silly Mexican was groan-inducing, the schtick where his voice comes out of other peoples’ mouths is funny. That’s about it, though. If you can stomach telenovela melodrama, cardboard cutout characters, a child actor more effective than rat poison, a mustache twirler  villain, and an unoriginal script written by what must be high schoolers in the bodies of Hollywood screenwriters, then by all means watch Ant-Man. At the end of the day, you’re just watching a slightly lamer version of a movie you’ve already seen before. Personally, I can think of another movie I’d rather give my repeat views to…

Back to School, anyone?

Obligatory Number at the End: 5.75/10